§ Debate resumed.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal)
My Lords, before I make my initial response to Lord Cathcart's debate, I must pause for a moment to associate myself and other members of the Government Front Bench with the tributes which have been paid to my old friend Bernard 412 Fergusson, Lord Ballantrae. There can have been few soldiers with a more dashing and distinguished military record; fewer still who have earned a reputation as a writer and a poet. It must surely be unique then to have gone on and become a Maori-speaking Governor General of New Zealand. Those who knew him, and indeed those who did not, will realise that the world will be a poorer place for the lack of his wit, and indeed this is a particularly appropriate occasion for us to pay tribute to him. I have no doubt that he would have made a valuable and witty contribution to this debate had he still been with us.
§ Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
My Lords, I intend, with the permission of the House, to touch upon three particular elements of Government defence policy at this stage, and then later, with the leave of the House, I shall do my best to answer some of the specific points raised during the course of the debate, although I cannot promise to do so when there is such an extensive list of speakers.
There is a growing interest in this country at large about nuclear weapons and particularly about our decision to buy the Trident system from America. I heartily approve of this trend and it is one which we in the Government wish to encourage and to stimulate. There is a tendency for the unilateralist lobby to catch the attention because they seem, anyway to the uninformed eye, to have the more attractive and indeed seductive case. We all agree that nuclear weapons are horrible. Of course we all hope that they will never be used. Perhaps we wish that they did not exist. But they do exist, we cannot just "disinvent" them, and we have to find a way of preserving our safety when potential enemies have nuclear weapons.
During the foreign affairs and defence debate last week the noble Earl, Lord Longford, posed the question: "Is the possession of nuclear weapons morally tolerable?" His answer was, "Yes, so long as they are needed to defend the way of life of our people". I entirely agree with that. The noble Earl dismissed the suggestion that one can evade the moral issue by Jetting the Americans do the job for us, and I agree with the noble Earl on that point too. But the noble Earl's dismissal of the moral case for relying on the Americans disguised a most important question which is at the heart, or at least at the heart of part, of the unilateralism debate.
We must first of all accept that this country is part of an alliance dedicated to the defence of common vital interests. That alliance perceives a threat from the Soviet bloc which includes the threat of nuclear warfare. I have to repeat that our policy is to deter, but deterrence must be across a very broad spectrum running from diplomatic activity, through the use of conventional weapons to resist an attack, to ultimate willingness to release theatre nuclear weapons and strategic nuclear weapons. It can be argued that the rest of the alliance can safely shelter beneath the American nuclear umbrella in providing the nuclear end of the spectrum. This Government have total confidence in the United States' commitment to the defence of Europe, but—and this is the significant point so often overlooked by the unilateralists—it is not how 413 we view the alliance which matters, but how the Russians view it; it is the Russian perception of our strategy which dictates whether or not it deters.
It is possible that the Russians might consider gambling, however mistakenly, that if they attacked Europe, the United States would stand aside. But because the United Kingdom has a nuclear deterrent, the Russians have also to take account of those forces in considering their gamble. This considerably reduces the chances of their miscalculating and so we believe immeasurably strengthens deterrence. And this is not just the view of the United Kingdom. The value which our allies place on the contribution to deterrence of our nuclear forces was reaffirmed only a few weeks ago in the communiqué from NATO's nuclear planning group. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has spoken on several occasions about this issue and I hazard the guess that he will do so again today. The gist of his argument is that he cannot conceive of a British Government using nuclear weapons at a time when the United States were not doing so. Thus, the possession of weapons which will not be used is a waste of money. But as I have said to the noble and gallant Lord before—and I say it to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, now—this argument ignores the perception from Moscow. What I must say to noble Lords who argue this line is that I hope the Russians do not have the same perception as they have. If they did, our deterrence would be weakened.
I do not intend to set out the circumstances in which I can conceive of our using nuclear weapons. But I can say to the House that I believe that the second centre of decision-making in London is a real and valid one, and I am sure the Russians think so too. Britain's nuclear forces have never absorbed a large part of our defence resources. The Trident programme at its peak is likely to absorb only about 5 per cent. of the armament budgets, thanks particularly to the favourable terms we have been able to agree with the United States. No other use of the resources involved in procuring the Trident system would, we believe, add so much to deterrence.
This leads me on to the way in which we allocate our resources within defence and to the question of the levels of the defence budget. Noble Lords will be aware from the announcement last week that next year's defence spending plan is to be reduced by £200 million. The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, in introducing the debate referred to the threat and I do not think I need elaborate on it. The decision that there must now be some temporary restraint—and I assure noble Lords that it is intended to be a temporary restraint—in the rate of increase in defence spending was not an easy one for the Government to take. But we must not lose sight of the fact that there will still be real increases in defence spending. The Government remain wholly committed to the task of restoring and maintaining the nation's defences at an adequate level. It is, however, of crucial importance that we should overcome our deep-seated economic problems to permit sustainable growth in defence spending over the longer term. The Government are convinced that restraint in public expenditure is a vital element in the conquest of inflation and it is simply not realistic to insulate defence totally from this objective.
However, I must emphasise again that there will still 414 be increases in defence spending, and the Government continue to adhere to the NATO aim of real growth in the region of 3 per cent. a year. We have made a good start. The 3 per cent. target was met in full last year, our first in office. This year and next year we now expect growth of around 2½ per cent. and we sincerely trust that economic circumstances will permit resumption of a full 3 per cent. growth after that. To achieve these levels, despite the economic difficulties, and when we already spend a higher proportion of our national income on defence than any other European ally, is, I think it fair to say, ample proof that Britain is playing her full part in the alliance.
But just as important as the absolute amount of money included within the defence budget is the way in which it is spent. Our aim is not simply more defence but better defence as well, and the tight restraint on expenditure means that all our spending must be subject to the most rigorous scrutiny. As noble Lords will be aware, we have already conducted a number of specific studies to look for ways of streamlining and improving defence administration. These have included studies under ministerial chairmanship into supply management, the Royal Dockyards and the research and development establishments, and I am currently chairing a study group into the future of the Royal Ordnance factories.
I hope it will not sound like a platitude if I say that our most important resource is manpower, the men and women who make up the armed forces. One of our first acts in Government was to fulfil our commitment to restore comparability for service pay. In April this year we maintained that comparability and we intend to do the same again next April. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, will be glad to hear that. We have also been looking carefully at other desirable improvements in conditions of service. We had, for example, hoped to introduce an assisted house purchase scheme for the Army and the RAF, and to extend the existing one in the Navy. It is now clear that we cannot give the necessary priority to this to justify the funds in the next financial year, and the scheme has been postponed. We also had in mind a scheme for selling married quarters to servicemen at a discount. Of course, our married quarters are not directly comparable to council housing. Also, we need to be selective in choosing which quarters are surplus and can therefore be disposed of.
Nevertheless, we had hoped to set up a parallel arrangement to that introduced by the Housing Act. But such sales at a discount would involve a significant loss of receipts to the defence budget. That in turn would mean that other higher priority projects would have to be forgone. So that scheme, too, has been postponed. We are also taking a critical look at the allowances payable to servicemen living overseas, to ensure that these compensate adequately, but not over-generously, for the extra cost of living which they have to meet.
But, my Lords, the important point is pay. I am sure that our commitment to comparability has been a major factor in restoring confidence and morale among servicemen—as well as, I may add, the reiteration of the importance that we attach to these servicemen in debates such as that taking place in this House today. The manning levels in all the three 415 armed services are continuing to improve, I am happy to say. With only one exception, 1979–80 was the best year for recruiting since the ending of conscription, and the current financial year looks as if it will be even better. Moreoever—and perhaps even more importantly—the number of men staying in the services is also improving, and the massive outflow of trained personnel experienced by the services over the years before we entered office has been largely staunched; and this is a record that I think we can be proud of.
I have said on many occasions that one of the important factors in ensuring the right conditions for servicemen is the provision of the right equipment. I do not propose to talk now about specific equipment issues, though I shall at the end of the debate do my best to try to answer any specific points which noble Lords raise. What I should like to do is to spend a few minutes on an aspect of defence equipment to which we wish to pay increasing attention: that is the question of defence sales.
First, some simple facts to get the issues in proportion. Our exports of defence equipment represent about 5 per cent. of the world market. Our share has declined in recent years, and we have been overtaken by the French. Our small market share means that our influence is limited; and in practical terms, if we decline a potential sale, perhaps out of moral scruple, there are almost always others who are only too happy to take the business. There is another point of principle: If we are to assert the right of a country to defend itself, then surely there is a case for not denying that country the material with which to carry out that defence.
At £1,200 million a year defence sales represent but 2 per cent. of total United Kingdom exports. We believe that we must do more. The contribution to employment, the reduction in our own costs which longer production runs can produce, the civil sales which often follow defence sales—all these are valuable benefits. But perhaps most importantly, the trading and the personal relationships that so often accompany defence sales lead to a mutual understanding and trust, the potential influence and value of which, however intangible, is difficult to overstate.
But to catalogue the potential gains is not to deny the difficulties. There are political problems attached to some potential defence sales. I have been criticised in the House, and outside, for the stance that the Government have taken on arms sales, particularly where the régime concerned has a poor human rights record. I have tried to make it clear that a human rights record is one of the factors taken into account before a decision is taken to allow a particular sale; and all such sales are most carefully scrutinised. But I have also made it clear that the potential use of the equipment is, arguably, a more important factor.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, has criticised me over my use of the word "torture" on previous occasions. Perhaps I may restate our position in clear terms. We would not sell equipment which, in our judgment, could be used for internal repression, to a régime which is known to practise torture. But we would not rule out selling such a régime equipment for external defence. This, to me, is a perfectly respectable position, 416 and it reflects the realities that we face in finding every available market for British goods; and heaven knows! we need the business.
A second problem that we face in selling defence equipment abroad is what I might call the "gold-plating" problem. Our defence equipment is designed to be used against a highly sophisticated threat. It is inevitably complex, and expensive, and that inevitably puts a limit on the number of countries who are prepared to buy it, and are able to pay for it. That is a problem with which we have to live. Our armed forces will always look for the best—and I do not blame them for that. But what we, in the Ministry of Defence, must do—and I see this as an increasingly important role—is to ensure that we build a minimum of sophistication and expense into our equipment consistent with its doing the job that it has to do. We must avoid gold-plating; that is, over-sophistication for its own sake. That is important, not only in ensuring that we get the best value out of our limited defence budget, but also in increasing the chances of selling our equipment abroad.
Please, my Lords, let us not forget that defence sales involve difficult judgments. There are military, political and economic factors which need to be weighed carefully and which can vary from case to case. At the end of the day each case must be considered separately on its merits. What we in the Government must seek to do is to ensure that the best possible conditions are created for British industry to maximise their overseas sales and thus bring about the gains to the economy, to the defence budget, and to our foreign policy which I outlined earlier.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Lord Hill-Norton
My Lords, as the first speaker today from the Cross-Benches, may I say that I am sure that I speak for all my friends on these Benches when I say how warmly we endorse the tributes just paid from the Front Benches to the late Lord Ballantrae. For my own part, and that of all my contemporaries in all three services, we shall remember with admiration and affection the splendid soldier whom we knew as Bernard Fergusson. He will be greatly missed, not least in your Lordships' House, to which he brought not only his military flair, but great distinction in three other important fields, which have been described today by other noble Lords.
If I may turn to defence, in the debate last week on the gracious Speech the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, referred to what he described as the "general philosophy of defence", and he expressed the view (which he has repeated today) that our defence moneys would be better spent on improving and extending our conventional arms, rather than on the Trident system. As I have said before in your Lordships' House, I do not agree with him, because I believe very strongly that we must do both. But rather than pursue that argument today, I prefer to devote my time to the heart of our defence policy, which must of course derive from a general philosophy. I must say at the outset that nothing in the gracious Speech, and nothing which the Government have said or done since we last discussed defence in May—or the May before, come to that—could lead anybody to suppose that they have yet hoisted in that the Soviet threat, which is the only 417 military threat we face, is now global, and demands a global strategy to meet it.
Surely the evident dangers of the remorseless spread of the Soviet empire must make it clear that this is no time to be penny-pinching on defence. In the 1950s the British people were prepared to spend 11 per cent. of their national income on defence because the Government of the day persuaded them that that effort was necessary. Today we spend about 5 per cent. to face a graver threat. I have no reason at all to doubt that the British people are prepared to play their part even at the price of some sacrifice, if the facts are put squarely before them. The assumption that they are not is still alive in Whitehall and, I begin to fear, in Westminster, too. I myself do not believe it.
What I believe is that defence policy in this country has been dominated for far too long by inaccurate Treasury guesses of what the nation is able to afford. Changes to these guesses, always downwards, are usually imposed at short notice to meet some particular financial crisis, which is precisely what we read is happening today. We even read that for the first time in five years the Chiefs of Staff have had to represent their personal concern about cuts in defence capability to the Prime Minister. It astounds me to read that some people think we have done well to cut our defences by only another £200 million. I certainly do not. We were spending too little before this latest squeeze.
The central point is that an increasing and changing enemy threat appears to have received no constructive recognition whatever from Ministers, who invariably expect the services to meet the same or a greater threat and commitments with steadily reducing actual military power. It is clearly impossible for them to plan a coherent and continuous defence programme against such an erratic budgetary background. I must say again that to project what is described, rather generously, as defence policy forward from year to year, based upon arbitrary and variable financial sums made available, and upon an almost sacrosanct share of the cake for each service year after year, will no longer do. The only respectable basis for our defence policy—or anybody else's, come to that—is to evaluate the global threat and then decide upon the measures you need to deter it, or, if that fails, to defeat it. The defence Vote should be based upon those considerations, and not, as today, on a process rather more akin to telling the Defence Ministry to buy as much defence as they can with what is an almost certainly inadequate share of the national income.
Of course we cannot meet the Soviet threat alone. Not even our most powerful ally can do that now; and that is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Peart, said, our defence policy must be based upon alliances with like-minded people who share the same hopes and fears. We have one such alliance in NATO, successful for over 30 years in its objectives, and I hope your Lordships will accept that nobody knows at first hand better than I how essential it is for us to support it. But it is now quite clear that NATO is no longer sufficiently broadly based to serve as the only basis for our strategy in the years to come. Nor should the size and shape of our contribution to that alliance be regarded as set in concrete for the rest of time. As the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said last 418 week, whether we like it or not we are living in a different world.
I have said today that we must study what I have called the global threat if we are successfully to play our part in shaping western strategy to counter it. What is it? It is a threat to interrupt the trade which brings our own country and the rest of Europe most of its energy, nearly all its raw materials and, at least in our case, half our food. This trade can be interrupted in two ways: one by positive interdiction and the other by the subjugation, either economically or by force, of our suppliers. Many of them are under-developed countries; nearly all of them are at present defenceless; none of them is naturally inclined to communism; and all, including the nouveaux riches Arabs and other oil suppliers, trade exclusively by the sea. It seems clear enough to me, my Lords, that even the most cursory study of that short catalogue must indicate the nature of the threats against which we should now be preparing. But it is time to do the business properly and to get our priorities right. Yesterday's policies will not do for tomorrow's problems. Defence is a dynamic, and not a static, business.
You do not need to wear a dark blue uniform to perceive that the facts of life positively demand that we should now look first to a maritime strategy on a global basis if we are not to be starved or frozen to death, or strangled industrially and thus economically. Fortunately, the means to police the oceans are already to hand, and we have been expert at the sea affair for centuries. What is required is vigorous political and diplomatic action, to co-ordinate and organise all the West's combined defences in this element, and not just those of NATO. No one is better placed than are we in Britain to take the lead in such an enterprise.
It is my personal view that this problem would be much more easily managed if tackled first on a regional basis, possibly with ourselves and some of our NATO allies responsible for the whole of the Atlantic—all of it, not just down to the Tropic of Cancer—and the northern waters and the Mediterranean, too; Australia, Japan and the ASEAN countries for the South China Sea and Western Pacific; and ourselves, the French, the Dutch and the Americans, together essentially with South Africa, for the Indian Ocean and Arabian seas. As I have said before in your Lordships' House, we need all the help we can get, however much we may dislike apartheid, more particularly as South Africa will continue to be the only secure source of many minerals vital to our defence, and to our industry more generally.
In such a general reorientation of our defence efforts we should also make a further significant military contribution in the Indian Ocean. An intervention capability there is essential, and the Government's intention to restore a modest parachute assault force is a small step in the right direction. To question the relevance of a battalion group, or better still a brigade group, in this area, as some people do, is to betray ignorance of the post-imperial successes of the modest British fire brigade in East Africa, the Gulf and Malaysia. It is often forgotten, too, that when the British forces left the area it was done of our own volition. The official story at the time, that we were no longer wanted, was untrue. Most of the countries 419 from Tanzania to Brunei had reason to be sorry to see us go. Some were even prepared to pay for us to stay. Perhaps they still are; it would be interesting to find out.
There remain two other essential elements that I should like to mention in the defence strategy that we should pursue, one external and one internal. Externally, we and all our friends in the West must play the card of deterrence robustly and openly on a global basis, and be a great deal more positive in declaring which we consider to be the interests that we are determined to defend. In short, we must in future act to deter in advance perceived threats, rather than waiting, as has become our habit, to react after they have become realities. This will be convincing only if we are seen to have the military capability to deliver, the means to make good our promises—the means, in short, to deter. Above all, perhaps, we must leave no shadow of doubt in the minds of the Russians that we and our allies have not only the military means but the political will to use them; and here I agree warmly, for once, with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. At home I implore the Government to show much greater determination in the education and mobilisation of public opinion. They have failed in large measure to convince the man in the street that there really is a threat and, moreover, that the threat could well be terminal.
The Motion today refers to capability— "a full defence cability both at home and abroad", to be precise. I regret to say that it is my view that our real capability to deter, and, if that fails, to defend the realm, is now probably diminishing day by day. Our own armed forces know it, our friends know it and our only potential enemies, the Russians, know it, too. I will not be persuaded otherwise by being told that we are spending more on defence than we did last year. It is not only the level of spending on defence that matters but, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, has just told us, it is the military capability that you buy with it. It is not surprising that morale in the Ministry of Defence is low, whether the Minister is aware of it or not. This unhappy state of affairs can only be put right by a serious reassessment of defence policy; and it should be based upon a global strategy to meet what is now a clearly global threat.
I have deliberately said nothing at all about the detail of such a policy in terms of our essential, continuing support for NATO, for weapon procurement, the conditions of service for the reserves, for the strategic deterrent, much less for unilateral nuclear disarmament—upon all of which I have no doubt that other noble Lords will have much to say. It is my view that the extent of none of those can usefully be decided until we have made up our minds on the broad canvas and the size and shape of the forces that we need to fill it. It is sadly evident that we are not in that essential position today nor may we have much time left in which to reach it.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I followed one Admiral of the Fleet into membership of your Lordships' House and that must be some comfort to 420 me in not being overwhelmed by following another in this debate. Nor do I mean to follow the noble and gallant Lord in all that he said in his powerful, important, and if I may say so, stimulating speech. My subject is what he touched upon in the end—deterrence. I have it in mind to say as much about the philosophy of it as about the practice. The point that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, made in his speech was to the effect that the essence of deterrence is to make the other side think that it is not worth while to attack; that he has to balance the value of what he may gain by doing so against the risk that he has to run in trying to get it.
It is important that that risk is one that he should never be able accurately to assess, because, if he can assess it, he is then able to formulate his strategic policy with equal accuracy in order to overcome it. The way to deterrence, therefore, is doubt. That is the key—not fear, but doubt. Nations are not deterred by fear. Naturally, an adequate level of defence is required but once that level has been reached, to raise it further is not particularly useful. Above that level, defence is an affair of mental and psychological factors, not of improvement or multiplication of armaments. If God is on one side or the other, which I do not believe, it is not on the side of the big battalions but of the resolute and the brave, of David rather than Goliath.
Deterrence for us means making the Soviet leaders think that we in NATO are not only able but prepared to retaliate with unacceptable force—and by "retaliate" I mean to retaliate against any kind of threat, whether nuclear or otherwise, which was the point made by my noble friend Lord Cathcart. The same principle applies to the United Kingdom by itself. Do we, then, need a nuclear deterrent of our own, independent of the Americans? Yes, we do. Some noble Lords may remember that about a year ago, in the debate on an Unstarred Question of my noble friend Lord Kimberley I said that I thought we did not. I believed then that if we ever found ourselves menaced on our own, when our allies were not, an independent nuclear deterrent would be effective in our defence, but that, as I said, I could not see any way in which such circumstances could arise. Since then various things have happened to make me change my mind. I need not particularise but they include certain developments at home, a subject to which I shall return in a moment.
Our independent nuclear deterrent is the Polaris submarine force, to be up-dated in due course with new boats and the Trident missile. I am not certain as to the necessity for the Trident. It appears to me that Polaris is probably adequate for the purpose. This is a controversial subject into which I do not wish to enter, but, in either case, the risk of being hit by a salvo from even one submarine of our nuclear force is something that no nation in its senses would conceivably accept. Very well. But the deterrent is useless without the will to use it. Have we that will? I believe that we have, and this brings me to another belief that I have heard expressed in public by persons whose words carry much weight and who, in my opinion, ought to know better. I refer to the belief that we would never use—or never commit national suicide by firing—our own rockets. This argument 421 is one which I deplore. It is irrelevant, misleading and dangerous.
Certainly we should never commit suicide; what we might do is take the risk of national destruction. Committing suicide is one thing; facing death, even probable or certain death, is quite another. National suicide, so far as I know, is unknown in the history of nations, but a readiness to risk death is quite common. Nationally speaking, Belgium did it in 1914. The Poles live, more or less permanently, on the brink of it; and they are on the brink of it now. We did it in 1940 and I have no doubt that we would be prepared to do it again rather than surrender, if the circumstances were to arise.
It might be said that the danger now is greater than it was 14 years ago, but whether that is true depends upon the efficacy of the deterrent. Whenever it is said that nuclear weapons will not or cannot be used by us, the value of that deterrent is thereby diminished—and diminished in proportion to the standing and authority of the speaker. On the contrary, when the opposite belief is stated, as I have stated it now, then the value of the deterrent is increased however marginally—and no matter how insignificant the speaker. They must read Hansard in the Kremlin.
I believe that we have the will to use our own independent nuclear deterrent. How are we to persuade the potential enemy to believe it, too? I do not think that he will believe it so long as we can be seen to be taking no steps to counter the possible consequences of using it. In other words, it is incredible so long as we have no civil defence. There are people who apparently have only to hear the words "civil defence" in order to lose the power of rational thought. "You cannot", they cry, "protect more than a few people against the nuclear holocaust. It would be better to forget the whole idea and spend the money on something else". But if a nuclear onslaught is coming, bringing annihiliation with it, what else is there to spend the money on? Tombstones?
It is the business of responsible people not to sit and wring their hands and cry "Woe", but to do what they can to ensure that the nuclear onslaught does not come. The way to do that is to make it clear to one and all that we are not safe to attack. Without civil defence we shall succeed in doing no such thing. In short, civil defence is a vital component not so much of defence as of the deterrent. I should like to ask my noble friend the Minister of State a question. It was said in the course of the Conservative Party Conference (by Mr. Brittan, I think) that a person of high standing would be appointed to co-ordinate and harness voluntary effort on a national basis. The appointment, he said, would be announced in the near future. This promise was also being given, I think, as long ago as 1st August. Would the Minister tell us how soon we can expect this appointment to be announced?
There still remains the necessity of persuading the likely aggressor that in certain circumstances we may be prepared to use our deterrent and to use it independently, notwithstanding the events and developments at home that I referred to just now. I speak of what has happened in and to the Labour Party. I do this with distress, particularly when I think that my words are going to reach the eyes of the noble Lord, Lord Peart, who made a particularly fine speech, if I 422 may say so with respect. Whether or not he thinks that what I am going to say is to be classed as party clap-trap, I will leave to his decision and that of the House. But I think that I must say it. I am not sure how many people realise even now the extent of the full horror of what has happened at and since the Labour Party Conference.
First, there is the now all too familiar matter of the two contradictory resolutions on disarmament: multilateral in one case and unilateral in the other. There are still some people who try to make out that the multilateral will in some way reduce the significance of the unilateral. This, as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, said a week ago, is nonsense. Who is going to sit down and negotiate disarmament with us if we have proclaimed in advance that we are going to disarm in any case?
The fact is that the Labour Party have pledged themselves to unilateral disarmament. That means unilateral disarmament by Great Britain, not by NATO. What does this mean? The present Government might fall; it is not likely, but such things are possible. We might then be governed by a party pledged to the destruction of NATO. They have also passed a resolution to stay in NATO. But are we not to suppose that this also may be nonsense? They have proclaimed their intention to withdraw from any defensive policy based on nuclear power. NATO's defensive policy is based on nuclear power. So it means a withdrawal from NATO. It is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, or anybody else to say that party decisions might be changed. They might; but they might not. The point we have to consider is what things are like now and what the Russians see in them.
Without our membership, I believe that NATO would collapse among the European nations. If that happened, I have no doubt at all that the United States and Canada would withdraw into isolation beyond the Atlantic. About that I do not think there can be any argument at all. The Labour Party are committed to the destruction of the Atlantic alliance and the betrayal of our friends and allies. I am certain it is not what the majority of the party want or intend, but the parliamentary party has also ratified it by electing in a free and formal vote as their leader a man who has confirmed his adherence to their policy.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, described it as a policy of surrender; and it is. But should the surrender be allowed to mask the betrayal? What then does an inimicably disposed person see as he gazes at us across the water? He sees a nation in difficulties, with what he takes to be an alternative Government anxious to take power—or at any rate pretending to be anxious to take power—with a declared intention of dismantling the Western defences, committed in fact to a line of conduct that can benefit nobody but the USSR. The question now is: How are we to convince the hostile watchers in the Kremlin that the Welsh, English and Irish are of the same mind as the Scots, whose motto is:Nobody assails me with impunity"?We cannot do it primarily I believe by building more and better armaments. Those are for defence proper, for use after deterrence has failed. Deterrence itself 423 is largely an affair of the spirit or, if you prefer it, my Lords, of the heart, so smaller nations than ours cannot talk on equal terms with Soviet Russia through the mouths of men in uniform; nor, alas!, at this moment can it talk through the mouths of members of the party that apparently—and I stress "apparently"— appears to be selling out to the enemy. Let the rest of us, then, be heard, and let the message go forth that the British people have not forsworn their honour; that valour dwells among us still, and that freedom is to be wrested from us only at a price too high for any sane adversary to pay. That is the way to peace; and I think the message will be understood.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, the noble Earl who has just resumed his seat has made a strident demand for clarity about our defence philosophy. I agree with him. Every word in his demand I accept, and I make my contribution in this fashion: unless we are prepared—without accepting every line of the speech we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton—to accept the general trend of his philosophy, then all our talk about defence is just humbug. I have wanted to say that for some time. I say it now. Let us have no more hyprocrisy about it. Apparently, apart from some members of your Lordships' House, we all agree that defence is essential for a country like ours, and that every country in the world has some measure of defence. If we are to have defence, it must be adequate. It is no use coming along and saying, "Let us compromise, let us reduce our defence expenditure". I would rather have none at all. If it is not going to be adequate it is going to be useless. It would be neither a deterrent nor practicable if an emergency arose.
Ever since the Blackpool Labour Party conference the press and television media—and even members of your Lordships' House—have joined in the game of demanding what the defence policy of the Labour Party is. Even the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary in the debate last Wednesday demanded from my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham that he should announce from the Front Bench what the defence policy of the Labour Party was. My noble friend, with his usual diplomatic skill, referred him to a speech made by his right honourable friend Mr. Peter Shore. He then went on the explain certain aspects of the Labour Party's policy on defence, but—I am bound to say this—so far as I am concerned, although I admired his speech and I appreciate his skill in these matters, I did not accept it and I shall tell your Lordships why.
The Labour Party is almost hopelessly divided on this question of defence. We have those who say, "Let's have no defence: it is useless; it is immoral; out with it!" Whether it is conventional or nuclear, they will have none of it. I understand them and I accept their convictions: undoubtedly they are genuine. This is a free country and we can express ourselves, unlike in Russia, where they are not able to quarrel with the President as some of my colleagues in another place quarrelled with Black Rod the other night, demonstrating that at least in this country we have got freedom—something which the people in some other 424 countries could do with.
