HL Deb 26 June 1979 vol 400 cc1358-476

4.16 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, the excellent custom of your Lordships' House that maiden speeches should be short and unprovocative imposes severe constraints on one who is by nature a compulsive talker and enjoys controversy. I will do my best to offend in neither respect this afternoon, unlike Mr. Canning, whose maiden speech in another place in 1794 (which was the first to be so described) was lengthy and provocative. If I offend in any other respects, my Lords, I beg you to put it down to inexperience.

I have noticed that the relatively few speeches made by noble Lords about defence in the debate on the gracious Speech were mostly preoccupied with nuclear weapons at the expense of other aspects of the defence of the Realm which, if less terrifying, are certainly no less important. I have particularly in mind the very foundations of a successful defence policy, and the overriding importance to it of adequate conventional forces. I prefer to devote my limited time this afternoon to these matters of principle, rather than to details of weapons systems, arms control or conditions of service. Nevertheless, it would be strange if I said nothing at all about these weapons of mass destruction, having been so deeply involved with them myself for many years.

Certainly strategic nuclear weapons and theatre nuclear weapons are two essential elements of the triad of arms on which our whole defence posture rests, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, reminded the House last month. Certainly we must have them. Certainly they must be convincing; and to be convincing, not only to ourselves but to the Soviets, they must be adequate in both quality and quantity. It is, therefore, good news that the North Atlantic Council, in its most recent meetings, agreed to modernise the Western nuclear inventory.

However, there are two other terms in the nuclear equation about which I have equally no doubt and they seem to me to have received insufficient prominence. The first is that any defence policy which relied wholly upon nuclear weapons—the original NATO policy of the trip-wire and massive nuclear retaliation—would be wholly unconvincing today to either side, and was rightly abandoned by NATO 10 years ago. The second is that if any nuclear weapon is ever dropped or used on land or, as the jargon has it, "If the nuclear threshold is ever crossed", an irreversible step will have been taken, with consequences for mankind which are unpredictable but almost certainly disastrous. It is my view that the surest way for us not to have to cross that invisible line is to maintain adequate conventional defensive strength.

The dominant objective of our defence policy and that of our allies, which has been successful for 30 years, and which still is our policy and will continue to be so until happier days dawn, is to deter war. Deterrence is, indeed, the name of the NATO game. Nobody knows precisely what will deter a potential aggressor, but to begin the exercise of finding out it is first necessary to evaluate the threat. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, as the Psalmist has it, so the fear of the threat should be the beginning of a wise defence policy. It may be argued that it is many years since our own defence policy has been founded upon that particular rock. I therefore very much hope that, should the Government decide to carry out a further defence review, next time it will be about how to counter the threat and not, as nearly every defence review for the past 20 years has been, about how to share out an inadequate cake among the three Services.

Any threat is generally accepted to be a compound of capability and intention. Nobody knows the intentions of the Soviet leadership, although some foolish persons claim to do so. In a climate of endless talk about détente and a widespread desire, certainly in the West, for a quiet life, speculation about them is almost bound to be on the over-optimistic side. Capability, on the other hand, can now be measured with very great precision, and the military power of our only potential enemy thus revealed is daunting indeed.

Along the frontiers in the cockpit of Europe, the Warsaw Pact now has a numerical superiority over NATO forces in tanks and tank transporters, in armoured personnel carriers, in bridging equipment, in artillery pieces, in supporting arms and services, in men and in combat aircraft which, in many instances, has reached, and in others closely approaches, the classic Liddell Hart ratio for successful attack in Europe of three to one. These massive forces are being augmented by an annual expenditure on defence in the Soviet Union which is about three or four times that in NATO countries. It is quite idle to pretend, as the Soviets so frequently do, that superiority of that nature could conceivably be required for defensive purposes.

It is precisely this conventional superiority, coupled with nuclear parity—or, indeed, some say potential superiority—which has opened what has been called the "window of opportunity" for the Soviet Union. This window of opportunity will remain open, even if the Government determine with our allies to redress the dangerous conventional imbalance, and so restore stability for seven to ten years, for that is the time it takes nowadays from the twinkle in the eye stage until modern weapons systems arrive in the hands of troops.

I welcome, of course, the Government's intention to accord a higher priority to defence and to increase our contribution to the North Altantic Alliance, and so to increase our national security as the noble Lord the Minister has described. But time is not on our side. For one reason that I have just given, the window remains open and, without wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth, I have read in the Press that the Government are proposing to devote another £100 million to defence in the coming year. I would advise your Lordships that £100 million does not buy much defence today. It buys about 10 Tornado aircraft, perhaps 100-odd tanks or a couple of frigates, but not all three together.

It may seem strange that I have so far said nothing whatever about the Naval Service, in which I have spent my whole life. I wished to join some words about the Soviet maritime threat, and the need to counter it, with my very strongly held belief that on the harsh facts there can be no doubt that the threat today is intercontinental in both strategy and concept. The chosen instrument for that threat to our way of life is the Soviet Navy. which its creator, Admiral Gorschkov, recently described as, …the optimum instrument to defeat the imperialist enemy and the most important element in the Soviet arsenal to prepare the way for a Communised world". This navy has grown from a coastal defence force, at the time of their humiliation over Cuba in 1962, to the second largest navy the world has ever seen, regularly deployed all the year round on every sea and ocean. In the same historically short period, the power of the Royal Navy has been allowed to diminish by at least one-third. It seems to me that these alarming new dimensions should receive very early attention in the reassessment of priorities which they so clearly demand.

Might I suggest that, for a start, the Government should seek to co-ordinate the currently individual activities of the Dutch, the French and the American maritime forces and, better still—despite the political difficulties—of South Africa, so as to establish a constabulary presence in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf, to forestall what is almost bound to be a thrust to seize the oil States of the Gulf and to interdict the Cape route to North America and Western Europe, should deterrence fail.

May I conclude by returning to deterrence. There are many ingredients of this phenomenon and I have touched on only one or two, but without any doubt political will is the most important of them. This must embrace the will to create and to maintain forces which are adequate in quality and quantity to deter the measured threat. It must embrace the will to encourage the members of those forces in every way to maintain the standards of excellence which are justly admired by our allies and our opponents alike. Above all, it must embrace the will, about which there must be no doubt anywhere, to fight should deterrence fail.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, I should like first to thank the Government Chief Whip for giving me the opportunity of being the first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Hill-Norton on his most excellent maiden speech. I would crave the indulgence of your Lordships and recall, if I may, some personal connections with my noble friend. Several years ago, when the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was Minister of Defence, my noble friend Lord Bourne and I gave a dinner one evening to my son who had just returned from his third tour of duty in Northern Ireland. At that dinner, he told us that his next job was to be ADC to the then Chief of the Defence Staff, the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. The next morning, when I came into your Lordships' House, I repaired, as is my wont, to the Bishops' Bar, where I found my noble friend Lord Bourne sitting next to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. My noble friend had obviously told the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, what he had heard the night before, so he beckoned me over and said, "I hear that your son is going to be ADC to my Chief of Defence Staff". I said, "Yes; can you tell me what this bloke is like?" and he replied, "He eats two ADCs for breakfast"!

Several years later, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who was then the Leader of the House, asked me if I would become secretary to the all-party Defence Study Group which was set up under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. It so happened that the then Chairman of the Military Committee of NATO, no other than the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, came to address our very first meeting. Those of your Lordships who were there at the time will, I am sure, agree with me that the success of that committee's subsequent meetings was largely due to the great success of that first meeting which was addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton.

I hope that the noble Lord will often address this House. It is customary, as the noble Lord said, for one's maiden speech to be not too provocative, and I imagine that from now on the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, will be considerably more provocative. Indeed, I look forward to them being so. Those of your Lordships who have read his book No Soft Options—a free commercial—know that we have something to look forward to. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord on his maiden speech and, as we always do in this House, to express the hope that he will address us often and keep the Ministers of whichever Government are in power up to scratch. For reasons which I hope will become clear later in my speech, I am going to confine myself purely to home and civil defence. As I see it, we, alone in Europe, have no adequate form of home or civil defence. The all-party Defence Study Group took evidence from the heads of both the Navy and the Air Force, and we heard that this country can now be attacked, with the greatest of ease, by Russia from the west—and I underline the west—both by sea and by air. We know—we have heard it already and we shall hear it again this evening —how great is the preponderance of conventional and short-range nuclear arms which the Warsaw Pact has over NATO. I know that I probably disagree with both the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, when I say that I am afraid SALT II means that we have lost the American nuclear umbrella which has kept the peace in Europe since 1945.

The experts have told us that by 1983 the Russians and the Warsaw Pact will have reached their peak of superiority in terms of both conventional and short-range nuclear weapons. We know that the Russians know that, should hostilities commence in Europe, all the major reinforcements for NATO will come to Europe via this country. We might disagree—I am sure many of us do—as to whether Russia will start World War III so long as she can achieve her global objectives by the use of her satellites—say, by the use of East Germany or Cuba. But surely there can be no other sensible answer to the question as to why the Warsaw Pact as a whole is building, and is continuing to build, such formidable armed might—unparalleled in all history—with all the economic implications that go with it, unless it believes that war is inevitable. Perhaps World War III, like the Hundred Years' War, started in Korea, continued in Vietnam and Africa and is now in the Middle East and back again in the Far East. Perhaps Russia argues that the strain, in economic terms, on the West will be such that she will achieve her objectives without fighting. But can we be sure of that?

There are signs that her fear of China, stoked by the guilt complex of having stolen so much of Mongolia and Siberia, means that her "hawks" are arguing that within the next few years she must obliterate NATO and then deal with China before China becomes too strong. If you were a Russian Marshal or General and were put in charge of the European operation, surely your very first action, should that operation start, would be to make certain that NATO reinforcements did not arrive. And what easier way to do that could there be than by obliterating this island—by knocking out the reinforcement staging platform that is the United Kingdom?

That is the major reason why, as a matter of urgency, we should look to our home and civil defence, both of which were abolished, in effect, in 1968. We all know who was the Minister of Defence at that time. His obliteration of the TA, the main back-up force of the civil defence organisation, led the then Home Secretary to abolish that civil defence organisation as well. If there is a holocaust and we survive it, history—if we have any history left—will know who are the guilty men.

Why, practically alone in Europe, have we been left so naked to our enemies? When the Warsaw Pact consider that the time is ripe, which some experts say will be 1983, they could, and would—because they have been demanding it for years—give an ultimatum for the dismantling of NATO, the disarmament of West Germany, and the withdrawal of American forces from Europe, which is precisely what our own native-born Marxists have advocated for years and are continuing to advocate. I do not think that any further comment is necessary on that particular point.

What have we got left to work with? TAVR 2 is all committed to NATO, and TAVR 3 is so small and ill-equipped as to be no more than a token force. Consider the, some say probable, use of a nuclear device by terrorist organisations. Is it true that the IRA have developed links with Okhela, or that the PLFP have developed links with the American Indian movement? And is it true—of course it is true—that the Italian Red Brigade has proposed a terrorist Fifth International? Surely the implications are obvious.

Can any Government claim to be fulfilling its responsibility to protect its people without adequate evacuation plans, or preparations for this type of emergency? Have we any plans for dealing with major accidents, nuclear or otherwise? The answer, I believe, is, no. The answer to the overall question about what we should do, is that we should set up a single, co-ordinated, voluntary emergency organisation. Such an organisation is necessary, urgent and of overriding importance. I would add one more very important reason for the creation of such a nation-wide organisation and that is to maintain morale in a crisis period. I can safely say that this is a factor well recognised by the top people in the police.

I will not burden the House by underlining what the Home Office has issued in recent years, but I should like to refer the Minister (so that he can consider it at his leisure) to ES/3 of 1973 and Civil Defence Planning Regulations 1974 and ES/2 1976 entitled Community Organisation in War. However, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to quote the ex-Chief Adviser to the Southern County in the days when we still had proper civil defence organisation—T. E. H. Helby—on the letter from the Home Office. He says: (a) If in the chaos of a war emergency, especially in the immediate post attack period, the parish or community is left without someone who is capable of forming sound judgments and issuing lawfully enforceable clear instructions, then the casualty rate in that community will be a great deal higher than it need be and its chance of survival as a community will be proportionately reduced. (b) It is there in the parishes and communities where people live and work, and in particular in rural parishes where food is grown, that the battle for survival will be won or lost". I think I should declare my interest. I happen to be president of the Devonshire Association of Parish Councils; I am an honorary colonel of a TAVR III Yeomanry Regiment, and I am chairman of an organisation called the Devon Emergency Volunteers, which is trying to fill that gap. I am also a graduate of the now defunct civil defence staff college.

General Hackett in his book The Third World War compares the state of the civil defence of Birmingham with that of a North Devon village under our particular organisation which we have started in that part of the world. I commend that book to your Lordships. I also have a list of another 11 publications which I should like to commend to your Lordships but I will not bother you with them now.

We now have a Conservative Government and, if I may, I would remind them of what they said in Opposition in 1969 in their policy group report on the use of voluntary emergency services. In short it recommended—and I quote: Local authorities should have the statutory powers to enrol, train and organise volunteers for all emergencies". It goes on to recommend—which is what I am trying to do now—that Home Office civil defence equipment be reissued for training volunteers and for exercises. To that I would add the plea that the equipment should be brought up to date. Do your Lordships remember the "green goddesses"? To be specific, I ask this Government to give a clear directive to local authorities that the monies available for home defence must not be reduced in the current local authority cuts. If they do not, home defence planning teams will be the first targets. The Association of County Councils has proposed that in 1980 the present 75 per cent. home defence grant be abolished. The Government must take a firm line on this, otherwise their funds will be switched to the more politically favoured local government activities. Secondly, central Government approval must be given to such organisations as "DEV "—as we call it—to be set up nationwide, and training and operational equipment held by the Home Office stores should be issued to county authorities for use by such organisations.

My Lords, there are citizens available and willing, as we have shown in the Devon Emergency Volunteers; and I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, that our strongest element comes from her part of Plymouth. We need that sort of organisation nationwide and Government supported. Home defence and civil defence are inexorably linked. TAVR III needs to be greatly increased, and both organisations need to be better equipped and trained. This is my plea and I should like to end by a quotation from the Newsletter of the particular TAVR III unit to which I have referred. The headline over it is "Food for Thought", and it goes like this: We the willing Led by the unknowing For the ungrateful Have done so much For so long, with so little We are now qualified To do anything with nothing". My Lords, that is a cry from the grass roots. I hope the Government will pay attention to it.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords. I am grateful to be able to speak on the worthy Motion proposed by my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal. Defence is a field in which people are involved in many ways: the family, the clubs, the different groups within society—for example the consumers groups. Each feels the need for safeguards to protect its interests. Naturally we will not belong to all groups but any decent person will honour those groups of individuals. There is another defence that involves all and brings all together. This defence is necessary if full liberty and freedom are to he present for every man, woman and child. Such liberty enables people to feel that they can go about their business in peace without fear, as decent and honest citizens who wish to do their particular work in life for family and country. This defence of liberty involves cost and sacrifice if we wish to have it, as it does for any group within society. There is the need of the element of understanding, respect and honour.

The defence that all are involved in is the support of the armed services. That is a necessity, however distasteful. Surely no decent or honourable person enjoys war. We know that until the perfect day comes of humanity coming to maturity, we are in a conflict of light against darkness; good against wrong, where truth will be turned into the lie and the lie into the truth. This causes war. As your Lordships know, there are those to whom we must give all due respect for their views. There are those who believe, in sincere faith, that it is wrong to fight. I am sure that all of us in our time have gone through the searching question about the force of war, the morality and ethics of war. Many of us can see that, on the grounds of defence, for positive reasons, the force of war can be justified, but not for pure aggression. In the words of Thomas Aquinas: It is necessary to have a right intention. The aim of the action should be right, and the war should be waged in a just manner". Our task today is to defend ourselves from the possibility of war by striving for what is right and good and just. This is the first form of defence and one that will not harden our hearts through the obstacles we face. It has been rightly said that, — the primary condition of freedom, to which all other conditions are related, lies in the character and the quality of human relations". Our spiritual convictions will give us spiritual courage to face war if we are given no alternative and to face the action of giving our lives for the defence of freedom. My peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you, not as this world give I unto you. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world". I suggest that defence is prepared according to our way of living, both by moral and spiritual means as well as by material means. We must not tempt providence by not taking sufficient steps, morally, spiritually and materially, to be adequately strong to defend ourselves and so to justify our course of action. Today this defence for those who cherish freedom can only be done by those of the same mind joining hands together.

Our armed forces need to be kept up to an adequate strength and capability, with decent quality equipment. This is essential for their morale and standing. It is good to see this fact when it happens. We must not take the armed services for granted, nor forget the fact that they are married men with families. Let us give the armed services a healthy priority as well as our other organisations attached to them. The Territorial Army has an important part to play. The Army cadet forces have a place and ought to be taken seriously so that their bodies are given the means to do their work. Many Army cadet force boys join the Regulars and I have seen how the cadet force makes men out of boys. Nor do we forget the work of all regular Army chaplains who quietly do so much for the men and women and children of the forces. The Lambeth Conferences of 1930, 1948 and 1958 have rightly said that ideally the Christian faith and war are two incompatibles, but how clear it is that we do not live in an ideal world.

We in this part of the world accept the occasions when the State calls us to arms, since we believe it is for our freedom. There are parts of the world where it is not so easy to accept the State's authority and to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's". Here we rightly accept the State's responsibility and work of having an adequate defence force, and we can trust in the ability of our leaders to take decisions as to its right use. It has been rightly said that, the primary condition of freedom, to which all other conditions are related, lies in the character and the quality of human relations". I thank your Lordships for your attention, and I should also like to thank you for the extreme kindness which you give as soon as one enters this House and first takes the Oath.

4.54 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure the House will want me to express its thanks and appreciation of the refreshing words of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. I should like to say a few words about the Territorial Army. If you ask me whether I have ever served in the Territorial Army the answer must be no. It is true that in 1914 I considered the idea, but when I discovered that the Colonel was a man known to me and that I was known to him, because I used to weed his garden every Saturday for half a crown, and as I further considered that was only 16 years of age at the time —and he knew it—I thought perhaps I had better not entertain any further the idea of joining his battalion. So I went down the road and joined another battalion of the same regiment of the line. It happened to be the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and sometimes now I sit and reflect that a regiment that can produce such soldiers as Field Marshal Montgomery, Field Marshal Slim and Company Sergeant Major Leatherland was not such a bad crowd after all. I was about to say that, although I was never in the Territorial Army myself, I did come into contact with Territorials down on the Somme in 1915. I found that they were real soldiers. So it was with very great pleasure indeed that for over 20 years I sat as a member of the Territorial Army Association of my county.

My Lords, we know that in this country we cannot face the burden of carrying an enormous Regular Army. We have no worldwide Empire any longer to defend. We can say, perhaps not exactly with our hands on our hearts, that at the momen there seems to be no immediate possibility of an outbreak of a great war in Europe. It seems to me that the United States and the USSR at the present moment are holding a very even balance. How long that will continue we cannot say; we can only hope. But at the same time we must be prepared, we must be fully prepared. We saw what happened in Hungary; we saw what happened in Czechoslovakia. We are perhaps in some little doubt as to how long the two Germanies will be prepared to remain divided. Whenever the next war comes, if it does come, it will be nothing like the wars that we have known in the past. But we shall still need artillary and infantry; and that is where the Territorial Army comes in, with a vast reservoir of trained men ready to be posted to the defence of this country or to join our NATO forces overseas.

What is the present position in the Territorial Army? It has 58,000 men. I must add that 4,000 of them are women but we will regard them as men so long as they are on parade. When they go off parade we shall be delighted to welcome them as women once again. But the Territorial Army is only 80 per cent. up to establishment. It wants another 12,000 people. It has two classes; the first is the class which is represented by the men at our drill halls; the other class consists of highly skilled technical persons who are controlled centrally. The present order of battle of the TA is that 40 per cent. is infantry and artillery and 20 per cent. is signals and engineers.

What are the conditions of enlistment in the Territorial Army? The minimum joining age is 17½. One enrols for two, three or four years with the right to re-engage for one, two, three or four years. The average time served is about three years and resignations usually take place because men get married or change their jobs. As regards the requirements for training, there are 15 days a year obligatory in camp; 12 days a year obligatory out of camp; and 13 days a year voluntary in accordance with the arrangements made by the local units. There is a weapon firing test once every year and those units that are destined to serve in the BAOR on mobilisation have the right to have one camp out of three in Germany. Twenty-thousand of these men had their annual camp in Germany last year. I turn to the pay of the Territorials. It rises up to £55 a year tax free under normal circumstances, with an extra £60 a year, which is taxable, in the case of men who accept a particularly high liability to be sent abroad. When the last Government left office they were in the process of considering an increase in those rates of pay. I sincerely hope that the present Government will give early attention to those proposals.

Of course, when men are in camp they receive Regular Army rates of pay and when they go to their village drill halls they receive a meal allowance. So, some of the aspects of their remuneration are satisfactory, but some of them cry out for review because the present rates of pay were settled 12 years ago in 1967.

I have the feeling that there should be some improvement in the supply of weapons to the Territorial Army. At present it has an anti-tank gun, but it is an old model. The Regular Army is about to be provided with a new anti-tank gun and I suggest that that new gun should be provided to not only the Regular Army but the Territorials, because standardisation counts for a great deal on the battle-field. It is no use one man having one type of gun and another man having a different type of gun, and the shells not being interchangeable.

There has recently been published the Shapland Report by Major-General Shapland. He conducted an inquiry into all aspects of the Territorial Army. I am sorry that that report was not published in full for the information of Members of this House. Merely a summary was published. I was told that the full report could not be published and it may very well be that there is a good reason for that —it may be that it would not have been wise to tell the Russians what our Territorial Army is doing and could be expected to do.

However, it suggested two matters. First, that extra cash should be provided for the Territorial Army. I agree with that and I think that some of it should go in the form of extra pay to the men because they have not had an increase in pay for 12 years. The second point is that the old nondescript title of TAVR should be scrapped and the full traditional title of Territorial Army should be restored. I hope that the Government will give early consideration to those last two points because they certainly will have wide support throughout the country.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, some four years ago the first tri-service advisory body to the Ministry of Defence was set up. It is a civilian body and I have the honour of being its chairman. It is for that reason that I, as a doctor, crave your Lordships' indulgence for making my maiden speech in a defence debate.

One of the points that I wish to make could very nearly be described as one of urgency —namely, the manpower situation in the Armed Forces Medical Services. The Royal Navy is, for the present, in the happy position of being able to recruit sufficient young cadets and young qualified doctors to hope to be in balance by 1982. However, it has immediate and urgent difficulties in fulfilling its manning commitments. The RAF is less happily placed. It is short of cadets and recruitment of young doctors and it has, to some extent, a problem over early voluntary retirement.

The situation of the RAMC is indeed disturbing. At the beginning of this year it was about 100 short on a requirement of approximately 600. That is a most alarming figure. However, the situation is more disturbing than that, because the shortage is in a particular part of the cadre of the Army health services—what we might call the public health and hygiene services of the force—in the command and staff structures. There is a 16.8 per cent. deficiency now but by 1983, if something is not done, the cadre will be 50 per cent. below strength. It is an absolutely vital part of the organism.

