HL Deb 08 May 1980 vol 408 cc1770-890

3.30 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, MINISTRY of DEFENCE (Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal) rose to move, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980 (Cmnd. 7826). The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is my privilege to introduce the debate on this Government's first Defence White Paper, which appears in a suitable technicolour cover. I do so with a measure of confidence and pride. Confidence because the Statement on the Defence Estimates has been widely welcomed, not least by the Leader of the Opposition in this House, both for its enhanced clarity and as a genuine attempt to provide more information, even though we recognise that we shall never satisfy the appetites of some of the more avid consumers of information on defence matters. My pride in the White Paper derives from a feeling that we can fairly claim that in our first year in office we have at least arrested defence from a headlong decline.

Perhaps I may begin by saying that we embark upon this debate in what has been a good week for defence. I think it would be difficult to conceive of a more convincing demonstration of confidence, calmness, courage, professionalism and dedication to duty in highly dangerous circumstances than that provided by the SAS on Monday.

Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!


My one regret, my Lords, is that the effectiveness of that body depends so heavily upon secrecy and surprise, so that the best contribution we can make to their continuing effectiveness is to respect the need for the minimum of detailed discussion while sincerely applauding their manifest and well-deserved success.

The Defence White Paper covers every facet of our defence effort. This makes today inevitably an occasion for an extremely wide-ranging debate. I cannot aspire to do justice to the whole subject in a speech. Indeed, with the leave of the House, I will attempt to wind up the debate in a speech at the end of the day, so at this juncture I would not seek to impose heavily on the patience of your Lordships in a debate which has a list of 24 speakers to follow.

In recent months we have had a number of most useful debates on particular aspects of defence. We have discussed nuclear matters, we have discussed the reserve forces, we have discussed arms sales and we have had a debate on civil defence. We have discussed chemical warfare and tanks recently at Question Time. I think noble Lords will agree that these debates were not only useful in themselves but are also helpful in that they mean that we have at least had a preliminary canter over those subjects, so I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I do not attempt to pursue those matters in depth again today. I shall, however, touch upon them in what I fear will be a somewhat staccato speech.

As the White Paper points out, we now spend over £10,000 million a year on defence and I think it behoves us to examine very carefully why such an enormous expenditure is necessary. We face a growing threat. There is no need for me to quote figures; the White Paper gives the facts. They show why we cannot ignore the increasing strength and the increasing quality of the equipment deployed by the Soviet Union. Nor can we assume that these Soviet forces will never be used. The events in Afghanistan have lessons for all nations and most particularly for the North Atlantic Alliance. The opportunism and the ruthlessness displayed there serve to remind us that we live in an unstable and a far from ideal world. Together with our friends we must demonstrate a resolute will to protect our freedoms and our values.

Our membership of, and our commitment to, NATO in these circumstances have rarely been more important. The collective security provided by the alliance is essential to our way of life and so we believe that our contribution to the collective defence must be maintained at a proper level. Hence, our determination to maintain our full support for NATO and our taking the lead in re-asserting our commitment to the NATO goal of a real annual growth in defence expenditure in the region of 3 per cent. Hence, too, our published plans for a 3 per cent. annual growth in the defence budget at a time when we are cutting almost every other form of public expenditure. We cannot afford to take a blinkered view of our defence problems. Our defence policy must also look to our interests outside the area covered by our NATO commitment. The Soviet challenge is a global one and this Government believe that the services should be able to operate effectively outside the NATO area when necessary, as part of our effort to deter and to add to world stability.

To this end we are considering improvements in airlift, in stockpiles and in the organisation of the Eighth Field Force, whose normal role is home defence but which would, if necessary, be capable of undertaking worldwide tasks. Equally, we are fully aware that our security rests not only on our defence effort but on our parallel and continuing efforts to improve relations between countries. The Government's continued commitment to arms control is a firm one and bears repetition as often as possible. We shall continue to seek methods which will maintain and be consistent with our security while contributing to the relaxation of tensions throughout the world. But we must always be aware that, until the threat which faces us has diminished, we cannot ignore the need for strong defence; and I would remind noble Lords that much play was made in a recent debate in this House with quotations from a speech made by the late Lord Mountbatten and this was the point on which almost everybody agreed.

So let me now move away from the broad policy issues and try to translate some of these conceptual ideas into the details of the men and the materials on which the money is spent. Few decisions in the field of defence are easy and none of them can be arrived at quickly. I shall deal in a moment with the area of equipment, of which this is particularly true.

However, first I should like to look at the area where decisions can be taken more quickly and where this Government have done just that. One of our first acts on entering office last May was to restore the pay of servicemen to their proper levels; that is, comparability with the earnings of their counterparts in civil life, plus what is known as X factor to compensate for disturbance and the other special natures of service life. Here was a decision which we saw needed to be taken and needed to be taken at once. This is consistent, I think, with the old adage that he gives twice who gives quickly.

Following that policy, the Prime Minister announced last week in another place that we have maintained our commitment to the services and have implemented in full the recommendations of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body for 1980. May I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the dedicated competence of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, an invaluable and highly respected group with at least one member from this House.

The effects of our actions on pay are now beginning to be seen. I am glad to be able to tell the House that the recruiting figures for 1979–80 total just over 50,000, and that is an increase of about 7,000 on the year before, something of the order of 14 per cent. Retention rates are also showing a substantial improvement. We are determined that these trends should continue, and we are examining other ways in which the conditions of service of the members of the armed forces can be further improved.

The Ministry of Defence owns a very large amount of land and a large number of married quarters. I receive many letters about empty married quarters, and indeed we have had Questions in this House about married quarters, asking whether or not they can be declared surplus. Many of these decisions appear very simple and straightforward, but they are not as simple as they appear and there are frequently many repercussions which have to be considered. We all recognise the importance of avoiding wasteful expenditure on maintaining property we no longer need, and which indeed is perhaps urgently needed by others. I spend a great deal of my time quizzing Ministry of Defence officials and officers on the subject. We shall continue this campaign, and I can assure noble Lords that this is something to which I will continue to give the most careful consideration. But, having said that, it is also true that we must, above all, not take precipitate decisions which can immediately appear to be anomalous; it is most important that we should consider all the implications of irreversible steps. Our primary duty is to get the right answer in the end.

I referred to equipment. These decisions are even more difficult and are often on a very large scale, frequently involving thousands—and I mean literally thousands—of millions of pounds. We have not attempted to rush in and make instant judgments on the needs of the services. The timetable for designing, developing and producing the complex equipment of today is far too long to enable us to change things overnight, even if we wanted to. The starting point has to be to establish a clear and correct order of priorities on which to base our judgments for the allocation of resources, both among the services and within the individual services. A sophisticated item of equipment nowadays can typically have a gestation period of 10 years or more from the requirement being identified to its entry into service. Its in-service life may be a further 15 or 20 years. So there is no sense in trying to take premature decisions when you have to live with the results for perhaps as long as 30 years, which takes us well over into the next century.

Quite apart from the problems caused by the complexity of the equipment, our decisions also have to take into account the industrial factors. About three-quarters of our equipment comes from British companies. This gives employment to some 200,000 workers directly, and perhaps as many again indirectly. The Ministry of Defence is by far the largest customer for the three specialist warship yards, employing nearly 16,000, and it is responsible for some 30 per cent. of the workload in the so-called "mixed" yards. Defence work accounts for over 60 per cent. of British Aerospace and some 20 per cent. of the United Kingdom electronic industry. We employ one-third of the Civil Service, and most of them are engaged on productive work rather than pushing paper around a desk.

The Royal Dockyards employ 32,000 men and women working in support of the Navy. I have no doubt we shall hear more about the Royal Dockyards before the day is out. Similarly, the Royal Ordnance factories employ over 20,000 people, and we spend £1,200 million annually on research and development, which represents something like half the national research and development for the whole country. All in all, defence-related industrial employment today totals in excess of half a million people. So we can fairly claim that the impact on industry of defence procurement needs to be most carefully judged, since the effects can be profound. It would be a bold person indeed who would claim that we have always struck the right balance.

I am not making excuses for inaction. We have not flinched, and we shall not flinch, from taking the necessary decisions. We have announced the full development and the initial production of the Stingray lightweight torpedo, which is a highly sophisticated weapon urgently needed in the fight against submarines. Unlike our predecessors, we are addressing the problem of a successor to Polaris, which has been discussed in this House before. We are buying additional M109 155 mm Howitzers, and we intend to supplement them by purchase of the multiple launch rocket system, which is an additional contribution to artillery activity. We have ordered extra Lynx helicopters, and we have announced the full development of the Sea Eagle air-to-ship missile and of the Skyflash air-to-air missile.

We have ordered additional Hawk aircraft and decided that some of our Hawks should be armed with the Sidewinder missile as part of our improved arrangements for the air defence of the United Kingdom. We have embarked upon a series of improvements to the Rapier point-to-point air defence system, and I am glad to be able to announce this afternoon that we have decided to launch a programme of improvements to the Blowpipe hand-held air defence missile as well.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope the House will agree that it is not unimpressive. The theme of my speech has been carefully calculated advance. We believe we have taken the decisions which needed to be taken. We are addressing the problems carefully and sensibly, and they are large problems still to be solved, but we do not intend to be stampeded into premature judgments, because the issues involved are too important for that. What is at stake is nothing less than the safety and security of our nation, and we intend to ensure that these are guaranteed. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That this House takes note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980 (Cmnd. 7826).—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal.)

3.51 p.m.


My Lords, the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, for introducing this debate on the Statement on the Defence Estimates, and I am happy to be the first speaker to follow him, because I want to associate myself with the remarks the noble Lord made concerning the bravery of the members of the SAS in rescuing the hostages from the recent siege at the Iranian Embassy. If our determination to protect embassy staffs were to impress itself on the Iranian Government to free the American hostages, there would be an even greater cause for rejoicing.

Several noble Lords: Hear. Hear!


My Lords, defence is always the most difficult, complicated and emotive subject to be discussed in both Houses of Parliament. There are many Members on my side of the House with a number of years' interest in this subject and, having read the White Paper and the whole spate of newspaper reports and comments, it is difficult to cover the whole of the Statement in a speech which would do it justice, but I am aware of the fact that there are a number of noble Lords wishing to speak in this debate and I shall try to keep my remarks within tolerable limits.

I should like to begin by quoting the Secretary of State, Mr. Francis Pym, in the debate which took place in another place on 28th April. He said: Military force will not provide us with any short cuts or any easy way to a more stable world order. It should not be—and it certainly is not—our first recourse. Indeed, it is the very last recourse—to be avoided at almost any cost. The effectiveness of military force depends profoundly on our appreciation of political and social forces, both in those countries whose security we are seeking to maintain, and in the West as a whole, for it is those political and social forces that determine decisively the outcome of the use of military force or its threatened use. What we have to do is to retain the will and the imagination to understand the perceptions of countries whose ideology and traditions differ from ours, even to an extent at which they become hostile to us. We have to do so without in any way compromising our own beliefs and values, or becoming untrue to the heritage of parliamentary democracy and freedom to which we are the heirs. That is the way to strengthen the resolve of our friends and ourselves to work for a better world. The maintenance of adequate defences and the proper use of military power are a regrettable but inescapable precondition of successful political action". I think that, apart from those few with a war mentality and those who would have us disarm completely, that statement by the Secretary of State would receive general approval, especially as the Defence Estimates are introduced at a time when the world is growing ever more dangerous, when tension and fear are in the air, when the aggressive nature of the Soviet Union is asserting itself and when areas of potential conflict are multiplying in a most alarming way.

The Opposition in another place moved an amendment to the Secretary of State's Motion to approve the Statement on the Defence Estimates. The amendment reaffirmed our commitment to the proper defence of Britain through membership of NATO and paid tribute to the men and women who served in the armed forces and their civilian counterparts but declined to approve the Statement on Defence, on the grounds that the Statement failed to set out clear priorities for Britain's defence during the 1980s and committed Her Majesty's Government to increases in defence expenditure far in excess of the forecasts for the growth of the economy, and that the Statement offered no new initiatives towards multilateral mutual disarmament in the nuclear and conventional fields. The Government have said that they want an informed public debate about defence, yet the Statement does not consider in any detail what The Times has quite rightly referred to as, The single most important, most emotive decision which it still has to make—namely, a replacement for Polaris as Britain's strategic deterrent in the 1990s". The Statement gives us only one sentence, in paragraph 211 of the White Paper: The Government is considering possible systems to replace it thereafter and a decision will be taken soon". It is true that the Secretary of State gave the costs of the Polaris warhead improvement programme some three months ago, though little or no discussion on the Government's thinking has been disclosed. The options open to us have been the subject of much public comment and are well known. We could abandon any attempt to update our strategic deterrent, which would mean no replacement for Polaris. Those who have advocated that course suggest that we should concentrate our resources on conventional equipment to enable the West to defend itself from an attack by conventional means.

It has been argued that strong conventional forces are our best insurance against attack, especially as it has been said repeatedly that it is unthinkable that we should be the first to use the deterrent. Against this there is the view that possession of the deterrent provides us with the only form of strategic nuclear weapon not under the direct control of the United States of America. Further, it is said that our security is strengthened by the ability to retaliate and to inflict unacceptable damage on an aggressor. The latter view is influenced by the knowledge that the Soviet Union has gained a clear superiority in long-range "theatre" nuclear weapons, and the White Paper asserts that a future Soviet leadership might wrongly believe that at some point in a future conflict the United States might waver in its determination to defend Europe with the full force of its nuclear arsenal and that the presence of enormous destructive power in independent European hands is an important insurance against a "misperception" by the Soviet Union.

But what deterrent? Is it to be some form of air-, ground-, or sea-launched cruise missile? We are told that in the present state of development cruise missiles would probably have to be submarine-borne and would involve new technology and operating techniques for Britain. Is it to be the purchase of American Trident 1 or C4 missiles? If so, we need new submarines to develop our own warheads, and we are told that the cost of this would be about £5,000 million over 10 years.

We could, of course, retain Polaris in its present form—there are grounds for this option. It has been said that Polaris provides a realistic deterrent into the next century—the costs would be much lower and anti-submarine detection could advance to the point where Trident I might not be a deterrent on which we could rely.

All these issues should be the subject of a far wider public debate than we have had so far and already there is a growing public demand for more information about the Government's intentions. I am glad that the Secretary of State has again repeated that the question of operational control of cruise missiles based here will be a matter for joint decision and that the bases may not be used without such joint decision. However, there is a great disquiet that the Secretary of State is to announce a decision on cruise missile basing in the summer without public discussion.

I now turn briefly to the question of the cost of our defence programme as projected in the White Paper. Defence spending will rise this year by 3.5 per cent. to £8,000 million. It will then rise by 3 per cent. for the next three years and the White Paper tells us that this entails a switch of resources from civil programmes to defence. I do not believe that this proposed level of expenditure on defence can be maintained. It is my view that the Government are making the same error as my own Government of 1950–51 when they embarked on a rearmament programme which the succeeding Government found unrealistic and unsupportable. The Secretary of State said in the debate on 28th April: The plans that we have made mean that we are aiming to meet NATO's target of 3 per cent. growth. There can be no doubt that under this Government the United Kingdom will pull her full weight in the Alliance. The 3 per cent. is not a figure plucked from thin air and erected as a totem pole; it reflects a sober and realistic appreciation of what balance can best be struck between what is necessary to meet the ever-growing threat, which I have tried to make clear to the House and the country, and what can be afforded at a time when the economies of most NATO members—and particularly our own—are under strain. Three per cent. was the figure decided upon after much consideration by NATO".—[Official Report, Commons, 28/4/80; col. 1010.] Our contribution was presumably based on Treasury forecasts for the economy. Only yesterday these forecasts came under very heavy attack by Mr. Edward Du Cann, chairman of the all-party Treasury and Civil Service Committee. Mr. Du Cann said that the forecast of a 1 per cent. growth rate after this year was too optimistic and the unemployment figure of 1.8 million maximum over the next four years was underestimated. He went on to say that manufacturing output would fall by at least 6 per cent. compounded by 1983 and that he found it frightening as he went around industry that Britain seemed to be losing the race. The country's industrial decline was not being arrested or reversed: it was continuing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the steel industry—the essential raw material of any defence programme.

If Mr. Du Cann is correct, then it is clear that the effect of the cost of the proposed defence estimates on our civil programmes might well prove unacceptable. No defence programme can be effective if cuts in our social expenditure eat into the very fabric of our society. Such a future would be a greater asset to our enemies than inadequate military defence, and only a strong industrial base can ensure social cohesion in these terribly troubled times.

I have said nothing about the overwhelming superiority which the Warsaw Pact countries have at their disposal; nothing about the disproportionate contribution which the United Kingdom makes to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and nothing about measures of arms control and efforts to create a more stable world order. I should have liked the time to refer to the Brandt Report on North/South survival which I think is a way forward for the world. We have survived Cuba, Suez, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Vietnam and now we have Afghanistan and a future without President Tito—another piece of a puzzle which is forever eluding solution.

I wish to finish on the following note. It seems to me—as one of my friends in another place said during the course of the debate on the 28th—that the Warsaw Pact and NATO countries have been able over the past 30 years or so to manage crises. I think that that is self-evident. But what has happened in recent months and years is that it is not simply a question of the Soviet Union and its allies and NATO finding accommodation when things get hot; we are entering, I believe, an age of "absolutism" in the Middle East, where the future of the Moslem world is creating a great deal of anxiety for not only ourselves but the Soviet Union. It seems to me that it is more essential than ever that NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries continue to find ways of achieving a lasting peace.

I finish as I began with a quotation from the Secretary of State for Defence who said: The ultimate objective of Her Majesty's Government -and of every hon. Member—is less defence and fewer arms, not more. We believe in a fruitful dialogue with all other countries to achieve this end. We hope profoundly that the process of detente, of negotiations about arms control and of talks about the reduction in the size of forces and armaments, will continue".—[Official Report, Commons, 28/4/80; cols. 998–999]. My Lords, Amen to that.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I propose to limit my remarks today to the overriding nuclear issue which is dealt with, rather summarily, in this voluminous and well-produced Review which, however—and I draw your Lordships' attention to this—should be read in conjunction with the preliminary report of the House of Commons Select Committee on this subject which has just come out and which I must say provides some additional and rather horrifying references to deficiencies in our present defences.

First, I shall in my quarter of an hour summarise the arguments very briefly against renewing our "independent" strategic deterrent; then I shall discuss the role of the so-called "tactical" nuclear weapons; and, finally, I shall draw certain conclusions and ask one, I think, important question which—judging from another recent debate in another place—the Government have so far refrained from answering.

I know very well that the Government have promised a full debate of this great matter when they have finally made up their mind: but my object today is, if possible, to influence them before their mind is finally made up. The noble Lord who has just spoken on this great issue made it clear that the Labour Party has not yet made up its mind—it seems to be divided. The Liberal Party however has made up its mind conclusively and for a long time on this subject, for reasons which I shall now give.

On this first point then I am naturally in agreement with what I understand is or was the position of the noble Lord, Lord Carver. If, which God forbid, there is ever an East-West war, the West must evidently lose unless the United States is physically present in great strength in Europe and participating actively in the struggle from the start. In other words—and this is my basic assumption, although it may be disputed—Western Europe cannot be successfully defended without the United States. In so far, therefore, as strategic or tactical nuclear weapons are a deterrent to the use by the other side of such weapons—and they are—then it is the American and not the European weapons which must principally count.

The main point of the noble Lord, Lord Carver, in his first intervention on this subject some little while ago, was that he could not imagine a situation in which European—and notably British—strategic nuclear weapons could ever be used independently of America, and if he meant by this, used on a first strike—which I think he did—then I entirely agree. No doubt when we do have our debate the Government will say exactly when and how our Tridents, or whatever our strategic deterrent may prove to be, would actually be used. As I see it, they could not possibly be used to hold up a Soviet advance on the Continent. They could, indeed, act in that event as a deterrent to any Soviet nuclear bombardment of these islands. But as without American support we should be defeated anyhow by conventional means, that is a most unlikely scenario. After arriving at the Atlantic the Russians would simply have to wait and apply conventional means of pressure.

It may be said—and I believe that the Government actually say this—that we must have a strategic deterrent in order to keep up with the Joneses; in other words, with the French. But however efficacious the French strategic nuclear deterrent would be if it were ever used—and I do not dispute that—it would suffer from exactly the same weaknesses as ours. It could not possibly be used, nor could its use be threatened, to halt a Soviet advance in Germany, for if it were, Paris would disappear in a cloud of smoke. If the Russians were on the Rhine, France—force de frappe or no force de frappe, and again in the absence of the American support—would obviously be at the mercy of the Soviet Union. It follows that there is very little in the subsidy argument that is also deployed, that without a strategic nuclear deterrent we should inevitably become a third-rate power of no consequence, and that the very will to defend ourselves would disappear or be gravely affected.

Why should it? In the absence of American support, certainly there might be many in this country who would favour making some kind of deal with the Soviet Union, whether or not we have a deterrent. I do not deny that. But given assurance of American support, our people would surely understand that it is essential for us to form an important—indeed an invaluable—part of a powerful alliance, and not to try to be a sort of minor super power, clinging ineffectively to what remains of imperial importance or, as the noble Lord, Lord Carver, once so eloquently said, in some ways demonstrating what he called our "machismo."

Lastly, even granted that we ought to continue to have some kind of nuclear deterrent at the end of the century, what about the long-range, mobile, and hence largely invulnerable cruise missiles which the Government propose to station here in only three years time? It is quite true that these missiles would not be able to be fired without American consent—I hope that they would not be able to be fired without our consent either—but, then, that applies anyhow in practice to our present nuclear deterrent.

Nevertheless, from everything that one hears, the Government are determined to spend at least £500 million annually for the next 10 years—and I am informed on good authority that in the circumstances it would be likely to be very much more—in order to have in the early 1990s a force capable of obliterating, if not Moscow, at any rate several other major Soviet cities. Is it seriously thought that the existence of such a force will persuade the Kremlin that it could be so used in the event of any "confrontation" anywhere, when it must be obvious that if it were, the United Kingdom would be wiped off the map? Apart from that, has any estimate ever been made of the chances that in 10 years' time such a force, if it were submarine, might well be destroyed by an adversary by one means or another on a first strike?

Why on earth should such a large slice of our defence budget and of our national income be devoted to such an end? If Members of Parliament are really persuaded of this necessity in a time of great financial stringency, I hope that they will consult their electors directly before finally making up their minds, and explain to them the real object of the exercise and the nature of the sacrifices that they would be expected to make in order to achieve it.

I come to tactical, or long-range tactical, nuclear weapons. In the last debate we had on this subject on the late Lord Mountbatten's speech, the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, dismissed my arguments in one sentence by alleging that my idea was to abolish these weapons, presumably—though he did not actually say this—by some sort of unilateral action. I said, of course, nothing of the sort. I repeat that if they serve no other purpose, these weapons do deter the Soviet Union from using them on a first strike, though naturally this deterrence would he far greater if the Western tactical, or long-range tactical, weapons were capable of reaching the home territory of the adversary.

What I did, and what I do doubt is the inherent likelihood and certainly the desirability of their ever being employed by NATO on a first strike. Lord Mountbatten obviously shared that doubt. One only has to read his speech to appreciate that that is what he obviously thought. In the recent debate that we had on his splendid speech, few Members of your Lordships' House actually denied it. Yet if he was right, the whole policy of "flexible response" makes little sense. If we cannot, without general disaster, make first use of any nuclear weapon, it is both useless and dangerous to suggest that in certain circumstances we might.

Why not, then, it may be said, accept the Soviet proposals for a "no first use" declaration? I think the answer must be that if such a declaration were made, the uninstructed might assume, the danger of nuclear war being non-existent, that there were no good grounds for further effort or for any further strengthening even of our conventional weapons. Besides, after Afghanistan, few states might he prepared to accept the word of the Kremlin on any major policy declaration.