The Labour Party has been divided ever since it was formed in the year 1906 and it so happens—forgive the autobiography—I joined the Labour movement three years before the Parliamentary Labour Party was formed. I joined the Independent Labour Party and I had no recourse in 1906 other than to accept the Labour Party. I accepted it because I detested unemployment, the slums, the squalor and the impoverishment that surrounded me, some of which affected me personally, I disliked it intensely.
In those days—let me put it personally, not only in regard to myself but about others—Ramsay Macdonald did not care much for Keir Hardie, and Keir Hardie did not care much for Philip Snowden, and David Shackleton, the trade union leader, did not care for any of them. The party was torn asunder on the question of defence because it was thought at the time that a war with Germany was imminent and bound to occur. And what did they do, those who were against war?—they passed resolutions. They are still doing it. Even in the Council of Europe the other day, when it came to the question of Palestine, what did they do?—they passed a resolution. They keep on passing resolutions. That gets you nowhere.
Let me come back to the Labour Party. They have always been divided on the subject of defence. We had it when Gaitskell was the leader of the party; we had it when Wilson was the leader of the party; we had it when Attlee was the leader of the party; and we had it, God knows! when Lansbury was the leader of the party. There has always been a difference of opinion in the Labour Party and there still is.
I would add just this: when it came to the crunch in the First World War, although there was division in the Labour Party, the majority of those who were associated with the Labour movement were in favour of engaging in conflict with Germany or with any other possible aggressor which might have existed at that time. In the Second World War, they backed Churchill almost to a man. There were some passively inclined, and, as I have said, they were entitled to their opinions and still are—but they backed Churchill and they detested Hitler and were ready to fight against Hitler, as they did. If it comes to the crunch again—and this I assert without equivocation—if we are faced by an aggressor, if that unfortunate event should occur, the Labour movement in general, perhaps with some exceptions, will stand by this country and its allies. Let there be no mistake about that. So I say to those noble Lords who have been demanding what the Labour Party's defence policy is that the Labour Party, when it comes to an emergency, will be as loyal as any Member of your Lordship's House. Let that be clearly understood.
Now I come to the dispute between the "nuclears" and the "conventionals". I am very conscious that I am surrounded by quite a number of "anti-nuclears". Indeed, they are going to follow me in this short speech of mine, and I know what they are going to say. They are going to repeat what I have heard so often. They are going to scare the life out of me by saying, "If you have a nuclear conflict, there will be only 15 million people left." I can imagine, of course, what that is going to mean for my children, my grand-children and my great grand-children. I dislike it intensely for 425 them. As for myself, it does not matter in the least. I doubt whether I shall see anything of that sort. But let me remind them of something: before the First World War, if the people of our country had been told that we were going to lose a million young men on the Somme and elsewhere, in the fields, the dirty mud-ridden fields, of France and Belgium, they might have said, "We cannot have conflict with Germany". And if the Russians had known they were going to lose 20 million men as a result of the German attack on Moscow and Leningrad, they might have wondered whether it would not have been better to have had détente, just as some people now are saying that the remedy for everything is détente. Even the Foreign Secretary said the other day in an interview somewhere or another that if there is trouble in Poland and if the Russians dare to invade Poland, it will have a terrible effect on détente. That is what he said: I challenge contradiction. That is what he said, or words like those. There is no doubt what he meant.
But what about détente? It died long ago. It died the death it deserved when the Russians said "no verification". In other words they told us not to trust them—as if we did not know! That was the situation then and it still remains the situation. I can understand this diplomatic desire, and this human desire—morality at the highest level. I can understand the desire for discussion and negotiation and trying to prevent trouble. I can understand it but, after our experiences of recent years with Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan and the possibility of a Polish invasion, together with the threats and the build-up of matériel, which are overwhelming and which constitute a threat not only to this country but to the whole world, to talk about détente is just mere nonsense.
What is the alternative? If I had my way, I would rely on conventional weapons if we had the manpower—and, by the way, we could have the manpower if the Government would do what I have been advocating for years in your Lordships' House, as I did in the other place and in the Ministry, by building up reserves. Something is being done in that direction now. Young people are coming in and more can come in. We should welcome them in, both men and women. A vast body of reserves is a very handy thing to rely on if you are in an emergency, so long as you provide the mobility at the same time and, of course, the requisite weapons. So I should prefer conventional conflict, if there is to be conflict. But I should rather that there was none. In that respect, I am as pacific as any pacifist. But if there is conflict, I prefer that it is of a conventional character. However, I do not rule out the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons, even cruise missiles, although I deplore them.
Do not let us forget that we have at the present time, in our country, 21,000 American airmen in three or four camps situated in Norfolk, Suffolk and elsewhere. It is upon those people, and also our own, that we have to rely in the event of an emergency. We have allies, so let us be friends with them. Even when, sometimes, we do not like what is happening in the United States of America, even when, sometimes, they are exporting into our country fibres which means that we suffer from more unemployment, do not argue too much with them. Rely upon them and be friendly with them. Be friendly with everybody, if you can, but if 426 you cannot with some—as in the case of the Russians—then you have to rely on our allies.
I come now to the speech of my noble friend Lord Hill-Norton. NATO is the base of our defence policy. Some time ago, there was a policy declaration by NATO that they were focussing attention, solely and exclusively, on Europe. That is what they said: "We cannot go any further." In fact, they abandoned the Mediterranean, which used to be our parish. What is the position now? We are actually sending odd vessels out to the Indian Ocean, to the Pacific and to the Gulf in suport of the Americans.
Defence must be global in character in the world as it is, with the threats that exist. That is essential and inevitable. It must be global in character. I do not suggest that every proposition that has been made by my noble friend is acceptable to Members of your Lordships' House, but, for Heaven's sake! accept the general line of thought, the policy that is embodied in it and the thinking that is behind it. Either we are prepared for action or we are not. If we are not, let us say so.
I now come to a point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, which, if I may say so modestly, has been mentioned by me many times in your Lordships' House. "Surrender" is a word that is not in my vocabulary and I hope it is not in yours. That does not mean that we are going to be nasty with the Russians, offensive to the Russians. I see that Canada is providing them with grain. By the way, that is a possible way out. They need more food. They need more equipment. Let us provide them with the things that they need, which they ought to have been able to provide for themselves, if they had not embarked on their military adventures.
I ask your Lordships to consider their potential and what they could have done. Instead of men marching and threats and all the rest of it, they could have been the greatest industrial country in the world. But now they do not have an agricultural policy that is worth very much. They do not have an industrial policy. There is not the quality and the quantity of goods that people want. Sometimes they are short of bread. Let us give them bread. That is a better line of détente than sitting around the table discussing balanced forces. Let us try that on.
I conclude by this last observation on the subject. It is the one that I started with. Either you believe in defence or you do not. If you do not—all right. Accept the consequences. But if you believe that some defence is essential, let it be adequate and try to find the money for it. We are going to spend next year nearly £11,000 million. This year we are spending £10,000 million. It just occurs to me, as a kind of casual thought, that a country which can afford to spend £10,000 million cannot be in such a precarious position as is demonstrated, even by the newspapers of our country.
We cannot be so badly off if we can afford to spend £10,000 million. Even if it is only on defence, it shows that we are not so hard up as they are trying to make out. Perhaps the money would be better spent on education and the disabled, but never mind—we need defence. Let us pay for it. Let us not grumble about it. And do not start attacking the Labour Party, because there is some trouble in the Labour 427 Party emanating from Blackpool, as a result of a rush for leadership. Do not bother about that. If it comes to the crunch, the Labour Party will be there alongside those who are loyal to their country.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, it is a bit of a challenge to rise immediately after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, but none the less I do so. He has painted a very ambitious picture. Indeed, as I listened to the words of my noble and gallant friend Lord Hill-Norton, I realised that what we are really talking about is precisely the same problem that we have been facing for all these years not only, as the noble Earl, Lord Carthcart, said, of inflation, but also in a period when we have to face the inevitable consequences of the technological arms race, as a result of which a unit of resources buys less defence every year.
This trend leads to what I once called the irrevocable law of defence research and development. In essence, what this law said—and I was encouraged by a previous Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, to publish it—is that since the cost of developing a weapons system of a given degree of sophistication is much the same in all advanced industrialised societies, considerations of the absolute size of the economy come into play when a country wishes its forces to live up to the standards set by the arms race between the two super powers.
If we suppose that the percentage of the gross domestic product which can be devoted to defence remains roughly the same from year to year, and that the GDP is rising steadily, it inevitably follows that the greater amount of money that goes to defence each year will be unlikely to buy more defence. It sounds paradoxical as I put it. A more expensive offensive system is countered by an even more expensive defence. The net result is an increase in expenditure on defence equipment by both parties and, usually, an increase in the security of neither.
I was talking, of course, about the eastern and western blocs, but I also pointed out that, as fast as the gross national product rises, so there is a corresponding rise in the cost of providing for the men in the services, and, assuming that the proportion of the GDP that goes to defence remains constant, this means that, at best, not more than the same proportion of the defence budget will be available each year for procurement and research. Because of that, I concluded that there are only two alternatives. We are forced to choose either to alter our commitments so as to avoid the need to introduce the most expensive new weapons systems, or to make our forces smaller—or a combination of both those measures.
That all seemed clear 20 years ago, and what has happened since is a foretaste of what will happen at today's—that is, 1980's—survey prices. A GDP standing at something like £190 billion is about 60 per cent. higher than it was 20 years ago, while the proportion of the GDP that has gone to defence has fallen from a level of 6.5 per cent. in the financial year 1960–61 to 5 per cent. today. In standardised money terms the defence estimates have decreased from the level of £10.3 thousand million to £9.6 thousand million, and the consequences were to be expected.
428 Since the overall cost of keeping a uniformed man in the field has on average risen from £18,500 20 years ago to not far from £30,000 today, the total number of uniformed men, excluding reserves, has fallen from 559,000 in 1960 to 329,000 today, and because the percentage of the budget accounted for by personnel has been kept much the same, the amount of money that has gone to procurement has fallen only slightly, from just above to just below £4,000 million. But the Chieftain tank costs twice as much as the Centurion; the Seawolf guided weapon costs seven times as much as the Seacat; a Jaguar aircraft costs three times what a Hunter 60 cost, and a Spitfire of the Second World War cost a fortieth of what a Tornado would cost today. Even if the defence budget had risen instead of falling, and a higher proportion of it had been allocated to procurement, we still would not have been able to keep up with the super-power Joneses. It is not surprising that there are complaints about the equipment of our forces.
The second consequence of what I call the irrevocable law of research and development has also come to pass; we have had to reduce our commitments worldwide. For example, we have withdrawn from the Far East, from the Gulf, from the Middle East. Even the super powers cannot escape the consequences of the technological arms race. They, too, can be bankrupted. Deterrent systems today cost tens of times more than they did 20 years ago, when the political state of deterrence was just as operative as it is today. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, said last week—and it is true—that the technological arms race may well force the Russians and the Americans to a serious negotiating table. At the least a balanced disarmament programme would pay a handsome economic dividend.
There is another consequence of the arms race—I am speaking of the technological arms race. From the very start of warfare new weapons have transformed the pattern of warfare. New weapons dictate new tactics; new tactics have to be fitted into new strategy; new strategies determine new political policies. We argue, as we have today in your Lordships' House, about the place of nuclear weapons. They were certainly not an operational requirement called for either by the military or by our political leaders. They came about because basic research into the structure of the atom had reached a particular stage and because some nuclear scientists implicitly believed that destructive power determined the outcome of wars. But these weapons, we now know, not only represent limitless destructive explosive power; they also entail secondary consequences, due to radioactive fallout, which are every bit as devastating and enduring as the basic effects.
I am not going to discuss the verbal camouflage which cloaks the nuclear armoury. The facts of destruction are merely disguised by some of the terms used in your Lordships' House today; also by terms like "massive retaliation" or "deterrence", "mutually assured destruction", "counterforce and counter-value strategies" and now, so-called "flexible targeting policy". In the end they all add up to the same thing. Are our nuclear weapons weapons which can be used in the military sense or are they political weapons?
Let us say that the average sized nuclear weapon 429 has a yield of one megaton—it is probably a little less today. Some nuclear weapons men equate the burst of a such weapon not with the number of deaths that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was talking about, but with a million deaths. That could happen. It would depend on circumstances.
Some official studies which I initiated 20 years ago were incorporated in the first United Nations' statement on the effects of nuclear weapons and gave the figure of 300,000 immediate deaths were a one megaton bomb to burst over the city of Birmingham, with thousands dying soon after, of course, from the secondary effects. Comparable figures have been published recently in official documents in the United States, where analyses have been made of what would happen given this or that burst with this or that yield over this or that American city. For example, Detroit turned out to be practically the same as Birmingham.
Let us imagine that a one megaton bomb were to detonate without any warning over Fleet Street or Trafalgar Square. Your Lordships' House and the rest of the Palace of Westminster would, I fear, be in flames and ruins and this debate at an end, and I imagine that most of us would be dead. The whole of Whitehall would be in the same state and, sadly, too, Buckingham Palace and the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery. There would be no St. Thomas' or Westminster hospitals. Polluted water would be rushing from broken mains and sewers and from the Thames. Waterloo station would be gone and the underground would be flooded.
There is no point in my going on. I am referring here to what would happen if only one bomb were to detonate. It is just conceivable that the state of deterrence, if it were to break, might do so with only a single strike from both sides, although I am not so hopeful. Whichever way the exchange started, I believe it would rapidly get out of control and for one good reason alone—the conditions which would immediately be created would not allow of any control. I think this applies to both sides. Imagine not just London but Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester struck more or less at the same time. If I were to need authority for making such a statement, I would quote General Richard Ellis, who is the Director of Strategic Target Planning in the United States at the moment, and who has recently stated publicly that while there is always the possibility of ending an exchange before the worst escalation and damage have occurred, avoiding escalation to mutual destruction is none the less not likely.
An all-out exchange would mean the explosion of thousands of nuclear warheads between the USSR, Western Europe and the USA. I wonder whether the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, was aware of that fact. Whether one calls it a counterforce strike or a countervalue strike, or any other fancy name, it would leave hundreds of millions dead, and the resultant conditions would certainly make the reconstruction of Western civilisation highly unlikely. That, my Lords, is the reality that lies behind the concept of mutual deterrence.
In 1960 Harold Macmillan wrote that even the most ambitious or the most ruthless statesman would not consciously enter upon so unrewarding an adventure— 430 an adventure which would involve the wiping out of his country. He said this when the nuclear arsenals of the two sides did not include a twentieth, or perhaps a hundredth, of what they now contain. Twenty years ago the level of nuclear arms on the two sides was adequate to enforce a check on nuclear war. It has risen enormously since then, for no rational military or political reason, but simply because of the inner momentum of the technological arms race.
There is no defence against a so-called strategic nuclear exchange. Nuclear weapons deter; they cannot defend. There is no defence against nuclear weapons. They are political weapons, not instruments that can be controlled in war.
And that is also true for tactical or theatre nuclear war, a matter which I shall not discuss, but where my views have the added authority of a series of ex-Chiefs of the Defence Staff, and of a number of retired top American military chiefs.
It is totally illogical to suppose that when the Russians also deploy nuclear weapons those we have can compensate for any inferiority in conventional forces. Those who were in at the start of the military nuclear debate will remember that the thought behind the concept of massive retaliation was that a strike against the Russian homeland would save Western Europe from the devastation of another world war. The devastation that would result today from a nuclear exchange in a theatre war would be immeasurably worse. One could well ask whether Europe and the West or the USSR would ever recover from a nuclear exchange. The fact is that the invention of nuclear weapons has painted us into a corner; the consequences of their use, whether deliberate or because of some false signal, would mean disaster. And to rely on the threat of their use is to gamble with disaster.
None the less we cannot pretend that they do not exist. I recognise that there are those in this country who believe sincerely in what is called unilateral disarmament. I do not share that view, not only for the reasons given last week by the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, not only because I believe that such unilateral action would be irrelevant to the progress of the arms race—who would follow our example?—or because I believe it would significantly reduce our vulnerability, but because there is something else which we could do with whatever political leverage we still enjoy on the international stage.
I begin by saying that it is undeniable that the level of nuclear armaments on both sides is far higher than is necessary to sustain the state of mutual deterrence. We must have negotiations that lead to a gradual reduction on both sides. We do not want unilateral disarmament from either of the two super powers, because that would also bring about a most unstable state. We can only hope that the new American Administration will find a way to reopen the SALT talks as speedily as possible. The phrases "balanced reduction" or "negotiation from a position of strength", thrown about very easily in debate, must be viewed with caution. There is a great deal which can be done on both sides which would not erode the deterrent threat the weapon now poses, but which would lighten the nuclear peril under which the world now lives.
431 The question is: Can we help? The Government have taken the decision to replace Polaris with Trident. If we can afford to do this, so be it. I myself do not believe that this step is likely to alter whatever view the Russians have of us as a deterrent power, which our Polaris boats could certainly sustain for some years. On the other hand, it is just possible that since comparing numbers in the nuclear inventories of the two sides has become a central part of negotiation, the multiplication in the number of our warheads which Trident implies might cause certain complications.
Where I feel we could help in the process of nuclear disarmament and in reducing the fear of nuclear war by misadventure is this. While holding on to what we have got we ought to consider declaring openly, as have two or three of our partners in NATO, that the much vaunted policy of flexible response is a dangerous game of bluff. We could help those of our NATO partners who already accept this to persuade the others, as well as the Russians. What we want is a strategy of defence whose consequences, if it ever had to be put into operation, would not imply the total destruction of the Western part of the Eurasiatic continent. This would be the inevitable price that all would have to pay because of a supposed reliance on tactical or theatre nuclear weapons, if a policy of flexible response were pursued to its logical conclusion.
In my view, such new resources as can be devoted to defence should be earmarked for our relatively starved conventional forces. If we could deploy an additional armoured brigade or division in NATO Europe, I am sure it would be far more likely to help to deter any intrusion into NATO territory than our possession of Polaris boats or Trident. It would not be a cheap policy but it would be a realistic policy, and it would help the Russians off the hook on which they as well as we are now impaled by SS20s, cruise missiles, Pershing IIs and so on. The fruits of success, both in terms of security and in lightening the threat that hangs over our civilisation from nuclear weaponry, would be well worth the attempt. May I, in conclusion, apologise that I am not able to stay until the end of the debate.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Viscount Simon
My Lords, I am very happy indeed to follow the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, whose authority in these matters is recognised by us all. I believe that everyone in this House will agree with the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, about the importance of maintaining full defence capability, but the question is, in what manner are we to do this, what means are we to use to secure our defence? I am no expert and I intend to speak only—shortly, I hope—about the use of the nuclear deterrent in this context, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has so aptly said, the nuclear deterrent strategic nuclear weapon cannot be a weapon of defence at all; it can only be a weapon to threaten somebody as to what will happen if he does not pipe down.
I am bound to say that the general view that somehow the balance of the nuclear capability of the two great powers, or rather the NATO alliance on the one side and the Warsaw Pact on the other, is a guarantee of peace has always been something which strikes me as 432 very doubtful. Would I not be right in thinking that there is a long time lag in the development of new weapons and weapons systems, and that therefore at any one moment one or other of the groups will be in the stronger position? Is there not a real danger that, if at some such time there was an issue between the Soviets and ourselves which would in ordinary conventional terms be a casus belli, the party which at that moment happened to have the superiority would be sorely tempted to make use of it before that superiority was lost as a result of developments over the subsequent two or three years?
As my noble friend Lord Gladwyn explained, rather with a sideways look at me, I do not accept and I am sorry I cannot accept the Liberal Party's formal policy on this matter, as explained by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I confirm that that is basically because I regard the use of nuclear weapons in any circumstances at all as wicked. I should like to recall to your Lordships the debate which we had on 23rd April on a Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, and a very remarkable maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee. I wish that the conventions of the House allowed me to call him my noble friend because his predecessor in this House was a very dear friend of mine. With that speech I found myself in complete agreement.
One of the points that he made—I made a note of it at the time and it has recurred to me often since—was that the troubles in which we find ourselves have arisen largely because we have relinquished our individual human responsibility. That set me thinking, particularly in regard to nuclear weapons. Suppose the following situation arose—and this is an imaginary scenario, as I think it is now called. Let us suppose that we are being attacked—and we all know the power we have in mind—in a conventional war. Let us suppose that we are being hard pressed and the enemy is seeking to impose upon us a government of a type we should all abhor. As I have said, we are being hard pressed and we have at our disposal a weapon which we could project into the heartlands of the enemy and a single strike would kill, I was about to say, 100,000 men, women and children, but as the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said it might well be many more than that. However, 100,000 is good enough for my example. Let us remember that those men, women and children in that country have no opportunity of influencing their government in what they do, so they would be, in every sense, innocent men, women and children. Let us further suppose that we knew that if that were done the enemy would abandon their plan and would give in. Your Lordships may say that that would be very improbable and I agree that it would be very improbable, but it is the most favourable outcome that we could possibly expect. In those circumstances, and knowing that, I asked myself: Would I be prepared to press the button and send that weapon off?
§ Viscount Simon
My Lords, I am glad to hear that the noble Lord agrees with me because my answer was certainly, "No". I hope that there are many other noble Lords who would say "No". Yet, if we say 433 that, then we must say that we cannot expect our Government to do that in our name. And, although I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, will confirm that the Government have no intention of doing anything like that, we must remember that, in the course of a conventional war, the conduct of the war is in the hands of a small group—it may be in the hands of a single commander-in-chief, the president or somebody else—and under those conditions there is no opportunity of discussing with the people whether something should be done. Indeed, nobody was consulted outside Government circles before the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. I should have thought that there was a real danger that the temptation to make use of this in order to secure freedom from tyranny, in order to save the country from slavery, would be a very powerful temptation.
In those circumstances, what are we to do? I wish to point out that I shall not advocate, and am not advocating, unilateral nuclear disarmament in the sense in which it is usually put forward and which has been mentioned several times today. My noble friend Lord Gladwyn has spelt out the difficulties into which this would land us and our allies were we to do it. We have a treaty of alliance and through that we have responsibilities to not only the Governments, but the people of our allies. We must not let them down. It would be wrong, and it would certainly not be in the interests of this country to devalue international agreements.
What I should like to see—and this probably sounds much too simple, but I would hope that some noble Lords would like to give thought to it—is all the countries of the alliance getting together (and I hope that it might be a movement instigated by our own Government) to consider, and eventually to agree, to renounce the use of nuclear weapons and to dismantle them over a stated, but reasonably short, period of a few years. To clarify the position, I have in mind that perhaps we could agree to dismantle 10 per cent. in the first year—I am referring to the whole alliance-20 per cent. in the second year; 30 per cent. in the third year; and the last 40 per cent. in the fourth year, to complete the process. Naturally the detailed arrangements would have to be considered by people who understand the technicalities much better than I do. However, if we could make a gesture of that kind I cannot believe that a decision by the alliance to do just that would not evoke an immediate response from the Soviets. I know that we all tend to think of the Soviets as governed completely by wicked men. But surely it is as much in their interests as ours. They must be just as worried about the task of keeping up with our nuclear forces as we are about keeping up with their nuclear forces.
Your Lordships may wonder why an obscure Liberal Back-Bencher should come forward with a proposal like the one that I have put forward. I shall tell your Lordships. Over the past few years I have been talking to a number of young people—not only young people in this country. I am absolutely convinced that the vast majority of them would favour a move of this kind. Of course there are risks involved, and I do not suggest that there are not risks; but I believe that the risks are very much less than those that we are 434 taking all the time we pursue our present policy.
So, because in the nature of things youth is rather under-represented in your Lordship's House, I have ventured to speak for millions of young people in this country, in Europe, in America and, I suspect, in Russia too who, if they were given this chance to choose for themselves, would say that they would take the risk. And, in taking the risk, they would lift off their backs and off the backs of their children not only the appalling cost of armaments—and my goodness! what we could do with that money to help people in this country or in other parts of the world who are less fortunate than us—but they would also lift off their backs and the backs of their children the burden of fear and, in the case of sensitive souls, the burden of guilt.
I wish to raise one more matter. If we do not do something on these lines, if the young are told that the values we cherish can be defended only by the use of these horrible weapons, may they not come to the conclusion that these values are not really worth maintaining? And if that disease gets a hold I am afraid that it will spread very rapidly.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ The Earl of Kimberley
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cathcart for enabling us to have a separate day to debate defence. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend the Minister Lord Strathcona on speaking from the Front Bench at the beginning of this debate and for speaking as my noble friend Lord Mount Royal, by leave, at the end of this debate!
Last week during the Foreign Affairs and Defence debate there were 27 speakers: today there are 34. Therefore, it is obvious that defence well deserves an extra day. It is also very gratifying to know that just over 90 per cent. of today's speakers are members of the all-party Defence Study Group started by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. As your Lordships all know, we have had peace in Europe for 30 years. In my humble opinion that has been entirely due to the nuclear power balance. Now we have a great controversy that rages all over the place merely about modernising NATO's nuclear weapons and in particular the counter-measure—the ground-launched cruise missile—against the Russians' SS20. I maintain that the opponents of this modernisation are either misguided, in which case they have my full sympathy and understanding, or, if they are not misguided, they must, to my mind, be active—even if well camouflaged—supporters of the Kremlin, whose policy is manipulated from the so-called World Peace Council.
So many of us seem inclined to forget that the Soviets have a decreed policy of world communist domination. They also do not seem to realise that the balance of power of NATO is now very largely at risk, and of course two of its disadvantages, hardware-wise, are, as I have already mentioned, the Backfire bomber and the SS20. Do not let us forget that there is one SS20 deployed each week, which means that at present there are about 120 of them, and by 1985 there will be in the region of 350. In addition, the Soviets have about 600 intermediate range ballistic missiles and Western Europe has none.
435 So what happens? Soviet military superiority is used to promote their domination policy, if they think that they can get away with it. They have tried it in Afghanistan. But why should Western Europe also not be on their list? In addition to their military superiority, their integrated strategy includes psychological blackmail, subversion, misinformation, agitation and propaganda, terrorism, power by proxy—again, as in Afghanistan—and mercenary forces of Cubans and East Germans in Africa.
Therefore, I maintain that NATO must strive for much closer co-operation, and I think that the United Kingdom could take the lead in Europe in promoting that co-operation. To my mind, we have no other way of restoring the balance of power, and it is only by doing this that we may negotiate at all in the future on a gradual and mutual reduction of forces, both nuclear and conventional.
The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, spoke about the young people of the world. Alas! he is not present at the moment. We must remember that a whole generation has grown up with no personal experience of war or knowledge of what it is like to exist under a totalitarian régime. This may well account for some of the thinking of the supporters of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. But, as I think I have mentioned once before in your Lordships' House, many of these young people at school only ever hear one side; they always hear the side of what will happen, that we will all be vaporized, and everything else. But very few of them are ever told of the danger which they will actually have to face if we ever lowered our guard so that we were colonised by the Warsaw Pact countries.
On 1st September last year Dr. Kissinger said:If present developments continue, the 1980s will be a period of serious crises for all of us.Never in history has it happened that one country has acquired such a superiority in weaponry of every kind without using it for gaining an advantage in its foreign policy".The United States cruise missiles will not be ready until about 1983 or even later, but the Soviet weaponry is already operational. So let us look at the situation from a very bad point of view.
What would happen if the Soviets did invade Europe? Would we opt for unconditional surrender and rule out all armed resistance?—not according to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. Can we even—if only armed with conventional defence—rule out the fact that the Soviets may still use nuclear, chemical or bacteriological warfare against us? If the unilateralist disarmament supporters want to press for that, why do they not press for total disarmament?—let us do away with every weapon. We have to choose what we want—Soviet dictatorship of the free world or our own democratic way of life I have said many times in your Lordships' House that détente can only be détente if we are in a strong position, for otherwise it means nothing. The Soviet idea of détente is winning battles or wars, preferably without fighting.