In the RAMC since April 1975 the loss through retirement has been 99 out of a force of 507. Of that 99, 60 out of an establishment of 228 are specialists in surgery, medicine and various other disciplines—men who take many years to train. Why is this happening? The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, pointed out that the Armed Forces Pay Review Body has made a very valuable recommendation—namely, parity with civilian life. I am sure that that will have a very beneficial effect on the problem.

However, there are other problems. All members of the Services have problems which arise from their service in the armed forces. However, doctors have a special problem in that their professional careers are essential to their efficiency as Service doctors. There is reason to believe that the Armed Forces Medical Service has some justification for a lack of confidence in its situation. Throughout this decade there has been a series of inquiries into the medical services. It began with Sir Clifford Jarrett's Defence Medical Services Inquiry in 1973, and has continued. All, naturally, are looking for and recommend cuts and economies. In fact the result of those cuts and economies on the Army is material and dramatic. Seven Army hospitals were lost within two years. However, the results psychologically were equally dramatic—there began a spiral downwards of overstretch, dissatisfaction, premature retirement and overstretch. In figures up to 1st April this year, voluntary premature retirement has cost the Royal Army Medical Corps 44 valuable doctors, and since then there have been 20 more. That is, indeed, deeply disturbing.

Army, Navy and Air Force doctors are always under a certain professional disadvantage in that their experience cannot be as highly specialised and as concentrated as is possible in civilian life. Therefore, the necessity for extra manning for these forces in order to allow a constant interchange of these servicemen into civilian existence is quite essential. That is expensive. The doctors are leaving because they are concerned that there is little in the way of a professional future for them in their Services. They are leaving at an age when they have reached higher rank, when they have reached professional maturity and when their training has been completed at the cost of time of the Services in allowing these men to train. They are leaving in those alarming numbers.

A regular cadre of medical officers in the various Services is the essential basis in peace on which will be built the rapid expansion that would be a necessity in a war of acute origin. Without that cadre it would be quite impossible to supply medical services in even the slightest approximation to adequate numbers. No commander and none of your Lordships who served in the last war will have the faintest doubt about the importance to morale as well as the obvious practical importance of the medical services. I ask your Lordships to be convinced that if these medical services must survive in the future attitudes must change so that there is not a constant examination of medical services in order to establish comparability as between their civilian brothers and, indeed, sisters; that there should not be a constant examination of cost-effectiveness, which is almost impossible in medicine anyhow, and disastrously misleading when applied between civilian and Service life. I am not begging for vast sums of money; the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, made clear to us in his remarks that even an additional £100 million would be inadequate, I am asking for the horse shoe nail, for the want of which a kingdom was lost.

5.4 p.m.


My Lords, it is my privilege in following the noble Lord, Lord Richardson, to congratulate him upon a notable maiden speech. He has given a long and very distinguished service to medicine, and in this debate it is also appropriate to record his wartime service in the Royal Army Medical Corps. However, it is the time and the service that he gives on the Armed Forces Medical Advisory Board, and has given since 1975, to which we must pay tribute. Indeed, the armed forces are extremely fortunate to have the services and the advice of such a distinguished doctor. Today, with brevity and clarity he has highlighted the problems of the armed forces medical services, and I know that there will be many calls on his wisdom and experience in many debates on many subjects in your Lordships' House. But I hope that he will not make this the last occasion on which he takes part in our defence debates, because with his distinguished experience he has filled a gap which perhaps has been evident in your Lordships' House in recent defence debates. With great respect I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, on his maiden speech and my noble friend Lord Milverton on his. We are all looking forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I greatly welcome the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, and I thank him for the opportunity which his Motion has given us today to debate all aspects of defence. In fact, this is the first opportunity for more than 12 months that we, in your Lordships' House, have had to debate defence. The special emphasis which was placed in Her Majesty's gracious Speech at the opening of this Session of Parliament on improving the security of the nation and strengthening our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance was not only very welcome, but it gave much needed encouragement to our armed forces, as did also the announcement of the undertaking to restore and maintain servicemen's pay to a level comparable with their civilian counterparts. Members of our armed forces give their service to the nation with total commitment. For that reason we owe it to them to ensure that they are rewarded with just rates of pay; I hope that it will never again become a matter of urgent debate and controversy. I was most grateful to hear my noble friend the Minister give us that assurance this afternoon.

The exodus of highly trained and experienced officers and non-commissioned men, which we have heard has taken place in the last two years and to which the Minister referred in his opening speech, is a very serious matter indeed. As he said, it is not entirely a matter of rates of pay; it is also a matter of the many frustrations and the conditions of service with which they have had to contend. Thanks to the firm resolve which our new Government have injected into our defence policy, we must hope that many of these frustrations will decline. If the decline appears to be a little slow, at least the members of the armed forces will now know that their needs are better understood.

I should like to try to advance a case for your Lordships' House to give more opportunity and more time to discussing defence matters. During the past five years, with one exception and apart from Starred and Unstarred Questions on defence matters, we have had only one debate each year and that has been prompted by the publication of the annual Statement on Defence Estimates. The one exception was last year when forces' pay had fallen a disastrous 32 per cent. behind civilian earnings, and applications for premature release from the Services were mounting. There were even some who thought that the morale of the Services was being affected. On that occasion the opportunity of the annual Army, Air Force and Naval Discipline Acts (Continuation) Order was taken to debate these urgent matters affecting Service personnel. Hopefully, we shall not have such urgency in the future. However, defence is not only a vital subject; it is also one which has a call on a very considerable share of our national expenditure. With the increased emphasis that Her Majesty's Government are now placing on defence, it is only right that we should devote more time in the course of the year to this subject.

In one short speech, which should be no more than 10 or 15 minutes in length, it is not possible to do justice to all aspects of defence which are mentioned in the annual Defence Estimates. My impression is—and I am afraid that I am guilty of this offence— that most noble Lords taking part in defence debates understandably devote their speeches to the wider subjects, such as NATO deployment, NATO's nuclear strategy, the deterrent, or the next generation of weapons, at the expense of personnel matters affecting servicemen and their families such as pay, accommodation, conditions of service and recruiting. I was particularly glad to hear my noble friend Lord Strathcona say that these matters are now all being looked into with great care. I have no doubt he will be reporting back to your Lordships' House on the outcome.

It is to be noted that the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, also got the impression that some of the more basic defence matters get crowded out of our defence debate by these highly fashionable and more abstract topics. I should like to support the suggestion made by my noble friend Lady Elles that defence should be given a day on its own separate from the foreign affairs debate in our debates on the gracious Speech after the opening of Parliament, bearing in mind that at that time of year your Lordships' programme is usually not too busy. Although I go along with this idea, I personally would prefer it if we made use each year of the annual Discipline Act (Continuation) Order to discuss matters affecting the personnel of our armed forces, leaving the annual debate on the Defence Estimates for the wider issues of strategy and weapon development. Surely if we can have three full-scale debates on our economy in the first five weeks of this Parliament, we can afford to have two debates on defence in the course of a whole year, which is what I am suggesting.

I have not left myself a great deal of time to talk about defence matters, and so I am going to limit myself to two separate subjects. My first point concerns the training establishment, which has undergone cuts in expenditure and other limitations during the past five years. The many skills in weaponry in which all three Services need to be trained today are more complex than ever before, and are getting more complex every year. Our effective contribution to NATO, which is one of the purposes of this debate, depends very much on the skills and experience of the men in the Services. It depends more on that, in my opinion, than on their numbers. This can only be achieved if the Services are backed by a well found training establishment with sufficient instructors and administrative staffs to cope.

There is another aspect to this. One of the privileges of serving in the armed forces in any one of our three all-regular Services is the enormous opportunity open to all ranks in variety of work and in the chance to learn new skills, gain fresh experience and accept new responsibilities —maybe, for example, simply to man with skill some new and complex piece of equipment. It is a privilege which must be regarded with envy by many in civilian life whose task is unfortunately often so sadly soul-destroyingly repetitive and with little chance of variety. As I have said, to cope with these many skills, and to maintain a high standard of experience, needs the backing of a well found training establishment, and to economise on this is a false economy.

We have already heard in today's debate in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, that it is no longer a fact that our Territorials and volunteers mobilise as a battalion or a division as was the case in 1939 and 1914. Rather, they would, if the need ever occurred again, mobilise, and be totally integrated as vital reserves into the regular formations of our field force. I believe that this applies more to the Army than to the other two Services, but it nevertheless applies to them to some extent as well. For this reason, it is essential that in peacetime our regular forces should have a large number of officers and non-commissioned officers fully trained in the many skills needed to meet this sudden expansion.

My final point concerns NATO deployment, and I must repeat what I have said in previous defence debates. In proposing to enhance our effective commitment to NATO, I hope that Her Majesty's Government can persuade the NATO Council to allow us to contribute this extra effort in support of the northern flank. The northern approaches are vital to our survival, and the possible establishment of enemy submarine bases in the many fjords along Norway's long coastline, and the threat to our North Sea oil installations, make an increased effort in this important sector not only vital to the United Kingdom but of paramount importance to NATO as a whole.

It is certainly true that NATO has consistently placed more emphasis in the central sector and has operated with less conviction on the flanks. NATO's deployment was decided over 30 years ago, and our major commitment of ground and air forces in the central sector owes as much to the fact that we were already deployed there with our American allies, and there was nobody else at that time to do the job, as to any precise, preconceived strategic planning. It is difficult to provide a viable scenario which would find the present alignment of NATO and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe without the Second World War having taken place, but, if your Lordships can imagine such a scenario, without the 1939–45 war and with the United Kingdom having joined a Western defensive alliance to counter possible aggression from the East, it would be most unlikely in those circumstances that the United Kingdom's contribution would have been to provide such large ground and air forces deployed in peacetime in the central region.

Whether this be so or not, I believe that now, 30 years later, we should consider actively whether both the United Kingdom and NATO would not be better served if we committed more land, sea and air forces to the northern sector. I do not regard the ACE mobile force, to which we contribute units, as anything more than a peacetime demonstration of good intentions. There was an article in the Daily Telegraph on 20th May which described Norway's desire for a more practical commitment by the United Kingdom to help them secure their long coastline. Therefore, I believe that we should reassess the peacetime deployment of our land and air forces and apply our extra effort where it is most needed. Whether or not my three suggestions find favour with my noble friend Lord Strathcona, I should like, above all else, to support his Motion, which will be widely welcomed.

5.28 p.m.


My Lords, I must ask for your indulgence doubly this afternoon, not merely because I am making my maiden speech but also because I feel somewhat outranked. This afternoon you have already heard, or will be listening later to, admirals, major generals, field marshals, chiefs of staff, even company sergeant majors, to mention but a few. I am afraid that I am not quite so exalted. In fact, when I took my seat a little over a year ago I believe I was the only serving private soldier in the House. I was at the time a member of the Honourable Artillery Company which is, as I hope many of your Lordships will know, a regiment in the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve.

If I may digress slightly on its history, it is the oldest fighting unit in this country -and that includes any regiment in the regular Army—with a history dating back to the time of Henry VIII. Since that time it has been continually associated with the City of London, being very much the City's own regiment. It claims battle honours as ancient as the Armada, though unfortunately this claim has never in fact been accepted by the powers who ordain such matters. To this day, as well as being an active part of the TAVR, it still performs many ceremonial duties in the City such as salutes at the Tower on Her Majesty's birthday, or providing guards of honour, the most recent being that for President Moi of Kenya earlier this month.

I hope I can add a little to this afternoon's debate on the subject of the TAVR. It should not be overlooked in any debate on the defence of this country, or on our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance. The TAVR is a not inconsiderable extra to our defence system. It should, though, remain an extra, and not be used simply to fill the gaps created by a parsimonious defence policy—but I shall deal with that later. Even so, the first and most important point to make about the TAVR is its cheapness. Again this is not to say that defence could, or should, be done on a shoestring, but in our present economic position there is nothing wrong in trying to get value for money.

The TAVR, if properly used, is value for money. It provides about 50,000 trained soldiers at what must be a fraction of the cost of full-time soldiers. Having looked at last year's Defence Estimates, I am afraid I am unable to say exactly what is the cost as I can never understand such lists of figures. It is undoubtedly per man much cheaper than the Regular Army and this cheapness comes from the fact that territorial soldiers are not being paid the whole year, day in and day out, but only on those occasions when they are actually undergoing training or service. In fact, not even all training is paid. As the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said, drill evenings, which take place once a week after work, are entirely unpaid, though a small allowance is made to cover one's supper. Over the year the territorial trains for 28 or 30 days, of which about half, 15, will be spent at annual summer camp either in this country or in Germany, while the others are taken up by various training weekends every month or two. He is thus paid for only about 30 days a year rather than 365.

It may be objected that in so short a time he cannot reach the necessary degree of competence and skill necessary for modern warfare, but that is not the case. The territorial soldier is no longer the drunk incompetent figure of fun he was many years ago. Now—and I speak from my own experience in the HAC—he reaches a very high standard indeed, not only in the basic infantry or gunner skills which every soldier must have but also in many specialised fields, for example as signaller, engineer or providing such ancillary services as medical services. Many members of the TAVR are already highly skilled as a result of their civilian occupations and these skills can frequently be of great value in their part-time military lives. One must also remember that, however complicated is much of today's military technology, there still remain many relatively simple roles which the TAVR can be given, and by performing them they can release the Regular Army for more important duties.

That brings me to my second point: in any war that may come, the Regular Army—just supposing, that is, that it is not blown apart along with the rest of Western Europe in the opening minutes —will find itself very hard pressed indeed. To some extent the TAVR can ease that pressure by freeing the Regular Army from their simpler and more mundane tasks and by providing many valuable ancillary services. Mobile laundry units, for example, may sound comic to the novelist, but they are of very great value to the soldier. Above all, the TAVR should be what its name suggests; namely, a reserve and a volunteer reserve to boot. There have been calls this afternoon, notably from the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, for it to return to its pre-1967 name, simply the "Territorial Army". But I believe that that would be retrogressive. The words "Volunteer Reserve" add a great deal. They describe what the TAVR's role is and what it should be. It is a reserve of volunteer soldiers, a reserve which in many cases can be called on at relatively short notice, and if all goes well some units can in theory be operational in Germany in a relatively short time assisting the Regular Army.

For a small price, the real strength of the Army is greatly increased. But that is not to say that we should place excessive reliance on the TAVR. It should remain a reserve. We cannot expect it to be in Europe the instant there is trouble. The Regular Army itself must be increased and strengthened so that it can fulfil its contribution to NATO and more, and in this connection I must say how much I welcome the Government's intention to strengthen our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance.

As I was saying, the Regular Army must be able to fulfil its contribution to NATO without calling on the TAVR to fill the front line gaps. It is sheer folly to rely on units of the TAVR to fight in the initial battle in Germany; they would not be able to get there on time and I do not think it very likely that the Warsaw Pact would give us the time. There is no point in giving a job to someone if he cannot get there until after the time when he is needed to perform it. I do not know how quickly any TAVR unit thinks it can mobilise and how quickly it can get out to Germany, but however fast it can in theory, in practice there will always be the most terrible delays and confusion in trying to gather its members from many different places of work at short notice, getting them changed, issuing kit and finding transport. It just cannot be done quickly enough. The TAVR must therefore remain a reserve, as its name suggests—a flexible reserve that can perform 101 different tasks, thus freeing the Regular Army for the most important jobs. I hope I am not making myself unpopular with many members of the TAVR who would prefer their units to have more glamorous roles at the forefront of the battle, but that is simply not realistic; they can be much more useful in support.

My final point is the problem of recruitment and turnover, which apparently is very severe. In the 1979 Statement on the Defence Estimates it was stated in paragraph 405 that the problem of wastage was being, looked into by a committee appointed by the Ministry of Defence and the Council of TAVR Associations. Presumably that is the committee mentioned by my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal. That committee has produced recommendations which are being considered. I do not know what has been the outcome of that consideration of recommendations, but I would make the point that very few members of the TAVR join for the pay. It being for such short periods of time and coming relatively infrequently, it really amounts to only a little useful extra pocket money, which will probably be spent in the bar. Members do, however, receive a bounty, which is a lump-sum paid annually, some of it, I believe, tax free. This has not been increased for some time and it would be a very popular gesture to increase it, and I imagine it would greatly ease the wastage problem which is being considered by the committee. In closing, I would refer back to the HAC and in particular to their motto, which is pertinent to this debate on defence as a reminder of why defence expenditure is necessary. In Latin it reads, "Arma pacis fulcra", which, loosely translated, may be taken to mean that being armed and prepared is the means to maintain peace.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, it gives me the greatest pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on his maiden speech. It also gives me great personal pleasure to speak following him because he and my daughter were undergraduates together in the same college at that most excellent and ancient University of Durham. He has, I know, chosen the law as his profession and I hope that in the due course of time he will succeed to that spot which his ancestor occupied, the Woolsack; and he will have the great advantage, which curiously enough his ancestor did not have, of being a Peer when he gets there.

I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that it is of great value to the House that Peers of his age should give their views on subjects with which they are familiar and perhaps on some with which they are not. This House, if I may say so without disrespect, has at least its fair share of grey hairs and it is one of the advantages of the curious and irrational composition of this House that we can have young men speak here, as Lord Henley has done, on a subject with which he is familiar at the grass roots level. I also welcome the fact that an HAC tie on the Benches opposite leavens a bit the usual galaxy of Guards Division ties, of which I see there is also one on the Bench in front of me.

It also gives me an unexpected pleasure because I had not intended to say anything about the Territorial Army, but Lord Henley led into it, as did the noble ex-sergeant major, Lord Leatherland, and as one of the architects of the present very successful Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve, I wish to comment on what they said. First, I was extremely interested and very glad to hear Lord Henley disagree with the idea that the name should revert to the old "Territorial Army", and for exactly the reasons he gave. We are apt to forget that it absorbed the Army Emergency Reserve; and the concept of it was then, and is now—as was hinted by other speakers—that it has tended more to be complementary to the Regular Army, rather than to be a separate Army on its own. As the noble Lord, Lord Henley, pointed out with great realism, it does not now make sense to think of the Territorial Army as a separate Army, even of separate formations; it is a complement to the Regular Army.

Its rapid turnover, and the fact that it is 80 per cent. below establishment, are not in my opinion matters as serious as may be thought. I believe that a rapid turnover is inevitable and natural, given early marriage and the problems that men have today. Furthermore, the greater the turnover, the more men there are in the country who have had previous military experience. The figure of 80 per cent. below establishment conceals the fact that a very large amount of that proportion is taken, unfortunately, in medical units and in logistic units; the combat units themselves tend to be more up to strength.

I also wish to congratulate the other maiden speakers. It is interesting that in a defence debate they represent, as the Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe said, all the professions in which men engage: the Army, the Navy, the Church—not the stage—but the medical profession. As was represented very much in the most useful contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Richardson, defence gains a great deal by the contribution made to it by the civilian professions connected with it, and the more they are represented in this House, the better. I thought that the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Richardson, was wonderfully clear, drawing attention to a very serious problem. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, was most moving, and it emphasised to us what we do not often hear: the very important moral basis of defence, of the armed forces, and of a defence policy.

The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, spoke with the great authority which he has from being an ex-Chief of Staff and an ex-chairman of the NATO Military Committee. He brought to our attention in the clearest quarterdeck terms, and in a quarterdeck stance (if I may say so), some of the basic facts which face NATO and which face us. He offered, in the words of his own book, "no soft options", and I hope that on many future occasions we shall hear his clarion call—I do not think the Navy use trumpets —sounding out across, perhaps not the water, but the Red Benches.

I was most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, for taking so much trouble to answer one or two of the main points that I made in my maiden speech about a month ago. On the question of the nuclear weapons and the deterrent I was interested to hear roll out some of those familiar phrases which I have known from the past: fully committed to maintaining the effectiveness"; "our most valuable contribution to NATO". I have never myself thought much about the second centre of nuclear decision making. To me it does not seem to make much sense. I cannot really believe in what is termed the "realistic scenario" that, even if the Americans did not decide to use the nuclear weapon, we would. I noticed with care the noble Lord's words about strategic systems possibly not being suitable to attack longer range theatre targets, though they may be, also.

In my maiden speech I made the point, which I will not belabour now, that when it comes to considering the replacement of the Polaris force, we take a good look at the amount of independence that it really requires. I hope that the Government will take note of the fairly lengthy evidence which the Select Committee in another House had taken on this subject before being interrupted by the General Election. I was also particularly interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, said about air defence, and I should like to return to that later.

Turning to what the noble Lord, Lord Peart, said about SALT II, I am sure that we shall hear more about this later from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who will no doubt rub wounds into our Salt. All I would say is that, realising to the full all the imperfections and dangers of SALT II (to which I know the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, will refer) I believe that we should welcome it. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Peart, said about it being a historic moment, but the great danger is that people will accept that it has solved problems and that we are now in an era of greater peace. All that it has done is to recognise a list, approve the existing inventory more or less, and agree that it should not be basically changed over a fairly short period of years. But I agree that the mere fact that it has taken place, and that it has started a further dialogue for SALT III, is valuable, and we should welcome it.

The problem of the Government as I see it—and the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, made this point—concerns the allocation of resources. When one comes to allocation of resources one must ask oneself what is the function of our defence forces? The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, went into this in some detail. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, suggested that this should be determined by the threat, and he suggested that it had not been done in the past. The United Kingdom cannot conceivably think of facing the threat of the Soviet forces alone, and so the great problem is, what contribution should we make to NATO as a whole?

An Under-Secretary in the Foreign Office in 1944, writing a Paper on what should be our post-war policy, came to consider what our defence forces should be post-war. He said that the criteria should be the maintenance of armed forces strong enough to inspire confidence in our allies, and respect in our enemies, and to enable us to make an adequate contribution to any international system of collective security. I am very pleased to say that that Under-Secretary is present in the House at the moment in the form of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I do not know whether he recognises his own words, but I consider that they put the whole matter in a nutshell.

I should like to make one or two comments on what he said, some of which I agree with and some of which I do not agree with. I entirely agree that it is unrealistic to think of the Soviet Union engaging in a war which is not a general war. That is why I distrust and do not accept scenarios which consist of the Soviet Union sinking ships in the Indian Ocean, this not being part of a general war, because it would merely present the West with the clearest possible signal that the Soviet Union was intending to go to war. On the other hand, we should not accept the noble Lord's gloomy view that it is inevitable that NATO would be unable to carry out any reinforcement before war starts, because I consider it difficult to envisage a scenario in which war comes totally out of the blue. It is very important that we should keep on emphasising the vital necessity of NATO taking the decisions in sufficient time to bring the very considerable reinforcements, particularly air force reinforcements, from the United States across to Europe beforehand. I fear that I also feel that some of the remedies which the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, suggested for European defence—a new mentality, sufficient standardisation, and a common will—will not get very far without much greater defence expenditure and an allocation of greater forces.