But that does not mean that we should not act on the assumption—I repeat, act on the assumption—that when and if it comes to the point, no commander anywhere will, in fact, order nuclear weapons to be fired. if this is, indeed, our assumption, there is only one possible conclusion: we must so strengthen and deploy our non-nuclear forces as to make it apparent that if the Soviet Union did decide to start hostilities, or even if it was simply engaged in hostilities, it would not be able to knock out the European NATO states in one "conventional" blow, but would have to run all the risks of a long and difficult conventional war.

Nor need this be an impossible operation. It was often observed in the past by professional strategists, before their calculations were confused by nuclear developments, that a defence might be calculated to hold up any kind of offensive if it stood in relation to the overall strength of the attacker as, broadly speaking, one to three. Neglected though our armed forces may have been over the years in Europe, they have not yet sunk much below the ratio of one to three in the field of armaments, though they are certainly on the danger level as things are.

Unfortunately, there are a host of features other than the numbers of weapons which favour the East: chiefly standardisation of arms and logistics; ability to conceal real intentions; no need to bother about public opinion; ability to maintain in being large forces without a highly expensive "tail"; and I know not what. But with ingenuity and determination and, above all, with unity of purpose, all these disadvantages could certainly be overcome over the next few years. Nor need we proceed on the assumption that the Soviet Union actually want a war, even a conventional one. Of course not. All they want is the ability to make sure of winning if, by some chance, some confrontation should take place in the Middle East or elsewhere.

If there is anything at all in this scenario, a further conclusion is obvious. What we, in the alliance, now want is more, better and if possible standardised defensive weapons, such as the latest anti-tank and anti-aircraft devices of all sorts—and I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, say that some progress is being made in that direction at present—more suitable aircraft, especially for home defence and, very importantly, more small ships to protect our oil installations and minesweepers to prevent an adversary from despatching well-protected landing craft across the North Sea while our frigates are engaged in coping with submarines in the Atlantic. When all of this has been accomplished—and especially when some kind of Home Guard has been set up to cope with emergencies in our towns—then we may well find to our surprise that progress is possible on MBFR at Vienna and no doubt on SALT 3, in both of which directions of course we must continue to do our best to persuade the Russians that agreement is just as much in their interests as it is in ours.

I come finally to the questions that I want to put and of which I have given the noble Lord notice. If such an effort, or anything like it, is going to be necessary; or even if the existing ratio of conventional defence is going to remain what it is; how is the money for our renewed strategic deterrent to be found, and what guarantee have we that our expenditure on conventional armaments will not be actually reduced during the coming decade?

More specifically, what I should like to know is whether, in the event of the Government deciding to go ahead with their plan, the ensuing minimum expenditure of half a billion pounds a year—or whatever it may be—will represent money coming from additional taxation, or from the diversion of funds from other purposes, and not money saved by spending less on the "conventional" budgets of the three services.

If, as I suspect, the latter is the Government's intention, then it must be clear that they are contemplating a policy which, by further weakening NATO at a time when United States' troops are actually being diverted from Europe to the Middle East, could only encourage the adversary, and in any case would represent a gross violation of one of our most solemn treaty obligations towards our colleagues in the Western European Union; namely, the maintenance at their present level of British forces in Germany.

All this, my Lords, would result from the pursuit of a kind of—how can I describe it?—non-power; that is to say, power that in practice could never be used independently, even as a deterrent—a sort of illusion of "grandeur", that last infirmity of noble nations. I can therefore only hope that the noble Lord who is to wind up this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, will be able to assure us that there is nothing in my fears. If he cannot—though I sincerely hope he will—all I can say in conclusion is that a policy consciously directed towards weakening our conventional defences will be one of planned disaster in the difficult years ahead.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by saying that I found this year's defence White Paper, from almost every point of view, the best we have had for a long time. But, although it is a good deal more informative than at least its dozen predecessors, it does still, in my view, despite what the noble Lord the Minister said at the outset, err on the side of undue caution in various respects.

As the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, said in the House on St. George's Day, a good deal more detail is available in many American magazines than Whitehall, with its ludicrous obsession with secrecy, is prepared to publish in this annual official document, and more is the pity. If these matters are to engage the serious attention they certainly deserve in your Lordships' House and elsewhere, it is essential that all the facts that can be made available should be before us if an informed discussion of them is to reach the public.

I hasten to say that I do not myself complain, in this respect. unlike the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, of the absence of hard or detailed information about the future of our strategic nuclear deterrent. Quite enough has already been said in another place and elsewhere in recent months for a clear perception to he formed of the Government's intentions which, happily for all of us, seem to be on entirely sensible lines. I am aware that other noble Lords intend to deal with some aspects of this problem today, so I shall say no more about it, despite my eagerness to correct the confusion which clearly exists in the minds of certain noble Lords between deterrence and war fighting.

Before coming to the heart of what I do wish to say about defence in general and the White Paper in particular, I should like to record my warm support for the plea made by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, in your Lordships' House a fortnight ago for some way to be found to make our consideration of this huge and vital problem more carefully structured and thus more manageable. I very much regret that "the usual channels" felt unable to agree with him, and I am certain that our debates will be the poorer for it.

There are, without any doubt, several other ways, as well as the one then proposed, for a division of the whole topic into organic sections. It would, for example, be possible usefully to discuss the three services separately, as was once the custom; or to separate those elements which deal with material from those which deal with people, and both of them from those which deal with high policy. Perhaps the noble Lord the Leader of the House would be good enough to have another look at this before next year.

I should like to concentrate the remainder of my remarks on the third of the elements which I have just mentioned; that is, high policy—or, as some prefer to call it, defence strategy. It is in this area that I detect some serious weaknesses in what the White Paper has to tell us. There are a few and, to me, rather unconvincing words about it in the Introduction, and others in Chapters I and IV of the White Paper.

I have believed for many years very strongly, and I still do, that overseas (or foreign) policy and defence policy are indivisible, and it does not greatly matter, except to metaphysicians, which came first, the chicken or the egg. Both, of course, must obviously, and only to some extent, be shaped by the economic realities of life. But there is surely a good deal more to our defence and foreign policy these days than unswerving support for NATO, and responsibility for our remaining national commitments.

The White Paper says nothing, certainly to my satisfaction, about the dramatic changes which have occurred in the last few years, and specifically in the last few months and weeks—and even days—in the ominous threats to world stability which we must all perceive. In short, I am uneasy that by sticking doggedly to the defence and overseas policy which has served us well for 30 years we may be failing to make essential and prudent preparations to deter threats which already exist today far outside the NATO area, and which could well become extremely grave, if not terminal.

We must bear in mind that NATO has always been an inward-looking organisation, unready and unwilling to look outside its artificial, arbitrary and limited boundaries. This leads, in my view, to a grave danger to the whole of Europe's economic existence, and of course ours too, and indeed to some extent that of North America as well. The threat is to our global seaborne trade, which is now, beyond any question, at risk; and unless this threat is recognised, and moreover some positive military and political action taken to deter it, our way of life, and perhaps our very lives themselves, could collapse, without a single shot being fired in Europe. Nor is the risk confined to the allies I have just mentioned. Other areas of the world, such as Japan, Australasia, the South Americas, black Africa, South-East Asia, and perhaps especially topically the Gulf, are at risk for the same reason—which you may permit me to repeat—global seaborne trade.

Nor does this risk by any means arise solely from the astounding growth of the Soviet Navy, to which I referred at some length in my maiden speech on this topic last year. The remorseless spread of the Russian Empire, around the littoral states of Africa and the Indian Ocean, just as much as their recent brutal annexation of Afghanistan, greatly enhances the risks of threats and blackmail, as well as the actual use of force, both to our own vital interests and to those of our like-minded friends in the countries I have mentioned.

I detect nothing in the White Paper we are debating which suggests that our defence policy has been adjusted in any way to what I have described as a great change in the nature of the threat we should arm ourselves to deter. Certainly, as the Minister said at the outset, some minor improvements to our airlift, afloat support and logistic stockpile—though I am far from clear how much the latter actually means in practical terms, and I suspect it is not much—are announced, as is the restoration of one para battalion capability, and these are obviously welcome. But I cannot find it in my heart to believe that these small measures would be regarded as a realistic deterrent to further global expansion by those whom we seek to deter, nor—and perhaps more importantly—as a very significant contribution to that end by our friends.

I would not wish your Lordships to suppose I am suggesting that we can, or should, attempt to re-establish the Pax Britannica, though the world was certainly a much better and safer place during the century for which it lasted. I would however suggest that more attention must now be paid to developments well outside the NATO area on which our efforts have been rightly focussed for the last 30 years. I believe in particular that a vigorous defence and overseas policy should at once seek to enlist our other friends, so that we may jointly ensure that our very life-lines, as well as theirs, can be safeguarded. Perhaps this is being done, but if it is, it does not shine through this White Paper.

Defence, like just about every other aspect of Government is, in the end, about priorities, and this is particularly so in hard times. I should like to feel a good deal more certain than I do that the White Paper had been written as a result of a very careful assessment of where our defence priorities really lie today. It looks to a fairly seasoned practitioner at this class of work as though it had, instead, been based upon giving each service about the same sized slice of the cake as they have become accustomed to getting, and letting them get on with it. I do not believe this is any longer good enough in the real world of today. I certainly do not underestimate the difficulty of making what would amount to a step-change in the way we run our defence business, for I tried to do it myself and I did not get very far. But that is no reason for giving up the attempt.

Any defence policy worthy of the name surely must be based, indeed can only he based, on deciding what threat—not today but in 10 years' time—we must plan and structure our forces to deter, for that is how long it takes to alter the shape of our forces to suit. The endless succession of so-called defence reviews to which we have been subjected for the last 15 years have not, I know, been attacked on that basis. They have, almost without exception, been about reducing the size and shape of our forces and delaying their re-equipment to meet a worldwide threat which has been assumed to be static. But in the real world it is clearly not static; it is dynamic. I do not believe the White Paper has recognised this fact of life, nor taken account of the change in our defence priorities which these dramatic global changes most certainly demand. I invite the Minister to assure me I am wrong, though I must conclude by saying that I shall be hard to convince on the evidence before us.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, in following the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, I wish to say at the outset that I am grateful to him for the support he gave to the suggestion I made recently in my Question. I am also grateful to him for the constructive additional suggestions he has made in his speech today. The 1980 Statement on the Defence Estimates spells out more clearly than ever the increasing threat that Soviet military expansion presents. It is a most readable document and nobody who has read it can say they have not been clearly warned of the extent of that threat. It points out that there is an explicitly aggressive motive for the Soviet military build-up and that their military expenditure to achieve this build-up is given priority over all other claims. We shall ignore these clear signs at our peril. There is urgent need to draw the attention of the public to these signs, make better preparations to protect ourselves now to meet this threat and to give men and women a chance to volunteer and train for the various tasks for which they are most suited. We need to do these things before it is too late.

It is unfortunate that these two volumes cost £8.50 because this will inevitably limit their circulation. We shall therefore make little impact unless a serious effort is made to give the matter more publicity. It is true that some newspapers gave it publicity the day after the document was published, but some made no reference to it at all. The only reference that one distinguished national newspaper considered worthy was the brief reference in paragraph 626 to the suggestion: We must consider, and perhaps revise, our attitude to allowing women to bear arms for their own self-defence —not a highly relevant comment on a document of 1,000 pages. This Government are to be congratulated on the new impetus they have injected into our defence arrangements and the encouragement they have given to our armed forces. An increase in defence expenditure of 3 per cent. will set the pace for establishing our defences on a firmer footing, and I hope that additional expenditure will not be affected by fluctuations in our gross national product; the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, referred to this.

In taking note of the Statement on the Defence Estimates, it is inevitable that one should emphasise and speak to that aspect which one considers the most important or which one thinks needs fuller discussion. As noble Lords have already said, defence is an enormous subject, with very many aspects, and I am sure that by the end of the debate we shall between us have covered most of them. I should like to speak today on home defence and our trained reserves of manpower, not only because this is a most important element of our defence policy, but because in my opinion it is the area which causes the most concern; and it is the one to which lip service has been paid far too often in the past. It is true that the excellent debate that my noble friend Lord Glenarthur initiated on 11th December, on the need to maintain adequate reserves, and the equally valuable opportunity which my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh gave us to debate home and civil defence on 5th March, covered some of this ground. Nevetheleless, I believe that it would be wrong not to refer to it in today's debate, since it is such an important part of our defence policy.

As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, pointed out recently, there is doubt in people's minds as to exactly what we mean by home defence. For some it is an extension of civil defence. For others it conjures up memories of the Home Guard, But in fact this very wide subject of home defence involves the defence and security of the entire United Kingdom in all its aspects, both civil and military.

If, as the White Paper says, this island is to be the forward base for operations in the Atlantic, the main base for operations in the Channel and the North Sea, and the rear base for operations on the Continent, it will be as much a battle area as will be the soil of Germany, and it will be the target for all forms of attack and subversion. The security of this base, so vital to NATO, will call for a large number of men and women, each with a different role to play, according to their ability. Every organisation in the land—the police, the Territorial Army, the fire services, hospital staff, the Red Cross, and so forth—will need large numbers of additional volunteers, and now is the time to start training them, rather than leave it until the last minute.

I will not list all the many aspects which home defence covers, except to say that it includes not only the defence of our sea approaches and harbours, but the protection of installations, roads, bridges, communications, airfields and air defence, all on the military side, right through to civil defence and security against subversion and sabotage. Civil defence is a vital part of our home defence effort, and it is most disappointing that the civil defence review, for which we are all waiting and which, my noble friend Lord Belstead told us on 5th March, would be announced "soon after the Easter Recess", has not yet appeared.

Although I do not agree that the responsibility for civil defence planning should be transferred from the Home Office to the Ministry of Defence, as was suggested in the defence debate in the other place, I find it difficult to believe that the Home Office has a proper sense of urgency in this matter; yet there is an urgent need to co-ordinate the military and the civil planning in all aspects of home defence. I believe that the only way in which this can be done effectively, and can be got off the ground in a successful manner, is by forming a home defence executive, as was described on 5th March by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman. This executive should consist of representatives from all the departments concerned, but mainly from the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, and it should be under the chairmanship of a Minister without Portfolio, answerable to Parliament, and responsible for coordinating the planning and preparation of a sound home defence policy, including the training of volunteers and their allocation to the various tasks.

I do not know what scale or type of attack we might expect on this country, but obviously in the early stages we would be subjected to subversion and sabotage. At a later stage, perhaps soon after that, we might find ourselves subjected to aerial bombardment—I am talking about conventional high explosive at the moment—and this might include chemical or biological attacks. There might be attacks by airborne and seaborne forces, not necessarily in the form of a full-scale invasion, as we witnessed in the last war, but more likely in the form of small detachments of commando-type troops who would try to occupy part of the island and destroy some vital installations, such as oil storage tanks, or a missile early-warning site. I have not mentioned the possibility of nuclear attack because already, your Lordships will see, the tasks are quite enormous and would call for a very large number of trained people, as well as sound, careful and thorough home defence planning, which would involve both the military and civilians.

I must express some anxiety about paragraph 348 of the White Paper, which deals with the 8th Field Force. This was mentioned by my noble friend the Minister in his opening speech. Paragraph 348 states: The whole of the 8th Field Force … is maintained for home defence", while paragraph 409 states that the 8th Field Force … would … be capable … of undertaking worldwide tasks". I do not think that you can really have it both ways. This indicates an overstretch, the same force doing two totally different jobs, and I believe that home defence is sufficiently vital at all times for it never to be left in a vulnerable state.

Another important aspect of home defence which I must not omit is the state of our air defences in the United Kingdom, in regard to which the White Paper admits there is room for improvement. There is an urgent need to automate our air defence system, and besides there being a grave shortage of suitable aircraft to protect British aerospace, our airfields are inadequate in numbers and are inadequately equipped with underground bunkers for protection of aircraft when not in the air.

The policy decision to convert a number of subsonic Hawk jet trainer aircraft to take the AIM–9L air-to-air missile seems to me to be a rather desperate attempt to fill a serious gap. I sincerely hope that the electronic equipment which will be needed to bring about the automation of our air defences to which I have referred will be provided by our own United Kingdom electronic industry, which is an outstanding one in its own right.

I should like now to turn briefly to reserves. It is quite impossible to find out from the White Paper what reserves of military manpower we possess. As I tried to point out in our debate on 12th December, the word "reserve" is grossly misused, but my noble friend the Minister then described my efforts as semantic, so I shall try to be more precise on this occasion. To my mind a reserve is an individual, or a group of individuals; in other words, a unit uncommitted to any particular task, but available, first, to strengthen a particular combat requirement where the initial deployment has proved inadequate, and, secondly, to deal with an unforeseen contingency, or to replace casualties. In calling all non-regular servicemen reserves we are in my opinion still using a 1914–18 concept. In those days the Regular Army went off at once with the British Expeditionary Force, and the reserves were mobilised at home and sent out later to replace casualities, or to augment the size of the force. This will not happen next time.

In this White Paper the whole of the Territorial Army is listed under the heading of "Reserves and Auxiliaries", whereas, as we know, many Territorial Army units, both combat and administrative, have immediate and important roles to play on mobilisation on the Continent with NATO, and for these roles they train very hard in peacetime. In point of fact the proportion of the Territorial Army moving across the Channel to join NATO on mobilisation is two-thirds of the TA's total strength, or 42,000 men. It seems to me quite wrong to describe those men as either reserves or auxiliaries. Perhaps we do not have any reserves in the strict sense of the word, and perhaps all our non-regular servicemen are needed at once, either in the British Army of the Rhine or for home defence. Perhaps within the Territorial Army they recognise which role they are committed to, and they do not have a problem. Perhaps once hostilities have started it will be impossible to reinforce our forces in NATO, and therefore our initial deployment on mobilisation must include sufficient reserves for home defence in this country and also on the mainland of Europe. I would suggest that possibly that part of the Territorial Army committed to home defence might be given the old-fashioned and historic title of "Militia".

I should like to end by saying that I have stressed home defence in my speech this afternoon because I think it is a vital part of our defence policy. I think it is one which has been overlooked in the past, and I believe it is one to which we should pay a great deal more attention in the future. We do need this vital coordination between military planning for home defence and civil planning for home defence.

4.52 p.m.


My Lords, I have no doubt at all that the peoples of the next century will regard the peoples and Governments of this century as mad. They will regard us as mad because during the second half of this century we are acquiescing in the building up, all over the world, of weapons of mass destruction which could destroy all human life on earth. These Estimates today are a reflection of that insanity. They indicate that the cost of arms during this year will be £10¾ billion. They indicate that that cost will go up this year by 3i per cent. and by 3½ per cent. until the year 1985. That means an increase of millions of pounds in what is already a vast expenditure upon arms. This immense increase in the cost of arms in the world is simultaneous with the cutting down of the social standards of life in this country necessary to enable the quality of life to be maintained. Housing, health, education, social benefits—they are all to be slashed. For example, during the next three years, despite the desperate condition of those people in this country who live in overcrowded conditions, house-building will be halved.

There is a further factor, and I am indebted to my friend Frank Allaun for drawing my attention to it. These Estimates indicate that, this year, £1½ billion will be spent on military research. Scientific research in this country is now being concentrated on military development, both brains and equipment, while at the same time research into advanced technology in the economic sphere is minor compared with it. As a result, in the economic sphere we are falling behind other nations. I want to take the contrasting situation of Japan. Japan is not allowed to produce arms for exports, and it is therefore able to concentrate its research on economic development. As a result of that, it is capturing world markets—cars, television sets, cameras and even heavy products like ships. This unbalanced expenditure on military research when research in the economic sphere is so necessary is one contribution to the economic recession in this country.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in looking at the balance of budgets, will consider the comparison between the defence budget, which is approximately (and he has agreed) £10½ billion, and the expenditure on the social security budget, which is £20 billion—exactly double.


My Lords, I should hope so, in any civilised society. I should hope we would spend much more on health, education and care for the aged in all the social services. I hope that in any civilised society we would spend much more on that than on weapons for destruction in the world.

I appreciate that this vast expenditure on arms is due to the fact that peoples of every country fear what their potential enemies are spending on arms. I recognise the fear among British people today of the build-up of military arms in the Soviet Union. But there is one complete answer to that fear, and that is this: we have now reached a practical, realistic stage of mutually agreed development in disarmament on both sides where there is antagonism, and, indeed, in the world as a whole. There was a special assembly of the United Nations two years ago. The leaders of 149 different countries attended it, and all of them committed themselves to world disarmament on a mutually agreed basis. They appointed a disarmament committee at Geneva—at least, a reconstructed committee, much enlarged—and they asked that committee to elaborate practical proposals for a number of aims. The first was a ban on all tests for nuclear weapons; the second, the establishment of regional zones free of nuclear weapons; the third, the banning of all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and the dismantlement of such as exist; the fourth, the mutual reduction of military budgets; the fifth, the progressive elimination of conventional weapons; and the sixth, a system of verification with which all Governments would comply. This was to lead to, seventh, general and complete disarmament except for policing, internal security, and contributing to a peace-keeping force.

That committee in Geneva, composed of representatives of 40 nations, including all the nuclear powers, has been asked by the leaders of the world to consider how these mutually-agreed disarmament proposals can he carried out. That committee is to report to a renewed Special Assembly of the United Nations in 1982. I admit that, last year, the proceedings of the Disarmament Committee at Geneva were disappointing. They had prepared an agenda covering all the points which I have mentioned; but the super powers, both the United States and the Soviet Union, objected to the discussion of any subjects which were under bilateral discussion by them. As a result of that, a large part of the agenda had to disappear even though the bilateral discussions have been going on fruitlessly for years.

I want to say just this. I think we ought to insist that these issues of ending nuclear weapons and stopping chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction ought not to be left to the decisions of the two super powers. They are of concern to us all and the Geneva committee, representing 40 nations and the whole United Nations in the background, should have the opportunity to discuss them. At the Geneva committee, the Soviet Union made the proposal that there should be a prohibition on nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction and that there should be dismantlement. The discussion on that was vetoed by the Western powers.

The view is held very widely that in putting forward those proposals the Soviet Union is not sincere. Why not test them? We are in favour of those proposals. Why not test them and see whether they are sincere or not? I want to recognise that the Geneva committee has begun better this year. I have been given assurance from the Front Bench opposite that the subjects which were withheld last year will be discussed this year. Already, the committee at Geneva has endorsed the proposal for a convention covering the prohibition of radiological weapons. It has urged that there should be a renewal and extension of the existing convention, which was not always carried out, and that those weapons should be destroyed. I welcome that and hope it is to be followed by similar decisions.

There is one hope in the Geneva committee, which is that a majority of the representatives there are from the unaligned countries. They have formed a Committee of 21 and that Committee of 21 is insisting upon the discussion of these subjects. Consensus must be obtained. But I hope that in the long run the Committee of 21 representing the unaligned nations will make their own majority report.

In conclusion, I want to say this. Seven months ago a world disarmament campaign, supporting the proposals to which I have referred, was established in this country. I have been amazed by the support it has received—organised, as it is, only from the front room of a retired working man—from the Churches, the trade unions, political organisations, even members of the Conservative party and academics. Within that short period, 2,600 representatives of those organisations have crowded into Central Hall and now, throughout the country, we are building up in every locality councils which will be urging acceptance of these proposals. But not only in this country. Next month we are meeting, in Paris, representatives of all the international and national organisations which are concerned about disarmament and peace; and during the next two years we are going to establish a worldwide movement demanding disarmament and pressing for the acceptance of these proposals at the renewed Special Assembly of the United Nations.