The Soviets claim that they fear the West, yet they have the mightiest war machine that the world has ever known. They already have power and influence worldwide—in Cuba, the Yemen, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and, who knows, perhaps tomorrow in Poland. 436 So why do they run terrorist training courses in the Soviet Union? Why is it that the Left-wing demonstrators always protest about Chile and South Africa? Why do not these people also protest about the Vietnamese boat people and the genocide in Cambodia? Not a word comes from them over that. Surely if we were aggressive, would we have not been prepared ourselves for chemical and bacteriological warfare?
Unfortunately, many citizens in this country adopt an ostrich-like posture. In the past we have closed our eyes to the killing of millions in communist countries; and we closed our eyes once before40-odd years ago—to Hitler, with nearly disastrous results. I should like to maintain that the Marxist dictatorship, as I call it, in the Kremlin is more evil than Hitler, and also much more dangerous.
So what are we to do? I think that we should fulfil the following contingencies. First, I think that we should certainly keep our own nuclear deterrent. Secondly, I think that we should prepare for chemical and bacteriological warfare, and its antidotes. Thirdly, we should increase our conventional capability on land, sea and air. Fourthly, we should mobilise our defences against airborne attacks and fifth columnists. Lastly, we should bolster up civil defence.
Hopefully, under President-elect Reagan the Americans might resuscitate the B1 supersonic bomber as another countermeasure to the Backfire, and we in this country might well set an example by updating our Vulcans to carry air-launch cruise missiles, which could and should be made by the British Aerospace Dynamics Group at Hatfield. If we do not have nuclear deterrence in Europe, conventional warfare is much more probable.
Therefore, the logical answer is for us to lead Western Europe so that Western Europe can itself be a credible deterrent. Once that happens, we can take our seats at any further strategic arms limitation negotiations and not just be left in the middle like the filling in a sandwich. This would entail narrowing the conventional gap, and building and buying modern mobile missiles; and refurbishing the air force to incorporate air-launch cruise missiles. I should also like to suggest that we start urgent research and development on stealth aircraft technology, as are the Americans.
Yesterday I had the privilege of going on "Invincible"; it is a wonderful ship and it works, and everybody who sails on it and works in it is proud of it. I am told that it is also the envy of the United States of America. But it has one great drawback, which is not in its design but in the fact that, like all our forces, the economies that have to be made—the amount of fuel and that sort of thing—cut down the time that the ship should be at sea, and perhaps have even prevented it paying a visit to America, where no doubt it would even be a great sales pitch. But I hope that we shall have more of them.
The plain fact is that the West, which includes us, can easily afford to match the Soviet forces. The NATO countries are far more profitable than the Warsaw Pact ones and, in fact, the arms race could well cripple the Warsaw Pact countries. But it need not cost us any more than just a few luxuries—luxuries which we may not live long enough to enjoy if we do not meet our own needs for defence. Therefore, it is 437 vital that we keep our promise to NATO of our 3 per cent. increase. I should like to repeat to anyone who thinks that I am a warmonger, that it is only from a position of strength that the whole world will be able to negotiate with the Soviet Union on a mutual and balanced force reduction.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, the House of course is grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for introducing a topic of such overwhelming importance as I think in many of its consequences to be almost a terminal one. It is the question as to how—by what political means—there can be an avoidance of the holocaust of another war. As the House will remember, Clausewitz said that war is the continuation of politics by other means. I would presume to offer the pacifist case as the other means by which war can be once and for all forgotten, and that the political measures which will be included in that pacifist programme will be adequate to save the world from that kind of disaster.
I expect that I am probably the only speaker committed to this pacifist case, although I should be grateful for any support I might attract. But, at the same time, with your customary indulgence, as the word pacifism has been greeted somewhat in the course of this debate already, I am sure it will not be out of court for me to press what I believe to be not only an ideal which I suppose a great many people cherish but in fact a programme which I believe can be operated if only we put our hearts and minds to it.
I have been a pacifist for many years, and in the earlier days was regarded as a sort of moonbeam from a larger lunacy, but if I made these pious noises it probably did very little harm, but it was a case which could not be demonstrated in practical terms. I want to press the case tonight that in the intervening years pacifism, which seemed to so many people to be an impossible dream, now acquaints itself in much more concrete fashion and attracts a new kind of support which I think it would be dangerous for this House or anybody else to neglect.
In the first instance, there are many people today, perhaps more than ever before, who realise that we live in an unprecedented kind of world, in which the categories even of our vocabulary are largely inadequate, if not obsolete. I listened with care to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. I found that 90 per cent. of the words he used belonged to an age which was past and in fact did not represent the realities of the present time. Let me give one of them. He argued for what was called an adequate defence. The word "adequate" today carries with it all kinds of penumbra of thought which were quite unknown to those who first thought in terms of standing at your own front door with a meat chopper and defending yourself against an invader; or indeed the kind of world in which conventional weapons were indeed conventional and not as they are today, on the highroad to being thoroughly unconventional and unpredictable except in the total effect that they may produce.
I heard Lord Shinwell's speech when I was a very young boy before the First World War. I heard the same speech before the Second World War. I have heard it again tonight. I believe that speech represents 438 something which is totally out of character with the needs which are increasingly being available and recognised, particularly by some of the young people to whom reference was made by the noble Viscount. It is that sense of unreality about so much that belongs to a debate even of this character that I believe is persuading more and more people to face this issue of war not in terms of domesticating it, or preventing it by deterrence, but by obliterating its possibility by an altogether radical and new approach to its problem.
Not only is this sense of unreality growing apace, but it is accompanied by the difficulty in coming to terms with the various propositions for disarmament which are advanced alongside those preparations, and in fact constitute in the minds of many people what those preparations and defence measures should be. Multilateral disarmament is offered as a means. It is nothing of the sort. It is an end. You cannot proclaim the end of disarmament by a multilateral process which in fact is not likely to precede but to follow unilateral action on the part of somebody who sets that process going.
I do not believe that one fine morning we shall all wake up to find that the various contending parties in the various countries of the world will have had some vision during the night and will all come to a table and say, "We are now prepared for multilateral disarmament". I do not believe that for a moment. I believe that multilateral disarmament, which of course is highly desirable, which is imperative, can only come when there is an initiative taken on the part of one prepared to take a risk and to hope that others will respond to it.
It is that which causes so many people who are attracted to the prospect of multilateral disarmament to give pause and to say to themselves, "Perhaps it is not the kind of programme. It is only what a programme might produce, but a very different programme will be required". I find myself in similar difficulty with unilateral nuclear disarmament. I share the fears—and I read in today's Times the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, expressing these fears quite cogently, and I agree with him—that if you are prepared to get rid of one sort of weapon in the environment of total lying which belongs to the armaments race, you may be encouraging the proliferation of other weapons. Nobody tells the truth about them. Was it not Mr. Winston Churchill himself who said that in wartime lying is an indispensable ally? Of course it is. Nobody tells the truth about the arms they have or that anybody else has got. We do not know. Therefore, it might be that if nuclear weapons were prohibited, or there came some agreement whereby they would be renounced on the part of the two great powers, I believe that it might well be that by other means the gauge of war might be regarded as more suitable and probable in having the results of victory.
Furthermore, and I speak here with a certain diffidence, I am not satisfied with the labelling of Russia as the universal enemy. I find this a most dangerous exercise. I do not condone for one moment the invasion of Afghanistan, although in my judgment it was promoted by fear of the 75 million Moslems in their own country and the kind of turmoil that that would create. It is perfectly true that they are closing in, so I understand the New Standard to say, on Poland. 439 I do not know what will happen. This I do know; there is a difference between the attempt to maintain within the fabric of that particular régime, the Warsaw Pact countries, a codified and unified system, and, shall we say, the projected invasion of these islands if we were to disarm.
It is for those reasons and for many others that I would turn now briefly to the positive case that I believe the pacifist can bring to bear on the contemporary situation. It is that we are now faced with an unprecedented world in which one man can carry on his back more fire power than was possessed by a brigade of guards at the battle of Waterloo. A world in which countless new issues arise when you consider the nature of the weapons which the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has so graphically described. The results are incalculable, except in terms of almost total disaster. I could have wished that I had had the opportunity as a bishop of saying something in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I believe that the concept of a just war is utterly untenable, because there is no justice which can in fact be promulgated by the use of thekind of weapons which now belong to modern warfare.
Ultimately, the moral issue for the pacifist case seems to me to be this: If there is a moral code I believe that war breaks every incidental characteristic of that moral code. There is nothing that can be done in war that will not be justified by the prospect of victory. It is in this relationship that I believe that there are more and more people who find the calculations as to the possibilities of preventing the next war in terms of the use of violence are denying something which they would much prefer to cherish. I prefer to cherish it.
My time is nearly gone, and you will not object to a man wearing the collar I do making, humbly, I hope, the kind of witness which I believe has to be made even in a debate of this character. I am no Luther, but I concur with his proposition: "Here I stand. I can do no other." Not on the prospect that I or other Christians have the necessary wisdom to create a world of peace and contentment, but that in obedience to what I believe to be the law of God is the surest method of releasing into a situation which now seems bound in terms of violence new opportunities of good. I cherish the belief that if we were unilaterally totally to disarm, we should remove the need to lie; we should encourage millions of people in the rest of the world who likewise would cherish the ideals for which we are prepared to pay the price. It would be a tremendous price. I believe it would be infinitely preferable to the price of preparing, as I believe we now are, for a future holocaust. In that regard, the pacifist case is, I believe, not only the right one but the most practical. I thank noble Lords for allowing me to make this declaration of faith in a condition which I believe is desperate, and, unless we are bound to that course which is fundamentally right, I believe it may be terminal.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, the sincerity and eloquence with which the noble Lord, Lord Soper, puts forward the pacifist case raises the debate to a height with which I find it difficult to compete. His case really rests 440 on the injunction in the Gospels that if a man smite you on the right cheek, you offer the left cheek also. I would with humility remind him that in the version of the Gospel of St. Matthew in which that occurs, it is preceded in effect by the words, "I say unto you, resist not evil", and I am afraid that all my experience, and I think the experience of many of your Lordships, is that if evil is not resisted it unfortunately prevails.
We are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for tabling the Motion, which enables us to discuss all the various aspects of defence at greater length than would have been possible in a foreign affairs and defence debate on the gracious Speech. In that, I was glad to see the emphasis laid by the Foreign Secretary on the importance of confidence-building measures. While the ones which have so far come out of the Helsinki pact are not very impressive, they are a hopeful beginning. The existence of satellite photography is by far and away the biggest confidence-building measure and is of immense value, and, when we look forward to disarmament and to trying to get a more reasonable world in this world of armaments, confidence-building measures are of great importance; and I am glad that the French, in the proposals they have put forward for a European disarmament conference, have put them as a first priority.
I am happy to support the Motion, but with some strong reservations as to what is meant by—a full defence capability both at home and abroad".I think we had a description of a full defence capability by the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, who I suggest is not only a belted Earl but a belt-and-braces Earl. To the surprise of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, I do not propose to get involved in answering his well-worn arguments with my well-worn arguments about the independent deterrent. I would only say that I am in substantial agreement with almost everything my noble friend Lord Zuckerman said on the subject. I shall say no more on it, except that the dilemma which one faces in this nuclear age is simple and is this: how to maintain the fact that, whether or not we like it, the existence of nuclear weapons in the hands of both super powers is a strong deterrent to them fighting each other and therefore to a major world war, yet this is in a world in which the other side may answer back, "If you threaten to pose an unacceptable risk to the other man, you pose an unacceptable risk to yourself".
To return to the problem of a full defence capability, since the end of the last war successive Governments of both colours have struggled with the problem of what our defence capability should be. They have tried to evaluate the global threat to which my noble friend Lord Hill-Norton referred, and they have always found it very large. Each time, after much travail and argument—within the Ministry of Defence, between the Ministry of Defence and the Treasury, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office joining in—they have been through the system and drawn up a plan on which the Chiefs of Staff and others within the defence machine have based their programme for future years. But as soon as, even before, the ink was dry on those plans, the economic situation turned out less favourable and the cost of the programme greater than forecast, while claims on the public purse by other services increased, until after an interval, generally of about six years 441 (during which we heard the same remarks as we have heard today about the need for temporary restraint) the Government have been forced to conduct a major reappraisal.
Mr. Churchill had to do it when he found he could not sustain Mr. Attlee's rearmament programme, and the brutal task was left to Mr. Macmillan to carry out with the noble Lord, Lord Duncan-Sandys, as his relentless hatchet-man. Mr. Wilson's Administration struck again, Mr. Healey wielding the axe. Mr. Heath's Administration was facing the same problem when they fell in 1974, and it was left to the Labour Administration who followed to carry out the defence review which that Administration had been contemplating. Now the present Administration, in spite of all their brave words before and since they came to power, are in the same position. Each one of those major reappraisals produced a plan which reduced the size of our armed forces. That has been possible without seriously affecting the security of this country by a wholesale shedding of commitments outside Europe, but now there are hardly any of those left. Those there are do not absorb much and are very difficult to get rid of. Our commitments have been reduced, as I said some years ago, to absolute bedrock.
Why has this state of affairs come about? My noble friend Lord Zuckerman explained most of them. The first is because the real wealth of this country has declined. Although we have spent a higher proportion of our GNP on defence than allies with a similar population, France and Germany, the real amount we have spent on defence, and obtained for that expenditure, has been less; we are very low down on the list of defence expenditure per capita. The second reason for our present state is that new defence equipment has been, and is, subject to a double inflation—to the inflationary trends that have affected everything else and, on top of that, as Lord Zuckerman explained, to the need to produce equipment which is certainly as good as, and preferably superior to, that of a potential enemy who is devoting enormous resources both to research and development and to the productive capacity which enables him to exploit that at comparatively frequent intervals. The third reason is that the cost of employing and looking after the man and woman in uniform has risen in line with the cost of employing their civilian counterparts. Their expectations have risen very significantly. And finally, because the demands on Government expenditure of other services—education, social welfare, the nationalised industries—have dramatically increased.
I sympathise with the Government in facing these intractable problems, although they are partly of their own making. They encouraged the idea that the defence programme would be significantly increased; they have tried to take credit for it with their supporters, allies and others. Now they are having to eat their brave words and they do not like the taste of them, just as I do not like the way they are setting about things. They seem more interested in the appearance rather than in the reality of strength. The story of the 3 per cent. increase in real defence spending illustrates this. To begin with, the base from which the increase was calculated was below that which would have resulted from the plans of the previous Administration: £200 million at 1980 survey prices, if my figures are 442 correct. Since then, the base for subsequent years has not been what was planned, but the actual cash outflow which then was lower. Each year, therefore, the Ministry of Defence has had to step its programme down to adjust to this, and over a period of 10 years—the time it takes to develop and produce most items of equipment—the cumulative difference between that and a programme based on a real 3 per cent. increase amounts to a great deal.
The Government do not now even pretend that they are going to achieve it. Once again, a programme has to be mucked about to meet short-term demands for cuts. This is a highly unsatisfactory way of managing the armed forces and their future programme. It comes on top of similar cuts imposed by the previous Administration immediately following a major defence review and on top of this year's extraordinary, nonsensical exercise designed to stop the forces spending anything until the end of the financial year in order to keep within cash limits; and it appears that the Defence Secretary, speaking in another place yesterday, would agree with me in that description.
If reports in the press about how the Government are to seek to achieve the £200 million cut are true, the current effects of bad management will be made even worse. Instead of admitting that they have encouraged the overloading of the programme, they propose to add even further to the recent measures of Pecksniffian parsimony which they have inflicted on the armed forces. Measures like cutting spares orders and restricting the use of fuel directly affect the lifeblood of the forces, their training, which is already interfered with by having to deal with civil emergencies. If aircraft cannot fly, if ships cannot go to sea, if fighting vehicles cannot exercise on their training areas, or if weapons cannot be fired on the ranges because of lack of ammunition, expertise will suffer, and standards will fall. The pay of servicemen will be affected since they will not be able to be upgraded in their trade or skill, and their morale, their sense of purpose, will decline. Those are the accusations which the party now in power made time and time again against their predecessors. And now they are going down the same road themselves.
Ideally, I should like to see the Government restore the £200 million cut and make their claim of a 3 per cent. increase in defence spending in real terms a reality. But I believe that if they are not prepared to do that, whether they like it or not, the Government will be faced with the need for a major reappraisal, a defence review, certainly by the middle of next year; and I suggest that they should start preparing the ground for it now.
Well, what should such a review consider? It must be crystal clear to the Government that they have no hope, as they suggested in their Defence White Paper, of creating additional capability to meet new commitments outside the NATO area. Within it the only area that I can suggest is that of what are called specialist reinforcement forces and the air transport, fixed-wing and rotary, that goes with them. I have never been impressed by their military capability in the context of a European war.
We have heard it said today—and the Economist made a point of it a few weeks ago—that we may have to make a choice between a maritime and a continental 443 strategy. That choice, my Lords, is not open to us. If we, of all the nations of Europe, given our geographical position and our history that has stemmed from it, did not make a significant contribution to the defence of the North Atlantic, how could we expect our European allies to believe in American assurances that they would come across the ocean to help us? And how indeed could we persuade the Americans to do so?
But equally, if we were not firmly committed to the defence of Europe on land and in the air by the presence of a significant force on the continent, again how could we persuade our allies in Europe and in North America that we are firmly committed to the defence of Western Europe? We do not make these commitments out of altruism. With the weapons of the late 20th century, these islands cannot be defended from our own shores, within our own airspace. A Battle of Britain by itself is no longer possible. Talk about home defence is meaningless.
Our efforts, and those of our European allies in NATO, must be concentrated on convincing the United States that we are making a fully adequate contribution in the conventional field, so that if deterrence fails and war breaks out, they are not faced with the awful decision as to whether or not to use nuclear weapons, just because we are not prepared to provide adequate conventional forces. We must convince them that the forces that they station in Europe, or send in reinforcement, stand a good chance of success, and that therefore they should continue to remain committed.
That must be the prime aim of our defence policy—not pursuing policies which, whatever the curious gloss put on them in official statements, imply distrust of the United States, policies which imply that in the last resort we could do without them and that, with our so-called independent strategic deterrent force, we could face the Soviet Union alone. We cannot.
With their proposed cut in defence expenditure, the Government cannot possibly now maintain that replacement of that force by four or five Trident-carrying submarines can be accommodated within the defence budget without detriment to our conventional forces. The Government can tell that to the horse marines! I urge them to reconsider that decision for the sake of maintaining a defence capability which is a real contribution to the deterrent to war. By persisting in it they will not only damage their capability, but will be playing into the hands of the misguided idealists of the Left, whose eloquent voices have been heard already and will, I am sure, be heard again.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I fear that if I were tempted to reply in detail to all those arguments, I would bore the House and poach on the time of those noble Lords who are yet to speak. I join with others in expressing the debt of gratitude owed to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart. I think that he has chosen a most appropriate moment for our debate, partly because at present the Soviets are threatening Poland. They have invaded Afghanistan in the last year, and clearly the threat to the peace of the whole world is very real.
The second reason why the debate is timely is that 444 the Government's defence budget is currently being drawn up. As the ex-CDS who has just sat down will know, it has to be finalised by Christmas, and therefore if we have any chance to influence Government thinking, this is the right time to try to do so. The third reason why the debate is timely is that the Opposition has a new leader. Under him the Opposition has taken a lurch to the Left, and he seems to be espousing the cause of unilateral nuclear disarmament. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, said that we did not want any political claptrap. On the other hand, we have a duty to probe the question of where the official Opposition stand in this matter. That is our duty towards our country and our allies.
The timing of the debate is reflected in the fact that 32 Peers are speaking; it is a very considerable turnout. We claim in the House of Lords that we have people with balance, experience, and wisdom on any single subject. This claim is evidently abundantly true in the field of defence. We have 13 Peers of General rank, or above, (made up of seven Generals, five Admirals and one Air Marshal and there are two ex-Chiefs of the Defence Staff, both of whom have given most interesting and stimulating speeches. They and others have recently retired, but I am sure that they are in touch with the friends they have made during a lifetime of service in the services, and therefore they keep their knowledge up-to-date.
Government policy on defence has been stated and re-stated by Francis Pym and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and therefore I want to spend a little time probing and questioning the Opposition. I think that the country and our NATO allies are naturally anxious to know what is the position, now that the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party has fallen under Left-wing control, and the party has a temporary Left-wing leader who could be confirmed in permanent office.
We have had very sensible and moderate speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, last week, and the noble Lord, Lord Peart, today. I should like to take up one point. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, said that the Labour Government had always supported NATO. But I think that he must reflect that there has been a very considerable change in Labour Party policy. We have an entirely new position where the Left wing of the Labour Party is becoming ever stronger, in the constituencies, in the Commons, in the National Executive Committee of the Party, and in the leadership. At the same time the Soviet threat has become considerably greater, not least, incidentally, in terms of subversion. I am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, and the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, are, I understand, to touch on the subversive actions of the Soviets.
We must all agree that the increasing pace at which the Soviets are producing and deploying their aggressive arms means that Britain and her allies have to make sacrifices to strengthen their defence forces. Here I so agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, in what he said. I believe that the country is ready to make sacrifices if we can continue to tell them the truth. We always are ready to match sacrifices, and we have a duty to bring home the dangers. I am glad that Francies Pym said yesterday that he was anxious 445 not to accept the cut of £200 million in a defence budget of £11,000 million; and he is clearly still fighting his corner.
Britain's trouble is that we have the largest public sector in the free world, the largest number of nationalised and quasi-nationalised industries; and I include British Leyland as a quasi-nationalised industry. These industries are imposing an intolerable burden of cash requirements on the Government. That is why the defence budget has to be trimmed, cut and distorted. The wealth-creating private sector is struggling manfully to support this swollen public sector. In a world recession, our exports in the private sector have really held up astonishingly well. Public sector prices have gone up by 25 per cent., but, where competition exists, as in food supply, the price increase in the last year has been only 11 per cent. and in clothing and shoes it has been only 7 per cent. So the public sector prices have gone up at more than double the rate of those in the private sector.
Our defence needs are being curtailed by the cash requirements of our nationalised industries, which in the current year total £3,000 million. British Steel are taking £1 billion in the current year. British Rail, which Lord Peart mentioned, is getting more than £600 million of subsidy in the current year, and it is forecast that subsidies next year will need to be at the rate of £700 million; that is, £2 million a day. British Leyland has already had £300 million this year, and it is reported that Michael Edwardes will shortly be asking the Government for between £800 million and £1,000 million over the next two years. British shipbuilding made a loss of £110 million last year.
Here I should like to make a constructive suggestion to my noble friend. Why do we not employ our shipyards in building small naval vessels? We can build them "on spec", minesweepers and the like. All the underdeveloped countries want this sort of vessel to patrol their coasts, sometimes against illegal immigrants, as in the case of Hong Kong, sometimes for other police and Customs purposes. Would it not be better to do exactly as the French do?—that is, lay some ships down, keep our shipyards usefully working and, if the ships are not bought by overseas customers, then they can be incorporated in the Royal Navy for fishery protection and a whole host of other important duties.
In the last 35 years we have had four Labour Governments. In all, they have lasted 17 years—just about 50 per cent.—and, despite this desperate track record of the nationalised industries, each successive Labour Government has nationalised another section of British industry. At Blackpool it became Labour Party policy to introduce an Industry Bill to put into effect further nationalisation. Tony Benn, replying for the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, accepted, among other things, the further extension of public ownership, the reflation of public sector service spending—and that means more cash—a substantial cut in arms expenditure and the abolition of the House of Lords. Incidentally, all those things are to be done in the first few days of any Parliament in which he serves. So there is to be more nationalisation, more money for the nationalised industries and less money for defence. That is a desperate programme to put before our country and our allies.
446 Thirty years ago Hugh Gaitskell struggled to get rid of Labour's two albatrosses. The first was nationalisation (Clause 4) and the second was unilateral disarmament. This was 30 years after that "fight, fight and fight again" speech, which was courageous. His democratic successors are still struggling and sadly some of them feel that their struggles are useless, and they are leaving the party. No party should willingly lose people like Shirley Williams and others of that calibre.
I now turn to the second albatross, the multilateral or unilateral disarmament. No one can "disinvent" nuclear arms and it is worth remembering that if the big powers ever agreed to dismantle—and I am afraid I cannot go along with the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that, if we did disarm unilaterally, anyone would be likely to follow, though we must go on trying to dismantle and run down the whole of the nuclear weaponry of all the world—then we would be left with the horrors of conventional, biological and chemical warfare. Let us not forget that 50 million people died in World War II as a result of conventional, not nuclear, warfare.
Last week, Lord Stewart quoted—and I think I approved—Lord Mountbatten's statement: "We must preserve the balance". Many of my friends would go along with that. Lord Mountbatten made the point that:security will only come when there is balance",and I would go along with that. We all believe in balance. Of course we want it at the lowest conceivable level. Every democratic nation particularly desires that, but so far the Soviets have never responded, and a police state like theirs can never agree to detailed verification. That I think is one reason why the Mutual and Balanced Force Reduction conference in Vienna has been going on for years and years and seems to be hopelessly bogged down. But we must go on trying and trying and trying again to get people round a table on a multilateral disarmament agreement. However, let us not deceive ourselves, and above all let us not deceive our electorates that these efforts are actually going to achieve results until those results come about.
Critics say—and Lord Carver is one (I see he has already gone, and I am sure he has a dinner commitment, judging from his dress)—that our strategic deterrent is too expensive. When I was a Minister at the Admiralty in 1963 there was one thing that I got absolutely plumb accurate and that was when I forecast that the cost of the Polaris fleet would not be more than 3 per cent. of our defence budget. I am delighted to read that even today it is only 1½ per cent. of our defence budget, and, as Lord Chalfont has pointed out, our strategic nuclear fleet costs less than the annual budget of the London Borough of Camden. I therefore think that it is giving excellent value as an effective deterrent in helping to preserve the peace. It is fortunate too that the Labour Government, with supreme secrecy but with great guts, spent £1,000 million in fitting a new Polaris head, the Chevaline, to our Polaris force. Because of that initiative, that force will be effective until the 1990s.
Having examined the alternatives, I believe that the Trident will be the most effective and the longest lasting strategic weapon. I see no possible scientific breakthrough—and I speak as a physicist though not of the same calibre as Lord Zuckerman—which will make it 447 possible to detect submarines in water at great depth. The cost of this new Trident programme will peak at 5 per cent. and settle down in the late 1990s and the early 21st century at nearer 1½ per cent. I still believe that that is the correct solution and I am sorry that Lord Carver is not here; otherwise I might go into that further.
He and others have argued—and he did tonight—that the money should be spent on other conventional arms. Any savings are of course very useful, but these sums, big as they are, would not pay for the equipping and deployment of one extra division in Germany. So let us be realistic about it. They look big, but expenditure on arms, equipment and men are also very large and that is a fact. Lord Carver has said on other occasions that there are no circumstances when we could or would use our deterrent without the USA. For moralists I find it a dubious moral stance to depend entirely on the USA for our nuclear protection, especially when the Leader of the Opposition is currently committed, if and when he comes to power, to asking the USA to withdraw its cruise missiles from this country if they are deployed. If the USA did hesitate, a Britain which had phased out its deterrent would be left under nuclear blackmail with no possible alternative but to surrender.
Henry Kissinger commented in Brussels a year ago that Europeans would be very unwise to count on US nuclear response in all circumstances. Many of us would not wish to believe that that comment was accurate, but the point is that the Soviets might think so, and that is where the danger to world peace lies. I support Trident and for those on the fence in this matter between cruise missiles and Trident I would point out that 70 per cent. of the expenditure on the Trident programme will be in our own shipyards, where the work will be very welcome indeed in the building of submarines.
One word on theatre nuclear deterrents. Let us remind ourselves that this is the area where the SS20 made us agree and encourage the deployment of cruise missiles. We have at this moment the Vulcan force, but it is ageing; the Jaguars are limited. We have five Buccaneer squadrons. All have British nuclear weapons for theatre use. The US Air Force has 160 F1-11s with a Russian range capability and has 300 further aircraft based in this country. We sometimes overlook this; they all have nuclear capability. The "loony Left" is critical of NATO's decision to deploy US cruise missiles in answer to the SS20s. But the SS20s are formidable. The Soviets introduced them in 1977. There are 200—and I correct my noble friend; I have checked this—in place now, with a range of 2,500 miles; and they threaten every capital city in Europe. A new one is becoming operational every five days. Each missile has three warheads: each SS20 has about 35 to 40 times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. In face of that threat and before programming the deployment of cruise missiles, the Soviets were approached and asked, "Can we not come to an agreement not to deploy these weapons?" That approach was rejected by Mr. Brezhnev. So, at the request of the European Group of NATO, the USA will deploy 108 Pershing IIs and 464 cruise missiles spread with 160 in this country and others 448 elsewhere. This programme was not forced on us. It came about as a result of the Soviet build-up and the massive disparity between the nuclear strengths on both sides. The USA offered to withdraw 1,000 warheads from Europe so as not to increase the nuclear capability, but again there was no Soviet response.