When the Government come to consider how they are going to allocate further resources I hope they will not just allow it all to be swallowed up by the existing pattern of the forces, by the demands of the three services for everything they want, but will somehow establish a reserve of resources in both manpower—for this is very important—and money to allow a balance for change. This has always been a problem in the past: the tanks and the aeroplanes were held up because there was not enough money left over from feeding the horses. Those limits are set by manpower as well as money; and, having said that, it is incumbent on me to suggest what those changes should be. First of all, I am not by any means convinced that the defence forces as a whole have fully hoisted in (or, even if they have hoisted it in, have sufficiently implemented) the electronic revolution. There has been, and there is still going on, a fantastic electronic revolution, and this affects not only command and control systems but every single form of weapons system. It is an expensive business keeping up with the Russian Joneses, but if you do not keep up with them you are not going to be able to fight them.

Secondly—and here I come to make some comments on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, about air defence—I think the most difficult area in which to decide on the correct allocation of resources, certainly in my experience, is with the Air Force, because it covers the whole spectrum. It covers air-to-air, it covers maritime warfare and it covers strike, transport and reconnaissance support of the Army. Air defence has been getting a certain amount of publicity recently in another place and in the Press, and it was raised in this House during the debate on the gracious Speech by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour. I suggest we should be rather careful when we come to this subject. It appeared to me from what the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, said that it was already being accepted, perhaps, that what was wanted was more boys in blue flying more aeroplanes. I do not think it is as simple as that.

I would suspect that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, would agree with me that when we were both Chiefs of Staff it was not easy to extract a cohesive and rational policy for air defence out of the Air Staff. I do not suppose it ever had been. But what one must remember is that the enemy does not have to come into British airspace in order to land things on this country—not by any means. Any warhead hitting a target in this country is, almost certainly in the final stages of its trajectory (if not in the whole stage, certainly in the final stages), likely to be delivered by a missile, and the great problem is: What do you try to shoot down? Do you try to destroy the warheads; do you try to destroy the missile delivering it in the later stages of its trajectory; or do you try to destroy the launching platform, whether that launching platform is under the sea, flying through the air, going along the top of the sea or static on land somewhere else? These are very difficult problems; and during the whole time I was a Chief of Staff I certainly found that in this matter the views of the most highly qualified people, scientific and military, changed with remarkable rapidity.

I would suggest that we are committed to the air defence version of the Tornado now, and that even if you think it is not the right answer you cannot get out of it without upsetting the whole programme. I would accept that there is a need for a higher performance aircraft at higher altitudes, of which the best available at the moment is probably the American F15; but I am not convinced that it is necessary that the RAF should man it. I believe that an arrangement with the United States that perhaps they should have some squadrons of Fl5s in this country is something which should be examined.

In fact, I believe that the most important area for greater effort by the Royal Air Force is in anti-submarine warfare. This is not always popular, either with the Air Force or even with the Navy, who are not all that keen on too great a takeover by the RAF of maritime warfare. But I believe that it is in fact probably the most important area for greater air effort; and if it is true, as I read in the newspapers, that the Government may be going back on the decision of the previous Government for a Nimrod early-warning aircraft and may be going for the AWACS Boeing, then I would appeal to them to refurbish more Nimrods for maritime warfare than was planned under the Defence Review of 1974. Curiously enough for a soldier, I believe that perhaps too much effort is still going into air transport which is not really relevant to future needs; and I believe that the whole question of strike support of the Army in the field is one which, given the air defences on the other side, may be a pretty unrewarding one for the Royal Air Force.

Before I leave that point, of course the whole question of air transport very much depends on what the Government's policy is going to be about perhaps resurrecting a military capability for East of Suez. If there is a strong appeal from the Americans, now that CENTO and SEATO have disappeared, for some association with them in the force that they are (again according to the newspapers) preparing for operations overseas, then of course that would have a very important effect on air transport. I would appeal to the Government, who would appear to have about five years in front of them, to pursue a consistent policy, for which they will need to make early decisions, and not get involved, as we have done for so long, with an annual chop and change, which is so disastrous to defence policies.

Finally, I would remind your Lordships —and no mention of this has been made before —that we are almost exactly 10 years from the time when the Army first went into action in Northern Ireland. I would hope that none of us would forget what a burden the Army has borne in Northern Ireland over that time and how magnificently they have carried it, and I hope the Government will seek every opportunity to try to bring to an end a situation in which the Army is permanently in action in part of the United Kingdom.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carver, that there have been many valuable contributions in the course of this debate on the subject of defence, beginning with that with which the Motion was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, who deserves our congratulations on his elevation to Minister. In parenthesis I would mention that he was a member of the House of Lords all-party Defence Group, from which he has had to resign, and I would regard it as a tribute to the Group that one of our members has been so elevated. Then we had a number of remarkable maiden speeches from the noble Lords, Lord Richardson, Lord Milverton and Lord Henley, as well as (if I might say so with great respect to those noble Lords that I have just mentioned) that other maiden speech, containing such expertise and substance, delivered with outstanding clarity by the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. It was a speech well worth making and listening to.

There was a danger at the outset of this debate that we were going to have a controversy about the negotiations that have led to the SALT treaties. It would have been a great pity if that had been prolonged, because it would seem to me that the time has not yet arrived when it is possible, either for this House or for any organisation outside your Lordships' House, to furnish an accurate assessment and forecast of the consequences of these treaties. Much will depend on the attitude of the Soviet Union. A great deal might depend on whether Mr. Brezhnev is still available. He might be succeeded by somebody less inclined to engage in discussions with a view to the creation of any treaty. Moreover, we have to be extremely careful —and I am not quite sure that this has been brought out in the course of the debate as vividly as I should have liked—of any agreement between the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and the USA, on the other, which does not pay due regard to its implications in Europe, and particularly its implications in the context of conventional defence. Until these matters have been clarified I suggest to your Lordships that we had better dismiss any euphoria about it, require no excess of enthusiasm but should regard it as welcome and as a gesture. But as a specific contribution to peace, to the avoidance of conflict in the future, I suggest that it would be mere conjecture and speculation which,in the circumstances, arc undesirable.

The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, in the course of his speech suggested that we might have more defence debates in the course of the year. I offer no objection. But we can have all the debates in the world, we can have a debate every day on defence, but at the end we must ask the question: Where do we go from here? Even if there are constructive suggestions—and there were many in the course of this debate—the question obviously that occurs to those anxious for something practical to be achieved is: What can the Government do? Are our resources such that we can afford to create a defence organisation, a mechanism, that is equivalent to the power of the Soviet Union or even remotely near it?

Therefore, in addition to fairly regular debates on, not the tools of defence, the mechanism of defence, but on the strategy of defence, I would suggest the creation of a Select Committee on Defence which would replace the present unofficial House of Lords all-party Study Group so that from time to time Members of this House could approach the Minister in this House who is responsible for defence and learn from him—having regard to the need for security —about the Government's intentions, about the Government's difficulties and about the nature of the problems that confront them and, at the same time, to provide assurances in general (not completely, but to sonic extent) that our defence organisation is Of a satisfactory character.

I see no reason why an organisation of that kind is not as desirable as having a Select Committee dealing with industry or with any social issue. Here I would make this digression. We can talk as much as we like—recently we have had several debates on these subjects—about the need for growth and development in industry, in electronics and all the rest of it and also about the social issues. But all these subjects matter little unless we can assure ourselves that we are capable of providing a deterrent against conflict; and, in the event of our deterrent being futile, that we are able to defend ourselves and to promote security for our people.

If this House agreed to embark on an organisation of that character I should not be the least surprised that a similar effort would be made in another place. Indeed, they are on the horns of a dilemma: they ask Questions about defence and complain about the expenditure involved in defence organisation; but it gets them nowhere. The only fashion in which we can assure ourselves that everything is going well or, at least, that an endeavour is being made to get everything going well, is to be in fairly close contact with the Ministry and to obtain from the Ministry all the information which, apart from the question of security, it is necessary to have in order to have the assurance that things are satisfactory. Something of that kind is, I think, necessary.

I want to come shortly to the subject to which I have given a great deal of attention, as those of your Lordships associated with our defence group will know. It is the subject of auxiliary forces. I want to preface my remarks by saying—and I do not expect that what I say will receive universal agreement —that, quite frankly, I do not believe that Russia wants anything of the nature of a nuclear war. After all, let us not forget that Russia lost 20 million men in the last war; let us not forget that even if Russia makes the first strike there is bound to be retaliation and Russia will suffer. Moreover, in the event of a conflict, it is not really the Soviet Union that has to concern itself with the consequences, but East Germany and Czechoslovakia or Romania or Hungary or any of the satellites of the Soviet Union.

It is my impression—I was about to say "my judgment", but I would not call it that—that Russia would be content in the event of a general conflict to sacrifice any of its satellites rather than suffer what they did in loss of manpower and the like during the last war. In any event, it is my firm belief—and, as I say, I do not expect general acceptance of my view—that Russia does not want a nuclear war and probably does not want any kind of war; because the Soviet Union has been able to obtain—by intrigue, bribery, or maybe corruption; I do not know—pretty much all that it has wanted in various parts of the world without engaging in conflict. By various surreptitious methods the Soviet Union has been enabled to gain what it requires without engaging in conflict.

I leave that point and come to the subject which engages my attention for most of the time, the subject of conventional forces. What is likely is not a nuclear war but a conventional conflict. I am not sure that it is going to happen in the West, but it could happen in some part of the world like the Pacific, the Indian Ocean or the Middle East. There are various theatres throughout the world where conflict could occur. In that event we have to consider what contribution we can make in so far as it affects our security. We also have to have regard to the subject of our trade routes. Very little has been said about that in the course of this debate. Unless we can ensure that our trade routes arc effective and we can import all the equipment, stores and goods that we require in order to maintain ourselves and make a contribution to possible victory, then it seems even all the manpower we possess and all the weapons we possess will be of little avail.

I venture to offer these opinions and the question arises: What is it going to cost? I am going to say something to the Minister which I hope will not embarrass him in the least; there is no reason why it should do so. I do not know of any Minister of Defence who has ever been popular. It is the most thankless task of the lot. He is either spending too much money or not spending enough because he can never satisfy everybody. He has to understand that from time to time there will be criticism of his activities, or lack of activities, and we must be permitted to express our opinions. I would rather do it through the medium of a Select Committee than in public, but at any rate he must he prepared for that.

The point I want to put to him in connection with finance is that the Government have decided to spend £100 million and, in order to deal with that, I must make another observation: one can change one's geographical position in your Lordships' House. One can be on the opposite side one day and this side the next day simply because of a change of thought and action by the electorate. But changing one's geographical position does not mean one is changing one's opinions. My opinion about defence is as strong on this side of the House as it was on the other side, irrespective of the existence of some of my colleagues who have genuine convictions and who believe in peace rather than defence. We all believe in peace rather than defence, but we have differing views on that subject. What I want to know is this: Why the £100 million? How far will that go? Four frigates? Half a dozen aircraft, or is it going to be expended in raising the pay and improving the conditions of people in the forces? We ought to have an answer to that.

Incidentally, I should like to say this: I do not believe that increased pay alone induces people to enter the Services. They ought to receive the highest possible pay that the country can afford. I had the problem myself of dealing with that many years ago and I dealt with it partially with success. But I do not believe that pay alone is sufficient; it is general conditions that create morale. It is the way that the men in the forces are treated, what we think of them and what the public thinks of them; and provision of conditions that will persuade men in the forces to remain as long as possible—that is to say, 22 years if possible—instead of coming in for a short-term engagement, which is of very little value to the community, the Government and the men themselves.

Perhaps the Minister will not object if I mention some of these matters which appear to be critical but not hypercritical. They are presented in the need for information. I hope that he will be able to provide it. It so happens that I have to leave your Lordships' House early for very many reasons which I need not venture into, but I shall read tomorrow morning, what the noble Lord has to say and I hope that he will be able to provide —as I am sure he will—satisfactory answers.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that it will not be felt that I am stepping outside the bounds of this Motion, which I naturally support, if I talk about Western trade with the Soviet Union and the Soviet bloc countries which has such important implications for the military balance and thus for the survival of the Free World.

I should like to suggest that the whole question of East/West trade must be studied afresh in the context of the increasingly serious—even perilous—state of the military balance of power. On the face of it, it seems to me that Western trade with the Soviet Union since shortly after the war ended has been a significant factor in shifting the world balance of power against the free countries. This was first highlighted in this country when there was such adverse criticism of the export of Rolls-Royce Nene engines to the Soviet Union in the late 1940s, at a time when it was already obvious that the Soviet Union had no intention of disarming. So there is nothing really new in anything that I have to say; but I think that what I have to say is much more urgent than it was.

No wishful thinking can alter the fact that the military balance has been moving steadily year by year against the West in conventional, nuclear and chemical fields. That the size, sophistication and rate of growth of Soviet military potential far exceeds any conceivable needs for a defensive role is nowhere seriously disputed. The early 1980s, if present trends continue, threatens to be a period of very great danger for the West. I see no reason to think that SALT II or SALT III will do anything to change this bleak and dangerous outlook, especially where Western Europe is concerned, though naturally I hope that I shall be proved wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Peart (whose speeches I usually enjoy) said that we have got to trust the Soviet Union. Indeed, I think he said it several times. I should love to know one good reason why we should do so in 1979 more than we had a right to do 10 years ago or, shall I say, 40 years ago, in 1939.

Trade and the control of resources must surely be part and parcel of military strategy, and no country understands this better than the Soviet Union. The noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, in a very im- pressive maiden speech, reminded us that the Soviet Union is spending close on 12 per cent. of their gross domestic product on their armed forces; this is between three and four times the average spending of the NATO countries. Yet when it comes to helping the Soviet Union to amass still more armaments with which to threaten our legitimate interests—and perhaps even our destruction—through the lack of adequate restrictions on our trade with them, there is little sign of a coherent, all embracing strategy agreed in the West. Obviously, practically nothing would be gained by unilateral action on Britain's part. The Prime Minister said this recently: Trade with Eastern Europe can indeed bring mutual benefits. But it has to be on terms which ensure the benefits are fairly shared by both sides. We must beware that the competition that naturally exists between free countries does not lead us to give benefits to the Soviet Union which help it to harm our interests". I emphasise those last words, "which help it to harm our interests". That is what I wish to speak about.

How is Britain to get this message across? In the first instance, surely in NATO, though other like-minded countries, notably Japan, Australia and South Africa, of course have an interest here. There is no question of waging a trade war against the Soviet Union and I am not remotely suggesting that. But if we wage trade wars against each other in the West this can only be beneficial to the Soviet Union and a case of cutting our own throats, which amounts to slow suicide. To avoid that, and before it is too late, we must co-operate not only in foreign policy and defence, which is obvious, but in trade policies where they affect the military balance. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give the leadership now for which the Free World has looked in vain ever since America, for understandable reasons, renounced that role.

May I now mention very briefly a few of the anxieties in my mind in this context — anxieties which I ask my noble friend to consider, although I have already told him that I do not expect answers to these questions today because they are difficult ones and slightly "off-beat". Take first the indebtedness of Comecon countries to the West, which had risen to well over £28 billion by the end of last year. In the first quarter of this year the trend, judging from today's Financial Times, was again sharply upwards, with the impact of the Soviet Union's grain purchases (which are expected to be very heavy indeed this year) still to be felt.

To offset the Soviet Union's crucial shortage of hard currency, the OECD countries fall over one another to provide that country with cheap credit. There appears to be no co-ordination —just a free-for-all, with Governments and private enterprise vying with one another. Typical of this was the loan of £950 million made available over a period of five years, provided by the Labour Government to the Soviet Union in 1975, at the giveaway interest rate of 7 per cent. to 7½ per cent., which was about half the going rate. Is not full co-ordination in this field, which includes the serious disadvantages of certain buy-back deals, and in the related field of export credit guarantees (where a beginning has now been made) very long overdue? My Lords, I think it is.

Much the most serious and worrying aspect of East-West trade in this context must surely be the sale to the Soviet bloc, and particularly to the Soviet Union itself, of sophisticated industrial machinery and technology needed in such fields as energy, chemicals, metallurgy, machine tools, scientific instruments, aircraft and transport equipment and, not least, in offshore oil exploration. In exchange we get—what?—so far as I know, and I stand open to correction, nothing that we must have and virtually nothing that we could not easily get elsewhere. I believe that to be true. COCOM, as it is called—the Co-ordinating Committee which represents all members of NATO except Iceland, and which includes Japan, but which has not got treaty status—puts a strict embargo on deals that might directly, or in some cases indirectly, be used for military purposes or betray sensitive information.

I have a few short questions about COCOM to put to my noble friend. First, is he satisfied that although the COCOM lists are regularly reviewed the intervals between the publication of the amended lists are not too long? It seems to me that they are surprisingly long. Secondly, is sufficient thought being given to the grey areas I have mentioned, where military uses are not easy to define? Is there a tight enough check on the re-export —and this is an important question—by third countries of strategically sensitive goods on which COCOM has placed an embargo? Recently I saw a report which impressed me, that certain Western countries had circumvented COCOM regulations on supplying computers, for example, to the Soviet bloc through third countries. If this is happening it is very wrong, and I think we should know more about it.

While on the subject of computers, there was the strange incident of the Sperry Rand computer that the United States was going to export to the Soviet Union about 12 months ago, allegedly for use by Tass during the Olympic Games. Because President Carter objected so strongly to the treatment of certain Soviet dissidents, he not only decided that the computer would not be exported but he asked other COCOM countries—I think only five of them were capable of filling the gap—not to do that and not to export this computer to the Soviet Union. But that computer has now been sent to the Soviet Union. There has been a change of view; and so confusion has been confounded. I saw, I think in the Daily Telegraph, that the Soviet Union say they will send it back after the Olympic Games. That seems slightly odd, if it is true. Perhaps it is not true; but the fact remains that no one is clear about the guidelines, let alone the rules, and that East-West trade is complicated enough without it being confused, as it is, by the concept of bringing pressures to bear on the Soviet Union to comply with the promises made in the Final Act of Helsinki, where human rights are concerned. I am not saying that is wrong, but I am saying that it certainly appears to complicate the issue.

To sum up, I am well aware that I have begged as many questions as I have asked. The subject is a difficult and highly complicated one. For example, where does China come in? As I understand it, the COCOM arrangements do not yet provide for the export of strategically sensitive goods to China. But that is, of course, another question. No doubt it is being thought about. Secondly, what distinction do we make where trade is concerned between Moscow's unhappy, exploited satellites in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union itself? That is another important matter, and a question to which I do not know the answer.

I repeat, my Lords, that I am not advocating indiscriminate trade sanctions in the ordinary sense against the Soviet Union, although in view of their desperate need for so much that only the West can supply to raise their living standards and perhaps alleviate some of the roots of discontent, perhaps peaceful pressures could selectively be applied in this field. I am suggesting, though, that as long as the Soviet Union continues to adopt an aggressive military posture and to pursue an offensive and not a defensive strategy, we should not provide them on easy terms with rods for our own backs. It does not make sense to me at all. If we blunder on as we are doing, or as we seem to be doing, with a beggar-my-neighbour approach to East-West trade and with no properly co-ordinated policies in the field of foreign affairs, we shall inevitably and tragically drift into the next and, for our civilisation the last, world war. As I said at the beginning, it is our very survival that is at risk and I think we are all agreed about that. There must be fresh thinking in this field and a new initiative; and I believe that Her Majesty's Government are better placed than any other Government to point the way. NATO countries are looking for a lead and they will get it, as was said by my noble friend Lord Strathcona, in winding up his excellent speech. The time for that long-overdue lead is now.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, may I join in the congratulations to those noble Lords who have made maiden speeches in this debate. I hope that the other three maiden speakers will forgive me if I mention only that of my noble friend Lord Hill-Norton, partly because of my own personal association with him and partly because his speech brought such a depth of wisdom and wealth of experience to the debate. I think it is perhaps not insignificant that almost every senior military and diplomatic adviser, when he leaves his post and comes to this House, delivers the same message. Perhaps some day someone will listen to it.

I welcome the Government's intentions as set out on the Order Paper. Any Government that promises to give a higher priority to the defence of the realm I believe deserves the support of everyone in your Lordships' House. But I have a reservation, and it is about that reservation that I wish briefly to speak this evening. My reservation, like that of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, concerns the attitude to the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement recently signed in Vienna. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, said quite clearly that the Government welcomed the signing of this treaty and hoped it would be ratified—leaving no room for doubt about the Government's attitude. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, I thought, went even further. It seems to me that there is a very great danger that this treaty is going to receive an uncritical welcome in this country and that people are not going to examine it with the care it deserves. Those who support the treaty seem to suggest that it is in itself a Good Thing, like cricket or brotherly love, and that anybody who does not support it is either a cad or some kind of irredeemable right-wing reactionary.

My Lords, the treaty is not like that. It is a very serious—and I repeat "very serious" —arms control agreement. Let us be clear, for a start, that it is not—and I have said this before in your Lordships' House—a measure of disarmament. It is not a breakthrough of any kind. Perhaps it is worth repeating, because it seems to be not yet widely realised, that this treaty will allow both the Americans and the Russians to have many more nuclear weapons than they have today, and that this is not a measure of disarmament. I have already, in a previous speech in your Lordships' House, outlined what I believe to be the major defects of this treaty; the major technical defects in the range of verification, in the imbalance which I think it creates inside the nuclear confrontation and, of course, in the very fact that it seems, to a very large extent, to ignore some of the very real concerns of Western Europe. So I shall not go through all those again. The treaty has now been signed; it contains nothing new; the defects are all still there and now the Senate has to ratify the treaty.

If 34 senators of the United States vote against ratification, or vote for some kind of modification to the treaty, that is what will have to happen. President Brezhnev, who knows this, and who knows that there are a great number of senators in the American Senate who do not like this treaty at all, has already begun to fulminate like some Marxist version of King Lear, threatening to do such things that shall be the terrors of the earth if the United States Senate does not ratify this treaty. Here I say, in all seriousness, that the very fact that President Brezhnev and the people in the Politburo want this treaty so much should, in itself, make us wonder whether or not we should give it such an uncritical welcome.

There is, of course, a respectable and powerful argument about the prestige of the American Presidency. It is argued by people both in this country and in the United States that, if the Senate were to fail to ratify this treaty or outrage the Russians by demanding any form of amendment, the prestige of President Carter and of the whole American Presidency would be undermined, and that this would have effects upon the world balance of power altogether disproportionate to the importance of the SALT agreement. I find this argument difficult to follow. If the treaty itself is bad and ineffective, then it seems to me that it would be far more dangerous to accept it uncritically than to say so now while the Senate is in the process of debating the ratification. It will be no good saying it afterwards.

But I want, for the few minutes that I shall allow myself this evening, to talk as indeed I should in this debate, about the impact of this treaty, if it is signed and ratified, on British defence policy. We cannot dismiss this treaty as being something which is bilateral to the United States and the Soviet Union. It will affect us, and affect us very directly and, I believe, in a very dangerous way in the 1980s. If this treaty is ratified by the United States Senate—and I personally state my own opinion as being that I very much hope that it will not be ratified without profound, serious and far-reaching debate, because that is what it needs—and if it comes into force, then there is a very real possibility that the whole strategic nuclear balance of power in the world will change in the 1980s. I put it no higher than that—a possibility that the strategic nuclear balance will change, and change in a definitive and significant way.

