§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord PEARTrose to move, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1978 (Cmnd. 7099). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In opening today's debate on the Government's Defence White Paper, I look forward to some interesting contributions on this important subject. My noble friend Lord Winterbottom, who will reply to the debate, will endeavour to answer your Lordships' points but we cannot, however, promise to answer them all. Noble Lords speaking here today will also have read the report of the debate on the White Paper in another place only last month. The White Paper gave a comprehensive review of major developments in the defence sphere over the previous 12 months; and major decisions were, of course, announced during that year as soon as practicable after they had been taken.1338
§ This year's Statement on the Defence Estimates reiterates that the United Kingdom's defence policy is firmly based on the North Atlantic Alliance. It reaffirms our determination to make a full and effective contribution to NATO, while seeking, in conjunction with our Allies, ways and means of reducing tension through realistic arms control and disarmament measures by multilateral agreement.
§ We are pulling our weight in NATO and can claim that our contribution is impressive by any standard. There have also been some encouraging advances in the prospects for arms control and disarmament—which is the complementary element in our effort to maintain and enhance security. The United States and the Soviet Union are continuing their negotiations on a strategic arms limitation treaty, and we hope that they will soon reach agreement. Good progress has been made in the negotiations between the United States, the Soviet Union and ourselves towards a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty. Important issues remain to be resolved, but all three participants are anxious that the negotiations shall reach a successful conclusion and we believe there are good prospects for agreement. It is generally recognised that the achievement of a comprehensive test ban treaty would make a significant contribution towards controlling and curbing the proliferation and development of nuclear weapons, and towards detente.
§ The agreed objective of the negotiations in Vienna on mutual and balanced force reductions is to contribute to a more stable relationship and to the strengthening of peace and security in Europe. We believe that this can be achieved only by removing the existing imbalance in conventional forces in Central Europe, where we estimate that Warsaw Pact ground forces exceed those of NATO by more than 150,000. Western participants have tabled proposals which would provide for mutual reductions to a common collective ceiling, and which would reduce the large concentration of Soviet tanks in the area. The Eastern participants argue that approximate parity already exists and have proposed equal percentage reductions. This, we believe, would merely serve to give permanent status to the existing imbalance, albeit at a lower level.1339
§ We therefore attach great importance—and I am sure that noble Lords will agree with this—to an agreed assessment with the East on the data base for the reductions, and welcome the recent exchange of further data as a step towards this objective. We and our Allies are constantly looking for ways to inject new momentum into the negotiations and are ready to take account of legitimate Warsaw Pact concern. Noble Lords may be aware that in the last few days the West tabled proposals designed to take account of concerns expressed by the Warsaw Pact. We now look to the East for a forthcoming response to these proposals and those which we have tabled earlier. Progress in the talks has been disappointingly slow, but we continue to strive for a positive and successful outcome, and one which would be equitable for both sides. The forthcoming United Nations Special Session on Disarmament will provide an opportunity to make real progress on all issues of disarmament. With other Western nations, we have tabled a realistic and forward-looking programme of action, and the Prime Minister will address the Session.
§ As noble Lords are aware, President Carter has postponed production of the enhanced radiation warhead—the so-called neutron "bomb" about which there has been much controversy of late. We feel that his decision rightly places the issue in the context of arms control and the balance of forces on both sides. We look to the Soviet Union to respond to his gesture with measures to moderate the threat which we see from the scale of their build-up of both nuclear and conventional forces. The threat has not abated in the last year. Indeed, there have been improvements in both quality and quantity in Warsaw Pact forces. Some of these improvements are mentioned in the White Paper.
§ This year we have included, at the request of the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the House of Commons Expenditure Committee, tables showing the current balance of forces in the Eastern Atlantic and in Central Europe; we left them out last year. But, as the White Paper says, the assessment of military balance is complex and manysided; it cannot be reduced to a single neat ratio. We decided, however, that 1340 the inclusion of French maritime forces in the Eastern Atlantic and French forces in the Federal Republic of Germany would give a fairer presentation. Although French forces are not integrated into the military structure of NATO, as noble Lords know, France is a member of the Alliance, and it is reasonable to assume that a Warsaw Pact military planner would take these forces into account when calculating what they see as the threat.
§ It was, of course, in response to what they saw as a continuing build-up in Warsaw Pact forces, particularly conventional forces, that NATO Defence Ministers took steps last May to improve the collective capability of the Alliance. Member Nations were asked to aim for a real increase in defence expenditure of around 3 per cent. from 1979. It was, however, recognised that for some countries economic circumstances would affect what could be achieved, while present levels of force contribution might sometimes suggest bigger contributions.
§ Also, at the North Atlantic Council Meeting of Heads of State and Government in London in May last year, it was agreed that the Alliance would undertake a long-term defence programme to adapt NATO forces to the changing needs of the 1980s. Studies have been carried out in 10 priority areas including, to mention but a few of those subjects in which noble Lords have shown a particular interest, readiness, reinforcements, mobilisation of reserves, maritime strategy and rationalisation. A comprehensive report of the studies is to be considered at the next NATO summit meeting at the end of May. Finally, to complement this effort. NATO defence ministers agreed to an immediate programme of short-term measures to be implemented by the end of 1978.
§ The United Kingdom has, of course, responded fully to the aims. We are playing a constructive role in the longterm studies, although the outcome of these will not be known until the time of the summit. As for the increase in defence expenditure, we have announced an increase of 3 per cent. in real terms in the defence budget for 1979-80, and are planning a similar increase the following year, subject to review in the light of our economic circumstances.1341
§ My Lords, I am glad to say that this increase meets not only the NATO aim but also the request embodied in the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, which we debated on 7th December last year. I notice, however, that the Conservatives are claiming that they would increase defence expenditure by at least 4 per cent. rather than the 3 per cent. we are planning for 1979-80. But as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence said in another place on 13th March, "4 per cent. on what?" This could amount to as little as £69 million (at 1978 survey prices) more than this Government are planning, or as much as £1,600 million more. However, I hope that we shall receive from the Opposition an explanation of where they would get this money from. It would have to come from programmes like housing and education. I suspect that the figures would be nearer £69 million, which represents 1 per cent. above what we plan for 1979-80 as an increase over the previous year.
§ Within our planned defence budget, we shall be making improvements in response to NATO's programme of short-term measures in anti-armour defence, war reserve munitions and readiness and reinforcement. The Alliance will increase its holdings of anti-armour missiles by about one-third by the end of 1978, and similar improvements in stocks of other critical munitions are planned. The United Kindom is making improvements in these areas, notably in an accelerated introduction of MILAN antitank missiles and an increase in Swingfire missile stocks.
§ We have already announced our decision to retain 41 Commando, Royal Marines, and assign it to NATO. H.M.S. "Bulwark" is to be restored to full operational status with the primary role of anti-submarine warfare. The rundown in Army manpower has been reduced by 1,900 men. Thirty Chinook medium-lift helicopters are being purchased for the RAF. These will improve considerably the load-carrying capacity of our forces in Germany.
§ My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced on 13th April the decision to improve the RAF's airborne refuelling capability by purchasing a number of second-hand 1342 VC10 aircraft for conversion into tankers and to form a new squadron. This squadron, which will increase the RAF's tanker resources by a third, will provide an improvement out of all proportion to its size, because it is equivalent to increasing our fighter and strike-attack aircraft at relatively modest cost.
§ These are only some of the measures which this Government are introducing in the short term. Others are set out in the White Paper. In addition, of course, major re-equipment programmes continue for each of the Services. The Royal Navy is getting new ships and equipment, the Army new guns and missile systems, and the RAF the Tornado multi-role combat aircraft, a splendid aircraft which has been developed in conjunction with our West German and Italian allies. This collaborative programme has been a tremendous success, and the air forces and industries of all three countries will benefit from it.
§ Our equipment programme for 1978-79, which is expected to amount to £2,770 million, is about £250 million higher than 1977-78, at the same price level. And the latest NATO figures show that in 1977 the United Kingdom spent a higher proportion of her defence budget on major new equipment than any other of the 11 allies covered by the survey. That, my Lords, is nothing to be ashamed of.
§ I should now like to turn to Forces' pay. We are well aware of the feeling within the Services about their pay. The House will be aware that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, which is independent and which reports directly to the Prime Minister, has presented its 1978 report to my right honourable friend. The Government commenced a very thorough consideration of the report as soon as it arrived, and we hope to complete this very soon. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will then announce our decision and will publish the review body's report. I cannot anticipate the Government's decision; nor can I at this stage disclose the review body's recommendations. I hope noble Lords will not press me to do so.
§ I should like at this point to pay tribute on behalf of us all, of whatever Party, to all members of the Armed Forces. I should like to praise those who have served in Northern Ireland in the past 1343 year, many of them on their sixth or seventh tour in the Province. I know that we praise them every year, but they deserve our praise for their courage and skill in their support of the civil power there. Noble Lords on all sides of this House have praised the Armed Forces for the way in which they coped during the firemen's strike. They carried out unfamiliar tasks with their usual determination and cheerfulness. On behalf of this House I should also like to pay tribute to the Royal Air Force on its 60th Anniversary on 1st April.
§ To sum up, the United Kingdom's policy is based firmly on the North Atlantic Alliance's commitment to a deterrent strategy of forward defence and flexible response. This policy, which is the only sensible one, depends on strategic nuclear, theatre nuclear and conventional forces. The United Kingdom contributes to each of these areas. This Government support realistic arms control and disarmament measures designed to reduce tension between East and West. While we continue to seek progress in those areas, we must provide adequate defence, but without bankrupting the country. Our defence policy is, therefore, logically and coherently related to the Government's policies on international relations and arms control and disarmament, and to industrial and economic policies. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1978 (Cmnd. 7099).—(Lord Pearl.)
§ 3.49 p.m.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, the comedian, Bob Hope, once said that paying alimony is like putting money into a gas meter which has been disconnected from the stove. Sometimes I have the feeling that in Defence debates, the dialogue between the two sides of this House is about as constructive as that. Very often, we do not feel that we are getting through to the Government.
Last year, a number of us tried to highlight once again the nature and the evidence of the increasing threat to the peace and security of this country in both Europe and the other parts of the world. Particular attention was devoted to the 1344 increasing disbalance in non-nuclear or so-called conventional weapons, particularly on the Central Front in Europe to which the noble Lord very rightly referred. Then we listened during the debate on the Queen's Speech to experienced and authoritative figures like my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel pointing out the increasing Soviet penetration and the extension of influence in Africa, particularly in the Horn of Africa, either directly or through the manipulation of their front men, the Cubans. This is perhaps an opportunity to see what the Government's response has been to these analyses, and I am bound to say that I do not find it very reassuring.
In the Horn of Africa we have sat on our hands and kept our mouth shut while Soviet influence has taken over. In the meantime, Russia continues to supply money and arms to people like Mugabe and Nkomo who are waging war on those who are well disposed towards us in this country. In Europe the build up of the Warsaw Pact has continued. The deployment of the SS.20 intercontinental ballistic missile has extended now to the point where all European cities are within threat of attack from this medium-range mobile—and that is the important point—missile.
The White Paper points out that there has been a 30 per cent. increase in Soviet main battle tanks and an 80 per cent. increase in armoured personnel carriers, and that the combination of these widens the preponderance in favour of the Warsaw Pact to something of the order of three to one. I think that was the point made by the noble Lord in opening the debate.
As regards the so-called neutron bomb, perhaps better described as a high intensity radiation shell, I think that is relevant to this discussion in two ways. First, it has been called "the great leveller". I believe in fact that phrase was originally coined about the cowboy's Colt revolver some years ago, but it has been called the great leveller because it is particularly designed for attacking and dispersing concentrations of tanks which would be the necessary spearhead to an armoured assault. It employs a technical advance to redress an adverse conventional balance, although I do not think we should allow ourselves to imagine that its deployment 1345 would in any way be a universal panacea behind which we could relax into a state of complacent lethargy. However, it is manifestly a defensive weapon of which it has rightly been said that it is not anything with which you start a war.
At the level of international arms negotiations, one can appreciate President Carter's desire to use the development of this weapon as a bargaining counter, perhaps to trade off against the reduction in the deployment of the SS.20 missile, for example. He may be hoping to make a telling disarmament gesture by making a goodwill offering of self-restraint and self-denying ordinance while retaining the ultimate option of playing the part of developing the neutron bomb. If that is his intention, I am afraid he has paid a high price. We find it hard to understand how the President arrived at his decision, which has embarrassed General Haig and his allies who had been heavily lobbied to express public acceptance for the deployment of the neutron bomb.
We are told that the decision is partly the result of Europeans blowing hot and cold. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether, when he answers this debate, he can expand a little further on the part played by the Government in this matter. Did we consistently make it clear that we wanted to see this device effective and deployed in Europe? As matters stand, we seem to have got the worst of both worlds: the NATO allies are in disarray and falling out among themselves, and we find ourselves in the derisory posture that Soviet Russia has apparently acquired a right of veto over vital NATO strategic decisions. The fact remains that the neutron bomb is potentially one of the most cost-effective defence devices so far postulated.
The noble Lord made much of the pledge of the 3 per cent. increase in real terms. Curiously enough, the words, "in real terms", were left out of the Defence White Paper and I was glad to hear the noble Lord put them back again in his speech. I fear that we may get into a statistical morass when we get on to this particular subject. Unfortunately in a recent public expenditure White Paper the defence budget is shown as being increased by 3 per cent. in 1979-80. This may be true in relation, as it states, to the previous year; but the reality is 1346 that the Government were revising the provisional defence budget in the light of the NATO agreement in May last year. I think the point was well put by my right honourable friend in another place when he said:Anybody reading this would naturally believe that the figure for 1979-80 had been revised upwards; in fact it has been revised downwards from £6,521 million to £6,466 million at 1977 survey prices".The Minister himself in another place compared the planned defence budget of £6,466 million in 1979-80 with the provisional figure given last year, revalued at 1977 survey prices, and he said,The difference is £55 million, a decrease of less than 1 per cent.".I said this was a statistical morass; I recognise it. I hesitate to suggest that there is any deliberate suggestio falsi about this; I suspect it is a case of "lies, damned lies and statistics". I hope it is not—to use a phrase which I regret to say was coined by, I believe, a distinguished Conservative Prime Minister—a "terminological inexactitude". Whatever one may say, the impression that I have is that defence spending is going down and not up.
I suspect, furthermore, that some of these reductions will be brought about by the use of a word which has crept into all too prevalant usage, and it is called "slippage". In plain English, I think this means that a combination of technical problems and production difficulties in complicated pieces of hardware such as the Tornado, for example, has in fact meant that we have fallen behind with deliveries, and therefore we have not had to pay for the goods we were expecting to get. But, of course, when you are looking at your expenditure this is a blessing in disguise, because it means that you do not have to find the money; the trouble is that you do not get the hardware, either. If you plan to have the hardware and to produce a convincing defence, you are manifestly falling short of what you expected to have and eventually it will cost more. So I suspect that falling back on slippage smacks of being a "con" trick.
There is another resounding piece of jargon of which a good deal of play has been made in various discussions; that is, the reduction of the teeth-to-tail ratio. 1347 It sounds splendid. One way of achieving this is to reduce maintenance facilities. Even that sounds bearable in the abstract in spite of the element, which is inherent in it, of consuming the seed corn. But what about the practical effects? I have heard stories—and I hope the noble Lord will be able to deny them—of 66 tanks mothballed in Germany because we have not the men to man them or the people to maintain them. That is over 10 per cent. of our tank force in Europe.
Similarly, according to our NATO obligations, we are supposed to have 30 days' stores on hand, and in the light of the experience of the 1973 War in the Middle East NATO wants to increase this provision. Can the Minister confirm that we adhere to this provision? I hope he can deny the alarming suggestions which I have heard, that the RAF is at times reduced to two, and the Army to seven days' stores. It is hardly surprising if the combination of these circumstances saps the morale of the most resolute of Servicemen. Here we are in a difficulty today. We believe that the position has been made worse by the apparent neglect—or, even worse, the deliberate abuse—of the goodwill and trust of Servicemen and women in the Forces.
This is perhaps the most pressing problem concerning our defence today. There is a table in the White Paper which shows that pay accounts for 43 per cent. of our expenditure; but the difficulty, which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, is that we are in the absurd situation of having a defence debate in this House in the knowledge that while the Armed Forces Pay Review body report has been considered by the Cabinet, yet we do not know what the Government are going to say about it, although we have seen in the papers a number of unfortunate leaks.
This debate was advanced somewhat from its normal time at the urgent request of the Government, and I believe that we must have two firm promises from the Minister: First, and most difficult, can he tell us when we will get some definite information about the Government's reaction to the Armed Forces Pay Review body report? Secondly, and here I will happily be interrupted by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, can he give us 1348 an absolute assurance that the Government will find time for a full debate on the question of Armed Forces pay as soon as possible after this report is published? Having got us into this situation, if he does not do this I really do think we would be entitled to make a major fuss, and, in the words of an American senator, "If we decide to create hell, it will be quite a long hell Meantime, all we can do is to point out the seriousness of the situation in which we find ourselves—a rapidly deteriorating situation—and hope that when we get the results of this deliberation it will do something to put it right.
I will give only one or two illustrations; I am sure that noble Lords behind me will give many others. Is it true that 1,200 airmen have applied for early release, that the recruitment of pilots—which is the other side of the same coin—is 36 per cent. below target and for navigators 50 per cent. below? It is admitted on page 43 of the White Paper that early in 1977-78:There has been a significant increase in the number of trained officers who have applied for premature voluntary release from the Army … and the Royal Air Force…".It is all very well for the noble Lord to say that the White Paper talks about reducing the rundown by 1,900 men. I am rather reminded of a factor on a Scottish estate who thought that by forming a rabbit clearance society all the rabbits would get up and go away. They will not, nor will the Government be able to reduce the rundown of 1,900 in Army manpower if men are both leaving in droves and refusing to join up. One has the impression that a trickle is becoming a flood. The Army is not suffering from anaemia or leukemia, it has arterial bleeding going on. In these circumstances it is small wonder to hear that, as part of a deal to supply Jaguar fighters to India, the RAF is to release 12 aeroplanes immediately—and they are happy to do so because they have not got the pilots to put in them or the people to look after them. I mention these specific cases only to try to add some reality to a generalisation.
I suggest that we ought at least to have pangs of conscience about failing in our obligations towards those who choose to put their faith in the Government to protect them from the ravages 1349 of the ruthless exploitation of industrial and other muscle by less scrupulous persons than those who serve in the Forces. Even if we cannot see the bad faith that is implicit in this, let us at least recognise that the self-interest of the country and our instincts of self-preservation should call for an early and convincing action before it is too late.