As the world recession lengthens and deepens, all the democracies are under pressure to curtail defence. Our allies are alarmed because they are not sure whether Mr. Michael Foot will come to power and whether the Labour Left will dominate our future defence programme. It appears at the moment that the Labour Party are committed to withdrawal from the EEC. How can they ask for the US cruise missiles to be withdrawn and yet remain in NATO? I would urge Labour Peers to press their newly-elected Leader to make an early announcement repudiating the views he has already put on the record. A section of the Labour Party has always resented defence expenditure. They voted against rearmament in the 1930s and also, I remember that they voted against national service a few weeks before World War II started. I would urge them to change their leader's views; because the NATO cement is beginning to crack. There are uncertainties among our allies. We want to show sincerity and firmness of purpose. Mr. Denis Healey on 5th March 1969 said—and I heard it—Once we cut defence expenditure to the extent when our security is imperilled, we have no houses, we have no hospitals, we have no schools. We have a heap of cinders".That is the message. Let us make sure that it does not happen.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, I follow the noble Lord who has just sat down in saying that we must try and try and try again for multilateral disarmament. I think that was the only thing that he said with which I found myself in full agreement. But I was in complete agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who said, with his great authority, that the average size of the nuclear weapon today is a little under one megaton, that a one-megaton bomb exploded above Birmingham would utterly destroy the city and kill 300,000 people; that if a nuclear exchange begins it is virtually certain that it will mean the end of our civilisation and that reliance on deterrence is a very dangerous gamble.
Last week, in a brief speech, I tried to demonstrate that if in fact the Goverment policy is deterrence, if they think they can prevent a war by making Russia feel that it would entail unacceptable damage to their economy and their nation, then the purchase of Tridents instead of Polaris was a total waste of money! The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said this afternoon that he thinks that Polaris would be an adequate deterrent if deterrence is the policy. Another noble Lord opposite said this afternoon that he thinks the same. I think I made an unanswerable case last week for the view that, if deterrence is the policy, then Trident is money thrown away.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me, surely the point is that the Polaris sub- 449 marines are going to run out of age by the end of this decade. Is he saying that we should not renew the nuclear strategic deterrent?
§ Lord Noel-Baker
My Lords, I quoted my noble friend Lord Peart, then the Leader of the House, as saying that Polaris had many years of effective life yet—and that was only three years ago.
My Lords, I go on to say that the conclusion which I draw from Lord Zuckerman's observations—that a nuclear exchange means the end of civilisation, that there is no defence against nuclear weapons and that deterrence is an illusion—is that the only realistic plan for national defence is world disarmament, world disarmament with the reallocation of the resources so released to welfare instead of war.
That is the policy that was adopted by 149 Governments only two years ago in New York, at a conference at which I was a member of the British delegation—the greatest international conference which I believe has happened in my lifetime or at any other time, a conference with immense authority behind it, a conference which declared in the first paragraph of its final document that weapons no longer defend the nations, that they have become much more a threat than a protection to the future of mankind and that they create the dangers against which they are supposed to guard. I believe that the adoption of that policy by the Governments in 1978 was a turning point in history. At Blackpool a month ago the Labour Party unanimously agreed, with Right, Left and Centre all voting for the composite resolutions, that it should be the centre of Labour foreign policy to put forward the programme of the 1978 final document and to work as a Government for its realisation in the United Nations.
I return to the point that if deterrence is the view, is the policy, of the Government, then spending money on Trident is money thrown away. If deterrence is not the policy, if, in fact, the Government are now preparing to fight a nuclear war, then the more clearly they say so to the nation, the better for all concerned. We should know where we stand.
I believe that it is not only in respect of Trident that our military budget today contains a great element of waste. I speak of military research and development. It was the British Government who first introduced military research in preparation for war. We spent £5 million in 1937 and about the same in 1938 preparing for the war with Hitler. It was a magnificent investment. It enabled Sir Robert Watson-Watt to develop his discovery of radar and so to defeat the Luftwaffe and enable us to win the war.
R and D went on increasing in cost throughout the war. At the end it was not £5 million; it was £40 million. But with less real reasons it has gone on increasing fabulously ever since. In 1975 it had reached the total of £688 million, and five years later—this year—it is £1,557 million. Of course it has had a devastating effect on our civil industry. Diverting our men of genius, our greatest scientists and technologists to the service of the military machine has damaged our civil industry in a very grievous way. I believe that a good deal of the expenditure now being made is probably very difficult to justify. For example, the defence estimates tell us that on air warfare we are spending £440 million this year mostly, if I understood 450 the estimates aright, for the discovery of new mineral alloys for making aircraft. We have Tritium. It is as strong as steel, one third as heavy and costs about five times as much.
Is it really right to go on spending £440 million this year for aircraft which perhaps will never be used if the next war should come?—because in all human probability it will be a missile war and over very soon. We are also spending £230 million on sea warfare—improving the speed of frigates which probably will never set sail if hostilities should begin—and on investigating anti-submarine warfare which, if the investigation is successful, will destroy the invulnerability of our Polaris submarine fleet. I doubt profoundly whether that expenditure could be justified if it were examined as closely as it should be.
I want to add that expenditure on research and development is not only in my belief very wasteful, it is also very dangerous. R and D is the dynamo that drives the arms race. Everybody agrees that we have been ahead in research and development, ahead of the Russians. Some great experts have said by five years, some have said by 10 years. Herbert York, who was chief scientist in the Pentagon for a period of years under Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, in his book, Race to Oblivion, says that it has been the West which has made every new weapon development in the arms race.
In the current number of Admiral La Roque's defence monitor he shows that it is America which is setting the pace in stepping up the cost of armaments today. Noble Lords will remember that Admiral La Roque is the most decorated naval officer in the world. He was the victor in 15 naval engagements against the Japanese in the Second World War. No-one can doubt his patriotism or his knowledge of the facts, and he says in the current number of his defence monitor that since 1975 in real terms the United States has increased its military expenditure by 6 per cent. a year. He says that that is the major cause of the fact that they have inflation at 17 per cent.
Can any noble Lords doubt that armament expenditure is the cause of inflation? Let them reflect on the case of Israel. The Jews are the ablest financiers in the world, but Israel has the highest level of per capita of expenditure on armaments and its inflation today is 150 per cent. R & D is the cause of rapid weapon development, the bringing out of new weapons all the time and improvements of existing weapons. I believe that rightly viewed the efforts made by Russia—which I think are very often overstated—are really a desperate attempt to keep up.
I hope and believe that noble Lords will think again about this question and will come to the conclusion which I stated earlier that world disarmament, the reduction of armaments to the level required for internal order only with a contribution to the United Nations, the reallocation of the money to world development for human happiness and welfare, is the only realistic policy, the only policy that can defend our nation against the dangers of war; the only policy that can ensure that civilisation will survive.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Lord Murton of Lindisfarne
My Lords, my attention was drawn the other day to a quotation which is as 451 follows:There is no evidence in psychology or in history which would lead us to believe that aggressive groups of adult human beings can be restrained by kindness or cured of aggression by submission to their will".Those words were spoken by the right honourable William Rogers on the subject of defence speaking on behalf of his party—and all honour to him for saying it. I feel that he is a man who understands the problems as I am sure do very many of his colleagues.
Naturally, we as Christians are in a very difficult situation when it comes to the question of nuclear warfare. This obviously is as appalling to us as it is to all other people of like mind. Unfortunately, it is a sad fact that so far as I can judge the Russians are no longer a Christian country. If they had been, may I suggest that life for all of us might be now less anxious. I think that although much of their behaviour may be occasioned by distrust which is probably of a traditional nature of what has happened in the past, if they stop to think and if they used Christian principles in their thinking, they might realise that appalling damage and possibly the end of the planet as we know it might easily occur if all the horrors about which we are talking were released. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, who has just sat down, that when he talks about the dangers of research and development, as I understand it, the Russians are spending virtually twice as much on R and D as we and the United States put together—and I have in fact the authority of a Marshal of the Royal Air Force for that particular detail.
I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Cathcart, and to congratulate him on having achieved this debate today. Although the numbers are now thinning, I think that this has been a matter of very great importance to this country, by the very fact that so many noble Lords in this House today have risen to speak or are waiting to speak. I would only say that I think the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who is not with us at the moment, will acknowledge that the Government's Exercise Crusader will help to assure our American allies of our firm intentions in Europe. I thought, with respect, that his sweeping strictures on the present Government are most unfair. I am not normally in the habit of arguing with a Field-Marshal, but I must remind him that this Government are doing their best, and given time will, I am sure, do even better. It is a difficult situation, nationally and internationally, when we are in a state where we cannot afford all that we would wish and—heaven knows!—we must do the best with what we have got. Inevitably, in a debate such as this, we must always ask for more; if we did not do that we would not be earning our salt.
I think that Exercise Crusader was a very valuable exercise. I am quite certain that much of what came out of it must remain confidential and therefore I shall not probe too deeply into it. But it is a very difficult problem to reinforce a continental army. It is something which over the years we have had to come to expect, because our main difficulty has always been that we have looked upon ourselves as an island race. Fighting on exterior lines of communication we are told by others even than field-marshals is not a very satisfactory way of conducting our affairs. Be that 452 as it may, we cannot do anything about it because we must keep faith with our allies in NATO.
The only problem I can see is the problem of what will happen if we do not receive the longish period we think we might have before hostilities become imminent. It is one thing merrily to motor down to the coast, cross over to the other side and then take up one's battle positions, or to be flown in by aircraft, when you have the time to organise it. What worries me is what will happen supposing that time does not allow us to do such things in the smooth way we should like.
There is one small lesson one can learn—and I speak out of partial ignorance on this, because naturally I have not seen what the composition was of the forces which went. But I think it would be dangerous if any tracked or wheeled vehicles had to be transported from this country at a time when hostilities were a possibility. I think that stockpiling of both really must be an essential, because men can get there by air or by sea, but it is much more cumbersome to take heavy vehicles over, whether they be on tracks or wheels. I only hope that they are in sufficient quantities on the other side to meet the need should it ever—which, please God! it will not—be necessary.
I think, too, that it is really a problem of wondering what would happen supposing we were unfortunate enough not to have the time to reinforce our allies and our own forces in BAOR if war should come upon us. I think the great difficulty would be that conventional bombing, even if nothing worse, would involve our ports on this side together with the lines of communication leading to them, and there may be a major problem in this regard. Therefore, apart from our other commitments to NATO, we must pay some very close attention to the United Kingdom base. We are the forward base in Europe, not only for our own war effort but for the United States of America, who is our principal partner in NATO. Our ports and airfields will be of vital importance, but one wonders whether we have enough forces earmarked for the defence of these and other installations. As I understand it, we have a small eight field force, and there are the general reserve battalions of the Territorial Army. I would suggest that in numbers these forces are totally inadequate for the many commitments they will have to meet, whether to prevent sabotage from within or meet attacks from without by terrorists or others.
I was pleased to see that some progress has been made in the recruitment in the number of squadrons of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment, organised and equipped in a field role as land-rover mounted infantry for the ground defence support of their parent air stations. I would only ask my noble friend the Minister whether something similar could not be done by the formation of additional units, whether of the Territorial Army or named otherwise, who would train as infantry and, with some engineers and signallers in addition, could be given a flexible role as operational units under the command of headquarters United Kingdom land forces. With a stated improvement in overall recruiting, which I understand is quite considerable, this surely would be possible, and at very little cost.
None of us is under any illusion that in the event of active hostilities the British Isles will be spared from the major destruction of military and other targets by 453 conventional bombing, and possibly by worse. With this in mind, for a few minutes more, I should like to discuss the question of civil defence. Although it is, perhaps unhappily, a matter which comes under the heading of another department, nevertheless all departments are the same when it comes to national survival. I gave a relieved, if somewhat muted, welcome to the decision taken in August this year to spend £45 million on planning and training to complete the pattern of local authority wartime administrative headquarters and communications throughout the country. This is merely the reactivation, I would suggest, of what we had in being prior to 1968.
It is also a valuable step to have "a person of high standing" which the Home Secretary decided to nominate to co-ordinate volunteer effort in England and Wales, with a similar person appointed in Scotland. As my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery said, I would hope that the announcement of whoever this person is to be will shortly be made, because I think it is most essential that some action should be seen to be taking place, whatever may be happening within local authorities unbeknown to us.
But most of this work is in the field of communication and fairly abstract training. What this country needs, and will have no doubt eventually if it does not come too late, is a fully-fledged civil defence corps. The police and the fire service are there already as part of a peacetime existence. The Royal Observer Corps is operational; military units for home defence are there in embryo. On the other hand, a heavy rescue service does not exist. Much of what is required could be obtained by volunteer effort with comparatively small expenditure. In our country we have an enormous reservoir of patriotism. What is needed is a firm lead. A natural disaster, such as that which has befallen our Italian friends, highlights the difficulty of bringing aid and relief where terrain and climate conspire to make access difficult. A hundred times worse would be pattern bombing of a port installation in this country, with its dense population in a built-up area. A thousand times worse would be the result of the use of nuclear weapons.
I am not convinced that the people of our country are yet fully aware of the horrible consequences of a nuclear war. It is a natural reaction to put out of one's mind the unpleasant consequences of what is still a hypothetical situation: a threat with which we have all lived for a long time, but which now seems to have grown alarmingly, although I am sure there are many who do not yet realise it. It would be an astonishing lack of psychological understanding on the part of those in authority just to let things drift along from now onwards.
We are told that the period of greatest danger will come in the late 1980s—the so-called "window of vulnerability", when Russia's superiority will reach its zenith. The time has come when comprehensive plans for a major emergency must be worked out in detail. There must, first, be a clear and coherent policy to ensure national survival. From that would flow naturally detailed plans for community and individual survival. I can imagine no worse situation than that which would arise should an unprepared population suddenly be warned by official pronouncements, through press and radio, that extreme danger was 454 imminent. In such circumstances, panic and confusion would be paramount and the instinctive and natural attitude of sauve qui peut would take over and greatly hamper, if not destroy, the efforts of the authorities to remain in control.
May I finish by quoting what the Lord Privy Seal said in reply to the Queen's Speech in another place:… a credible defence is not an alternative to schools, housing and social services. It is the only guarantee of our security and way of life".—[Official Report, Commons, 24/11/80; col. 341.]and I am sure that that is something which we all support.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Lord Saint Brides
My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken, I was much impressed by the conviction and forthrightness with which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, spoke to us earlier in this debate. It is about the global threat of which he spoke that I shall try to deal succinctly in my speech.
A man of my age from Britain who visits Moscow and Leningrad, as I did recently, cannot fail to be struck—and to find his own memories stirred—by the depth and vividness with which the Russian people's prodigious sufferings, and ultimate deliverance, during World War II are still remembered, and poignantly commemorated in both cities today. No wonder, therefore, if for some decades after that appalling experience the Soviet Government acted on the principle that never again should the USSR have to suffer such an overwhelming disaster as Hitler's invasion. No matter what the cost, Russia must be made, and kept, strong enough to hold off all corners from whatever quarter. It is in this light, and on this ground, that the huge and manifest scale of Soviet military preparedness today is still presented and justified to the Russian people.
But military preparations, if they are sustained for so long and so massively as they have been in the Soviet Union, acquire, in the end, a logic and a momentum of their own; and I would add that greatly enlarged military capabilities have a way of heightening their owners' propensity to take risks. Those of us who are obliged to live under the awesome threat, like a huge wave which could break at any moment, of Soviet troops and weaponry in Central Europe, know that the USSR'S former obsessive preoccupation with defence has now changed into something different and more menacing.
Whatever the Soviet Government may say, for public consumption, about the scale of threat to their country from the NATO powers or from China, no objective student of the present situation in the world—and the Kremlin planners are nothing if not objective—could seriously argue that the Soviet Union today is likely to suffer an unprovoked attack from any quarter as it did from Nazi Germany. The reasons for the immense Soviet military build-up therefore have to be sought elsewhere.
There seem to be several, and I suggest three. First, authoritarian régimes, as such, always tend to build up great armies, because the threat, and the application of force, is for them a way of life, both internally and externally, and because the young and active male part of the population can be controlled more easily if they are in uniform than if they are not. For the elderly and 455 profoundly conservative men who rule in Moscow, the possession of large and well-equipped military forces, stationed both in the USSR and on the territories of their European satellites, is the ultimate guarantee of continued communist rule in that part of the world to which it has so far been extended. And—as the men in the Kremlin see matters it is the possession of such forces which ensures that the Soviet Union is feared and respected and its wishes heeded, even if not always obeyed, in that part of the world which is not yet communist or, like China, practices a heretical version of communism.
Secondly, this desire to assert Soviet importance operates with especial force in relation to the United States. As a very senior Soviet official said to me in Moscow a little over two months ago, "It is idle for any American to think that we shall ever allow them to re-establish the superiority which they once had over us in nuclear weapons. That was a once-for-all phenomenon which will never be allowed to recur." In the negotiations about the limitation of strategic arms, which the two super powers have conducted since 1972, the United States Government has sought stability and parity. But the Soviet Union, while reaping whatever advantage they could in terms of the codification of the holdings of strategic arms, have relentlessly sought military superiority in the fields not covered by SALT. With great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, it has not been a case of the Soviet Union desperately trying to catch up. For example, the Soviet Union has developed an offensive chemical warfare potential, which has already been mentioned by several noble Lords in this debate, to which there is no parallel in the armed forces of the United States or of other Western countries.
Thirdly, let us remember that, while all the other pre-1914 empires, including our own, have vanished the Soviet Union is the successor régime to that of the Tsars, with subject dominions reaching across Asia to the Pacific. It has been a characteristic of empires that, when there is a power vacuum on their borders, they expand if they can, so as to fill it, just as the Soviet Union is seeking to do in Afghanistan at this moment.
Last March, I visited a camp of Afghanistan refugees at Jamrud, at the foot of the Khyber Pass in Pakistan. They told me that it was after President Daud's overthrow, at the hands of the Afghanistan communist party in April 1978, that the Afghan Communist Party began seeking, as they put it, with determination and cruelty "to destroy our old ways and beliefs and to introduce communism in their stead." They told me: "That is why many of us took refuge in Pakistan even before the Russian troops invaded our country last December." When I said to them that Afghans, as a people, were famous for their devotion to Islam, and that surely the communists could really have no hope of destroying their faith, they replied: "That is true of all of us who are adults. But what the communists want is to get hold of our children." Thus it was the Afghan Communist Party's arrival in power, followed by the campaign which the new régime launched with Soviet encouragement and help to indoctrinate the Afghan people with communist ideology, which triggered off the rebellion among the Afghan tribesmen that they have waged with such 456 fervour and ferocity ever since.
I asked these tribesmen when I met them whether they now saw the invasion of their country as another episode in the extension of the Russian Empire which, as we British well knew, had spread in the 18th and 19th centuries from Orenburg—the great military base in the Urals—all the way to the banks of the Oxus, where it was checked by British counter-influence, or whether the Russian invasion should be regarded rather as a Soviet attempt to spread the grip of communism more widely. Their answer was "Both", for what was the second objective but the latter-day manifestation of the first? As witness the doctrine proclaimed by Mr. Brezhnev in Warsaw in November 1972, that once a country has joined the Soviet camp, the USSR is in duty bound to keep it there.
Given the Afghan character, it seems unlikely that the Soviet troops will be able in the foreseeable future to snuff out altogether the flame of Afghan resistance, however hard they try. But the Russians are much more numerous and much better equipped than the Mujahideen. If, as hitherto, the Mujahideen continue to receive hardly any serious external help—or none at all—in the way of weapons and supplies, it is hard to see how even such indomitable fighters as they are can keep up large-scale resistance indefinitely, provided that the Russians for their part maintain their will to prevail.
The Soviet Empire is fighting a colonial war and they mean to win it, if only because empires which lose such wars do not for long remain empires. Perhaps in the long run the Russians may be able to reduce the frequency and fierceness of tribal attacks to the level of a nuisance rather than a threat and will proclaim that to be a victory. But what to do with Afghanistan after that will be a serious problem. A large, permanent Soviet garrison will be required and even then Afghanistan will prove an intractable country to occupy and to administer against its will.
My Lords, with your permission I will finish nearer home. For the next few years we in the Western alliance, pending the necessary updating of our military capabilities, will be passing through a time of relative weakness, while the Soviets—because of the huge military build up which they have already carried through—will profit from a time of relative strength. This is the window of Western vulnerability of which the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, spoke just now. The Russians, as we all know, have already deployed their theatre nuclear weapon, the SS.20 for possible use against Western Europe. It has given the Russians the capability, among other things, of destroying the ports which in war would be essential for reinforcing and resupplying NATO forces.
As of now the Western allies have not deployed theatre nuclear weapons which would be suitable for counter-attacking Soviet and Warsaw Pact reinforcement capabilities. NATO's decision in principle of last December to place suitable theatre nuclear weapons in Western Europe—Pershing Its and cruise missiles—will correct this asymmetry when it is implemented. But this implementation is a step which the Russians will do their best to thwart, and have already exerted strong diplomatic pressure to delay or prevent.
My Lords, unless and until the threat of the Soviet SS20s is lifted it is of the utmost importance that we 457 in Britain should continue to resist this Russian pressure, for otherwise we shall be acquiescing in, and perpetuating, a situation of grave disadvantage for the whole Western alliance. For Britain to accept cruise missiles, as Her Majesty's Government have said we will, is a step which adds to our security because it adds to the Western capacity for deterrence. But for us to reverse this wise decision and reject them by the same reasoning would be a disastrous mistake. It would suit the Soviet Union splendidly, not least because of the contagious effect which such a display of British infirmity could well have elsewhere in Europe. But for Britain herself such a move would be unsound and unsafe.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Earl of Glasgow
My Lords, may I first add my own tribute to the late Lord Ballantrae. His abilities, his achievements and his marvellous sense of humour have been eloquently described by previous speakers. He was my first cousin and a very close friend from childhood. We shall all miss him very much indeed.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Saint Brides, I should like to put such weight as I possess behind the powerful speech of my noble and gallant friend Lord Hill-Norton, especially when he emphasised the necessity for a global maritime policy. I have been blowing this trumpet for the 17 years during which I have been a Member of your Lordships' House. In pursuance of this theme I shall confine my brief contribution this evening to Southern Africa and the Cape route.
There can be little doubt that from the strategic point of view, in war or in a period of strained relations, one of our most important allies outside Europe is the Republic of South Africa. Her territories lie astride the Cape route, whose protection in time of war is vital, not only to this country but to our allies in Europe and America. Why then have successive British Governments treated her so churlishly in the field of defence? She opted out of the Commonwealth—rightly or wrongly—in 1961, an act which saved this country considerable embarrassment and probably prevented much of the Commonwealth from breaking up.
Our response was to refuse to sell her any arms. The arms she wanted were Nimrod maritime aircraft, frigates and submarines—not the type of weapon likely to be used in dispersing rioting blacks. She had to go elsewhere for her hardware, and as most of the maritime hardware she possessed had been bought from us it produced tremendous problems with regard to spare parts. Our next act was to withdraw from the Cape the British Commander-in-Chief, South Atlantic, whose duty in war would have been to co-ordinate the maritime forces of South Africa and any squadrons that we could spare for the defence of the Cape route. Finally, we ended the Simonstown agreement and gave up vital wireless stations in the Cape. These must be regarded as acts of sublime folly, particularly as we continue to maintain close and very important commercial relations in other fields.
I share with probably every member of your Lordships' House a strong dislike of the internal policies of the South African Government. Nevertheless, I should like to make three brief points. Historically, 458 South Africa, unlike Rhodesia, never was a black man's country. If it belonged to anyone it belonged to Hottentots and Bushmen. The Voortreckers were well into the Transvaal before they were confronted with an invading black army from the north.
Secondly, the policy of apartheid, or separate development, possibly a necessary defensive measure in early days, has been accepted as a fact of life in the minds of the Afrikaaner, and indeed of many English-speaking South Africans, for well over 100 years. It is not easy to change quickly. The white South African is understandably reluctant to hand over the country, which he has created, to a black majority whose country it never was. It is their methods of which we disapprove.
In the 30 years since I commanded a frigate on the South Atlantic station much has happened. Many of the more odious facets of apartheid have been, and are continuing to be, whittled away. South Africa is faced with a desperately difficult problem. What she needs is a helping hand and not the cold shoulder. This was admirably put by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow, who I am delighted to see is speaking later on in this debate, in a debate which took place at the beginning of this year. He said:I hope the Government will try in whatever way it can to help the South African Government along the very difficult road of adjusting their affairs to the climate of world opinion".That, I think, puts the internal situation in a nutshell. At the same time I feel the Government must have the courage openly to accept the importance of South Africa to the West in the strategic and military sense and to act accordingly. I was somewhat encouraged by the speech of my noble friend Lord Strathcona on this point.
To the north-east and to the north-west of South Africa are two Marxist countries, the old Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique. Added to the fact that the Russians now control the exit from the Red Sea, these might well present problems in the defence of the Cape route. Until these countries become disillusioned with their Marxist masters there seems very little that we can do, but as a first step I was very interested in the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Home of the Hirsel, in the debate already referred to, that world opinion should be mobilised to demand the withdrawal of the Cubans from Africa. Their presence in this continent is only a little less offensive than Russian tanks in Afghanistan. Their departure would do much to lighten our darkness.
The position of the newly independent state of Zimbabwe is crucial. Her Majesty's Government and the Western world must ensure that that country does not fall into Marxist hands. It has long been a plum which the Russians, directly or indirectly, have longed to pluck. For them it would be the ideal springboard for subversion and terrorism in the Republic of South Africa. By the same token I think South Africa needs some support in preventing Namibia falling into Marxist hands.
My Lords, it has got to be accepted that the security of South Africa is of vital importance to the Western World. Finally, and at the risk of repeating myself, if we and our allies have any hope of defending the Cape route in any future war, ideological objections have got to be shelved and some accommodation with 459 South Africa must be found. There is not much time left for the West to consolidate its position in this important area.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I think that all those who have listened to this debate will have been impressed by the fact of how seriously from all sides of the House there has been a search for some way out of the dangerous situation in the world today. We have had many different views; we have listened tolerantly to them, and although I shall be expressing very definite views, I hope to speak in that spirit.
During the past four months the people of this country have been conditioned to anticipating a nuclear war. That has been partly because of events in the world, but also the influence of the media, the television, speeches from Ministers and the preparations for civil defence. A recent Gallup Poll showed that 57 per cent. of our people believe that a nuclear war will take place within their own lifetimes. While there has been that fear there has also been an extraordinary determination by peoples to resist any nuclear war. I have been engaged in politics for 70 years. It is a very long time since I have known the fervour among people that there is now against the danger of a nuclear war—packed meetings everywhere, all through the country spontaneously springing up councils for action for peace. A recent Gallup Poll showed that 41 per cent. of our people now support unilateral nuclear disarmament. Six months ago it would not have been 12 per cent. Neither our media nor the political leaders of this country, perhaps with the exception of Mr. Michael Foot, understand the upsurge that is taking place in the determination to resist nuclear war.
It is said that this movement is unilateral. Yes, there is the determination to demand the ending of nuclear weapons in this country. But the movement is also multilateral; it is happening all over the world. Canada has decided no nuclear weapons on its territory, Norway has decided no nuclear weapons on its territory, Belgium, Holland and Denmark have all declined to accept the NATO instructions to deploy cruise missiles immediately. We have to recognise now that all over the world there is this movement of peoples who are absolutely dedicated to demand that there shall not be a nuclear war.