It is just in that period—indeed, the period of the validity of the SALT agreement—that the present Government will have to make some very important and very far-reaching defence decisions. So I very much hope that, whether or not this treaty is to be welcomed in the blanket way in which it seems to have been welcomed, the Government will, in making their defence decisions, look very closely at the small print of this treaty, because what it contains and what it does not contain will have a very serious impact indeed upon policy-making in Western Europe and, more specifically, in Britain.

One of the first decisions that the Government will have to make in the defence field, and first in order of priority and of importance, concerns the replacement of the Polaris submarines, the present British strategic nuclear deterrent. When they are asking themselves how that is to be replaced, they will have to ask themselves a number of questions. Are they to be replaced by new submarine-launched ballistic missiles? If so, what kind of warheads, how many, of what range and of what degree of accuracy? How are they to be produced, provided or obtained? Or perhaps, is it possible that the new generation of British deterrent could be cruise missiles? If so, I am sure the Government will be aware that a protocol to the SALT treaty limits the range of cruise missiles, at least until 1985, and that therefore there will be some considerable doubt about whether a cruise missile would make a suitable replacement for our Polaris force. If, however, the cruise missile is to be made, provided or deployed in Europe, is it to be air-launched, ground-launched, or sea-launched?

When coming to those decisions, we have to consider what kind of weapons the Soviet Union is allowed to have under the SALT agreement, and what kind of weapons it and the United States are not allowed to have. This, of course, will have very considerable effects upon the whole organisation of the defence establishment and the defence forces in this country. If we decided, for example —if I may use a hypothetical example—to go in for an air-launched cruise missile as a nuclear delivery system in this country, this would clearly have an effect upon the manning, organisation and equipment of the entire defence establishment. I make these points only to indicate that, in my view, it is extremely dangerous simply to welcome this treaty, to clap hands because of what went on in Vienna, to hope that it will be ratified and to believe that it will not have any adverse effect upon us, because in my view it will.

I should like, before I sit down, simply to mention two other aspects of the strategic confrontation in which the treaty will clearly have a very profound effect. The first—and it has already been mentioned in this debate this evening—is the question of the theatre nuclear confrontation. I share the view that has been put forward at least once this evening, that the correct answer to the Soviet SS.20 missile is not necessarily a nuclear capability in the West, and certainly not necessarily a similar nuclear capability. But the fact remains that, as the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty has in it certain defects which are very relevant to the security of Europe—I refer, for example, to the fact that the Soviet Union's Backfire bomber is not restricted by the treaty in the same way that United States' weapons are restricted—and as the treaty leaves certain gaps which might have, at any rate, a psychological effect upon the people of Western Europe, it seems to me clear that we now have to consider how we are to conduct our theatre nuclear strategy, as well as considering what is to take the place of our present strategic independent deterrent, as it is called; although, as someone has said in this House this evening—and it has been said many times before—its independence in the context of any kind of confrontation with the Soviet Union is, to say the very least, questionable.

I come to my last point, and this is perhaps—although not a specifically military or defence point—an important one in terms of NATO strategy; certainly it is important as regards the political element of NATO strategy. It derives, also, from the kind of psychological unease which I already detect in Europe, and which I think will grow as the knowledge of what the strategic arms limitation treaty contains becomes wider and deeper. There is a feeling that the Soviet Union and the United States are conducting bilateral arms control agreements of a serious kind over the heads of their European allies. They may consult—indeed, we know that they do consult —but the decisions are made by the two super-powers and they are made bilaterally. Whatever may be the seriousness of that in the minds of those of us who live close to these affairs, in the minds of many other people this is a worrying factor. They feel that they are in some way vulnerable and naked to a threat, when deals are being made over their heads.

What is already beginning to rear its head again in Eurppe—I returned from Europe this morning where I have been discussing these matters with people from various European countries—is the concept of a collective European nuclear deterrent. We have had this argument many times before. We had it in its most vivid, implausible and, one might say, almost hilarious form when we had the great debate about the multilateral force. Now, because of a feeling in Europe that they may be left open to a Russian nuclear attack as a result of, perhaps, some cheating over an unverifiable strategic arms limitation agreement, the idea is returning: Why can we not all get together in Europe, pool our nuclear capability and create a collective European deterrent which can operate independently from that of the United States?

It is too late to enter into the niceties of that debate. I shall confine myself to saying that I believe it to be an extremely dangerous line of thinking. It is militarily dangerous, because I do not believe that any such deterrent would be credible, outside confrontation between the Americans and the Russians. It is politically dangerous, for reasons which must be obvious to everybody in your Lordships' House. As soon as one begins to speak of collective nuclear decision-making in Europe, the Soviet Union—this time I think quite rightly—begins to feel threatened and insecure. That, to my mind, would be one of the most dangerous developments that could take place as a result of the signature and ratification of this treaty.

I am not saying that I do not believe that the treaty should be ratified. I am saying that I do not think it should be ratified without much more careful debate and examination than it has at present had. I am also saying, without any kind of hostility or unpleasant connotations, that I am disappointed that the Government should have given to the treaty this apparently unequivocal and uncritical welcome before that debate has really started. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, I believe that this treaty is certainly no cause for euphoria. It is certainly no cause for rejoicing. It may be, at some time in the future, a cause for great wringing of hands. But let us at least now have a careful analysis of its advantages and disadvantages.

These are complicated matters. Not only in forming their own defence policy but in deciding upon how to react to this debate which will take place now in the United States, the Government have an agonising and difficult decision to make. May I conclude by saying that, although there are, perhaps, some shades of difference between us on this point, I wish the Government well.

6.44 p.m.

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, it is both noteworthy and agreeable to be able to welcome and congratulate four maiden speakers, particularly in a defence debate. I confess to a slight twinge of disappointment in connection with one of them, in that the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, did not elect, like his noble friend, to make his maiden speech in an earlier debate so that he might have regaled us with total freedom from inhibitions concerning provocativeness. He might have been provocative to his heart's content—and possibly to ours as well.

I was tempted to table an amendment to this Motion when I first read it and to make it read: That this House applauds the Government's decision … instead of: That this House welcomes the Government's intention …". This rather robuster phrasing would, I think, have been more apposite to the subject of defence and also would have done more credit to the Government than this somewhat milk-and-water Motion which seems almost to damn it with faint praise.

It is not the magnitude of the increase in expenditure which is important and which calls, to my mind, for congratulation and approval so much as the freshness of an attitude of mind which I think we can discern. The recent gracious Speech of 1979 was the first for many years in which defence was not only made the first subject among items of policy—there is nothing new in that—but put in such a way as to carry the conviction that this is where the Government really believe defence ought to be. An attitude of mind itself is not enough to ensure steady progress in the costly and lengthy task of restoring the defences of a nation to something which will carry conviction not only with an enemy but also with our friends. Both of these points are important. Also, we require a change of will. Is this what we see? I think that possibly it is. It is certainly high time that a Government should come out from under the mountain of platitudes to which we have become all too accustomed and say, "This is what we shall do" rather than that they should mutter about gross national products and about all departments sharing in the general misery.

There are those who say—and I confess to being among them—that we are in a period of national decline. It is worthwhile to consider what are the causes of this decline. I do not propose to go into them in any detail, but I wish to make some remarks about them. Dean Acheson, it may be recalled, said that the British nation had lost an empire but had not yet found a role. That was some time ago. Even then it could hardly have been the whole answer to the problem, I fancy, because I think that we probably stand lower in the world's general estimation now than we did before we had an empire.

One hundred and fifty years ago, which is not so very long in the history of a nation, the Reverend Sidney Smith could write in the Edinburgh Review: Every rock in the ocean where a cormorant can perch is occupied by our troops, has a governor, deputy governor, storekeeper, and deputy storekeeper—and will soon have an archdeacon and a bishop". It is not my point to say whether or not the views of this Smith of Smiths on imperial expansion were sound or un- sound. My point is simply that the drive was there then and has long since gone.

I do not mean to knock the breast and to bewail the passing of the will to go out empire building, but is it necessary for the British, and only the British, to have a worldwide empire in order to make their opinions known and their views considered in the world? How did it come to pass, for example, that in connection with our own interests and responsibilities in Africa, we should find ourselves having to defer to the views of the American Ambassador to the United Nations? Whatever the reason, or reasons, for our decline in respect of the influence that we exert in foreign relations—I am not speaking of our own character but of our influence; I could mention a few of these causes quite easily, but shall not do so—it was not simply because successive Governments had dismantled our armed forces to the point at which we had become impotent. I submit that we disposed of the force necessary to suspend the constitution of Southern Rhodesia, either before or at the time of UDI. And doubtless we would have done so—indeed, we certainly ought—if we had been prepared to move to suspend the constitution, as I think we should have done if Rhodesia had been governed by blacks and not by what we were pleased to describe as our kith and kin.

We could certainly have prevented—and ought to have prevented—the occupation by Turkey of three-quarters of the island of Cyprus. How many British troops would have been needed to halt the advance of the Turkish expeditionary force? A platoon? It is a question that was referred to quite often a few years ago as a "military presence"; and a military presence can be provided by one private soldier with a fixed bayonet and a flagstaff on which flies the Union flag. To be effective of course he must have support, but the principle remains that a single soldier is the nation whose flag he is defending and therefore he is not likely to be attacked. Possibly a British platoon, if it could have been there and drawn across the road, would have been enough to halt the German advance into Austria in 1937. It is all a question of nerve and by no means one of bellicose intent. It is that nerve which used to rank high among our national characteristics and of whose return I believe I now discern some signs.

There is one thing of which I have been nervous for several years, and I was pretty certain when I saw the list of speakers for this debate that it would come up prominently, almost before I rose to my feet. I refer to the question of détente. In fact I am making an allusion to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. He did not speak entirely of détente as such. It is with détente that we have an infatuation, or call it an obsession—and a dangerous obsession at that. "Détente" is the word: a statesman, a politician, a diplomat opens his mouth to make a speech on East-West relations and one has the feeling—probably rightly —that somewhere behind his teeth the word "détente" is waiting to come trundling out, and out it comes, almost of its own accord.

To the vast majority who hear or read the word rather than actually using it themselves, it may possibly be a word rather like "protagonist" or "inchoate", of which they think they know the meaning although in fact they do not. But those persons to whom I have just referred know the meaning of the word perfectly well; they know that it means what the dictionary says, which is a reduction of strain or tension between nations. That is something highly desirable if it occurs, but full of danger if it is used as a tactical weapon by the other side. Yet over and over again we hear "détente" spoken of as an objective. That frightens me. Détente has something in common with happiness, curiously enough. Desirable though it is, it is to be attained only as a result of sound policies, sensibly carried out. To speak of the pursuit of détente as an objective in itself is as meaningless as, but much more dangerous than, to speak of the pursuit of happiness as the inalienable right of man. Détente comes and we accept it and rejoice, but we must be absolutely certain that it is not being used against us as a ploy by an enemy who convinces us of his peaceful intentions as a preliminary to hitting us in the stomach when we are off our guard.

If the American Senate ratifies that SALT II agreement one of the results, I suppose, will be a measure of détente. Many Americans will breathe more easily, I dare say, including some on Capital Hill, but rather fewer, I hope and trust, in the Pentagon. But will anything significant in fact have happened at all? That is a question into which I do 'not propose to enter, but I hope and trust that the views put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, will be considered very carefully and in many of the highest possible places, although here again I am afraid.

It is possible that good will come from the SALT agreement. It is quite possible that the euphoria expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Peart, for example—and not only on that side of the House but also on this—may be justified. I hope it may, but there is one thing of which I am perfectly certain, and that is that whatever the intentions of the East may be as regards the West, and whatever threat they pose towards us, those intentions and that threat will remain precisely the same whether the agreement is ratified or not. "Speriamo", as the Italians might say, which I will translate neatly into English as "trust in the Lord hut keep your powder dry".

This is a world in which we need resolution. It may become all too suddenly a world in which, not for the first time, we need great courage. I believe it is high time to set about convicing the world that we are still capable of both. It is time for the Englishman, Scotsman, Welshman and Irishman and all who profess to call themselves British, to stand up tall again as we used to do. This can happen only under a Government and a Prime Minister who believe that the defence of the realm is the first and overriding duty of Government and that the money to be spent on it is to be balanced against the needs of safety and not against the gross national product of Iceland.

I intend no sort of disparagement when I say that I believe it is unlikely that the Labour Party will ever produce such a Government. The question at the moment is whether or not the Conservative Party has at last produced such a Government. Despite the timid sounding wording of the Motion, I believe it has, and that is something that I for one can welcome with all my heart. For I believe in my country still. … tho' We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield".

6.58 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank and congratulate Her Majesty's Government on fulfilling their pledge and increasing the pay of the forces to a level that is almost in line with civilian life. This affects me very well because my son is a major and he can now take me out to dinner instead of my taking him out to dinner. There is still a problem of far greater magnitude in that officers and men are leaving the forces, having served only three years in their units. This is uneconomic because they will have cost the Government more in the first three years than in any other period of their service.

This also leaves no trained soldiers or non-commissioned officers or officers to train recruits. This then becomes a vicious circle. Most units are under strength, thereby making their duties heavier and more frequent. The perpetual movement of troops at short notice and without due warning is very upsetting for the married, not only financially but also for morale.

The diversity of skills to be learned by all ranks, owing to our vast commitments at home, with NATO and in Ulster, is making our soldier "a Jack of all trades and master of none", because he has no time thoroughly to learn his proper role. I suggest that our whole concept of recruitment should be looked into, to draw more young men into the armed forces, and our terms of service be reviewed to keep the individual in the forces longer.

Three essentials are of paramount importance: first, military training; second, to learn a trade for future civilian employment; third, to continue the education where schooling finished. Members of the armed forces are so overstretched with their commitments that manpower is definitely now the most important priority, so that they can do their job properly and at the same time have enough leisure and not have long periods away from their families.

7 p.m.


My Lords, I am amazed that at this time of SALT II and the taking of the next step to SALT III, thus leading to the possibilities of disarmament, our new Tory Government put down a Motion asking for a "welcome" for its intention to spend more on arms. To use such a word shows how out of touch this Government and this House are with the people of Britain and with the whole spirit of the SALT agreement. The British people did not vote in the present Tory Government because they wanted more to be spent on arms. They would dissociate themselves from the word "welcome". In the general election it was a tragedy for Labour that they did not raise the issue of peace and more negotiations for disarmament, which the British people really would have welcomed. The increasing growth of the CND and the peace movements in the countries of Europe indicates this fact. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, did not have more intuition and taste: he might have introduced this Motion on some such lines as, "This House deeply regrets that, in spite of cuts in all the social services, it finds that, because of its view of a threat to the capitalist West from the Socialist countries, it must increase expenditure on arms". He would at least have been more honest and more down to earth.

How often, instead of debating the need for more arms, more nuclear weapons, have we had a Motion put down in this House asking for a debate on disarmament, détente and peace. It is a welcome fact that the late Labour Government did give prominence in its Defence Statement to détente and disarmament, but how did that Government take note of and vigorously and quickly follow up the United Nations Special Session on disarmament held at the end of last year, at which at its beginning they played such a prominent part? Unfortunately, they let it peter out. It was during that conference that Brezhnev was reiterating again and again that we were in a crazy suicidal arms race and that unless we drew back and reversed mankind was in danger of extinction. He urged nations to sit round a table and discuss and discuss and discuss.

Of course, every Government must make certain that its country can be defended from attack. But who really believes today that the Soviet Union means to attack us and in a flash would be facing the cliffs of Dover? All right, perhaps some of your Lordships do, and the next speaker does. And in the Soviet Union, now that Western Europe is turning more reactionary and making friendly noises to some Fascist dictatorships there are fears that a hot war could come from the West to destroy Socialism—and not only from the West now that we are wooing and being wooed by China. As Lord Peart reminded us today, the Soviet Union dreads a war because of what it suffered when it was our ally in the last one.

Whatever one thinks of capitalism or Socialism, we must sit down and give and take. Many in this House say we cannot trust the Russians, and the Press does its share of spreading this belief around the country. And the Russians certainly feel that they cannot trust us. So until we do get round a table and talk and talk, and find even minute points of give and take, this deadlock will not be broken. This is where SALT is such an enormous step forward. It is not a question of trust—Brezhnev trusts Thatcher, Thatcher trusts Brezhnev—but rational discussion and agreements. Now that, through SALT, both sides produce actual figures which can be checked by inspection, we are possibly on the verge of a huge step forward in SALT III.

A problem is that both sides want to negotiate from strength and the military chiefs continually tell their Governments that they are being relegated to second place, that the other side is growing stronger with new arms. The growing Navy of the Kaiser frightened Britain into an arms race, and war was the inevitable result. The present arms race could have the same result, only this time it would lead to total destruction. The Government today are asking us to speed up the arms race. Our military experts are not satisfied with what they have got. The other day I came across a warning from a Senator Nino Pasti, an Italian, formerly a Member of NATO's military committee and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for NATO Nuclear Affairs. This is what he says: Never accept statements by generals and admirals without checking every detail. Personally I found it difficult to find one true statement by General Haig, the Supreme Commander. The propaganda talk of enormous Soviet forces capable of occupying Western Europe in 24 to 28 hours is completely untrue. The truth is that NATO forces, both conventional and nuclear, are stronger than the Warsaw Pact countries". Finally, he said, The NATO Generals hid this because they wanted to spend more". I do not know Senator Pasti. I have only heard of him because his statement shook me and made me wonder. I am sure a great many people must be furious and do not want to believe him. Yet surely this underlines the need for more real round-the-table bargaining and discussion, as urgently proposed by Brezhnev. Peace will be achieved not by military marshals and increase of arms for a hypothetical balance of power, but by political negotiation motivated by a general desire for peace. We need real statesmen, not narrow military experts.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble Lord. I think I am right in saying that he is the only one who in Dod's declares himself to be a supporter of the Communist Party. I think perhaps he is wrong in saying that the Labour Party would have done better if they had taken a more Left-wing line in the election. I would ask him to examine the election results for Mr. Wedgwood Benn where his majority fell from 9,000 to less than 2,000. Perhaps if the noble Lord, Lord Milford, had to stand for Parliament he would have the horrible experience of being discarded by the electorate. That is one of the advantages of an inherited peerage.

My Lords, I wanted to make it clear that I do not of my own volition condemn SALT II. I am just desperately worried that it will be a reason for complacency. I look at the track record of the USSR, and I note that under SALT I there have been 11 occasions on which they have transgressed. They have put it right when it has been drawn to their attention. At Helsinki they gave us lots of assurances about what they would do and many of those were not brought to fruition. The noble Lord, Lord Home, in that brilliant address at the end of the all-party defence meeting reminded me and others of the fact that the Soviet leaders signed treaties in 1954, 1962 and 1971 showing that there could be co-operation in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and no sooner was the ink dry on those treaties than they set to to destroy any chance of a peaceful solution. So, it is on that track record that I am worried that people may become complacent. I also think that it is disturbing when a Soviet leader blackmails, or tries to blackmail, Congress by saying: "Accept this as it is or else!" That is not a spirit of détente and co-operation: that is sheer blackmail and I am not sure that it is wise to try to blackmail if one truly wants peace.

I am also disturbed because so much is not verifiable. The Soviets would not agree to sign a treaty under the terms of which one could check whether they were or were not cheating. They announced early this week that they would not allow the U.2 to fly over Soviet territory from Turkish bases because they believed that that would infringe their sovereignty. We know that one can get a great deal of information from satellites, but it seemed necessary to the United States that it should have additional information from the U.2 flights to make sure that cheating did not take place. The very fact that that has been denied suggests that the Soviets intend to cheat. I shall be glad if they do not do so, but I am suspicious of their intentions.

I should also like to note that if there is a balance of nuclear power, then we, and the whole of NATO, must hasten to restore a better balance between the conventional forces which are now grossly out of line—a point which was so ably put by the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, in his admirable maiden speech. At this juncture I should say how much we appreciated all the maiden speeches which have been made today. They were first rate. However, we must recognise that if we are to strengthen our conventional forces it will be costly. If there is one corollary, one extra benefit, apart from the safety of our nation and our alliances, it is that it should make a real contribution to the reduction of unemployment.

I wish to deal first with the defence of the United Kingdom which is so vital to all of us here and is equally vital to NATO as this island not only must be the base for many United States squadrons—I think that there are over 80 F.111s here at present and there may be more in the future—but is obviously the reception and re-enforcement base for forces which are due to come from the United States in a time of tension. Therefore, it is extremely important—with the arrival of conventional, although supersonic aircraft in the Soviet airforce—that we should be properly defended here.

I think that one must say—and I am sorry to raise a slightly political point—that defence has been neglected during the 11 years of Labour rule. Many of the research and development establishments have been run down; many projects set aside; and money has been saved in all sorts of ways which are not in the interests of this country's defence or of our alliances. Our air defence region is, in total, 1,000 miles from the North to the South. We are responsible for the defence of 1,000 miles. I understand from Press reports that at present we have a total of only 74 aircraft made up of Lightnings and Phantoms. We shall be very vulnerable in the next five years and all the warnings that have been given in this debate by noble Lords more knowledgeable than I have drawn attention to that point. Against the 74 aircraft that we currently have, the Soviets will be deploying by 1981 120 Fencers which are capable of supersonic speeds at sea level; and 150 Backfire bombers which are also supersonic at low level and can launch stand off bombs from a distance of 800 kilometeres. Therefore, there is a very formidable threat from what are called conventional forces.

Against those forces we are deploying Lightnings. The Lightning is a good aircraft and no doubt it has been updated, but it first flew in April 1957. It is already 22 years old and, according to present plans, some will be 30 years old before the Tornado Air Defence Variant becomes available for re-equipment. The other aircraft which is helping to defend us is the Phantom. The United States version first flew in 1958, 21 years ago. The Rolls-Royce version, which was largely acquired for the Royal Navy, first flew in 1966. Therefore, both the Lightnings and the Phantoms are already, by present-day standards, rather old-fashioned and are not as sophisticated as they should be.

I do not believe that we can wait until the mid-1980s to re-equip our squadrons here with something more modern. I ask my noble friend to consider with his right honourable friend Mr. Pym, and I strongly recommend, that perhaps we should lease some aircraft. I do not know which American aircraft would be most suitable, perhaps even French aircraft, but certainly the F.15 might be the best compromise. Perhaps in return we could lease to the United States forces some Rapiers. The United States is badly in need of a modern surface-to-air missile for anti-aircraft defence of their bases, so why should we not lease Rapiers to them perhaps both in this country and certainly in Western Europe? Preferably we should lease the blind firing version of the Rapier. I suggest that a leasing solution would be quicker, which is very important, and it would be cheaper. It would also contribute to the reduction of unemployment in this country. Indeed, perhaps this leasing arrangement could be extended to include, at a later stage, the Tornado.

The United States General, General Stafford, flew this aircraft and he said, in the context of European operations with the bad weather that we experience and the long periods of darkness in winter, that this is an extremely good aircraft and far in advance of anything which the United States have for this environment. Therefore, perhaps the Tornado, although it is a tripartite concept—that is to say Britain, Germany and Italy—could be made, and some of those which might have been coming to us could be leased to the United States. Perhaps in the interests of logistics and servicing and support, it would be wise to bring the RAF Phantoms back from Germany and to allow our German based squadrons to be equipped with F.15s, because there they would match in with many other F.15s where spare engines and spares are available and where servicing facilities are already set up.