General Eisenhower once used these words: Some day the demand of millions for disarmament will, I hope, become so universal and insistent that no man, no nation, can withstand it". I believe that we are now at the dawn of a new period in human history when all over the world ordinary men and women will say, "Whatever our race, colour or nation, we are brothers and sisters, and we insist that our Governments shall adopt policies leading to disarmament in the world and will divert the cost of those policies towards ending poverty in our midst.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, 45 years ago I was a junior staff officer in the War Office responsible for matters to do with the abortive discussions about disarmament in the League of Nations. I say "abortive"; they were abortive. Since then, nothing further has happened and so I listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. All that I can say is that, as a soldier, I would welcome disarmament provided it was universal. If people are successful in doing that, then I think they will do mankind the greatest possible service. Meantime, I should like to address myself to the problem of the defence of this country as the situation is today.

In the first place I should like to say how warmly I welcome the decision of Her Majesty's Government to maintain the effectiveness of our nuclear forces. I say that primarily because I do not share the Government's optimism about the political health and cohesion of the North Atlantic Alliance. In the light of recent events and as a result of experience over a number of years, I believe that what is required is to make the North Atlantic Alliance politically healthy, cohesive and closely-knit as a military instrument. It seems to me that very little progress has been made in that direction since I was in command of the Rhine Army and the then newly-formed Northern Army Group nearly 30 years ago. I would urge Her Majesty's Government to take the strongest possible lead in a concentrated, concerted and determined effort to make the North Atlantic Alliance a really cohesive, close-knit, military instrument with a clearly-defined policy, and agreed policy, related to the expansionist policies of the Soviet Union backed by their increased and continuing military power.

I also welcome Her Majesty's Government's decision to strengthen our own national armed forces and to repair the damage that has been done by cuts and constraints over the years. This will involve the development of new equipment, some of which has already been referred to by the Minister. I am in no position to comment on the priorities or the details of new equipment for our armed forces. There are certain general factors to do with the development of equipment that I should like to bring to the notice of the Minister.

The first is that in my experience many of those who have had to deal with the development of equipment are perfectionists. Perfectionism in the production of military equipment is both frustrating in delay and costly in expense. I believe that everyone who has had to do with equipment should have on his desk in banner headlines: The best is the enemy of the good". Equipment needs to be robust and soldier-proof; it must be simple and easy to maintain and to use, and also be backed by an adequate reserve of spare parts, spare assemblies, ammunition and fuel. If this is to be done, there must always be the very closest contact over the development of new military equipment between the designer, the developer, the producer and the user. Sometimes in the past those contacts and communications have not been anything like as good as they should be. I recommend that the Minister and all those concerned with the development and production of new equipment should pay particular attention to those contacts and that form of communication, particularly with the user.

Now I should like to refer to three matters to do with people in the armed forces which cause me some concern. First, the top leadership. I am satisfied with the present situation in regard to the top leadership—certainly of the Army, which I know about. But in 25 or 30 years the top leadership will have to come from young men now entering the Army. It is essential that a goodly number of them should be sufficiently attracted by the conditions of service to make the Army their career and to rise to the top. What is needed at the head of our armed forces are men who can hold their own in discussions with Ministers of the Crown, with senior civil servants and with top industrialists; men of the character, courage and calibre of Andrew Cunningham and Mountbatten in the Royal Navy; Arthur Tedder and "Bomber" Harris in the Royal Air Force; Alexander, Montgomery and Slim in the Army.

I would ask that the present Minister and successive Ministers be very much on the lookout to make sure that the young entry has within itself the potential to reproduce these men in 25 or 30 years' time. It is an extremely important matter. The Army, like the other services, has contracted substantially over the past years. The scope, the prestige, of service and of top high rank is nothing like as great as it used to be. For that reason, it is all the more important to make certain that the armed forces attract to themselves young men with the potential of great commanders and fine leaders.

The armed forces are in single organisations. They are unified organisations. They comprise in the Army, officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and private soldiers, bound together with ties of tradition, comradeship, respect and confidence in each other. The essential is high-class teamwork. We had an example of that only the other day with the brilliant rescue operation by the SAS. That could not have been done without the closest working together of all ranks of that regiment. I detect a tendency, a trend—slight at the moment but it could grow—to apply what is customary in industry to the armed forces. In industry it is customary now to talk about the two sides of industry, meaning management on the one side and the workforce on the other. With my experience of industry I would most strongly deprecate that practice. Any tendency or trend of the slightest extent to apply that same practice to the armed forces would be disastrous. It would destroy any prospect of the teamwork that was shown so brilliantly by the SAS the other day.

The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, referred to home defence and civil defence. I am not clear what Her Majesty's Government's policy is in regard to that. I do not intend to embark on it in a general sense, but as far as the armed forces are concerned, the soldier on the battlefield, the sailor at sea, the airman at his base or in the air, all have anxieties about the safety and survival of their families. So it is a very important matter from the point of view of morale and therefore the efficiency of the services that members of the armed forces should have confidence that all possible steps have been taken to make certain of the safety and survival of their families, no matter what disasters and catastrophes fall, because they themselves will no longer be able to take these steps.

My Lords, to sum up, I hope that the Government will stand firm in their intentions to maintain the effectiveness of our strategic nuclear forces and not be deterred by argument or expense. I hope that they will continue to strengthen and re-equip as necessary our conventional forces, and that they will remember the need for the closest contacts between the various bodies concerned in the production, development and issue to the services of new equipment. I hope, too, that they will watch very carefully the character of the young entry into the armed forces, and make sure that the attractions of the services are good enough to make a goodly number of the best of them make their careers in the armed forces. I trust that they will firmly resist any tendency to apply the practice of two sides to the Army as was attempted in the BBC programme called "Gone for a Soldier" which was broadcast fairly recently.

Finally, I think the Government must pay particular attention to the impact on the morale and efficiency of the armed forces in having confidence in the fact that their families will be properly cared for, safe and surviving, no matter what catastrophe may fall upon this country.

5.20 p.m.

The Earl of CORK and ORRERY

My Lords, it is a somewhat daunting experience to follow a field marshal! In the previous defence debate we had, I was cast between an admiral of the Fleet and a field marshal so that the erstwhile field officer of long ago begins to feel smaller and smaller in such exalted company. None the less it is inspiring.

It is also inspiring, but in a different way, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I am sorry he has left the Chamber because I should like to say something which may be more complimentary than what others may say. I am entirely in sympathy with his general view of the madness of the world and his solution to all our problems, if it could be brought about, would be far better and more desirable than anything we are discussing this afternoon. Alas! Because you live in a mad world you cannot simply opt out of it and build a carapace over your head as if you were a tortoise. You have to live in it and do the best with it that you can.

The nature of the carapace and the vast expense that is involved in paying for it is exactly what this White Paper is dealing with. It is an enormous advance, as noble Lords have said, on other White Papers. The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has said that it is better than any White Paper in whose production he himself has played a part and it is much more colourful, and so on. Indeed it is. The noble Lord also went on to say that it provides very little information. That is also true in various ways, but it does one thing which I, in common with almost everybody else, welcome. It says at last something that I and many others have been saying year after year in debates of this kind. I quote from the second page— … the hard fact is that defence spending is not an alternative to policies of this kind".— that is referring to housing, education, health, improving our environment and personal expenditure.

It is an essential pre-condition for them—or at least for our having any assurance of enjoying their fruits". That, I think, is the reply to the plea of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, that we should devote our resources to one rather than the other.

As the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, has said, there is a lack of information, certainly in some important points, in the White Paper. For example, I would say that defence can be defined in a variety of different ways. One definition I would commend is this: the object of defence is to ensure the continuance of the nation as a free, sovereign and independent State.

The assurance of this continuation is primarily the business of foreign policy. If that fails, then military defence policy takes over, and the object of defence policy is to prevent I repeat "prevent"—the outbreak of war: what we call deterrence. That is largely done by showing plainly to an enemy that we have not only the determination but also the ability to defend those things without which we could not fight at all, much less survive in freedom. One of those things is oil. Without oil, no vehicles can run upon the surface of the land, no ships can move on or below the surface of the sea and no aeroplanes can fly in the air. Most of our oil comes either from the North Sea or from the Middle East round the Cape. What does the White Paper say about the means by which we shall safeguard that oil in time of war? If anybody knows the answer to that question I shall be happy to be told, but I cannot find anything about it in the White Paper at all. It seems to me there would be no great difficulty, in these days of advanced ballistic technology, in an enemy being able to deny us the use of oil rigs in the North Sea or of the tank farms on the coast. I suspect they could be knocked out with some ease.

How is that to be prevented? Paragraphs 515 and 725 say something about this. They tell us that protection is afforded to all our offshore resources, including fish, by the Island class vessels of the Royal Navy's offshore division of the fishery protection squadron: I believe there are five of these small vessels. Protection by Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft of the Royal Air Force and by the Royal Marines is also mentioned. Those forces, the White Paper says: are available to respond to any offshore incident". "Offshore incident", I take it, refers not so much to an outbreak of a major war as to an act of hijacking or a major oil spillage.

I ask my noble friend a direct question about this: who is to be responsible in time of war for the defence of these oil and gas fields? I do not really think the responsibility can remain for ever in the hands of local chiefs of police, who, I understand, are responsible at this particular moment for the protection of the oil installations. I know that the Minister will not answer me, and I hope that other noble Lords will not, to the effect that we have 30 days' stores of oil in the tank farms now and that by the time we have used that up the war will be over. After all, our object is to prevent the outbreak of war and not to secure our ability to walk about on foot when it is all over.

I turn briefly to the question of the independent strategic nuclear deterrent. In the recent debate on the Unstarred Question asked by my noble friend Lord Kimberley, I put forward an argument which I was gratified to discover was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Carver—I say that he supported me: that is because he actually came after me for once, so that I was actually followed by a field marshal. The argument I put forward was that the deterrent effect would be undoubted. It would work, in my view, but I said that I could imagine no circumstances in which we should be put in the position of wishing to use that. Therefore, the maintenance and replacement of our nuclear deterrent would be a waste of money and should not be considered. I argued this with sufficient closeness to attract comment of various kinds in high places and I also had a small private debate of my own on this, with the result that I somewhat modified my opinion. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was good enough to say "Hear, hear!"—and perhaps he might wish he had not done so. But I will not go further into this aspect at the moment. It is not my intention to discuss whether or not we should replace the Polaris deterrent, but simply to say that I should like to know what the Government's thinking is.

The noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, said he had a very good idea of what it is. The decision has been made in private, if I understood him correctly, and the less we say about it the better. That may well be so but, through the Minister of Defence, the Government have in fact said that this will be made the subject of public debate. What is the meaning of "public debate", and how does it square with the other statement in the White Paper that, … the Polaris force will remain effective into the 1990s. The Government is considering possible systems to replace it thereafter and a decision will be taken soon"? I would ask the Minister, also, what is "soon", bearing in mind the fact that we have only 10 years in which to think about this before putting it into effect, and that is all too little time. If it is soon, however soon it may be, how soon will be the public debate? Will it be before this, and what form will it take? This I believe to be a question of the greatest importance.

Various views have been put forward on this matter, and I venture to disagree with one that has been put forward by the Minister himself. I am not at all sure whether I am being fair in this, but, after all, what he said is in print, so I am not taking him upon up on an inadvertence. He said, on my noble friend Lord Kimberley's Unstarred Question, that one, major reason for the United Kingdom's possessing an independent strategic deterrent is that in doing so we can provide an ultimate guarantee of our own security now and in the years ahead".— [Official Report, 18/12/79; col. 1648.] With the greatest respect to my noble friend—no. There is no such guarantee now or at any other time. Would that we were able, by any means, to provide an ultimate guarantee for our own security. No, my Lords, we cannot.

I prefer a view which was more recently put forward in a speech by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Neil Cameron, another Chief of the Defence Staff, saying: What makes a British national capability worth paying for is its independence and not its size as a modest increment to America's vast and varied armoury". There are other quotations that I could make from various noble Lords, and other people, in order to refute them, and they are the kind of quotation which refers to the inevitability of what will happen if we have great nuclear deterrents of our own, or if anybody has. What will happen if they are used? If we have an independent nuclear deterrent and a first strike is used against us, our Polaris fleet will be blown out of the water before we can think.

All these arguments tend to assume, either specifically or implicitly, that this is going to happen, whereas what they are intended to do is to ensure that it does not happen. This kind of attitude goes along the pathway that leads to surrender. When it comes to the question of surrender, I am personally very happy to fall in behind the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, to whose speech I am greatly looking forward at almost any minute now. He has said—and he would be almost bound to express this emotion— As for surrender, it is not in my vocabulary, and I hope it is not in the vocabulary of Members of your Lordships' House".—[Official Report, 5/3/80; col. 299.] That is a true and exellent Shinwell aphorism, if I may so put it.

I end as I began, by simply saying that it is a relief and—I was going to say, in some ways, a joy, but nothing in this world produces joy—a source of satisfaction to know that the Government are now putting defence in its proper place, which is ahead of all other considerations.

5.34 p.m.


My Lords, a few years ago, as has already been mentioned, at a time of what might be regarded as comparative peace, and when any reference to defence was regarded if not with indifference, at any rate with a lack of enthusiasm, I conceived the notion and gained the support of other Members of your Lordships' House of engaging in a study of the strategy of defence, primarily because of the many variations of opinion. Despite our endeavours, and having managed to secure the attendance of experts from almost every country in the world—military and diplomatic experts and the like—I am bound to confess that the variations still continue.

We have had an illustration of it even this afternoon. We have even been told that the whole world has gone mad on this question of defence. It was my noble friend Lord Brockway who indulged in that observation. That observation was followed by information that recently a number of people—about 2,000 or so—met together in order to demonstrate their protest at expenditure on defence and to demand world disarmament. They were, apparently, the only sane people in the universe. And what was their prescription in order to avoid this horrendous expenditure, this waste of substance, manpower, equipment and the like, more particularly in a period when we require to engage in constructive efforts of a social and industrial character? Their prescription was—and it is not entirely confined to those who met to discuss disarmament—that we should seek to persuade those associated with the Moscow pact to be rather more reasonable, approachable and ready to consider some compromise, however minor, in order to prevent the world really going insane.


My Lords, will my noble friend allow me—




He has described the aim of the world disarmament campaign not quite accurately. Our aim is to get the implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Special Assembly two years ago by the Geneva Committee, and the renewed United Nations Assembly two years hence.


My Lords, I am bound to say that I regard that as an unnecessary and irrelevant interruption. I nearly said irreverent, but one must be careful in one's use of language. I do not want to be tempted further into discourse on the subject of pacifism. I have had to listen to my noble friend for round about 50 years—unfortunately, listening to the same speech. It has always been the same. "The world has gone mad. There has been unnecessary expenditure. Use it for constructive effort, and the like". And, in particular, "Rely on the United Nations". It used to be the League of Nations but that vanished into thin air. "Rely on the United Nations". On how many nations? On over 100 non-aligned nations meeting to express their opinions? That is an end to the matter, for even when conclusions are arrived at, nothing is implemented, and never will be. Therefore we have to face the facts, however melancholy and however disagreeable they may be.

I want to put it in my own fashion. While we are engaged upon discussing defence, with some interruptions that have nothing whatever to do with defence or security, the Soviet Union is deliberating which should be the next country to invade. How can we secure the Soviet presence not only in the areas already covered, occupied and controlled but in the Mediterranean, the Far East, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, where there is mineral to be found—as if they had not got enough themselves—and where there is oil and the like to be discovered? While we are deliberating and discussing defence and while we are concerned about our security, they are ready to take over. And if we are not careful they will take over. In the language used by somebody else in the course of this debate, they will take over without firing a shot.

It is not so long ago that one of my colleagues in your Lordships' House said that if we had to consider surrender or suicide—and by "surrender" he meant allowing the Soviet Pact to control this country and our allies—he would prefer surrender. Not suicide but surrender. I am bound to say—I dislike saying it but I believe I am right in doing so—that in this country there are far too many people (there may be some in your Lordships' House, and certainly there were some the other day in another place) who would not mind at all, in order to save any trouble and any further expenditure, accepting the Soviet Pact and all that it means. It does not mean that they are Marxists and that they know all about dialectical materialism, the theory of social value and all the rest of it—not at all. It is simply that they are less concerned about the interests of their own country than they are about those who have managed, by various devious methods, to gain control of a large part of the universe. These are the simple facts of the situation.

I want to turn to the question of defence and to come to the White Paper. I agree with what my noble friend the Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Hill-Norton, said about the White Paper. It is much more informative than many of the White Papers which we have had to discuss in the past and, indeed, much more sensible than the White Paper of 1957 for which the noble Lord—I am afraid he is not present—Lord Duncan-Sandys was responsible, when we departed from the conventional technique and decided to embark on the nuclear: one of the worst blunders we ever made at the time, in the circumstances that then prevailed.

Yes, it is informative but the White Paper fails in one particular respect which even my noble friend Lord Hill-Norton omitted to mention. A vast amount of information is contained in the White Paper but it does not tell us what we expect our forces to do, except to defend themselves, or to attack when necessary. About strategy, whether in Europe or in the Pacific, or wherever it may be in any part of the world, what are the intentions of the Government? What are they there for—not merely our own people in the United Kingdom but those in NATO? For example, is the public of this country told very much about the intentions of the Federal Republic of Germany in the military sphere? They are estimated to have nearly half a million men. What are they intended to do? And if they have got vast numbers, is it not about time that we reconsidered our position in order to save some money, by not spending it in Germany, and use it for other purposes? We have a lot to learn about what are our intentions.

It was a wise step on the part of the Government to depart from the NATO concept of confining our interests to the European sphere and to look all around the world to seek to safeguard our trade routes. As we have been told, this was essential and at last it has happened. But what our intentions really are is a matter upon which we have very little knowledge at all.

I come to what I regard as the crux of the problem. It is this. We are spending round about £10,000 million. Of course, this must to be backed up by an economic structure that is satisfactory, effective and stabilised. And if it is going to be increased in the 1980s, we have to consider even more urgently what is to be the effective background. Will we support it, sustain it, so long as it is necessary to do so? We have to consider whether we are going to rely upon the conventional technique—which perhaps is not so adequate as it should be but which is much more adequate than many people realise—with our allies, even under the umbrella of the United States, notwithstanding that we sometimes dislike what they do. Or are we going to venture upon the expenditure of vast sums of money in order to improve what is described as our "unilateral nuclear deterrent"?

I want to say quite frankly to the Minister, for whom I have a very high regard and who is doing a very good job in the circumstances—I know what it is like inside a department of that kind that I do not believe, although I may be wrong (I have been wrong before and I may be wrong again) that it is the deliberate intention of the Soviet Pact to engage in a nuclear effort. I come back to the point I have already mentioned: that in the existing circumstances they can take what they want as they please, unless the nuclear might of the United States is directed against them. And how can we rely upon that? How can we be sure about it? I doubt it. So I come back to the point that really matters: how are we going to make our conventional forces really adequate and effective? If we fear a nuclear attack, how are we going to provide the necessary and adequate civil defence? These are the two issues.

I will only add one further point and then I shall be quite content. How are we going to utilise the services of vast numbers of people in this country, particularly the younger people—it has to be the younger people—who will engage in service by becoming part of our reserves? I have mentioned over and over again in the course of our debates the need for reserves and also the capacity to mobilise speedily and to transfer them speedily to the places where they are required. These are the issues, and when we are discussing defence these are the subjects we ought to be talking about, as indeed my noble friend Field Marshal Lord Harding has done, and as my noble friend Lord Hill-Norton has done.

These are the matters that concern us, and I make this suggestion whether some people like it or not—and, by the way, I say this to the members of my own party; and I use the expression "my own party" because I am the longest serving member of that party and the oldest member. I joined that Party in 1903, before any of them thought about it, and on the subject of defence I am surprised that they do not emulate what some of our colleagues did in another place. They had an amendment against the White Paper. If my noble friends really believe that defence is of no value at all, if they have now disregarded the importance of NATO and the like, they should demonstrate their opinions and not be afraid to do so. But look at the Labour Benches! Crowded out? Enthusiastic? I noticed—and I will mention it—that when my noble friend Lord Brockway ended his remarks they met with a certain murmur of approval. Is that what they really believe in? If so, let them say so and let them vote accordingly and not be afraid of it. So far as I am concerned I am having none of it. That does not mean that I am going to leave the Labour Party. They could not push me out even if they tried to, but I am going to see that they do not run away from the paramount need to promote a measure of security—as much as we can afford—on behalf of our people, and our allies, and the democratic and civilised world.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not attempt to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, in his discussion with his fellow Peer on the other side of the House but I hope that he will approve of some of the things I am going to say. I join with other noble Lords in welcoming the presentation of the defence estimates. Like my noble friend Lord Cathcart I, too, would encourage wider publicity of the document, even to producing a shortened version for general circulation. I understand that a shortened version has been produced in some other languages. Perhaps we could have a shortened version in English, too. I believe it is vital to the health of the country that every possible effort is made to educate people in the need for defence, in the value of our defence and its importance for the survival of our country.

I should like to speak for a few minutes on the Territorial Army, and here perhaps I may take the defence estimates a little bit to task because I wonder whether the reserves are given sufficient prominence in this delightful new presentation. There are six paragraphs on the reserves and there is a heading "Reserves". It is actually not in quite such nice print as that which says "Women's Services". I am not a male chauvinist or anything like that, but I should have thought that the reserves needed a little more prominence. While saying that, perhaps something—more particularly in this defence White Paper—could have been said about the Territorial Army and its new name. The TA—in which I must declare an interest as the vice-chairman of the Greater London Territorial Army Association—welcomes warmly all that the present Government have done, swiftly and wholeheartedly, to implement the recommendations contained in the Shapland Report, and to underline the value of the Territorial Army. The encouraging words that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has spoken and the enthusiasm that my right honourable friend Mr. Francis Pym, the Minister of Defence, has shown, have all been of importance in building up the morale of the TA.

So, too, has increasing its bounty. This has led to an increase in recruits: for the first time numbers have reached 62,500, comfortably in excess of 60,000 which to date has been the breakthrough figure, so difficult to pass. There are, too, in the Territorial Army hopeful signs that retention figures may be more encouraging. This leads me to my first point. It is critical that bounties in the future should keep pace with inflation. If they slip behind, then retention may once again be a problem. I know that my noble frend the Minister has this point in mind, but there are rumours that the paymasters may feel satisfied with present increases. It is vital for a viable territorial force that bounties are kept in step with the cost of living.

In the recent short debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur reference was made to compensation payable to families in case of the death of a Territorial Army soldier on duty. I know that there is a tri-service committee looking into this and I do not want to press the Minister on this point. However, I feel your Lordships should be aware, when reading the defence estimates and talking about a one army concept, that if in an exercise—for instance there is one described in paragraph 318 called "Steel Trap"—with a field force containing regular and TA troops (in point of fact, there were over 3,000 Territorial Army troops on that exercise) a regular soldier gets killed his family will obtain considerably better benefits then will a territorial soldier's family in a similar predicament. This is an idiotic anomaly and the sooner it can be remedied, the better.

My next point touches on home defence, which a number of noble Lords have mentioned in its various aspects. The Territorial Army battalions earmarked for home defence are known as the general reserve battalions and are not as well equipped nor as well recruited as those Territorial Army battalions earmarked for BAOR. My Lords, they should be. To start with, it would help their recruiting, but, more importantly, they should be interchangeable with other battalions. If interchangeability is not a policy of Her Majesty's Government, then I recommend it. It has so many obvious advantages, but most of all flexibility.

I should like to dwell on flexibility for a moment. We recently had a debate on home defence initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. This was answered by my noble friend Lord Belstead and various suggestions were made. The debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Glenarthur, which I have already mentioned, was wound up by the noble Lord who will wind up the debate today. Various home and civil defence points were made. The common factor with both noble Lords who replied was inflexibility in stepping one pace outside their own department's operations. The result is a gap. As my right honourable friend and kinsman the member for Bournemouth, West, said in another place, I regret that there is no mention of civil defence in the defence estimates. This House would be sad if home and civil defence became a game played between home and defence departments. I think we expect more of the present Administration.