I do not think this is surprising. We have at this moment in the world, in the Soviet Union and the United States of America, enough nuclear weapons to destroy all life on earth. An accident, a local dispute, may so easily release those destructive elements upon us. There is this realisation; the bomb which fell on Hiroshima, one bomb, according to earlier statistics killed 65,000 people. Evidence recently given at the Pugwash Conference suggested that the figure is 200,000. That was one bomb. Today, as scientists have recently indicated in their letter to The Times, the bomb is 1,000 times more destructive than the one which fell on Hiroshima. And it is now recognised that, should war take place and nuclear missiles be in the air, 50 missiles could destroy the whole population of the British Isles. When that is the situation and people realise that the nuclear danger is now a threat 460 to all life, is it surprising that, all over the world, this movement of resistance should be developing?
Papers have been issued by the Government suggesting means by which the population can be saved from this destruction. The Government will forgive me if I describe them as ludicrous. I have heard a distinguished academic professor describe them as obscene. We are all to stay in our homes, we are to get under a table, we are to get into a cupboard beneath the stairs, we are to paint our windows. In my view no one who knows anything about the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, as indicated by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, this afternoon, believes that that protection could save a single life in our country.
But, there is another element in the proposals to protect our lives. There will be deep shelters for the administrative staff of our country. There is one under Whitehall. By a strange coincidence I have been down it. At the end of the Second World War the Foreign Secretary agreed that I should go to Germany to be the first public speaker against Hitler as I was the last against him before the war occurred. In Whitehall I went three floors down to conditioned rooms, with corridors to No. 10 Downing Street and all the Civil Service departments. That deep shelter in Whitehall has now been vastly extended. Under the Chilterns there is a similar deep shelter for the top civil servants who are not in Whitehall. In Basingstoke there is the first deep shelter for our provincial administrative class, the first of 17 which are to be distributed throughout the country. The hope is that however many lives may be lost in our homes, at the end there will be an administrative class which may continue our society.
I doubt very much whether they will come up alive. But, if they do come up alive they will come to a devastated country with hardly a human being alive. They will come up in Whitehall to see their civil departments destroyed. The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral will all be utterly devastated. Even if they live they will face the task of administering a country where all buildings and all life have been destroyed.
There is one matter that puzzles me. Wives are not to be allowed down these shelters. The women who will be there will be older women in the top staffs of our civil service. I wonder, if they do come up from those deep shelters, how the population of this country can be continued? But, realistically, we know that there is no protection, no civil defence, against nuclear war today—it means absolute destruction. In view of those facts is it surprising that there is the movement all over the world against nuclear weapons?
However, no one can be satisfied merely with ending nuclear weapons in this country and so protecting our people from a nuclear war. Anyone who holds convictions at all must also be concerned about ending nuclear arms in the world. My noble friend Lord Noel-Baker has described the hope which there is in the world now for international disarmament—the Special Assembly of the United Nations, its recommendations to the committee at Geneva and the renewed assembly in 1982. But many of us now are sceptical of the declarations of Governments.
461 If these hopes in the world are to be realised, it must be by a great massive people's movement all over the world to demand them. That massive movement is now being created. In this country the world disarmament campaign is receiving a support for which those of us who initiated it did not dare to hope—the British Council of Churches, the welfare organisations, the trades unions, the women, the youth, and the universities. The peace movement in this country is not the old peace societies, it is now growing from underneath to contain the whole of our population.
Moreover, just as it is growing here so it is growing throughout the world. The trade union movement in Japan recently obtained 32 million signatures for their petition for disarmament. Our petition has been translated into all the languages of the world. It will be signed by millions. Our purpose is not merely a petition, but a campaign all over the world with a great world convention before the 1982 Special Assembly. It will be so large that no hall in Europe will be able to hold it.
It may seem strange in this House for me to be speaking about what is happening outside in the world today. But it is actually happening, and the time will come when this House, the media—we are already breaking through there—and the leading political figures in the establishment will begin to understand what is moving the peoples of the earth. General Eisenhower once said that he hoped a time would come when millions of people would so insist on disarmament that no man and no nation could ignore their demand. We are determined to create that kind of movement in the next two years, and we are doing it. We are doing it not only to end armaments but to transfer the millions now spent upon weapons of death to instruments of life to end poverty in the world. Those are the great aims which must be realised in the 1980s. I say to a House which may be sceptical that it has no conception of the surges of opinion and action that are taking place today among the peoples of the world. I believe, before the end of this century, they will bring the disarmament, the peace and the welfare which we are seeking.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, once followed me and he started by saying that it would come as no surprise to me that he would not go along the same road. I return the compliment this evening. Several times in the last year or two—and I must apologise for doing this again—I have quoted Santayana's well-known saying:Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat its mistakes".I prefer to go along the road so admirably set by the noble Lords, Lord Stewart of Fulham and Lord Granville of Eye, in last week's debate, when they both brought up the similarities between today and the 1930s.
Perhaps I might be permitted to deal with some more personal experiences. I went up to Oxford when the resolution had just been passed that we would not fight for King and country. Of course we took ourselves seriously, although no one else in this country did. Actually that resolution would have been rescinded 462 the following term had it not been for one pompous individual—I give no name for I must not speak ill of the dead—who insisted on coming down to vote for the rescinding of the resolution, top hat, tails and all. So half of us who were going to vote for rescinding it, did not do so.
I turn to the next point. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, said that the present peace movement is nothing like the old peace movements. I do not know. I remember when Duff Cooper was Minister for War and he came to address the cadets of the University OTC at Magdalen College. The peace pledge union—it was under that banner—gathered outside Magdalen College and made such a row that nobody could hear his speech and I think that that following—I gather that it still goes on today—broke a few windows.
In 1937 I went on embarkation leave and I had a holiday in Germany. I had to go to a doctor in Heidelberg. He said "What are you?" I said, "I am an Army officer". He said "Oh, of course you don't have any Army; you have no power in the world". I made my best defence possible; I said, "I know that our Army is small, but we have a huge reserve territorial army". But, no, he had got the message, together with Hitler and Ribbentrop, of how we behaved in those days. Next, I went to India and we were stationary in the Suez Canal on one of Her Majesty's transports when along came a big Italian troopship—it was much bigger than ours. The invasion of Abyssinia was taking place at that time. We knew what they thought of us then, because of the way we were going on in those days. These horrid little "whatnots" urinated all along the side of the ship on top of us.
I am only telling these stories to bring out what I might call the personal, lower side to the points which the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, brought out last week. The people who were responsible—the guilty men—were those who let us be seen to be disarming in the 1930s and so encouraged Ribbentrop, Hitler and everyone else to believe that we would never do anything.
It is no use blaming, as some of the unilateralists now try to do, a weak League of Nations. Let us compare it with the United Nations. I am a great supporter of the United Nations. What have they done to stop the invasion of Afghanistan? What have they been able to do to remove the Cuban and East German troops in Africa and South Yemen? All war is horrible; nobody denies that, and nuclear war is the worst of all. But the unilateralists are misquoting and using out of context all the speeches and texts to suit their purposes—for example, Mountbatten.
I wonder whether noble Lords have listened to the programme "You, the Jury" on BBC 4, where the spokesmen for the unilateralists said—just as the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and his friends say now—"All right, you disarm and you will be all right." I should have thought that our experiences of the 1930s, quite apart from the rest of history, would disprove that. I consider that they are completely illogical. They keep telling us how awful these things would be, yet they then take it out on those of us who are preparing to help our fellow men should there ever be any emergency, not only a nuclear attack.
463 What on earth is wrong in training people in communications in case other communications break down? What is wrong in training people in monitoring or radiac instruments? What on earth is wrong in training people in how to protect other people, property and so on? What on earth is wrong in training people in first aid, light rescue and so on? I am sure that many villages in Italy wish they had organisations such as we, who are at the moment engaged in civil defence, are trying to build.
The people who are being eulogised by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, are becoming strong. We have had two meetings of the Devon Emergency Volunteers broken up by that crowd. They attacked Exercise Square Leg. What were the reasons?—because there was something in it to deal with looters and rioters. Oh God, in practically every national disaster or international disaster as well as war you get a certain element of humanity that has to be controlled; they are the looters and the rioters. Those of us who have experience of war know that as soon as we have liberated an area one of our first jobs is to deal with those people. Why did they attack? They attacked it on "You, the Jury". I presume it is because they see themselves in the position of being the looters and the rioters.
It is the "we and they" complex that gets me down. My complaint about Exercise Square Leg is that it was done on what I might call a trade union or Civil Service basis: nine to five only, and then you went home. If they had depended more on the volunteers, as in the old days when we had volunteers in civil defence, we went on day after day and night after night, as it would be in the real world.
No, there is a well funded and well orchestrated movement of these unilateralists and the CND. What I want the Government to do is to fund an antidote to that, on the basis that only a strong alliance can deter an aggressor. Home defence and civil defence are all part and parcel of the same picture as ordinary defence to deter an aggressor. Trident is years away. The cruise missile is four years away. The Soviet SS20 is there already, and there are 160 of them. It would be much better for the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, to go and preach to the Russians and get them to withdraw theirs first.
Nye Bevan pleaded with the unilateralists of his day. He said, "Don't send me naked into the conference chamber". That is just what will happen now if we do not go on with our proposals for defence. Home defence and civil defence are all part and parcel of national defence, especially in the picture it gives the aggressor. The criticisms I have of the Government now are, first, the moratorium. There is all this business about "the mole". Good heavens! we all knew about what was going on months beforehand. Take as an example the Trident. It is announced that we are going to have the Trident. The naval planners then set to work. What did they find? They found that the firms they had to deal with, the experts they had to deal with and whom they have known for years, have either closed down or their best brains have been sacked. It is stupid.
The yeomanry regiment of which I am honorary colonel covers the counties of Gloucester, Devon and Wiltshire. They are so reduced that there is no regi- 464 mental training. How can you cover those distances, if you have 100 litres of petrol a vehicle a month? Nobody can do anything. You have cut out all these other things. Take fuel for heating. What is going to happen in the winter months? Are you going to get any training done? Your Lordships know what some TA drill halls are like. The moratorium is about spares as well, and not only for vehicles but for other equipment. It is going to be back to 1939, when the anti-aircraft guns for the defence of London arrived here with no breech blocks. Some noble Lords are not old enough to remember.
I want to ask the following question about civil defence. It follows from the Government's statement of 7th August. When are we going to get the Home Office directive? I know we have heard it said "soon". Everything is held up. All the planning cannot be done. When are we going to get this person of high standing? How can we sort out these differences? When are we going to get the money that was promised? It was not much anyway. Is it going to be inflation-proof?
I should like to ask the noble Lord who is going to reply whether he could answer this question. The Warsaw Pact has been stated to have 25 per cent. of its ammunition with lethal chemicals. Can the noble Lord verify that, or otherwise? If the answer is "yes", can he tell me whether we have any gas masks left from 1938, or any other form of protection? We have seen all this before. Please learn the lesson. Please follow the line of the noble Lord, Lord Granville, and the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and do not pay any attention to the siren songs of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway.
§ 7.56 p.m.
Lord de Clifford
My Lords, I wish I had some of the eloquence of a number of noble Lords who have spoken tonight. I am happy to follow my noble cousin Lord Clifford because we follow very much the same line of thought. One of the things which it is difficult for people to appreciate—and I trust that noble Lords who are answering for the Government or speaking from any side must realise it—is that there are people out in the country, and have been during all your Lordships' debate, who are in fact being taxed and who are contributing towards the defence of this country.
I have listened to a considerable amount of this debate, and all the weight so far, except in my noble cousin's remarks, appear to have been on what I call the arms side of this defence debate. One gets the impression that we have built up a nice film set where the front is coming along nicely but there is very little behind it. We have to face the fact, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, may say, that nuclear weapons are with us. We can stir up a lot of feeling in the West against the use of nuclear weapons and for disarmament, but I have a feeling that it does not impress our potential enemies. I also have a feeling that if something does happen it will happen so fast that we shall find ourselves looking around wondering what to do.
One thing that would interest me and interest a number of people to whom I have spoken outside your Lordships' House is to ask, when we are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on defence, have the 465 Government, or any Government ever, stated what percentage of that amount should be spent on home defence? At the moment nobody has any idea. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, is quite right: we have not got an organisation at the moment. Our territorial army, while they are extremely keen and anxious, do not really know what role they are going to play. Are matters going to go so fast that they are going to be committed to home and civil defence? Or shall we again—and it is very unlikely—have a long pause in which we can get ourselves organised before hostilities really commence?
I was particularly impressed not long ago when the flood danger in London was realised. The amount of publicity was such that everybody knew what it was all about. There were maps on walls and directives and, although I live deep in the countryside, even my area had no lack of knowledge of what would happen and what to do if the flood warnings sounded. I wish it were possible in relation to civil defence to put our people in the same position, so they knew what to do. What particularly frightens me is that I do not believe that in the country districts and towns on the borders of big cities our people have any conception of what the refugee problem would be. Not many people can visualise the appalling chaos which must ensue following a nuclear explosion and the rate of evacuation that would be involved; everybody able to move would want to leave an area which had been devastated.
Many people talk about relying on voluntary services. Considering the problems, the mind boggles. We have some excellent voluntary services but I cannot see them standing on bridges over the River Severn, for instance, if Birmingham or Wolverhampton were bombed, stopping thousands of refugees trying desperately to get away from the devastation and looking for something to eat. At some point somebody will have to get down to the problem of informing the people in these areas what they must expect, what they will have to do and on whom they can rely. I beg the Government, as I would urge any Government, to put out much more information into the countryside and particularly the rural areas so people know what is expected of them, what may happen, where things are and how they can best help themselves. Above all, when the Government are creating organisations, please do not create them in a penny-pinching way. We should put as much money as possible into them because they represent the people who will survive and must be protected.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Lord Granville of Eye
My Lords, I was particularly interested in what the noble Lord said about the Territorial Army. I understand they are going through some rather intensive training, some of it commando training of a severe nature. I hope we are not making it too severe, or we might lose some of the youngsters involved. At this late hour I wish to refer briefly to a point raised by the Minister concerning supply and research and the ordnance inquiry which I gather he is chairing. I wonder whether it is understood even now how vital at the outbreak of the last war we found our industrial technical war potential to be. At the outbreak of hostilities we found ourselves 466 completely dependent on that potential. Presumably in the NATO alliance the weapons produced in the various countries are produced by agreement, with the heavier equipment, tanks and aircraft and so on, subject to the Official Secrets Act. Obviously each country must know what is exercised by a potential enemy and the type of weapons likely to be used.
I mention that to illustrate that, however good our information and however excellent our security, espionage and agents—some of them even infiltrated the German industrial war machine during the last war—the enemy were still able to spring some surprises on us at the outbreak of war and, so far as productivity was concerned, we were not ready or able to cope with those surprises. It is interesting to read the book written by the Nazi, Albert Speer, who explains what happened in Germany. There was great unemployment and Hitler and the Nazis were able to enrol the Brown Shirts, Black Shirts and so on, and it is interesting to note—I think we have lost sight of this over the years—that they had conscription, putting the conscripts into machine tool factories. The result was that when war broke out they had a cadre of machine tool artisans and mechanics who were able to make it extremely difficult for us to keep up with their production.
Bearing that in mind, I come to the fact that at present in this country we have, presenting us with a tremendous problem, a large number of school-leavers unemployed. Why not set up a cadre and train these intelligent, well-educated young men in the micro-silicon chip operation which will be so vital in future aircraft and military production? Why not teach them the techniques to become skilled engineers in the micro-chip industry? That would certainly help employment and give this country something like a head-start in the micro-chip revolution which will take place sooner than we think and in which we are at present behind some of our competitors. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Scanlon, has a Motion on the Order Paper on this, but meanwhile I ask the Minister to give consideration to this suggestion so that we might recapture our technical superiority and prosperity.
The noble Lord, Lord Peart, referred to steel, railways and stock-piling. Are we doing that? For instance, are we stock-piling food, remembering that at the time of the dock strike we were within 11 days of wholesale rationing? Are we learning lessons from that and building up adequate stockpiles of such commodities? I hope that not only in this country but in NATO consideration will be given to this aspect because it might prove vital in the event of a nuclear attack.
In conclusion, I would say that national morale is one of the most vital requirements in defence; it is absolutely essential. Although we are going through a difficult time at present, I agree with what my noble friend Lord Shinwell said, and I think Churchill said: when the crisis comes this country will always rise to the occasion. I hope—as the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, mentioned—that we are not going to make the same mistake again.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Baroness Airey of Abingdon
My Lords, I venture to speak in this most important debate in regard to which so many of your Lordships who are taking part 467 have had great experience in military, naval and air force affairs. The debate takes place at a most vital, important and dangerous time. I believe that our defence policy must be supported, even at the cost of great personal sacrifice. There can be no security through weakness. It gives us, as private citizens, a chance to play our part, and from experience I know how everyone feels better when they are involved.
There will be speeches on the vital matter of civil defence; indeed this question has already been mentioned by several noble Lords. However, should the enemy be sufficiently deterred by our preparedness, will they not try something quite different? I wonder whether they will not seek to achieve their objectives without recourse to force. There has been much debate today about what we should do from a military point of view, but I believe that we should not rule out the possibility of the enemy trying to take over this country and the Western countries of the NATO alliance from the inside; and that is what I should like to speak about for a few minutes this evening.
We have an enemy to contend with who aims at nothing less than the subjugation of the whole civilised world".Oddly enough, that was not said by a general or politician of today. It was said by one of the founders of a famous regiment, the Green Jackets, in 1806, but I find it most relevant to today's situation. There are many openings in a democratic state for the kind of backdoor attack that I have in mind. I have in mind for instance, disruption from within. Here we could start with considering our children and infiltration of our schools. There might be ridicule of authority and of religion. There might also be contempt of the law, which moves on to terrorism. Another example might be further exploitation of the situation in Northern Ireland, with it spreading to the mainland. There might be encouragement of jealously and tension between different parts of this country. There could be invidious propaganda on television and in the rest of the media, or the taking over of parliamentary seats by means of Left-Wing infiltration in local organisation.
I have outlined just a few of the ways in which I believe there could conceivably be a bloodless revolution to take over our Western countries. What should be our policy and what should be our defence in such a situation, and how could the threat be best combated? I believe that we should put the communist policy in reverse; we should spread confidence where there is despondency.
There is a chance for all patriots to play their part—those who are citizens of this country by adoption, as well as those who are citizens by birth. Let us start with our children. Parents and all who are concerned with them should go to the schools, get to know the teachers, and find out what the children are being taught. I believe that all should occupy themselves with local involvement and knowledge of local leaders in church and council; and those in trade unions who are patriotic should work to make contact with their fellow workers and gain control in their unions. In the words of the Prime Minister, they should go to the meetings and stay to the end. I believe that there should be vigilance in all things.
Reference has been made to the territorials—and 468 what better and more honourable organisation could there be for men of all ages? Many men are accepted when they are over the age for other forms of service which may be more difficult for those who are a little older. I say that because my husband was extremely proud to be a territorial though well over the normal age. That was at the same time as my son was also a territorial. I suggest that as many people as possible should join the territorials and other organisations, such as the Scouts and the Guides.
Strong defences are built only on a strong economy. Work is important before reward; rewards will come later. I believe that discipline is very important; it is what we need in this country. I have seen the discipline of the Army in Northern Ireland. I have seen the steadfastness of the RUC and the UDR, and I know that when there is discipline and personal trust in leaders who are known, there is strength and courage in the country.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Lord Greenhill of Harrow
My Lords, I believe that we should thank the noble Baroness for drawing attention to an important aspect of the subject that we are debating tonight, and we should reflect carefully on what she said. One finds that people are rather reluctant to speak about this aspect, and are even more reluctant to do anything about it. We should be very grateful to the noble Baroness for drawing our attention to it.
I should have liked to take part in the debate last week on foreign affairs and defence arising from the gracious Speech, but I was unable to do so. I think it is inevitable that much of the ground gone over then should be gone over again today, and I apologise if I err too much in that direction. It is very late and your Lordships have already been subjected to over 20 speeches. I hesitate to burden your Lordships with another speech, but if you will excuse me, I shall proceed to say what I wanted to say.
It seemed to me that there was an encouraging degree of consensus in what was said last week and what has been said today. One of the areas of consensus was in regard to the point that in dealing with the Russians we should all speak quietly and carry a big stick; and the discussion today is partly about the contribution that the United Kingdom should make to the stick. But not only should we speak quietly, my Lords; we should speak often, and we should speak in as many forums as we can find, because it is essential to know and understand the Russian attitudes. We in this country should also, I think, make a much more methodical study of the Soviet attitudes. My impression is that for a variety of reasons, not least financial, we have given up making the sort of consistent and in-depth study of the Russians that was made in the past. Happily, some of the universities have now provided opportunities for academics to do this very expertly, and we are able to share the benefit of their judgments. But I wonder whether, in total, we do enough.
It seems likely to me that behind the scenes there is a revision of traditional Soviet attitudes taking place. Old attitudes are being reviewed and tested against the experience of the present-day, and we must be very prompt in picking up the signs, which are not 469 always visible to anybody who has not got a practised eye. It is a matter of historical fact that the way to the test ban treaty was almost missed, and that it was only an expert analysis in this country of the apparently final message of Khrushchev to President Kennedy that prevented the negotiations being abandoned at a critical stage. That demonstrates, I think, the way expert knowledge can play a vital role. The Russians well understand that, and they study us and they study the Americans even more so. I have been told that there is not a single American who has served on the National Security Council who has not been approached subsequently by a Soviet "academic" to quiz him on how he discharged his functions, what his motives were and what influences were borne upon him. This is something that we should play in reverse; and, although very much has already been said, I should with diffidence like to make a few comments on the present situation.
First, it is important that at all times the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence should see eye to eye; and over the past many years the two departments have been, I think, rather good at this, in contrast to the experience of many of our allies. It is especially necessary for these departments to keep together in times of financial stringency; and nothing is more tempting to Ministers and rival civil servants than raiding the Foreign Office and Defence Votes. It can be made to sound very laudable and moral, and, of course, there is always the sporting chance that the worst will not happen. I was going to add a more cynical comment, but on reflection I will not.
It is the duty of the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence to try to assess the nature and the extent of the threat to this county, and to recommend what resources are necessary to minimise the risk. For this, in addition to adequate forces, effective intelligence machinery is required, and I hope Her Majesty's Government keep this firmly in mind. I am not reassured by the knowledge that the BBC is preparing an expensive programme on this subject, and in this connection I trust that the governors will be careful to consider their responsibility.
Secondly, I wish to make a point on disarmament. The folly of unilateral action was effectively dealt with last week and again today. I hope that what Lord Zuckerman said today will be noted, and that when it is quoted it will be quoted in toto, and not selectively, as he has been misquoted in the past. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that disarmament should take a more central place in our foreign policy, but I hope he does not think it is necessary only to say this to get results, and that it is reason and not emotion which has to be our guide. We had a Minister of Disarmament in the 'sixties, and I hope it is not unfair to say that the most constructive result of that was to secure a place for Lord Chalfont in this House. Gimmicks cannot bring about worthwhile results, and it is only by the removal of the fundamental causes of dispute that the arms bills can be brought down. That is why we must welcome the efforts of the Foreign Secretary, not only on the main problems but on lesser ones like Belize and the Falkland Islands.
The third point I want to make is on the shape of British forces. I have not heard every speech tonight, but I have heard most of them and I have heard no 470 mention of how the problem of the defence of North Sea oil, which is a new factor, is going to be considered in the light of our future defence programme. Of course our forces must be centred on Europe and on the North Atlantic, but we must not dismiss from our minds the possibility, and indeed the probability, of United Kingdom forces being deployed outside the NATO area. The noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, supported by others, has very eloquently underlined how the threat to us is global, and we must not think entirely in terms of defence in Europe. It may be unwise at this time publicly to detail the circumstances in which this might come about, but your Lordships have sufficient experience to recognise what might happen, not necessarily far in the future but even next week. Lord Carrington suggested, very wisely, that political co-operation with our allies should be improved and he explained how he thought it should be done. But in answer to a question (unless I misunderstood him) he said that this would not deal with defence. Perhaps not, but I hope it will ensure that in considering future political possibilities the military aspects and consequences will not be neglected. Appropriate contingency plans must be made among friends, and I do not mean among only NATO friends.
Fourthly, I should like to speak about the British nuclear deterrent. Nobody can foretell the future, and many of the events of great danger which have taken place since the war were not foreseen and not anticipated. I thought it proper to write to The Times some months ago to emphasise that it is not only in the context of the Soviet Union that we must consider our need for a nuclear deterrent. The noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, made the same point last week, and indeed has done so before. The proliferation of nuclear weapons has by no means been checked, and it is fashionable nowadays to attribute superior wisdom and praiseworthy restraint to the lesser powers rather than to the super powers. Nevertheless, the fact remains that several Third World countries have nuclear ambitions, including several of those who signed the United Nations disarmament document of which the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, spoke. It is only a very short step from blackmail by the seizure of diplomatic hostages to blackmail by nuclear threat.
Exactly what weapons we need for our deterrent I find it impossible to say. I am constantly amazed at the assurance with which some laymen and churchmen speak on these matters. I do not intend to follow their example. But what is clear is that, unless there is a quick reversal in our economic fortunes, we are approaching a very critical point. The noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, launched a broadside at the Treasury but I do not think it was entirely fair because I think that probably for the first time in our history we shall—or perhaps "may" is a better word—be unable to afford a defence establishment which international circumstances demand. This fact, which cannot and should not be disguised, ought to give us the greatest incentive to pull ourselves together; and those who speak in terms of conventional war in the future should realise that the loss of some of our important manufacturing units will very much affect our ability to wage any conventional war in the future.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor spoke recently about an element in our society whose 471 policies were intended to lead towards a people's republic in this country. This is the sort of society which the Polish people are now in process of rejecting. Are we, by the neglect of our defences, going to facilitate the development here of such a society which even its once passionate advocates now find has deceived them? If one looks back over the years, this country has been decisive in keeping the European end of the NATO alliance in effective shape and up to scratch. If we now fall away through weakness, the effect on our European allies may be serious indeed.
Finally, I should like to say a word on the sale of arms. Last week the noble Lord, Lord Stewart of Fulham, drew attention to the danger of governmental arms dealing. I agree with him. But the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, gave a reasoned and logical explanation of Her Majesty's Government's present policy and it must be recalled that the basis of our traditional labour-intensive industries has been largely in defence and that no adequate substitutes have yet been found. Therefore, it is exasperating to see our friends offering superior terms of credit and sales without strings and their work forces thereby escaping the scourge of unemployment. It is therefore going to be very hard to hold back. But it would be much easier to do so if we could secure a bigger place in the collaborative and standardisation projects in NATO—for example, in the naval field. I do not think we have been half as successful as we ought to be. If these orders could be secured it would diminish the pressure to trade elsewhere.
The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, was good enough to quote something I said about South Africa a year or so ago. I think that what I said still holds good. I have recently visited the country and all that I would say now is that it is very hard for people merely reading the press here to keep up with the changes that are taking place and the very important changes of attitude and economic developments which will accelerate those changes in attitude. Therefore, I think that, before they criticise South Africa, people should make sure that they are criticising on the basis of up-to-date information.
These are worrying times but also this has been a very sad week for us here. I should like to join in the tributes paid to the noble Lord, Lord Ballantrae, and to add my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker. Both these noble Lords I knew for over 40 years. Each contributed in a unique and constructive way to the history of this country. We shall greatly miss them and regret their deaths.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cathcart on initiating this debate and to apologise to your Lordships for having missed the opening speeches owing to a commitment from which I could not escape. I get the impression from what I have heard in the later speeches that most of the ground has been covered. But there are one or two points which I think it reasonable to put to your Lordships and I hope to do so briefly at this latening hour. One of the things in recent weeks that has absolutely appalled me is the resurgence of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I do not doubt 472 or deny the sincerity of persons like the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, or the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, both of whom we have heard on these points this evening. I am quite certain they are fully honourable in all they say, think and do. But it seems to me that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is singularly off beam at this point in time. The threat to us from our main potential enemy, the Soviets, as your Lordships have heard already quite clearly this evening, is greater than ever before. It seems to have practically no purpose behind its increase beyond what one might call a prudent level of defence.