Of course, to match the improvement in fighters, we badly need to improve our radar system. Many years ago I had some responsibility for the radar defence of this country building up to the Battle of Britain and to the siting of our GCI stations and the need to close the doors down the West coast and up to the North of Scotland, after Europe fell under German control. I understand now that most of those stations have gone. We need modern radar stations quickly, not further North than they are now, available and certainly round the West to detect Soviet aircraft approaching from North of Norway, down the Eastern Atlantic, and entering by our back door. We need a general strengthening of our ground environment, protective shelters and the like.

One of the arguments against it would be: we cannot expand our fighter defence force from the miserly 74 aircraft, because currently we are short of 200 operational pilots. It is sad that they have become disillusioned with too few aircraft to fly and have voted with their feet. We must devise some way of getting fighter pilots back and fully trained to operational standards. I put down a Question, because I realised that it would be a costly operation. The Question was answered only today and I was amazed to read that: Fast-jet flying training is the longest and most expensive. The cost of training a fast-jet pilot up to 'wings' standard—the end of advanced flying training is about £500,000 per pilot". Before joining a squadron, a fast-jet pilot would undergo tactical weapons' and operational conversion training which can bring the cost up to £1.5 million per pilot depending on aircraft type". That is a very large sum indeed and is a measure of the money that has been wasted. Thank God one of the first actions this Government took, in accordance with their Manifesto, was immediately to increase the pay and rewards of our fighting men. I hope that that drain has now been stopped. By those figures one measures the enormous cost of trying to catch up on the years which the locusts ate.

Of course, in the interests of ourselves and of NATO we must defend this base, but we also need to defend the supply lines which will bring us both men and material. The threat to our supply lines is growing every month. The USSR now has some 250 operational nuclear submarines, the vast majority of which are hunter-killers and many of them also have a missile capability. That threat is growing because every month a new nuclear submarine is launched for the Soviet Navy. We must remember that Germany started the war and caused us very considerable trouble with only 24 boats at sea: we could now be up against 250. It is fair to say of the previous Labour Government that the anti-submarine area was one of the sectors which was not cut as radically as others. We are continuing to build nuclear hunter-killer submarines, but at present-day prices each one costs £100 million.

I wonder—and I ask my noble friend to look at this most seriously—whether we ought not to reconsider building conventional submarines. There are areas where we do not need the very deep water operation of which the nuclear submarine is capable. Many submarines operate on the relatively shallow waters of the Continental Shelf. For the price of every one nuclear submarine we could build five conventional ones. Other nations, unable to afford nuclear submarines, have carried on with their research and development into conventional submarines. This applies particularly to the Dutch who now produce one of the most sophisticated and quiet conventional submarines. Perhaps we could cooperate with them; we could either take out a licence or even lease some conventional submarines from them.

I endorse what other noble Lords have said, that we badly need to expand our number of maritime aircraft, which have been cut to a miserable total. Including the maritime aircraft of the United States, the Nimrod is one of the most sophisticated and versatile of all maritime aircraft throughout the world.

What should be done to replace those skilled men who are so essential to man our forces—our ships, our aircraft and our tanks? I spent some five years in the Admiralty as a junior Minister. It is the Ministry I know best. I believe that particularly in that Ministry there has always been a tendency to over-train. I remember some skilled men being trained for four years, and even some being trained for up to six years. I believe that men now learn quicker and that therefore we should re-examine this system to sec whether this training machine could not be slimmed and speeded up. The latest figure which I was given this morning shows that a total of 23½ per cent. of the Royal Navy's strength lies in the training machine: that is to say, that of a total strength of 70,000 officers and Service personnel, 17,000 are undergoing training at this moment. Any economies made there and any speeding up of the training, which I believe would be possible, would be a great asset.

To summarise, we need to improve—and improve quickly—the defence of this United Kingdom base. For this purpose we must have more than the 74 aircraft currently being deployed. We must build new modern, and highly automated, radars and the spohisticated ground environment in support of this defence. We must speed up the expansion of our anti-submarine forces. We do not have much time; we are at risk, and desperately at risk, in the next four years so these actions must be taken speedily with enthusiasm and ingeniousness. That is the message which I hope my noble friend will accept, and I hope that he will do his utmost to support what our Prime Minister has already done in order to set matters right.

7.25 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, as the only amateur speaking in this debate, I feel rather nervous. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, for his excellent maiden speech and also for all the work which he has done for the Royal Navy and his country over many years. As he remarked, by tradition maiden speeches are non-controversial and I hope that in the future we shall perhaps hear speeches of different type which will be even more interesting.

I am grateful to the Royal Navy because they gave me my constituency and kept me there for 19 years. They were kind enough to train me; I learned about jackstays; I went down submarines and through the dockyards. Therefore, today I pay a special tribute to them. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Richardson. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, may remember that in a previous debate I raised the question of the medical services. I did not have an expert like the noble Lord, Lord Richardson, to support me. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, took some action, including saving Devonport hospital, for which I should like to thank him. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, who had a very distinguished father, in whose footsteps he will now follow; his father was the governor of many of our overseas terri- tories. I thank also the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who I have not had the pleasure of knowing, but who I had the pleasure of hearing today.

I am a convert to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I considered the question of SALT very carefully and read all the documents I could find to date, and I am rather depressed by the result. I understand that Russia will be permitted to deploy 308 SS-18 heavy missiles with up to 10 warheads each, but that the United States will be unable to deploy the same. I believe that there are far more important things to discuss at talks of this kind. For example, we should consider banning chemical and radiological warfare and the selling of weapons to small under-developed countries. I have in mind Uganda where these weapons are to be found. They are causing absolute disruption there. The possibility of fewer Cuban troops wandering around the globe might be discussed, and also the number of Soviet advisers in African and other countries.

It would appear that by 1982 Russia's nuclear power would be able to destroy most of America's land-based missiles at a single stroke. In debates such as this naturally a great deal of time is spent on weapons. Not being an expert on weapons, I should like to advance another point of view. It is of no use having weapons, even though many of them are now automated, if one does not have the personnel to use them.

At pages 46 to 52 of Cmnd. 7474 the matter of personnel is dealt with and it is there admitted that there will be shortfalls in all three Services. I understand that the present situation of the new pay scheme is not producing an adequate number of recruits. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, when he said that pay is not everything. However, I understand from meeting a great many servicemen recently that both the officers and the men still question their future. I believe that it will take a great deal of time and effort to get contentment and stability back into all ranks. This serious situation is set out in sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph 401 at page 46 of the Defence Estimates. Annex H gives the details; it is interesting to note that only the women's Services appear to have their full complement. I should like to draw attention to just one of the difficulties experienced by servicemen; namely, the high price of housing. As I understand it, this has caused many servicemen to buy houses now because they believe that they will be unable to buy them later if prices continue to increase. If they make that decision, their wives have to go out to work to support the family income; the children are sent to local schools, in order to avoid the expense of boarding schools, and to take advantage of the stability of a permanent home. These domestic and financial commitments have an effect on the mobility of servicemen and their families, on their willingness to participate fully in service life, and on their availability and readiness to react to any contingency.

The last time I asked about housing I was told that there were 18,000 Service houses vacant. I would like to suggest that what is needed is to modernise these and to provide them for lower rents, and then I think they might be taken up. Also, devise a scheme to help the serviceman to finance the purchase of a house at the end of his service. Methods of a mortgage saving scheme, of a realistic lump sum indexed to the increase of house prices, might be considered; also a reimbursement, through disturbance allowance and removal expenses.

Another matter which I should like my noble friend to consider is the BSEA—the boarding school education allowance for servicemen serving in this country. Under the present system of grossing up tax, it means that other sources of income are pushed into the higher tax brackets and so the full benefit of BSEA is diminished for some families. I believe that the recent tax cuts will help this situation a little, but it will still remain an unsatisfactory and also an unreasonable anomaly.

Finally on this matter, there is the Treasury's insistence in previous periods of pay restraint that these and other improvements are all non-wage benefits and have to be paid for out of the annual pay award. It would be helpful if these restrictions could be removed, and improved awards on merit, in recognition of the special circumstances of Service life, made quite separate from overall pay awards. We should recollect—as I think we did in the previous debate— the splendid way in which the Services reacted when, for example, they had to cancel their leave in order to take over key services normally run by strikers who, in many cases, were earning more than they were.

It is often suggested that the United Kingdom, apart from the USA, spends a higher percentage than any other NATO country of her gross domestic product on defence, that is 4.7 per cent. But unfortunately our GDP is very small, and we spend less per capita—and this is the important matter—than France and West Germany. Those are two examples. I would like to consider the possibility of saving some money, if we could have a review of the expenditure of the Property Services Agency. I consider it is much overmanned, and that it has a great deal of property which could very well be sold off as it is not needed.

I live on Salisbury Plain at the present time, so I shall be unpopular for having said this, because I am in the midst of all the different offices there. However, when the properties were run by the Ministry of Defence, in my opinion they were better served. Giving this as a small example, in the village in which I live there was a 2-bedroom thatched cottage with no garage, very little land, which was sold for £23,000 the other day. There are quite a number of houses like this, and some are even bigger. One or two of them, as I know personally, have been empty for three or four years. I have taken the matter up with the local department on several occasions.

I bought a small piece of land which I exchanged with another piece of land. It took 10 years to get the bill for this. When I received it, it was less than my solicitors' fees. I have changed my solicitor since. I am now trying to buy another acre, and I have discovered the number of agencies that are required; and really it is getting frustrating. I would suggest that a real survey should be made of all these properties. I have been to the head office of PSA, which was then in Croydon, to see the working of this, and discussed some of the new buildings which were being obtained at that time for the Royal Navy in my constituency.

To end I should just like to mention three points of which I have given notice to my noble friends. What is going to take the place of CENTO? We have been hearing about being vulnerable in the Norwegian area, but we are very vulnerable in that area. As we live in an island are the new anti-submarine cruisers, the "Invincible", the "Illustrous" and the "Ark Royal" progressing well? I gather that we have now been reduced to 29 of these ships. I am very worried about that. Could my noble friend tell me what progress has been made with the P3T, which is a semi-active radar homer, which I understand can be launched from ships, aircraft, and submarines, and which could replace the Exocet?

Are studies continuing for a successor to the submarine launched Tigerfish torpedo? Will my noble friend also say whether the trouble in the dockyards, the strike that they have been having among the non-industrials, is now settled? Could he consider a point which I have raised many times before, training more apprentices in the dockyards? It is a first-class training, and even if they cannot use them all, as has happened in the past, surely we do need more highly skilled people in other industries throughout Britain. There is a great shortage, we are always being told, of skilled people. I should like to mention the case for bringing girls into the dockyards as apprentices. This scheme has been a great success. In fact, Rosyth won the top apprentice scheme first, Devonport and Portsmouth have won it twice, and now Chatham has won it. My noble friend may be interested to know that one fine girl, a refugee from Uganda, beat not only the girls, but the boys. I hope that that proves my point, that the girls are worth training. If he cannot answer these questions later tonight, perhaps he will be kind enough to write to me, as has been done many times by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, with good success.

7.37 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join those noble Lords who have congratulated the four maiden speakers in this debate. It is rare for this House to have the opportunity of hearing four maiden speeches from distinguished men of such wide and varied experience. I hope, as many noble Lords hope, that we shall hear these noble Lords speaking frequently in your Lordships' House. I hope that they will excuse me for extending my congratulations to them in this collective way.

I shall devote my observations principally to that part of the excellent speech of the noble Lord the Minister which dealt with what he called "international collaborative agreements". I shall attempt to emphasise the importance of the Government exploiting internationally, for the benefit of the British balance of payments, the vast British expertise and British technology arising from the enormous investment in defence research and development which Governments have made in the past and which this Government are proposing to make.

However, this is the first occasion on which I have had the opportunity personally to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, on his important appointment, and I do so most warmly. His qualifications for this appointment have been advanced, if he will not mind my saying so, by his having been an active member of the House of Lords all-party Defence Study Group under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, of which I have the honour to be the honorary treasurer. It may therefore be in the light of that experience as the only Minister of State who has been educated in such a hard school, that he may feel, like the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that some of the matters which I raise in this debate could, with advantage, assist his department if they were considered on an all-party basis away from the acrid atmosphere of party controversy, and also away from those confusions of gloomy military strategy which were so ably analysed by my noble friend Lord Gladwyn earlier today.

I should like also to join noble Lords—including the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, who spoke so eloquently on personnel matters—and pay a tribute to the Government for the fact that, even in the short time that they have been in office, they have arrested, and perhaps reversed, the sharp deterioration in morale in the armed forces as evidenced by the serious outflow in recent years of skilled and experienced personnel to which the noble Lord, Lord Richardson, referred.

I also welcome the determination of the Government to remedy the serious deficit in fighter aircraft required for our defence and in particular I await the full review which is being made of the present position to which the Under-Secretary of State for Defence in another place made reference on 15th June in the adjournment debate on air defence and fighter aircraft. There remain two matters almost of a commercial nature which I wish briefly to raise with the Minister. The first was referred to by him in his fine speech early in the morning of 23rd May when winding up the fourth day of the foreign affairs and defence debate on the humble Address to Her Majesty the Queen. As the noble Lord did not start his speech until after one o'clock in the morning, I am sure he will forgive me for not having been present to listen to him.

However, the noble Lord's observations are recoreded in col. 431 of the House of Lords Official Report, for 23rd May. He emphasises that his noble friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and he (the Minister) attached particular importance to high level consultation with the Commonwealth. He made that statement towards the end of his speech, mainly in the context of foreign affairs, but I hope he is able to confirm tonight that that high level consultation with the Commonwealth will take place also on defence matters.

I mention this matter because, when I was in Australia about a month ago, the Governor of New South Wales, a very distinguished soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross, on hearing that I was a member of the all-party Group on Defence in the House of Lords, insisted on arranging a meeting with the Australian Minister of Defence, Mr. Killen, and with the newly appointed Chief of Australian Defence, Admiral Sir Anthony Sinnett. They asked me and seemed impressed about the activities of the Defence Study Group, but I became rather distressed at the apparent lack of collaboration in certain defence areas with the Commonwealth and with Australia which could apparently have benefited United Kingdom industry.

My second point arises from a significant statement that the Minister made in the course of his speech today—it is also recorded in col. 428 of the Official Report to which I referred earlier—namely the observation about the importance to British industry and the economic benefits to the United Kingdom of exploiting opportunities of collaborating with our allies in equipment programmes.

There has been a new mood in the past couple of years in co-operation within the NATO Alliance for collaboration in arms production, but I get the impression that the Ministry of Defence has not negotiated as well as it might the monetary value of the United Kingdom technology involved as a contribution to the NATO Alliance in the programme for equipment. I suggest as an example of the opportunities which the Government may consider could arise and be of great benefit to the British economy and the balance of payments, the need for the United Kingdom to expand and improve its Harrier force in the 1980s and 1990s. This matter was referred to in passing by the Minister.

The Harrier is of course a major British technological achievement. Its main drawback is the shortness of its range when loaded, but apparently it has been found that its range or payload may be almost doubled mainly by redesigning its wings. It has been disclosed in the press that the Americans have built a prototype of an advanced Harrier, mainly of British design, except for a new wing of composite material. This new American design is known as the AV8B. The Government have of course had this problem of the Harrier's range and payload well in mind and also apparently have a new design of wing made of metal. The United Kingdom Harrier redesigned in this way is apparently known as the "Tin Wing Harrier".

As the American AV8B prototype is mainly the British Harrier which British industry is still tooled up to make, except for the composite wing, it would appear prima facie that the new advanced Harrier might be a useful case for Anglo-American collaboration for economic as well as for other reasons. I do not have to remind the Government of the vast amount of technological expertise of great potential economic value which arises under Government sponsorship in the fields associated with defence research. I hope the Government will therefore always consider improved ways of exploiting this technological expertise to the advantage of the British economy when collaborating with our allies in the NATO context.

To illustrate this point further, I would refer briefly to a recent significant NATO development towards improved air defence which has had an important influence on NATO's deterrent and defensive position and which has so far been of considerable assistance to British industry. It is the NATO airborne early warning and control programme known as the AWACS project. To increase coverage against attack, it became necessary, as your Lordships will recall, to mount radar sensors on high flying mobile platforms. As a result of some difficult international collaboration, this AWACS system now consists of a mixed force of Nimrod aircraft, about 11, I believe, to be provided by the United Kingdom and about 18 E3As of American origin. The picture which therefore emerges in this field is one of almost complete international co-operation in keeping with the NATO concept of sharing the burden of defence. The system is clearly of industrial advantage to the United Kingdom in at least maintaining jobs by the use of Nimrods.

I appreciate that this development has raised many difficult problems regarding the sharing of costs which are still under consideration by the Government. When therefore the Minister mentions in his Motion the need "to strengthen our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance", I hope the Government have in mind the importance and significance to the United Kingdom economy of the value of the technological contribution which the United Kingdom has made to a system such as the AWACS project and can also emerge in the course of cooperating closely with our allies in the interests of common defence.

In my view, there is far too much domination by United States' financial interests in relation to the cost of equipment for NATO. I hope the Government will energetically develop opportunities for exploiting British technological expertise and know-how for the benefit of the British balance of payments in the area of defence, which, as the Minister said in the speech he made when winding up the foreign affairs and defence debate to which I referred, is a difficult area to which we have all paid lip service in the past, but in which the achievements have been disappointing. I therefore strongly support the Motion which was so ably moved by the Minister.

7.50 p.m.

The Earl of AVON

My Lords, I should like to join in supporting the Government on the Motion and to speak to the second part of the subject: namely, to strengthen our contribution to the NATO Alliance. I have recently been appointed a delegate to the North Atlantic Assembly, and many of my remarks will be based upon facts which I gathered at their last meeting. NATO is in need of encouragement, not only with words but with action to suit the words. It is my belief that Europe owes the last 34 years of peace within its boundaries to NATO. It is also my belief that peace within Europe can continue if NATO is properly supported. There is not too much need to worry about which side has too many of one missile, or too few of the other. I agree with the admirable speech of the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. The amount of personnel on both sides is vital, and of course we are falling behind. It is the readiness to defend which is the deterrent. A common purpose and a declared determination for preparedness of all NATO countries is so vital.

May I suggest that there are some constructive ways in which Her Majesty's Government could add weight to the policies of NATO. First, there is the southern flank, and I do not think I have heard any of your Lordships speak on this topic. There is a need actively to encourage and facilitate the negotiation of a final agreement over the Cyprus problem. We need to examine the help that can be given to Turkey and, to a lesser degree, to Greece and Portugal; and this is help not only in military aid, but also by granting financial and other assistance, such as opening markets for imports, and by encouraging investment.

Article 2 of the North Atlantic Treaty says: The parties will seek to eliminate conflict in their international economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any, or all, of them". It is over 20 years since the economic committee of NATO was originated. Its purpose was, and is, economic cooperation and consultation within NATO To assist the southern flank would add action to those words.

My second point is to look for a joint approach to third world problems, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. We are members of a number of clubs: the United Nations, the Commonwealth, NATO, WEU, and now the new European Parliament. I am not sure in the case of clubs that there is safety in numbers; rather, perhaps, a country may fail to pull its full weight in all of them. But my point is that NATO may well be the right forum in which to discuss events in the Middle East, particularly the energy crisis, to discuss events in Africa, to plan a joint approach, and to maintain a constant dialogue between allies about these problems, so that where possible a united action is proposed. Here of course NATO has the advantage over the European Parliament in that it has as members Canada and the United States.

Thirdly, I should like to see the Government actively encouraging greater readiness within NATO, improved standardisation, and better interoperability. My noble friend the Minister has already spoken to this subject, using a word that is new to me—"collaboratory". There is a genuine will within NATO to improve the standard in all these fields. There have been many recent papers published in NATO about these subjects, and there is general agreement that all three fields need improvement now. But action is a different matter. When it comes down to spending money, offering to take somebody else's product, or even having a nuclear armament based on one's own country, there is hesitation and even prevarication. Perhaps this is natural. But it needs a country to give a lead, and perhaps Her Majesty's Government could do this. Incidentally, it has been said that this might be more expensive, but someone has to lose, and I think that someone must be making money on this particular issue.

NATO, after 34 years, is still a valid deterrent, but it needs keeping up to date. The United States President saw the need for this when recently he called for the increased contributions. Perhaps Her Majesty's Government can equally help by taking up some of the points that I have mentioned.

Before closing, I should like briefly to comment upon SALT II. The many delegates to whom I spoke, from a variety of countries, at a recent meeting in Oslo, were I fear rather unanimous in their lack of enthusiasm for SALT II, and the lack of enthusiasm was also apparent among the United States delegation members from both Houses. Of course they were all NATO orientated, and therefore could be said to be biased. There was also some scepticism about the word "consultation". To many its definition seemed to mean being sent a document which had already been agreed.

To some degree I share this lack of enthusiasm for SALT II, but in as much as it has been signed by the Presidents of the United States and the USSR, it is I believe a fait accompli. I know that the Senate can hold it up, perhaps alter it, or even reject it, but surely that would be a gesture that would be scarcely tenable to public opinion or world opinion; and in fact, as someone has commented earlier, the Russian Foreign Secretary is already making public opinion points on this subject. America would be rejecting a genuine—even if not perfect—move after many years of hard work towards détente. I believe such a thing to be virtually impossible.

The important fact now is to ensure that SALT III is a worthwhile step to arms limitation—and we should concentrate on SALT III; that there is consultation in the negotiating process, particularly with NATO countries; and that the end product leads to genuine arms limitation which adds to the security of all countries in NATO. Europe is interested fundamentally in the subject of nuclear weapons; after all, it could be the battlefield between the two giants. It must be consulted and listened to in any SALT negotiations.

Verification has been briefly touched upon, and I should like to mention it, too. It would be very difficult to verify these agreements, particuarly with the loss of bases in Persia and the doubt about bases in Turkey. I believe that in any future negotiations the subject of verification must be looked at very closely. Before closing, my Lords, I should like to mention the Territorial Army, mainly because most people expect me to. The noble Lord the Minister said that their pay would be looked at shortly. When I asked the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, when he was sitting on the Government Front Bench just before the last Government fell, whether the TA pay rise was about to take place, he said that a decision would be made shortly. He got his leg fairly pulled by the now Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, for using the word "shortly" so often. May I ask the Minister to make sure that this pay rise takes place sooner than "shortly", and to ensure that any rise in pay affects the current training year. That is the major point. To sum up, I should say that a strong NATO is a good investment for this country. It is the best insurance for peace that we have for the future generaations in this country. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support the Motion.

8 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to speak very briefly because I am not in the high ranks of those people who understand these items of modern equipment. I started my life with the Army in the Territorial Army in 1926, and that was then a very enthusiastic collection of soldiers to which we had no difficulty in recruiting. But we were woefully under-equipped in those days, even right up to the last war. Whatever else the Government do with the TAVR, I would ask them to keep their equipment up to the most modern standards. I can well remember, it must have been somewhere round about 1936, riding down the road in armoured cars with solid wheels, with another yeomanry regiment galloping alongside on their horses shouting, "We are firing at you with machine guns" as they waved their flags. It was pathetic; so, please, can we have an assurance that the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve will always be kept equipped with the most modern weapons?