There are many stimulating thoughts in this field. We have to combat subversion; we have to guard vital instal- lations, including the North Sea oil platforms and our fishing rights. We should have a back-up for the shortfall in manpower, not less in the field of pilots. Recently we had riots in Bristol. There are an additional 60,000 disciplined territorials available. Could the home and defence departments get together and draw up contingency plans to cover—God forbid that there should be one!—another such riot? I know that chief constables have, rightly, a pride in their own forces, but it is folly not to use back-up troops when they are available.

Here may I say how much I welcome the close co-operation between the SAS and the police recently. Should not the Territorial Army be trained in civil defence? Many years ago when I was in it, I was. Should not battalions earmarked for BAOR be allowed to recruit an extra company? Its role would be to guard the home base, be a cadre for further expansion and be a useful 100 men to cope with subversions. Many teeth-arm territorial battalions are over 100 per cent. recruited. Perhaps some of these could be split into two.

My Lords, these are only suggestions with the aim to stimulate the next paper in 1981. This year has seen a correction of the wrong and a step in the right direction. I hope next year we may have a plethora of new ideas; the financial climate is not yet right, but when it is I hope that the Ministry of Defence will be first with ideas for the future.

I should like to touch for a little while on NATO, the North Atlantic Alliance. As a delegate to the North Atlantic Assembly, to me the Government's firm intention to implement the 3 per cent. increase a year in real terms is most welcome. We are now moving into the 1980s; we are entering a decade when the Russian and Warsaw Pact countries have for the first time matched the Western powers in conventional and nuclear arms of all kinds, and in many cases, as the Defence Estimates point out so clearly, have arms, conventional and nuclear, in excess of the Western powers, and to Western thinking far in excess of any peaceful purpose. This must be the time when the North Atlantic Alliance, which has maintained peace in Europe for 31 years, needs absolute support and encouragement.

There are three points I should like to make, First, all NATO countries, both together and unilaterally, should move to help Turkey. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, asked, where will someone strike next? Nobody knows which country may fall next to subversion or Russian aggression. Turkey must be in a dangerous position; situated, as it is, on the NATO Eastern flank it is particularly vulnerable. With Syria armed to the teeth with Russian arms, with Iraq and Iran doubtful factors, all border neighbours, and with its common frontier with Russia, I find it frighteningly vulnerable. I know the summit countries moved in this direction with generous financial aid, and I believe Her Majesty's Government have sent some equipment. But continual pressure is needed to safeguard this vital corner. Incidentally, at this time of stress what a tragedy it is that the differences between Turkey and Greece cannot be solved. NATO commanders have been working hard to try to reach agreement. Perhaps it is time that politicians once again took up the initiative. There is much uncertainty in this area, underlined, of course, by the recent death of President Tito. This problem within NATO boundaries is particularly unfortunate.

My second point also refers to the Mediterranean, but I understand is equally valid on all our seas. I refer to mines. The Soviet have a capability of laying mines in large numbers. Mines of sophisticated shapes and sizes. Are the Government satisfied in their minesweeping ability, both in our own waters and in NATO seas? This ability could be vital to our food supplies and to the Continent for raw materials, just as much as it is strategically important. I believe that, in the context of helping NATO, Governments could listen more to what NATO requires. This may well be the case in the mine-sweeping capability. Incidentally, the Mediterranean can be bottled up at its Eastern end, but I understand that submarines can go through the straits of Gibraltar undetected. I find in this technological age that this is strange. Surely it should be possible for our scientists to produce some brilliant answer to this. To close up the Mediterranean could be a vital strategic move.

My third and last point, which many noble Lords have mentioned, is broadening the scope of NATO. I welcome the opening remarks of my noble friend the Minister. I am, I hasten to add, not suggesting that the boundaries should change, nor that its troops should be anything more than defensive of NATO territories. But it is necessary to think on the broadest possible base. For instance, are NATO countries co-ordinating goodwill visits, shall we say, to Yugoslavia, planning visits to North Africa? Should we be stockpiling against possible loss of sea routes. Energy plays a vital role in keeping all three services operational. Will there be enough supplies?

The North Atlantic Alliance has one great advantage ahead of the European Parliament; both Canada and the United States are active members. While welcoming with considerable relief the recent accord of European Foreign Ministers on problems outside Europe, is there not a case for broadening this so that the alliance too can speak with one voice? Incidentally, although neither France nor Greece have troops under NATO command, both countries participate fully in the North Atlantic Assembly, and indeed keep in close touch with, and in some cases participate in. exercises and command structures.

To conclude my remarks, the Defence Estimates for 1980 are most welcome. I look forward to reading in the Estimates for 1981 innovations for the territorials covering home and civil defence, and also to indications that planning within NATO has been more closely co-ordinated and that there has been a broadening of the scope of the North Atlantic Alliance.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to revert in this debate to those issues to which my noble friend Lord Gladwyn directed his remarks, and also to one sentence spoken by my noble and gallant friend Lord Hill-Norton. There was a slight difference, as it were, in meaning and intent between the two. I should like to dwell on this, because it concerns the entire relationship of what one calls an armoury of strategic weapons and what are now called theatre or tactical nuclear weapons.

The question is, can they be differentiated? We all, I believe, accept that strategic nuclear weapons are there to deter war. Unfortunately, there is some confusion here. When one reads the White Paper one gets the idea from the latter part of paragraph 221 that one can in fact fight a war with nuclear weapons. There is a very big difference between weapons for deterrence and weapons which are battlefield weapons. The language here is, I am afraid, confusing to those people who have not followed this debate closely over a long period of time. The issue really is whether any conflict in which nuclear weapons are used, given that they had failed to deter, would be confined.

In the debate on 23rd April, when the subject of our discussion was the late Lord Mountbatten's speech, his views on the subject were shared, as I understood it, by the noble Lord, Lord Carver. In the newspapers I note that Lord Mountbatten's predecessor as Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir William Dickson, accepted all that Lord Mountbatten said. I believe my noble friend Lord Hill-Norton also accepted his words.

My noble friend gave me in the course of this debate a brilliant address by Sir Neil Cameron which I had not seen before, and I am very grateful to my noble friend for putting it into my hand as I rose to my feet. What he says so far as this particular issue is concerned—and I am emphasising it because of my reference to paragraph 221—is, first of all, that he too agreed 100 per cent. with the thesis that you cannot confine any form of war in which nuclear weapons are used. He says that this is realised here in the West, and he does me the honour of associating my name with Lord Mountbatten's in having put forward the proposition originally. He fears that those in the East may not recognise that fact. He goes on to say that so-called battlefield nuclear weapons are not means of winning military victories, and he then continues The warfighting school of nuclear theorists has lost the argument in the West". My Lords, if that school of theorists has lost the argument in the West, I would appeal to the Government to make quite certain that ambiguities of the kind to which I have referred in paragraph 221 are not repeated. The role of nuclear weapons is to deter war—all war, not just nuclear war, says Sir Neil Cameron—and I shall return to that proposition in a moment—between East and West.

I have taken part in many war games in which nuclear weapons were used; in fact, I believe I initiated them. We had war games carried out in a very elaborate way in which divisional commanders came in from NATO Europe and opposed each other and were allowed to use nuclear weapons. They had to acquire their own intelligence, and the umpires were in totally separated rooms. The whole thing was magnificently done, on proper maps in relief. Within 24 hours, it did not matter who was doing the job, the exercise was a shambles. Now we can carry out the same exercises on computers, and we get the same answer. The Americans have done it. The only time you ever win a battle in which nuclear weapons are used is when the other side does not use them. There seems to be an assumption that the Russians do not realise that point.

There is another aspect to this problem: what is tactical and what is strategic! If NATO Europe were involved in hostilities and nuclear weapons were used, and if a general release were given to the Supreme Commander, Belgium would disappear with one tactical weapon. What is tactical to the military commander would be pretty strategic to a part of one of our partners in NATO.

What would we do if we were overrun? What would a divisional commander do? In the debate the other day I asked my friend, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, whether he could answer a question put to me by General Montgomery's G3. I did not give his name on that occasion. His name was General Belchem. He wrote to me recently suggesting that: There has been an intrusion by Russian forces into NATO Europe. They have gone a hundred miles and they have stopped and no nuclear weapons have been used". This is in Hansard, my Lords, and I am repeating myself. Now they have dropped an armoured brigade into East Anglia. How do we get them out? Yours ever, David". I do not know if anybody knows how we would get a Russian armoured brigade out of this country if it were dropped at this moment, and if it could be reinforced, as we assume it could. If we were overrun, what would a divisional commander do? He has not got teams of nuclear physicists running around saying, "The Russians have now fired a weapon with this yield. We can only reply with an equal yield, because we do not want to escalate". That, my Lords, is nonsense. General Montgomery, when asked, said he would hit them with all he had and seek permission afterwards. That is the way it would go in war. It is unfortunate. General Norsted said the same.

In the debate a fortnight ago the noble Lord, Lord Carver, referred to the neutron bomb as a bridge between conventional and nuclear war and said this came about as a result of Helmut Schmidt's reaction to the results of a theoretical exercise—a war game—and this led to a lot of discussion in the Nuclear Planning Group, and indeed to the initiation of the neutron bomb, the idea being that it would kill enemy tank crews but not cause so much damage to the countryside. He went on to say: "Of course, the fallacy there is that you have to be certain that the other side will use it too".

That is not the case with the neutron bomb. The neutron bomb was with us decades ago. The neutron bomb has not been developed and deployed for the simple reason that it is not a very good thing. It makes no difference to the nuclear equation. It is really what we, the technical people, call "an enhanced radiation weapon." It was the Davy Crockett that every soldier was going to carry in his haversack. Can you imagine it? That is what I had to argue about many years ago. It is a fact that a lethal dose of radiation can be delivered at a somewhat greater distance with a neutron bomb than with a fission bomb. That is a technical fact. I am sorry to burden your Lordships with matters of this sort, but it is important because it seems to me to indicate the kind of information we are all lacking when we discuss these matters. Only at the one-kiloton level will the kill radius due to radiation exceed the blast radius. At 10 kilotons, which is a small weapon, the radiation radius does not matter at all, because you would be dead from the blast. In fact, the neutron bomb is not an enhanced radiation bomb. It is a suppressed blast bomb, and it is more costly to manufacture and there are many constraints to its delivery. I mention this because of the point that has been made that we have not got enough information when we discuss these matters. We ought to have more.

So far as the strategic exchange is concerned—and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, dealt with this matter—if they were used in an all-out nuclear exchange I do not know how the exchange would stop. General Hackett, in his book The Third World War, had the war stop when each in turn had taken one of the other's cities—I think Birmingham disappeared here and Kiev on the other side—and both sides then came to their senses. If it takes that for them to come to their senses, I do not think very much of those senses. None the less, the question is whether when we talk about deterrence we can really believe ourselves that we are prepared to go that far, and I have never, in the arguments I have had, found a satisfactory answer from any of the people with whom I have discussed the matter.

In the debate in another place Sir John Eden said it was vital that the people were alerted to the real risks. I agree with that. I think they ought to be alerted to the real risks. They ought to realise that both what we call strategic nuclear weapons and what we call theatre, or tactical, nuclear weapons are there to deter and not there to be used.

In a recent debate in your Lordships' House I heard it said that nuclear weapons had deterred war from the year 1946. There were no nuclear weapons to deter the Russians from going to the Bay of Biscay at that time. It is one of those beliefs we have. I doubt if they were deterred by nuclear weapons until about 1950; and it is rather an important point. We all know we are always fighting the last war. I have the feeling it is just as dangerous if we become constrained by some of our conventional thoughts about certain weapons, and certainly about the nuclear deterrent. I do not think we ought to give up our nuclear deterrent, but I would not like more spent on it than is necessary to keep it credible. That is a matter which we cannot answer but, making a guess I would say it would be pretty credible if the Russians knew that we, given Henry Kissinger's proposition that the United States would not risk the sacrifice of American cities when it came to the crunch, could take out Moscow, Leningrad and maybe another 12 or 20 cities. What political prize would be so valuable to the Russians that they would be prepared to risk that?

Another point that I should like to make is that nuclear weapons are a deterrent to aggression, but, I fear that sometimes they are also a cover for aggression. In spite of the existence of nuclear armouries, there are wars and the combatants are not deterred by the existence of nuclear weapons. I should like to refer to the paragraph in the White Paper which I quoted earlier where it says: NATO theatre nuclear forces are no substitute for adequate conventional forces, nor do they indicate that NATO is prepared to engage in protracted "war-fighting nuclear exchanges on Alliance soil. In other words, we must have conventional forces. There is no cheap option here because, to quote Mr. Geoffrey Rippon in the debate in another place: There is no escaping the consequences of military inferiority".—[Official Report, Commons, 28/4/80; col. 1058.] We must not be mesmerised by the nuclear. If we have inadequate conventional forces we are defenceless. The nuclear option—and this is the only issue where I would differ from what Sir Neil Cameron said in his address—is only an option which deters nuclear annihilation; it does not deter all war, and that applies to both sides. But, in the meantime, the other side—the Russians—go on improving their war-fighting forces, the credible part of their defence estate.

I conclude by referring to the remark made by the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, as regards oil rigs. It must be remembered that missiles can destroy an oil rig, that they can be directed precisely on to an oil rig and destroy it without any nuclear warhead at all, a conventional charge would suffice.

6.23 p.m.


My Lords, just for a short while it is my intention to speak specifically about the Army, to discuss Army manpower, and to refer to some aspects of its equipment. Before I do so, however, I wish to add my agreement to the general commendations which have been made this afternoon to the revised layout of the Statement on the Defence Estimates. It is much clearer and certainly more forthcoming than any predecessor which I can remember. It is a remarkable piece of staff work, in my view, and having, many years ago, been involved in this sort of exercise, I can well imagine the long hours of hard work as the blue pencil came out at each succeeding level in the chain of command on its way to final approval at the top. That was a long time ago. In fact, I was a staff officer in the War Office at the time when the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was flexing his muscles. I was responsible, under my general, for planning the postwar Army. It is strange to think how very different the Army is now from what it was in our minds just after the last war.

By the very nature of things, this White Paper cannot deal in histrionics. Indeed, it would be slightly immoral in my view if it were to do so, for one searches in vain for some sort of joie d'esprit. Perhaps it is as well because it is, in fact, both a stark and sombre catalogue and in many ways a depressing one, when account is taken of the total huge commitment needed for our national survival.

To my mind at any rate—and with all due deference to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, although I agree that nuclear capability is a problem which, together with most other nations, our nation is unable to solve in relation to policy—it is all too clear that we in Britain must maintain both our own strategic and tactical nuclear capability. Even if it were never used, I think that it is right that it should be there because it will act as a deterrent, as it has done in the past.

In conventional land warfare, we in the West have always been at a disadvantage. In the event of another war in Europe Britain and the United States would have to fight on exterior lines of communication for supply and reinforcement. It is a geographical fact and a military problem. We have reached ultimate success twice before in this century in that theatre, but in the words of the commander-in-chief in similar circumstances in 1815: It has been … the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life". I would suggest that on the last two occasions it has been the nearest run thing we ever saw in our life. What we must ensure—although it may be the nearest run thing if it did happen—is that we are the ones who win again, although one wonders what victory any side would have in the event of a third major conflict this century. However, we should never forget our total dependence on our naval and air supremacy. I think that it is an imponderable problem to stretch so much in the way of our resources in so many different directions.

Noble Lords have dealt with the problem of our Army overseas and our commitment towards, for example—as my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery said—the oilfields. It is so wide that one wonders how it is possible to cope with all the problems. But, whatever we do, we must make one resolve: we should never let our defences run down again as we have done these past 15 years. We have surely learned our lesson, and let us only pray that we have pulled ourselves up in time before the situation became too critical.

The Government are to be congratulated on the prompt action that they have taken over services' pay. This, one hopes, will reverse permanently what was a serious trend towards manpower wastage caused by both failure to re-engage and by poor recruitment, quite apart from premature voluntary releases. There obviously is an imperative need to improve recruiting even though the intake in the last quarter of 1979 was up, I understand, some 22 per cent. on the corresponding year. The great problem is that from 1982 onwards we read that there will be a declining number of young men reaching the 16 to 19 age group from which the services normally recruit. The Army is still short, I should think, of some 4,000 trained soldiers. I may be wrong, but that is the calculation that I have made. We read that currently some 8 per cent. of this 16 to 19 age group are recruited annually, but by the end of the 1980s, in order to maintain the same position, we must achieve a recruitment figure of 11.5 per cent. That will be hard going.

It is, of course, extremely difficult to avoid the temptation of comparing our problems today with those of as long ago as 45 years. I remember as a very young and inexperienced second lieutenant in the Territorial Army having the temerity to apply for an attachment to the second battalion of my infantry regiment, on manouvres—a fatal mistake. I was told on arrival that I would be placed in command of two platoons—not one, but two. I was overcome. Such trust im- posed in me, and they had never seen me before! Next morning I joined my temporary command. There in front of me was an infantry platoon of some 30 men, complete with rifles and packs all as it should be. To the left of that platoon was the other platoon: six men, spaced in two ranks—three in the front rank and three at the rear—with white tape stretched between them, suitably taut. This was the cadre, replacing some 25 men with their weapons. I thought this undermanning of the second battalion even though it was on a home station—to be a most shocking sight, particularly as my own territorial battalion was virtually up to strength. Now I find that in some cases, according to the Statement, the infantry battalions at present in some units of BAOR have one whole company reduced to cadre strength.

Are such deficiencies capable of being made up in an emergency by Regular Army reservists? Will there be time to do it? What about the other needs to bring BAOR up to war establishment? I should like to ask how long it will be before those cadres will be filled with infantry soldiers. As I understand it, the plan in an emergency is to despatch the remainder of Fifth Field Force and the whole of Seventh Field Force to a theatre of war. I believe that each has three regular and two TAVR battalions and a logistic support group. Is the remainder of Fifth Field Force and the whole of Seventh Field Force in fact what one might call the strategic reserve at our disposal or, as the paper calls it, soldiers for use in key reinforcing roles? I think that that is important because, as my noble friend Lord Cathcart very ably pointed out, it is not easy to define exactly what our reserves are or how many they be. It is just not possible from the paper to be certain of these facts.

So far as I can gather, having dealt with the Fifth and the Seventh Field Forces, that would leave in the United Kingdom—apart from Northern Ireland—a battalion group as a mobile force and an SAS regiment. At some stage thereafter presumably would be called to the Colours the balance of the 125,000 regular reserves and the balance of the 59,000 Territorial Army Volunteer Reserves, and hopefully from these would be furnished, as I understand it, two armoured reconnaissance regiments, 38 infantry battalions, two Special Air Service regiments, seven engineer regiments and sundry other units. Have we the equipment to put these units into the field and, indeed, how long would it take to do so?

What of the proven failure of task force headquarters, below divisional level, in place of brigade headquarters? I thought that that arrangement, made a year ago, was a very cheeseparing one. Surely it would be much better to revert to the old command system, with brigade headquarters properly constituted, rather than the most recent proposal, which I have read about, of embroidering divisional headquarters with two brigadiers who apparently would have no permanent staff. It is this "tinkering" which I find so very depressing. We have come to a sorry pass if we really have to cut out brigade headquarters to save a minimal amount of manpower.

I turn to the question of equipment. As a generality, it would seem that the period between now and 1985 will be extremely difficult. New weaponry is promised, but is not yet in full production. I wonder whether there is any point in wasting months, if not years, in trying to reach agreement with our allies on all forms of standardization? The development of weapons and vehicles is a slow process anyway, without the added complication of international bargaining. I realise, of course, that a sub-committee of the North Atlantic Assembly Military Committee has been considering these issues for five years. It has been concluded that if we are to have co-operative projects, the co-operation must begin at the design project stage. It is no good waiting, as we have in the past, to have a competition between prototypes, because national ardour will arise on those occasions, and I would suggest that the strongest nation will be the nation that carries the day and wins its own competition, and if it does not, it will go its own way anyway.

Even in the case of rifles and light support machine guns, there is tinkering afoot once more. Until recently most NATO armies used 7.62 millimetre rifle ammunition. Then the United States changed to 5.56 millimetre ammunition, presumably unilaterally. Whatever the end of the argument may be, it is obvious that at least two calibres of ammunition will have to be manufactured and stored well into the mid-1980s. I am sure that that is what the noble and gallant Field Marshall, Lord Harding, meant when he said: The best is the enemy of the good". I suppose that this change is a striving for perfection, but in my view it can be carried too far.

Again, have read somewhere that the whole grid system of communication, named Clansman, is not being installed at once because modifications become necessary as it evolves. The Army waits while the latest modification is installed. That process could continue indefinitely. Is it in fact true that some sets have been exported? Surely there must come an end to tinkering and an end to modification. Surely the best is the enemy of the good.

We should have been less well-served at the beginning of the last war had not the manufacturers of the Spitfire had faith in their product and begun assembly before any contracts were exchanged. Our new main battle tank, M BT 80, is not expected to enter service until the late 1980s. The policy of major replacement in our Army is, I understand, different from that in the United States and Germany, where I understand that replacement of half the total fleet is undertaken every 10 years. I understand that we replace our total fleet altogether at much greater intervals.

It occurs to me that our 900 Chieftains are now halfway through their useful lives, even though the problems of the engines may have been overcome and they have a new internal technical side to their capability for first-shot success. What about the 300 Challengers reportedly available, which were originally destinated for Iran? I am told that these are excellent tanks, and I read in the White Paper that there was a possibility that shortly they might be the result of an arms deal elsewhere. Would it not be better if these Challengers were allocated to one of our armoured divisions so that it could be fully equipped with them? If they are as good as we are led to believe they are, could not the Royal Ordnance factories be geared to produce a further 300 Challengers so that a second armoured division could be armed with them? That would provide BAOR with an increased number of tanks, and modern ones as well.

Therefore, in all we would have 600 to add to our strength during the first half of the 1980s, before the MBT 80 is in production. Again, I realise that this means manpower, but it would just have to be found, and with any luck it may well be found if recruiting continues at its present rate. While the means are available, cannot we put more self-propelled Rapiers into BAOR? They are needed and, after all, the self-propelled Rapier was also developed for Iran, so it would be sensible to make full use of a proven design.

Finally, I come to the question of ammunition. Can one be assured that there are at least 30 days' supply of all types, well forward? Such matters naturally are secret, but once battle is enjoined, shortages of ammunition and, for that matter, fuel, would be disastrous. It may be an elementary question, hut the answer is vital.

In conclusion, I should like to say a few words of tribute to our soldiery. Undoubtedly, we are fortunate that we have men of the very highest morale and of superb resourcefulness. The British soldier is not only second to none, but he stands head and shoulders above everyone. He is excellently trained and he is a fine product of our nation. We ought to be proud of him and do everything we can to support him in his great task.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and gallant Lord after his service in the other place. I am sure that, although he has already made his maiden speech, he will be delighted that he has made his speech today on his birthday—I am sure he knows that. Therefore, on behalf of all of us here, whatever I may say about what the other side of the House may say, may I congratulate the noble Lord on his birthday and on his constructive approach to the real problems of soldiery and to the armed forces, of which he has more knowledge than I.

I want to deal with some of the philosophical points. I was delighted with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. We must begin to criticise not so much on a party level but constructively, because the destiny of civilisation is at stake, and we are ill-informed. I have struggled over years to inform myself. Nobody doubts the gallantry of our forces. My God, we are grateful for them! I travelled—and I was told to do it by Mountbatten—in mufti to every area all over Asia where some poor boys were caught out there when the war started in the Army, Navy, and even in the Air Force, and had been out there for seven, eight or nine years before they got home. In fact, I did a job with every unit where we were having trouble that looked black, not because our men were disloyal but because it appeared that the way they had served the nation had been forgotten. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, mentioned this, and I will summarise what they were talking about. I use a manufactured phrase—the democracy of valour; troops of all ranks, all conditions, all types of forces standing together when they are confronted with a problem, not with chauvinistic patriotism but with a patriotism that shows a love of their country; and their country should see, as we are beginning to see, that they are paid well for that purpose.