It is all very well for the White Paper, on page 25, to say:The centrepiece of the Royal Air Force Silver Jubilee celebrations was the Review by Her Majesty at Finningley".Some of us cannot help recalling the picture of the Minister showing, perhaps I should say, somewhat less alertness than one might expect from a Minister in charge of a Service Department. I would prefer to believe that his demeanour was not the result of indifference but exhaustion from fighting his colleagues on behalf of his Department.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, may I interrupt? I hope the noble Lord will not pursue that. After all, my noble friend was a very distinguished soldier.
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, I do not at all doubt that the Minister was a distinguished soldier. But I am going to say that all the evidence indicates that the Minister of Defence is falling asleep on his job, and it is high time he woke up before it is too late.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Mackie of Benshie will be dealing later in the debate with other aspects of defence, notably pay, without some agreed advance on which it looks as though we shall shortly have no Armed Forces at all! For my part I should like to concentrate on the broad nuclear issue dealt with, broadly speaking, in pages 1 to 4 of the Defence Paper, and in particular on the desirability or otherwise of taking steps fairly soon to renew our strategic nuclear deterrent; on the usefulness, or otherwise, of the enhanced radiation or neutron bomb, which has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal; on the most profitable role for the so-called "cruise missile"; and on the broad moral to be drawn from consideration 1350 of these horrible engines of death as regards the "conventional" defence of these islands in the framework of the European Economic Community and the North Atlantic Alliance. Since there is obviously no possibility of developing any of these points in detail in the few minutes available, I shall try to cast my remarks in the form of axioms which I would respectfully ask the Government, if not to accept or reject, at any rate to comment on in a general way.
I turn first to the renewal of our strategic deterrent. We are told by some undoubted experts that our Polaris fleet cannot be expected to guarantee even one submarine on constant duty beyond the early 'nineties. Among other factors inducing obsolescence, these experts allege that the Polaris submarines as they get older get noisier, and consequently more vulnerable, presumably, to anti-submarine measures of various kinds, including sonar. Other undoubted experts assert that this is too pessimistic and that the force will continue to be "credible", as they say, as a deterrent well into the 'nineties. They are all agreed, however, that at least within a few years, and more probably within two years only, from now, we shall have to decide whether to renew the deterrent or not, and, if so, how.
It must, surely, be clear that if we assume that American forces will remain in Germany until such time as sufficient progress has been made on disarmament or on limitation of armaments to enable them to be withdrawn without disaster, then there is no logical reason—unless, of course, we propose to become an independent super-Power, perhaps in conjunction with the French—for our continuing to have a strategic nuclear deterrent at all. It would logically indeed, on that assumption, be far better, surely, to devote the £3 billion, or whatever the exact figure is, for the renewal of our strategic nuclear deterrent, to modern conventional arms designed to strengthen the BAOR, to assist in the formation of a valid forward conventional defensive system in Germany, and to bring the Royal Navy really up to date, notably for the defence of our oil rigs and of our sea communications generally.
Would the Government therefore agree, even now, that it is only on the possibly 1351 justified, but pessimistic, assumption, that by 1992 the European Community will be expected somehow to provide for its own defence in all spheres, that a renewal of the British strategic nuclear submarine deterrent, whether based on some new style Poseidon missiles or cruise missiles, can be justified, whether economically or politically?
I approach the more immediate issue of the possible deployment in Europe of the enhanced radiation or neutron bomb, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona. The emotional reaction to this proposal seems to me to be misguided to a large extent, and to have been largely promoted by the Russians for very obvious purposes of their own, and notably perhaps to distract attention from their own action in installing in Western Russia this formidable mobile, medium range, and very accurate SS20 weapon, designed, if necessary, and even possibly on a first strike, to eliminate vital communication centres and industrial complexes in Western Europe far behind the lines. This weapon, surely, is much more horrible, when you come to think of it, than the neutron bomb is, in that, however employed, it would destroy or condemn to a living death large numbers of innocent civilians, to say nothing of reducing their surroundings to a heap of rubble, while the effect of the neutron bomb would be almost entirely limited to the elimination in a similar way of the crews of Soviet tanks and armoured fighting vehicles engaged in committing, after all, an appalling act of aggression.
In any case, most experts, I believe, seem to think that the neutron bomb fired in the shape of small shells from guns, or alternatively from launchers—and fired preferably into the territory of the adversary and not into our own territory—would be the most effective means of halting an armoured thrust coming from the East. That is their considered view. True its actual employment for this purpose would almost certainly result in the employment on the Soviet side of their own powerful tactical nuclear weapons which, even if the SS20s were not used, might well among other things disrupt allied lines of communication and, above all, prevent the arrival of reinforcements, to say nothing, of course, of convulsing the whole economy
1352 of the Federal Republic. The operation, in the sense of stopping the Russian advance, might therefore be successful and the patient die. Admittedly, of course, this would be the result of any nuclear exchange on the Western Front; there is no doubt about that. Still, for so long as the first use, if necessary, of nuclear weapons is a fundamental assumption of NATO strategy, it is clear that the neutron bomb would, on balance, probably he a useful element in our general defensive scheme, if only as a deterrent.
The argument against its deployment must consequently be related to the possibly serious effect of such deployment on East/West negotiations for the control of armaments, and notably, of course, on SALT, on the long stalled talks on MBFR in Vienna, and, of course, on the coming major disarmament discussions to which we are all much looking forward in Geneva. It is true that the SALT talks are supposed to be concerned solely with strategic weapons, but one would have thought that it was legitimate, and even desirable, for the Americans to make use of the eventual development and deployment of the neutron bomb as a substantial bargaining counter.
It is true, I think—perhaps I am wrong—that the SALT talks are in a mess. For instance, in an interesting article in the British Army Review, latest issue, Dr. Dennis Chaplin says:Instead of slowing down the arms race SALT only seems to have succeeded in two ways; first in producing a somewhat expensive qualitative race, and, secondly, in forcing the major nuclear powers to devise increasingly ingenious means of sidestepping SALT limitations on strategic equipment".That may be a pessimistic estimate, but there may be something in it. Perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply might tell me what he thinks.
Still, the desirability of postponing a decision on the nuclear bomb is a serious argument, and it seems to have prevailed, after some hesitation, with President Carter. It also seems—though I shall be grateful for some confirmation of this—to have been willingly accepted, with certain reservations, by Chancellor Schmidt. The question I should like to put to the Government, therefore, is this. Do they believe that we should be prepared to deploy the neutron bomb, when and if perfected, as part of our armoury 1353 in Germany if, within a period of, say, two years from now, no substantial progress has been made with the limitation of armaments or with disarmament generally? In other words, do they, or do they not, agree with Chancellor Schmidt?
I turn to the cruise missile, a small self-propelled device capable of flying sub-sonically at very low levels so as to escape detection, of carrying either a nuclear or a conventional warhead, and of being targeted with great precision by means of a satellite or otherwise. Although, as I believe, only early models exist at present, there seems little doubt that this could be a powerful instrument at the disposal of NATO whether used strategically or tactically. For in theory it could be launched from a submarine, from an aeroplane or even from small, mobile, launching platforms. Since the West is, as we all know, at such tremendous disadvantage as compared with the East as regards all "conventional" weapons, it is rather difficult to understand why this particular weapon, in its "tactical" capacity, should not in any case, when tested, be put at the disposal of NATO forces, including the British Army of the Rhine. After all, it would not be necessary to employ it in its nuclear version, although the warheads would, presumably, be available in case of need.
The Soviet Government apparently take violent exception to it for the simple reason that they do not have it, at least in the latest teleguided form, and that it might be difficult, and above all very expensive, to intercept. However, that is hardly a reason in itself for the West, in the absence of suitable compensation on, for instance, MBFR to deprive themselves of a valuable means of defence. Of course, the Cruise missile in its strategic capacity is something which need only be considered in relation to the possible renewal of our own strategic deterrent, which is something with which I have endeavoured, however briefly, to deal.
Therefore, the third question that I should like to ask the Government is: Do they agree that, if tests should confirm its usefulness, there would be every advantage in our eventually acquiring this weapon for deployment with the BAOR unless, in the course of negotiations for disarmament or limitation of arma 1354 ments, it should become clear that the Soviet Government are prepared to trade its non-deployment against some major concession, such as the withdrawal of at least one Soviet tank army from the Central Front?
I said at the outset of my few remarks that I would attempt now to draw some moral, by which I mean some guiding principle, from a consideration of the effect of all these deadly instruments, and I wonder whether the Government will agree to its formulation as follows? The great moral is, of course, that their mere existence points to the overriding need for progress in SALT in Vienna and in Geneva. However, that is surely not the only moral. Even if little or no progress is made in these spheres, as is unfortunately quite possible, all is not necessarily lost, general war is still not inevitable. For, pace the pessimists, in an era of possible general nuclear annihilation the old logic no longer applies. No longer, that is to say, if Europe—by which I mean the European Community—has the sense and the political will to construct, in co-operation with the United States and within the framework of course of the Western Alliance, a "conventional" and purely defensive force of a modern character, calculated by itself to contain from the start any conventional Soviet thrust by purely conventional means.
This is something that I have said again and again over the past 10 years, but I repeat it now. For if the Russian generals for whose intelligence we can have considerable respect—conclude that an armoured thrust in the North German plain could only succeed if they themselves first used a nuclear weapon, I think that they would probably hesitate long before launching such an attack, thereby risking a general exchange of nuclear missiles. Whereas if, on the contrary, they believe that they could reach the Rhine, or even the Weser, within a few days, before the West had decided to pull the nuclear trigger, then they might one day, I suggest, be sorely tempted.
In the Political Committee of the European Parliament, my good friend Egon Klepsch, a German Christian Democrat, is even now endeavouring to get the Committee and subsequently, of course, the Plenary of the Parliament, to 1355 pass a resolution on much the same lines as the resolution which I myself induced the Parliament, after nearly two years of effort, to approve in December 1975, against the violent opposition of a section of the Socialist Group who seemed determined not to understand the significance of the proposals as regards the so-called "nuclear threshold".
The essential point of Herr Klepsch's proposals will probably be that the Defence Ministers of the Nine, or such of them as consent to do so, should get together to consider jointly the best ways and means of co-ordinating the production in the Community of certain modern conventional—and I repeat "conventional—defensive weapons, if only with a view to laying thereby the foundation for some very much needed common industrial policy. Therefore, what I should like to ask the Government lastly is: Would they really be opposed to such a sensible proposal, when and if it comes up for discussion, as no doubt it will some day in the Council of Ministers, or perhaps in the European Council? Would they not rather take the lead in urging their colleagues, and notably the French, to proceed further in the direction already indicated some two years ago by the formation of the so-called European Programme Group, which I rather think the Government informed me, not so long ago, is now beginning actually to function fairly usefully?
I hope that your Lordships will feel that all these questions have been well worth putting and, as so often in the past, I look forward to constructive replies from the noble Lord who is to wind up the debate.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Viscount MONCKTON of BRENCHLEY
My Lords, I should like to take up two points made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. First, the idea that we should trade-in the neutron nomb for the withdrawal of one Russian tank army I do not think valid. They could bring it back in 48 hours. Secondly, the idea that we, in the West, could increase our conventional strength to meet any opposition from the Eastern Powers, again is not valid. We have not the time, the capacity, the manpower or, at present, the will so to do.
1356 In December last year, in a debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Carrington, I said that the morale of the Forces was the lowest that I had ever known it. Doubts were expressed by some of your Lordships. There will be no doubts expressed by any of your Lordships today. Every minute of every day and in every newspaper we see worse examples. Yesterday the Prime Minister said that there had been an unfortunate leak from the Ministry of Defence as regards the number of officers who had asked to leave.
Because I think it relevant, I shall do an unpardonable thing and quote from my speech on 7th December last year at column 1698. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for doing so. I said: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".I had asked him about the matter before the debate and he had told me that he could not answer the question. Four months have passed and the only answer that I have so far had is the leak which was announced yesterday in the Press. I realise that it is difficult, but it is a desperate situation if we are to learn information only by leaks and not by straightforward question and answer, even though it may take some time to find the information and to put it in writing if it is not suitable to communicate verbally.
I should like to ask a question which I have not put to the noble Lord and as regards which I do not expect an answer tonight. Is it true or not that some officers and soldiers are being refused the right to leave because of operational and other duties which would make it difficult if they did go? We know that the Government are now considering the pay review. We pray that their answers will be right. In the Forces, we have no productivity bonus except in war when we can count enemy heads. We have no overtime. We have no union. We have no strikes.
It is interesting that we have already heard how the Forces did well in the firefighting. It was the firemen who received the 10 per cent. and the promise of more—not the soldiers who were doing the 1357 work. It is not only a question of straight pay, it is the other things on the side which also matter. There is a strange disproportion as regards travel allowances. A civilian in Northern Ireland receives 52 free travel warrants a year, whereas a soldier who is on a two-year tour of duty gets eight per year. There may be a good reason for that, but I have not yet found it. Then we come to the disturbance allowance, when members of the Forces have to move. An officer receives £290 to move: a soldier receives £247—it is strange that there is a small distinction there—but a civilian receives £890 and something called "car repositioning". I have not quite discovered what that means, but I suppose it means moving the car free if he is not going to drive himself out. Again, that is a strange difference. It is that kind of thing that is also causing ill-feeling.
In addition, there are the matters of rent and heating. Some Servicemen live in more modern quarters than we did, but they suffer from too many modern inventions. Their quarters may have underfloor electric heating and no alternative method. That form of heating is extremely expensive, as anyone who is unfortunate enough to have electric heating in his house knows.
I turn to the more important aspects. The other day, the Foreign Secretary brilliantly explained the Soviet-Cuban imperialist-colonialist adventure in Africa. We know what is happening there; he has told us. The White Paper states the threat clearly and well. If I read it correctly, the response is an 8 per cent. cut in the Army and Navy and a 14.5 per cent. cut in the Royal Air Force. I pray that I shall be corrected on that.
We have heard about tanks and aircraft being undermanned. I have no first-hand knowledge of that, but I was frightened to read in one of the newspapers today that one complete crew of a Polaris submarine was hoping to leave; so one of those might be unmanned in the not too distant future. All this applies not only to the regular Forces. What has happened to the Forty-fourth Parachute Brigade of the Territorial Army? Does shortage of aircraft have a part to play in that? The Territorial Army is good, but it is not yet right. I declare an interest as honorary Colonel of the Kent and 1358 Sharpshooters Yeomanry, which is part of the Royal Yeomanry of Armoured Cars. At present the equipment of the Territorial Army depends on its role.
In the old days, we had the Volunteers and the Territorials; now they are called the Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve. Half the people in it, and most of the people outside it, do not understand what this distinction or name means. I put this forward as a positive and helpful suggestion; I think that we should go back to the straight name the "Territorial Army". At the moment some have overseas roles to play and some have home roles. In the case of the Infantry and some of the Service units, I honestly believe that these could be changed over in a period of time to give a new interest to those who have had home roles, and a rest from so much training to those who have had the overseas roles.
In the Territorial Army we lack administrative and backing services. In some cases, there are five to six drivers for one lorry and seven drivers for one ambulance. We are short of proper training facilities. We are short in the REME, the Mechanical Engineers. The old buildings for the Territorial Army were built for soldiers, and include houses and drill halls. Unfortunately, they are not suitable for modern fighting vehicles. In the Kent Yeomanry, we have the latest Fox armoured car, but we have unheated and badly-lit garages. As a result, maintenance is poor and so expensive a weapon as that armoured car should have better housing. Perhaps I can address this remark to those noble Lords who are farmers. We need an Atcost dairy structure with a well-lit and well-heated drill hall in the centre of the complex, lecture rooms on one side and garages for the vehicles on the other. I hope that that is a practical suggestion.
We need more fairly simple incentives in the Territorial Army. Too many people leave after two years' service, and not all because they have met the right girl and got married. We want an increase in the tax-free bounties, which should be linked to efficiency and service. We are short of good management in the sense that, except in a few regiments which are popular—like the Yeomanry, which has the latest armoured vehicles 1359 we have very few young officers. The average age of a lieutenant in the Territorial Army is 34; the average age in my regiment is 21 or 22. Therefore, we need more officer cadets who can come up through the ranks and, if suitable, become officers.
As in the regular Forces, doubt exists. A sense of purpose is not lacking in them but they think that it is lacking from the Government downwards. If there was more sense of purpose, we should have more recruits. All these soldiers and officers have full-time jobs; they give up every other Wednesday from lunch-time onwards; and most week-ends and two weeks a year they spend in camp. They want more visual recognition for service, skill at arms, general efficiency badges and, if you like, reversed chevrons for the number of years they have done. I shall not detain noble Lords on this. Perhaps I may send the noble Lord some of these ideas in writing. It will save him and your Lordships time and trouble, and I hope will be of some help. Any noble Lord who is interested to come to Croydon to see some of the Territorials at work—I can assure noble Lords that it is more work than play—would be most welcome.
I want to return for a minute to the regular Forces, particularly the aspect of family life. The one thing that has helped the families of the regular Forces for years is SSAFA—the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Family Association—which provides helpers in this country and abroad to advise and help families. This is particularly important to the social workers at the moment, when morale is low. Unfortunately, the morale of the social worker is low and SSAFA cannot recruit enough of them to help. They are mainly ladies with experience in this area who are of the utmost help to all units of all Services.
Perhaps I may give an example of one of the troubles that they come across. I was looking at the latest SSAFA magazine, which I shall leave in the Library. In it it says that one lady knocked at the door of a Serviceman's family house at 2.30 in the afternoon. It was answered by a six-year-old child. Why? The answer was, "Mummy is out". The lady went further in to see a smaller child of between the age of one 1360 and two. She asked when the mother went out and received the reply, "Before we got up". She then asked what they had for breakfast and the six-year-old replied," I gave the baby a Weetabix". That is the kind of thing that is happening: hopefully, it will be put right in the next few days.
Another family visited by SSAFA was 60p a week better off than if it had been on social security. It can be said that that is not too had, because many people are on social security. If they had been on social security, they would have received £5 a week for electricity and free dental treatment for the wife. Families were found to be breaking up because of these troubles. Some were giving up all forms of insurance—life insurance, valuables insurance and car insurance, for the vehicle as opposed to the third party. They could not afford to go on paying it. One lady had acute depression and SSAFA found out that it was because she got so fed up with seeing her husband have a good breakfast before he went off to work, when she only had one good meal a day.