The second point I should like to raise is that we have heard a lot about re-equipping our modern Army with new tanks and up-dating their guns; we have heard a number of points about equipping the Royal Air Force with new planes and about keeping the Navy at sea with new equipment in various forms; and we have heard a lot about deterrence. But one of the things which worries me about all this is the administration side. The noble Lord, Lord Home, at a meeting the other day, very aptly said that our potential enemy was extremely good at stirring up matters at those places where difficulties arise. He cited Africa, he cited Afghanistan and he cited a number of other places, including the most difficult places so far as we are concerned, which are the oil-producing countries in the Middle East, where there are continual efforts to disrupt them.

If we arrive at a situation where the whole of our oil supplies are in jeopardy, are we to continue just to sit in Europe and look at it, or are we to see our oil supplies gradually threatened and whittled away? It worries me considerably that, together with our allies in NATO and outside it, we have on the ground a number of mobile units which are relying almost entirely on oil to move their land forces, their air forces, their navies and their administration. I would ask the Government: Are we looking far enough ahead to ensure that, if we have a conventional war. we can maintain our forces for a length of time sufficient to make certain that our opponents will not he in a position to overrun us? It is very easy, as I know full well, from my experiences during the last war, to run out of fuel at the most critical moments; and I trust that, in the planning which is going on, we are giving sufficient thought to the fuel we are going to require to keep the mass of our defensive armament on the move for more than 70 days. I do not believe that we could survive if we could not keep our Navy, our Air Force and our Army on the move for far more than 70 days.

The last thing I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, is this. Please can we have more direction on civilian defence? At the moment, I do not know of anyone in this country (except, perhaps, a very few people) who could say what anybody was to do within the next three months if we were directly threatened with a nuclear war. It is a frightening thought that we have allowed our civilian defence to collapse and vanish completely. I trust that this Government will at least do something to provide a basis on which we can build it up to during the time we have before a direct threat arises.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, I hope not to strike too discordant a note in this debate, but there are one or two things I should like to say about this subject of defence. It strikes me that, once again in the matter of defence, the Tory Party has played on people's fears and emotions, in the same way as it does with law and order. I feel that the Tory Front Bench, both in this House and in the other place, are eventually going to he hoist with their own petard, not by the Labour Opposition but by their own supporters: today we have heard from Members of this place—and there are also Members in the other place who feel the same—who want to spend more and more on defence, and the noble Lord the Minister and his colleagues know that a limit has to be set somewhere. Notwithstanding what they were saying about defence before the general election. they have ended up by adding just £100 million to the costs set out in the defence White Paper. Of course, one of the things is that this debate is being held too early after the succession of the new Government. They ought to have been given a bit more time to say exactly what arc their proposals for the defence of our nation and our society.

I should like to welcome the successful conclusion of the SALT II talks, and hope that the Senate gives the treaty its blessing. Like others, I am disappointed that Mr. Gromyko has cast some doubts on the Russian acceptance of it, subject to the Senate's acceptance; but, then, Mr. Gromyko has his hardliners, just as this Government and the previous Government have their hard-liners. It is a little sad that people in the Soviet Union, and Mr. Gromyko, appear to be resorting to blackmail (or, in this case, perhaps I should say "redmail"!) on the question of the acceptance of the SALT II treaty. However, I am hopeful that it will succeed because, at the end of it all, however far we go in this or in successive debates, there is only one answer to the problems that we face in terms of defence, détente and deterrence, and that is that we must negotiate. There is no other way except the destruction of the world in which we live. I am not talking only about London or Britain, but the whole of Western civilisation and a great deal of the Third World would suffer irreparable damage. So there is only one way out, and that is that we must negotiate out of these problems.

In the debate in the other place before the general election Members were saying that there was nothing in the White Paper about such things as the Polaris replacement or the question of the BAOR costs; but the Government are saying nothing about these at the moment. Furthermore, the Members in another place who are now members of the Government were appealing on the question of the future structure of the forces. We have heard nothing about that. The Government have a responsibility and the Opposition have a responsibility in matters of defence and deterrence; because there is a very thin line, whichever way you like to draw it, between being defenceless and having a deterrent to a potential enemy.

I think that my Government—the previous one—did as well as any Government are able to do in this area. Certainly in the debates in another place of 26th and 27th March this year the Government were of absolutely no help in what their Front Bench spokesmen were saying about defence. They were playing on the fears of people, of people outside this place and of people in the armed forces. What we have to beware of—certainly regarding the way in which some Members in this House today were talking about increased expenditure—is military expenditure becoming a way of life, as it has in Eastern Europe and particularly in the Soviet Union. That is what we must avoid, because part of their military expenditure is for their own internal purposes. You cannot have a totalitarian system, as they have in the Soviet Union and other places in the world, without devoting large amounts of money in military expenditure to keep that system going.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say that 250 nuclear submarines contribute to internal security?


My Lords, I am coming to that. I am not ignoring those things. What the noble Lord must do is to justify his absolute facts. One noble Lord said earlier that the Soviets are building 12 nuclear submarines a year. If that makes 250, the rate of their finishing time must be increasing. This is one of the problems that the West has had. I will come on to the question of the Soviet military strength and build-up.

We in the Labour Party have had our critics of NATO and all it means. But, in fact, the Labour Government in their years of office, from 1964 to 1970 and from 1974 until this year, have always supported NATO and we as a society, as a Government and as a nation altogether, stand second highest in the percentage of gross national product that we devote to NATO. The only nation above us is the USA. Certainly, my Government supported the concept of NATO and I hope they will continue to do so.

I am one of those who believe that since the end of the war the strengthening of international organisations in Europe—whether NATO, the EEC, the European Parliament or the Western European Union—has added to the possibility of eternal peace in Europe. We must not give the impression (and some people do) that we are defenceless. That is not the case. In fact, if you want to talk in military terms, we have more of everything than the Soviet Union has—except tanks. Some doubts are expressed on the opposite Benches about this; but one must face the fact—and Lord Milford raised this point—that we have more troops in NATO and more of everything than the Warsaw Pact countries. If anybody doubts my words—and I can see there are doubts—he can read in The Times of 26th May 1978, A Profile on NATO which gives the figures and lays out what exactly is the position of NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations.

Having said that, there are differences. I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, on his maiden speech on a subject very dear to his heart. The trouble is that we all have to tread carefully if we are not going to make mistakes in our facts. But I think that he may well agree that the United States naval tonnage outweighs the Soviet naval tonnage to the extent of a 4 million to 1½ million ratio. In 1977, or whenever it was—I can check on the year—the Americans were building more surface ships of over 3,000 tons than the Soviet Union were. It is a matter of degree in every area. In the question of nuclear warheads or "throw weight" as it is called in the military jargon, the Americans and NATO have far more of them and far more capability.

We must not leave here this evening—as some may—thinking that when we get outside there is going to be a Soviet commissar and the East German Polizei waiting for us because we have been invaded and because we are defenceless. One of the sad things about all this is that whatever we are spending—and we spend a great deal of money on defence—there are something like 1,000 million dollars being spent every day on defence throughout the world. A survey recently even "upped" that figure. A Swedish survey said that we were spending a million dollars a minute. It is a frightening thought, not only as regards the military potential and capability that that means, but that, with two-thirds of the world starving, part of the other one-third is rushing to buy more and more armaments, to manufacture more and more armaments, and to sell them to those who do not have any armaments.

One of the points that has been raised on several occasions is the question of the outflow from the forces. It is a serious matter. Somebody earlier today said that it is not just a matter of cash. I hope that it is not just a matter of cash, because if it were we could employ for ourselves a number of mercenaries. I believe that the majority of people who join Her Majesty's forces do so because they want to be of service to our society. There are certain things we ought to do to help them. One of the things that Lord Strathcona said was that there would be an inquiry into the conditions in the Forces. It is to be a Ministry of Defence inquiry. I am broadly against internal inquiries on these matters. I think that when the "firm" (the Ministry of Defence) runs an inquiry to see how the "employees" are getting on, it comes down weighted in favour of the "employers". I hope that the Government might think again about this and have an independent inquiry to examine what some of the conditions are. It is not just a matter of money. Of course it is not. There are questions of discipline, of people not being able to get married quarters, of people facing difficulties in Germany where the rate of exchange is against us. All these things need to be examined. We ought to have an independent inquiry as to why people are leaving the Services. We might have a look at the question of Servicemen's representation; perhaps look at the idea of, not a trade union, but a form of trade union where grievances can be raised rather than on the NAAFI canteen committee. We have trade unions and representation in every other area of our lives. The police have their Federation. Where is the serviceman to go when he wants to raise a complaint or has some personal problem or whatever it may be? He finds it difficult sometimes to go to an officer or to somebody delegated—and often it is somebody delegated—to deal with personal problems. These are the things we ought to be looking at. We are fortunate in many ways. We have a Services strength of over 320,000; we have a volunteer service; whereas practically every other nation, particularly in NATO, has to have conscription. We have a very efficient and worthwhile force on a voluntary basis.

We ought to be looking at one or two other matters. We talk about outflow; we also talk in this House and elsewhere about the micro-chip revolution. Do we know what effect that will have on the armed forces? We are told by everybody that the micro-chip revolution is going to mean unemployment in this country. Are the armed forces going to be involved? Does it mean that, because there is higher sophistication, fewer men can be used? These are matters that the Government ought to be looking at urgently because they are urgent problems. Coming back to my original point, the Government misled the electorate about defence in the general election campaign. We shall see that, both in this House and elsewhere, in the next five years.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he would agree that surely it is a question of gross national effort, not so much gross national product, and that that is where we fall down. Does he not realise that when one takes these matters into consideration one has to realise that other countries have conscription, and they do not pay conscripts as much as one pays a volunteer army? Does he not realise also that we are not so high up in the league? In fact, we are fourth.


My Lords, does the noble Lord mean in the league of our payments towards NATO? The gross national product proportion that we pay is 4.9 per cent. That is only exceeded by the United States at something like 5.6 per cent. It does not matter whether we are the first, second, third or fourth. We are one of the poor nations in Europe, anyway. Obviously, if we increased our gross national product then it might well be a different story. Nevertheless, it is 4.9 per cent.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that Turkey spends 9.8 per cent. and Greece 7.6 per cent.?


My Lords, not on the last figures. The last figures for the past two years have not been available in those terms.

8.22 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by adding to what has been said about the Territorial Army, which continues to be the most cost-effective and attractive way of fulfilling our contribution to NATO, as well as creating a great reserve of trained and disciplined men throughout the country, not only those on strength, but also all those who have served and resigned but who still retain much of their experience and training. Most of the TA would quickly leave the United Kingdom on mobilisation. This would leave the general reserve in the United Kingdom very thin indeed on the ground to meet any direct threat by the Russians to this country.

That remaining reserve must be big enough to take care not only of sabotage and political strikes of the fifth column not containable by civil power, but also there will be the very real threat of a large enemy air-drop and trawler-borne invasion which the Russians appear fully capable of doing and are geared to. This is not such a wild suggestion when one reads that one school of thought in Russia is in favour of an attack on the United Kingdom simultaneously with one in the Middle East, in the belief that we possess virtually no metropolitan defence. They argue that we would otherwise gradually react to a further Soviet foray beyond their present advanced political front line in the East Africa and Arabian area, and we would otherwise always remain a forward base for the United States to reinforce.

So the ever increasing offensive threat by Russia demands a strengthened general reserve for the United Kingdom home-based defence, and this provides scope and a requirement for the creation of additional units in the Territorial Army. These could easily and quickly be recruited and trained, particularly in the infantry. Scattered companies that now make up far-flung battalions could soon from the nuclei headquarters for recruiting to battalion strength.

Recruiting with the new rates of pay and increased bounty will certainly, in the North-East at any rate, be no problem. But there will always he a wastage of some 20 per cent. per year in peacetime: 10 per cent. by people moving out of the area and 10 per cent. by people just deciding to do some other hobby. It is therefore necessary that there should be the ability in the TA to recruit up to 125 per cent. of establishment in order for units to be effectively fully recruited. At the moment there is a wastage that exceeds recruiting. For example, over a 12 months' period when there were 21,000 recruits, the TA lost 23,000—that is to say. a loss of 2,000 on the year.

There is a need therefore for a continuing publicity exercise, to keep before the public the importance and vital need of the reserve Army; also to continually alert employers to the importance of it, and to encourage them to release their employees for TA duties. Despite the fact that the then Prime Minister made a statement of support for the TA in February 1978, it would be a great help if this official support could be repeated by the present Prime Minister, and preferably not only in Parliament but also on the "box", so that it can reach every home, every likely recruit and every employer.

The financial situation of the volunteers has improved since the pay increases, but the problem of bounty remains as a key point. The bounty rate is eagerly awaited; this will be one of the biggest factors in attracting and keeping a strong TA. Perhaps the key to the TA lies in the administration officers and NCOs who are mostly retired soldiers, often affectionately and perhaps disrespectfully known as "retreads". These people work very hard, at all hours, at weekends and every day, and carry the great burden of the running of the units. Their terms of service are not adequate and I hope that they will find themselves better treated as a result of the study going on at the moment.

The Shapland Report was greatly welcomed by the TA, who will be delighted to hear—as they did today—that the Government are going to implement the recommendations. The TA may be our only home defence; although perhaps the Russians will never need to land on us here in Britain, but will just continue their third world war, relying on our continued fear of trying to stop them. According to one US naval official, the sinking of one single tanker in the main channel of the 60 mile wide Strait of Hormuz off Oman would sever the oil tankers' transportation thread from half the oil needed to heat the homes and run the factories of Japan, Western Europe and the United States.

According to a CIA report released by the White House and more recently by other reports, by the mid-1980s, the Soviet Union will become a net importer of oil. How attractive therefore for the USSR not only to strangle the West with the chance of not having to fight, but also assure her own supplies all in one easy, short desert hop of a few hundred miles from the Yemen. I have not the slightest doubt that if they think they can get away with it, they will try. Will it be the Saar or will it be Poland when they do? We must make up our own minds now and make our position clear to the Russians.

I hope that the Soviets are in no doubt about our own support for the rulers of the oil States, and that we have or will make it clear that any interference with those States from within, without or by proxy will be considered intolerable, an act to threaten our survival and therefore an act that will be considered open military and political aggression. But just as Hitler thought Britain would not fight, so reports say that the USSR considers that the US President would hesitate long enough to make any US response meaningless. How welcome therefore to read the report that the Carter Administration is to set up a military fire brigade to deal with any vital danger to oil fields.

Unfortunately, the Americans have not always been very good or diplomatic as world policemen, and the announcement of this force seems so far to have upset the oil States perhaps more than it has impressed the Russians. But the main aim must be that this force should never have to be used. Surely the best way of achieving this is to have it ready and available, and to leave no doubt in the minds of the Soviets that it will be used if the oil States are threatened from within or without. In addition, it is surely necessary not only to support the rulers of the oil States but to promise them that in the event of their fall they will be found safe homes in the West. The shameful treatment of our friend the Shah must have made many rulers wonder whether their personal safety would be better looked after by the East than by the West. When will it happen, and how long have we got? Just as Hitler wanted the Olympic Games before his war, so may Russia wish to hold the 1980 Olympics, which are so valuable to Russian morale. Immediately thereafter—perhaps the weeks that follow—may be the most dangerous period for the West, for which we must be prepared and resolute.

Finally, a word about aircraft defence sales. In this country we build, among others, two very fine aircraft: the Hawk and the Harrier. The Hawk is a fine, multi-purpose, docile yet high-performance trainer, as good as or better than any of its rivals. In the Harrier, Britain leads the world in VSTOL technology and that lead is vital to retain for ourselves. We should not let it pass from our grasp. As a ground-attack aircraft it is superb, its manoeuvrability scores in self-defence. It is economical and it can operate from fields, and it will be able to operate from fields long after the airfields with their conventional aircraft have been knocked out by the SS-20 and SS-21. Its version at sea with the ski-ramp allows it to he carried on a small, cheap carrier with a lesser target profile than the giant conventional carrier—a small ship that may be within the budget of friendly countries.

It is so important that we retain our own design and development expertise for this craft, and that we develop this aeroplane in this country to its ultimate supersonic form. Do not let us sell this pioneering gem of technology to the States to develop, to take advantage of all our own previous inventiveness. Both the Hawk and the Harrier have large overseas sales potential, not least to China; but overseas decisions to purchase are largely influenced by politics, by slush money and by many other factors. Only some 30 per cent. of decisions are attributable to the quality of the aircraft. One big factor in sales is the attitude of the manufacturers' Governments. For example, two weeks ago in Paris the French President attended their air show and only French aircraft were displayed on that day to impress foreign buyers. For example, when Israelis go out and sell the Alava and the Westwind, let alone the Kfir, local ambassadors are invariably part of the team. British teams often have been given considerable help by British attachés and officials abroad—make no mistake about that—but equally many, many times the support they have received has been negligible and has contributed significantly to the lack of success of sales missions. There can be no excuse for this, and Her Majesty's Government must ensure that all embassies are aware of their importance in helping sales teams. British Aerospace need far more aggressive assistance from the Government for their sales abroad.

Finally, a point on training: it costs in the region of £6,000 per hour to train a pilot, taking into account overheads, station maintenance and so on. This huge on-cost over flying rates deters many foreign Governments which are charged these rates from training their pilots in the United Kingdom, and therefore their pilots learn elsewhere to handle and appreciate our competitors' aircraft. Would it not be sensible for the Treasury to charge as commercial firms do, and write off overheads against our own pilots and charge foreign pilots with administrative costs or purely direct flying costs, as do the United States and Pakistan? It could attract more foreign pilots, who would learn to appreciate British aircraft and who might later influence their Governments to buy British. These pilots would certainly come to Britain willingly to learn to fly, for there is no more coveted award for pilots round the world to have on their walls than the graduation certificates of the Royal Air Force.

8.35 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend has moved: That this House welcomes the Government's intention to accord a higher priority to defence and to strengthen our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance". If it were a matter of Motion and counter-Motion I should feel bound to move the negative to my noble friend's Motion, manifestly sincere as I believe him to be. I would move, that is, the negative, because I feel someone must speak for a rapidly growing number of people who do not want an escalation of our physical defences or a strengthening of our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance in this regard, and who will soon cause a great problem to this country. This growing number of people are people who wish to advocate the way of nonviolence as of now.

For example, there are the Quakers, the Society of Friends, who now number some 250,000 in the world. There is also the International Fellowship of Reconciliation in this country and abroad in 20 different nations, numbering another 100,000 people, including the Pax Christi of the Roman Catholic Church, with Monseigneur Bruce Kent in charge. There is the Anglican Peace Fellowship and also a new movement born in 1977 in Hiroshima from a meeting between young Americans and young Japanese there. They were horrified to find that in Japan the bomb is known as the Christian bomb—and why not? After all, it was not started by the atheists in Russia. This movement has got going and now exists in 20 countries, rightly claiming a growing membership in over 30 countries, running into many thousands of people with sponsors who include certain names well known in this House. This move- ment is called Mobilisation for Survival. In their own words they are pledged—and I quote— To move beyond the rhetoric of disarmament to concrete action now". Mobilisation for Survival includes growing hundreds in Scotland, among them 350 Ministers of the Church of Scotland, who include in their number four ex-Moderators of the Church of Scotland. Perhaps what they have signed together is a sufficient summary of the aims of the groups I have been referring to. Their pledge is: I support unilateral disarmament now as the only expression of Christian witness now consonant with the Gospel in the nuclear age". To these thousands must be added the growing movement in the United States of America which has a Bill before Congress seeking permission legally to transfer the money they give in income tax from armaments and allow it to be used to help the starving of the Third World.

May I dare to refer, in the light of these numbers and for the sake of brevity, to "this million"?—this almost a million who will very soon be more than a million and who say that what they want is non-violence now. Can we summarise also telegraphically what the million are saying? They are saying, "Get back to the gospel of non-violence now."

I hope I am in order in taking this line. After all, it is the Christian West we are defending and this House cannot be constituted or convened unless we commence by declaring the Christian faith. We all know that non-violence is the very core of the Christian faith. The Lord said: They that take the sword shall perish by the sword. Ye have heard it said by men of old time: Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, … do good to them that … despitefully use you … that ye may be the children of your Father". Last year the Bishops of the Church of England at Lambeth made a remarkable statement. In it they called on Christian people—and I quote— To engage themselves in non-violent action for justice and peace and to support others so engaged, recognising that such action will be controversial and may be personally very costly". What else could they say when we come to the very centre of the Christian faith anti realise the last words of our Lord, Forgive them for they know not what they do"? What else could the Bishops at Lambeth say? What could they do other than say it when we realise that it is the sole function of the Christian Church to be the continuing body of Christ on earth; when we remember St. Theresa, who said: Christ has no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet and ours are the eyes with which he looks out with compassion on the world"? Of course, to the uncommitted it must sound like madness, turning the world upside down. But St. Paul knew that it would sound like madness when he wrote, We preach Christ crucified, to the law-givers a stumbling block, to the philosophers sheer folly". But he went on to them that are called, Christ who is the wisdom of God and the power of God, because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men". By all means say that it would not work on a national level. By all means say that this is personal advice to individuals, not corporate advice to nations. By all means say that there is no corporate power in non-violence. If that is so, then let us contrive a Motion in this House to get the presiding Bishop each day to leave out the last clause of the Lord's Prayer which reads not only, "Thine is the Kingdom", but also, "Thine is the power".

Do we believe it? Do not let us patter the Lord's Prayer any longer. Do your Lordships know where the word "patter" comes from? When you are in a hut which has a tin roof, you hear the rain come patter-patter. The word comes from Pater Noster, because of the appalling rapidity with which mediaeval monks used to say the Lord's Prayer. But leave out the mediaeval monks. If we say that the centre of the Cross is nonviolence, but if just does not work, then, for the love of Mike, let us stop pattering it.

We all know the history of the Church and of wars since the Gospel days. In the first three centuries, many were the young Christians condemned to death for refusing to take up arms for these reasons. Came Constantine as Emperor at the beginning of the fourth century and suddenly Christianity became the state religion. Those who had been persecuted for three centuries were promoted. But wars continued, so they had to contrive the doctrine of the just war. In short, that was, as most of us know, that wars can take place among Christians if the end justifies the means. Thus for centuries, when wars were localised and confined to soldiers, this doctrine served. To jump the centuries to Waterloo and the Low Countries—we are now in the 19th century—let us remember that it was fought in the presence of farmworkers who were standing in the fields watching the war going on, without being molested or shot at. Perhaps the last just war was the Boer War, when Baden-Powell was surrounded in Mafeking. Both the Afrikaaners and the British were Sabbath observers and nobody fired from midnight on Saturday till dawn on Monday, because it was God's day. But the Household Cavalry inside Mafeking got so bored that they started playing polo on Sunday and, believe it or not, the Boers sent in a white flag and protested against the blasphemy. I am told that the letter from Baden-Powell, apologising and promising that there would be no more Sunday polo playing still exists. As one of my earliest memories is the Siege of Mafeking one can perhaps say that in one generation we have moved from controlled war to absolute chaos.