Having said all that, I take the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell. He mentioned 1957. I will not go into his fight with the ghost of his past, but he did spike down the 1957 White Paper which changed the entire approach to warfare. I have done a bit of science, not enough, but I have struggled. Both Houses, either because it is difficult or because there is not enough information, are less informed than the average American who can buy magazines such as Time, and others, which give more information on the reality of nuclear weapons, on the neutron bomb, which Sam Cohen invented, and which is the enhanced radiation weapon. That is the correct name of it. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, will correct me afterwards if I am wrong, but the radiation is to be the effective part. However, there is a piece of bluffery even in that.

May I now come to the crux of my speech. I shall try to cut it, because I am famished. Some weeks ago I put to the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona, a question about evacuation. May I ask, without using a Welsh colloquialism, where you are going to evacuate to if you have no village halls, no village schools, no huts, no anything? Cannot the Ministry of Defence use a little originality? Cooperate with the Ministry of Education and Social Security and keep alive some of our rustic schools which a poor, Labour, backward Welshman like myself was brought up with for a while. Some of those village schools could be kept open as a haven.

During the war I did a lot regarding the evacuation of our children. We must do something instead of throwing away the muscle, blood, and capital of years of work of our ancestors, as we did with our railways through the "Beechingisation" of one of the most fundamental methods of transport in defence—and just let daisies and buttercups grow on derelict railway embankments because we have not been able to think out what to do, except to push everything on to the roads. Yesterday I heard on my car radio people moaning about our Government and about the deterioration of roads because of the effect of heavy lorries upon them. If we had a major war, never mind the computerisation and the war games, the chaos of moving people in this country would confront us so that we would reach a pitch of madness. I am not joking.

What are we talking about? It is not recruiting millions. We want a strong conventional army, but we want to know which way the world is going. It is no good making smart remarks like my noble friend Lord Brockway, who thinks the world is going a bit mad. Judging by what has happened in Iran with the hostages, all belief in international law and diplomacy seems to be collapsing. There is nothing more dangerous than a theocratic state, whatever religion you become fanatical about. All these things have to be taken into account when we are looking at the problem of the future existence of our country.

There are some who talk as though we still had an empire. The 64,000 dollar question about defence is this—and I took a part in pre-discussions about the Common Market, and I would like the unity of Europe: Is it the aim, as our Amazonian Prime Minister seems to have suggested, that the Common Market should become part of the defence system of Europe and join up with NATO? There has been a remark made by the Prime Minister about this possiblity. We do not want annihilation without representation or consultation. Somebody had better tell President Carter that as well.

My next axiom of the defence of this country is this. There can be no intelligent defence policy worked out by the military commanders without co-operation with the Foreign Office and its policy. I remember being in Hong Kong when I had the privilege to be the chairman of an estimates committee investigating military expenditure. The admiral gave me a double Scotch in his lovely room. I was the chairman, so I deserved the Scotch. But he then said to me something with which I agreed. I learned a lot. He used language that was tough. He said, "How the hell do you expect us to carry out the policy if every change of Government changes completely the policy from the Foreign Office?" This is the truth that a layman like myself suddenly realised—I am not quite a layman, but I call myself a layman. When we change Governments we should be struggling for a defence policy that does not rise the ire of my noble friend Lord Brockway, or my noble friend Lord Shinwell, or my ire; but we should be struggling for a policy which gets the mass of the nation behind it constructively and intelligently. Therefore, what the Foreign Office is doing should not be a secret to the commanders of our armed forces. I think that is axiomatic.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene?


I never interrupted the noble Lord because I love him.


I am trying to help. He is on a vital point. It is our commitments for which foreign policy is responsible that cause us to provide the necessary defence.


I am glad that my noble friend concurs, my Lords. The great leader of the Foreign Office was a lovely leader, Sir Eyre Crowe, who had a wonderful German wife. He spoke English with a—well, I would not like to run the poor man down; he was brilliant. His policy lasted almost to the eve of the First World War. But from 1907 onwards they spoke with bated breath about Sir Eyre Crowe in the Foreign Office across the road, and it became more secretive than anybody could imagine. I think you want to use the other end of the vacuum cleaner, and blow some fresh air into the Foreign Office and into the top secrets of the Ministry of Defence, and get more facts across to the people, and first and foremost more and more secret facts across to your top commanders about commitments overseas.

Let me give a concrete example. I wrote a booklet on SEATO; and I must say that I thought the daftest pact ever formed to please Foster Dulles was the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation. But, then, the Manila Treaty of 1954 was recalled when an Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office was in Thailand the other day, and what do noble Lords think he did? He gave a verbal commitment to Thailand. I remember the commitment to Poland.

I am simply saying that before commitments are made, by the Foreign Office or anybody else, they should discuss whether they can be carried out by the commanding officers, the people at the top who may be called on to carry out those commitments and who can be trusted with secrets. How many commitments have been made without the prior knowledge and advice of the commanders who may have to carry them out and who may be faced with enormous problems because of that? The difference between the Foreign Office of that great doyen, Sir Eyre Crowe in 1907 and today is that the character of England's foreign policy was determined by what was wrongly considered the immutable conditions of our geographical and other positions. I agreed with Rear Admiral Morgan-Giles, although I do not suppose we would see eye to eye in our attitudes to armaments. He pointed out the reality of the position—this has been raised in today's debate by two of our former military leaders—by saying that at sea we must keep our areas of supply open. Our movements at sea are just as important today as they were pre-war. Our sea lanes are just as vital and therefore our trade, markets and routes need sensible protection.

In those days manpower was cheap and, because of our poor educational system, illiterate. In the electronic age, however, any money that a nation spends on further education and polytechnics is well spent. I say that because I want no snobbish attitudes when it comes to education. The polytechnics and universities and the men and women working with City and Guilds in electronics and other skills deserve all the help they can get from the Government. Let us remember that the military men need a massive amount of information before they are even able to use the machines that are put in their hands today. If the captain or soldier of the 1900s were brought back now, he would not have a clue how to use the weaponry of the modern world. It is in this sphere that the Government are adopting a short-sighted policy, for we need more academic people going into the forces, entering all the services, and they should have an opportunity of getting the best education. Indeed, I would extend the grant system for the Army, Navy and Air Force for further education in the polytechnics and universities.

I will not delay your Lordships for more than another couple of minutes. Look at the way in which I am discarding my notes; what a shame! I have a simple question. What is security? It is a simple question, but nobody knows the answer. Is security the ability to win a war, or is it being built up to prevent one? Our honest military people are saying that we are not thinking in terms of winning a war—in the nuclear age nobody wins—but are trying to prevent it. I have with me a pamphlet entitled Why NATO? which I wrote 30 years ago. In it I quoted Lieutenant General Sir John Cowley, then Controller of Munitions, when he pertinently pointed out: Unless we bring the nuclear deterrent into play we are bound to be beaten, and if we bring it into play we are bound to commit suicide". That, of course, is the famous "razor" logic of mediaeval times, but it is true. That is the position we are in. So do not pretend that those of us who want a modified approach are unpatriotic, because we are not. We are humble enough to say we may be wrong, but we beg those who differ from us to examine this matter in greater depth, and that was the point of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman.

Noble Lords will be glad to hear I am about to make my last point. The nuclear umbrella is finished. The maestro I always admired as Prime Minister was dear Macmillan; I knew every trick in his book. He was a great Prime Minister in his way, and his famous phrase about the winds of change will long be remembered. Do noble Lords really know what the winds of change have done to the nuclear umbrella? They have blown the damn thing inside out. There is no longer such a thing as a nuclear umbrella, and noble Lords who do not believe me should read Nato's Fifteen Nations.

Time prevents me from quoting people like Kissinger on this subject, so I will restrict myself to this quotation: in the 1976 election campaign, President Carter said that he would not, as president"— heed these words— authorise the use of nuclear weapons except when the security and existence of the United States were in danger. This declaration is the natural outcome of a national assessment of values. A nuclear war will decide about whether a people will continue to exist—a decision of 'to be or not to be'. No one can expect the Americans to sacrifice their existence in order to revenge the loss of Germany. There has always been serious concern over whether the United States would engage in a European nuclear war and thus risk, at the same time, a Soviet strike against their territory". And here is the rub: But—due to the huge growth of Moscow's Euro-strategic potential, in parallel with the parity of strategic arsenals—such doubts become even more inescapable". Kissinger had much to say on the subject. What did De Gaulle have to say on it? Would America sacrifice Chicago to save Lyon? How many cities of over 1 million in Russia would our nuclear bombs wipe out? Nine. How many in the United States? Thirty-ish. Where would the greatest damage be done? Russia has space. In a small way I was begging that we in Britain should make space in our rural areas. I could go on but, having taken up 19 minutes of your Lordships' time, I feel I have spoken long enough.

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, it is very difficult to follow the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and I am not of the right nationality, alas! This is a most appropriate day for a debate in your Lordships' House on defence, because 35 years ago today was the day of victory in Europe, when we beat off one form of world domination. Let us hope that we never have to beat off another one; let us prevent it happening. I agree entirely with my noble friend Lord Cathcart and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, that, despite what I consider has been a very successful debate so far, it would still be preferable if in future through the usual channels defence debates could be broken up into even more manageable pieces than they have been. I should also like to say that I thought the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, from the Front Bench opposite extremely fine. I believe that it was the first speech I have heard him make on defence, and I hope that he will make many more.

Although the RAF's future strategy is largely planned, there are perhaps one or two grey areas, and it may help us to consider some of them. I should like to start with the question of the United Kingdom air defence. At the moment this is the job of Lightnings and Phantoms. However, the Tornado F2 Air Defence Variant (the ADV) is the ideal aircraft for this role, because it is a stand-off fighter specifically designed to tackle incoming fighter-bombers and bombers at extreme range. Its effectiveness relies entirely on radar's range and ability to tackle multiple targets and on its Sky Flash missiles' ability to "snap down" and knock out these low-flying targets.

The ADV's ability to loiter is closely integrated with the VC 10 tanker fleet, and as such it is an integral part of our air defence system. The Tornado ADV is not a dog fighter; it is left to the Germans, the Belgians and others to use their F 15s and F 16s over, one hopes, Germany, and not here. The ADV's job is to stand back and attack hostile incoming aircraft, such as the Backfire, the Blinder, the Badger and the Fencer. To digress for a moment in regard to the United Kingdom air defence, I was very happy the other day to see that the first airborne early warning Nimrod was rolled out, and I hope that it will be the first of many.

I come now to Strike. There are two rolls for this. One is the maritime Strike in the United Kingdom, and the other is the all-weather Strike in Germany. The Tornado can fulfil both these roles. For instance, if the enemy should decide to attack on a filthy December night, the Tornado is probably the only aircraft which could operate successfully and slow up the Soviets' armoured advance until daylight. Thereafter, the murky weather types, such as the Jaguar, would be able to take on the burden, and the Tornado would then be free to attack bridges and tank reinforcements well behind the front line. The Tornado is a very expensive aircraft, but it will give the RAF the vital edge in the first few hours.

I turn now to close support, which is carried out by the Harriers and Jaguars because they are the RAF's airborne artillery. Both are to be replaced in the 'nineties. The first will be replaced by the Air Staff Requirement (ASR 409), which will be either the Harrier GR 5 or the AV8 B, which was debated in your Lordships' House a few weeks ago. The Jaguar replacement is known as Air Staff Target 403 or AST 403, and I believe that it is now commonly known as the European Combat Aircraft.

Close support cannot be all-weather, since pilots must be able to see their targets which normally would probably be mobile tanks—so as to be able to hit them. However, I believe that these capabilities are being improved by extending the operating envelope of the aircraft by forward-looking infra-red, or FLIR for short, and by low light level television, which, for the uninitiated such as myself, is a form of image intensifier.

I come now to support, which involves transport and training. The main transport aeroplane is the Hercules or the C 130, and I understand that half of these are being stretched to increase capacity. In NATO the Hercules is unlikely to be replaced in the foreseeable future, as for short range it is so efficient and remarkably cheap, and does not warrant replacing.

The new Chinook heavy lift helicopters will be of great assistance to the Army in outloading mines and central stores. However, they will not help the Harrier operations, since these appear to be adequately catered for; though if there were a few more Chinooks around, that would be an unexpected bonus.

Coming back to air defence, we will have only a limited number of Tornado ADVs. It is likely that a few enemy aircraft will get through and they will probably be equipped with extremely efficient and effective runway denial weapons. Therefore airfield defence becomes vital. We have two possibilities here: first, the Rapier blindfire surface-to-air missile; and, secondly, the Hawk trainer/point defence interceptor, to which I think my noble friend Lord Cathcart referred. The Hawks would be flown by RAF weapons school instructors, and could be used to defend airfields. I believe that there should be at least 180 Hawks, and I hope that at least 90 of these will be equipped with sidewinder missiles.

There is a school of thought that perhaps we should develop a single-seater Hawk derivative, more suitable for all-weather defence, and equipped perhaps with the Sea Harrier's Blue Fox radar. The alternative would be more Tornado ADVs, and more Rapiers. But, my Lords, so long as it is one or the other, it does not really matter. What has to be the deciding factor here is the cost.

With regard to Strike, the RAF must have a sufficient number of these very expensive Tornados, and they must be fitted with electronic countermeasures (ECM) which would greatly enhance the RAF's strike force survivability. The Tornado, through its defence suppression weapons, must be able to look after itself and operate on its own. We must not forget that the Russians themselves are specialising in electronic countermeasures on their own aircraft.

We should do all in our power to boost Tornado sales to NATO, particularly to Greece, Turkey, Norway and Denmark. This would have two side effects: first, NATO's overall capability would be vastly improved; and secondly, it would bring down the unit costs and thus enable the RAF to purchase more of them. I should like to suggest that these countries could be supplied with Tornados paid for by foreign aid or NATO infrastructure. However, I understand that at the moment this is not possible, since NATO infrastructure goes only towards airfields, aircraft shelters and the like, and not to hardware. But perhaps NATO should re-think this, since there can be no doubt that the Northern and the Southern flanks would be greatly increased in strength by the acquisition of these aircraft.

I see in the White Paper that £2,240 million was set aside by NATO infrastructure for four years. If we could have half of that, that would be 100 Tornados—50 to the Southern flank, and 50 to the Northern flank—and maybe the money would be better spent that way than on certain other things. The White Paper refers to reinforcement support projects, and to my mind these could be expanded to take in hardware.

Next I turn to close support. This is limited to political and economic desires to co-operate with France and Germany on the European combat aircraft. Collaboration is essential, since we cannot afford to go it alone. Once again here numbers must have priority. Technology must be harnessed to provide a superior aircraft, and at the same time it must also be cheap. It is perhaps an unfortunate fact that the cost of technology usually outstrips inflation.

The Germans are even more demanding about the qualities of this new aeroplane, and somehow they must be persuaded to accept perhaps a slightly less than ideal aircraft, in the same way as the RAF is prepared to do so. But we ourselves need at least 200, and we cannot—nor can the Germans—afford to trade off quantity for quality. We must not forget that the Soviets' tactical aircraft are now on a par with the Jaguar and the Phantom. So the next generation of RAF aircraft must be electronically and tactically superior, but at the same time cheap enough to replace our existing aircraft one for one.

Perhaps the RAF might look to tactical non-nuclear cruise missiles to fulfil certain roles; not to replace aircraft, but rather to increase the number of weapons systems available. Perhaps we could refurbish the V-bomber force as cruise missile carriers, although, once again, if we could the Tornado would be the best, and I believe the Tornado can carry up to four cruise missiles. These tactical, non-nuclear cruise missiles could provide effective anti-shipping and interdiction weapons, as well as first-class anti-runway weapons; and they would, in their quantity, confuse the Soviet defence system in a not inconsiderable way.

The RAF must have the right weapons: it must have its laser-guided bombs, its anti-runway bombs and its anti-tank cluster weapons. The funding for stockpiles of these weapons has always been less than required, and somehow we must overcome this. We must develop better weapons, and this we always succeed in doing, but we must also have them in quantity. The RAF must have enough cash to operate its existing aircraft. Peacetime operations can be cut back only so far before pilot efficiency falls off. NATO pilots fly between 15 and 20 hours a month: Warsaw Pact countries, 9 (it used to be 7). The difference is supremely important, and it must be maintained, if not even increased. This point was raised to me by a squadron commander at a strike base which I visited recently.

I should also like to ascertain from my noble friend whether we have any arrangements with the civil airlines, as the United States Defence Ministry has with certain American air carriers, that some, if not all, airliners can be turned into freighters and troop-carriers at very short notice. Incidentally, the former Chief of Defence Staff, Sir Neil Cameron, said this in a speech to the Air League two days ago. But if this should not be the case, would my noble friend not agree that it is something which we should activate very promptly, to see whether we can do something about it? It may interest your Lordships to know that the Berlin airlift of many years ago took 15,000 return sorties, and to do the equivalent today with wide-bodied jets would take only 2,000.

Briefly to sum up, my Lords, first, the RAF must have sufficient numbers of aircraft in the very near future, as well as a sufficient quantity of the right weapons. Secondly, it must have the money to maintain its high levels of peacetime skill. Thirdly, the RAF may have to operate outside Europe such as in the Middle East, as well as in Europe, so some of its requirements for the Middle East or elsewhere may not be quite as suitable as they are for around here. I believe that we have in some way or other to maintain our own nuclear deterrent. What form it should take, I do not know; but the money for this will have to come from outside the present defence budget, because if it does not our conventional forces must inevitably suffer—and do not let us forget that the stronger the conventional forces are the higher is the nuclear threshold. We may have to tighten our belts a little because of this, but it will be a small price to pay for the most priceless treasure that we possess, our liberty.

7.14 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to endorse the remarks of those noble Lords who have congratulated the Government on the presentation and content of the Defence White Paper, which gives far greater insight into the facts and the thinking behind our defence effort than has been the case hitherto. The Paper itself and the debates on it in another place and in your Lordships' House this afternoon have assumed much more significance in view of the current tension in the world than has been the case in recent years.

I should like to confine myself to two subjects this afternoon. My noble friend Lord Kimberley has just given us a very sound résumé on Royal Air Force equipment, and I should like to deal with the regular and reserve manpower aspects associated with that equipment. Secondly, I shall draw attention to one area which has not featured in the Defence White Paper—an important area of defence expenditure which deals with the Property Services Agency, and its role in defence repair and construction contracts.

The serious decline in the attraction of the services as a career over the last few years, which was thankfully halted by timely action on the part of the Government on taking office, has had a particularly debilitating effect on the Royal Air Force. The complexity of aircraft and their associated weapons and avionics systems demands considerable skill in both operation and maintenance, and has given rise to substantial lead times so far as the training of personnel to operate them is concerned. For example, it takes between two and three years to train a pilot up to operational standard, depending on his role, and it takes even longer to train some engineers and tech- nicians, particularly officers, who in many cases are graduates in their complex fields.

The award of the immediate pay rise to bring the services into line with their civilian counterparts has had a considerable effect, as we have heard from other speakers this afternoon, in encouraging these highly-qualified people to remain in the services; and the promised maintenance of financial parity has introduced a bond of confidence between the services and the Government which has changed the entire atmosphere from one associated with a slowly degenerating and contracting service to one where new enthusiasm has developed from the trust that has been engendered. Within the Royal Air Force, the reduction in wastage through premature voluntary release and the exercising of option points has been the area to benefit most so far. Although actual strengths of trained Royal Air Force personnel fell by some 7 per cent. in the years 1976 to 1979, we have already seen an increase of about 3 per cent. up to 1st January of this year on the all-time low achieved in 1978, with an estimate for continued improvement up to a total of 83,000 trained members of the Royal Air Force by 1st April 1981, which is about 97 per cent. of the figure in 1976. This is encouraging.

Overall, the figures for recruiting show an improvement of about 15 per cent. as between those from 1st April to 31st December 1978 and those from 1st April to 31st December 1979. Those to whom I have spoken in the Royal Air Force are encouraged by this trend. Nevertheless, there are shortages in key areas—pilots; engineers; ground duties personnel, such as air traffic controllers; also in certain administrative positions. In the technical areas, of course, quality is paramount. Indeed, I understand that of those who attend the aircrew selection board at Biggin Hill only about 1 in 15 actually qualify in the end as operational pilots. While industry rightly recruits from the same schools and to some extent is looking for similar skills, I believe that there is more we could do to encourage suitable young men and women to come forward.

The Government's policy to reduce public expenditure has resulted in something of a Civil Service recruiting ban. Where I think this may have produced problems is in certain administrative areas within the Royal Air Force stations. Some servicemen and women are now over-stretched in administrative capacities which hitherto they have not had to undertake. While concurring entirely with those who seek to reduce administrative tails, the executive and administrative function required in a highly technically-complex service should not be underestimated. It seems to me that in order to encourage recruiting of aircrew and engineering officers a far greater and more imaginative public relations impact is necessary.

I cannot speak with any direct personal knowledge of Royal Air Force recruiting, but while I was in the Army efforts were made, not only in attracting potential officer recruits by direct liaison with schools, but also in bringing the attitudes of headmasters and careers masters up to date with the relevance of the services and the careers they offer, where previously these individuals had come to believe that advising their young charges to enter the services was pushing them towards rather a lost cause. I should be grateful to know from my noble friend the Minister whether steps of this kind are being taken within the Royal Air Force to promote a wider understanding of the relevance and value of life in this service and of its many attractions.

Turning to the reserves for the Royal Air Force, this is a subject which I discussed during our debate on the reserves last December. As I understand it, recruiting for the three Royal Auxiliary Air Force airfield defence squadrons continues to go well and is approaching 50 per cent. of its target. Perhaps my noble friend will be able to say when he winds up when it is expected that these squadrons will be operational and whether it is planned to introduce the scheme more widely. I understand that there is a measure of concern about retention of reservists in these squadrons. One area in which I think there is scope for development is in something similar to the reserve pool of officers which exists in parts of the Army. Under this scheme, recently-retired officers attend their regiments for 19 days' training a year, entitling them not only to pay while serving but also to the new, recently-enhanced bounty. It enables them to keep in touch, to keep military skills alive and knowledge up-to- date and, in the case of the Air Force, could well include air traffic controllers, engineering officers and other ground appointments and would provide an extremely cost-effective and worthwhile addition to the RAF reserves. I should be grateful if my noble friend the Minister were to comment on this.

The question of pilot reservists is something that I have brought up before in your Lordships' House. As I understand it, immediate pilot reserves in a time of tension would come from those now filling staff appointments, instructors' jobs and so on; and that there would be about 650 pilots with less than two years away from a front-line tour available as reservists. Although I have been sceptical in the past about the wisdom of trying to train reserve pilots to fly high-performance aircraft, I have modified my views since I last spoke on the subject in the light of the American efforts in this area. The United States provide about 50 per cent of their continental air defence and about 50 per cent of their offensive air support from reservists equipped with high-performance aircraft such as the A7 Corsair, the A10 in the ground attack role and also the F4 Phantom. Those who have spoken to the regulars who work with them say that these regulars are full of praise for the skill and efficiency of the reservists which, I am told, matches up to that of the regulars.

Allocation of funds to do something similar in this country is a problem and I do not see any easy answer to it. But I should like to suggest the introduction of a trial scheme using existing aircraft such as the Hawk and the simulators associated with these aircraft to evaluate the idea for the response, practicality and effectiveness with the ultimate aim of a small self-contained reserve unit, which could be expanded if successful. I hasten to add that the Americans in their scheme are not all professional civil pilots but come from all walks of life. It should not be impossible to attain the suggested minimum flying requirement of about 15 hours a month which my noble friend Lord Kimberley mentioned, particularly in view of the effectiveness now of simulators not only as a flying aid but also in the weapon delivery role.