It would seem to me that this is the last moment to consider nuclear or any other form of disarmament on either a unilateral basis or a collective basis unless all the parties concerned are truly to be involved—and the likelihood of the Soviets involving themselves in total nuclear disarmament seems to me to be Cloud Cuckoo-land of the most extraordinary sort. I feel that it is most important that the true situation should continually be put before the people of this country. They should fully understand that when we talk about having a nuclear capability, or a defence capability of other sorts, we are talking about a comprehensive deterrent which we need for convincing the Soviets that an attack on this country and its allies just would not be worth while. That is all we need. That is all, as I see it, that we seek to have. This, surely, is sensible regardless of the detailed arguments that might be advanced both for and against it. It is a sensible, straightforward point of view. I am also worried that their might possibly be a connection between the resurgence of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the fact that at long last, after a period of total neglect, the Government have sought in a small way at this stage to re-interest us—if that is an acceptable phrase—in civil defence.
It seems to me that an essential part of the comprehensive deterrent about which I spoke is civil defence. If a potential enemy believes not only that you have a weapon with which to strike him back if he hits you, but you have also taken such precautions as you can — and I am fully aware of the limitations of any forms of civil defence against a nuclear attack, but it is very much better than no civil defence at all—then he should be fully aware that you have this capability in addition to your striking force capabilities, if I may generalise in that way, and you have this defensive measure which has at least given your people—those of them that escape the main threat of the attack, or the main effects of the attack—some chance of surviving to a greater extent than if there are no precautions whatsover.
It would seem to me that it is extremely sensible to have as much civil defence as is reasonable; and from what I know about it it seems to me that the Government in their way and perhaps more especially local governments are working towards a reasonably economical basis which would be available to help our people to survive in the event—which I trust will never come—of some attack by nuclear weapons.
I hope very much that the fact the CND has crept back on to us is not in part due to the fact that people have been allowed to forget that their might be a nuclear attack and now realise perhaps a little more that this is a threat that has hung over us for many years 473 because they are being given a few facts on which to base some sort of personal defence in the event of it happening. If this is the case, I suggest that persons who use that as a means of encouraging a campaign for nuclear disarmament are behaving in a most irresponsible and indeed unpatriotic way. I trust that they at least would learn that you must not use reasonable defence for people as a means of frightening them from something which they are better protected against if they have the means to resist.
That is really the main burden of what I want to say. My other great concern is the evidence that one has of economies in the running of the armed services, economies in fuel, economies of various sorts that one has heard about. It is rather an odd state of affairs if it is felt that by having a few less tons of oil fuel used you can make a massive effect on defence economies. Somehow that to me has always been a bit of a nonsense. I am sure that experts can tell me I am wrong but it seems to me that if you want to have economies in defence you have to look at something rather bigger.
I have felt for many years—certainly since the mid-1960s when the present defence structure was set up—that at that time we did not effect as many economies as we might have done in the head office staffing of the three Ministries and its super-Ministry above it. At the time, I certainly did not make noises about this because I was absolutely appalled at what was happening in Canada in the mid-1960s when they took the whole thing much further than was reasonable and put all three services into the same uniform and gave them the same ranks. To a large extent they destroyed the basic loyalties on which people belonging to the three services had depended for centuries. After all, the Canadian forces grew out of ours. I felt that one would have to let the new defence structure settle down and I hoped very much that the Government would have the courage to economise further at a later stage.
It would seem to me that we have far too many administrators, particularly Civil Service administrators, and that no real study has been made to see how these could be reduced. I am not at all sure whether it is necessary to have a full Board of Admiralty and a full Air Council and a full Army Council. I would have thought that there might be a lot of room for economising on what might be called the supporting services side of those organisations. I would have thought that there could be many areas in which by combination of supporting services like the doctors, the parsons and people like that, economies could be made which would be lasting and would be reasonably effective.
I have not warned my noble friend Lord Strathcona about this point and I would not expect him even to comment upon it, but I should be grateful if at some stage he could give me some sort of an idea as to whether a look at the basic structure of the Ministry of Defence has occurred to the Government and, if so, whether they are going to get on with it, and if not, why not? I must conclude. I feel very deeply, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill, said, that this is a very critical phase in our history, critical in so many ways; but above all I feel it quite essential that we should not forget that without a defence none of the other things that we would dearly like to have in this country can be guaranteed. Defence is in a sense like insurance, but a 474 great deal more important than simple insurance. It is a way in which a country can preserve not only its way of life but its credibility as a power in the world.
§ 8.48 p.m.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, I am fortunate to follow the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. I dined with his father and the late Admiral of the Fleet the Earl of Cork and Orrery on the night before the last war broke out. They told me about what was going to happen. As I hear this debate tonight I wonder whether the survivors of the next war—if there are any—will find us as far from the mark as were those two distinguished figures of another age.
The single point upon which I am impinging on your Lordships' time is this: It is the report of Herr von Hassel at the WEU on the military capacity of NATO, which was made yesterday. He set out the nuclear capacity as this: that the Russians had 990 missiles directed on and confined to European targets. I remember when I was at the Rand Institute of Strategic Studies in California being shown their estimate of the nuclear bombardment necessary to destroy this country as a governable unit. The number was 11.
The overkill would seem to be in the nature of not far less than 100 to 1. It is of course overwhelmingly superior to the West's. So far as conventional weapons are concerned, there are 29,000 Russian tanks to 11,000 allied. As regards combat aircraft, they are more modern, for the Russians have their third generation, whereas we are on our second: 5,800 to 3,300. As to divisions available, there is a majority certainly of more than three to one and there are 15 airborne divisions, with the necessary aircraft to move them. Von Hassel says in that report that the Russians have the choice, if they move, as to whether they proceed by nuclear means or by conventional means, and in either their superiority is overwhelming.
Herr von Hassel is no alarmist, as many of those who were concerned with NATO in its earlier stages remember him when he was the Defence Minister of West Germany. Indeed, I would say myself that he underestimated the state of NATO inferiority. He did not in fact refer to a NATO intelligence report as to the degree of infiltration in the West German army by the communists. He did not refer to the deplorable quality of our allied troops, as demonstrated in the latest exercise.
But I am not unduly alarmed by this. I think it is basically irrelevant. The military impotence of NATO does not contradict the real value of the alliance, because the real purpose of NATO is political rather than military. So long as there are troops on NATO's frontier—and it does not matter how bad those troops are—the cost of violating that frontier means war. The military effectiveness and the money spent on troops is really irrelevant. They are there to be sacrificed. They are in a wholly indefensible position and always have been since NATO started. Their value is that the violation of that frontier, so long as there are troops there, means war.
Let us look at this from Russian eyes. I am to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Milford, our solitary parliamentary representative of the Communist Party; and he may be able to express this with greater experi 475 ence than I can. But looking at this with Russian eyes, they can destroy NATO in a week, and they know it. But what then? They would then be faced with garrisoning their conquests: an indefinite and difficult commitment. They would then have to face resistance movements—again an indefinite commitment—but above all they would have to face oceanic and intercontinental war, the kind of war described with astonishing prescience by George Orwell in 1984— a war in which the circumstances of geography prevented there being a battlefield upon which a conclusion could be drawn, and a war which would go on for ever because there is no stopping it.
Again I am looking at this with Russian eyes: wars have always suited America extremely well. She has done extraordinarily well out of them. She is suffering from economic difficulties and unemployment. All that could be cured by a war. She suffers from a deplorably weak and divided government. When war comes, that government is strengthened and enormously improved. One would probably see—again I am looking at it from Russian eyes—a steady strengthening of the Americans, while the cost of the resistance and of managing her early victories was weakening Russia. It is not a prospect that sane Russians would invite. After all, it is very easy to see who is going to win the first battle; it is much more difficult to see who is going to win the last.
If I am right in the broad picture which I have put, I hope that we shall face the realities. First, are we wise to place our best equipment on the sacrificial altar of Germany? If they ever came to be used, they would be in Russian hands in a week. For the real job, horses would do just as well as tanks. They are there to be sacrificed. Secondly, are we wise to make ourselves into a worthwhile nuclear target? If a so-called "independent nuclear capacity" flatters this country, I would not oppose it. I think it is harmless. The Russians, with their overwhelming capacity, know that they can effectively deter it and they have no reason to be afraid of it; and I do not think they are afraid of it. But cruise missiles under American control, based on our island—now that is a wholly different matter. As a United States nuclear carrier, we are obviously worth sinking and they have the overwhelming capacity to do it. I believe that any Government—and I do not believe it will happen because I am sure they will have second thoughts about this—who allow alien nuclears under alien control to be placed on our territory are committing a total outrage. It is a most appalling thing to do. Indeed, at my ridiculous old age, I would join a civil resistence movement, lawful or unlawful, and as violent as possible to stop it. This is something which just must not be.
Lastly, are we wise to leave our island undefended and inhabited by a people who have not pulled a trigger for two generations? I am tremendously alarmed at this incapacity for defence within this island and this population. Supposing the Russians do decide to overrun NATO, it will still be for them to decide where they go next and how far they are going. That decision will depend largely on what kind of resistance they are going to meet. If you have a nation whose army has gone, who have trained no one even 476 to defend their own locality, it is an invitation.
I have no time to discuss the case for conscription, but surely we should be trained to resist an enemy in our own local district and to have the kind of resistance organisation which would at least keep an occupier condemned only to use the roads by daylight—and that does not go on very long and it is not very inviting. We should at least be in a position to offer some form of deterrence in our own districts. That is vastly more important than unusable nuclears or posturing that NATO is a real defence, when we know it is not. It is really shocking that these islands should be so undefended, and so incapable of even local and detailed resistance. That is all I have to say.
§ 9 p.m.
§ Lord Milford
My Lords, when I read the Motion put down for debate by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, I understood and agreed with the first part of it dealing with the security of this country, but I was very puzzled when the noble Earl went on to add "and abroad". By this, does he mean that we have to stand up against any liberation movements that might be going on in the world? Should we stand beside South Africa and its apartheid system? Does he mean that we have to go it alone throughout the world, or is he referring to the Middle East? In fact, is the ghost of past imperialism turning over? Was the aim of this second part to put the strong popular surge forward on the people of the world in reverse—
§ Lord Milford
I thank the noble Earl. Our present Prime Minister has consistently declared that socialism and communism are enemy No. 1 and must at all costs be pushed back. One of her chief aims is to build up British influence among any who are hostile to the Soviet Union and thus start a counter-offensive to dé tente. But she showed herself 100 per cent. anti-Soviet before Afghanistan.
Naturally, we hear again and again about Afghanistan, but the cold war was being hotted-up before that and the arms race was continuing at full blast. The arms race itself cancels out any question of the balance of arms which we hear so much about. The arms race aims to upset that balance and gain superiority. Does not history now show up how the arms race started, as Professor Blackett wrote, the moment the Americans dropped the atom bomb on Japan, two days before Russia was due to declare war on Japan, as a warning to Russia that America was ahead and was determined from then to keep ahead?
I do not think anybody can deny that NATO, with its bomb, was formed first and the Warsaw Pact came afterwards to counter the cold war threat of NATO. But have not the Warsaw Pact countries again and again offered to halt the arms race? Did they not suggest a nuclear-free zone in Europe? Have they not fought hard for the ratification of SALT II? In April this year, did not Gromyko suggest a list of proposals for disarmament to the United Nations? Has not the Soviet Union again and again suggested negotiations and offered talks on missiles, including the SS20?
477 Do our Government eagerly take up these offers? Our mass media shrug them off with cynicism and distrust. Instead, during this Government's reign Britain's rulers have pressed forward with cruise missiles and the Trident, ignoring the thoughts and reactions of the British people. Instead our Government, through the mass media, campaign to get the public to accept the idea of nuclear war and produce pamphlets to assure the public that survival is possible. It is interesting to note the response to the horror in Italy, to the natural disaster, and the playing down of a far greater human-made disaster. The contrast between the two is absolutely fantastic.
Why is there such a huge and ever-growing revulsion about the cruise missiles on our soil? Who decides to fire them? It is not the British Government. They are the front-line defence of America, not Britain. It is argued that they have to exist on our soil as a response to the Russian SS.20. But NATO were seeking to produce these cruise missiles in 1970, before the SS20 existed.
From the Soviet Union side, all the medium-range warheads are placed on Soviet soil. None can reach America, but European-based missiles can land in the Soviet Union. We in Europe, including those in the west of the Soviet Union, could all be wiped out, while America would remain completely unscathed. But is this limited theatre war feasible? Having had the West devastated, would not the Soviet Union use her big, long-range weapons against America itself? Lord Mountbatten, along with the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has described what would then happen.
Trident is the British nuclear deterrent. It is her part of this madness. Will it add to British security? Of course not. It will pinpoint our country as a prime target. Its financial cost is vast, but we shrug off the Brandt Report, saying that we cannot afford its recommendations, and slash all public services, health and education. The Soviet economy is in agony because of the amount it has to spend on armaments to try to keep up with us. It would give anything to be able to reduce that expenditure and to have more for social services. Are not our Government also longing to reduce their expenditure on arms for the same reason? Thus, do they not welcome any mention of negotiations? Unfortunately military experts can prove anything and always want more arms and military industrial complexes, and always want more and more lucrative defence contracts. At least under the socialist system no person makes vast profits out of armaments and there is no unemployment to be solved by increasing the arms industry. As the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker, said, they are only having to do it in order to try to keep up in the arms race—referring to the Soviet Union.
Surely the goal for the whole of mankind must be total world disarmament and that is only a possible reality through America and the Soviet Union negotiating. It is not realistically possible for one of them to disarm unilaterally, but it is possible for Britain to do so. To argue that we need our own nuclear arms to deter the Soviet Union from attacking Britain is crazy. Those weapons in fact add to our danger. If Britain removed its nuclear arms it would not upset the balance of East and West; it would not give advantage to the Soviet Union. There are enough nuclear warheads on 478 both sides already for each to blow the other to smithereens. If the people of Britain achieved the aim of no cruise missiles on our soil, no foreign bases on our soil, we should not be in the front line of the only major war clash between the Soviet Union and America. That could mean survival for our children and grandchildren.
Not only would it release wealth for peaceful projects but it would demonstrate to the world that we are not towed behind anybody and we are determined to have our own independent foreign policy. For those who are afraid of unilateral nuclear disarmament there would, because of the respect that millions throughout the world would have for us, be a massive boost to the international campaign for world disarmament.
Still not strong enough but increasing in strength all the time is the demand of public opinion for an end to all the arms race madness. They realise that peace and defence are not obtained through arms; they know that there is enough already to blow up the world. They realise more and more that defence and peace come from a political policy and not through arms. The anti-cruise missiles campaign is growing. We still have time to stop those missiles. In spite of the Government-fed mass media pouring out advice about radioactive shelters and picturing Michael Foot as an irresponsible Leftist; in spite of the incredible banning of a broadcast lecture on nuclear arms by Professor Michael Penz, the Dean of the Science Faculty of the Open University; in spite of the banning of the showing of the film The War Game and sneering at CND as being indifferent to the defence of Britain, the grass roots in this country are shaking themselves towards sanity, towards demanding that all this crazy, destructive, suicidal madness ceases.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down I should like to ask him one short question for clarification. In the third minute of his speech he used the words "counter-offensive to détente". This implies that from the Soviet point of view dçtente is an offensive. Is that what he intended?
§ Lord Milford
No, my Lords, of course it does not. Détente means both sides trying to get together.
§ 9.14 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to say how pleased I am to have the chance to take part in this debate, and I thank Lord Cathcart for drawing the Motion so wide that we can all talk about our special interests. I was very glad to read this morning in the paper that the Secretary of State has now set out the terms under which the women's services may carry arms. This has been a problem for some time. I have raised it twice and I am only wondering why it has taken such a long time to make a decision.
This evening I want to discuss these two documents, which deal with the dockyards, A Framework for the Future. I think it is very important that we read these and try to carry out some of the suggestions contained in them. The main decision is that there are to be four main dockyards the running of which is to be changed in certain ways. I hope we will stick to what has been said in this document. Unfortunately, since 1950 there have been five major published reports 479 on the dockyards. Therefore, one can understand that it is very disturbing for those who work in them, particularly the industrial and non-industrial forces. Though their conditions as a force have not been improved, some of their working conditions have been.
It was very strange to me to hear on the television and radio, when the BBC asked the noble Lord, Lord Carver—I am sorry he is not in his place now—whether there were any areas in the defence field where the Government could produce significant savings without affecting "the sharp end", and he replied that there are too many naval dockyards. Later, on BBC television News night, he repeated his statement and added, "Nothing has been done about the dockyard situation because of the tremendous political uproar any such cuts would produce." In fact in this document, in paragraph 29 on page 23, it says:convincing the dockyard employees that the yards have a secure future and ensuring that sufficient work is available and is seen by the workforce to be so".However, I am glad to say that the First Sea Lord, Sir Henry Leach, agrees with the statement in this document. Also I note that Admiral Sir James Eberle attended the Royal Dockyard Management Board meeting the other day at Bath.
However, paragraph 11 on page 7 states that it is no exaggeration to say that problems have led to a crisis in the dockyards. I want to mention three particular points: First, the lack of opportunities for the full development of professional managers in the industrial organisation; secondly, the growth of non-industrial members by over 200 per cent. and the fall of industrial members by 40 per cent.; thirdly, the differences of conditions and pay, particularly between Chatham and the other yards, the former having been brought into line with local earnings, but these are now falling back again. Skilled labour is becoming short. In fact 3,500 apprentices, known as the seed corn, are now leaving. The reason, and I hope this can be remedied straight away, is that ex-apprentices are encouraged to leave with lump sum superannuation payments. This is recommended to be given at the end of their first five years; they receive a lump sum of between £500 and £800. Surely this is payment to leave.
Then I should like to see a change in the present rules of payment of subsistence allowances. This is an idea for allowing skilled workers to go from one dockyard to another to meet temporary shortages of skilled people, and now it is unnecessarily hindered by the rules that do not allow proper subsistence. Warships are becoming more complicated, and I believe it is essential that they are tended to in the dockyards. They are much more complex than merchant ships and require special skills and facilities to refit. Therefore, it is a great pity that we are losing so many of our skilled workers.
In regard to the duties of the port admiral and the general manager of the yards, I would suggest that the admiral has very many other duties and is seldom trained for commercial work or in engineering. In my opinion the general manager should have total control, referring direct to the Admiralty. The admiral cannot by the nature of his duties be able to give the necessary time to tend to the yards. In my opinion it 480 was most unfortunate that admiral superintendents were abolished. They lived in the yards, were usually engineers and could have daily contact with the employees. There are too many constraints on personnel management; after all, they have to deal directly with individual situations. So, common standards as at present required may not be acceptable to all four yards.
In regard to the independent yards, I should like to see that they are able individually to call in their own workforce to do repairs. At present, they are dependent upon the PSA, and I think that that is a very expensive method of operating. They could do their own maintenance more quickly and I think cheap. I hope that the inter-departmental review by Sir Derek Rayner will agree that the yards should undertake their own maintenance. I note from the report, too, that the ROFs are undertaking work projects costing between £100,000 and £3 million and they are going to see how the results work out and compare with the PSA service. So I hope that other dockyards, if this is successful, will be allowed to undertake this experiment.
Finally, I should like to mention the trading fund which was also recommended by Sir Derek Rayner and the staff side when they were giving evidence to the committee. This would require secondary legislation under the Government Trading Fund Act 1973 and, I gather, about 140 more personnel. Full details are given in the consultative documents and the annexes Q,P, Q1, Q2 and Q3. I do not wish to quote them tonight because I hope that those noble Lords interested in the subject may read those particular paragraphs.
D.11 states that ROFs, by the managing director who gave oral evidence on 14th January 1980, were generally pleased with the operation of the trading fund. The benefits are better management accountability, greater discipline on the part of the customer and greater freedom to manager resources. Under the trading fund the performance and output of ROFs have greatly improved and the ROFs have moved from a situation in which 90 per cent. of their business was with the MOD to one where only 50 per cent. is with it. Further details can be obtained by reading the documents, but it is also interesting to note that the French have adopted as a system what they call the compte de commerce.
I sincerely hope that these interesting but rather repetitive documents will be acted upon in the near future, and will be read by all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate today, as the future of the Royal Navy greatly depends upon the extent to which the proposals in the documents are implemented. The provision of ships and the possibility of having a maritime force to protect our seas is essential. They are extremely long documents and I congratulate the noble Lord on having brought them to the House. My noble friend will perhaps not be able to answer all the details that I have raised tonight, but perhaps he can give an assurance that they will be looked into and that further action will be taken in the near future.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I should like to join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Earl for giving us the opportunity of this debate today. I am especially 481 grateful as I was, for reasons outside my control, unable to take part in the debate on the Address and I am also, I may say, for once grateful to be speaking late in this debate because it has given me the opportunity to hear a number of quite remarkable contributions to this very important debate.
I should like to take my point of departure from one or two things that have been said in the debate and to start from the very distinguished contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, who, I think, made the point that is at the heart of the whole of this debate, whatever aspect of it we may be concentrating upon—namely, that we must identify the threat and we must then devote the resources that are necessary to meet it. That seems to me to be right at the heart of the whole argument.
We then went on to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who identified some of the threat for us in a very intricate and comprehensive speech. At this stage perhaps I should say that I believe that both the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, and the late Lord Mountbatten have been persistently mis-quoted and misrepresented by a great number of people. What the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has to say now and what Lord Mountbatten had to say before his tragic death was worth listening to, but I fear that it has been used and exploited by people who either did not listen to it or did not understand it, or listened and understood and are deliberately misrepresenting it.
The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, asked a question which I think is important for the remarks that I want to make tonight. He asked us a question which was very largely rhetorical: are nuclear weapons political or military? In other words, are they usable as weapons of war or are they simply valuable as a political deterrent? I do not know what everyone in your Lordships' House thinks about that; I do know what the Soviet Union thinks about it.
The military doctrine of the Soviet Union is and has been unchanged since the early 1960s. It is that nuclear weapons are to be used in war. They are not regarded simply as a political deterrent. That is borne out if you read any Soviet military strategist who has written in the last 25 years; notably I think of such authoritative Soviet military commentators as Marshal Sokolovsky, who has written the authoritative work, Russian Military Strategy. You will find that he states quite clearly again and again in his work, which has never been revised or changed, that if the Soviet Union goes to war it will use all its weapons and it will use nuclear weapons, and that the business of the General Staff is to work out how and where to use those weapons. So let us be in no doubt.
Lord Paget of Northampton
My Lords, if the noble Lord will permit me to intervene, if they did not say that, would nuclear weapons have any political value? To give them a political value you have at least to pretend that you intend to use them.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, that is not quite my point. We, of course, also say that we will use ours in retaliation against the Soviet Union. I am grateful to the noble Lord for allowing me to make this point. The difference is that the Soviet Union makes no bones 482 of the fact that it will use its nuclear weapons in any war, even one started by the Soviet Union.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I am sure that what the noble Lord says is basically true, but General Mikhail Milshtein, speaking in an interview in the Herald Tribune on 28th August, and speaking with a certain authority, publicly maintained that in no circumstances would the Soviet Government now use nuclear weapons on a first strike. He publicly repudiated the views of Marshal Sokolovsky.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, that may be so, but the basic military doctrine of the Soviet Union still includes the use of nuclear weapons in any war in which it might take part.
Another point needs to be made. It is that of course the Soviet Union may say that it will not use nuclear weapons in a first strike. If that is so, what is the use of the SS20 missile?—a mobile missile deployed on the flanks of Western Europe with as its targets the military installations of the British Army of the Rhine and its allies in NATO. If the Soviet Union does not intend to use those weapons, then I wonder what they are there for. However, one could go on with this kind of exchange all night.
The point I am trying to make is one that is irrefutable. It is that if nuclear weapons have any meaning at all, they have a meaning as possible weapons to be used in war. Perhaps even the noble Lords, Lord Paget and Lord Gladwyn, would agree with me that we cannot rule out the possibility that the Soviet Union might actually use its nuclear weapons in war.
This leads me to the point which I really want to make, which is to try to put this question of unilateral nuclear disarmament into its perspective. As we have heard (and I think that there is very little doubt about it) the reason for the resurgence of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament—this grand passionate campaign about which we have heard a good deal this evening—lies in three recent decisions of the British Government. First was the decision to replace the Polaris strategic system with Trident; secondly, the acceptance of the stationing of cruise missiles on British soil; and, thirdly, to allot a modest increase to our civil defence budget. I do not want to debate any of those three decisions this evening, for obvious reasons. I happen, in passing, to believe that the Trident decision is a wrong one. I believe that the £5,000 million which is at present the estimate for the spend on Trident over 10 years is probably in any case an underestimate. I believe also that it could be used for much better and effective security reasons.
Here perhaps I may take issue with my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, with whom I normally agree on most of these points, when he said that there was not much you could buy in the conventional field with that money. Indeed, there is a great deal that you could buy. To put an armoured division in the field would cost somewhere around £300 million. We are going to spend £500 million a year for 10 years buying the Trident. Therefore, I think that it is perhaps worth putting in perspective that that money could be usefully spent on other than our nuclear striking force.
Let me pass on from that to the cruise missile decision. Here again I have no doubt that there are 483 strong arguments against the stationing of cruise missiles on our soil. There are also very strong arguments for stationing these missiles on our soil. There is one point that is really worth putting, and that is that I am astonished by this somewhat passionate sense of outrage against the stationing of cruise missiles on our soil as though the presence of American nuclear weapons on British soil was something new. They have been here under American control for 20 years, and only the Americans can fire them. It is really somewhat strange to hear people now suffering a sense of mortal outrage because manned aeroplanes are going to be replaced by aeroplanes which do not need pilots to fly them. However, there is indeed an argument against the cruise missile.
There is also an argument against greater expenditure on civil defence. I do not understand those who again get into a great state of excitement because we are suggesting an improvement in our hopelessly inadequate civil defence system. I also understand those who say that no civil defence system can protect this country completely against nuclear attack. Of course it cannot. That would not be the object of it. The way, incidentally, to stop people attacking us with nuclear weapons is to find some means of dissuading them from doing so. However, the point that I want to make is that you can be against all those three Government decisions if you wish—Trident, the cruise decision, and the civil defence budget—without being unilateralist. Therefore, I think that the argument that is frequently deployed, that because of those decisions we must now have some great campaign to get rid of our own nuclear weapons, is illogical and I would say irrelevent if I did not believe that it was so dangerous.
I want just for a few minutes to say why I think it is dangerous. There are three main arguments advanced by the unilateralists for getting rid of our own nuclear weapons. One is that nuclear weapons are in some way uniquely evil and immoral and should never be used in war, and should therefore be removed from our armoury. Those who deploy that argument should ask themselves two questions. First of all, do they not see any difference between having nuclear weapons which you intend to use in the pursuit of aggression and having nuclear weapons which are to be used solely to deter other people from attacking us? There seems to me to be a considerable moral distinction. I have put it on many occasions in this way: is there no difference between the man who offers violence in the protection of his own person or his own property and the man who offers violence in the commission of a crime? Of course there is, and this seems to me to be exactly the distinction between threatening to use nuclear weapons in an aggressive way and threatening to use them only if someone attacks you.
The unilateralists should ask themselves another question too, and I do not think they have answered this one satisfactorily: if Britain is to disarm unilaterally and get rid of its nuclear weapons, what is its next step in its foreign and defence policies? Does it remain in NATO? If it does, it is relying on American nuclear weapons to defend us, and I cannot believe that somebody who finds it morally abhorrent to use our own nuclear weapons in our own defence would find it any less so to use American or even French nuclear 484 weapons. Or perhaps we will get out of NATO and become a neutral. If we are to do that, I ask people to understand that it is a very difficult and expensive business to defend yourself, a country of our size, without allies. If you look, as I have, at the defence budgets of Yugoslavia, Israel and Sweden, just to name three neutral countries, you find that it is not an easy or cheap business. Nobody would save money by getting rid of our nuclear weapons and getting out of NATO.
I will deal briefly with some of the other arguments for unilateral disarmament. I suppose the basic one—I have heard it many times in this House and elsewhere—is that possessing them makes us a target for nuclear attack. Let us look at that for a moment objectively and in a commonsense way. Let me remind the House first that the only occasion on which nuclear weapons have been used in war was their use against a country which did not have the means to retaliate. Therefore I ask people not to assume that if we did not have the means to retaliate we should be safe from nuclear attack. Anyone who thinks that should have a few words with the Japanese and I think he would receive the answer quickly and clearly.