Came the 1914 war, the first Great War, when for the first time military casualties on both sides numbered, I am told, something like 8 million. In 1930, the Church of Scotland said: If there was ever a deliberate attack on the civilian population—on men, women and children —then the Church must withdraw from the war even at the cost of defeat". Came the second Great War in the 1940s, before the atom bomb; came Dresden, when we intentionally obliterated 100,000 men, women and children in an undefended town. The only soldiers in Dresden were men on leave. The Dresden catastrophe was designed to demoralise the civilian population, 100,000 of them being killed. There was not a cheep from the Church of Scotland. Such has been the rapidity of our social demoralisation about the ethics of war. Came Hiroshima, and I shall not weary your Lordships with numbers. Let it suffice to remember that last month in Hiroshima some young invalids in their thirties died. They had been invalids all their lives and had contracted sickness when still in their mothers' wombs, when that bomb was dropped on their mothers in 1945.

If your Lordships must have final figures, the USA now has 30,000 nuclear weapons. The total yield of these is 600,000 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Do we improve things by adding to them? The USA could destroy Russia 40 times over with what they have, and Russia could destroy the USA 22 times over with nuclear weapons. In the last recorded year, 1978, all nations together spent £200,000 million or, if that gets you down, put a figure "2" and add 11 noughts to it. Is there any noble Lord who disagrees with Pope John, who said that it is impossible to conceive of a just war in a nuclear age? We are all in the midst of unprincipled chaos. I plead with your Lordships to believe, with Martin Luther King, that it is either non-violence or non-existence, and that means for a Christian country nonviolence now.

What are we to do? I would close with three quotations, none of which lasts more than two minutes. They are not from the Bible; they are from our present decade. Nor is any one of them from a pacifist. The first is to cast a new light on the possibilities of non-violence. It is the word of the late Sir Basil Liddell Hart, who, as many of us know, was till his death six years ago, perhaps the best known defence correspondent the London Times ever had. In an article in a book about non-violence, he wrote: In a nuclear war, the phrase 'pursuing victory' becomes totally absurd. Anyone who talks of winning a nuclear war is a menace to his country and to all humanity. To make non-violent resistance a national policy will be an extremely difficult task. The most important thing is to educate people and convince them that it is a workable policy". That is St. Paul coming right the way up. The foolishness of God and the weakness of God is now found to be the only workable policy. It is this that the millions of people across the world are aware of, and which makes them say: "If a war comes we are just not playing, whatever the cost to us".

The second quotation—and this one comes from 1974—is something that millions of protesters are also aware of. It was two Congressmen who asked the President of the United States whether he was ready for the Russians. The President sat silent as he visualised in his mind the submarines that they had then, and which they have now, all around facing Russia with nuclear devices on them—with nuclear missiles facing Russia from outside Norway, from outside Spain, from the middle of the Mediterranean, from the Indian Ocean and from outside Siberia, all pointing on permanent alert waiting for the word. Those were in his mind as the President said: I have only to lift that telephone and give the secret code word to all our submarines who are on the alert for it, and 70 million Russians will be dead in half an hour". Your Lordships are aware, of course, that it was the Russians at the Warsaw Conference who, in the early days, suggested that all nations should sign to the effect that they would never be the first to use nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, it was NATO and the President who refused to concede. That was in the days of President Ford. We all know that war is so precipitate that it is nonsense to suppose that Parliament could be called together to declare war. What the President said then means that we are consenting, without protest, to the possibility of waking up one morning—if, indeed, we do wake up that morning—to find that, before the enemy have fired a shot, we have killed 70 million men, women and children to prove the superiority of Christianity over Communism.


My Lords, it is not true to say—

Several noble Lords: Order, order!


My Lords, this is a quotation which I have and which I can show to the noble Lord if it was about the terms of the quotation that the protest was being made. I am saying that if we kill 70 million people in half an hour before they have fired a shot, then I personally hope that no young man would be such a damned fool—I choose my language carefully—as to join the Church, as by law established, but would turn aside and pray for a new Pentecost. It is because our "conjectured million" know this that they say, "We are just not playing, whatever the consequences are for ourselves".

My last quotation comes from a President of the United States. It starts with the military industrial complex, about which we all know. It was General Eisenhower who was so horrified by its power over Government that he said: I think people want peace so much that governments will have to get out of their way and 'let them have it'". He was referring to such an armaments firm as Rockwell in the United States of America. In 1948, three years after the last war, Rockwell were still turning over 95 million dollars making armaments. Their last figure for 1977 was 4,943 million dollars—well over £2 billion a year for one firm. Rockwell just do not want disarmament, as a great many other firms do not want it. But it goes much deeper than that.

It was Disraeli in his time who said: The world is governed by very different personages to what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes". And that world has lingered a long time. How many people know another book by an American professor of economics, Anthony Sutton, called National Suicide? He proves up to the hilt that at least 50 per cent. of Russia's war potential is being supplied by NATO countries and by the United States of America, for money. But it is not just the United States of America. How many people know that Rolls-Royce make aeroplane engines for war planes for Romania and Yugoslavia? I was so horrified that I wrote to them, and here is their answer. If any noble Lord wants to see it, I shall show it to him. They admitted that they were doing this. It is odd to think that if we went to war with the Eastern countries, miles short of nuclear war, our young men would be destroyed by high explosives from Yugoslavian and Romanian aeroplanes, engined by Rolls-Royce for money.

Nor is it just for money. How many people know another American book of yesteryear by Garry Allen called None Dare Call it Conspiracy? It has sold over 3½ million copies in the United States. Its contents are one reason why more and more young Americans just are not going to play, if a war comes. This book points out not merely that it was the German bankers, Warburg Brothers, who put up £25 million to put Lenin in power in Russia, and who also assisted Trotsky to go from the United States to join him, but that they also sold nuclear armaments to Russia, not just to get money but to control the Communists so that, if they gain permanent power, the bankers will control them by the vast sums which they are owed back by Russia. The book is, chapter and verse, about foundations; it is chapter and verse about persons, well-known names; it is chapter and verse about the Council of Foreign Relations; and it is chapter and verse about Bilderberg Conferences in Europe—names and all, open to a hundred occasions for criminal libel, which somehow has never been brought. The address where that book can be obtained in this country is: KRP Publications, 245 Cann Road, London, E.11.

Nor shall I end by putting the blame alone on the United States. It was in one of our first four British banks that in 1970 the following occurred. The bank had been helping Mozambique with the Caborro Basa Dam which was partly to be used to feed water into apartheid South Africa and to help apartheid. It was suggested by three horrified young idealists that they should buy shares and so obtain a vote.

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening—he has been speaking for 20 minutes—may I inquire whether this has got anything whatever to do with the subject of the debate?


My Lords, perhaps I may inform the noble Earl that I shall finish in precisely one minute. However, I wonder whether it is his impatience about the time I am taking or about the contents of my speech which have made him rise to his feet. These three young idealists decided to put up this money to buy shares so that they could go to protest against money being used for apartheid in that way. They were not allowed to do so. However, after the meeting the chairman of the bank got them into a room and said, "It is time people realised that the trade of this world is so intertwined that if you were to cut yourself off for matters of principle there would be no international trade". He is a man of absolute personal integrity but, corporately, an unwitting creature of multi-national vandalism. Where trade is concerned with Africa for water, where trade is concerned with Russia for arms, to hell with principle!

I have finished. It is "this", and "this", and "this" which will rapidly incense our young people, who will have less and less to do with increasing defence, regardless of which Government are in power. It is not because they no longer are prepared to die for King and country, but because they are not prepared to die for Rolls-Royce, or Royal Dutch Shell, or for bank profits, or for armament firms. I dare not exonerate the Church from the guilt. The great criticism of the Church today is that nobody wants to persecute it, because there is absolutely nothing to persecute it about. When it comes to the showdown, it is the spiritual arm of the morally chaotic status quo. Crown Him with many crowns … the Lamb upon the throne can only possibly mean Crown Him with many crowns, non-violence on the throne". We sing it in the present tense, but we have not the slightest intention of believing it in the present tense. Tomorrow, perhaps, but not today. But tomorrow will not do. There is one thing mightier than armies; an idea whose hour is come", said Victor Hugo. Wars will cease only when men refuse to fight. It can be done. The Vietnam war was stopped by 95,000 young Americans who refused to go on saturating the fields of Cambodia so that those fields will not bear any crops for the next 20 years. No wonder Cambodia went Communist. The 1 million I have been referring to will soon be 2 million. Let us seriously start planning for nonviolence now.

8.59 p.m.


My Lords, I have never yet tried to preach a sermon, and I am sure that your Lordships will be very glad to know that I am not about to do so now. However, as the holder of the wooden spoon in the order of speaking and also as the wearer of a now rather wilted carnation, I can assure your Lordships that I have been waiting with bated breath and that I have heard many deep and serious thoughts from some of the very eminent speakers whom we have heard today in your Lordships' House. It is absolutely splendid that we should have had four maiden speeches in this debate and I would especially like to congratulate the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. I suppose that anybody who has been listening with some attention would have reasonable cause for considerable concern, but this is a very large subject and no one can cover it all, so I intend briefly to talk about our forces, particularly in Germany, and some of the matters that affect them on the ground.

I fully support the Motion on the Order Paper, but I should like to say that the increased pay, although it goes a long way, is not the end of the road and I do not think anybody feels that it is. As I have mentioned before, there is still an enormous problem of job satisfaction, and a great deal of the confidence in any Government has been seriously eroded, in my opinion, by the attitude of the previous Government towards the armed forces.

There are several remedies. Although pay is now reasonable there are one or two other things which have to happen. Possibly they could be classified as spares, time to train, and organisation. The spares are needed to give confidence in their machines; confidence when comparing their equipment with that of the other armies with which they work; confidence in their equipment; quick replacements, so keeping everything working. It is not always new equipment which is needed but replacements. We have heard today about an interval of seven to 10 years for some of the larger items to come into operation and some of these are very expensive.

With regard to time to train, there are so few people now because many of them have gone, particularly some of those who are most qualified. but training and retraining for Northern Ireland has sapped a lot of the energy from our forces. People have been filling in for others and this had led to family separations and made many problems. One of them, of course, in spite of the assertion by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Gravesend, is about quarters; if he were to do his homework I think he would find that there are vast numbers of empty quarters because people cannot afford not to make provision for their future.

With regard to organisation, we need more soldiers and airmen, more skills, less training, and more time to get on with the job. There is an enormous threat and it is growing and we all know it. The forecasts say that it will get much worse in the 1980s. The Soviet forces are being built up and many speakers today have mentioned actual figures. They are spending more and more. While in Germany our main military unit is one British corps which has four armoured divisions, an artillery division and a field force, part of this is already in the United Kingdom and will only be fully up to strength with reinforcements, some of whom are civilians in the Territorial Army. They are a marvellous body of people. I was with the Territorials myself but in no way can they be as up to date as most regular units. In East Germany, facing them, there are 27 divisions and over 6,000 tanks. If the defence White Paper is read properly it will be found that the disparity in strength is formidable, and I disagree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Gravesend.


My Lords, the noble Lord is not disagreeing with me: he is disagreeing with The Times profile of NATO dated 26th May 1978.


My Lords, if the noble Lord wishes to take his information solely from a newspaper, I am afraid I do not.

With our NATO allies we have some problems, naturally, in divergence of opinions. The Germans obviously want to hold all the ground—it is their ground. We, who are in a minority, would feel possibly that this is not the right strategy but it is their country and we have to compromise. With cities like Brunswick and Hanover only 25 and 50 miles from the East German border it is not easy to stop an overwhelming force when one is covering the ground almost up to the border.

The outlook can certainly appear very bleak but there are a few optimistic factors. The Soviet army is largely made up of conscripts. Every six months there is a turnover of a quarter of them, but their equipment—and I mean even theirs—is much more sophisticated and it takes time to train them on this equipment, so we have a slight advantage there. We do not think that their actual training covers any more time than our own. They have one divisional exercise each year. Also we have to think of the satellite countries, who are not always totally subservient. Some of them are definitely doubtful starters. In Poland there has been the enormous success of the Pope; Romania have already said that they will not do very much to help, and there is definitely a large question mark against the Czechs.

So far as warning time is concerned, which is a much argued subject in many high places, I think it is true to say that the Russians are a very methodical nation and if we can say that they need four days to prepare properly I think our intelligence is unlikely to know in anything less than two days in the worst possible case. However the problem is not only a military one; it is also political. One of my biggest worries is the amount of practice that the appropriate politician has in assessing possible situations which might arise when he has to make the ultimate decision. I believe in action, but I am not sure that the politicians are always sufficiently well trained. I have mentioned this before in your Lordships' House and I am not sure that the Wintex exercises in Germany fully cover this subject.

So what are our needs? There are many of them, but I can possibly mention a few. We need to ensure that we can meet Soviet initiatives in guided weapons, tanks, armoured helicopters and self-propelled artillery. We do not need parity but we must watch the numbers very closely. We must study much more deeply the problems of electronic warfare. This was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Carver, and I think it is true that in both offensive and defensive roles we are way behind and it is essential that we should look more closely at it.

We must not forget the nuclear biological warfare possibilities. In my opinion, the Soviet capability has not always been appreciated. We must improve our equipment, including the new tank, which is absolutely vital to the army's thinking. I was interested in the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Carver, about reserves of money and men. That is an excellent idea if we can possibly do it. Should we not look more closely at some of our bases overseas with some of the new thinking that is coming in? Having been to Cyprus recently, I feel it is essential to our future defence and I should like to see it given a higher priority in the evaluation of our bases.

Finally, as I have already said, in spite of the new pay rates and a start of confidence in the new Government, I hope they will not rest on their laurels. There is a long way to go to redress the balance and we need continuous improvements in a wide area. We are talking about men and women—some very dedicated—who want to do a good job. They have enough problems without shortages of manpower and equipment. I suggest that we give them the job satisfaction they need so that their morale gets back to the heights that I knew in the army 20 years ago.

9.7 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a very useful debate today, not the least notable feature of which has been the opportunity to listen to the four maiden speakers. Four maiden speeches, each so different yet each so full of interest and instruction. Attention has rightly been focused this afternoon on the Soviet military build-up and the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, told us to analyse the threat. We must certainly do that, and we cannot ignore all the different factors which have been brought out during the debate about the Soviet build-up; the superiority in conventional weapons, particularly tanks; the amount of money being spent by the Soviet Union—13 per cent. of gross national product per annum; the increase each year in the amount spent; the improvement in the quality of the armaments which the Soviet Union possesses so that the superiority of NATO is gradually being eroded; the improvement in land and air mobility so that there is a Soviet capacity to launch an attack without having to reinforce it beforehand; the change in the character of the Soviet air arm from a role that was essentially defensive to one that is now offensive; and there is the build-up in the Navy and the merchant navy. These things we have to see in the context of the Soviet global activities in Afghanistan, South Yemen, Ethiopia, Southern Africa. Of course, we must be concerned at all that. We would be foolish to be complacent.

However, we would be equally foolish to be alarmist. There are, as some noble Lords have pointed out, important factors on the other side—NATO's economic resources are greater; the Soviet Union has a fear of a war on two fronts; NATO continues to maintain a formidable array of armaments. And here I have some sympathy with what Lord Murray of Gravesend said, although I would not agree with him that NATO has more of everything—certainly not. But I think we have to bear in mind that there is still a formidable force at the disposal of NATO and that, even allowing for the tilting of the balance away from NATO, nevertheless military aggression must be an unattractive proposition for any possible aggressor against us, so long as the will of NATO to resist is credible.

If we want to feel secure against attack, if we want to be secure too against the danger of "Finlandisation", as it is called, which might perhaps be the greater threat of the two, we mut restore the balance. My noble friend Lord Gladwyn and the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, have argued very effectively and persuasively for an increase in conventional weapons on the part of NATO. Of course, NATO is already responding to the threat. There are short-term measures and long-term planning set on foot. There is the three per cent. per annum increase in spending, there is the proposal to modernise theatre nuclear weapons. These are measures to restore the balance, and I think we should bear in mind—it is perhaps a factor to bear in mind when considering the very eloquent appeal of the noble Lord, Lord Macleod—that the balance has kept the peace for 30 years. But of course it is based on an accelerating arms race and is inevitably to a degree precarious and is inevitably dangerous. The high explosive equivalent of the world's current nuclear arsenal is 1,300,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Therefore, although the balance has maintained the peace, these facts mean that it is only sensible to seek for détente and to see if we can have some success along that road. I do not take the Soviet threat as an argument for rejecting détente, but I think it is important not to allow détente to blind us to the threat. The most recent White Paper on defence issued by the previous Government said that our defence policy was based on defence and détente. I think that the present Government will have less trouble with the former as far as its supporters are concerned and more trouble with the latter than the previous Government did. But the policy will be the same. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, said defence strategy will not change. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, said the basic policy will still be the same, and we on these Benches would support that two-pronged policy of defence and détente.

The most recent manifestation of détente is, of course, SALT II, which has had a mixed reception this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, declared the Government's support for it and expressed his hope that it would be ratified by the United States Senate. My noble friend Lord Gladwyn expressed the support of those of us on these Benches. I think it would be right to say, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Carver, that we welcome it with care. I think perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Peart, was going rather far when he argued so vehemently that we must trust the Russians. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, had a point when he referred to previous breaches of treaty obligations on the part of the Russians. That is why verification is so important.


My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt, but as regards the Russians I was trying to say that if one is involved in major negotiations and one seeks to have a treaty or an agreement, inevitably each must trust the other to fulfil that agreement. That is what I was trying to get across.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peart, for adding to his previous remarks, although what he has added does not seem to me to make any difference to their substance. The point that I am making about what he said is that it is not just a question of trusting the Russians, because we know that they do not always observe the treaties into which they enter. Therefore, it is essential to have verification, and that is one of the features of the negotiations to which the previous Government committed themselves as strongly as the present Government. Indeed, it is about verification that I should like to ask a question of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona.

We have seen the loss of facilities in Iran. The noble Earl, Lord Avon, referred to the fact that now U2s may not be flown from Turkey. I wonder whether the noble Lord can tell us something about the verification side and the reasons why the Government are satisfied. As I have said, we support SALT II. We do so with care, and one of the matters about which we should like to take care is the question of verification.

One of our reasons for wanting to see SALT II approved is that it will allow us immediately or very shortly to get down to the negotiation of SALT III. I understand that SALT III will, among other things, deal with theatre nuclear weapons. I should like again to ask the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, whether there are any particular plans for European participation in the forthcoming negotiations of SALT III, as European particular interests will be so very much involved.

I turn from the question of theatre nuclear weapons to the strategic deterrent. I should like to say a few words about the United Kingdom's own independent nuclear deterrent. The noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, said that it was the intention to improve and maintain the nuclear capability. However, I was not clear whether he was saying that it was the Government's intention to move on in time to a new generation of nuclear weapons. I understand that the current force will be an adequate deterrent until the late 1990s, and therefore it might be said that there is no need to take a decision about a new generation until the mid-1980s. But, even if that is so, it would seem that there is a need for a thorough discussion of this issue within the next five years, and in particular a discussion of the degree of independence of the independent nuclear deterrent—a point which has already been raised by other noble Lords.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has, of course, a great knowledge of these matters. He certainly persuaded me that SALT II could have an effect on the options or choices which would be open to us in deciding whether or not to go on, and in what form to go on, from the present nuclear force. However, he did not really persuade me—maybe if he had had more time he would have done so—that any limitations which SALT II might place on our options in the future, would be disastrous for this country or for the Alliance.

We must also bear in mind the other forms of détente—the other fora where détente is being discussed—and it would be interesting to know what progress is being made as regards them. I think of the talks in Vienna which seem to be bogged down; I think of the United Nations Committee on Disarmament, and I am interested to know what is happening there. Its reconstitution was one of the more hopeful outcomes of the United Nations session on disarmament last year.

Finally, I should like briefly to raise two points—and I am back from détente to defence. The noble Earl, Lord Avon, mentioned the South-East flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. The problem there is that Greece is not integrated into the Alliance structure; that Turkey and Greece have many political differences, and that Cyprus is, at present, up to 40 per cent. occupied by Turkey. In addition, there is Turkey's economic weakness, with 20 per cent. unemployed, a 60 per cent. rate of inflation and with 50 per cent. of industrial capacity idle. I understand that in a few days Turkey will sign a Letter of Intent to the International Monetary Fund, as a result of which a loan from that source will be forthcoming. I wonder whether further help from the West will follow the signing of that letter.

The other point I want to raise concerns the question of co-operation within Europe, which was touched upon by my noble friend Lord Gladwyn. There is, of course, the Euro Group which comprises the European members of NATO minus France, Portugal and Iceland. There is also the European Independent Programme Group, which is the Euro Group plus France and Portugal. I am wondering to what extent it will be possible to combine the work of those two groups and perhaps concentrate it on the second group, as it has the widest membership and includes France.

Then, of course, there is the question, which I think was mentioned by my noble friend, as to how far the European Community might speak for Western Europe on the question of defence, and whether or not this can be added to the discussions of the Foreign Secretaries; whether EEC Defence Ministers could ever meet to discuss security problems, and standardisation and harmonisation of weapons. I know that there are problems involved; I know that this matter is controversial and I shall not pursue it further tonight. However, if there are any thoughts which the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, can pass on to us on that particular subject I should certainly be interested to hear them.

Therefore, I conclude by repeating that it is necessary to continue the two-pronged policy of defence and détente. We hope that détente will lead to controlled disarmament, but until that is achieved NATO must maintain the strength of its forces.

9.27 p.m.


My Lords, as this is the first time that I have spoken from this side of the House, I hope the House will forgive me if I take this opportunty to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, on his appointment. I envy him. He has received his appointment within the best of Departments. I believe that the Ministry of Defence is the most dedicated and the most efficient of the great Departments of State. To be a Defence Minister is one of the sweetest of the sweets of office. I congratulate the noble Lord.

I should also like to congratulate the four extremely interesting speakers who have made their maiden speeches tonight. I do not propose to say what excellent speeches the noble Lords, Lord Hill-Norton and Lord Richardson, made because good wines need no bush. However, their speeches confirm my hope that in due course—and I hope that it will not be very long now—your Lordships' House, partly because of the wealth of experience we have here and partly because of the House of Lords Defence Study Group, will become one of the main fora of public discussion of defence in this country. If these debates were reported fully and in a balanced manner, they could not but have an influence on public opinion.

I should also like to congratulate most sincerely the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, whose wise parish-priest view of the world perhaps counteracted another religious contribution that we had this evening. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on his speech; the noble Lord is the son of an old friend of mine. He may not know it, but his father and I soldiered together in the same regiment for a number of years. We were a sort of Tweedledum and Tweedledee; if you could not get Lord Henley, you got me. I am certain that that is a commendation. He and I were great friends over many years and I have an almost paternal interest in the present Lord Henley's political future.