My Lords, to change the subject, I discovered during my research into various matters for this debate a rather different problem which I feel that it would be right to draw to your Lordships' attention this afternoon. The last paragraphs of Volume 1 of the Defence White Paper are entitled, "The Search for Savings". There seems to me to be an important department for scrutiny in this respect. I refer to the Property Services Agency which is part of the Department of the Environment and is the agency through which building contracts, repairs and maintenance are controlled, contracted out and effected. I know that in bringing up the subject, I am embarking upon a subject which may well be worthy of a fuller debate but I hope to show its relevance to the defence issue and I hope that my noble friend Lord Strathcona (to whom I gave notice of my intention) will be able to comment upon it.

By way of illustration perhaps I may produce a few examples. Recently, while I was visiting a barracks in Scotland, I was told about the replacement of windows. I do not know how many windows are replaced annually throughout the services but the price quoted for replacing a broken glass window, 42 inches by 42 inches, by the Property Services Agency is £44.18. Yet inquiries among local tradesmen produced estimates varying between £20.70, the lowest, to £29.80, the highest. I know also of temporary modular buildings erected in a barracks to fill a particular need during a rebuilding programme. These temporary buildings will shortly be redundant in their present role. The alternatives now are to sell them (and they have been paid for already by the Ministry of Defence and their value on the second-hand market is apparently insignificant) or to move them 50 yards to an area where they could be put to good use. The estimate quoted for moving these buildings (which are modular and can be broken down easily and moved without great difficulty) by the PSA is £100,000. Yet inquiries locally revealed contractors who quoted £20,000 for the same job.

I must also quote the case of an RAF station where some important work was required not of a highly specialised nature but in the development of a building to fill a particular need. The actual PSA quote was £65,000. The application to carry out the work was turned down by the next higher authority in the interests of the allocation of funds to meet priorities—which is understandable in view of such a high figure. Out of interest, the station commander went to a local firm of repute, who looked at the job carefully and produced a figure of £3,000—that is, £65,000 against £3,000. This sounds to me like a complete "rip-off" I do not understand it and I do not see any sense in what appear to me to be cases of accepting the highest hid for work and not a more reasonable one. I understand that in some cases 25 per cent. is added to the figures produced by the PSA. If they do that for replacing a pane of glass, I hate to think what is involved in some of the larger defence contracts, and one also wonders how fair it is to add 25 per cent. to the charge that a soldier might have to pay when he accidentally breaks a pane of glass.

My Lords, I believe that the interrelation of the Property Services Agency and the Ministry of Defence in this subject is very important in these hard times. Examination of the contracts system and a more cost-effective application of funds for this work (funds which come out of the defence budget) if necessary outside the monopoly of the Property Services Agency might enable money to be saved and directed to areas such as equipment and manning which are the real keys to the efficacy of our defence effort.

7.29 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord has made an excellent and interesting speech. I particularly enjoyed what he had to say on "rip-offs". I thought that it was only in wartime that we could get away with that sort of thing. I am going to turn to a rather wider aspect which greatly concerns me. It seems to me that over the years in these debates we have been confusing defence and deterrence. These are two very different conceptions. It seems to me that we have been moving further and further away from defence and relying more and more on deterrence until we have very nearly reached the point where, if deterrence fails, we have no means at all of defending ourselves.

To turn first to the nuclears. Of course, there can be no defence against the nuclears. I remember the Rand Report from the American Air Force's research which says that it would take 11 medium-sized nuclears to reduce this island to an ungovernable state in which it could not continue to exist as a nation. We are within range and quite indefensible against at least 500 of these nuclears—a fifty-fold overkill. What are our deterrents to prevent this? First, in our own control we have Polaris. Can any noble Lord imagine any circumstances at all in which we would not be deterred from using it? If one believes in a deterrent at all, one must also believe in being deterred. Supposing nuclears were to be put on our airfields. The Government would come to us and say: "We cannot possibly use the deterrent; we have to conserve it to deter an attack on our ports". When our ports went they would say: "We have to use it to deter an attack on London". The only time we could use it would be when nothing existed from which we wished to deter them. I do not believe that our nuclear force has any credibility at all. There are no circumstances in which I consider it can be believed in.

The second possible deterrent is the one under American control. That would be cruise missiles placed here over which the Americans had control and we had not. That might have greater credibility because it is possible that the Americans might care less for our existence then we do. That would be the only sense in which it had greater credibility.

Finally, there is a deterrent which is in God's hands and which is a certainty, and that is that the prevailing wind blows from us to them, and that any Russians who created a nuclear pile downwind would be stirring up a great deal of trouble for themselves which might well last a century. The Russians are discreet, knowledgeable and very scientific people. It would only be in extreme circumstances that they would do anything so silly. The only circumstances in which I can conceive they might use nuclear weapons would be if they became so frightened of American-controlled nuclears on an island which they then came to regard as an American airfield that they decided to take them out. So, I do not like that.

Now I turn to conventional defence. Here we rely almost totally on NATO. Is this responsible? Is NATO an alliance to which we can prudently entrust our existence'? That is what it comes to. Let us look at it for a moment. France has contracted out. We were told that her armies would come in if we were attacked. I have no doubt that her armies could be mobilised. Their job would be to see that we did not escape across her frontier and involve here neutrality while she brought the communists into her Government to make some sort of appeasement.

Italy: I cannot remember a war in history in which Italy started and ended on the same side. Germany: a year or two ago I drew the attention of the House to a NATO report to the effect that there were 16,000 Russian agents operating in West Germany. A fine Army, very professional and very brave people but hopelessly infiltrated. The amount of communists there could paralyse any movement at an early stage. Ourselves: a magnificent Army, a really professional Army, but impossibly positioned. The Russians are a great deal nearer to our army's deployment area than we are. A Russian division exercising in East Germany could get there long before we could. Both our flanks would be gone almost before we moved.

The Americans: we take our hats off to the splendid quality of American troups once they are hardene—but as a peacetime army? We saw an unhappy example of their performance in Persia the other day which contrasted most unhappily with the high efficiency—whatever one may think with regard to its morals—of a Russian takeover of Afghanistan. By the SALT agreements, the Americans are effectively precluded from using their intercontinental ballistics since they know that it would be annihilation for them if they did.

If Russia attacked in Germany I do not believe for a moment that the NATO forces would exist in a week. I do not think that it is much use trying to disguise that. What is the price which we have to pay for this rather alarming alliance? First, the pick of our Army would be sacrificed in the first few days. It is stationed in what I believe to be a quite untenable position—and this goes for quite a lot of our Air Force too. Secondly, by concentrating on NATO we cannot afford to provide anything else. Thirdly—and the most serious of all and I return to it—the acceptance of a cruise missile here in American control, with the decision as to its use American. It is said that there is an obligation to consult us. We thought that there was an obligation to consult us when we agreed to sanctions against Iran before military action was taken against them. But it was taken without a word.

President Carter's genius is said to lie in his capacity for recognising at any given moment what most Americans want. I do not think that is the way I want to see a decision taken upon which our existence depends. I have no doubt that if a cruise missile is fired from here to Russia, we cease to exist. The retaliation would simply eliminate us. President Carter's foreign policy has been vacillating. It has been reckless; and, worst of all, it has been utterly incompetent. I cannot help believe that any Government that accepts cruise missiles here under American control would be taking the most reckless decision ever adopted by a British Government. I profoundly hope that there are second thoughts before any such decision as that is accepted.

My Lords, to turn to the positive: I believe that we should reduce—not increase—our NATO commitment to a token force sufficient to convince Russia that an attack, however easy it might appear, would involve her in general war. No power can be sure what will happen if general war emerges, particularly in a nuclear age. That is the formidable deterrent—the knowledge that movement here means total war—and I believe that deterrent is increased rather than reduced by a reduction of the forces on the frontiers. It reduces the prize which the Russians, who are highly competent soldiers, know is there for the gathering in the early days, and it increases the capacity to build up an ultimate resistance as the war goes on, which is the thing they must fear.


My Lords, may intervene for a moment? I am following the noble Lord's argument. As I understand it, he considers that NATO is pretty useless as a system of defence and that we should practically withdraw BAOR. Would he also be in favour of a withdrawal of the American army from the Federal Republic? If so, does he think that the Federal Republic would continue to be on our side or on the side of the Russians?


No, my Lords, I am not saying that either we or the Americans should withdraw. I am saying that we should recognise we are there as a token force which could not—we recognise this and the Russians know it—provide an effective defence in the field but would none the less involve them in the vast uncertainties of general war if they chose to overrun it. That is my conception of how NATO should be used. As far as we are concerned, I believe we should use anything that we can save there to build up a local defence here, capable of defending our country. It should be a local organisation; there should be a universal capacity to use a rifle and rifles should be available. Nobody wants to tangle with an organised resistance movement.

Perhaps I may conclude by reading just two or three lines out of my own book—a vanity for which your Lordships will perhaps forgive me, for I will be very short: The real deterrent is not nuclear weapons that cannot be used but a population trained and determined to resist. If we care for survival we should get rid of our nuclears, give our young men a period of national training and organise them into local resistance movements. Citizens need the experience of discipline. Undisciplined societies do not long survive.

7.42 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to turn your attention for a few minutes to the very important aspects of logistics and stockpiling. With the strategy of forward defence and flexible response, there are four main logistical requirements. First, there is the need for rapid reinforcement of NATO forces in their present positions. The warning time of an attack by the Warsaw Pact forces may now be very short and we do not possess, and cannot afford, adequate military transport to meet the reinforcement plan. Therefore this must be met by civil resources.

While we have adequate legislation to allow a Minister to take over our own civilian ships and aircraft, the question of transporting the United States Army and equipment is another matter. An accelerated reinforcement programme is likely to be beyond even their transport capabilities. It is therefore essential to encourage all other NATO nations to obtain the necessary legal powers to enable them to commandeer their transport to help bring men and machines over the Atlantic if the time comes. It would also surely be prudent now for the Government to ask for and supply aid for transport operators to strengthen the floors of new civilian aircraft ready to carry war equipment, and for merchant ships to be ready to mount guns in an emergency.

The second logistic requirement is the need for sufficient war reserve stock, and this is an extremely complicated question of balance. The larger the resources allocated to it, the more they may impede the resources needed for equipment to meet the initial attack. But not only is the initial attack to be repelled, but defence against the second must not fail for lack of supplies. Yet there was a recent Pentagon report that two countries in NATO were so short of war stock that their inability to hold the line would soon accelerate the need to go nuclear. We must not repeat the performance when the great Royal Navy nearly ran out of ammunition after the action of Heligoland Bight in August 1914. Every war so far has caught us unready, and we have only initially survived through luck.

Thirdly, there is the need of logistic stocks to be at the right place at the right time. No doubt the battle will have an envisaged duration for which the stockpiles will be appropriate; but what battles run as planned? Counter-attacks require prodigious expenditure of fuel and ammunition. I have no doubt the Minister will never say that he is satisfied with the tactical stockpiles in NATO; but can he say that they are reasonably adequate and sited in areas that will not readily be overrun but are far enough forward for ready use? The location of supplies is vital, but storage itself of huge quantities in forward areas has its political and economic problems. However, it is good to see from the White Paper that, for example, snow vehicles are stockpiled in Norway.

Fourth and last is the need for common logistic procedures, standardisation, and particularly, interoperability. One of the continuing problems remains the lack of standardisation and interoperability within NATO, which greatly increases the logistic problems. It has been said that standardisation would increase the efficiency of NATO by some 30 per cent. at very little cost. There are different calibre guns, different refuelling connectors, even different towing hitches. This presents a dangerous situation in a fluid war, limiting the chance of cross-servicing between nations.

Having said that, it would not be fair not to acknowledge the great, if partial, successes in this field that NATO has managed to achieve over the years. The whole business of standardisation is extremely difficult to overcome because even if the specification and design for a piece of equipment can be synchronised, subsequent national modifications soon create anomalies. It is also shackled by the different national approaches and varied ideas of their equipment needs, and of course by nationalistic industries. Therefore probably the greatest results can can be achieved by concentrating on an ever-increased interoperability; and this is where the greatest efforts should be made. The European Parliament has been discussing this problem and should be encouraged to continue to do so. They have the chance to do very useful work in regard to industrial harmonisation in the defence field.

The present lack of harmonisation in Europe helps the United States to achieve a huge share of the overseas defence market, with their standardised and interoperable equipment. The corollary is that harmonised European systems, as well as vastly strengthening NATO, would greatly increase the ability of individual European nations to compete with the United States arms industry in their overseas sales. Yet France, whose arms sales are vast, leaves her chair empty at the European Group in NATO. On the other hand, France does attend the independent European Programme Group and it would be useful if the Minister could say how this group is going and whether any projects have been agreed.

Moving to more detail, one of the great successes in respect of efficiency and cost- cutting must surely be the computerised ordering and supply of spares and materials. But attention has already been drawn in another place to the need for fall back arrangements in the event of sabotage or enemy action on the computers. The Minister may feel that adequate fallback arrangements have been made to cater for the destruction of one or more of the computers, and perhaps he will confirm this. However, it is clear that as the more sophisticated systems of order and supply come on stream, so it becomes increasingly impossible to revert to different, perhaps manual, systems in emergency.

One cannot but think, therefore, of the situation in a modern fluid war where units are moving daily to different areas, and wonder how the computer link-up can be maintained even if the master machine in the United Kingdom is allowed to remain undamaged. The lack of spares and stores could quickly halt the ability of the Army to defend itself.

Before leaving the computer system, one must ask how far the Ministry has got in its efforts to rationalise the computerised supply systems between the three services. Much has been done to rationalise many aspects, particularly in procurement, but as the fields of easy accomplishment have been passed there is the strong feeling that the pace of the initial impetus in this field is not being maintained. Perhaps the Minister could comment on the future scope for further rationalisation.

Another point which was raised two years ago by the Expenditure Committee in another place was the inadequate supply of anti-armour and anti-aircraft missiles held by operational units. Every new report tells the story of ever greater quantities of Soviet armour and aircraft, and surely defence missiles must be one of the single most important requirements. Is the Minister now able to tell us whether both the quantity and quality of our anti-armour and anti-aircraft missiles have been improved and, in particular, whether Milan is now more available to both regular and territorial units? The same applies to the supplies of 175 M107 heavy artillery. Can these still be described as "pitifully few", as they were two years ago?

One of the most appalling messages of the White Paper is that the Soviets have large stocks of chemical munitions. It is some reassurance to know that we are improving our own detectors and protection equipment, but it still leaves the Soviet soldier able to operate free of protection and able to dictate whether and, if so, when gas would be used, while our side would have to stay always prepared for a surprise attack.

I therefore think that we should develop and have the capacity to produce in war all the chemical and biological equivalents which the Soviets possess, and we should stockpile some of them in forward areas. It is only our ability to retaliate that will deter the Soviets from using chemical warfare, and without our own supply we must expect the Soviets to use it against us. I do not think that at any time in history a country has withheld using its vilest weapons out of sympathy for its opponents, and we must remember that nerve gas in the last war was not used only because the Nazis feared, quite erroneously, that we could retaliate.

Finally, I have a question on the Tornado, which is soon to enter service after joint production in three European countries; and the same question applies to other jointly produced equipment. If one country is tooled to make one part and another another part, what happens if one country suffers political or military takeover? Does that halt production on the whole equipment, or can each country turn out the whole piece independently? It would be of little use to be able to turn out engines and bodies, if the wings were made in, and only obtainable from, a country lost to communism.

One must pay tribute to the composer of the White Paper. In my opinion, it reads like an Alistair Maclean novel. It is attractively produced, well illustrated and beautifully written. I picked it up to plough through it at Easter, but once I had started I could not put it down. I hope that the Minister will pass on these words of appreciation to the authoress.

7.54 p.m.


My Lords, it is getting late. I intended to speak on two main points and my noble friend Lord Gisborough has already covered the first one—namely, chemical and biological warfare. I shall not say a lot on that, beyond the fact that I entirely agree that having a capability is most important and deterrence is our only form of defence against chemical or biological warfare. I suggest further that we have already carried out most of the necessary research on modern chemical warfare and that we have the know-how. All that remains to be done is to put chemical warheads into production and, as weapons go, I understand that these are not expensive.

My other point is to suggest that Russia could be forced to reduce her military expenditure. One of Russia's successes since 1945 is that, starting with very little, she is now in a position to threaten the West with forces which are very well-equipped and numerically superior. She has achieved this by spending some 12 per cent. of her GNP on her armed forces, against the 3 to 5 per cent. spent by the NATO countries. That is about three times more than the West spends.

So much for Russian success, if you can call it that. What she has lamentably failed to do is to feed her own population, and that is partly due to lack of investment and partly to political dogma. Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe have their fair share of potentially good farm land, but it does not yield anything approaching its potential. One understands that the Russian people do not eat well but, on the other hand, they do not starve either. The reason why they do not starve is that the West is prepared to supply Russia with vast quantities of grain, meat and milk products. Indeed, the EEC is even prepared to give Russia a subsidy to buy some of its surplus production. The last figure that I can discover for Soviet food imports is 7 billion dollars, which is enormous.

How can we be so stupid? If the West stopped feeding Russia, she would be forced to invest more in her own agriculture and have less to spend on armaments. I suggest that the West's present trading policy is only one step removed from offering to supply Russia with any military equipment that she needs. If this policy is continued, it will place us in an impossible situation, instead of just a very vulnerable one. I would add one further thought—that in the late 1930s Hitler had to urge the Germans to put guns before butter. The Russian leaders at present have no such problem.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I wonder whether, in reference to chemical and biological agents, I may ask if we are bound by any international conventions or any agreements which we have ratified, beginning with the Geneva Convention of, I think, 1923, on the use of chemical agents. We are certainly not bound, as I remember, from the point of view of protective devices.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord knows more about this subject than I do. But it strikes me that if the Russians breach any agreement, there is no reason why we should not do the same.

7.59 p.m.


My Lords, the Government White Paper gives a comprehensive picture, and a good one, of this country's defence posture and capability, but it is angled—perhaps somewhat naturally—very much towards our NATO commitments. I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, for the way in which he drew attention so forcefully to the danger of over-emphasising NATO and paying too scant a regard to the dangers that exist in various other parts of the world.

Part of the White Paper is headed "Wider Defence Interests". Paragraph 402 says—and my noble friend the Minister of State referred to this briefly— We depend on the developing world for many raw materials". Indeed we do! What if the Soviets were to try to subjugate us without, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, firing a shot? What if they set about denying, or threatening to deny to the allies the raw materials, or some of them, which feed our industries? Sever the raw material ties to the Colonies", wrote Lenin and you cut the spinal cord of Empire". Bring that up-to-date, and I suggest that it is far truer today than when Lenin wrote it. I think that this subject is correctly called "The War of the Resources".

Today's immediate concern is, of course, Middle East oil. But I doubt very much whether the Soviets would try to cut off Middle East oil—though I have no doubt at all that they could, if they so decided—for that would surely mean conflict with the United States which would be bound to escalate. But there are critical raw materials—and a number of them other than oil—that they could get control of without the danger of that order of conflict.

I want to talk particularly about what I call strategic minerals and I am going to take just five, for that will be more than enough to make the point. They are chrome, manganese, cobalt, the platinum group and vanadium. I want briefly to describe their uses—and, of course, by implication what would happen if they ceased to be available to us.

Chrome has no substitute in the manufacture of stainless steel. It gives to steel its power to resist high temperatures. Steel also depends on chrome to withstand attack from corrosive chemicals and from the atmosphere. Without chrome, we would have no high performance aero-engines, no high performance naval engines, no nuclear reactors, no ball bearings and very little, if any, electrical welding equipment.

Manganese is an essential element for the hot rolling of steel. You cannot roll it without, and there is no substitute for it. It is also needed for hardening steel for many different uses. And, among other things, it is a vital ingredient for armour plate.

Cobalt is needed for all electro-mechanical devices. It gives strength to high temperature alloys. It is essential for jet engines. It is essential for armour piercing weapons, and without it you can have no gas turbines.

Vanadium is used for electrical steels, for all missiles and rockets, and it is a vital additive to the steel that is used for gas and oil pipelines.

Finally, platinum is essential to the oil industry as a catalyst for cracking crude. It is also needed in petro-chemical plants and for producing high octane fuels. And, quite separately, it is necessary for electrical circuits for radar and for all missile guidance systems.

Even allowing for the possibility of using some substitutes such as nickel or titanium, or possibly niobium, the loss of these five minerals would totally disrupt a very large part of the industry of this country. It would cause massive unemployment and it would bring the armament industry totally to a stop. All this without a shot!

Let me tell your Lordships where these strategic minerals are to be found. I will give your Lordships a few figures which are in terms of the total known world resources. I am advised by the mining companies that this is the best and most honest set of figures to use.

Chrome exists as to 68 per cent. in the Republic of South Africa and 27 per cent. in Zimbabwe—that is, 95 per cent. of the whole world's reserves. The rest can be found in the Philippines, Turkey and Russia.

Manganese exists as to 43 per cent. in South Africa and 38 per cent. in Russia—81 per cent. in all; and most of the rest is in Australia.

Cobalt exists as to 30 per cent. in Zaire, 10 per cent. in Zambia and 22 per cent. in Russia—that is, 62 per cent. in all. The rest is to be found in islands of the Western Pacific, such as New Caledonia and the Philippines.

Platinum exists as to 73 per cent. in South Africa and 24 per cent. in Russia—97 per cent. in all. Vanadium exists as to 18 to 20 per cent. in South Africa and 74 per cent. in Russia—92 per cent. in all. The rest is widely spread.

That is why these minerals are called "strategic". They are all totally critical to the economy of a highly industrialised society. But in addition—this is the point, and it is a point which we must all take—they exist either in Russia or to an overwhelming extent in countries that are politically sensitive and extremely liable to Russian penetration. It is that which makes it such a dangerous situation.

The first warning of this sort of danger was when, not too long ago, the Shaba Province of Zaire—Shaba used to be called Katanga—where the cobalt is to be found was invaded from Angola, with Cuban help. Your Lordships may remember that it was only because the French intervened with their parachutists that the attack was foiled. And, my goodness! what a stir it created among the users of cobalt.

I strongly suggest to your Lordships that the war of the resources in Central and Southern Africa has already begun. I invite your Lordships to assume that the Soviet penetration of Africa is clearly aimed at the economic strangulation of the Western powers. Indeed, I can think of no other credible reason for their presence, and that of their Cuban lackeys, in Africa. The headquarters of this effort I would put in Lusaka, for the Russian ambassador there is the greatest expert on Africa that the Soviets have. I think we have no alternative but to take this threat very seriously and decide what we are going to do about it.

I should like to make three suggestions. The first thing is to accept the fact that when the chips are down we are really talking about the Republic of South Africa. I do not intend this evening to start a political discussion about South Africa. That would be wholly inappropriate, although I know your Lordships appreciate that it is often impossible to separate politics from defence. But we have to start treating the Government of the Republic of South Africa as the important ally that, in reality, it is in the Western Alliance.

We know, and so do they, that they must change their racial policies substantially. We must encourage them and urge them on in their efforts—and, thank goodness! their efforts are now becoming apparent—to bring about reforms and we must sympathise with them for the mighty difficult problem of so doing. If we want to influence their policies it is simply no good turning away from them with the stony face of disapproval.

The second thing that we can do is to reactivate the Simonstown agreement. It would give us facilities for interception and for surveillance in the South Atlantic which are now, I suggest, many times more important to us than when we abandoned them, and, above all, our presence could provide a stabilising influence where it is much needed and a deterrent where no allied deterrent at present exists. I know that this is a highly contentious subject. I know well all the political arguments on the other side, but I am certain that the Government should now be examining (as I believe they have not yet examined) very urgently whether today these argu- ments are not outweighed by the strategic arguments.