Also, our nuclear deterrent, whether you like and admire it or not, is not on these islands at all. It is at sea, under the sea in submarines, so it would do no one any good to attack this country with nuclear weapons because we possess them; they would not destroy those nuclear weapons. They might destroy these islands, but the weapons could and would still be fired from under the sea. So, the argument that possessing these weapons makes us uniquely a target for nuclear attack does not stand up to even cursory examination.
Then there is the economic argument that these weapons are disastrously expensive and remove money which could be used for social purposes or, as the Bishop of St. Andrews said the other day, even for aid to developing countries. That is really a pathetic fallacy. Leaving aside the question of Trident, which is an expensive buy at £500 million a year for 10 years, we could, if we wanted to rely on our Polaris, our existing deterrent system, do so for the expenditure of slightly over £100 million a year. As I wrote in The Times this morning and as the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, was kind enough to quote, that is roughly the size of the budget of the London Borough of Camden. Thus, I do not believe, and nor should anyone else believe, that renouncing our deterrent unilaterally would release large sums of money for social purposes or for aid to developing countries.
I apologise for speaking so long, but this is an extremely important matter. It is not only the weakness of the arguments of the unilateralists that are dangerous. It is the possibility that one day this might be the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and if it were, it would be a very dangerous policy indeed.
When speaking earlier today the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, with great emphasis and great passion, said that if we were faced with an aggressor, the Labour Party would be there shoulder to shoulder with all of us to meet that aggressor. We are faced with an aggressor. The difficulty seems to be that no one will understand that we are. As a noble Lord said earlier in the debate, the educational effort that Governments 485 have made to persuade people that we are faced with a threat seems to have been inadequate, or at least seems to have failed.
People do not understand that we are faced with an aggressor. Yet faced as we are with a country that wields the greatest aggregation of military strength that the world has ever seen, and is showing every day its readiness to use it in the pursuit of its foreign policies—faced with all that, though I do not wish to make any party political points in a debate like this, I have to say that the Labour Party Conference has adopted a resolution calling for unilateral disarmament. This worries me. It worries me for a number of reasons—not just for the obvious reason that I believe this to be taking a dreadful and appalling risk with the security of this country. Although he adopts a pacifist's view with which I disagree, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, makes contributions which are never other than distinguished. In his argument for a measure of unilateral disarmament he said that we must take a risk. We must not take any risk with the security of this country. No Government have the right to do that. We should be taking a risk, and before I sit down I should like to tell your Lordships why.
We should be taking a risk because if we were to get rid of our own nuclear weapons, or if, as understood the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, to be saying earlier this evening, the western alliance should unilaterally dispose of its nuclear weapons, then we would indeed be in a dangerous position in terms of our national security.
But there is an even more powerful argument. If everybody, including the Russians and the Chinese, got rid of their nuclear weapons, we should still be in a much more dangerous situation than we are in today. I say that because if all of us got rid of our nuclear weapons, we should then be at the mercy of a country, or an alliance of countries, with the greatest aggregation of conventional power; and that is the Warsaw Pact.
This is not only a question nowadays, you know, of guns and tanks; this is a question of chemical weapons. Those of us from your Lordships' House who this year went to see the manoeuvres in the Rhine Army saw that the Soviet Union in all its manoeuvres uses the full panoply of chemical weapons, poison gas weapons. Our soldiers in Europe, in the Western Alliance—the soldiers of NATO—do not have any chemical weapons. They have no means of retaliating if the Russians should use them.
So if a magic wand could be waved and nuclear weapons could be removed from the face of the earth, and the knowledge of how to make them could be removed, we should still be no safer. In my view we would indeed be even more at risk.
Let me make the final point alluded to in my previous sentence: the knowledge of how to make them. You cannot eradicate that. You can throw all your nuclear weapons into the sea, blow them up, or sell them to the Chinese. The knowledge of how to make nuclear weapons is now in the mind of man and if people are attacked or threatened, sooner than go under they will resort to the knowledge of how to make those weapons.
I would request all my collegaues in this House to ask themselves a question: would you wish to be in a world without these weapons if, for example, Colonel 486 Gaddafi of Libya possessed them? Would you feel safe? Would any of us feel safe? It may be that the noble Lord, Lord Milford, is right, that the Soviet Union wishes us no harm. It may be that they are building up this enormous military panoply for some great ceremonial parade. I do not myself subscribe to that view. But even if it were true, there are other people now who can make the nuclear weapon, and who might do so. I do not want ours to be one of the few countries in the world which, having had the weapon, give it up and find themselves living in an anarchistic and dangerous world.
I believe, therefore, that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is not a collection of harmless people, nor a collection of passionate believers in peace or in the brotherhood of man. I believe it to be a dangerous movement, because if its views become fully accepted, and if it ever becomes the policy of Her Majesty's Government in this country, then I believe that the whole of our security will be placed at risk. I believe, therefore, that all of us who understand these matters and who feel deeply about the security of this country should understand exactly what the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament means.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Lord Gisborough
My Lords, first I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for introducing this debate, and then turn our attention to the African scene. Some 90 per cent. of the oil consumption of the NATO nations and 70 per cent. of their strategic materials pass by or come from the Cape of Good Hope; 42 per cent. of the United States oil requirement is imported largely past the Cape; 66 per cent. of the chrome reserves of the western world come from South Africa, and up to 100 per cent. of other minerals. Some countries, such as Germany, are wholly dependent on the supply of certain minerals from South Africa. The inevitable shift from oil-fired propulsion will increase the reliance on South Africa's port facilities.
It is little wonder, then, that the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives said:If South Africa and her mineral riches were to fall into enemy hands, the West could be forced to its knees in six months".It has been estimated that if, in the last war, U-boats had been able to prevent allied shipping from using the Cape sea route, it would probably have led to victory for the Axis powers. Yet, as the noble Lord, Lord Peart, said, in spite of our total dependence on supplies of raw materials from the Cape, it is not certain that there is any central point in government with the main responsibility for considering and monitoring the whole range of issues connected with raw materials.
Meanwhile, the presence of the Russian Navy, with their chain of bases and over 40 warships round the African coast, and their ability to block this trade route if they so wished, is beyond doubt. If the Soviet planners are thinking of resorting to a war of resources, as their journals and activities would increasingly suggest, there is the likelihood that, as alternative sources of energy are developed and oil consumption reduced, the focal point of the threat will shift from oil to minerals, and control of Southern Africa and access to its vast and unique resources, either directly or by proxy, is the obvious target. 487 For not only would the Soviets then be the most self-sufficient industrial nation on the globe, but they would be in a completely dominant position over all other industrial countries.
It is many years since General Lagovsky first propounded the weak link principle, playing on the total dependence of United States industry on African minerals; and denial of them would totally incapacitate Western industry far more effectively than any bombs could. Even Soviet-controlled supply could be economically disastrous, as was instanced by the price-hike of chrome by the Russians in 1974, just as soon as they were in a position to do so without competition from Rhodesia. Soviet journals have increasingly depicted the vulnerability of the United States and world capitalist economy to developments in Africa. One called Africa "the most important reserve in the struggle to preserve the capitalist system".
But while Soviet military interruption of oil transport round the Cape would mean general war, and is therefore unlikely, a black-ruled anti-western Government in South Africa could be equally effective, and prompt some Western European Governments to become "Finlandised" in order to protect their mineral supply, and thereby reduce the coherence of NATO. While loss of the resources to the West could occur through the very real threat of direct or indirect Soviet intervention, it is not the only way.
Already South Africa's full potential for the export of minerals has been curbed by the investment slowdown caused by the activities of the Churches with their quite disgraceful investment in terrorism and other organisations and, needless to say, all attempts to disrupt the industry of South Africa have had the quiet or not so quiet support of communism. Increased terrorist incursions with communist weapons have contributed to a lessening of investment into mineral ventures, and there is always danger of more direct confrontation by the Soviet fleet on the pretext of support for guerrilla movements.
The importance of South Africa to the West both in peace and war cannot be over-emphasised, and South Africa is now so rich and strong that it can if it wishes largely disregard the opinions of the world regarding its internal policies. But if it does so, there is every likelihood of ever-increasing conflict from African and other states who feel compelled to fight racialism, at whatever economic cost to themselves, by non-cooperation and boycott elsewhere; and the withdrawal of facilities to the West in other parts of the world could make the price of open co-operation with South Africa very high if not prohibitive, and of equal damage to the West as to South Africa.
Until that time, disagreement with South Africa over internal policies should not be allowed to weaken any efforts to promote co-operation and mutual dependence between the forces of South Africa and the West and thereby increase the influence for internal change. But we must remember that there is an electoral limit on the speed and extent of racial change that even a willing South African Government can achieve, and the West must be satisfied by gradual progress in the right direction and not expect the barriers to fall overnight.
Likewise, the communists have an interest in de- 488 manding an unattainable speed in black equality and of course would never be satisfied, even then, except with the rule of a communist Government with their fingers round the throats of the West. It therefore seems increasingly sad that so many people in South Africa cannot realise that, while even moderate and sensible reforms might still be acceptable to the country and to the world today, the longer the delay the greater the demands, till nothing will satisfy short of one man, one vote. What could be a better example for them to see than Rhodesia, where an easier settlement could have been obtained earlier in the emergency?
But there are signs of the willingness of the whites to accept meaningful political change. It is now for the West to encourage particularly Commonwealth countries to recognise limited change as a move in the right direction, and not to keep up such pressure for total change that the whites in South Africa are frightened of going further. For example, there is considerable relaxation in apartheid in the armed forces, with gradual equalisation of opportunities; and I am sure that this easing of attitude will spread. Too much pressure could lead to a situation where South Africa could retaliate against the free world for its offensive attitude to them and could even form a cartel with no less than Russia. Collectively, together, they produce up to 98 per cent. of rare minerals. This would have dire consequences for Western economies.
It is essential to find and continue with a modus vivendi with South Africa, as defeat for the West will be defeat for South Africa. It is as important for South Africa to set their internal scene to allow that modus vivendi as it is for the West to reach for an acceptance. It seems that Soviet African policy, as elsewhere, is more one of continued response to opportunity than the result of a master plan; and the South African racial laws have long been a valuable opportunity for them to gain influence all over Africa.
We all know of the strong involvement by the Eastern bloc in guerrilla activity against South Africa with the provision of arms, money and training. Elsewhere, sophisticated Soviet bloc arms have flowed into Libya adding, this year alone, some 12,000 million dollars worth to Colonel Gaddafi's purchases from Eastern Europe. He has admitted to being in the process of buying more arms per capita from the Soviet bloc than the Shah ever bought from the United States. He now has some 2,000 tanks and some 5,000 Eastern European military advisers. From 20 different camps some 7,000 volunteers are trained in Libya as terrorists to return to their various countries all around the world. The training programme and planning for future guerrilla operations were reported in the Sunday Times to be under the command of the Bureau for Exporting the Resolution, whose staff includes Soviet and Cuban advisers. The influence of this huge investment in destabilisation will be felt all over Africa and the world.
For example, the Polisario guerrillas fighting Moroccan forces are supplied by Eastern weapons channelled through Algeria and Libya. There is a large-scale arms build-up in Ethiopia with some 4,000 mainly Russian advisers and about 15,000 Cubans. In June 1980 heavy military equipment of all sorts arrived and included helicopter gunships of the formidable Hind 489 Mi 24 type. The total value of Soviet bloc military aid to African countries between the years 1973–1977 amounted to 3,645 million dollars compared with 473 million dollars by the United States.
On the southern coasts of Africa, fishing vessels have been provided within agreements with Guinea, Mozambique and other states, and while those states may complain that they get the lowest quality of the catch, it is difficult not to believe that the vessels also are a cover for intelligence gathering. Eastern Europeans now abound in at least 14 African countries and their long-term aim must be the mineral resources.
But the great danger of all these weapons in the hands of irresponsible rulers of minor states is the possibility of piratical action that can light the taper of a world war, as they think that they can get away with actions such as the hostage taking in Iran that major powers would not dare to do. For just as Cubans have been used on land, so there is the possibility for minor client states to acquire cheap small ships with powerful weapons able to threaten ships and sea-routes, and even to close them without directly involving the Soviet Union, yet in pursuit of their policies, such as the Corfu channel incident of 1946. The adequate presence of friendly warships is a necessary factor in deterring such a situation ever starting. The Soviet leaders have long since grasped the utility of maritime power as an agency of policy worldwide, and this is no time for their or their clients' navies to be let as undisputed rulers of the southern oceans.
But this does not mean that Russia has had it all 490 their own way in Africa; and other than where they have sent their troops, or their proxies, they have repeatedly found themselves failing. They have a knack of backing the wrong man, such as in Rhodesia. They have been kicked out of the Sudan and Egypt. Other countries have demoted those Ministers faithful to Moscow, as in Mozambique. According to Mr. Dyhickvelov, one senior defector, the Soviet Union has spent millions of roubles in Africa with very little result. For example, Mr. Nkrumah, President Kaunda and Dr. Obote were all at various times the objects of misplaced Soviet hopes and roubles. Disillusion with their Soviet or Cuban advisers is something that has happened on several occasions and is a fertile field for encouragement by the West.
But the whole peace-keeping of the area cannot be left to the US Navy, and equally it cannot be expected that NATO will, in practice, extend its sphere south of Suez. Therefore, those countries with the ability to contribute, such as the United Kingdom, France and Germany, will have to increase both their military and their non-military contributions to counter the destabilising influences of the Eastern bloc in Africa.
The sooner it is possible for the United States to gather its firefighting mobile force together for the Indian Ocean, the better able will they be to deter piratical acts. But the key to the defence of the minerals must surely be the influencing of South African change and encouragement of other states to accept their improving internal policies to bring them shoulder to shoulder with the West.
§ 9.59 p.m.
My Lords, I want to talk about the serious dangers that we should run if the country were to disarm unilaterally on a substantial scale as is now, it seems, advocated by the Labour Party, and to pick up some of the admirable and interesting points so well made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I also want to look at this matter in the context of growing threats to the non-communist world and what I see as our inadequate response to many of them. I pick up here perhaps one or two points made by my noble friend Lord Gisborough in a very well researched speech.
The nature of the threat that we face arises from the Soviet interpretation of détente: in other words, the extension of the Brezhnev Doctrine on a global scale. In the Soviet Union two weeks ago the New Times explained just exactly what this means. It said that it means two things: first of all, it is legitimate for the Soviet Union to encourage the spread of communism by any means it likes, but it is not permissible for the West to make any counter moves, as that would be to act against history.
Secondly, it means that once a Communist Party has seized power, the Soviet Union claims the right, and is entitled to the right, to ensure that power is not lost, as that would amount to counter-revolution. Those are not my words but the words of the New Times in the latest interpretation of what the Soviet Union understands by détente; and if we do not understand that we do not know what we are up against.
This policy of the Soviet Union showed itself in practice—and this is well known to all of us—a number of years ago in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, by intervention by proxy in Angola, Ethiopia and South Yemen, using 35,000 Cuban mercenaries, and by a similar pattern of aggression in the Far East, to cut a long story very short.
What has been the Western response to this? It has been piecemeal, muted, sometimes confused, sometimes contradictory and generally ineffective. I do not think that that is an exaggeration. It was Lenin who said:The capitalists of the whole world, and their governments, will work hard in order to prepare their own suicide.It was the late President John Kennedy who said that the greatest risk that he saw that we faced in the West was beingnibbled to death in a state of nuclear stalemate".It is not as bad as that yet, but we still have to prove them both wrong.
I spoke just now of the disarray in which the allies seem to find themselves. There are many examples of this, in my view. I shall give only two of them. First, I see an extraordinary failure on the part of the Western democracies to comprehend the political implications of trade agreements and the provision of credits. I am thinking here of the unduly hard bargain that the European Community tried to drive for three or four years with Yugoslavia. I think everything is all right now in that field. I am also thinking of the failure to be more generous to Zimbabwe, in spite of the great need they have. I am thinking even of New Zealand and the continuous attempts of the French to drive such a hard bargain that the 492 New Zealand economy would be seriously damaged because of impediments put in the way of their dairy exports on which they still rely so much. Perhaps these things may seem a little remote in a way from a defence debate, but I do not really think they are at all.
I am also thinking, as a second example, of the total disarray where "linkage", as it is usually called, is concerned. After the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan, the United States invited her allies to co-operate with her in not providing high-technology exports for the Soviet oil industry. It was only three months before France, Germany and Japan as well, I think, were actually doing so and filling in the gap. So that collapsed completely. At the same time the United States asked her allies to limit their supplies of grain to the Soviet Union. They might have been right or they might have been wrong to do that, but they asked us to do it and we said we would. Only in yesterday's papers I read that another member of NATO—Canada—will this year have shipped a record amount of corn to the Soviet Union, amounting to more than 5 million tonnes. In other words, that initiative also collapsed completely.
Both initiatives under the general heading of linkage have very important defence implications indeed. So it really is about time that we cleared our minds about, for instance, whether or not COCOM matters. For 11 months now the members of COCOM, which has no treaty status, have been discussing whether they should extend and, if so, in what way, the sensitive exports, the provision of which to the Soviet Union is banned under that agreement; but they still have not come up with any suggestions. So there is some real disarray here as well. There is no time to go into it in any greater detail, but all these things have critically important defence implications.
All this, and much more, points to the long overdue need for closer political co-operation within the European Community, and that, I am very glad to say—thanks largely to the initiative of the Foreign Secretary—is moving very much in the right direction. But, my goodness me, what a time for Her Majesty's Opposition to recommend withdrawal from the European Community. What a time to choose and how very irresponsible.
As for NATO's role in the West's defensive strategy, surely what made sense in 1949 makes very little sense now in 1980. We have often discussed this before, but nothing ever seems to happen. The horizon is still limited by the Tropic of Cancer, which runs bang through the middle of the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia and through the town of Muscat. To me, that makes absolutely no sense at all and I have never been told why nothing is ever done about it. I should love to be told one day.
But even given the right machinery for developing a common West European foreign policy where it is lacking, and the acceptance by the NATO powers of a wider defence role, something much more is still needed to ensure full, adequate and effective co-operation between the European Community, the United States, Japan and some of the other democracies which have a real role to play in the free world. But that is a story into which I shall not go now.
Where the defence of the realm is concerned, I cannot give full marks even to my own Government. 493 I say rather sadly that I am highly critical of the fact that we have now fallen short of our quite positive promise to increase our annual defence spending in real terms by 3 per cent. a year, and I would oppose as strongly as I possibly could any further cuts at this particularly dangerous time.
But I give no marks at all to the Labour Party. This is where I want to say something about unilateral disarmament in the context of the deteriorating global situation, to which the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, referred in such very interesting and effective terms. For myself, I would deplore in every possible way the collapse of a bipartisan approach to foreign affairs and defence, and I am sure most noble Lords would be the first to agree with that. But we must face the facts.
The return of a Labour Government would, if we can go by the decisions of the National Executive Committee and by the decisions of the Party Conference—not so important, perhaps—mean three things: first, savage cuts in defence spending on conventional forces; secondly, opting out of the British nuclear deterrent, which the new leader of the party has always wanted to do; and, thirdly, refusing to allow the stationing here of cruise missiles, which the United States has asked us to agree to and which we have said we will agree to.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, I cannot accept, much as I should like to be able to do so, the assurances from the Opposition Front Bench—I see the noble Lord, Lord Peart, sitting there; I have him in mind, as well as the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, and Mr. Peter Shore, who spoke in another pace—about the Labour Government maintaining the balance of military power, and saying that it must be sustained.
If we were to go in for unilateral disarmament, and if we had a Labour Government, it would mean a number of things. NATO's ultimate reliance must continue to rest, as it does now, on the nuclear deterrent. To abandon it in this country, relying on America and France to maintain it, is surely very irresponsible and immoral as well. It would put a big question mark, too, over our reliability as allies and be a clear step towards pulling out of NATO—something which a noisy minority in the Labour Party quite clearly want us to do.
Secondly, the Opposition's attitude weakens the Government's hand in all their dealings with their NATO partners, since they naturally look to us for continuity of policy. That is something on which they could no longer rely. Thirdly, based on our experience of standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States in two terrible wars in Europe, they looked on us—and still look on us, I am quite sure—as their most reliable friend and ally. Call it an Anglo-Saxon plot, if you like, but it is a good plot. The United States is now involved in the very heavy cost of preparing the sites of cruise missiles in this country. Thus the drift of the Labour Party towards neutralism, as I see it, puts at grave risk the single most important element in Western European security—the American alliance. I think that is true.
Next, what are the implications of unilateralism for controlled and verified disarmament, which is our constant and unswerving aim, just as it was the unswerving aim of the last Government—indeed of successive Governments. I have absolutely no doubt in my 494 mind that unilateral disarmament in this country would wreck any chance there is of mutually balanced force reductions in the Vienna talks, which have been going on for so long without success, and furthermore make it highly unlikely that we should achieve anything in the trilateral test ban negotiations. Is that what the unilateralists want? I think it is the opposite of what they want.
Lastly, under this heading, I should like to roll together a few points that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary made in a speech on United Nations Association Day on 24th October—a speech which I thought was outstandingly good, a copy of which is in the Library and which was barely reported in the press, so far as I could see. He said that a unilateral reduction of our defence effort would make it easier in the first place for the Russians to exploit our weakness. I think that is true. He said we would still be an important target for any aggressor—a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—and he said, thirdly, that it would be easier for others to use the possession of weapons to gain their objectives, with or without war and, lastly, that it might even increase the risk of war.
I believe that all those things are absolutely true, and I should like to say this to my old friend, for whom I have great respect and affection, the noble Lord, Lord Peart—he can call it party claptrap, if he likes, but I do not think I have said anything which is not absolutely, strictly true and we must face the facts in this matter. I was disappointed therefore in the speech that he made today.
It is not surprising in today's circumstances that there is an upsurge of unilateralism with CND in the van. The Labour Party is deeply divided, as we all know, after its heavy defeat in the election, and naturally it is looking for popular support, well knowing that the pacifist cry always has a superficial appeal. It is a time of severe recession and it is all too easy at such a time to find an excuse for cutting our defence expenditure, as the noble Lord, Lord Milford, said quite rightly. That was one of the few things he said with which I agree.
Who then are the unilateralists? It seems to me that they are the young with no memories—and bear in mind that many men who were too young to fight in the last war are grandfathers today. That makes one think. Secondly, they are some older people with short memories. Some of them are stimulated by the communist front organisations, wholly subservient to Moscow. I will name only four of them—the most outstanding and the most powerful ones, financed by Moscow, run by Moscow: the World Peace Council, the World Federation of Trades Unions, the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students. There is hard evidence that some 50 Labour Members of Parliament have links with these bodies and other similar bodies. I think that is a disgrace. All these bodies were given fresh orders in October 1979 when President Brezhnev attacked NATO's modernisation plans and clearly hinted that any European country that accepted cruise missiles on its territory "would face serious consequences". Those were his exact words. The theme was at once taken up by all the bodies I have mentioned and by many others as well, including, naturally, CND which immediately got a 495 new lease of life. Such subversive bodies are expert in exploiting the gullible and the easily hoaxed, the wishful thinking idealists and even, I am sorry to say, some over-zealous environmentalists, such as the Friends of the Earth, a body which does much good work in the environmental field. We were told by Mr. Eric Heffer the day before yesterday that the Marxist and Soviet controlled subversive bodies which were proscribed by the Labour Party until 1973, will not be proscribed again, but that the Social Democratic Alliance will be. Good grief, my Lords!
Where does Mr. Michael Foot fit into all this, with his delightful, maverick, Peter Pan personality? Will the heavy responsibilities of leadership make him come to terms with reality? I pray so, but I wonder. A lot of sound sense has been talked over many years by many statesmanlike Labour leaders about defence, and if I seem to strike a party note here I assure noble Lords that I have no wish to do so. I am as great a believer as indeed is the noble Lord, Lord Peart, in a bipartisan policy, but we have to face the facts. We cannot shirk them and just brush them off and say that everything is all right; there is no split in the Labour Party. Men like Mr. Attlee, Mr. Morrison, Mr. Bevin, Mr. Gaitskell and many others made a splendid contribution to Britain's defences. Where are such men today?
Thank heaven we have a man like the sprightly noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, with us here to remind some of his comrades of the facts of life! But only a tiny number of Social Democrats show any stomach whatsoever for the fight. Almost all of them have run away, not just this last year or two, but year in, year out. We do not even hear Sir Harold Wilson reminding his party again that naked in the conference room is one thing, a famous quotation, but naked and shivering in the cold outside while others decide our fate is an intolerable humiliation. Would the Labour Party today listen to him if he said it again? I fear not. There is only one Socialist Party in the whole of free Europe, so far as I know, that is wedded to unilateral disarmament; and that is Her Majesty's loyal Opposition which sits opposite in this House.
How many noble Lords remember, I wonder, the splendid words of Mr. Ernest Bevin; he said this in 1941:If anybody asks me who was responsible for British policy leading up to the war I will say all of us; millions of people in this country who have an inherent love of peace refused to face the real issue".That was said by many other people as well, but it was very well said on that occasion. How right he was. All of us are still responsible. I was a very young subaltern when war broke out, serving abroad at the time in Palestine. I remember so well how pathetically badly equipped we were. I said to myself then that if I ever had any little influence in the future I would always draw attention to the need to be properly equipped.
§ Lord Peart
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord, whose fault was that? It was not a Labour Party; it was not a Labour Government. It was the men of Munich who disgraced our policy with appeasement.
My Lords, I do not really want to get into this sort of hassle. I did not wish to be unduly controversial. It was the fault of the Conservative Government. None the less, I remember my father, who was a Member of Parliament at the time, reminding me many times how often the Labour Party had voted against the Service Estimates and what a pathetic belief they had in paper collective security. We were all to blame. Mr. Bevin was right. I am not trying to score a party point at all. The main blame must rest on the Government of the day and that was a Conservative Government; that is who I was criticising when I made those remarks and when the noble Lord interrupted.
So I conclude by making a heartfelt plea for a return to a bipartisan defence and foreign policy which this country so badly needs in this time of great danger. I believe this is what the majority of the parliamentary Labour Party wants; I believe it is what the noble Lord, Lord Peart, wants. I have no doubt it is also what the great majority of Labour supporters in the country want. No one can deny that we and our allies, lacking the real unity that we should have, face exceptional and growing dangers, even that our survival as a free nation is at serious risk. What more dangerous time than now for Her Majesty's loyal Opposition to flirt with unilateral fantasies.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Lord Raglan
My Lords, I have been encouraged to speak this evening by the noble Earl, who, in his trailer last week, hoped that as many noble Lords as possible on this side would take part. I do not think I can usefully comment now on resolutions passed at the Labour Party Conference. All I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, is that I am not a unilateralist.
I want to strike out on a rather different line. What I have to say is prompted by my good fortune to have heard the most notable speech by the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, in the debate on the Address last week. The noble Lord gave a valuable insight into the motivations of the Russian régime. I want to add a few observations of my own on the kind of influences which guide the Russian leaders' attitude to life, because I think that from such examination one is better able to make some prediction about how they are likely to behave.
As regards the military threat, perhaps it might be helpful if I indicate an historical parable, because I cannot help but be mindful of the fact that about 115 years ago my great, great grandfather was put in charge of an allied expeditionary force to Turkey. It was sent to drive the Russians out of that country, in which purpose it succeeded without a shot being fired; for, in the face of that display of resolution and force the Russians prudently disappeared over the horizon.
That might have been that, perhaps, but then the army was sent on. The principal reason why seems to have been that Napoleon III was disconcerted by the rather unspectacular nature of the operation, because gathering and equipping his army had cost a great deal of money and he judged that the people who had paid up needed to be shown some money's worth with some real battles. So, although it was not equipped for the job, the army was transported actually 497 into Russia, where it was expected that the Russians would have to fight, which they duly did. As your Lordships know, allied victories were secured and the army withdrew. Such discussion as there is about that war nowadays is almost always directed towards its conduct, about which, of course, I am not an unbiased person to comment. But very little is ever said about either its causes or its results.