These are the Forces defending this country. Thank God for Mr. Churchill and the noble Lord, Lord George-Brown, who is not here today, who did all they could to raise those funds at Christmas to give to the soldiers and all the Servicemen who helped during the firemen's strike. However, is it right that we should seek charity for those serving in Her Majesty's Forces? I cannot believe that it is.
Therefore, it is not only a question of pay; it is a question of cuts and what will happen in the future; it is a question of careers; it is the fear of unemployment —we are causing it. If we pay the Forces all that they are now being paid, we could double their strength and it would still be cheaper in terms of pay than if they were all unemployed. All these things affect morale. We who have served, those who are serving and most of this country cry out for help, leadership and a sense of purpose and justice. We in this House look to the Government to do their duty.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Lord BOURNE
My Lords, I follow the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of 1361 Brenchley, with great pleasure. I agree with every word he said, particularly about the TAVR. I asked for the title to be changed more than ten years ago, but it did not do any good. I should like to say that this will be quite a short speech about the threshhold and the north and south flanks of NATO. I had pay down too, but it is obviously not for discussion today.
I think everybody knows what the threshhold is, but, in case some do not, it is the possibility of conventional forces being so weak that the threshhold of nuclear warfare is brought nearer. I think that that is a terrible thing. The neutron bomb is only a type of the more terrible forms of warfare. It is really a side discussion, but it is rather serious. We ought to be grateful to the United States of America for accepting the responsibility of when to start nuclear warfare. The starting of it will be very much quicker if we do not look out.
I went on a visit to NATO about two years ago, in, I think, February 1976. We met the head of the Military Committee, who happened to be an Englishman. He said that NATO forces were on the edge of a precipice. He has never withdrawn that remark but we British, in spite of his warning, withdrew by three cuts in a row—some people make it five. It is absolutely terrible.
May I next turn to the north and south flanks of NATO. About these, I prefer the opinion of General Haig, the Supreme Commander, who said in a speech to the headquarters of the French Atlantic Council years ago that they were the most threatened. What did the British do? They ensured that a brigade of Royal Marines had to go by civilian ship to Northern Norway. So far as the south flank is concerned, all I can say is that the Turks and the Greeks are still at loggerheads, so it is not a happy situation.
The damage caused by cuts and low pay has already been done. In my opinion, it will take about six years to replace the warrant officer technicians, whether we like it or not and whatever increase of pay is approved this afternoon. In short, the Russians are doing quite well without having to bother about casualties and without firing a shot. They are playing the African situation by remote 1362 control. They have 50,000 Cubans, according to one report I read, carrying out their suggestions in Africa. They also know that we are not prepared to use force. We have said so. In the case of the British, this is because we cannot provide it, and in that of the Americans it is because they suffered a shocking defeat in the Vietnam war. Incidentally, they lost a war though they had complete 100 per cent. air superiority. I do not know what they were doing.
It would not surprise me if, from the Horn of Africa, the Russians were to dominate West Africa. They have already dominated Angola, Mozambique, and the Horn of Africa. I cannot see what will stop them from going to West Africa. We shall see. As regards the Mediterranean, for example, they already have the airfields in Syria and Libya, and Wheeler's Field was an absolute godsend to them. They can make it very difficult for the Sixth Fleet to conduct a successful war. Land based aircraft have always beaten carrier borne aircraft. They have the great advantage of making NATO worried about Europe when the target is elsewhere. It is in Africa. At least I think so.
Now, may I speak about the 3 per cent. increase about which we have heard various remarks. The above are the shortened reasons why the dates of the 3 per cent. increase referred to in favourable terms in paragraph 130 of the White Paper are important. We have only promised them in 1979-80 and in 1980-81, but 1981-82 is the subject of review according to paragraph 146 of the White Paper. Observing that the Russians are making a steady 5 per cent. increase, we ought in my opinion to consider carefully President Carter's suggestion to pay up without complaint on our part.
Lastly, I suggest—and I have suggested this before—that NATO should write a review including the Army and the Air Force, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. We always pride ourselves on making the biggest naval contribution to NATO, but we never ask ourselves whether it is sufficient. Observing that we did not even send a frigate to the Seychelles' independence celebrations, I do not think it is. We ought to write the review. It might be time for a change. Thank you very much, my Lords.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord ORR-EWING
My Lords, everything in the defence of our country, depends on the wellbeing, dedication and training of our serving officers and men. Every day it becomes clearer that, due to the run-down of our Forces and this Government's inability to pay them adequately, they are leaving or applying to leave in droves. I hope the Government will provide a full day's debate when the decision on pay is made, so that we may at length and in detail consider whether it is adequate to meet the serious needs of our time.
Because of the delay, I wish to concentrate on the extent to which this Government's cuts in defence expenditure have affected, first, the numbers employed in our uniformed Forces; secondly, the numbers of civilians directly employed by the Forces; and, thirdly, the numbers of people helping to manufacture defence equipment. I shall seek to show that by comparing the Defence Statement of 1973-74—that is, for the last year of Conservative Government, which I happened on yesterday—with this year's Statement, jobs have been deliberately cut by this Government in these three areas by 180,000. The uniformed personnel have been cut by 38,000—there is no difference of opinion about that—and, comparing the civilian strength in Annexe B of the two Statements, one sees that the biggest cuts have been in the repair, maintenance and storage of defence equipment, where 18,000 jobs have gone. The second biggest cut has been in our dockyards, where 12,000 jobs have gone. The total of lost jobs for defence civilians in this country in those three years has been 50,000.
It may be right—probably many noble Lords would think so—that we should comb the civilian tail of defence, but the cost in job opportunities has been very heavy indeed. Moreover, Dr. Gilbert, Minister of State at the Defence Department, said in the other place—this is reported in Hansard for 13th December—that as a result of the defence cuts, 90,000 extra job opportunities have been lost in the defence industry. Thus, we have a total of 38,000 uniformed, 50,000 civilians and 90,000, making a total of 178,000 jobs deliberately destroyed.
Now let us look at what this Government are doing and what they are spending 1364 to create jobs. They have launched 12 packages to alleviate unemployment and, broadly, I think most of us would support the idea; I take my reference from the Department of the Employment Press notice which was issued on 21st March, so the facts are right up to date. The 12 packages to alleviate unemployment are: the temporary employment subsidy; the job creation programme; the job release scheme; the recruitment subsidy for school-leavers; the youth employment subsidy; the work experience subsidy; the community industry subsidy; the small firms employment subsidy; the job introduction scheme; the training allowance, placement allowance and mobility allowance. About £900 million has been spent in three years on creating in many cases short-term, dead-end jobs while denying jobs to 180,000 connected with defence. Is this sensible? Is this true value for money? It seems to me to be a distortion of honest endeavour and could have been promoted only because they are frightened by the Left-Wing criticism if they do not cut and cut again their defence programme.
Moreover, noble Lords may have seen the circular stating that a further £337 million has now been announced for extensions to these existing measures. In The Times yesterday there was an article saying that the temporary employment subsidy was to be replaced by something more permanent—by a statutory scheme to compensate workers who are placed on short time—and preliminary estimates of the gross costs are put at £490 million shared between Whitehall and the employers. Britain is, therefore, prepared to spend millions of pounds on artificially stimulating jobs, the vast majority of them short-term, while going on cutting and cutting jobs where the men are so badly needed in our defence services.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, I apologise for intervening because most of the speeches which the noble Lord makes are very constructive. I should not like him to miss the point that, however strong we may be militarily, unless our economic base is sound we are a weak nation. Consequently, the skills of the unemployed should perhaps be kept alive in engineering and other industries. I therefore urge the noble Lord to be careful in the line of argument he is 1365 adopting, and I will not put it any higher than that.
§ Lord ORR-EWING
My Lords, I said at the outset that broadly I admired and supported this job stimulation, but it seems to be a one-sided form of stimulation where we are doing it for civilian industry but are not doing it for the defence industry and the Forces. I assure the noble Lord that I shall later be making a constructive suggestion.
I can understand the Government's sensitivity in the area of the number of unemployed because when they came to office there were just under 600,000 unemployed, whereas today a further 900,000 people are out of work. But why are they deliberately taking measures to destroy 180,000 jobs in defence, and why are they prepared to spend such large sums of money elsewhere? There is lavish money, as we have seen, for British Leyland; only recently another £150 million was made available, and there is a further £300 million to come there. For the NEB £500 million has been set aside. For BNOC £2,000 million will be spent in five years. There are innumerable other schemes, yet jobs in defence are cut, cut and cut again until we have the farcical state where 50 tanks have to be taken out of service because there are no crews to man them.
I urge the Government to introduce a scheme which will give similar job opportunities in the Services. Could they not offer young men a year's training, followed by perhaps a fortnight's retraining for a further three years? If this is honourably undertaken, why should a trainee not be given a tax-free bounty of, say, £2,000? Many young people and their parents would welcome the opportunity and would welcome the discipline. Britain would be gaining at no great cost some extra badly needed Reservists while creating extra badly needed jobs. If nothing is done the country must conclude that the Government are prepared to spend unlimited money on almost anything while their Left Wing will not allow them to create jobs in defence.
We have had two debates in your Lordships' House in which we have twice urged the Government to honour the NATO target and spend 3 per cent. extra 1366 in real terms, which means £200 million extra, a small sum compared with the figures I have been quoting. On 12th May 1977 the Government accepted our Motion on those lines without voting. No doubt they were influenced by the massed Benches of Tories, Liberals and CrossBenchers, while their own Benches were rather bare. It is sad that yet again today we started this debate with over 30 Cross-Benchers, over 30 Tories and only 13 on the Labour Back-Benches.
We are, I am sure, all sad that not one Labour Back-Bench speaker will be taking part in this debate, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, though I do not think his defence outlook would match up exactly eye to eye with the present Labour defence viewpoint. It is surprising that there should be only one Labour Back-Bencher speaking in a debate of this kind at such a vital time. As recently as 7th December last, with the assistance of many Tories, Liberals and some Cross-Benchers, we defeated the Government on a similar Motion about the 3 per cent. and a pay increase.
The Government have tried to pretend that they will spend 3 per cent. more in 1979-80, but I think that is a palpable deceit, as I shall seek to show. In 1977 their public expenditure forecast stated that defence would cost, in the year 1979-80, £6,521 million, that figure being after revaluation at 1977 prices. In this year's Public Expenditure White Paper they allocate for the same year, 1979-80, only £6,466 million, which is £55 million less. My noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal has quoted Mr. Mulley as endorsing this; that it is a cut in real terms of 1 per cent. Currently, the 1978-79 White Paper we are discussing today is a considerable cut also. In reply to much Left-Wing criticism in the other place, Mr. Mulley said:In fact, in real terms the Defence Budget I shall be presenting later this year is the lowest to be presented by this Government".—(Official Report, Commons, 24/1/78, col. 1158.)In the face of what is happening in the Warsaw Pact, and all over the world, are we right to go on spending less and less? What is sad for the future is that our NATO allies are doing so immeasurably better. I received from the Institute for Strategic Studies, which was kind enough to get the figures for me from the various London embassies, details of what other 1367 NATO allies were doing for the increase in 1979-80. The USA is increasing the NATO proportion of their defence budget by 3 per cent; West Germany is increasing theirs by 4.3 per cent.; Norway (not a rich country) by 7.4 per cent.; the Netherlands by 4.7 per cent.: Portugal by 9.2 per cent.; and Turkey and Greece, (perhaps for their own reasons) by 11 per cent. and 13 per cent. respectively. Why are we complacent about a 1 per cent. cut, or even the claimed 3 per cent. increase, if one accepts that phoney figure? Why cannot we do better after all the defence cuts we have had to suffer in recent years?
Lastly, I believe that in an Election year, the nation is entitled to know about the future Labour Government's policy on defence. In this vivid red pamphlet, published nearly two years ago, Labour set out its programme called Labour's Programme for Britain 1976. This was approved by the Labour Party National Executive Committee, and it was overwhelmingly supported at the Labour Party Conference in October 1976. This calls for programme cuts of £1,000 million more; at today's prices that would be a programme cut of £1,300 million. Mr. William Rodgers, who was then Minister of State for Defence, and Mr. Roy Mason, Secretary of State, both condemned it. They both take a very robust attitude, and I only wish their voices had carried more power in the Labour Cabinet.
Since then, the influence of the Left Wing has grown even stronger and more numerous, though their demands as we approach an Election have been reduced from a shout to a very quiet whisper. At the time the Minister said that such a programme, which calls for the running down of BOAR from 55,000 to 30,000, would destroy Britain's defence credibility. Mr. Mason said that it would entail, at best, a policy of neutrality, and at worst, surrender. That was reported at column 356 of Hansard of 13th July 1976. It would affect many of the 25,000 people on warship construction, and it has been calculated in a Labour Party hand-out that it would make jobless another 300,000 who are working in industry on defence equipment.
In the last few years we have seen surrender after surrender to the demands of the Marxist wing of the Labour Party, 1368 and Act after Act has been passed to its demands. Can we now have from the Leader of our House a positive assurance that this policy, as set out in this Labour pamphlet, will now be abandoned in the face of the growing menace from the USSR and its satellite countries?
I have quoted figures—and dramatic figures—and all of them come from official Government sources. I have sought to show that this Government have in four years destroyed 180,000 jobs in defence Departments and in industry. They have earmarked £900 million, and a further £337 million, in an effort to give temporary and often dead-end jobs to a total of 320,000 people. I have urged them to promote job opportunities in defence for younger people. If they take action, we shall praise them. But if they do not, surely it will reflect either their indifference to the danger, or obedience to their militants on the Left. I have quoted Mr. Mulley to the effect that this year's budget in real terms is the lowest ever introduced by a Labour Government, and for next year Mr. Mulley has claimed both a further reduction of 1 per cent., and an increase of 3 per cent. But whatever it is, it is not enough.
Lastly, I have asked that the official Labour Party should abandon its policy to cut another £1,000 million. I have asked Government, in the face of the desparate threat from the USSR, to defy their Left Wing and to spend more. If they are prisoners of their Marxist wing, let them resign and leave it to Mrs. Thatcher's Government to set defence matters right, and to give confidence to our Armed Forces and our allies.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Earl CATHCART
My Lords, in discussing this year's Statement on the Defence Estimates, I should say that by far the most serious aspect of our defence policy today is undoubtedly the damage which successive rounds of cuts in defence expenditure have imposed on the pay and conditions of our Armed Forces; and contrary to the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, I am going to talk about that briefly this afternoon. Many noble Lords so far today have referred to the problems of our front line units of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the armoured 1369 units in Germany. The noble Lord the Leader of the House himself referred to the large numbers of warrant officers and noncommissioned officers who are retiring prematurely, or buying themselves out, in despair at the treatment they have received. All this is now well known throughout the country; notwithstanding the so-called leak, this has daily been published in our newspapers, and indeed all this has been said many times recently in your Lordships' House. This disastrous situation in which the Armed Forces now find themselves, in comparison with the wages of their civilian counterparts, makes one question the whole basis by which Forces' pay is decided.
The rumour of the 14 per cent. increase in Forces' pay, which hit the headlines shortly before this debate began, is some indication of the speculation that is going on, and of the deep anxiety that is felt throughout the Armed Forces; and we certainly all wait with anticipation the Government's decision on the recommendations of this year's report by the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body. It is absolutely essential that when this report is published, your Lordships have a full debate on the decisions taken by the Government, as my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal said. I want to refer later to the question of debating this report.
Today I want to suggest four proposals for improving the method by which the scale of Forces' pay is decided in the future, in order to ensure that Forces' pay is not subjected to the hit and miss and hot and cold treatment of recent years. My first proposal is that, in order to achieve a fair assessment—which is complicated and difficult—of what is a just wage for the Armed Forces, they must be represented by an independent body, whose task must be to ensure not only that the basic pay of the Armed Forces remains comparable job for job with what is happening in civilian life but also that the take-home pay of the Armed Forces remains comparable. This calls for a proper assessment of the X factor. This representative body should be composed, as perhaps the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body is, of men of wide experience who have all the necessary facts and figures available to them. It must come to its decisions, and it must make its report, which it must publish, and the Government must then 1370 decide whether to accept all, or part, of the recommendations. These decisions must be fully debated by the public, and in the Press, and in Parliament.
This is what was originally intended when the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body was set up, but in my opinion it has lost its independence, and we can only hope that when the report, for which we are all waiting, is published, it will have regained its manhood. In answer to a question in another place on 9th December, as to whether the Review Body was free to make its own recommendations, or whether it was bound by Government pay policy, Dr. Gilbert, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence, replied, as reported at column 1947 of the Official Report:The Review Body is recommended to make recommendations in line with Government pay policy ".I think there is a little bit of arm bending there. In the sixth report of the Review Body, which was published 12 months ago—that is, in April 1977—and which at the moment is the last indication we have of that body's recommendations, on page 1, in their introductory remarks, they said:Once again, therefore, effectively we are free only to recommend whether the pay of members of the Armed Forces should be increased by the maximum amount allowed by the pay limits or by some lesser amount".In other words, the Government are shuffling the pack and dealing the Review Body only those cards which they wish them to play—hardly a promising hand for a tough negotiating deal—and the Government have simply been negotiating Forces' pay with themselves. In my view, if the Review Body is to have the confidence of the men and women it serves, then it must be completely independent and must be seen to be protecting the comparability of their pay in relation to that of the rest of the community. That is my first point: the complete independence of the body that is responsible for representing the Forces' case to the Government.
My second proposal is that the Review Body report is of sufficient importance to merit a full debate in its own right in your Lordships' House whenever it is published. In previous years, this defence debate has taken place shortly after the Review Body report has been published, and we have had to lump our comments on the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1371 in with our opinions on the report of that body; and we were told even up until a few days ago that this year no separate time could be allocated to us to discuss the report of that body. I think it is of sufficient merit to qualify for a debate in its own right.
For this reason, the Armed Forces are a special case in themselves, as are the police. Those groups of wage-earners who traditionally do not have the right to withdraw their labour as an ultimate in wage negotiation, such as our police force and members of our Armed Forces, and who are both employed in different spheres connected with the security of our nation, hold a special place in the responsibility which the nation accords to them in protecting their awards for this loyal service; and for this reason, again, a full debate based on the full details must be made available and is absolutely essential. Perhaps the only good thing which has come out of the delay in publishing the Review Body's report this year, and also the timing of today's debate, is that inevitably, I think, we have a very strong case for a separate debate on the report, which is likely to come out next week.