Thirdly and finally, I want to draw the attention of the Government to the question of raw material stockpiling. We have spoken of other forms of stockpiling and now we have raw materials. The Americans have been doing it for years. The French (who usually get these things right in terms of price) started in 1975 when metals were cheap. The Germans began only recently and on a rather smaller scale. So far as I have been able to find out this country is doing little or nothing with regard to the stockpiling of raw materials.

The Government must start discussing this question with all concerned. The stockpiling of strategic raw materials is so important a facet of defence that I must emphasise that in the final analysis it has to be a matter for the Government themselves and not for industry to decide. I very much hope that when my noble friend replies to the debate he will be able to give us some indication of how the Government look at this question of raw material stockpiling and what, if anything, they intend to do about it.

Finally, my Lords, I have tried to show that the war of the resources is a fundamental part of the Russian challenge. It is one that is ingrained in their political and strategic philosophy, and I hope that in some measure I have succeeded in putting the matter into perspective and, in some measure, persuading your Lordships of the immense dangers that are involved.

8.14 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, at this late hour and not being an expert like most of the people in the Chamber tonight, I shall speak only about domestic matters. But I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, very much for what he said about the PSA. I have been battling with the PSA for about 20 years and when I go back to live on Salisbury Plain I am told that the Ministry of Defence have handed over the management to the PSA. So I am afraid my battle still goes on and I am glad to have this support.

I should like to now turn to domestic matters entirely and to refer to page 59 of the Statement, paragraph 623 and the following paragraphs dealing with the women's services. I am very pleased that praise was given to the women's services and I am interested to know that their prospects are good, despite the fact that I understand women are more expensive to train, because they have a shorter service life. I am also pleased that the WRNS officers are to have a wider range of specialisation. I think this will bring in many more highly educated women and will help lessen unemployment among such women. I am pleased also that the ratings are going to fill wireless, electronics and maintenance posts. This, I am sure will be very beneficial, rather than that they should just be waitresses, and so on, in the messes.

As with the WRNS, the WRAC are to fill 570 new posts in place of men and there are also proposals to increase their numbers by 25 per cent. in the next five years. I understand that the RAF already employs women in a wide range of jobs and that there will be more in the future. However, I should like to make a special point, and that is really the reason why I wish to speak tonight. Paragraph 627 is a very mixed paragraph. It says: the Government believes that for the present there can be no question of members of the Women's Services engaging in combat or being armed for any duties other than"— This is what I want to draw to the attention of your Lordships— in exercises, emergency or war". I think that there must be something wrong with that sentence. I was so astonished by it that I consulted several of my friends. It seems a contradictory statement. I am definitely against women being armed, except in self-defence. I understand that policewomen are armed voluntarily, for self-defence. Of course, if women can be used in manning guns (if they still exist) against aircraft, as they did in the last war, that would be quite reasonable, but I should like to have some clarification of the meaning of that sentence. It is very different from women being armed in Israel because Israel is in a state of siege and everyone has to take part.

I should also like to see the Royal Navy, like the United States Navy, employing women on operational duties, at any rate in peacetime. I should like to know what the Minister feels about it, but I am defin- itely against women taking on any kind of work in which they have to go into combat. I think also this would be upsetting to the men because a lot of them will have fiancées or girl-friends and they will be worried about them the whole time. I know that women are quite capable of undertaking the work, but I think they have a role to play which is more or less in the background. Also, one has to remember that they will be very much needed in the ROFs for making munitions, as they were in the last war.

The noble Lord the Minister was very kind to me and gave me an hour when I brought an expert witness to see him in regard to the Royal Dockyards (which he knows I am going to mention) and I was interested to see from the debate in another place, the report of which I have read, the number of Members of Parliament from both parties who are now taking up this question of the Royal Dockyards. It is also interesting to find that the apprentices who are trained no longer stay, for example, in Portsmouth because they can get so much better money if they go to Plessey, or Marconi or Vosper Thorneycroft. The losses are really serious and when I go round to the various dockyards to see the women apprentices and to present my cup to them when they pass their examinations, the officer in charge of the ceremony nearly always says to the press, "Please ask for more women apprentices".

The other difficulties arise when the contractors come into the yards, because the men talk to the various dockyard workers and comparisons are made in regard to the amount of money they earn. Working for a private firm is far more profitable than working for the Government at the present time. For instance, a milkman, an unskilled worker, can earn far more than in a dockyard. Also they meet the young servicemen who have not had the experience nor the long training and yet who are being paid more. I know that there is to be a report on the dockyards. It was expected by 1st April. I hope that a copy will be available soon because there must be more flexibility in regard to the payment of dockyard workers.

With regard to industrial relations and dealing with non-industrial staff, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, for what he said about understanding that there must not be two grades in the firms. This applies to dockyards, too, because we have the industrials and the non-industrials and they are completely separated in regard to pay and so on. I think this is a great pity. I was very glad Lord Harding raised this point.

The Devonport News said the other day that the overall cuts are going to be 3 per cent. in civilian staff, and this would affect, I understand, both industrials and non-industrials. Therefore, it is very difficult to understand why the team from the Royal Dockyards has been travelling round the country to try to recruit craftsmen, when those 3 per cent. are about to be cut. The first submarine, nicknamed Super Bee, is now in the new refit complex in the dockyard. The first nuclear refit will be next year. We are told that it is going to be high intensity work. Where would the right staff come from if there are to be these cuts?

There is to be a new top level of Whitley Council committees; a new Headquarters London Whitley Committee is being set up to fill a gap in the coverage of the consultative machinery. Surely we are trying to cut down on these things. Why do we need all this new machinery? I should have thought that it was for the people in charge of the various yards to get in touch with the Government and their own local Whitley committees and thereby see that there is more flexibility in work and in pay.

Paragraph 745 outlines correctly the widespread dissatisfaction among workers over pay, and the imbalance in the mix of skills and serious loss of output. There is another very strange sentence. It says: … to improve the productivity … or to reduce the Royal Navy's demands for the repair and refitting of its warships. Are the ships then to go to sea in unfit condition? This must mean one thing or the other. I should be very grateful if that could be looked into.

There is, of course, the difficulty of the number of trade unions—17 to 18 in most dockyards. I am wondering whether there is any chance of getting some of them to join together, not to amalgamate but to work together, because I think this would make work easier and better for the people in the yards. There was a major strike in all the dockyards a few years ago, the first one for 300 years. I regret to say that the situation has never been quite the same since. I have read the Select Committee on Defence report 555–1, 571, and I should like to say to my noble friend that I think they are admirable. I think we are going to get a great deal of information, especially when the Secretary of State for Defence himself gives evidence. It will make our debates here more interesting, and also we ourselves, Back-Benchers, can learn more.

My real fear in regard to the future is that we might be starved out. After all, we in this island remember what we had to do in the last war and the previous war with regard to rations. Unless we improve our naval services, I think we could easily be starved out over a period of time, without firing a shot. If one looks at page 40, Figure 14, one sees something which I find very disturbing, the Soviet naval port visits between 1968 and 1978. There were very few in 1968, and now we see in 1978 practically the whole of the world map marked with little black dots, indicating where the Soviets have been. I was interested in what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, said about blackmail. There were a vast number of visits to Africa. It would be very interesting to know what goes on when the Soviets undertake these visits.

I turn to another subject, housing. My noble friend referred to it. I have a letter from Sir Derek Rayner which gives rather different information. This is dated 3rd April 1980. He says that the Ministry tell him that the number of empty married quarters stands now at over 21,000: This obviously represents an increase over the number two years ago when you asked your question in the House of Lords. The Ministry of Defence explain that although several thousand dwellings have been disposed of … —which sounds very odd when I have just given those other two figures— others are uninhabitable and await demolition, or refurbishment". The Ministry agree that the present number of unoccupied dwellings is not acceptable, and they intend to dispose of as many as possible in the next few years. A look at the White Paper shows how the number of people who now own their own dwellings has increased.

I would suggest, in view of those facts, that there must be areas where we could settle happily the Vietnamese in this country. I got in touch with the Home Office and they said that they would bear in mind the suggestion that they should consider using empty Ministry of Defence houses for this purpose. The Ministry said: As you yourself recognise, however, this is a matter on which we shall need to consult Francis Pym's Department, and I cannot at this stage anticipate what his views … might he". I hope it may be possible to get his views in the near future.

Finally, I asked Sir Derek Rayner about the question of the end of the financial year, when there is usually a rush round to spend before the financial year ends because the money cannot be carried over to the next year. He says: I very much agree with what you say about the rush to spend at the end of the financial year and I am looking to see what can be clone about this. I shall also he considering what you say about the lack of incentive when receipts from disposals are passed to the Treasury". These are very important points which my noble friend might like to consider. Obviously I do not expect an answer tonight, but perhaps he will be good enough to write to me in the future.

8.28 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to the first three speakers for having been late in joining the debate, and particularly to my noble friend Lord Strathcona, but I have heard most of the debate. I shall be concentrating on the Navy, mainly because one must narrow the area covered in this vast subject. I think it is a pity that we have to do that, because there are so many things that are better dealt with covering all the services rather than one specifically. But it provides perhaps a better balance to the debate. In that connection, I hope that the Government will give a second thought to the wise proposal by my noble friend Lord Cathcart, which has been mentioned by other noble Lords, that the defence problem should be debated much more thoroughly by having short debates to deal with specific subjects.

Before getting on to some detail and to talk generally about the Navy and its task, I was extremely heartened—and I hope the Government will have listened very carefully—by the remarks of my noble friend (if I may so describe him) the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. The particular point, which it seems to me was given very special supplementary purpose by the splendid speech of my noble friend Lord de la Warr, is that it is really time that we looked at our worldwide responsibilities, our worldwide difficulties and our worldwide tasks, because it is so incredibly head in the sand (if that is the phrase) to think only about the artificial NATO area.

Notwithstanding that, and following the line of thought of the White Paper, which restricts us to the NATO area, we find that from the naval point of view a vital feature is the United States commitment to NATO. That is made very clear in paragraph 117 of the first volume of the White Paper. It means that NATO must show itself capable of maintaining and protecting United States reinforcement by sea in all circumstances, and that is made clear in paragraph 323. It is against those two introductory remarks that my main points will be made because, my Lords, I am frightened. This White Paper shows me that our Navy, not to mention the other services, is at a lower ebb—as it was similarly at a former time in history when there was a threat—than it has ever been in the last 200 years.

However, let us start with the good news. I think we must welcome the return of seaborne fixed wing flying capability to the Fleet with the commissioning of the "Invincible" and the conversion of the "Hermes" to operate Sea Harriers. We see also that there are two more new antisubmarine warfare carriers abuilding. This is splendid. I think we can also be heartened, but perhaps not quite so much, at the steady numbers of submarines which are shown in Table 1.1 in Volume II, and the fact that those submarines are being steadily modernised, as shown in paragraph 719 of Volume I.

However, that does not compensate for the decline in surface escorts. One cannot but be dismayed at the very few and diminishing numbers of operational destroyers and frigates. Appendix A of Volume I and also Table 1.1—and surprisingly they match—indicate that there are only 49 ships of these types operational or in a state in which they could be made operational. What is worse, if one turns to Table 1.1 in Volume II one sees a steady reduction in these classes of ships over the last five years from 59 to 49, and, for all I know, the number is going down. In Appendix A Volume I, one sees that the largest class are the 21 Leanders. My Lords, I commissioned one of the first of those from the builders in 1963. These ships will therefore shortly be 21 years old, and their basic design older still. If one turns to paragraph 719 in Volume I, one sees that the only frigate replacement order is for four Type 22, with the vague promise of more planned—and it is only vague if you look at it. Apparently the destroyers are, surprisingly because they cost more, in a better state, because we are told in paragraph 718 that eight Type 42 destroyers are on the way. However, they need to be matched against the five County class destroyers, approaching 20 years old, and the five Rothesay and Type 12 frigates, on the way to being 30 years old. Altogether, a sorry tale and I hope that my noble friend can give us encouragement, even if the main cause of this deplorable situation has been the policies of noble Lords opposite.

In supplement to that, we have the maritime air reduction from five squadrons to four in the same period, as we see from Table 1.1. So, on the submarine side, we have a steady number; on the surface side we have a steady decline; and in the air and support of those we have a steady decline. The only bright spark on the horizon is the seaborne fixed wing air capability which we have, I suggest, in spite of rather than because of noble Lords opposite.

Turning now to people, I note with grave concern the steady reduction in seagoing manpower in the last five years, as shown in Table 1.2. If one then also looks at Table 4.9 one sees that the outflow of naval ratings in 1979–80 (that is the financial year just finished) was the largest that it has been certainly within the compass of the years given in this appendix: 2,000 more left than in each of the two previous years. When one looks—and my noble friend Lord Kimberley (I think it was) mentioned this—at the Royal Air Force, that has had a turn-up in recruiting. When one looks at the figures for the Navy one cannot help being incredibly depressed and I wonder what the explanation is. I hope my noble friend will be able to tell me. Is this shortage of manpower perhaps the explanation for the unacceptable shortage in operational escorts? If so, what is the Government going to do to put that right?

I also note that the volunteer reserves for the Navy, which are mentioned in Table 4.3, have reduced steadily over the past five years. Apart from the manning of minesweepers and shore headquarters for which the volunteer reserves are so well suited, I suggest there are a whole host of nautical tasks around our coasts for which disciplined and trained men and women would be required in the event, not just of a war but of any sort of emergency building up that way. We touched on this on the recent debates on Home and Civil Defence on 5th March, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. Volunteer reserves, given the right sort of lead, can supplement the more thoroughly trained regulars or ex-regular reservists in a host of ways, and I have always felt that it has been a very faulty policy to try and save a little bit of money in their administration and run down the naval reserves in the way they have been over the years—and in this respect I would blame Governments on both sides.

I think if we can give the thought and encouragement we must then get the people, both men and women, and I would suggest that, like the change of title back to the Territorial Army, it would be wise to reinstate the "V" in RNVR. It would be much more attractive to volunteer reserves to be called volunteer reserves than trying to mix them up on a sort of great neutral anonymous basis with all other types of reserves.

I turn now to the logistics and support front. I note with concern in Table 2.5 the reduction in expenditure on petroleum products between 1977–78 and 1978–79. I would mention, in passing, that in this particular appendix it is not much help to have the figures on a tri-service basis. It would have been much better if we could have had them shown separately for each service. I shall return to that matter in another point that I shall make shortly. We want to see where the reduction is taking place. Are the economies being made in the Navy, the Army, the Air Force or all three, and how do they compare? Is this reduction due to rationing of some sort—and that has happened before in my experience—or to lack of operational capability because we do not have enough men? It would be interesting to know and perhaps my noble friend can tell us.

I also note in Table 3.5—and here we come to the point made by my noble friend Lady Vickers about dockyards—that the normal refits completed between 1975–76 and 1978–79 steadily dropped and, what is worse, seem to have dropped faster than the reduction in operational ships about which I have complained in relation to Table 1.1. What is the reason for this? Is it due to a lack of spare parts? Is it due to a new and doubtful policy of cheeseparing in refits? Or is it due to inefficiency in dockyards?—I would not be surprised, from what my noble friend Lady Vickers said, if that were not the cause of it, but perhaps my noble friend on the Front Bench can give us an explanation.

Finally, I turn to the medical statistics in Tables 6.3 and 6.4. I would say in relation to these and many of the other particulars which are given—upon which several noble Lords have commented—that this White Paper is excellent in the way that it has added so much to the information available to us, even if the information seems to be inadequate. These medical statistics are certainly a new contribution. However, without wishing to be over-critical, the information tends to be presented in a form to suit the provider rather than the user and perhaps in a future year the presentation could be considered more from the viewpoint of the user. The medical statistics show this clearly.

Table 6.3 does not separate the services. From it, for example, one cannot tell the progress the Navy is or is not making in curbing venereal disease in young sailors taking part in the periodical world cruises. It would be interesting if we could know about that. One cannot tell, as The Times reported on 30th April, whether British sailors are really too fat and unfit. One cannot tell how the services compare with each other in training and exercise injuries —just to give three examples. I am sure that if Table 6.3 had been produced covering 1774 to 1778 one would not have been able to tell that scurvy was still a major scourge of the Navy, and identify where it was being contained. But, it would have been very useful then, as we know now, and it would be useful for us today to be able to make the same sort of deductions. So, let us in future years have the services' health identified separately and deductions on the lines I have indicated made in the equivalent of Chapter 6 of Volume I. I can only find the word "ill" once in that chapter, in paragraph 604.

In conclusion, I should like to say that this Defence Statement is an improvement on earlier years, but it does reveal a frightening lack of preparedness which does not match the sombre information in paragraphs 104 to 111. The Navy is weaker, as I said earlier, in terms of numbers of escorts and shipboard and shore-based air support, than at any similar time of threat in its long history. We are told in paragraph 324 that it is the largest NATO Navy in Western Europe. That is horrifying, especially if we take heed of the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, to look more widely.

8.45 p.m.


My Lords, I venture to address your Lordships very briefly at this late hour on a matter which has been worrying me for some years. After the war, when I was in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, every time we had a cut in manpower we were given in replacement a civilian. That built up very considerably over the years.

One matter which worries me is that we have a vast number of civilian support in the Army. I am not saying in any way that they are not doing an excellent job—I am sure that they are. However, in the event of war what worries me is how many civilians there will be in key positions who will have to be replaced quickly. Have the Army and the services generally the trained manpower to replace them?

I note with some alarm that in Germany there are no less than nearly 27,000 locally recruited civilian personnel on the administrative strength of the Army. If there were a war in Europe, how many of them could we rely on? Are we in a situation where the civilian staff, if they are in key positions overseas in Germany, could be replaced by trained personnel who could take over their jobs immediately? I note that there are nearly 2,500 United Kingdom-based civilians employed in Germany. In the event of the outbreak of war or the threat of hostilities will they be required to stay there or is there an agreement that they will be repatriated? If they are, how many service personnel are there available to replace them?

We then come to this country. One matter which rather frightens me is that in the maintenance, repair, storage and supply organisations we have nearly 28,000 civilians. Are we absolutely sure that with a threat of war or an outbreak of war the services can rely on those people to continue to supply us and the Army with everything which is required? I note that in command and support services there are over 30,000 civilians employed. In the event of war, can we be absolutely certain that they can be replaced by trained service personnel? That is a matter which, in the past, has caused those in the Army a great deal of concern and I am sure that it does so at present. It would be most interesting to know whether the planning has covered all these items.

Another matter which has always worried me and which I have raised previously in your Lordships' House, is that in the event of war are we satisfied that the reinforcements that we require in Europe can be moved speedily and effectively? It is one of those matters which the more you look at it the more you begin to wonder. In the White Paper it says that they will be moved by military transport and by civilian transport. Is that already organised? Are the Government satisfied that, if we have an emergency, at any one moment they could, in fact, lay their hands on sufficient aircraft at short notice to move all the forces which they have stated must be moved? Are air traffic control and suchlike adequate to deal with it?

It would be most interesting if at some period or another we could have a fuller discussion on these matters, because it is very easy to build up a beautiful front with all our forces, but if what is behind them is just sand, we shall get nowhere.

8.51 p.m.


My Lords, owing to the lateness of the hour, I shall be as brief as possible. Defence is taken for granted by the people of this country. The Englishman, Scotsman or Welshman who is at work during the day and in his public house at night takes it for granted that his country is being adequately protected against attack. He has every right to do so. Possibly in the past this has not always been felt as strongly as it is felt today. Therefore, I personally am delighted to see that a far more realistic approach is now being made to our defences, and this must be an object of satisfaction to all who value the security of this country and to the services themselves.

I should like to begin by praising the White Paper itself. I think seldom in the history of this country have so many valuable facts been contained in so brief a compass, and the brevity of the language gives added sharpness to its arguments. The picture it gives is one of great encouragement and of a realistic, if sobre, appreciation of our defence needs; of the strategy needed to combat an ever-increasing Warsaw Pact force, and of large-scale developments of new equipment over a wide field.

The overall strategy of NATO is that an attack on one member is an attack on all members, but its primary task is to provide collective strength to deter aggression and to resist it effectively if it comes. This means the use of first-class equipment of proven effectiveness, and constant feasibility studies in collaboration with our allies to ensure their continued effectiveness in future.

No one can look with complacency at the figures of front line NATO forces in Germany. It is here that the greatest concentration of Warsaw Pact forces is grouped. The First British Corps will take the main thrust of any invasion by conventional land forces, but it is clear that one would like to see an addition of two armoured divisions, together with full supporting troops. One is glad to learn that spare parts are now in improved supply for BOAR. When I visited BOAR in 1978 this was causing some anxiety, but despite this the morale of the troops was magnificent.

I am glad to see that Chieftain tanks have now an improved fire-control system; that all mechanised battalions of BAOR will be equipped with the Milan anti-tank guided weapon, together with improved artillery and low-level air defence; that in the further term a new main battle tank is in the stage of project definition; and that substantial improvements are planned in the low-level air defence systems. All that gives one cause for encouragement.

I turn now to the Royal Air Force. A welcome addition is that the Tornado GR 1 fighter will enter service this year—a joint product of the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy; that improvements to the Jaguar and Harrier are in hand and that the Tornado F2, armed with the Sky-Flash air-to-air missile will be in service in the mid-1980s, together with additional Lightnings, Hawks and Phantoms. This again is source for encouragement.

One of the greatest tasks of the NATO forces will be to respond flexibly to any attack by the Warsaw Pact before nuclear forces are used. In this context the control and use of the Eastern Atlantic and Channel areas is vital. This would underline the importance of the ballistic missile submarine, together with the ability to detect and attack the enormous and growing Soviet submarine fleet. I am pleased, therefore, that the Navy is being augmented this year by the arrival of three new large anti-submarine warfare carriers, one of which I have recently been privileged to visit, HMS "Invincible". This, the largest ship built for the Royal Navy since the war, is by any standards a remarkable ship. One is amazed by the comfortable accommodation for junior ratings, by the technical brilliance and variety of her sonar, radar and other equipment, and by the vast size of her hold to contain Sea King helicopters and Sea Harrier aircraft. I was enormously impressed also by the obvious high morale of her crew who were justifiably proud of their ship. If ever the Royal Navy desired an advertisement, here it is. It is good to know that she is being joined later this year by "Hermes" and "Ark Royal".

It is also good to know that the number of nuclear-powered submarines is to be increased this year by one. Last year I was privileged to visit "Valiant", and was enormously impressed by her manoeuvrability, her technical equipment, and, again, by her comfortable accommodation, so remarkable in a ship of that size; and, as before, by the wonderful morale of officers and men who live in a dedicated self-contained world of their own.

Lastly, I am personally glad that the Government have taken the decision to provide a base in this country for 160 ground-launched cruise missiles as part of the new long-range tactical nuclear force programme, and that a decision has been taken by a group of Western European countries to provide a base for 572 United States missiles, including 108 Pershing II ballistic missiles.

In a speech as brief as this one, one cannot do justice to the full range of development which is now taking place and which is partly long-term. All of it is governed not only by defence requirements but by overall defence expenditure. One is pleased to note—and this is very well brought out in the White Paper—that there is now a new spirit of determination in defence matters, which is not only most welcome but overdue. The determination is now there to see that our forces not only have the best equipment available, but that they are being increased in size and that there will not be, one may reasonably hope, much longer the overwhelming disparity which has been so evident in years past.

I know that the morale of the forces is tremendous and I think that the new rates of pay will help not only to retain good, highly-trained men, who are so valuable, but will encourage the best of our young people of both sexes to join them. Perhaps the truest statement in the whole of the White Paper is paragraph 601: Our defence depends on the quality and commitment of the men and women of the armed forces and the civilian staffs working with them". That is abundantly true. The finest tanks, ships and aircraft in the world are of no use without the skill, determination, intelligence, guts and leadership to use them. Our forces possess these qualities in abundant measure. I hope that your Lordships will approve the White Paper and give it your full support, which it so richly deserves.