Probably one result of that war is that Turkey is still a free land and, indeed, a valued partner in NATO. Another result was that Russia did not acquire a direct influence in the Mediterranean for nearly 100 years. Its principal cause was that Imperial Russia was trying to expand, as the Tzars had acquired a habit of doing over many decades. If today's rulers of Russia are running true to past form, they are still looking to expand if given the chance; and there is, in my view, no reason yet to suppose that they will try to stop themselves from doing so. For the men in the Kremlin are the direct heirs to the Tzars—they are a kind of Tzarist collective; they are imbued with those traditions, and their culture or received doctrine causes them to pay much attention to history.
That expansionary tendency would be dangerous enough by itself, but, worse still, their doctrine makes them wholly suspicious of and resistant to Western reasoning. I am not sure, but I believe that they simply would not understand the speech of my noble friend Lord Soper, and that is because they are bunkered in by what the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, called "an iron religion". It is called Marxist, and large parts of it certainly are, as far as one can make out, what Marx intended to mean. But it would also be true to say that it is Hegelian. Marx in his naivety lifted great chunks of his beliefs from Hegel, including the notion that history was propelling the human race irresistibly forward towards a millennium, and since according to Hegel this millennium was going to happen some time, it did not matter that someone should give history a nudge occasionally, or be particular about how they nudged it. This explains why Marxists, though individually they may be pleasant people, collectively can be so exceedingly nasty. Their justification in this, they say, is that they are only helping on its way what history has ordered will happen. They know that they are right because Marx told them so. Marx said so because Hegel said so. So it is important to find out who this Mr. Hegel was who Marx admired so much.
The story in which I hope your Lordships will be interested is as follows. King Frederick William III of Prussia had become alarmed at the infiltration into his kingdom of liberal ideas put about by some of the instigators of the French Revolution. Since mystical philosophers were in high fashion in Germany at that time, he hit upon the brilliant scheme of employing his own philosopher to counter these subversive influences. So in the year 1818 he appointed Hegel to the chair of philosophy in Berlin.
Hegel obliged with the weaving of a nationalist philosophy, presented as though it were visionary idealism, which would justify and underpin the authoritarianism of the Prussian state. He turned liberality on its head. He dismissed the liberty of the individual by postulating that a person is the possession of the state. Because Prussia became a very successful 498 kingdom, much admired and respected, so did Hegel, whose influence reached far and wide. It is to his writings more than anything else that we owe the rise of Hitler. He invented belief in the nation based upon race and history. He also originated the idea that all human advancement had been gained by war between nations, which notion Marx later changed to saying that all human advancement is gained by war between classes.
So Hegel has been an influential man. Nowhere have his theories taken root so deeply, or have lasted so long, as they have in Russia, including of course his hypothesis of the desirability of eventual leadership and domination of the world by one nation. Mixing his grandiose false designs with the stultifying economics of his follower, Marx, and overlaying this on to the Tzarist tradition, you get a picture of a totalitarian régime which can do little to improve the welfare of the people under its control, and can only stay in power by continuing to offer them an illusion of hope.
The men in the Kremlin are old because nobody dare change anything, except by as little as possible. They keep afloat through Western technology, Western grain and Western banks. They are suspicious, necessarily stubborn in just waiting for something to turn up. They feel threatened in wondering why the millennium does not look like coming; they are, of course, aggressive as they continually seek to move outwards to defend themselves as much as to gain territory. I judge that this moment must surely be a very dangerous one for all of us, with the system being called into question in one part of the empire by the workers themselves, and with the chance that the infection will spread. The situation will become particularly dangerous, I believe, when a worried hierarchy is called upon to justify its existence by other means than by reference to 19th century books of prophecies.
As your Lordships know only too well, there are very few democracies, and all are derivative of Western European culture. Our way of life represents the only kind of political and economic life which, despite relapses, has been shown to provide an increasing standard of living for its citizens; and it is the only one which encourages respect for the individual, respect for free speech, and for that daughter of free speech, justice. I think that too many take this relatively happy state of affairs for granted. But others who are citizens of the Western democracies seem to need convincing that we are on to a good thing, so to speak. They need convincing that what we have, imperfect though it is, is worth defending and building on. It is their privilege to dissent, of course, which they would not have in a one party state. By all accounts, Marx himself did not have a high opinion of his fellow men, but at bottom he appears to have been a humane man; and that is his appeal, and I submit it would be a mistake to ignore or to dismiss this appeal. However, if one examines his poor grasp of economics, especially of consumer economics, and if one notes the corrupt and fraudulent antecedents of his mumbo-jumbo political philosophising, one can only express concern that anybody could believe it and even be inspired by it all. But there are people within our democracies who do believe it, and I would say that the fact that they believe it reflects not only upon them but upon those of us who do not believe it, because for one 499 reason or other we have failed to get the message across.
What I am saying is that if, as I hope, we can find the means to defend our Western way of life—and I dissent not at all from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, today in that respect—it is not enough to attempt to stimulate the will to find the means by, for example, merely putting around unspecified fears about Marxists, or stirring up crude hatreds of "commies", because that proves nothing and it gives nobody anything to think about. We need deeply and critically to examine the nature of the threat we are up against, and thereby be better fortified within and among ourselves by gaining the strong intellectual conviction that it is necessary that we should protect our way of life. We cannot look for a millenium. What we need to do is to be strong and wait until the other side eventually realises that there is not going to be one.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Lord Westbury
My Lords, after Lord Raglan's speech I feel rather like a Christmas card I was sent of the Crimean war. There was an officer of the 10th Royal Hussars looking around him against a Crimean background and the caption was, "Lost, as we often were". I am going to be very quick. My noble friend Lord Strathcona has stressed the importance of personnel in the armed forces, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, has mentioned the cutbacks among the individual members of the armed forces in training. So I am, on the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, exercising his maxim that only repetition gets one's point over.
After the pay improvements for the armed forces made by Her Majesty's Government a year and a half ago, a boom in recruiting was set going that has not been seen since the declaration of the Second World War. Morale was raised and all ranks were led to believe that Her Majesty's Government really cared and felt that the role of the armed forces was of vital importance not only to the defence of our country but also to our commitment to NATO. Recruiting has doubled since then. Now in the last few weeks the message has filtered down through all ranks to the last joined recruit that all is not well. Fifty per cent. reductions have been made on ammunition for training purposes and transport—two vital ingredients in the training of recruits and in keeping up the standard of efficiency of the whole armed forces. Can you imagine the blow to officers and non-commissioned officers in charge of recruit training establishments who have doubled the number of recruits they had and who now find that they cannot get them to the training areas for lack of petrol, or that, if they do, they cannot fire the weapons they have taught the recruits to handle?
Not only that. There has also been a 50 per cent. cutback on the upkeep of military establishments. The paint and materials for maintenance are not available, leaving buildings and vehicles to rot through lack of upkeep. Surely the Government must have realised, when they raised the morale and hopes of everybody in the forces, that they would need to be able to cope with the influx of recruits and would need more clothing, food, ammunition and transport. I appeal to the Government not to let the armed forces down by 500 cutting back now on the training and maintenance of the recruits they already have. They must stick to their commitment and, if they must, cut down on recruits joining the forces later. At least let the Government see that those already there are trained efficiently and up to the standard required to defend our country and honour our NATO commitment.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, for initiating this debate. I am personally grateful to him because, in his usual considerate way, he informed me before the debate that he intended to make some comments on the apparent attitude of the Labour Party to defence. I am sorry in a way that this debate is taking place in isolation, it would appear. There was a debate last week on foreign affairs and defence and anybody who read the Official Report of that debate, or was present for it, or who has been present during today's debate, must be aware that it is impossible to separate the foreign policy of this nation from its defence policy; and I shall be commenting on that shortly.
First, I should comment on some remarks that have been made about the Labour Party and its attitude to defence and some distortions of the historical position that the Labour Party has taken on these matters. I have no need to apologise for the role that the Labour Party and its many distinguished members, in and out of our Government, have taken on the question of the defence of these islands. In the 'thirties there was a small but determined group of young men, members of the Labour Party—I will mention only two, Hugh Gaitskell and the present noble and learned Lord, Lord Elwyn-Jones—who went to Europe to help people out of Nazi Germany. They, among others, went there, saw the dangers and returned and warned of the dangers, and they changed the minds of many people in the Labour Party as to the threat of Hitler and what he was about. So I have no hesitation in saying that I resent very much some of the things that have been said, particularly the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, who seemed in effect to be saying that there was some betrayal afoot and that the next Labour Government would drop the defences of this nation.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
I apologise, my Lords; it was the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, who, it seemed to me, gave the impression that this betrayal was afoot.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, I had to take it. I do not see why noble Lords opposite should not take some of it. I suggest that if one looks at the 501 history of betrayal and treason in this country, it is not to these Benches that one should look, and I will leave it at that.
Successive Labour Governments have made their first priority the defence of these islands, and I would add in passing that I found it amusing to hear Michael Foot being attacked in the way he was. There is an English language magazine circulating in Wales, to which I am a subscriber, I understand a shareholder, which last week attacked the election of Michael Foot as the Leader of the Labour Party on the grounds that he was an English patriot.
May I very briefly refer to the excellent speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, almost all of which I agreed with. I am sure that he did not intend to give the impression that the speech by Earl Mountbatten of Burma was being deliberately misconstrued by whom I regard as sincere people who believe that there is another approach to our problems. So perhaps I may be forgiven if I quote in full that part of the speech that has become a matter of controversy. The quotation is not directly from the speech, but if I tell the noble Lord that it is from the pamphlet written by Dr. David Owen, I am sure that he will accept it as being authentic. Earl Mountbatten said:To begin with we are most likely to preserve the peace if there is a military balance of strength between East and West. The real need is for both sides to replace the attempts to maintain a balance through ever-increasing and even more costly nuclear armaments by a balance based on mutual restraint. Better still, by a reduction of nuclear armaments I believe it should be possible to achieve greater security at a lower level of military confrontation.As a military man who has given half a century of active service I say in all sincerity that the nuclear arms race has no military purpose. Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils because of the illusions which they have generated. There are powerful voices around the world who still give credence to the old Roman precept—if you desire peace, prepare for war. This is absolute nuclear nonsense and I repeat: it is a disastrous misconception to believe that by increasing the total uncertainty one increases one's own certainty".One does not have to agree with that if one does not wish to do so, but there are many thousands of young people throughout the country who listened to, and read, what Lord Mountbatten has said, and they have drawn their own conclusions from it. They are not potential subversives or communists. They are people, young people in the main, who are deeply worried not only about the state of our own nation, but about the state of the world.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way before he moves on from that point? He has been very courteous and kind. I should like to explain the position regarding my remark referring to Lord Mountbatten and to Lord Zuckerman and to what they said and how it has been interpreted. Of course I and many other noble Lords have subscribed fully to what was said there. But that has been turned by unilateralists into an argument for unilateral disarmament by this country. That is not what Lord Mountbatten meant, nor what Lord Zuckerman meant.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. Nevertheless, I am sure he would agree that many thousands of young people who have read the speech have interpreted it 502 in their own way, without being influenced by people who may have other motives. I was going to refer to the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, whom I felt made some excellent points. I was struck most of all by the emphasis that she placed on educating young people. It seems to me deplorable that among the cuts that the Government have imposed is the cut which has involved the disbanding of the Advisory Committee on Development Education. It was set up to publicise Britain's dependence on the third world and the need to tackle world poverty. It started with a very modest budget of £150,000, which rose to £750,000 by 1970. It had just started to work out ways to get third world issues taught in schools, and very few schools included—and even now include—such matters in their courses.
§ Baroness Airey of Abingdon
My Lords, I think the noble Lord may have misunderstood what I was meaning. I was talking more about subversion, and the way in which we must counter this; if, for instance, there should be an attack on our children through the schools. I think perhaps I did not make myself quite clear. In that way, I felt, parents ought to have a very good relationship with teachers, so that there should not be misunderstandings in the teaching of our children.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. No, I did not misunderstand what she said. Indeed, I was going on to develop my theme, because I am sure the noble Baroness would agree that the more information we can give our young children in the schools about what is actually going on in the world, the more likely it is that they will be able to resist any attempts of the kind to which she referred.
I said earlier on that it is impossible to divorce the foreign policy of the nation from its defence policies, and there seemed to be general agreement with that. It seems to me that one of the great mistakes that the Government have made has been in their response to the Brandt Report. My noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham said in the debate last week that he felt the Government's replies to the Brandt Report had been 99.9 per cent. negative. He is right there. I would say that the response of the Government to the Brandt Report has been shabby. It seems to me, listening to this debate, and indeed to other debates on defence that we have had, that the continent of Africa is frequently mentioned—and here, I think, I will properly identify the noble Lord who made the speech almost wholly devoted to the situation in South Africa.
I am opposed to the Soviet Union for a number of reasons. It is expansionist; it is authoritarian, it is suspicious. It is everything that I detest. It holds values which I detest. But then, again, there are other nations in this world which hold values that I detest. The difference between South Africa and the Soviet Union, I think, is that the Soviet Union does not make any pretence in calling itself part of the Western Christian civilisation, whereas in fact the South African Government consistently puts forward the thesis that it is doing what it is doing to defend Western Christian civilisation. The South African Government and its attitudes does more damage to Western Christian 503 civilisation than almost any other nation in the world. The great danger for us in the attitude of South Africa, if it should persist, is that if those nations to the north of South Africa believe that we are going to form some sort of formal defence association, as has been suggested here, and to have a closer alliance with South Africa, then that indeed is going to be even more dangerous for us than the present situation. We had to struggle and agonise for over a decade in relation to Rhodesia. There, the white minority indeed said that never in their lifetime would there be majority rule. In the end, they had to come to terms with it; but if they had faced that inevitability earlier on much of what happened in Rhodesia would not have happened, and the future would be much brighter than it is.
There was a letter in the Observer recently from Major-General Younger, who called for what he referred to as Europe arranging… some form of crisis management so that international difficulties, which are bound to arise, will never escalate into nuclear war.Unless this is accomplished there will be a nuclear war sooner or later, which is an intolerable prospect. Man invented these weapons and he can and must control them … But if civilisation is to survive, world leaders must set up an organisation to manage future crises whilst deterrence holds the ring; and there may not be much time left".If there is an objection to the attitude of the Government and, indeed, from many of the speakers on the other side, it is that all the emphasis seems to be on building up our defences. When Michael Foot said that he intends to bring the arms race issue before the attention of the British people, I cannot see how anyone is going to complain about that. Nobody is in favour of an arms race. What we on these Benches would say is that not sufficient emphasis is being put on the means to reduce the tension in the world; and this should be the emphasis, we believe, that the Government should be pursuing.
I think I have spoken long enough, but there is one final point that I wish to make. Since becoming a member of your Lordships' All-Party Defence Committee under the secretaryship of the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, I have been very impressed indeed by the dedication of our men and our women in the stations we visited abroad and in this country. This has to be said because I take the simple view that, although like most other people agonising over some of the decisions that have to be taken, it seems to me that if there is an immorality about the question of war and peace, nothing can be more immoral than to ask young men and women to put on uniform to defend the nation and then refuse them the adequate means to do it.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, would it not be right, in fairness, when referring to the All-Party Defence Committee to say that it is not only under the secretaryship of my noble friend Lord Kimberley but under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont?
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, of course it is well known that our new chairman is the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—and what a good job he is doing! I merely emphasised the role in it of the noble Earl, Lord 504 Kimberley, because he brought me into it in the first place and has befriended me and helped me a great deal. He has never refused any request that I have made of him and I am grateful.
I genuinely take the view which has been put forward in this House on more than one occasion by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I believe sincerely—and certainly after going to Germany and seeing the Crusader exercise—that there are shortcomings in our conventional equipment. They were made to us by the armed personnel over there from the private level up to the "top brass". There are shortcomings in our conventional equipment and our conventional forces and I do not believe, in common with many noble Lords here, that we can afford both to replace our Polaris missiles with the Trident system and at the same time maintain proper and viable conventional arms.
§ 10.54 p.m.
§ Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord who has just spoken, particularly for his remarks about the high opinion he has formed of our service people. It just shows that it is wonderful what a little education can do to stimulate the mind. If I may say so, he should have joined the group years ago. Defence debates in this House, with due exception as far as I am concerned, are renowned for their wisdom and the scope of the views expressed; and this evening has been no exception. The lateness of the hour is perhaps an indication of how many noble Lords have contributed. I should like first to thank them all for a particularly stimulating discussion which I hope will be widely read. I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Cathcart for initiating this debate, which he did so elegantly.
Before I turn to the detailed points raised in the debate, I should like to say a few words about our efforts in the field of arms control, although I notice that our resident pacifists have all gone home. Not for the first time, the Government have been criticised for failing to follow up opportunities in this field with sufficient vigour. I would simply reaffirm the Government's commitment to seeking balanced and verifiable—as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, emphasised—arms control agreements wherever these would safeguard our security. The Government's perception is somewhat different from that of the noble Lord, Lord Milford, but perhaps he at least gave us an insight into the Soviet mind in these matters.
It is easy to dream up any number of utopian disarmament proposals which appear superficially attractive. But the important and difficult task is to pursue those initiatives which offer real prospects of leading to verifiable agreements which maintain the balance between east and west at a lower level of armaments. Let us always bear in mind that this is the objective. Negotiating with the Russians is a tough business and they lose no opportunity for pressing proposals which may sound tempting but which in reality offer a one-sided balance of benefits and concessions.
As an example of this type of proposal, I would mention the idea of establishing a new nuclear weapons-free zone in Europe. Such an agreement would leave untouched Soviet missiles and aircraft capable of striking targets all over Western Europe from deep inside 505 the Soviet Union. Moreover, it would leave a gap in alliance capabilities which would undermine our collective ability to deter aggression, and in this way it would destabilise the balance in Europe so weakening rather than strengthening the prospects for peace.
In contrast, I believe that the real progress in arms control can be achieved when the Russians are offered an incentive to negotiate seriously. This cannot be achieved if the West attempts to negotiate from a position of weakness. This cannot be repeated too often, and I make no apology for saying it again. There must be an incentive for the Soviet Union to come to the negotiating table in a constructive frame of mind.
An example of this is provided by the Russian reaction to the United States' proposal to negotiate on theatre nuclear forces. To start with, the Soviet Union rejected the United States' offer and insisted that NATO's plan to deploy ground launched cruise missiles and Pershing missiles should be abandoned before negotiations could begin, although their own programme continued unconstrained meantime. But then faced with the steadfast determination of the alliance to implement its tactical nuclear force modernisation programme, they have now dropped this unacceptable pre-condition. The last round of bilateral talks has just taken place in Geneva. I sincerely hope that these talks will be successful.
I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, for the statistics on the military balance which so clearly define for us the threat. But when the noble Lord threatens to join in civil disobedience to prevent the American cruise missiles being deployed in this country, I must ask him why he has not objected similarly in regard to the American nuclear weapons which have been deployed in this country for 20 years now. I think that was a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
May I at this juncture tell the House that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, excused himself from being present for the winding-up of this debate on the grounds that he had painful arthritis? While commiserating with him in his affliction, I am sure the House would wish me to record that his speech certainly showed no signs of any affliction to his brain or to his eloquence! A somewhat similar hawkish line was taken by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, who referred to the global nature of the Soviet threat. That was a point which was also made by the noble Lord, Lord Greenhill of Harrow.
As your Lordships know, we have been considering this year a number of measures to enhance at modest cost the rapid deployment capability of those existing United Kingdom forces which might be called upon for tasks outside the North Atlantic area. There is no intention to create new forces specifically for intervention tasks. We have not yet taken any final decision on the implementation of these measures.
The noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and the noble Lords, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, Lord Mottistone and Lord Murton, all touched on the question of civil defence. Since my right honourable friend the Home Secretary made his statement of 7th August on the Government's review of civil home defence preparedness, we have been pressing on with preliminary action to implement our decisions and we look forward 506 to significant first steps being taken next year.
Despite public expenditure constraints, the Government are confident that local authorities will remain determined to follow the lead that has been given. I am afraid I cannot as yet satisfy the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, or the noble Lord, Lord Murton; but we expect the announcement of the name of the national co-ordinator of volunteer effort in civil defence very shortly.
I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Murton, who asked about communications. I can tell him that our enhanced civil defence programme includes the completion of the sub-regional headquarters for decentralised government, extra expenditure on the associated communications network and proposals for the adaptation of premises by district councils, to complete the pattern of local authority wartime headquarters and communications.
The noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, raised the point about information. The Government accept that the public have a right to knowledge about civil defence and the likely effects of a future war involving the United Kingdom; and we are examining ways of making more information available.
Again, it was the noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, who expressed concern about the numbers available for the defence of the United Kingdom base. We have studies in hand to establish whether we do have the right resources available to meet all the tasks which would need to be done. He mentioned the Territorial Army general reserve battalions which would be available for this work. I am happy to be able to tell him that the Territorial Army recruiting is still high—this was a point referred to by my noble friend Lord Westbury—and the Territorial Army strength as a whole has risen over the past year. The latest strength is over 64,000. It has to be admitted that wastage is still a problem, but we believe that this can be overcome in time, if the Territorial Army's morale can be sustained. I think I should at this juncture mention that the Territorial Army's performance during Exercise Crusader was highly praised on all sides and was an enormous boost to morale.
The noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, as was mentioned just now, made a most interesting speech warning of the very real threat of subversion. It is not a very easy matter to expand upon in your Lordships' House, but I can assure her that we take these matters very seriously and are not smug about them. But perhaps I can leave it at that for the time being.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, argued that civil defence measures are worthless. This is an argument which we hear quite frequently. The fact is that many millions would survive even a widespread nuclear attack upon our country, even if we did nothing either as a nation or as individuals to protect ourselves. The protective measures described in the Government's booklet Protect and Survive—simple though I admit they are—would enable many more millions to survive; unless, of course, the denigrators of the steps recommended succeeded in dissuading householders from resorting to them. Reference to the scientific data in another official booklet The Nuclear Weapons, shows that it would take thousands of large bombs, systematically placed across the country, to devastate the entire United Kingdom.
507 There are underground operations centres to coordinate relief services if the worst were to happen. The number of administrators to serve in them is less than 5,000. I am sure noble Lords will be happy to hear that politicians are a mere handful, though they may find that they need them when it comes to the point.
The noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, made the suggestion that we should train young people now to be ready to expand our armaments industry at a time of crisis. I see that he is not here. I would merely say to him that we are in danger of being guilty of last war thinking, because we have to face the fact that the likelihood is that we shall fight the next war with the weapons that we have when the war begins. Much the same argument applies—without, in any way wishing to belittle the seriousness of the problem of strategic minerals—to the point raised by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough.
The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, asked about the effects of the £200 million cut in the defence budget. We are looking urgently—and I mean urgently—at what will need to be done. It seems probable that some of the measures taken this year will have to be carried on into next year; reduced levels of activity are one example. We shall not be able to place as many new or follow-on equipment orders as we had hoped.
I cannot yet give the details of the implications for operational capability, but there are bound to be some implications. For example, reduced levels of activity will, in time, inevitably have an impact on effectiveness, and it is no use pretending that this can be hidden for ever. We shall make announcements as the necessary decisions are taken and implemented. The 1981 White Paper will give a broad picture of the changes in the programme.
The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, and the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, referred to fuel costs. It has, regrettably, been necessary to take a number of measures to contain Ministry of Defence expenditure within the cash limit. These measures have included restrictions on fuel consumption and movements. These have inevitably affected Army activity, but the intention has been to minimise the effect on operational capability. So far as the Navy is concerned we are seeking to minimise the impact of fuel savings on NATO activities and exercises, but other tasks, such as some forms of training, are having to be restricted or postponed. For the RAF, fuel savings are being achieved by a temporary reduction in stocks and restrictions on activities, but the current flying rates are sufficient to maintain operational effectiveness.
The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, mentioned the benefits to be gained if our shipyards started building small vessels against the possibilities of overseas sales. I have to say that this is a subject very close to my heart, having served in small vessels in the last war, although that is now a very long time ago. I must say to him that this is primarily a matter for the commercial judgment of British shipbuilders, but of course the defence sales organisation will assist the industry and does assist the industry as much as possible in identifying the likely future requirements of overseas customers. In my opening remarks I referred to the efforts being made within the Ministry of Defence as 508 regards the Navy, among other services, to avoid what is sometimes known as "gold-plating" requirements.
The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, complained about the time we have taken to decide about the arming of servicewomen. In the Defence White Paper we announced that we were considering our traditional attitude to the carriage of arms by servicewomen for defensive purposes. The reaction was rather interesting. Although there was an extensive press coverage at the time, there has been very little interest since, despite the renewed invitation in the service debates for views to be expressed. However, in the light of such representations as have been received, we have judged that there is a readiness to accept limited change and we have therefore now decided that members of the WRAC and WRAF can be trained in the use of arms.
The noble Baroness also mentioned the dockyard study, and we announced earlier that the Government had accepted the report of the Dockyard Study Group on the need to retain four Royal Dockyards, and its conclusion that the introduction of private capital was not practicable at the moment. We indicated that decisions on their remaining recommendations must await further work and would take account of the views of the interested parties. A consultative document was made available to a wide range of other Government departments, to local councils, public and private bodies and individuals, and initial assessments of the reactions to this document suggest that the response has been overwhelmingly favourable. We are now working to prepare the way for further consideration by the Government of the remaining recommendations of the study. I thank the noble Baroness for a number of suggestions that she made for a change in administration in regard to the dockyards.
The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who told me that he would be unable to stay until the end, predictably raised a number of very interesting points about the level of the defence budget over the last 20 years and the relative costs of manpower and equipment. I think it is worth making the point that all volunteer forces are bound to be more expensive than conscripts, although, of course, one needs fewer of them. We believe them to be more effective in the world of complex equipment. But since the standard of living has risen generally in the last 20 years we need to have highly competitive and comparable rates of pay to attract the men we need.
I shall need to study the noble Lord's erudite comments on the irrevocable law of research and development, but I think maybe this is the rationale which lies behind the rising cost of equipment as the level of technological sophistication increases. This is a worrying trend and it is one of the reasons why we believe that real increases in defence spending are so vital. One reason why over the last 20 years we have been able to have highly professional well-equipped forces despite the fact that defence budgets have fallen by about 10 per cent. in real terms is that we have withdrawn from our previous overseas commitments. We do not now have to spread our efforts over so many areas but instead we have been able to concentrate our effort on the NATO commitments which are the keystone of our security. But, of course, this is not a 509 process which leaves much room for further manoeuvre.
I am near the end. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, for asking me to look at a possible restructuring of the Ministry of Defence no less. I am grateful to him for being gracious enough to give me time to go away and think how to do it; but I should like to remind him that at the beginning I said that my right honourable friend and I are both fully conscious of the need for taut administration; we have set in hand a number of studies aimed at improving it, and we are confident that we shall derive benefit from these.
I come back to where I started earlier this evening, by saying that we must ensure that defence expenditure represents good value for money. I should like to end on the same theme. My Secretary of State and my ministerial colleagues constantly urge all those in defence to ensure that every penny of the defence budget is spent on strengthening our capabilities and that waste and inefficiency are routed out. There can be only one test: does this job, does that contract represent the best possible use of our very scarce resources? For we are asking the people of this country to accept real sacrifices so that sufficient resources can be made available for defence. It is their money that we are spending and we are very conscious of it, and we must convince them of the value that we get for it.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, may I ask the Minister to say whether he agrees that my own long-held belief, that the spending of vast sums on Trident instead of on conventional arguments is a dangerous waste of money and resources, is now a belief held also by the noble Lords, Lords Chalfont, Carver, Zuckerman, Raglan and Brooks of Tremorfa?
§ Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
My Lords, the noble Lord is an intelligent man who has listened to many debates on this subject in this House, and I really do not believe that I should need to tell him again that I do not agree with him.
§ 11.19 p.m.
§ Earl Cathcart
My Lords, I must thank my noble friend the Minister for his clear summing-up of this long debate and for answering so many of our questions. I should also like to thank all those noble Lords from all parts of the House who have taken part in this debate for their distinguished contributions. I believe the debate may have helped us to clear our minds on a number of current problems of defence policy. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.