Let us now turn to the terms of the Motion. It falls into two halves. The first half says, That this House welcomes the Government's intention to accord a higher priority to defence", and the second half says that the Government intend, to strengthen our contribution to the North Atlantic Alliance". As regards the second part of the Motion, I am certain that my Party will welcome it since this is a continuation of our own policy. We in fact introduced the additional 3 per cent. expenditure in response to NATO proposals. I believe that this was a correct decision, and I welcome the fact that the Conservative Party is continuing it.

As regards the first part, speaking personally, I welcome the Government's intention to accord a higher priority to defence. I intended to make a speech on this subject from the Back Benches, but my position has changed slightly. Nevertheless, I shall come back and say a few words on this subject later. I can assure the noble Lord, and other noble Lords who are interested in defence on the other side of the House, that we on this side of the House will watch to see if the statement of intent becomes a reality. I have also already given, when questioned from where the noble Lord now stands, a statement of intent; that I should question the policies of a Conservative Administration with the same ardour that Conservative noble Lords have questioned me. So I have a few— I will not say scores to settle—lusty bouts of fisticuffs which I shall repay if I think noble Lords opposite deserve it. I am certain that the noble Lord who opened today's debate meant exactly what he said, and for this reason I personally welcome it for reasons that I shall now give.

I had planned a speech from the Back Benches which I hoped would apply solely to Service morale. I was starting from the old Cromwellian dictum that the good soldier knows for what he fights, and loves what he knows. Without the will to fight the best of arms are worthless. We saw that with the Americans in Vietnam, and recently in Iran. I was much strengthened in my view on this by a remark by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, towards the end of his speech. He stressed the importance of will. Will not only in the armed forces but will in the governments that direct those armed forces. If the will is there, numbers are not all that important, because, if we regard our own position in 1940, or the position of Israel in their running battle with the Arab world, we see that we were always in a minority and yet, because the will to resist was there, in the end the will overcame the opposition.

I have been asking myself what does determine morale, because the threat does seem a formidable one, although the great military machine of the Russians may have a diseased centre, as my noble friend Lord Murray pointed out. I should not like to be a Russian General with the Poles behind me and the Czechs on a flank. I think I should be watching them with greater care than my enemies in front.

I believe that the first factor that determines morale is a united nation. I think that the unity of a nation comes from a general feeling in that nation that, however imperfect its society may be, it is superior to that of its adversaries, and worth defending. While we have been talking about the Russian threat of materiel and manpower, that does not frighten me half as much as the form of society that would be imposed upon us if that machine rolled over us and imposed a Communist regime upon us. The world of the secret police, the torture chamber, and the phoney psychiatric ward is something I would not wish to live to see. The second factor in military morale arises out of a realisation by the armed forces that their role is appreciated by their fellow citizens in the society which they are serving. The noble Lord, Lord Newall, made the point that pay is all very well and we all like to have it, but there are many other factors which are equally important.

I had the honour and pleasure of being in the chiefs' mess on board HMS "Hermes" during last autumn's exercises and they made this point very clearly to me then. They said, "The pay is really not so bad, but what is important to us is that the work we do is recognised". It is of course difficult to measure status—to assess where one fits into society—but that is where pay relativity becomes important. One can put numbers on it and say, "I am paid more than this chap and less than that chap and therefore my value to society, measured in monetary terms, shows that I have this value which society places on what I do".

That is really the reason why I welcome the Conservative Party's decision to pay the Pay Review Board's proposals in full immediately. In this connection, I wish to make the point that was made by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing—namely, that this may in fact be an economy because, as he pointed out, it costs half a million pounds to train a pilot, and goodness knows how many millions of pounds for a ship to be tied alongside a quay because it cannot be used. Also, if we have manufacturing power not being employed because no orders have been given to it, then I should have thought that increased expenditure on salaries would bring about a net saving when the cost of early departures from the Armed Forces was offset against increased expenditure. I am certain that that is true.

We have not seen the results and effect of the increase in pay and it is regrettable that the figures on recruitment available to people like myself only run up to the end of March, though I believe that is in part due to a printing strike. However, I shall ask the noble Lord when we come to our next debate, which I suppose will be a short one on the Armed Forces Discipline Order, whether perhaps we could be given up to date information on recruiting and, perhaps more important than recruiting, the return to the Armed Forces of experienced men or the reversal of early resignations so that we may have as early as possible a warning of what the impact of increased pay should be.

Having said that, I wish to point out that in this decision to increase the priority of expenditure on defence, the implication is that it will be increased at the expense of other areas of Government expenditure, and there could be—I do not say "will be", but "could be"—a very delicate balance to be struck. Part of the social structure which the good soldier would fight to defend today—the first of course is always parliamentary democracy, with its imperfections—is the welfare state which we have created, with its extravagances. The welfare state is part of the structure of our society for which people are willing to fight and die.

That means that when we start switching the balance between defence and the social services, we have to walk delicately. It is not impossible, because I remember making a speech some time ago, though not very long ago, when I welcomed the fact that, for the first time, expenditure on defence had been exceeded by one of the social departments—namely, education. If, however, we look today, we see that the balance has altered very radically indeed. Of the first four spending departments, defence is the lowest with about £7.2 billion, education is second (£8.8 billion), health is third (£8.4 billion) and the social services are spending just under £16 billion a year. I believe that there is sufficient fat there, with intelligent application, greater efficiency, and the same kind of rigorous scrutiny to which the Ministry of Defence has always been subjected, to find funds which would enable us to do exactly what the Motion states is the intention of the present Government. It is possible, but it is a subject that will have to be treated delicately.

In addition to those factors there are two other matters of importance. I believe in the importance of the reserve forces. Speaker after speaker today has mentioned their importance. I believe that the TAVR and its related organisations are of enormous importance in spreading the understanding of the needs of defence and defence philosophy across a very wide range of our population. I would support any action that the present Administration take to increase the efficiency and numbers of the reserve forces. Even to get the TAVR up to its full establishment would be of great value, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carver, that the fact that there is a rapid turnover is not in itself damaging. It is a school for the public as a whole, and for that it is to be welcomed.

I have one last point which may not seem important, but I think it is important. I believe that noble Lords and Members of another place should take every opportunity that exists to visit the armed forces. I have always been made extremely welcome, and I have learnt much. I think this must be the common experience of anyone who has taken the trouble to visit a ship, an air base or an army unit.

At this stage I should like to support, in his absence, my noble friend Lord Shinwell. I hope that the Government will find some money for the House of Lords Parliamentary Defence Study Group. Our first visit, which got us off the ground, was made with NATO funds, but I believe that such important work has been done by the group that it would be worth giving at least a little money to help it on its way.

I have a final point about morale in this country. It is a fact that Europe looks to us in a peculiar way—as a nation which is rather different. They believe that we have leadership to give—leadership which the defeated nations of Europe at this moment cannot give. It may sound a little arrogant, but travelling throughout Europe I have found that if we default on our responsibilities, other people will find it easier to default on their responsibilities. We talked today as if we were facing the Russians alone, but we are not. We are facing them as a member of an alliance, and I believe that in that alliance we have a very important moral responsibility.

I was going to speak about the whole business of nuclear philosophy, but such excellent speeches have been made tonight that anything I would have to say would be otiose. However, I would make one point. In this matter we must think in a disciplined way about the unthinkable. We must not let our sensibilities degenerate into sentimentality. The hard fact of life is that the evil in war is killing people, not how you kill them. So I hope that, when the present Administration has to reach very difficult decisions on new types of weapons, a Polaris replacement, the neutron bomb and possibly the cruise missile, as well as where those missiles are sited (which will itself be a very difficult problem), they will think logically and not be over-influenced by the emotional reactions which will be awakened, as we have indeed heard tonight.

That is my contribution to this evening's very valuable discussion. I want to agree with my noble friend Lord Murray that this debate has come a little early. The present Government are just playing themselves in. I think the important debate will come when we have next year's Defence White Paper, and it is to that debate that I am looking forward with interest and, indeed, hope.

9.40 p.m.


My Lords, I think I should begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for adding his personal good wishes to those of the noble Lords, Lord Shinwell and Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, although in the latter two cases, of course, one has to understand that they were engaged in the very proper purpose of claiming for the all-party Defence Group such modest education in defence as I have been able to acquire over the last year or two. As we might have expected, we have had a very well-informed and wide-ranging debate, which I think proves that we were right to find time for it. From my point of view, at any rate, it has been very valuable to hear the opinions and suggestions of many noble Lords, even if it is a little premature for me to answer all the points in the way that I would wish; and, of course, the added education and information which has been provided by Lord Shinwell's Group does very little to simplify the problem of producing adequate answers for a winding-up speech.

Nor were we disappointed by the maiden speeches, my Lords. I felt sure this would be the case. One should hardly mention the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, simply because he did exactly what we would have expected of him. As we see our two gallant and noble Lords sitting there side by side, they constitute a constant reminder to a new Minister of what he is expected to know and does not. I particularly welcome the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton. As has already been said, it was useful to have a different view, that of a churchman, from what we had later on in the debate; and I was particularly intrigued to hear St. Thomas Aquinas being called in aid of the waging of war, which I confess was a surprise. We were pleased to hear from Lord Richardson of the undoubted value of the medical and other professions in the Services, and I can assure him that they are not forgotten. The noble Lord, Lord Henley—our private in the Territorial Army—started from a somewhat dubious assessment when he spoke about the drunken incompetent soldier who, he appeared to think, spent all his money in the bar; but he improved as he went on, I thought. I can assure him that he has no need to apologise about the Territorial Army offering value for money. The whole nature of this business is trying to get value for money.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, spoke about the European Programme Group. As I said when opening this debate, the Government will give their full support to the efforts in NATO to increase standardisation and interoperability, and to achieve the economic and military benefits of doing so. One should not see standardisation as an end in itself, and interoperability may often achieve the military objective with less disruption to national industries and economies than standardisation. Indeed, in some cases standardisation can even have a positive disadvantage, in that it makes the forces of the alliance less resistant to attack by reducing the number of technical and operational problems that the enemy is called upon to solve.

As I mentioned at the beginning, in the last decade there has been a number of successful collaborative projects in which the United Kingdom has been involved. I have already talked about the Anglo-French Jaguar; and perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that I did in fact mention the French and say that the three nations—Germany, France and Britain—are working together studying the tactical combat aircraft needs for the future. But the Jaguar is one case. Then there were the Lynx, the Gazelle and the Puma helicopters and the Tornado. The land systems have the Anglo-Belgian family of tracked combat reconnaissance vehicles and the 155-millimetre artillery system being developed by Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. In the missile field there is the Anglo-French Martel air-to-surface guided weapon; and the Army has adopted the Franco-German Milan anti-tank weapon, and the United Kingdom has taken part in a European consortium to produce the American developed Sidewinder air-to-air missile.

The Government believe that it is particularly important to promote even more European co-operation in the defence equipment field. Looking to the future, there are important prospects for further collaboration. We are an active participant in the studies and preparatory work going on in such areas as the combat aircraft which I have already mentioned, in helicopters and a variety of missiles including anti-ship-, anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. In these activities we are conscious of the advantages—that is, the political, military and economic advantages—which already have been derived from co-operation and which we hope sincerely will develop in the future.

We recognise that the health of the Alliance depends on a strong European contribution to NATO based on the valuable technological base which exists on this side of the Atlantic. But one of the things in the Ministry of Defence which one learns early on is not to underrate the practical difficulties of proceeding in this way, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, is aware of the difficulties. There is no use in thinking that co-operation is the universal panacea for all procurement problems. But I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that for the United Kingdom, like the other European members of the Alliance, the Independent European Programme Group is the main European forum for co-operation in defence equipment matters. It is particularly important because it permits the active participation of France, which is essential if we are really going to achieve anything in the long run.

It may be asked whether the results have justified our efforts and enthusiasm. It is probably true to say that the main benefit so far is that a great deal has been learned about the nature of the problems which must be overcome if there is to be co-operation on a significantly increased scale in Europe with the correspondingly better use of technology and industrial resources which should follow. I said this at the beginning and I say it again: if co-operation is to be successful military requirements must be broadly similar; the price and the level of sophistication of the weapons systems have to be generally acceptable; the industrial arrangements have to be mutually satisfactory and, above all, the timescale has to be naturally able to fit in, or has to be made to fit in, with the national procurement programme.

That is not an easy matter. We cannot expect the present diverse national inventories to be transformed overnight, but it is important that something concrete in terms of co-operative projects should soon emerge from the IEPG; and that is an outcome that we are striving for. The various projects, the tactical combat aircraft, helicopters and anti-tank missiles, arc vital to future security and to our industry. We cannot expect quick results, but we do believe we might have some outline agreements before the end of this year. We approach this in a spirit of being prepared to be flexible from our side and to give way where we can, provided our allies are as gentlemanly in this matter as we intend to be.

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, raised the matter of the Economist article about the Harrier. I can only at this stage assure him that the Air Staff intend to examine very carefully all the factors leading to the two alternative postulated lines of development for the Harrier: the McDonnell-Douglas AV 8B, which of course still has the British Aerospace airframe and the Rolls-Royce engine, and then British Aerospace's own big wing Harrier. Decisions will be taken after these have been exhaustively studied. We believe that the concept of the need for aircraft with short take-off and landing capability is becoming more widely accepted by our allies as time goes by.

The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, during his speech—principally on SALT—raised the question of the Polaris replacement, as did several other noble Lords. Our allies attach particular importance to the contribution made by our present nuclear forces to the cohesion and deterrent credibility of the Alliance. So we shall give this highly important matter the priority that it merits. We have to take into account all the political, military and economic implications. These do not always pull in the same way. Our eventual decision will need to be seen in the context of the Soviet Union's introduction of improved nuclear weapons capable of devastating the whole of Western Europe, which so many noble Lords referred to, notably the SS.20 missile and the backfire bomber. This Soviet build-up shows no signs of abating, regrettable as it may be.

Noble Lords will, I hope, excuse the Government if in under two months of office we have not arrived at a conclusion on this matter. I can say that the options obviously include both ballistic and cruise missiles launched from a variety of platforms, be they based in the sea, in the air or on the land. But our primary consideration has to be to ensure that, whatever system may be chosen, it is capable not only of penetrating the enemy defences but also of surviving a pre-emptive attack. So these, together with the economic considerations and the views of our allies, will be our guiding criteria. Our existing close relationship with the United States in this field will be uppermost in our minds. In the context of SALT itself, the Americans have assured the allies that the SALT agreement will not affect the existing patterns of collaboration and co-operation within the Alliance. Nor will it preclude co-operation in modernisation.

It is difficult to answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Banks, on verification beyond saying that the Americans to whom I have talked are perfectly satisfied on this question. But it is obviously a very difficult matter to prove, certainly in an open forum such as this.

May I welcome the support of the noble Lord, Lord Peart, for the SALT agreement. I cannot go along with him all the way in trusting the Russians, even as modified by the point he made. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Milford, himself said that the Russians do not trust us—and perhaps that is a sufficient answer. What I think we probably can agree on is that the talks have gone some way towards defining the limits of trust.


That is absolutely right.


Successive British Governments—


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point—I am most grateful for his courtesy in giving way—could he say, in regard to what SALT might inhibit, whether or not technology can be transferred after SALT on the cruise missile and the neutron bomb from the USA to their NATO allies?


My Lords, I think I ought to have a proper brief before I answer that question, because either I must answer it authoritatively or I am liable to make a mistake! So I will write to the noble Lord, if I may, and if he wishes we will have the answer put in the Official Report.

May I finish this point by saying that successive British Governments have strongly supported the efforts of the United States Administration to negotiate balanced and verifiable agreements limiting strategic arms. The United States has kept its allies fully informed of progress throughout the negotiations to the new agreement and has consulted them, particularly on aspects of special concern to them. The Government are satisfied that the agreement will not interfere with continued nuclear and conventional co-operation between the United States and its allies, and that the essential security interests of the Alliance are safeguarded. That perhaps does not go quite as far as the noble Lord would wish me to go.

May I now turn to what the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, said—and before I deal with his question I should like to congratulate him on the astonishing suggestion that cutting one's own throat is a means of slow suicide. I should have thought it was a remarkably quick method! Be that as it may, the trade problems to which he draw attention are fully recognised in the United Kingdom and in the West generally. It is for those very reasons that the co-ordinating committee was set up, and it maintains a careful watch on the supply of civil and military equipment and technology to the Warsaw Pact.

I am not sure whether the point raised by the noble Lord included the transfer of computers. There are many advantages to be gained by the United Kingdom and the rest of the world in increasing trade contracts with the Eastern bloc. In a climate in which civil trade is encouraged there are bound to be difficulties in dealing with some items of equipment which have both civil and military application. The COCOM embargo is designed to catch such items, and in general we are satisfied that the COCOM machinery is working effectively. Nevertheless, that said, we recognise that there is never any room to be totally satisfied in matters of this sort. We and our partners regularly review the list of equipment subject to the COCOM embargo to ensure that it fully complies with modern realities. I will write to the noble Lord concerning the detailed points that he raised.

I could go on at great length in referring to the matter of pay and conditions. May I try to summarise it by one very simple statement. We believe that adequate pay is a necessary pre-condition but it is not, in the mathematician's term, a sufficient condition. We have got to look at all the other questions of conditions of service— what the noble Lord, Lord Newall, called "job satisfaction". We are currently looking into the question of assisted house purchase, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, referred. I hope it will not be too long before we have something to say about that.

The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, and the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his excellent maiden speech, recommended that improvements should be made in the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve, which, whatever it may be called, is usually known as the Territorial Army so far as I am concerned. They wanted the TA to be expanded, and they also wanted it to be better paid and better equipped. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, stressed its value in support roles. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, drew attention to the Shapland Report, which I mentioned in my opening remarks. I am sure it will come as no surprise to those noble Lords that many of their ideas were also looked at by Shapland. But I am afraid that I have to ask them to have a little more patience. The last Government did not have time to deal with the matter, and a new Government coming in has not had very long either. So I say to, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Avon, that the report is under active consideration and we hope that decisions will be taken shortly. I think we mean shortly, when we say "shortly".

I can tell noble Lords that the TAVR units with a role in the British Army of the Rhine are equipped entirely on the same lines as Regular units. Those in a United Kingdom role are differently equipped, as their operational tasks are different. This is not to say that there are not some recognised deficiencies in the equipment of these units, and decisions have recently been taken to effect short-term improvements at a cost of something over £1½ In this connection, I should like to remind noble Lords of the concept, of one Army in which Regular, Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve and reserve forces are now considered together, both in Europe and in the defence of the United Kingdom. This Administration is fully seized of the need to defend the United Kingdom not only on our own account, but also for NATO purposes.

NATO is indeed an essential base for trans-Atlantic reinforcements, as many noble Lords pointed out, and important facilities and installations have been identified which, in time of tension or war, require protection by Regular and reserve forces. So that although the primary role of our reserve forces is to augment our front line forces and, in particular, to reinforce the central region of Europe, they have a highly relevant role to play in home defence. Reserve forces are trained and exercised in their various roles, but I shall have to take the classic Government stance of saying that the situation is constantly under review and we intend to see where we can make improvements.

We cannot afford to be complacent where the defence of the Unites Kingdom is at stake and here, again—a point made by several noble Lords—we attach great weight to the involvement of the whole community in the defence of this land. For example, they can participate in the TAVR. We intend to see what more can be done here and, as I said earlier, we look forward to, among other things, the regular establishment of auxiliary RAF Regiment squadrons composed largely of reserves, to improve our airfield defences.

The noble Lord, Lord Milford, is no longer here, so I shall not bother to say more than that he will not seriously expect me to agree with him. The noble Lord, Lord Carver, concluded his speech with a reference to Northern Ireland. I am sure the whole House will agree that nowhere are higher standards of professionalism of the British soldier, supported as they are by members of the other two Services, more apparent than they are in Northern Ireland. As the noble Lord, said, the Northern Ireland emergency is of no less than 10 years' standing and, sadly, brave young men are still being killed and injured. During 1978, 21 soldiers, including seven members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, lost their lives while helping the make Northern Ireland a safe place to live in. This year, terrorist violence has continued at a higher level. The House may recall the attack on the security force base in Andersonstown, in which two young soldiers were killed, and the death recently in an explosion near Newry of four members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

I am sure that the whole House shares my sorrow at these deaths, and at all the other deaths and injuries suffered by other members of the forces. They underline the fact that the security forces in Ireland are facing a continuing risk from the terrorists, which we should not forget. It is very easy for those away from danger, in particular the media, to sit in judgment without the proper facts. The soldier, faced with an armed terrorist, does not have the luxury of seeking a second opinion before deciding what to do. I am not saying that the security forces can act outside the law. They cannot. But let us remember the risks that are involved. Nor should we forget the hard work which is put in by all the security forces in Northern Ireland which has contributed greatly to the perceptible decline in violence over the last two or three years.

The RUC, supported by the armed forces, are continuing to bring many of the terrorists to justice. Substantial amounts of illegal arms and ammunition belonging to the extremists of both communities have been located and seized. A notable example of this was the find of over 40 explosive devices in Belfast, which undoubtedly thwarted a planned Provisional IRA blitz on the city. However, the commitment to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary places a heavy burden on the army's manpower resources, a point made by several noble Lords, and we are all very conscious of the need to reduce as much as possible the high level of overstretch, turbulence and domestic separation which has resulted from emergency tours in the Province.

I therefore welcomed the introduction of a fifth resident infantry battalion into Aldergrove last year, and we are planning to introduce another, as and when suitable accommodation becomes available. A higher proportion of resident battalions will not only give valuable added continuity to the conduct of operations, but also means improved living standards and the important opportunity for more soldiers to be accompanied by their families. In 1978, the army's force level in the Province was reduced from 14 to 13 major units. This was possible, partly as a result of the increasing effectiveness of the Ulster Defence Regiment, who now have the primary responsibility for providing support for the RUC, wholly or in part, in 11 police divisions. The permanent full-time cadre of the regiment is being expanded, and recruitment is going well. So the UDR now has 16 full-time operational platoons.

May I take a moment to pay a special tribute to the part-time volunteers who form the backbone of the regiment. These men turn out for their arduous and dangerous duties with the security forces after they have finished what for most of us is a full day's work. This is despite the fact that members of the UDR are often particular targets for the terrorists. Since 1977, the UDR has been able to take advantage of a greater range of training facilities available in Great Britain, and we plan to make these facilities even more readily available this year. Members of the regiment very much welcome the opportunity for this training, and indeed for a welcome break from some of the tensions of Northern Ireland.

In concluding my opening speech I said that we were going to change the climate of attitudes in the country to defence. After a short time in office, I have come to realise—if I have realised nothing else— that none of our problems will be solved quickly. However the will is there and we intend to improve our capabilities and we are confident that the results will soon begin to emerge in the coming months. We have started as we mean to go on.

I should like to give a personal welcome to the suggestion made by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for additional debates and most particularly to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that we should have a Select Committee. That suggestion was endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, secure in the knowledge that he does not have to find the money for it now. It is not for me to offer a decision on such a thing but I will see that it is taken up in the appropriate quarter. My Lords, I should like to end by going back to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. Enthusiasm I can willingly promise; ingenuity I will strive for; speed is a little more difficult but I promise a minimum of delay.

On Question, Motion agreed to.