My third proposal concerns the X factor. A proper assessment of the X factor is clearly vital if the take-home pay of the Armed Forces is to remain comparable with the take-home pay of equivalent wage-earners in civil life. This assessment is certainly not something about which the Government should dictate to the Review Body, although they may, of course, disagree with their recommendations or their final assessment. In either case, the responsibility for reviewing what the Government have decided must rest with Parliament and with the public as a whole. During the last three years, on Government instruction, the Review Body have recommended only those rises in Forces' pay necessary to keep pace with the basic pay of civilian employees; in other words, this year, within the Government pay limit of 10 per cent. No account has been taken of their civilian counterparts' ability to earn overtime, to be awarded productivity deals, to have an expense account or to have their jobs evaluated upwards. That last privilege, which exists in civilian life, is quite unrealistic for the Armed Forces because 1372 they are pegged to very tight establishments by the Treasury, and you cannot suddenly wave a wand and say that all corporals are doing sergeants' jobs and should be paid accordingly. So it is a privilege which certainly exists and is used in civilian life which is not afforded to the Armed Forces. In other words, in recent years the X factor has been totally ignored, and this is why the Forces' pay has fallen so disastrously behind.
The X factor is, as I have tried to explain, the key factor for a square deal in Forces' pay, and its correct assessment must be fully debated. Yet the Pay Review Body hold this particular card very close to their chests, and I have searched in vain in the Sixth Report, which is the last one we have available to us, for any mention of how the X factor is being put into effect. Apart from one very small side mention of it, it is not mentioned at all. So my third proposal today is that in future reports—I may be too late for the one which is being published next week; I understand that, but in future reports—there must be a full paragraph explaining how the X factor has been assessed, so that this matter can then be properly debated. I hope that, if it is too late to put this paragraph into the report which I think is already in the hands of the Cabinet, then the Ministers speaking on it and presenting it to us will explain these details to us then.
Now the Statement on the Defence Estimates, which we are discussing today, deals with our defence policy and expenditure for the financial year beginning 1st April 1978 and into the future; yet the figures given in that Statement for Forces' pay are those which were recommended by the Review Body in their report published in April 1977 for the year beginning 1st April 1977. On page 16 of the Statement there is a diagrammatic figure, Figure 6, which is a circle with segments—if you like, a cake with slices. Each segment shows a different item of defence expenditure, such as pay for one slice, equipment for another, buildings for another and so on. The second biggest segment in this circle is a segment of 22 per cent. of the total, which represents Forces' pay; and it shows that the total expenditure for that segment is £1,492 million, which, of course, as I have just said, is presumably based on the recommendations of the Forces' Pay Review 1373 Body on 1st April 1977, and yet we are discussing total expenditure for the future. It is rather putting the cart before the horse, and I cannot resist saying that, perhaps, with the recent cuts, we are very lucky to have a cart at all.
Will the Cabinet decision, which I believe was taken this morning, alter the size of that segment, alter the percentage which that segment represents? If so, how will that affect the size of the other segments? Or will the diagrammatic circle have to become an egg-shaped figure? The point I really want to make is my fourth proposal; namely, that future Review Body reports should be published and decided upon before the annual Statèment on the Defence Estimates, so that the figures published in those Estimates are the relevant ones which have been decided upon, not using, for the sake of convenience, past figures. This year's Estimates are in fact based in part at least on last year's figures, and this rather bears out what my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing said about the 3 per cent. If what he said is true—he was very convincing, and I have every reason to believe that it was—it makes the figures in these Estimates that we are discussing rather subject to doubt, and I hope that the noble Lord, when he replies, will put our minds at rest on that subject.
Now your Lordships may think that I have confined my speech to some rather narrow aspects of our defence policy. I have resisted discussing NATO strategy or the neutron bomb or a comparison of the relative strengths of NATO and the Warsaw Pact; but I can assure your Lordships that that, for a retired major-general, is a considerable act of self-denial. I have concentrated on how the future negotiations of Forces' pay can best be conducted in order to give them a square deal, because in my opinion it is in that area that the Government's successive defence cuts have left the deepest scars.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, made some very interesting propositions on the subject of Armed Forces' pay and appeared to have the notion that a new body—independent, of course—should be created to operate on the principle of comparability and extra duties performed by 1374 the officers and men in the Services. But all these propositions are unlikely to prove of any value for the simple reason that, although we have not been informed definitely, it is quite on the cards that the Government have already received the report of the Armed Forces' Review Body, are giving it consideration and will make an announcement shortly. When the announcement is made we can debate it until we are blue in the face; and the Government will not change their mind.
When we were told at the outset of this debate that questions relating to defence and cognate subjects would be answered by my noble friend Lord Winterbottom, it occurred to me that that would not be of the slightest value either; because the answer to all questions on the subject of pay would be that the Government were giving it consideration and that an announcement would be made shortly.
In fact, I feel that, ever since I came into this House this afternoon and began to listen to all the speeches, I have wasted my time—in spite of the single honour paid to me in that I am the only person on this side of the House who is likely to speak on the subject of defence. However, one never can tell. There may be some dark horses about who may add their names to the list before the end of our proceedings.
But, after all, why criticise this side of the House? We are discussing the number one priority in relation to all the problems which confront us: security for our people against possible aggression. You can talk about an advanced technology or about solving the problem of unemployment or getting near to a solution. You can deal with the problems of the slums and transportation and the like, but, unless you can solve the problem of how you are to promote the security of the people against possible aggression, none of that will be of much use. That is the number one priority. Yet I did not notice a great display of enthusiasm on the other side of the House. There is almost complete indifference apart from those who are intensely interested in the subject—and even they frequently fail to attend our proceeidngs when we are debating this important topic. So let us dismiss this bit of a wrangle on matters of no particular importance.
1375 Let us deal with the subject. It seems to have escaped the notice of noble Lords on that side of the House, and it may have escaped the notice of some on this side, that the Budget Estimate provides for an expenditure of no less than £7,000 million. That is no small sum: £7,000 million. That, according to the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, and some other Members on that side and some people associated with the Press of the country, ought to be added to with various substantial increases. But nobody on that side of the House, and hardly anybody outside, has ever come to a definite conclusion on how much we should spend on defence or how much we can afford to spend. We make suggestions about what missiles we should equip the Forces with, the number of men that we should employ, our strategy and all the rest of it, but never come to a conclusion of what this country can really afford. And it is very doubtful if it can afford more than it is spending at the present time despite the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, this afternoon and his criticism of Government expenditure in other directions.
The fact of the matter is that without allies we cannot promote security. We must face that inescapable fact. The United States is, perhaps, not so wholly devoted to European security as it was in the past. Occasionally there are murmurings, protestations, demands for caution and reminders about the past, about Vietnam and the rest. Friends?— Yes! But they have not yet been called upon to enter into another conflict on this side of the Atlantic. And what about the others? When it is possible to demonstrate that every one of the countries associated with NATO are putting in their full weight—in finance, manpower, equipment and the like—then it is time to criticise our Government for any failure or any omission on their part.
Let it not be forgotten that our Forces are Regular; they are voluntary and Regular. They have to be highly paid and they ought to be highly paid—up to the limit, with every penny we can afford. That I agree with. I would not object to anything of that kind, whatever sacrifices would have to be made. But we have to take into account the fact that our allies do not have to indulge in expenditure on manpower to the extent that we have, for 1376 the simple reason that their Forces are conscripted and our Forces are voluntary.
Of course there is a remedy for our problem. There is no question about it —a return to National Service. Personally, I think it would be a very good thing for the country as a whole, very good for the morale of our young people and, I think, perhaps more likely to prove a deterrent in the opinion of the Russians, the possible aggressors, than the neutron bomb or any nuclear weapon. After all, it is manpower that matters.
The reference this afternoon by the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, and by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, are relevant to this subject. The Russians are not worried about the likelihood of a neutron bomb being manufactured and used, nor about the advent of nuclear weapons in action. What they are concerned about is whether we can produce as vast a number of men in the Allied Forces as to prevent the Russians indulging in nuclear attack themselves. If anything is likely to happen at all—and there is a good deal of conjecture and speculation about this; there can be nothing definitive about it—what is most likely is that a conflict could emerge on the Continent, some incident—who can tell?—which would give the Russians an opportunity of testing the capacity and capabilities of the NATO Forces. So that is what we want.
If we cannot return to National Service, I offer this suggestion because it was referred to by their members this afternoon. That is, to build up to a greater degree our ability and our equipment in the Territorial Forces. We have never yet reached our target in the TAVR. We had a target a few years ago of 10,000. Even that was not enough in my opinion, and I said so at the time. We have reached a figure of 6,000—no more than that—including as I understand it, something like 3,000 women. I do not object at all to the female sex being incorporated in our Territorial Auxiliary Forces. That is very valuable indeed. But, after all, a matter of 6,000—what does it mean? When we were told, as we were told this afternoon—and some of us are well aware of it—that the training and equipment are ineffective—they are only perfunctory in any event—in operation, then it is about time we reconsidered the whole 1377 strategy in relation to the build-up of our conventional forces.
One last word about the neutron bomb. Some weeks ago, when the matter was raised in the House, I said that I want the neutron bomb. What for, my Lords? I can be quite frank about it. The whole purpose of our defence organisation is that we are likely to he confronted by an aggressor. It is the same with our allies, NATO and the rest of it. We have to devise every possible means to prevent surrender. It might be a neutron bomb, or it might be worse. It might be some other device, the cruise missile, more submarines or more killer submarines. But the country is entitled to use any possible device, however horrific it seems to be, in order to defend itself against an aggressor and prevent surrender.
Let us start from the beginning with our manpower. Pay it well; treat it well; pay it the highest respect; use it effectively and add to its numbers by a vast number of young people in this country who, in my judgment, if properly led with the right language and example, would help to build up our auxiliary Forces to an extent that would enable us to overcome many of the problems that now face us when we are discussing defence expenditure. I made those suggestions to those who are concerned with these matters.
I want to mention a personal matter. Two years ago it was decided, with the consent of some Members of your Lordships' House, that we should create a small body of Members who might study defence matters. We have done so. We have seen people from all parts of the world. Some created a surprise by coming; some came whom we thought we would never be able to entertain. They have told us a great deal about the defence organisation in other countries. We have had discussions, it has been a useful body. It has never yet been recognised officially in your Lordships' House.
Nevertheless, in the other place they have an official committee on defence expenditure who are entitled to proceed from place to place, even if it means going overseas, at the expense of the Ministry of Defence, or it may be the Foreign Office or the Treasury, I cannot say which body would be responsible. Yet we were unable 1378 recently to accept an invitation from the Commander-in-Chief on the northern flank, General Whiteley, who asked that we should go over there and see what was happening and at the same time be the guests of the Norwegian Government. This was all because there was no finance available to provide the transport. Yet we were told this afternoon of the defence expenditure doing this and that in the other place.
Often we are told that we have all the amenities in your Lordships' House. Ever since I came here I have discovered that I left all the amenities behind me when I left the other place. This is a privilege, this is something which should be made acceptable and agreeable to those members who are intensely interested in the subject of defence and want to know more about it. It is a matter for your Lordships' House to decide.
I have not asked any questions this afternoon and I shall tell your Lordships why. It is because I do not think that it is possible for my noble friend Lord Winterbottom—with all the admiration and affection I have for him—to do any more than he has done in the past; that is, to cover up our misdeeds and our failures with his usual diplomatic skill and, at the end of the day, we can accomplish nothing at all. I suggested some time ago that we should have had two debates. It may be recalled that I made that suggestion in your Lordships' House. One subject would be Forces' pay and the other defence strategy. It was regarded with indifference on this side. That, of course, I expect. But it was regarded with very little enthusiasm on the other side. That suggestion would have been the right thing to do.
So today the Government would not have been able to get away with it. This debate was arranged and, after all, if they knew their report from the Armed Forces' Board was to come before the Cabinet they could have arranged to have the meeting of the Cabinet yesterday and given us a decision today so that we could have got our teeth into that subject. We were prevented from doing so. That is a piece of diplomatic skill on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House. I do not like that kind of thing.
I believe that defence is necessary; I wish it were otherwise. I wish it was 1379 something that we need not trouble about at all. I believe it to be necessary, even if it means some sacrifice on the part of the taxpayer, and even if it means that the Government must stand up to those people in another place who have no time for defence: those who suggested that we should reduce expenditure on defence by £1,000 million, and many who do not believe that defence is necessary at all. I reject their views, as the Government do, as my noble friends on the Front Bench do, and as Members of your Lordships' House do.
Nevertheless, they can be troublesome, and the time has come when we must, being as united as it is possible to be, objectively set aside political shibboleths and all the rest of those obstacles and barriers which have prevented co-operation in matters of defence that are essential, and do something more useful when we are holding our debates—in other words implement some of the propositions that are made such as, for example, those made by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, earlier. I am sorry they are not going to be of much value. It is not his fault; it simply happens that the Government have got the better of us in this matter and have had this debate; they will come along in the course of a week or so—perhaps next week or in a few days—and make an announcement, and that will be the end of the matter.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ The Earl of CORK and ORRERY
My Lords, there is one thing I think I can say without fear of contradiction, and that is that there is no noble Lord in this House who would willingly follow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, if he could help it. It has happened to me before, and twice is almost too many. I hope it may never happen again. Who on earth, sitting upon the Back-Benches, would want to follow so shining a star? However, I confess to a feeling of exaltation, pleasure and excitement engendered in me by the words of the noble Lord—not at all an unusual 1380 experience, but one that I fancy is not shared by his noble Leader who, overcome no doubt by his skilfully disguised barbs, has left the Chamber.
It is spring time; the sun outside is shining, so far as I can see; the sky appears to be blue and no doubt the birds are singing and the young man's fancy is lightly turning to thoughts of whatever it may be in this permissive age. At this time of the year, for some reason or other, we choose to come and debate defence. It seems to be totally unsuitable that we should shut ourselves away from all this gaiety, beauty, general burgeoning and what-not, and come here to listen to the usual bromides and the kinds of platitudes and rubber stamp remarks which come from the Government Front Bench—particularly from this Government's Front Bench though not exclusively, I admit. We have heard plenty of them this afternoon and we have in fact heard a new one, so I cannot really call it rubber stamp because I have never heard it before and I am not frightfully keen on ever hearing it again, if the truth be told.
I refer to the statement made by the noble Lord the Leader of the House when he said:We are pulling our weight in NATO and can claim that our contribution is impressive by any standard".I would emphasise that phrase "any standard". I can think of quite a few standards by which it is a little less than impressive, and if the noble Lord really does think anything quite so incredible as that, I think he might do well to talk to some of those people referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell—his highest commanders in NATO, who come and talk to us in the All-Party Defence Study Group. He would get a very different idea of their opinion of our contribution, and he might even get one from Dr. Luns.
We have this debate, but—the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, made this point, and he is almost certainly right as he usually is—it will do no good; nobody will pay any attention. The Government have made up their minds—if the kind of sentence I have just quoted gives any indication of minds being made up—and we are, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, feels himself to have been doing, wasting our time. This is the basic factor to which I succumb to some extent in these annual debates— 1381 the fact that we talk and talk, and nobody listens. I do not believe it is true altogether, but I do think it is true that the Government will take no notice.
Why have the Government fixed this debate for this afternoon? The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell—I hope he will forgive me if I go on quoting him, but he did make the speech immediately prior to mine and I do not see why I should not make just a little bit of capital out of it if I can—made the point that the Government had played this trick by having the debate this afternoon when in fact the Pay Review Body's Report is available and might perhaps have been issued in time for the debate. In fact, if we are not to have a debate of our own (and the Government do not wish that we should) on the report, it means that the report can never be debated at all in this House. But there must be a debate. Several of my noble friends have said this, including my noble friend Lord Strathcona and others. I add my voice to theirs.
It is absolutely wicked and wrong if we are denied a debate on this subject. The Government are considerably in error if they think that by holding the debate on this day they arc preventing us from discussing the subject. The subject is here to he discussed and it is in fact, whether it is actually talked about by a speaker in the debate, the central factor of the debate, around which everything else in the debate revolves—all the nuts, bolts, weapons and weapon systems, aircraft and everything else.
Some of your Lordships will have seen the current edition of the Royal United Services Institution Journal, now in the Library. As usual it has an editorial, the title of which is "The Soldier Slighted". That is a quotation which may be familiar to some of your Lordships from a 16th century poet who was responsible for this quatrain:Our God and soldier we alike adore when at the brink of danger, not before The danger o'er, both are alike requited God is forgotten and the soldier slighted ".Soldier" like the word "military" is applicable, in the sense in which I choose to use it here, to all three Services. I am using it as a kind of generic term for the fighting man and the fighting woman. When a man joins a fighting service as a combatant soldier (again 1382 using the word in its general sense) he does something which is done by nobody else at all, I think: he gives his life to his country. He actually hands it over. He hopes, of course, at the end of his service to get it back again, and usually he does. But sometimes he does not. Sometimes the Government, as personified by his officers, or whoever it may be, find that it is necessary to put him in a situation where that life that he has given to his fellow men will not be returned to him and for him—it happens not only in war; it happens in Northern Ireland and in other parts—the end is a Union flag on his coffin and a widow's pension for his wife.
The soldier would not think in that way: he is not likely to dramatise himself to quite that extent. But I think you will recognise the truth in what I say. This is what the man does, and it puts him in a special category in relation to his fellow citizens. It does not put him in a special category for pay. No soldier, so far as I know, ever claimed to be a special case or wanted to have extra pay. It is not that; but it does put upon his fellow men an obligation to look after him and not to cheat him. That word has not so far been used and I am about to use it. The soldier has been, and is being, cheated. and perfectly deliberately.
The Government's pay policy, operating phase by phase by phase, has introduced the 10 per cent. guideline. The soldier cannot have his pay increased beyond 10 per cent. in any one year. That is accepted by one and all, but, as was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, in a speech of great power and value, I may say, other people, all kinds of people, have had their pay increased without going over the 10 per cent. guideline, by means of productivity agreements, by being able to work overtime, by perks and expense accounts of various kinds. None of these applies to the soldier. The Government were in a quandary. They wanted to pay this soldier, this sailor and this airman, but they could not do it. They were pinned down, as we all agree, by their own 10 per cent. guideline and they could not escape. They could not pay the soldier overtime, because the soldier does not get overtime.