9 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a long debate. May I congratulate all those who have spoken? It has been a debate of high standard. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Dormer, that I envied his trip. Some of us will have to do that at some time. What I liked about what he said was that it was really a reply to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. He said that the morale of the crew was high, as distinct from Lord Mottistone's attitude, which from a naval officer, surprised me. However, I shall not pursue that point any further.

The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, was worried about the Navy being at a low ebb. He also talked about Sea Harriers. From there I shall go quickly through a series of points. I should like to deal specifically with the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers. I know that she was once Member of Parliament for Plymouth and Devonport and she certainly took a great interest in the Navy, and everybody admired her. Even when she lost her seat she was literally loved by the people down there. It is good to know that she still takes this great interest, and quite rightly points to the importance of the role of young women in the services.

Do not let us be condescending about this. I think I mentioned in a previous debate that when I was first training in anti-aircraft on 3.7s we had girls working the predictors. They were from Queen's University, Northern Ireland. We humble gunners then were not really allowed to look at them. Nevertheless, they played an important part in our training, and I shall always remember it. After all, women can play their part in factories on machines, and there is no reason why they should not compete with men.

The noble Earl, Lord de la Warr, raised an important point about minerals. I am not going to follow him in this argument. It is important. He gave details and listed the minerals concerned. I was intrigued with this because I was trained as a geologist, and therefore I appreciate its importance. Whether I come to the three conclusions that he did is a different matter. I would exercise caution on one aspect. I shall not go into it tonight, but it was right to raise the point.

The noble Earl, Lord Fortescue, made an interesting speech, but I could not understand why he was worried about food going to Russia. After all, we get food from abroad. There is nothing wrong in buying food. The Russians have always had considerable supplies from the Mid-West. Even now, when we have a crisis with Russia and the President is talking about having nobody go to the Games, he is going to allow wheat from the Mid-West—the corn belt. This is quite right. You cannot go on living in an ivory tower. We are not at war yet. We have to have normal trade. I know the point is raised about the Russians getting the benefits of the butter mountain in the Community. I had that when I was an agricultural Minister. This was purely an arrangement that French businessmen made in a legitimate way. I was rather surprised. Food is important from the point of view of defence, and the preservation of stocks of food is vital, and is an important matter in our strategy.

The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, made an excellent speech. He raised the whole question of standardisation. It was a technical speech. He felt that there was a lack of standardisation in NATO. He was pleased to see, though, that in the European Parliament there was a desire there to have this matter raised. I hope that the Minister will take careful note of this. He also talked about chemical warfare, and Tornado. I am not going to deal with that. Noble Lords have raised these matters before. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, and his group have raised this. May I congratulate him for the way he keeps the flag of defence flying in his way in his committee?

I was pleased that my noble friend Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, whose maiden speech at the Dispatch Box on defence this was, made such a superb speech. He should be very proud of himself today. I am sure that I echo other noble Lords when I say that it was appreciated by the whole House. The noble Lord, Lord Paget of Northampton, if I dare say it again, made a characteristic speech but a penetrating speech which had a lot of common sense in it. I know that it frightened some people. I was rather amused, because I think that people are tending to slide into certain paths and they forget to think about other approaches. His speech will make people think. It was remarkable. He said we should not rely too much on NATO. Then he went on to explain why. He talked about France's position, and was worried about the whole situation. He said it rather gleefully. I was rather taken by his good sense of humour. I can assure him that it was a speech which provoked, and therefore was good, because we must have controversy in our debates.

The noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, mentioned Tornado. We had a major debate on that. It was only a short debate. He is right to say that we should try to boost sales to NATO, and that the RAF should purchase more. I agree with him on how our debates should proceed. It was the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, who raised this on a previous debate. We have too much to discuss in this White Paper. Defence is such a large matter; the Navy, the Air Force, the Army, and other matters. It would be a good idea if we had it broken down into separate debates at different times with a different specialist in the House participating. I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the House will note this.

The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, said that we must have informed and constructive criticism. He is right. A lot of people seem to resent criticism in this House. We are a debating society as well, and we are a good debating society, so I hope that people will not resist criticism. We are too ill-informed, he said. Whether that is true I am not certain. He believes that the American public is much better informed. I am not sure whether he has that evidence. On the other hand, if he says so, and knowing his experience, I commend what he has said to the Minister.

Let us be fair, this is a good White Paper. I congratulated the Minister on a previous occasion about it. It provides us with a lot of ammunition and facts and it is worth having. It is a costly document but it is worth every penny and I hope many more people will read it.

The noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne, made an interesting speech and I regret he is not in his place because, it being his birthday, I was going to congratulate him, especially as he comes from my part of the country, but he will read these remarks in Hansard. He made a distinctive contribution to a previous defence debate and, bearing in mind his fine war record and experience as a soldier, he asked what victory there would be in a major world-wide conflict, and one must ponder that. Our commitments, he said, were so widespread that defence was difficult and we had to improve recruitment still further. He argued that the Army was short of 4,000 trained soldiers and questioned whether we should waste so much time consulting our allies on standardising our equipment. I believe this is a key issue and I think he was wrong there; I consider it essential that we should have more standardisation in NATO.

The noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who I have known for a long time, made an outstanding contribution. He was a fine adviser on defence and at one period people like myself on various committees were kept in order by him. He is a remarkable man who has the courage to say where he thinks we are going wrong. Noble Lords will no doubt have read the fine article he wrote not long ago in one of our major press organs. I will study carefully what he said because he went into the detail and technicalities of the matter. He made a good speech and, knowing the man who made it, I am sure other noble Lords found it of great interest.

The noble Earl, Lord Avon, in another good speech, spoke of the reserves, a subject on which more might have been said. He welcomed the increase in recruiting to the Territorial Army and mentioned the figure of 62,000. He thought the bounty should keep pace with inflation and that the territorials should be trained for civil defence, which, he thought, would help to broaden NATO as well.

I regret that my noble friend Lord Shinwell is not in his place. I have always had great admiration for him, and my father acted as his agent when he beat Ramsay Macdonald in the 1935 election. My noble friend was very much involved during those years in mining policy, but he became a successful Minister of Defence and one always takes note of what he says. I may sometimes disagree with the way he puts it, but he is a pugnacious man and while he attacked colleagues who believe in world disarmament, I would remind him that our party has various strands of thought, and in many ways that is our strength; Christian Socialism, the ILP and so on. We have these traditions, traditions that were mentioned in this House not long ago, and my noble friend Lord Brockway was right to raise these issues. Nobody has the right answer and I hope, therefore, that nobody will be too arrogant when criticising or when approaching this problem.

The noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, made a good point when he said there was a lack of information. He thought the White Paper was not satisfactory and asked an important and pertinent question. He asked about our oil supplies and mentioned the North Sea and Middle East. He wanted to know how we were to defend our oilfields and installations and whether we had the capability to do so. I feel sure the Minister will want to answer that.

The noble Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, welcomed disarmament, provided it was universal, and I agree with him. He was a distinguished soldier and I, too, believe in the maintenance of effective nuclear forces. That is my own view, but on the other hand, I recognise that if the balloon went up, one would then not know the answer. While I am still tolerant of people who disagree with me, the feeling I have is that in present circumstances we must insist on maintaining the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance; NATO is the keystone of our defence, we are right to go on with it and we must make it work. There is no question about that. Along with certain other issues, the noble Lord mentioned the attraction of service in the Army and the importance of getting top leadership coming from young men today. That is important and it is linked with better training. I should like to see more Army officers with scientific qualifications. Things were different in the age of the horse. Today we need trained technical men and skilled soldiers, and this was brought home to us the other day in that wonderful exercise when our SAS men did so much for this country. The incident provided marvellous publicity, which was appreciated all over the world, and the BBC did a wonderful job in being there on the spot. I even switched over from watching snooker.

I am not going to make a long speech. I have spoken now for almost a quarter of an hour. I say to the Government that we must strike a right balance. After all, we must remember that we are still involved in negotiations, or at least we are trying to negotiate, with the Soviet Union. I have raised this point previously and I was criticised very strongly by one noble Lord for daring to do so. What I am trying to say is: let us keep the door open. There must be negotiations. I do not want a world war. I do not believe that any noble Lord wants a world war. The danger is that people can talk themselves into a frenzy that encourages an attitude which in the end could lead to an explosion somewhere.

I make a plea to the Government that they should recognise that, apart from defence, there are foreign policy matters which are also important. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, recognises this. I hope that the Government will be careful. The Foreign Secretary is a moderate man. I am glad that we have him at the Foreign Office. He has achieved successes as a result of his ability to get across to those with whom he is negotiating the fact that he has a sense of moderation, as well as respect for the other side; and so it must be in the sphere of higher policy.

I hope that the Americans will play their part. Edmund Muskie has been appointed as the new American Secretary of State. I had the privilege of a long talk with him when I was Leader of the House of Commons, and I was very much impressed by the then Edmund Muskie, who later became a Senator. He has taken over from Cyrus Vance, and I think that there will be a different style, though according to The Times, Vance's policies will be pursued. On the other hand, Senator Muskie made it quite clear that he supported fully ratification of the new Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement—SALT 2. But he said that the burden now rested with the Soviet Union to withdraw its occupying forces from Afghanistan before the treaty could be approved by the Senate. Senator Muskie also confirmed that he should like to meet Andrei Gromyko, the Soviet Foreign Minister, in Vienna in about a week's time. He thought that such a meeting should take place.

I hope that our politicians in this country and members of the Government will recognise that here is a distinguished man, who is now the Foreign Secretary of the United States, who believes in meeting the Russians; and that is what we must do. if we modify things, probably in the end there will be a solution. I am thinking about the possibility of some people, who have so far been disappointed, going to the Olympic Games.

I hope that this Government will be sensible. Let us not have too much witch-hunting. The situation will be fraught with danger if we go along that path. We must recognise the difficulties. However, at the same time we face great challenges, and if we meet them in a sensible way, this country can still play a major part in world affairs.

9.17 p.m.


My Lords, the degree of detailed knowledge and interest displayed by your Lordships' House in defence matters represents a rather daunting challenge for a Minister attempting to answer a debate at this hour of the night. Without in any way committing my noble friends the Leader of the House or the Chief Whip, I must say that I certainly take the point about seeking a more manageable format for these debates, because we are definitely trying to squeeze a gallon into a pint pot. That is by way of warning your Lordships that you had better make yourselves comfortable, because I am not going to be brief.

May I start by referring to the Government's policy on nuclear weapons, which I deliberately avoided in my opening speech. Noble Lords have referred to this subject in the debate, and its is well known that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, for one, approaches this matter from a rather different standpoint from Government's. Their conclusions are based on an analysis which we believe perhaps ignores the view from Moscow. The Government see the main argument for an independent British nuclear capability at the strategic level as that it provides a second and independent centre of decision-making within NATO. This is a point which is often made.

This second centre enhances the strength and the effectiveness of the alliance's deterrence as a whole because it faces the Soviets with a greater and less calculable risk of retaliation than if there were only the one United States decision-making centre in NATO. But for this second centre of decision-making to be effective we must have nuclear forces which are capable of inflicting on the Soviet Union damage which they would find unacceptable and which they could not neutralise with their own forces. Possession of nuclear forces such as those advocated by Lord Carver, which do not meet these criteria, would, we believe, substantially reduce the value of our contribution to NATO and, worst of all, might create a temptation for the Soviet Union to attack them pre-emptively.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cork and Orrery and the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, referred to Sir Neil Cameron's lecture, which I had the pleasure of listening to the other day. I would say to my noble friend Lord Cork that Sir Neil Cameron's statement was a great improvement on the one of mine which he quoted. Of course, I never intended to imply that we could have a cast-iron guarantee—more's the pity—but the purpose was to emphasise that the independent strategic nuclear deterrent materially strengthens our deterrent armoury.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence indicated in another place as recently as 28th April that the Government are continuing to examine the options for an eventual successor to the Polaris force, and the House may be assured that we shall take a decision as soon as we can. My right honourable friend has promised what I think he called a substantial document setting out the Government's argument in support of these decisions.

The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, asked me whether we could afford a successor to Polaris. I think it is important to keep the magnitude of this programme and its impact in perspective. Again, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said on 24th January that the total capital cost might be in the region of £4 billion to £5 billion spread over about 15 years; and it is only when the programme is expected to reach a peak in the late 'eighties that it might amount to as much as 5 per cent. of the defence budget. So in both overall terms and the expenditure at its peak, this is in fact less than the planned expenditure on the Tornado programme.


My Lords, I never asked whether we could afford it. I never said that. I asked specifically how we were going to finance it.


By implication, my Lords, I hoped I had answered that question. We intend to finance it as part of the defence budget. However, I have to go on to say that we do not yet have firm figures for the defence budget in the late 'eighties, but if we take into account our announced plans for a 3 per cent. growth over the next few years, we believe that these capital costs will be maintainable without a dramatic impact on the rest of the programme.

Noble Lords have raised the question—and it is not the first time that things raised in this House have triggered off a degree of wider public interest—of our civil preparedness, and whether more should be done in this field. We are in entire agreement with the importance of civil preparedness; and, indeed, that is why the Government, shortly after taking office, initiated a review of the civil aspects of home defences. It is not an easy matter, as has been said by, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart. This is a subject which spans virtually all the departments, and one of the first steps has been to try to improve the liaison between departments, most particularly between the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. The scope of this review and the seriousness with which the Government view the matter were well set out by my noble friend Lord Belstead in this House on 5th March. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary hopes to be making a statement soon.

As the noble Lord, Lord Peart, pointed out, our old friend the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, has left the Chamber for a well-earned rest. Although he is still young in spirit, he sometimes finds that he wanes a little towards the end of the day. But I wanted to remind him, when he suggested that we were taking a narrow view that in my opening remarks I had said that the Soviet challenge was a global one and that the Government believed that the services should be able to operate effectively outside the NATO area where necessary as part of our efforts for deterrence and world stability. I would call the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, and, I think, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, who also joined this line of criticism, to paragraph 401 in the White Paper, where we say: … our defence policy should also be designed to help protect, wherever possible, our own and more general Western interests over a wider area, including those outside the NATO area". I cannot follow the noble Lord Earl, Lord de la Warr, into his interesting discussion of South Africa and raw materials. The specific issues raised by the noble Earl go well beyond the strict field of defence. But I can assure him that his general proposition is well taken by the Government and I think that paragraph 402 shows this.

There is one question that I can answer and I think I should do so now. That is the matter of reopening the Simonstown Agreement. The agreement was terminated in 1975 and cannot, as such, now be re-opened. We have no requirement for naval facilities in South Africa and there are, therefore, no plans to negotiate a replacement for that agreement. My noble friend Lord Avon also asked about aid to Turkey. On 26th March, we pledged a further amount of programme aid to Turkey in addition to the £15 million already agreed in 1979. My noble friend may know that there is already a programme of military training assistance funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help subsidise the attendance by foreign students at existing military courses in the United Kingdom, and places are made available for officers of the Turkish armed forces under the scheme—and very impressive they are, too. Within NATO, we are also looking at what military equipment might be provided from our surplus stocks to match known Turkish requirements.

The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, raised the large and very important question of logistical support. There is a close similarity between the points he raised and those under scrutiny by the Defence Committee in another place. I hope that noble Lords will understand that I cannot make any detailed comment until the report has been published; but before leaving that subject, I must re-emphasise our total understanding of the importance of this matter of interoperability, standardisation and co-operation with our allies. I have referred to this point many times. It is a noble goal but it is exceedingly difficult of attainment.

The noble Lord, Lord Murton of Lindisfarne (who, I regret, is not in his place) asked about ammunition stocks. I cannot give him the details, but in general I can assure him that our supplies meet the NATO standards.

The noble Earl, Lord Avon, also raised the question of mine-laying and minesweeping, which is a matter of concern not only in the Mediterranean. He asked also about "bottling up" the Straits of Gibraltar. The United Kingdom does not assign maritime forces to the Mediterranean, although in peace-time our ships and aircraft take part in NATO exercises in that area. Our mine laying and sweeping forces are concentrated in the waters surrounding the United Kingdom, and NATO policy requires nations to be responsible for minesweeping around their own coasts. So the NATO Mediterranean countries provide the capabilities in their own area. Noble Lords will know that we are intending to improve our minesweeping capability. This is something that we have mentioned in previous debates.

The noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, asked about the responsibility for the protection of British oil and gas installations in the North Sea at a time of war. In the event of the outbreak of hostilities, the protection of our North Sea oil and gas installations would be covered by NATO contingency plans for the defence of the area. The "old sea dog", Lord Mottistone, asked about the number of ships in the Navy and our future construction plans. It is not just a question of comparing numbers of ships. I am sure that he is more aware than I am that modern frigates and destroyers are very much more complex and much more heavily armed than their predecessors, and their operational capability is substantially greater, but unfortunately this also means that they are infinitely more costly. The Royal Navy's modernisation programme is in full flow, and future orders will confirm the continuing importance which we attach to the force of frigates and destroyers.

The noble Earl, Lord Kimberley—as we have come to expect—was, if I may say so, alarmingly well-informed. I cannot answer all his questions, but I can tell him that half our Hawk aircraft will be given Sidewinder missiles. He also asked about cruise missiles being fitted to the V-bombers. We do not believe that there is any need to supplement the Polaris force with cruise missiles, and there is no need to run on the Vulcan force as cruise missile carriers. It would in any case be very expensive to modify and refurbish these 20-year-old Vulcans. That task will need manpower which will be required to look after the newly-formed Tornado squadrons.

The noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, and the noble Lords, Lord Gisborough and Lord de Clifford, referred to civil aircraft being available and appropriately constructed to help in the reinforcement task. Like the United States, we depend on civil aircraft for the movement of reinforcements to Europe and have long had powers of direction over British Airways, supplemented by agreements with independent operators. On current NATO plans, the requirements for assistance from the United Kingdom with the transatlantic airlift concerns only cargo aircraft, including wide bodied aircraft. Various means have been proposed for ensuring that sufficient capacity is available, and these include modifications to wide-bodied passenger aircraft, subsidising the purchase by the airlines of dual purpose aircraft and other schemes. However, it now seems likely that the United Kingdom will be able to meet its share of the requirements by drawing on purpose-built cargo aircraft planned to enter service with United Kingdom civil airlines during the forthcoming period.

The noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, who is establishing something of a reputation for well-informed speeches in your Lord- ships' House, asked about manpower shortages in the RAF. We inherited, of course, a very serious manpower shortage in all three services and this will take a little time to correct. The process has begun and the restoration of service pay levels is of great assistance. Recruiting to the RAF at the present time is good, and we hope this will reduce the present overall shortage of trained strength of about 4 per cent. The size of this shortage varies from category to category, and in the case of pilots—I have believe our country is not alone in this—the overall deficiency is 13 per cent. But I can assure your Lordships that the effect on the front-line aircraft has been kept to a minimum and the fast jet force is being kept up to strength.

We are taking special measures to improve the retention of experienced pilots and to increase the supply of new ones. One of those measures has been the opening of a third basic flying training school last year and the addition of 18 Hawk trainer aircraft, recently announced in another place. The answer to the noble Lord's question as to whether we have good liaison with schools is an unqualified "yes". We have a team of very effective officers who are specialists in this task.

As far as the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Squadron is concerned, we expect the first squadron to be fully operational later this year. As to the question of whether RAF reserve pilots can be employed to fly Hawks, we have recently studied the feasibility of creating auxiliary flying squadrons, using trainer aircraft with a wartime role; and, as has been said, we have recently announced plans for arming about 90 Hawks with air-to-air missiles for their war role. In those cases the Hawks would be flown by instructor pilots. Of course, those men possess great skill; they have the experience which is essential to wartime operations, and on a level which we believe could not be acquired and maintained by part-time pilots, even if we had the resources available for training. Here I would say there is no real parallel with the United States Air National Guard, since in the event of war there would be no time to give additional intensive training to part-time pilots of the kind which would be essential if they were to fight and survive in a NATO war.

Similarly, there are manpower shortages in the other services, and that has meant, in the case of the Army, that a number of infantry battalions have reduced one rifle company to cadre strength, and some tanks in the armoured regiments are unmanned in peace-time. But here again, the position is improving as a consequence of the decision to go for pay comparability and to increase the resources devoted to defence. Six infantary companies, I am happy to say, have been reactivated since last year. As I said at the beginning, recruiting trends are favourable; indeed, last year was the best year for Army recruiting since 1967 and, even more important, the rate of retention has improved.

The noble Earl, Lord Avon, spoke about TA bounties. We intend to initiate regular reviews of bounties, and the first of these is currently in hand. Any proposal which may be made for a change in the rates will obviously depend on the results of this review, and I really cannot forecast the outcome at this juncture. He also raised a point about compensation for injury. This is something which is well understood and I will look into it.

The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, returned to the attack on the terminology that we should use for our reserve forces, and I am grateful to him for digging out the expression "militia". At least, it is a constructive suggestion. However, I am not wholly sure whether it would improve the situation. One of the difficulties is that it would immediately distinguish between two different kinds of what we currently call reservists. Nevertheless, it is an interesting idea and I am grateful to him for it.

Then the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, quoted some remarkable and hair-raising figures in support of his argument that the PSA are less efficient than they might be. Obviously, I cannot comment on the detailed examples that he gave, but I hope he will let me have further details, because the White Paper points out that we are making a very determined effort to cut out waste and inefficiency, and the works area is not only not going to be excluded but is one of the areas which we believe particularly needs to be looked at. I need hardly remind noble Lords that we can expect the enthusiastic support of the Ministers in the Department of the Environment on any work of that kind.

My noble friend Lady Vickers asked about the dockyard study. The report has now been submitted to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and the intention is that, in the light of his views, a consultative document will be prepared. This will form the basis for the discussion with those concerned, which of course includes the trade unions. There was one specific point, which I think she raised, about the apparent anomaly on refits. One of the ways in which you can reduce the call for refit work is by what is sometimes known as short life, or more rapid replacement of ships, but it is not a very attractive option.

I was particularly grateful to the noble Baroness for her remarks about the women's services. They do, indeed, provide a valuable contribution to our defence effort and our policy is to offer women the widest possible range of job opportunities on an equal basis with men, subject to the limitations which arise from their exclusion from combat duties. I should add that this is not something which is wholly disinterested. It is, on the whole, rather easier to recruit women than men and we have a shortage. But we keep a very sharp eye to ensure that no unnecessary constraints are placed on making the best use of the women's services, and a good deal is already happening in this direction, as is detailed in the White Paper.

I have done rather better than I feared in answering some of the specific points which were raised in the debate, and I will do my best to write to those noble Lords whom I have not satisfied or thanked. But I should like, again, to assure any noble Lord, who feels that he has not been properly responded to at this juncture, that his contribution has been gratefully received. I hope that I have demonstrated that the Government have done well in their first year and that we have started to make good some of the deficiencies which we found when we came into office.

Many people have suggested that a 3 per cent. growth in defence spending is ambitious, given our present economic performance. The noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, whose contribution was particularly welcome, subscribed to this view. Well, it may be ambitious, but I would reply by saying that we believe that we cannot afford not to increase our defence spending in our present circumstances and that it is right to look at total public spending and not at defence spending in isolation.

The Government took their decisions on total public expenditure against a background of current and forecast performance of the economy and decided what could be afforded. Within the reduced overall total there has to be a judgment of the priorities, and this Government give clear and high priority to our national security. We accept that spending more on defence means spending less on some other programmes.

It is not therefore so much a question of the direct economic cost of sustaining real growth in defence spending; it is the opportunity cost in terms of the programmes forgone elsewhere. Nevertheless, we stand by our judgment of what is necessary and we are determined to allocate resources to meet those needs. Adequate defence must come first, and this Government intend to ensure that it does.

On Question, Motion agreed to.