1383 So what did they have on hand to enable them to give the soldier what corresponded to a productivity agreement? They had an instrument designed by themselves, as though almost perfectly made for that express purpose, which they not only did not use but used against the soldier. I refer to the military salary. When this was introduced, it was received with satisfaction in the Armed Forces as a whole. There were some who were sceptical at that time—not many, I think—who were more perspicacious than others, who did not trust the Government in regard to that, and said "No, they will use this to cheat the soldier".
When inflation came, and other people were getting their pay increased, the Government could have not put up the soldiers' rent and his electricity bills. They could have not forced him to pay impossibly large bills for that well-known fraud, the night storage heater, to keep him and his family warm. But none of this did they do. On the contrary, having made themselves his landlord, made themselves responsible for his welfare, and having taken everything under their beneficient wing, the Government then proceeded to put the screw on him; to put up his bills and to behave like the most extortionate landlord than one can imagine. They made sure that every last farthing was extracted out of him, to the extent that he and his wife had to go moonlighting and, ultimately, had to leave the Services.
We have heard several examples this afternoon of what the soldier is doing. It is called, in the jargon phrase, "voting with his feet", which, as we all know very well, means walking away. This is happening very largely in the Army and the Air Force, but I should like to pick on an example from the Navy, which has not been very much mentioned. What I have in mind is the method which they have in the Navy, by which a rating or an officer can give 18 months' notice and then go. I understand from naval friends of mine that the number of men who are giving these notices has been increasing steadily over the last two or three years.
I should like the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, when he answers at the end of this debate to give the House some figures. How has this number been 1384 increasing over the last two or three years, or over any convenient period that he thinks fit?—so that we can see. One point about this is that the notices that are given today will, unless they are withdrawn—and I believe that they can be—take effect 18 months from now. This is a symptom, a piling-up, of this "voting with feet". We have been warned of it, it is in the pipeline, and it is growing. I have given the noble Lord notice of that question, so I know that he will reply to it.
That is almost all that I have to say, but I make no apology for fixing my attention on this one point, because the Ministry of Defence, alone of all the Departments of State—and this, again, confirms what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell—is, capable, single-handed, of destroying the nation, or of making it possible for it to be destroyed by an enemy. There is no other such Department, or combination of Departments, in the country that can do that. The Ministry of Defence will not do it, but there are signs that the Government who are responsible for it, are calling upon it to do it.
I would say in passing—and I say this with sadness and regret—that I do not understand how, year after year, Ministers can go on trundling into this Chamber and into another place, defending what the Government are doing and trying to put a good gloss on it. Why do we never hear of anybody resigning from the ministerial ranks, or from the upper ranks of the Services, if it comes to that? Does nobody take this seriously? I take this seriously, as do many of my noble friends.
I should like to refer once more to that quatrain, which I quoted from the RUSI Journal. It says,The danger o'er, both are alike requited God is forgotten and the soldier slighted".The soldier has been slighted. I do not know whether God has been forgotten, but I suspect that, too. But the danger is not o'er. It is increasing; and the slighting of the soldier is increasing also, to our danger and to the Government's shame.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, before the noble Earl relinquishes his speech, will he agree that that quatrain was written before a Labour Government was thought of? Also, may I say to those, including the noble Earl, who support 1385 national conscription, that the Army does not want to be loaded with yobbos, when families do not properly attend to bringing up their children and when the educational system is not doing it? The Army should not be called upon to be a dump for yobbos, and national conscription was not intended for that.
§ The Earl of CORK and ORRERY
My Lords, I did not say anything about National Service. I think that the noble Lord is talking about the wrong speech. As regards the gentleman who wrote before the Labour Government, those old boys had marvellous prescience.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Lord CLIFFORD of CHUDLEIGH
My Lords, one of the advantages of coming comparatively late on the batting list, is that one does not have to go through the nuts and bolts which previous speakers have covered, and one need only try to emphasise some of the main points which one thinks are of importance to the subject that we are discussing today. As the last speaker has said, no matter how the Government might have tried to say" No talk about pay, because we are to have this report in a couple of days' time," in present circumstances pay is the core of any defence debate, for anyone who has any interest in defence, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said. Those of us who know the Forces, know very well that for the last two years it has been a matter of great concern to all senior officers in the Services.
I shall not bother to repeat the numbers of those who are leaving the Services today except to say that officers from the equivalent of 35 battalions are leaving in one year. That is horrifying, when one thinks of the implications. The core of this problem is comparison. The soldier never minded being paid less, so long as it was not very much less. I give the example of my own family. My eldestson, who is now 30, was invalided out of the Army. Only last night, he was comparing the pay that he would have been getting if he had not been invalided out of the Services 18 months ago, with what his younger brother, aged just 24, is getting—double the amount. It is comparisons like that which are making people so dissatisfied. It is that which has been lowering the morale. It is 1386 because they see the other chap. It would not matter if it were just £1 or £2 a week difference.
If noble Lords listened to the debate I arranged on the lessons to be learned from the firemen's strike, they will know that after that strike I visited a certain unit which is based not far from me. In fact, it is halfway between where the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, lives in Devon and where I live. I interviewed there many of the soldiers who had been doing the firemen's job in Glasgow. All of them said that although they did not mind doing it, the firemen were getting so much more than they were, even before they went on strike. The soldiers said, "We do not object to doing anything that the Government tell us to do, but we do object to being used as slave labour". I believe that is why people are voting with their feet. All of us have seen reports in the Press—Right, Left and Centre—of the pilot of the Typhoon not getting so much pay as a bus driver in London. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, that the worst mistake which was made when dealing with Servicemen's pay was to charge him for his housing and his rations.
Near to the same establishment to which I was referring earlier there are, roughly speaking, 48 military houses, of which only two are occupied. When I had dinner with the commandant of this establishment I asked him why he was not living in the commandant's house. He replied that the one he was living in was perfectly good enough, and the rent was only half that of the commandant's house. Noble Lords should consider the waste of housing throughout the country because of the Services being treated in that way. Can the Government not go back to the old system, when I was a young soldier, of Servicemen getting their rations and housing free? That would solve half of the problems.
May I turn to the White Paper. When one considers there the question of equipment, I cannot find any satisfaction. The son of the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, is in the Navy and my son-in-law is in the Navy. I cannot believe that the son of the noble Lord has not put him in the picture, just as my son-in-law has put me in the picture. There is no need to discuss that point further. Is it not 1387 strange that we should be reducing in all of these directions, right, left and centre, while the Australian Government are now building a new aircraft carrier? If small countries like Australia can build aircraft carriers, so can we. But we have scrapped them because we believe that we have no use for them.
There was a vast NATO exercise on the Northern flank. May I ask whether it is true that half of the old Volvo Snow-cats broke down through age and through not being properly maintained? May I also ask the Government why they cannot be brought up to date? Other speakers have mentioned tanks. We know that there has been trouble with the engines of our tanks. Now we have trouble because we do not have the men either to maintain or to drive them. The question of equipment was highlighted during the firemen's strike. A Labour Government abolished Civil Defence, so the Green Goddesses have not been brought up to date. If we have another firemen's strike in, say, 10 years' time, shall we still have to get out the old Green Goddesses? The same remark applies to the way in which we have been replacing our military equipment.
As many noble Lords know, my main interest is in the Reserves. I have to declare the same interest as the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley. I am also an honorary Colonel of the Royal Devon Yeomanry. The pay and remuneration of the Reserves is very much the same as that of the Regular soldier. However, a very unsatisfactory aspect was mentioned the other day in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Elton; namely, remuneration for the widows and dependants of TA soldiers who are killed while on Service. This question affects in particular those young parachutists who were drowned in the River Trent. With the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, I went on a deputation to the Ministry of Defence to find out about the intricacies of remuneration, insurance and so on. It is a very complicated matter.
The only point I should like to make about it in this debate is that if we are to have a Reserve Army we must concentrate on young soldiers. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will know, because he was 1388 involved with the question, that one of the main reasons for not giving remuneration to TA dependants is because the Department say that the TA man is also a civilian and will have built up his own pension rights under his employer's scheme. That is excellent, but we do not want everybody in the TA to be 45 years old, to have had 25 years in civilian employment and to have his own pension fund. We want people who are 19 years old in the TA.
My only point is that when one is recruiting for the Territorial Army it must surely be shown that if anything happens to the recruits they will be treated in the same way as regular soldiers so far as remuneration to their mothers and wives is concerned. I have always maintained that the worst thing that happened to this country was the Healey massacre of the Reserves. On previous occasions I have said that we do not seem to want to learn from history. On two occasions we have heard from the horse's mouth—the Chatham House rules, as the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, keeps reminding me—that the Russians now have the capability to attack us both by air and by sea from the West.
To go back to 1797, when a certain French General sailed along the North coast of Cornwall and Devon, wherever he went during daylight he saw coming along the coast the local yeomanry, the local militia and so on. He said, "This is extraordinary". But there they were, wherever he went. And what happened? He gave that up and turned North to Pembrokeshire where he thought he would get away with it, but the local yeomanry and militia under Lord Cawdor pushed him back to sea. They were facing West and we had nothing. In the days when I commanded a TA battalion I had, for that one battalion, 16 drill halls. The unit that succeeded not only it, but four other units as well, has three in one county. I also think that the worst thing that ever happened to this country was when the Conservative Government abolished National Service.
One other thing that I have noticed in the Government's recent thinking is that there is not so much talk now of our percentage of expenditure as compared with the gross national product. I can understand why—because the gross 1389 national product has fallen considerably over the last four years. But I think that argument really does not hold water. It has been mentioned before today that, compared with other countries, we are doing comparatively little; and it has been mentioned before also that in Norway, for example, every male between the ages of 16 and 60 has some niche in either the defence or the civil defence of his country. To my way of thinking the yardstick should be not GNP but GNE—gross national effort.
I hope I may be permitted to end by quoting from an article by General Hackett, now retired. This article appeared in, of all things, the Irish Times. It is about loyalty. He says:British Governments have traded on this. They have acted as though they took rather too much for granted a degree of loyalty and goodwill which no Government in recent years, of any Party, has done much to deserve.Particularly unwelcome to serving men has been the cynical claim so commonly heard from politicians that changes made in the interests of economy and for no other reason have been designed to improve military efficiency. Senior British officers, almost always men of high integrity, do not relish being invited to pretend to NATO allies who trust them that what they know themselves to have been dictated only by national parsimony has been done in the military interests of the alliance. They do not welcome any more warmly being deprived of the equipment the ammunition, the track mileage, the range time and the training areas which are needed to keep highly professional regular soldiers at the level of efficiency these men expect. There is more restlessness nowadays in the Services than there has been for some time past. Much of it arises from frustration, the rest over pay. Almost none of it is due to basic dissatisfaction with the requirements of the military condition. The British Government will be very unwise to disregard this, and what is now being lone about pay is unlikely to be enough to put it right.
§ 6.14 p.m.
Lord DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, before I address your Lordships I wish to offer my apologies to the noble Lord the Leader of the House and to my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal for the fact that, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to hear their opening speeches.
I rise to address your Lordships not because I am an expert in anything, but because I have a great feeling for my country and at the moment I think that one must be very worried about the basic defence of this country. It often occurs 1390 to me to wonder, when our Foreign Secretary and others go to address international organisations, what they must be thinking when they throw what should be the weight of the country behind their speeches and they look over their shoulders and see the leak in the darn behind them. It must be rather frightening to think that you cannot really rely on the forces which you are supposed to have, when you see them dribbling away.
I should like the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, to confirm to us, so that the whole country may know it, whether the things which are being said are true. What is happening? Is it true that we have no drivers for tanks in BAOR? Does that not make the Commander-in-Chief of BAOR rather apprehensive? Will he get any drivers or will he lose another 30 or 40 next week? It is an appalling thought that the whole of our defence strength is being whittled away. Is it true that we are losing 6 per cent. of our Servicemen every year? Is it true that RAF officers are being kept in the service for eight and a half years because there is nobody to replace them? A pressed man is never any good; we must have enthusiastic volunteers—people who have their hearts in the job.
I shall not go into the question of whether the percentage increase in pay has to be 10 per cent., but I would say to the Government that they must look at what is a vital requirement for this country. The whole life and future of the country depend upon it. They must look at what is giving the dissatisfaction within the Services which is creating this tremendous drain away. While a number of us have ideas as to what it is—and I am not going into those ideas now—the Government must take steps to do something about it. If they do not, the situation will arise where one begins to wonder, in a rather nasty sort of way, whether these demands for cuts in expenditure will be met by the fact that they will not improve the conditions for the people in the Services but they will get their cuts anyway, rather than saying openly that they will have these cuts.
I was one of the founder members of REME many years ago, in the desert. We were very proud of the fact that we were starting something new and there was great enthusiasm for it. As we went 1391 on we built up a tremendous spirit. When peace came I continued in REME although originally I had been a Territorial Army officer, and I continued during peace time until I retired. Then started to occur the matter which thoroughly disheartens all Servicemen: one began to see the chop, the sliding away of the support which we were given. One began to wonder how one was going to keep up the original standard, which had been started with a view to a fine service to come. I have the feeling that that is going on now, to an extent which is absolutely frightening. It will be most interesting to know, of all the people who are leaving the Services, what proportion of them come from the technical arms of the Services, because if they go and we have weakened technical arms we are heading for a grave disaster in the event of hostilities.
I shall not address your Lordships any further. As I said, I speak very much from my heart, not necessarily from knowledge of what is happening. But I do ask the Government, when they produce the result of this new pay review, to elevate the status of the Services to twice what it is now so that we do not lose more valuable men and thus weaken the defence of our country.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I should like to start where the noble Lord the Leader of the House left off; that is, to add my voice to those who want to send congratulations to the Servicemen in all three Services for a splendid job done. This might come to them in a somewhat unreal fashion from a Government spokesman because it is so very clear that the Government are seen by them as having let them down very badly; but perhaps congratulations from this side of the House, from someone who has served with them and knows their problems, might come at a time when it is particularly necessary.
This White Paper is disappointing, as indeed, I regret to say, was the speech of the noble Lord the Leader of the House. I feel rather sorry for him because he had to speak in defence of such a tawdry document, tawdry because it has so little in it. I would hope that your Lordships will allow me to pick out a few points, 1392 some to call attention and some to ask questions. One arises on page 5, in the last sentence of paragraph 121, which mentions the Soviet Union being—ready and able to deploy military resources rapidly in support of its political interests in the Third World".It ends rather weakly:this demonstration of conventional capability is a further factor which must be taken into account.It is a profound factor and needs great emphasis in the thinking of the Government in the Papers they produce to indicate their thoughts. I happened to be looking at a book which the Library in this House kindly obtained for me called A Guide to the Soviet Navy published in 1977. It was talking about the same thing in relation to the Soviet Navy, and it ended this particular section:Above all they learned to show sea power in specific regions and let political developments proceed as they would against this background.That was a profound basis for the way in which we used to operate our Forces, and the Soviet Navy have now learned to copy us while we throw away what capability we had.
The next part of the White Paper to which I should like to call your Lordships attention, and in particular the attention of the noble Baroness on the Government Front Bench, is page 32, where we are talking about equipment. Paragraph 312a states:The first front-line Sea Harrier squadron is planned to form in 1980 for embarkation initially in H.M.S. 'Hermes'.".The question I have for the Government—and I must apologise for not having warned them of this to make it easy; but perhaps they have many people available who will come straight up with the answer—is: What is to happen in the way of providing a fixed-wing capability for the Royal Navy in the period between the end of 1978 (at which time we understand that the "Ark Royal" is to be paid off finally) and 1980; and what does "in 1980" mean? Is that January 1980 or December 1980? Are we to be without a fixed-wing capability for one year or for two?
Partly because of the time factor I do not wish to pursue the question as to whether we need a fixed-wing capability. If noble Lords are interested they can refer to speeches on that subject which I 1393 have made in this House at times during the last 10 years. The fact of the matter is that this Government and the last one agreed that such a capability would be necessary, otherwise they would not have spent the money developing the Sea Harrier. The Government are paying off the existing fixed-wing capability before they have brought in the new one. That is what we always feared that a Government of the present persuasion would do. That is why I left the Navy 12 years ago when a Government of a similar persuasion was in power. I knew they would "rat" on this sort of point. Forgive me for getting rather bitter—this is a rather important point.
I should like to refer the Government to Annex D, Table 1 at page 68, in which, among other things, we find that we have barely 40 operational frigates. I pick out frigates—there are many other things one could pick out and one has to be selective. We are left with barely 40 frigates, the one type of ship which is ubiquitous and useful in practically every known circumstance—in peacetime, in war, in exercises, it is the maid-of-allwork of any navy, not just our own. The number is down to 40, which is really quite staggering.
Taking that in connection with what I would call the early paying-off of the "Ark Royal", I should like to ask the Government whether it is true that the size of the Fleet, and indeed its capability of manning, particularly of large ships, is dictated much more by lack of people than it is by lack of will to retain the ships further in service. This may be a nasty rumour which one has heard, but it would be helpful to have this confirmed by the Government.
That leads me to paragraph 408 at page 43, on re-engagement. It reads—Re-engagement rates in all three Services remain satisfactory".Annex G, at page 80, indicates that the three-year entry in the Royal Navy, which was introduced only about three years ago by this Government, has a re-engagement rate of 54 per cent.—about half. Since, generally speaking, more junior people than senior people are needed in any organisation, and they are covered by the three-year entry, there must be the most staggering turnover of people, which never existed before 1975-76.
1394 It seems quite extraordinary that this re-engagement rate, which is lower than in any of the other Services, should be thought to he satisfactory. I also do not really like the trend of the 12-year engagement, but I am not quite up to date. I suspect the 12-year engagement relates to artificers, and therefore to rather important people; and this is a particularly important area.
This leads me to say that I believe that the particulars which are given in the various tables about manpower are most inadequate. They do not show what sort of people are involved: they do not show us whether the Navy has a tremendous rundown on rather key people, or whether they have a rundown on a lot of junior people, which is the mass of their everyday strength. We do not see very much—or in fact anything at all—about the continuance in service of officers because we have got recruitment for all types; but that is fairly sparse, and I rather suspect that if we were in the United States this document would be called a cover-up. It is very unfortunate that we should be putting ourselves in this position.
I was going to say a few words about pay, but that has in fact been very well covered by my noble friend Lord Cathcart and my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery. All I would say is that I thoroughly endorse the plea by my noble friend that when the Government do make a decision, if they have not already made it, they should use whatever flexibility they believe they have in the X factor to try to sort out a situation which should never have been allowed to arise. When the military salary was introduced I was one of those who suspected that it would not work, because it was trying for recruiting purposes, if your Lordships remember, to make the Service job look like a civilian one; but it is not. It is rather like saying you want to make a dragon look like a snake or something of that sort. It is a different sort of creature. So it is a terrible mistake to try to devise a salary structure which is unsuited to the particular form of service to such an extent as has been done.
And, of course, it was absolutely criminally stupid of the Government to allow that section of their officials to put up the costs of supporting services at the same time as they were holding down the 1395 pay, particularly of the middle ranking ratings and junior and middle ranking officers. This must have been just a complete mistake, it seems to me, an error of judgment of a massive sort. Somebody's head ought to roll, and in earlier times it was Minister's heads which rolled for an error of judgment of that kind.
While we are on this subject, a noble Lord who sadly could not be here today asked me if I would quote as a particular example a close relation of his who is a second lieutenant cadet entry at university. I quote this because my noble friend Lord Monckton quoted various figures, and this would seem to me to supplement the examples which he provided, examples which, if there is time, need to be fed into the Government thinking before they come to a conclusion about pay. This young officer, who has been through Sandhurst and is now at university—and, of course, he has to go back to his Army unit when the other undergraduates are on holiday, so he has got an extra job to do—gets paid by the Army at such a rate that when he has paid for his education the balance is taxed and his net living expenses are less than those of a student on full grant.
That is absolutely ludicrous. Apart from the fact that he does more, in the sense that he works for the Crown in his holidays, it is no way to encourage anybody to join, let alone stay in, the Services. This young man has already been offered a job in Canada, and he has seriously said to his father, "I am enjoying what I have seen of the Army, but if the Canadians will buy me out when I have got my degree I really think I shall have to take it, because what prospects have I got to earn enough to set up house and have a family and all that sort of thing?" My Lords, we have got ourselves into a sorry state of affairs.
I should like to end on a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford—I think I can say, "my noble friend Lord Clifford"—which is the matter of loyalty. The fundamental of all the people who serve in the Armed Services of the Crown, which perhaps distinguishes them from any other group of people, is their intense loyalty. They cannot really function if they have not got this. But, of course, it makes them terribly vulnerable, if their superior management, either wittingly or 1396 unwittingly, plays on this. I am sorry to have to say this to the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who I am delighted to see is back in the Chamber: there is enough evidence—and this is not claptrap in the newspapers; it is evidence that those of us who are in touch with the Services have actually heard as fact—to show that this is what is happening.
Other noble Lords have spoken of men voting with their feet. My noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery talked about a period of 18 months and the large numbers of sailors, both officers and men, who will be out. I do not know about the detail, but I do know about the trend. They really do feel very badly let down. The Government have a problem. I know very well from another side of my life that they are going to have the devil's own job persuading the TUC that the Services need a special deal, but they have got to do it whatever happens. It is terribly important that it must be got through to the TUC that the X factor is not part of the 10 per cent. It is terribly important because, if we do not do this, there is a lot of evidence to show that even if what the rumours have been suggesting as a possibility—that we cannot man our ships and the various activities in the other Services—is not yet a reality, it certainly will be in the next year.
§ 6.37 p.m.
My Lords, at this late hour I am pleased to have an opportunity of taking part in this debate. I should like to say to the noble Lord who has just spoken that I quite agree with him in regard to re-engagement; I was going to raise that point myself, as I think it is a very serious one. I want to deal today with people and not weapons, because it is no good having the most magnificent weapons if you do not have the right people to man them. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that we have the best voluntary military organisation in the world. Having been in many countries who have, as we have, a voluntary military organisation, I am quite certain that there is nobody who can touch the men and women of our Services.
I have been lucky. I was serving in the Far East from 1945 to 1950; subsequently, when I was in the other place I visited all 1397 the different areas, all the naval ports, many of the Army establishments. I visited Aden during the troubles, Borneo during confrontation, and Guyana also during the troubles. I was intensely impressed, not only by the manner in which the manoeuvres were organised but also the keenness, the loyalty and the hard work in very difficult circumstances put in by so many of the troops. I remember only too wed going to Guyana and, walking through the jungle, suddenly hearing from somebody who was bivouacking a Glaswesugian voice, which was very nice to hear but one realised how far they were from home and also how very young they were.
I think it is very regrettable if all this is being ruined for a principle which I do not think should be attached to the Army; a principle applied to other people, who have a right to strike and so on, which the Services have not, is quite different from the pay which we should give the Services. They have recently shown their loyalty in coming to the help of many cities during the firemen's strike. When you think what has happened in other countries, where the military does not come to the help of the politicians but comes to take them over, we should be very grateful that this is not the kind of thing we expect in this country.
A noble Lord: Not yet.
One of the main difficulties is that the Services are looked upon as a homogeneous whole. I would suggest that, when pay and other reorganisation is being considered, it is really thought through. The three different Services have completely different problems, and their conditions should be made to fit their own particular circumstances. Some noble Lords have referred to the Daily Telegraph. I should like to know how Gerald Bartlett gets hold of these articles. It is not only misleading perhaps to us in this House, but very disturbing to people outside the House. I have received quite a number of inquiries as to whether 1 can find out if there is any truth in them.
I gave the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, notice of one or two of the points that I planned to raise. Last year I asked about the reorganisation of the 1398 medical services. He told me that there would be a defence medical service and an executive committee to deal with all three Services. I should like to know how it is working and whether now there is better recruitment for doctors and dentists in particular. Last year I was disturbed by the Government's attitude and the lack of medical services for the various sections—the Army, the Navy and the Air Force I should like to know what will happen to the Royal Naval Hospital at Devonport. There has been quite a lot of reorganisation, but no mention is made of that hospital. I am a little suspicious when something like this, which is most important to me, is left out.
I understand that each year in these Defence Estimates there is a certain amount of money which is not spent. Therefore, I ask whether the noble Lord can tell me what the under-spending was in 1975, 1976 and 1977 and how much money is coming from the disposal of properties by the Property Services Agency. I understand that the RAF airfield at Thorney Island is to be sold. Also, I gather that one thousand houses are being sold.
I tabled a Question the other day, and in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, his noble friend Lady Stedman answered and informed me that there were 18,000 empty Service houses or married quarters. She said that a proportion of them were being repaired. I should like to see whether more of those houses could be sold. I gather that at present they are sold to the local authority. However, when people leave the Army the Navy and the Air Force they often have extreme difficulty in getting quarters. Many of them might be prepared to buy one of these houses because they would then be living with old friends or in a similar atmosphere to that in which they had served for so long.
Paragraph 519 gives a list—I shall not quote it—of the various officers' mess and the maintenance it takes to keep them up. Surely we could get rid of some of them. The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, said that the Territorials want better accommodation. Could they not have some of this accommodation to get on with? It is very expensive to keep them in repair, so they should either be sold or used.
1399 I should like to refer to the dockyards that are mentioned in paragraph 513. It is time that the dockyards were allowed to build some ships. The commercial yards have not been all that successful. In the olden days, of course the dockyards were for building, but then they became just repair docks. It would be a good idea for them to have a change of job. As it is said, at present they put out some commercial work to other firms, but I suggest that they might have their chance perhaps at building some frigates. It is also said in this paragraph that:First priority, however, is being given to improving dockyard productivity as a means of increasing capacity.I have read that sentence in practically every defence report. I should like to know what action is to be taken. It is also stated in the report that in 1977 2,000 apprentices were taken on—there are now 7,500 in all. There is one apprentice to every five craftsmen, but in industry there is one to every nine. I suggest that perhaps industry could be asked to take on more apprentices and that the dockyards could also take more apprentices because there is still a shortage, as stated in the report, of skilled craftsmen.
No mention is made of girl apprentices. It so happens that on Monday I am going to Portsmouth to present my cup to the girl apprentice who has won it. It has been won twice by Devonport, twice by Portsmouth and once by Rosyth. One of the difficulties is that too little encouragement is given by the Ministry in their advertisements and so on and also by teachers to girl apprentices. Mothers are very worried at the thought of their daughters going into the dockyards. However, those who have gone in have been very successful and some have even been on sea trials. As we are so short of craftsmen, I suggest that more women might be brought in to the Service.
I should like to refer to engineering training. It is stated in paragraph 424 that:The comprehensive study of the structure and training of the Engineering Branch of the Royal Navy has now been completed. The changes which are being made arc designed to ensure that officers and ratings of the Branch are better trained and organised to deal with the modern weapon and propulsion systems.1400 I should like to know how that is getting on because it is most important. It is also important for those in the Navy because if they are well trained they can get a much better job on retirement.
I turn to the Royal Marines. No one to date has mentioned the Royal Marines. That is a Service which is extremely satisfactory. It cannot employ all the people who wish to become Royal Marines. Morale is extremely good. I was down in Stonehouse in Plymouth the other day and found that it now has 400 Royal Marine cadets. When I was there previously there were only 40. As the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said, it shows that young people like to join and I am grateful to the Royal Marines for the training they give them and the work that these young people do for charity by taking along their brass bands, giving displays and so on. It is most helpful. There is a great shortfall of artificers, as I think was mentioned by my noble friend, and they have been for a long time—because I raised it in the other House—short of the establishment.
Another matter to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention is the question of the Wrens. The Wrens came under the Discipline Act in July 1977. I made an inquiry during the last debate and the noble Lord told me that he could not give me any details. I am rather disturbed by the advertisement that I found in The Times and I should like to read it to your Lordships. It says:You'll only make the Wrens if you're a special sort of bird.I see the pun in that. I see what it means, but I do not think that it is conducive to recruiting, especially for the parents. It has already been said to me by a young man engaged to a girl planning to join the Wrens that he is jolly well not going to let her go into the WRNS now, and indeed, she is not joining. This sort of advertisement may be amusing, but in my view it is not helpful for recruiting.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I do not think that I would have married my wife if she was not "a special sort of bird".
My Lords, perhaps in the day of the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, the word "bird"—we know 1401 that the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, married a bird, too—had a different connotation. For example, we are hardly likely to inquire whether a man would like to join because he is "gay". The meaning of words change, but we shall let the noble Lord off that one!
There is also the question of the hydro-graphic fleet. I should like to know how many ships there are. In view of these large tankers and the bigger ships, it is increasingly necessary that we should have these hydrographic surveys. Finally, I turn to equipment. I notice that equipment will be sold in 1978-79 for £900 million. There should be Property Services sales and I assume that these will be ploughed back. Also, there should be unspent allocations of money. I should like to see them instead of going back to the Treasury, allocated for the Defence Services in the future or given a plus for all the money which they have saved.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Viscount AMORY
My Lords, I intend to inflict my views on your Lordships for only three or four minutes. I am absolutely convinced that our Defence Services are currently being starved of resources, both of manpower and equipment, to a very dangerous extent indeed. I should like to see us devote a higher percentage of our GDP to those Services. If the argument is advanced that in some ways we do not compare too unfavourably with our allies in this respect, true or not, that cuts very little ice indeed with me. It seems to me that we must be the best judges of what our Services need to keep them in a high state of efficiency. Nor does the argument that my Party not infrequently complains at the high level of public expenditure and wants it reduced cut any ice—and here I am suggesting an increase. Yes, indeed, I am.
However, Government have the responsibility of choosing priorities, which is perhaps their most important task of all. I consider that it would be a grave dereliction of duty if we were to give higher priority to improving our standard of consumption, our social services or our pensions rather than to the most important national security service of all, our national Armed Services.
Alas! one can find little evidence that violence in the world is decreasing. In 1402 these deplorable circumstances it would surely be national lunacy to starve our Armed Services of the resources they need to carry out their responsibilities efficiently, and to handicap and frustrate probably the best Regular Forces in terms of personnel that this country has ever had.
As a former Treasury Minister, with two-and-a-half years' training in that Department, my experiences have made me permanently mean, niggardly and parsimonious; but I believe that I can recognise when our limited financial resources are being disastrously misused through an unwise order of priority. I thought that some of the figures which my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing quoted this afternoon were staggering. I ask myself, "Am I prejudiced in this matter"? In days gone by in my relative vigour I was for many years a member of the Territorial Army. The fact that—unlike my noble friends Lord Cathcart, Lord Monckton of Brenchley and the noble Lord, Lord Bourne—I am not a General is, I admit, a monument to my own incompetence. My noble friend—if I may so call him—Lord Clifford of Chudleigh has had a distinguished career in the Territorial Army. The fact that he is not a Major General or a Lieutenant General is, I think, simply a matter of his own modesty. It must be.
The quoted remark of the Secretary of State for Defence that the defence budget this year is the lowest ever—a statement apparently made with complacent satisfaction—must rate high in a competition for utterances of ministerial irresponsibility. During the impressive and completely relevant speeches this afternoon by my noble friends Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, Lord Orr-Ewing and Lord Cathcart, there were only two Members on the Government Back-Benches, one of whom was the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who, we all know, has his heart in the right place in these matters. But, really, such lack of interest in a debate of this kind seems to me to be almost an insult to the noble Lord the Leader of the House, and to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and almost makes one despair.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Lord MACKIE of BENSHIE
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Gladwyn 1403 touched on matters of strategy and I shall talk mainly about matters of morale. However, I should like to make one or two general remarks to begin with, which I think are very important. First, it must be said that to date the defence policy of the Western World has been very successful. If we took the situation at the end of the war, with the savagely opposed ideologies of both sides and all the other factors of differences of wealth throughout the world, and fed them into a computer, without any doubt we should receive the answer that there is bound to be a world war in much less time than that which elapsed between the two World Wars that we have known.
I think we all know exactly why there has not been a world war; it is because it would be unprofitable for any country to start a world war—particularly, of course, for the biggest military power we face, Russia. This policy of what one could call confrontation or fear has been successful in avoiding the catastrophe—the ultimate catastrophe perhaps—of a world war. Every time we have had weakness, we have had small wars. The supreme example at the present time is, of course, the situation existing in the Horn of Africa.
I think that the Ministers on the Government Bench—in particular, the noble Lord the Leader of the House, who is not in his place at present, and the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, who have military experience and who served with distinction in fighting regiments during the war—carry a very heavy responsibility in their Party. There is no doubt that taking the country as a whole, people wish to pay for defence and recognise its efficacy, although they would seize the chance, if it could be demonstrated as feasible, to disarm. But all the demonstration that we have had to date is that to disarm would he fatal.
Therefore, the responsibility resting on noble Lords on the Government Bench is very heavy in a Party which contains elements which, frankly, appear to me to be "daft", if I may use that word. They are subjected, of course, to many debates. I have sat through many debates and they run to a pattern. Ex-soldiers on the Conservative Benches, Generals and others get up and accuse the Govern- 1404 ment of having totally neglected defence; they say that the morale of the Armed Forces is crumbling and, if they do not watch it, there will be disaster; that the Labour Party is quite appalling in matters of defence, wholly unpatriotic and unfit to be entrusted with its high duty.
§ Lord MACKIE of BENSHIE
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to continue. I do not give way. That has happened a great deal and over the years there has been a certain amount of truth in it. But, if the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, will now permit me, there is a great difference on this occasion, because it is now wholly true and disaster does face this country, and maybe the West, unless we do something about the situation which pertains today.
I am not competent to talk about weapons, the state of our development and so on, but I am reasonably competent —as are many noble Lords present—to talk about the people in the Forces. Like many other noble Lords of my age. I served in the last war as an airman which. as someone said, embraces "soldier". have kept up with 111V old friends by Parliamentary and other visits, mainly to the RAF. Of course, like everyone else who served in the last war, I am subjected to the politeness of young men sons of friends or young relations—or friends who are in the Forces at present and who treat one with immense respect and reverence as though one has both feet in the grave instead of only one. They call you "Sir" with such an air of polite disdain that it is most infuriating. Of course, they always say that the politicians are no good and that the Services should have much better equipment. Their complaints have been the complaints of Servicemen for a great many years.
The one thing I should like to say before going on is that on my visits to the squadrons, which I understand, and Air Force stations, and Army and Naval establishments as well, I have looked at the people who are now serving and I am totally satisfied that these are the same sort of people who I saw doing extremely well 1405 in war 30-odd years ago. One looks at them and is extremely envious of their youth, their vigour, and high technological achievements and ability. I am certain that these men are still of the highest calibre. When going to stations I always looked at some of the commanding officers and felt like asking them to become Liberal candidates because of the very high calibre of chap they were.
The change that has come about in the last year or year-and-a-half is quite startling. From being gently derisive about politicians, from complaining a little about their pay, these young men are now bitter, angry and fearful of what is happening. Commanding officers are losing people, particularly of the age of about 38, when they have the option. They are leaving the Service, and commanding officers do not know how they arc going to replace them. These are the men who would be next in line to command the squadrons in the case of my own particular interest, and they are leaving the Service. As soon as you let the quality of commanding officers of fighting units go down, then you are in real trouble. Just as important are the senior NCOs, and they too are going. I do not think that the Minister will attempt to deny this.
When it comes to morale you can put up with obsolescent equipment. You could not go back to muzzle loading cannon, but you could put up with older equipment if you had men who were highly trained and would not run away when danger threatened. If they know how to work the obsolescent equipment, it is something you can put up with. What you cannot put up with is a chap who is cynical and bitter. Even with new equipment he is not as good as a chap who has good morale, and the unit is highly trained, and they are proud people. This is the basis of all morale.
We have not lost it at all. Noble Lords will agree that when you go to the units the good people are still there in all ranks, but there is no question that the danger point has been reached, if it has not been passed. The Review of 1968, where we had the great transfer to a salaried service, was a grave mistake. I cannot understand why Ministers could not have understood the position, because in times of inflation with your perquisites, 1406 your house, allowances, you have at least some chance of standing still, but in times of inflation and in times when we need economy the Government always cut the Service, or do not allow an increase in the Service.
I do not know what the Review says, and we are not going to be told, but the Government should look at restoring some of the allowances and the perquisites which are impervious to inflation. Many officers have said this, and the men who have served realise that this is an extremely important element. In the matter of pay, if the rumour of the 14 per cent. is true, it might be enough. But the Government are going to have to entice back into the Forces some of the essential people who have left. I see the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, nodding his head. He put his finger on the important point, that these men will not come back, and the good ones will not stay, unless they feel that in the future they will not once again suddenly face financial disaster and humiliation.
If we have a review body, and an automatic and proper increase in line with inflation, as I understand the Government are considering for the police, then we have some chance of getting these men back. I think that it will be necessary, from all I hear. We are on the brink of a disastrous decline in the quality of our people in the Forces, and I urge the Ministers on the Government Bench, who are perhaps unrepresentative of their Party but very much patriots and with the good of the country at heart, to redouble their efforts against those of their colleagues who are foolish enough to think that you can let defences down.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, I shall trespass upon the time of the House for about four or five minutes, having sat and listened to 90 per cent. of the speeches and having learnt a lot from the constructive speeches that have been made. I regretted the atmosphere that was sometimes created by pushing the Party line too much on a real issue. Sometimes we are asked to keep agriculture out of politics: to keep the Army and the Forces out. It is no good using phrases such as that the Labour Party or the Labour Government have cheated. I was in the 1407 Ministry and dealt with pensions, and no Government did any better for the soldier in the Forces than our Government did with their pensions and their allowances. I do not want to make a meal of that; I just want to get the record straight.
I was delighted to hear the constructive speech of a noble Lord who said that he had no expertise. He asked cogent, dynamic questions. He asked: Is it true and let us not be falling for journalism, or journalese, let us get the facts—that we in Germany are short of tanks? We want to know these things. How much of it is the mere imagination of somebody rushing for a story in Fleet Street? I am asking the question. I do not know the answer, and neither does this House nor the public. The public should know, and the House should know.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that that is what the White Paper should have told us? That is one of the things that is wrong.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
My Lords, there are other things that the White Paper should have dealt with, and this House in its debate. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and other noble Lords touched on the point of policy. I ask your Lordships not to get annoyed, but I want to ask some elementary questions. There was that terrible new alleged science which had the shadow of Hitlerism around it—geopolitics. What I want to know now, in the position we are in at this time in the 20th century, is: how many of us are still thinking with the charisma of imperialism? How can we defend the whole of the Pacific? We cannot take it on. Correct me if I am wrong, but we take it shared with NATO. The North Altantic Treaty Organisation is not just for the North Atlantic; it is a Pacific defence organisation as well. Let the public know this. I know the Pacific too, and I know the size of it. I know that we have not a coastline on the Pacific. How much responsibility do we take there?
Do not let us dream once again of being "Limeys," or just "Pommies", for the Australians. If we are landed in trouble, when the "balloon goes up" are we ever again going to get the New Zealanders and the Australians coming, or will it be the Common Market?—the Common 1408 Market, which wants to measure my granny's knicker elastic in centimetres, and force a £50 fine on me if I go and buy it in inches. From some of the things we are doing I sometimes think that man is becoming a cosmic joke. I resent hearing: "Let us push these youngsters who are naughty on football pitches on to the Army." The Army is not a dustbin to take all the yobbos off the streets of Britain; neither is the Navy or the Air Force. Mostly today the recruits need at least matriculation standard in order to understand the machines that some of them will be using.
The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, made a plea for the medical services; I agree that there are marvellous opportunities and grants for any boy who wants to make his career in medicine in the Navy or in any of the Services. However, I want the Government to remember those who served in the medical services in the last war. A number of them were promised a little increase, a hand-out, to augment their pensions. They have been waiting two years for it and, as most of them are in their seventies, many of them will be dead before the hand-out is given. I wrote to Blackpool about this and was told that about 20,000 such people are waiting for the increase. I appeal to the Government to clear this up without delay for these old gentlemen who served the country in high positions and at great risk, in medicine, dentistry and surgery. They should be given what they have been promised quickly, and should not have to keep appealing for it.
§ Lord DAVIES of LEEK
With pleasure, my Lords. Noble Lords will be delighted to hear that I have nearly completed my remarks. We have heard about virtually everybody in Norway having guns. I would only say that this is Britain and not Norway or Switzerland. On a slightly different matter, I must congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, who asked for representation for the Forces. I am sure he would not favour the Dutch system, where they have Army trade unions. Nevertheless, we should be able to find some sort of representation for the Services, in the way the police are represented. The Forces should be heard in the same 1409 way. I hope that in due course the Government will take some initiative in that direction.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Lord LYELL
My Lords, this afternoon we have been listening to many notable, relevant, competent and informed speeches. Each and every speaker has taken great care and trouble to put forward one or more special aspects of our defence forces. None of your Lordships will be unaware of the events and pressures that are evident outside the House in respect of one aspect of the Review, and that is the one covered in paragraph 414, just one paragraph, and then not very fully.
Noble Lords will have seen that today the Press had some details and cartoons showing a fair amount of the public concern over the Cabinet's deliberations. The noble Lord the Leader of the House made his usual competent speech, but I must say that the whole of the White Paper reminds me very much of school reports in that I do not necessarily believe the good parts, yet I fear the bad. There are some useful and helpful comments and little diagrams in the Review. We find the traditional tables of statistics and there are little snippets, some of which I have read with alarm and others of which I have read with entire delight. Yet there are enormous gaps and some seriously underplayed issues. As I said, Forces' pay is mentioned in paragraph 414 and we have heard from all parts of the House and from every angle that this subject is almost as important as the threat posed to us by the Warsaw Pact.
It is better in this House to remain as relevant as possible and, for that reason, I wish briefly to examine that threat to the West and especially to NATO. The White Paper has considerable detail and gives substance to the capabilities of the Warsaw Pact, yet there is one fearsome omission, and that is the lack of any mention in the White Paper of the SS20. As noble Lords will know, this is an intermediate range ballistic missile with three MIRVs on mobile launches, and it has a maximum range of 3,000 kilometres.
This weapon is widely deployed over the Western part of the Soviet Union; it is already deployed in Poland and East 1410 Germany as well as in Czechoslovakia. Do not let us be squeamish about it: it is targeted at European cities and European military installations, including those in this country. This new weapon is as important as any or all the weapons mentioned in the Review. It is inconceivable that the Government have no special thoughts on this new addition to the Warsaw Pact's armoury. When, I wonder therefore, shall we be able to look forward to some more particular views and reassurances from the Government?
Other items of weaponry which are in the Warsaw Pact armoury are rapidly catching up with the West, and especially with NATO, in sophistication as well as in effectiveness. Let us consider one, the Backfire supersonic bomber. It has the capability of striking at the United Kingdom from the North-West—from the Atlantic, from St. Kilda—and it provides marvellous flexibility for the Soviet Air Force. There are other aircraft around which are able to pay us a visit these days; there is a new range of supersonic swing-wing aircraft—the Fencers, the Floggers and the Fitters—all of which are carefully detailed in the Review; and while the Leader of the House gave a quite cogent appraisal, we must remember that these are some fearsome weapons and I believe they are getting more important every year.
Where are the Rapiers which we desperately require for defence and to provide ground defence for our airfields? We know that they are already defending one airfield in the United Kingdom and we understand that they will be defending one other—that is laid out in the White Paper—yet we believe there is grave need for the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom to have as full a supply as possible of these ground to air defence missiles which will be needed to cope with this increased and increasing threat.
Nobody will forget that the small swing-wing aircraft to which I referred —the Fencers, Floggers and Fitters—have other useful and intimidatory roles, notably in ground attack in support of their armed forces and armour on the battlefield. We should always consider the Red Army and the Soviet Forces in East Europe. One of the little diagrams in the Report points out that the Warsaw Pact has over two? 1411 and-a-half times as many main battle tanks as we have in NATO, about the same ratio for artillery pieces which are both self-propelled and towed, and about the same ratio-I think is is about 2.4 to 1—for fixed wing tactical aircraft which of course are so important in surface battles over land.
There is nothing new in these figures, but if would be encouraging to all of us who study defence to see some recognition of positive steps being taken by Her Majesty's Government to lead our allies in NATO in beginning to close this gap and to bring down these ratios decimal point by decimal point each year. After the comments made by the Secretary-General of NATO, Dr. Luns, at the end of 1977, there is still time, though we believe little time, for Her Majesty's Government to show that they believe in catching up with all of what we regard as the missed opportunities of the last four years.
Noble Lords will not have missed noticing the events of the winter in the Horn of Africa. Indeed, my noble neighbour, Lord Mackie of Benshie, mentioned that in a notable speech, made without notes—and I congratulate him; it was detailed and most competent. In the Horn of Africa, Soviet forces have had valuable battle training and of course immense opportunities to up-date and improve their battle tactics. We are increasingly aware of the huge airlift capacity of the Soviet Forces and how this is constantly refined and redesigned day by day, year by year, week by week. These forces are continually interchanged within the Warsaw Pact nations and we can find that flexibility is one of the Soviet's strategic plans.
The Soviet Navy is a fearsome arm of the Soviet policy-makers and, again, this arm of their services continues to rap the benefits of Admiral Gorshkov, who planned the increase in the Soviet Navy 10, 15, even 20 years ago, and now we find that there are over 400 submarines cruising the oceans of the world, some with strategic nuclear capacity, some with hunter killer roles and some with dual roles, such as those with cruise missiles, happily named Charlie II, and they are particularly effective in that range. None of these parts of that naval power is purely 1412 defensive, especially for the greatest landlocked nation in the world.
I would not dare say, "fair", which was the word used by the noble Lord the Leader of the House, but I wonder whether it is terribly clever to include the French Atlantic Fleet in these diagrams among others contained in the White Paper, since I am sure noble Lords will agree that there is no guarantee that these naval forces, or any of the other French forces, would necessarily be available to the Alliance at the moment they were needed. All of us would be happy to have support from France, and I am sure that we would get it. But that is a decision which cannot be taken at NATO, nor here. Any decision for the French forces to join the military forces of NATO, and especially at an integrated level, would have to be taken in France, and not at a mere 48 hours' notice, which is about as much notice as we believe we would get of any major emergency.
For this reason we think it is a little disingenuous of the Government to have us believe that the inclusion of French forces helps the ratios about which I was speaking. Perhaps it should be added as a footnote to the White Paper, but certainly the impression that the Government have given, and the impression we have, is that such French forces should be, and might be, included as part of the military forces available to NATO, and we think that that is just a little less than credible.
In the report we have a fairly accurate account of the Warsaw Pact threat that faces us, but certainly it appears dull and lifeless, while vastly well organised. All of us are ever more concerned with the Soviet forces by their continually evolving tactics, such as we are now seeing in the Horn of Africa, and they are now being continually polished and improved, even in Eritrea. A mere four and a half years ago, in October 1973, we found Soviet-backed and Soviet-based tactics, and indeed advisers who were able to help the Egyptians and the Syrians attain devastating results. To achieve what these two nations managed to achieve from a standing start, and against a nation which can mobilise its military, naval, and air reserves more swiftly than any other nation in the world, let alone in the Alliance, is, we believe, an indication that the Alliance has to attempt to match that Israeli effort of the Yom Kippur war, 1413 in the first 48 hours of any conflict which might break out within our area, particularly in Western Europe. Nobody could be convinced, after reading the White Paper, that the Government are aware of the secondary problem of the Soviet threats, that of the Blitzkrieg capability.
However, happily, those who are responsible for operating our defence equipment at all levels are more than aware of the nature of their potential opposition. For instance, we can only hope that BOAR and its 600 main battle tanks (those admirable Chieftains) would be, and indeed are, at the same state of readiness—armed, fueled and prepared to go—as were the invaders in the Yom Kippur war. I hope that the war stocks which are held in Germany for both the BOAR and for the Royal Air Force in Germany are adequate and are continuing to he built up. So far as the equipment is concerned, the report gives sufficient detail of new and improved weapons, and systems, and the support; but there is enough for us to query, when we consider some of the gaps, not necessarily in the equipment, but in the men and women who are to operate that equipment. The newest, and the most modern, weapons in the world are often in need of development, whereas some startlingly well-known items produce results that are setting new standards, which our allies and our admirers in the world have to match.
Last summer I was lucky enough to visit the Nellis United States Air Force Base, in Nevada, where Royal Air Force crews had performed in Buccaneers and Vulcans on the US Air Force Red Flag exercise, to a level that we have come to expect of the Royal Air Force, and for which we admire them; but this level simply astounded the United States Air Force professors, instructors and teachers. I believe that this bears out the point that was made by my noble neighbour, Lord Mackie of Benshie, when he said that one does not necessarily need the most advanced and technological things; one can achieve very startling and effective results with well-tried and competent equipment. In my part of the world I find Buccaneer low-level strike aircraft flying right over my farm and buildings, at heights of well under 200 feet. I am told that this is the level below which they are not suppose 1414 to go. But I can testify to your Lordships that they are singularly effective. So far, they have not adopted an aggressive role, but who knows? However, I do not think that any of us can sound too optimistic a note, but it seems that there is more than mere wishful thinking and mere hope when the report details all the equipment that is to be brought into service over the next two or three years.
Other noble Lords have drawn attention to the particular items which especially interest them, and there are just one or two small points on which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, could help, possibly at a later stage. He has winged advisers who retain these matters, and possibly there could be discussions later, and he may be able to help me. I wonder whether it is necessary to withdraw all the Whirlwind helicopters from search and rescue operations, as detailed in paragraph 321f It speaks about helicopter search and rescue operations. Two years ago on this subject I mentioned these aircraft, and I asked about Sea Kings. 1 am happy to see that they are included in the same paragraph. I do not want to be cantankerous, but it has been suggested to me that the Whirlwind little helicopter is an ideal search and rescue helicopter, especially in close or mountainous terrain where ther are not too many people to be rescued. Might it not be possible to retain Whirlwinds in reserve, particularly in view of the developments which, I understand, are to be made to the winching mechanism, which will further enhance their value in the search and rescue role?
My second small point is concerned with paragraph 321e and the proposed purchase of 30 Chinook medium-lift helicopters. I think that this seems admirable. Can the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, indicate that such Army lift capacity will enable new tactics to be evolved, especially in relation to airborne man-carried anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, which also proved so useful in the Yom Kippur war of October 1973?
I have spoken about the Soviet threat, and our response to that threat, and the means by which we shall respond to, or assist, any of these threats. But noble Lords around the House have spoken far more—and I believe rightly—about those men and women who serve their country so well in the Armed Forces. There 1415 are developments being carried out away from the House—we read about them in the Press—which we believe will have a very large impact on the welfare and happiness of the Forces, their friends and relatives, and certainly on the conscience of all of us. I had the honour to serve for two years as a soldier. For part of that time I was under the command of the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart. I have made —and I hope I still retain—many friends among soldiers over the last 20 years. Defence visits for Members of your Lordships' House are perennially instructive, and any of us who are lucky enough to join Parliamentary groups soon find that our modern soldiers retain much humour, not to mention skills and immensely flexible intellects.
Gradually and perceptibly over the last two years I have begun to wonder whether much of the optimism and the enthusiasm displayed by the soldiers of all ranks was not beginning to become something of a cover for their increasing despair over the matters which the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, and I discuss so often across the Chamber here. I have in mind matters such as Army discipline which affects wives and children of soldiers in BOAR; things like the hospital at Colchester; things like welfare services. These concern the soldiers certainly as much as the more obvious military equipment, the training and the travel all over the world. For some soldiers travel extends to Germany, or even to Canada. But there certainly is—and I am sure that noble Lords who join me on military visits will testify to this—a great deal of gratitude that some of us, particularly in this House, and elsewhere, take the trouble over such small details as Colchester Hospital and welfare matters. There is growing concern and worry over these small problems such as job satisfaction and the increasing pressure not merely on Service personnel, but on their wives, families and relations. My noble friend Lord Monckton pointed out the problems with SSAFA, and I think he made a very eloquent contribution to that aspect of welfare. Certainly this pressure on Servicemen and on all their relatives and friends manifests itself with the terrible complexities of Army life and, of course, in numerous courses, seminars and training 1416 sessions which have to be organised by leaders at all levels in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, as well as the Royal Marines. The recruiting material makes much of this nomenclature "The Professionals", and certainly one thing soldiers do not expect is to be home at five o'clock each day safely with their wives and children for their tea. I believe they do not expect, however, to be turned into mere robots who simply do not get home until the early hours, or who do not have every week-end totally free of duty.
I would suggest that none of us, even in our youth, would expect to work each week-end for 11 week-ends on the trot as well as keep up with normal administrative routine, and to prepare training for troops in Northern Ireland. Yet this certainly was not abnormal during the recent firemen's emergency. I accept it was an emergency, but even in the near-emergency conditions of the autumn 1976 the pressure told on your Lordships' House. Yet the Army have had to do this, and they have also had to do their other, normal duties. I believe we certainly owe them a great debt of gratitude.
I also believe that we should try to understand the problems which beset them—and they are not all of pay; I think they are just a little more of sympathy and understanding. Already domestic life in the Services is becoming strained for countless Servicemen, for their families and for their friends. Three or four years ago Service wives spent most of their free time, it seemed, on welfare activities for other Service families and neighbours; and, certainly, as the pressure has risen at work for their husbands, we can merely imagine the stress on the wives now. I just wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, would be able to confirm for me that SSAFA is having increasing problems with Service families in Germany. This is the point which was raised by my noble friend Lord Monckton, and I am sure that he and I would be grateful to have any information which the noble Lord could give us today, expanded at a later stage if need be.
As I have mentioned, we do not think it is necessarily merely the pay nor the salaries of the Forces which is causing upset. We believe it is equally the 1417 treatment meted out to some civilians, who, we understand, are placed in a similar position to that of the soldiers. This begins to cause tongues to wag and some rumours to fly, but we hope that one day the truth will emerge, like some new-born chick from the egg. As I am looking at the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, I hasten to add that it is he who will have to produce this truth; and I think the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, made the point adequately. But I just wonder whether the position is absolutely reasonable in the case of some civilians in Germany who work for the Service. Is it the case that they receive free accommodation, heat and light (which is probably perfectly reasonable having regard to their salaries) whereas, in the case of Service personnel, all of these things are payable out of their taxed income?
Of course, we could go back to 1970 and see that Service salaries were supposed to be equated with salaries in the civilian world; yet, owing to the economic conditions over the last seven or eight years, things are not as they should be. I just wonder, if it is the case, whether the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, would consider it as reasonable. I wonder how we can continue to justify this disturbance allowance, which again, I think, was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Monckton, which he said was three times greater for a civilian than for a soldier who seemed to be performingan equivalent task. But I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, will obtain the answer for us in his usual charming style.
Turning to the United Kingdom, the problem of travel warrants to and from Northern Ireland has been raised by my noble friend Lord Monckton, so I think I need not mention them at all; but I believe that we have to concede that no part of our defence forces is exempt from this particular feeling that, somehow, the Government afford them a lesser priority than any other Government have so far done. We have heard from this Government, and we continue to hear, that the economy has a bright future. We heard that last week. It is especially encouraging to have the report of the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body under such close and detailed discussion by the Prime Minister and his colleagues, since it would appear that some considerable effort is going to be 1418 made to ensure that Servicemen and Servicewomen, who are on call seven days a week at any time of the day, receive further consideration of what is but one of the problems that they have to face.
Now I see that the noble Lord the Leader of the House is in his place, and that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, is in his. The noble Lord the Leader of the House made one or two points, but certainly something has been brought to my notice since I have been sitting here from the start of the debate—and I have missed only about 30 seconds of the contributions here, which was when I had to go out and get a relevant document. It has been brought to my notice that according to the information services in the corridor outside, which normally tend to get things right—and I see the noble Lord the Leader of the House beaming—pay awards of 23.5 per cent. have been granted to managerial workers at a well-known shipyard. This kind of figure could be a statistic, it could be a damned statistic or it might be something worse. I understand that the salaries paid in this industry are little above what is paid in this particular firm. That is one reason, I understand, why the figures which have been quoted, a 23.5 per cent. increase for managerial workers and 20.5 per cent. for the drawing office staff, are respectable in this age of a 10 per cent. recommended norm plus any other fringe benefits. That, of course, will provide interesting reading for the Forces, and especially for the noble Lord the Leader of the House and his colleagues in the Cabinet when they consider this problem.
All of us on these Benches want to join with all the noble Lords around the House who have paid tribute to the steadfast, loyal and excellent men and women who serve in the Forces. To the Army, I would say that we understand how they can feel somewhat forgotten in Northern Ireland. Year after year, month after month, soldiers patrol constantly. They are watching, waiting, guarding and seeking, and far too often they put themselves at grave risk. I think we ought also to remember the brave men and women of the Ulster Defence Regiment. They are even more at risk in that they live and work in Northern Ireland, and are constantly at 1419 risk from IRA terrorists. Also, we ought to congratulate the Royal Air Force upon its 60th birthday; and certainly noble Lords will know how much we and NATO value their contribution.
I think it was the noble Lord the Leader of the House who, at the start of the debate, used the term "adequate defence". It is our contention that it is time to recognise our Servicemen and Servicewomen; it is time to give them what they need; it is time to ensure that our stocks, and particularly our war stocks, are sufficient; it is time for this Government to show that there is a future in our defence Forces for the men and women who serve in them; and I believe it is time to insist that what my noble friend Lord Strathcona called this arterial bleeding of the morale of our Servicemen must be halted, for without these Servicemen our contribution to NATO, to the West and to freedom is going to be worthless.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, today's debate, I think, has been deeply felt and carefully argued. For this reason, I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I overrun my normal 25 minutes in an attempt to answer fully the main points of the debate.
Several noble Lords: No!
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I find that already this view is not universally held, but I am at least going to have one minute more than the noble Lord, Lord Lyell. My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, I have a feeling that today's debate is rather short of something. As someone has said, it is like playing Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark; because this debate would have been far more valuable if we could have related the problems of the Armed Forces, which we all know exist, with one of the causes of those problems, which is the rates of pay, which many of them believe to be inadequate. The great question almost immediately was asked: When will we hear? I can answer that. The Prime Minister told an honourable Member of another place, Mr. Winston Churchill, this afternoon in the Commons that an announcement 1420 would be made next week. So we will know before the end of the month. Your Lordships will remember that the Pay Review Body recommendations are normally published at the same time as the Government's response to them.
There then remains the point raised by many noble Lords: What opportunities will be given to discuss the Pay Body's recommendations? Suggestions were made, in fact, that the dating of today's debate was a trick to get the debate in before the Government made their announcement. I do not believe that that is so. I know that it is conventional for important matters like this to be announced in the Commons. But the date of today's debate was, in fact. announced some time ago.
The convention is, as far as I know it, that the Commons first of all debate the White Paper and, about a week later, we do the same. For various reasons connected with Scotland there was a certain slippage; at any rate, that is almost true. If noble Lords had discussed Scotland a little longer and more intensively we might have got the announcement of the pay before the debate. That was not a trick. It was an accident such as the managers of Business in this House experience from time to time.
If your Lordships should want a debate I cannot offer you one. Nevertheless, the House is the master of its own business, and I am certain that if the House wants a debate it will get one; and I am pretty certain that if anybody wants to put down an Unstarred Question, a Private Notice Question or a Question for Written Answer, that will be accepted. I should have thought that perhaps a Private Notice Question on premature resignations might be a better source of information than leaks through the Press Association, to which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister referred a couple of days ago; saying that it was probably of the right order but he did not know where the figures came from. It will be interesting to get the correct figures.
I have attempted to give the figure in answer to the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and later I will be able to give him approximate figures of ratings. He was good enough to give me advance 1421 warning and I was able to do a little research work for him.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I stand in sackcloth and ashes and apologise. This is of great importance, and I do not know quite how the record of applications for premature resignations are recorded, because although a man says that he wants to leave in 18 months, he may not leave then, his prospects may improve, his pay may improve and he may withdraw his application. I am not certain what are the statistics on this matter. I will find out and let the noble Viscount know.
My Lords, there was some criticism of the fact that the Government make up their mind and that noble Lords and honourable Members elsewhere have not any chance of influencing it. That is not how it is supposed to work. The Government are supposed to make up their mind; and it is the job of spokesmen like me to try to explain the workings of that mind, and then it is the job of both Houses to comment upon the actions of the Government. My noble friend Lord Shinwell said some very nice things to me of a rather damaging variety. He said I was "charming but useless". But I should like to say that I believe that the debates in this House and in the other place do affect Government thinking and national thinking. This national thinking may be even more influenced with the arrival of the black box upstairs.
I have always hoped to do what I can to inform noble Lords who are interested in defence to the best of my ability. I encouraged Lord Shinwell in his experiment of creating a defence study group in this House.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, do not the noble Lord and the Government think it would be a good thing to have two debates on defence, one of them relating to pay and conditions and the other to policy and strategy?
§ Lord W1NTERBOTTOM
My Lords, it is a good idea but I cannot promise, as I have said previously, additional debates 1422 —and there are the usual channels; the House is master of its own business—and neither can I stop them. It is up to the Leaders of the three main Parties and the Cross-Benches to get together and decide what they want. As I have said, I have always tried, in addition to supporting the defence study group to give noble Lords as much information as I can, if they ask for it, and to arrange visits that they believe may be helpful to their studies.
I want to make one point before plunging into the details in answer to the more technical points of the debate. Today's debate, although directed at the present Administration, is directed to all Parties and to members of no Party. I do not know whether noble Lords opposite think that they will be sitting on that side of the House for ever. I do not necessarily believe that. Nevertheless, we are approaching the time when an Election is about to come, and the problems of the Armed Forces which we are discussing today will not go away because of a change of Government. Noble Lords opposite have lectured me over a number of years. The time may be coming when I lecture them.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
Would the noble Lord not agree that most of the trouble is caused by the long lead times involved, from which we are now suffering, and which were, in fact, created by Mr. Wilson's second Administration?
Lord WINTER BOTTOM
My Lords, the opportunities are going to be given to a putative Conservative Administration. They are going to benefit from the 3 per cent. increase which has been decided in the forward rolling programme.
My Lords, may I, first, in reply to the debate, deal with the notable speech of the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, which I found extremely interesting and important. He went to the base of the way in which we make the estimates of comparability of members of the Armed Forces and also about the problems of the X factor. Like other noble Lords, I was concerned in this operation when it came about. At the time, I welcomed it. There were extensive studies of comparability and, having fixed a salary scale related to the outside world, we then added an X factor, which at the time was 10 per cent., which is the price we are willing to pay to compensate the 1423 serving soldier, sailor, and airman for the loss of civilian liberties and civilian comforts.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who said that this was a bad idea because it did not foresee the vagaries of economic trouble; that inflation was bound to come and was also bound to let the stingier elements of any Government to start to reduce the soldiers' remuneration.
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I do not want to waste the time of the House, but I did not say that. I might have done so. I said that the animal is different, that the Serviceman is a totally different creature and it would be a mistake to try to graft on to him an identity as in civil life. That is different from the point that was attributed to me.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I grasped the point made by the noble Lord which I think was right; but I thought that he implied what I said. The word "inflation" came in and I made a note of it. Nevertheless, at that time it was clear-cut, it was welcomed by the Armed Forces; and it has gone wrong. It is a question of putting it right. I think that, on balance, this might be best discussed when we know how the Pay Review Body has put forward its presentation and what the Government's reaction to it has been.
But, as I understand it, the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, wants to strengthen the Review Body and remove its dependence on the Government, so that it is a truly independent body which, in practice, it is supposed to be. The Government have to face the very severe problem of controlling national expenditure. It is not wrong of a Government to say to an impartial body, "If you ask for that, chum, you are not likely to get it. Our suggestion to you is have a bite about a proposal of this size and, if you have any special additional points you want to make, well, there is always the X factor".
§ Lord STRATHCONA and MOUNT ROYAL
My Lords, is not this body supposed to be an independent fact-finding body and not a negotiating arm, like a trade union or a trade association? What the noble Lord was saying would be 1424 fine for a trade association or union, but surely for an independent advisory body it is unreasonable to say: "Temper what you ask for, for what you are likely to get".
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
No, my Lords, because there the X factor exists. One is dealing with two factors: comparability, which is one factor for which the Government pay a fee, and the X factor, which is the fee one pays for something different, it is a different animal: the loss of civil liberty, the loss of freedom of movement, et cetera. It is a very strong point, though, that the body should be strengthened if it is proved to be necessary. I am not going to form an opinion. When I saw it operating it struck me as being a truly independent body with strong minded people upon it.
My noble friend Lord Davies of Leek—and perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart—suggested somehow the political muscle of the Armed Forces might be organised. Although all of us view with horror the possibility of an Armed Forces trade union, nevertheless there is an armed forces federation in Germany. Certain intelligent officers who are serving beside German units regard this with some interest. I am not arguing a case one way or the other; I am just drawing your Lordships' attention to the fact that this body exists, and some young soldiers are looking at it.
The last point made by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, I will answer immediately because it is relevant. I hope it will satisfy him. It was the question of what happens to the cheese when the Government give their pay increase. I have masses of notes in front of me but the noble Lord will have to take my view of the situation, which actually is correct. It is always nice to cling on to one's brief but at times there is so much in it that one has to free oneself. The position is that an increase in salary, just as an increase in the price of equipment, is treated as an element of inflation. It is covered by a supplementary estimate, and the actual division of the cheese and volume of men and machinery remains unaltered. The cash figures will change, but the real elements remain unaltered.
§ Earl CATHCART
My Lords, would not the noble Lord consider my suggestion that it would be better to put the horse 1425 before the cart and publish the Review Body's report two or three months before the Defence White Paper is published?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I have some notes on that and I think that the mechanics make it impossible. We have a Budget year. I believe that it will be impossible, but perhaps we could discuss that as a separate element. This is pure mechanics. If it could be done it would be nice, but I am not certain it could be done.
§ Lord MACKIE of BENSHIE
My Lords, is the noble Lord saying that in no circumstances could the Government make an undertaking to accept the advice of an independent review board of a sensible character? It is this factor that would give genuine long-term confidence to the serving officers of the Forces.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I suppose it all depends on what you mean by sensible. What I think is sensible for my pay, I know very well that the Government do not think is sensible. Unfortunately, this present Government—and many Governments—have been criticised for the fact that they have not kept public expenditure under proper control. No Government whatever would give a blank cheque, however well-informed and well-intentioned an independent review body is—
§ Lord MACKIE of BENSHIE
How does the noble Lord then account for the indexing of pensions of senior civil servants?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, that is very much another question. May I now turn to another important point stated very thoroughly and well by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. He very kindly gave me notice of this. The first and most basic point that I want to clear out of the way, which he asked me to do so with special emphasis, is that the Government of the day—the Labour Government—is the body that decide defence expenditure. The National Executive Committee study group, which proposed the £1,000 million cuts, does not represent Government policy. This was made very clear by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence last July.
1426 The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, has not had the pleasure of being a member of the Labour Party. He would probably be on my side within the Party if he were interested in resisting the rather wilder flights of fancy from some of one's colleagues. Perhaps he has wild colleagues, too, whose flights of fancy have to be resisted. The defence policy is the policy of this Government, and although the National Executive Committee may express a view, that view is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
If I may say so, it is not the "wicked Left" that has caused the trouble. It is the use of the oil weapon during the Arab-Israel war that so disturbed the world economy, and which caught us as a country particularly badly off balance, that forced the strict economies that were applied to other areas of Government expenditure to the Armed Forces. Since the noble Lord is a fair-minded man, I think he agrees that that is true.
§ Lord ORR-EWING
My Lords, I will leave the noble Lord to answer the second point. I illustrated that they spent £900 million—this is from a Department of Employment Press notice—on creating temporary jobs. If they can spend that amount of money in three years, why cannot we have comparable money for the safety of our country and the payment of our soldiers?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, the short answer to that is that it is money spent on a different person. A great deal of the money is spent on finding work for young people coming from school. No one in this House would wish—what shall I say?—to conscript them into the Armed Forces, or bribe them in. People in this country go into the Armed Forces as free men and come out as free men. The function of the expenditure that the noble Lord mentioned was entirely different from the problems of recruiting for the Armed Forces. It is a different question.
We now have to turn for a moment to the 3 per cent. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, was most kind on this particular matter. He put his finger on the issue: it is a question of "lies, damned lies and statistics". He brought in the question of slippage. The 1427 noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, also mentioned slippage and asked how much slippage there was in the past three years. I shall have to write to her about that. Let me ask any noble Lord who one day may be a Minister—and I see a noble Lord rises, but may I finish this important point—not to be too cross about slippage. It can be extremely useful. But an expensive piece of equipment may somehow slip from 30th March to 1st April and disappear out of the budget.
It may be that the true increase in spending may be only 1 per cent. rather than 3 per cent., as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. However, he should be thankful that cuts in expenditure are bottoming out and are now turning upwards. This is to the benefit of whichever Administration will be running the country in the two years when the forecast is for rising expenditure on defence. The noble Lord made the position sound slightly Party political, which upset one or two of my noble friends. but the fact is that expenditure has bottomed out and is rising. The expenditure is the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government and of no outside body.
§ Lord ORR-EWING
My Lords, I quoted Mr. Mulley on this, that this defence budget we are discussing is the lowest there has ever been in the history of the Labour Party—and they have had some pretty low budgets for defence in their time. So if it is bottoming out, there are no signs of it in the White Paper we are discussing. Is that not true?
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, there have been some pretty vicious Conservative cuts in defence, but do not, for goodness' sake! let us get too deeply into that. We shall be fighting the political battles of the '30s if we are not careful.
I should now like to turn to the very interesting look into the future by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. We had a very agreeable discussion last year about a flexible response. I think this is really a continuation of his thinking. May I ask him one question before I try to reply to his main points? Does he foresee in 1990 the disappearance of tactical nuclear weapons? He seemed to foresee that we ought to create conventional 1428 forces in Europe strong enough to stop a major Russian attack. That was the deterrent. But my impression was that if that first stage of deterrence failed, the second stage of theatre nuclear weapons had fallen away and only the strategic exchange remained. Did I understand the noble Lord correctly?
§ Lord GLADWYN
Not altogether, my Lords. My conception is that it would be very desirable, certainly by 1990 to have a forward conventional defence based on all kinds of modern electronic devices and so on which would make the Russians pause before any attack, because they might think it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to crash through this conventional thing and thereby win the war, unless they used their own tactical weapons. Of course, I suggest that we should have our own tactical nuclear weapons in reserve for use on a second strike, supposing that the Russians decided to use their nuclear weapons in advance.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I thought he made a very interesting speech indeed. I shall read it with care. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, in a sense supported him, because he pointed out that so far our policy has been successful. The balanced forces we have deployed and the way we have deployed them have brought us a very long period of peace: though one cannot, of course, say that it has been a period without tension. Am I right, then, in thinking that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is restating his views on the flexible response, but underlining particularly the importance of conventional weapons and the suggestion that perhaps when the Polaris fleet ceases to be functional it should be replaced with something similar, but perhaps with cruise missiles with conventional heads but which might carry tactical nuclear heads if required?
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, that is another question. The possible renewal of our own strategic deterrent, I think, is questionable if we assume that the Americans are still going to remain in force in Europe in the absence of any disarmament convention. If they do, they will have to use the nuclear deterrent if necessary, and so our own will not be necessary at all. On the other hand, if 1429 they are not there, there is a case for retaining our own deterrent, but only if Europe is responsible for its own defence, which I do not think is possible.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very much and I now understand his view clearly. It is an interesting one. I have reached my time of 25 minutes plus one, but I should like to answer a couple of hard questions put to me by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, and the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery. I should like to write to the noble Baroness about the medical services. The Committee is working satisfactorily but has not been going long enough to produce any results. The question of quarters is, of course, important. If there are surpluses they are immediately passed to the PSA for disposal and about 2,000 were passed for disposal last year alone. Eleven thousand have been released in the last 5 years. But, as has been pointed out already, many houses are closed for repair, and many are kept in reserve because it is known that they will be required in one or two years. I will try to answer the noble Baroness's other questions in writing and, if she wishes, I will publish the information in a Written Answer.
I also promised to reply to the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, on the question of ratings—but the ratings seem to have gone ashore so far as my papers are concerned! I should like to write, if I may, to the noble Earl and give him the figures.
§ The Earl of CORK and ORRERY
My Lords, is it possible—I think it may be—that the noble Lord has an approximation to these figures in his head? It would not be fair to ask him to produce those if he is not certain, but I feel personally that it is rather a pity to ask a Question of which advance warning has been given and then find that the Answer does not in fact come in the Official Report.
§ Lord WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, I would do it by Written Answer and I would refer also to other ranks in a similar position. I think that might be valuable and helpful. Finally, I should like to answer the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, over his rather pessimistic view of tanks being laid up in BOAR. That was referred to by other noble Lords also. War reserve tanks are preserved by a system known as "dry clad", and tanks are sometimes withdrawn from service for various reasons. Noble Lords will not expect me to discuss details. I can, however, say that the Government are satisfied that this does not adversely affect the operational state of BOAR. They have been withdrawn into reserve and they are there for use if necessary. As regards spares for the Royal Air Force and the Army, I may say that they are up to 30-day standards, give or take a day or two to get them ready.
I am now approaching the half-hour. I think this debate has been deeply felt and valuable, and I have tried to reply to it as best I can. I should like to close by adding my tribute to the Armed Services who, despite their difficulties, have served this country so well. I hope they will have the patience to wait and see what comes next week.
§ Lord GLADWYN
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, with regard to my question on the neutron bomb, which was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, could the noble Lord perhaps give me an answer to that Question in writing?
§ Lord MOTTISTONE
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord might write to me and answer some of my questions.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at nine minutes past eight o'clock.