§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Lord Soames rose to move, That this House takes note of the White Paper The United Kingdom Defence Programme—The Way Forward (Cmnd. 8288).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think the House has been looking forward to this debate. What is more, I believe this is true also of many outside who care about our country's defences and who look to this House, with its unique fund of experience and its lack of constraints and pressures of a representational character, for a debate of great value: indeed, something which perhaps could not be matched in any other forum.
§ The reverse of that coin is that there is a long list of those who intend to contribute to this debate, including three maiden speakers—the noble Earl, Lord Orkney, and the noble Lords, Lord Mayhew and Lord Thomas, all of whom we look forward to hearing with the greatest interest. But this long list of speakers imposes on us all, I suggest, the need for self-restraint and brevity in relation to what is a vast topic with national and international security ramifications of the highest order. I must practise what I preach and therefore I propose to concentrate on a few general aspects of this most important White Paper.
§ The debate will doubtless feature the results set out in the White Paper of what was a thorough and fundamental review of how our national defence requirements could best be assured for a medium-term 8 future within the inevitable financial constraints. There were a number of reasons why such a fundamental review was necessary. First, there is the remorseless build-up of Soviet military strength in recent years, both in size and quality: that is, accuracy, destructive power and range. We have seen the deployment of growing numbers of Soviet missiles, aircraft, tanks, submarines and ships. This faces us with an increasing threat in the NATO area. Further-more, the Soviets' ruthless invasion of Afghanistan, with the implications that that could have for the Middle East, is a further sharp reminder of the need for a Western capability to act outside the NATO area if and when our interests and our friends require it.
§ Thus we are faced with a growing threat in quantitative, qualitative and geographical terms, greatly exceeding anything that the Soviets could reasonably require for defensive purposes. The Government are convinced that this calls for a major defence effort from the alliance and that the United Kingdom must make its proper contribution. So with defence expenditure already 8 per cent. higher than it was three years ago, we are now planning on four further years of 3 per cent. increase per annum in real terms, in line with the recent decision in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. But—and this is the second reason for our fundamental review—even these increased resources will not allow for the continuation of all the hitherto planned force levels and equipment of our armed forces, largely because of the great increase in recent years both of sophistication, and therefore of cost. To give just one example, the cost of the Harrier aircraft is today four times, in real terms, the cost of the Hunter which it replaced.
§ Against this background we are in grave danger of trying to do too much across the whole defence field, ending up doing too little on too broad a front. Then there is the related fact that technological advance is sharply changing the whole defence environment. The ability of modern weapons to find targets and to hit them first time at long ranges has improved to the point where it has enormously increased the vulnerability of hitherto traditional platforms such as aircraft and surface ships. So the review needed to include a reappraisal of the balance between platforms and weapons both to take advantage of improved strike-power and to lessen vulnerability.
§ So much, then, for the reasons underlying this major reappraisal of our future defence effort. Hopefully, we have learnt some lessons from past mistakes. We have over the years under successive Governments seen the costly cancellation of many weapons systems at various stages of their development. We cannot look too far ahead, but we hope this time to be proved to be acting within the realms of the possible in fixing our expenditure in real money terms for the next four years, and that we will see the programmes planned for that period reach fruition.
§ Given the necessities and motives of the review it was, I suggest, inevitable that more emphasis should be put on some aspects of our defence and less on others. But in no way did it take the form of a kind of sterile argument between the proportions of expenditure which should be allocated to each, or any, of the three Services. I suggest to your Lordships that it 9 should be seen for what it was—a review of our defence capability as a whole, and an earnest of the Government's determination to continue to carry out our essential roles on the central front in Europe, in the defence of the United Kingdom and of our sea lanes, on the flanks of NATO, and to have some forces available for operations outside the NATO area. All these roles go on and are essential to us and to the alliance.
§ I hope the House will not take it amiss if, given the time constraints upon me, I refer only in general terms to the changes announced in the White Paper. Generally speaking, we consider that a 3 per cent. increase in real terms for the next four years permits us to increase the effectiveness of our defences by providing better equipped, harder hitting and better trained forces with more staying power. That was our objective. We are strengthening the defence of the United Kingdom base by increasing the number of modern fighter aircraft for our air defence and increasing the air tanker support. We shall be making greater use of our naval and air reserves and expanding the Territorial Army.
§ At sea, our major role will still be in the East Atlantic and Channel, albeit with some shift of emphasis towards maritime air systems and submarines. Our surface fleet will be somewhat smaller, but with the introduction of the Type 23 frigate our intention is that each vessel will spend more of its life available for operations. Abandoning what is today the, alas!, most costly mid-life modernisation of surface ships will, over time, allow us, we believe, to reduce some of our support costs, notably in the dockyards.
§ As well as increasing the submarine fleet, both nuclear and diesel powered, we shall introduce larger numbers of the new Nimrod aircraft. The enlarged air tanker fleet will give us a greater maritime air attack capability, and we shall be providing new guided missiles for use against surface ships. We shall retain the three Royal Marine Commandos and strengthen the capability of our forces for operations outside the NATO area. On the Continent, our commitment under the Brussels Treaty of providing 55,000 troops remains and they will have more modern equipment. They will have, in short, stronger teeth and a smaller tail.
§ Apart from that, we shall be improving the effectiveness and staying power of our forces on the Continent by increasing their war stocks in general, and ammunition supplies in particular. The staying power of the 1st British Corps, for example, will, as a result, be increased by somewhere between 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. Though this may sound unglamorous it is, in fact, an important aspect of the totality of our deterrent force. For when the Russians know that the allies on the European front are going to be able to hold our ground for a considerable period of time, this surely reduces any temptation there may be for a Blitzkrieg.
§ A word now about our nuclear forces in general, and Trident in particular. The plans we inherited in 1979 from the last Labour Government were to modernise Polaris with Chevaline. We were also faced with the fact that, with the constant improvements in offensive and defensive technology, by the early 1990s both the Polaris boats and the updated missile 10 system would be fast losing their credibility. Since we were convinced that we should retain our strategic nuclear ability, decisions therefore had to be reached on the successor platform and missile.
§ The most careful and thorough. examination that we set in motion showed beyond doubt to us that Trident was the right answer, and by far the most cost-effective weapon. With a range of 4,500 miles, it can disappear into the vastness of the deep in almost total safety, and each submarine could hit over 100 targets over a vast area of the Soviet Union. This amounts to no mean deterrent.
§ Two questions. First, should we be staying in the deterrent business at all? Secondly, as a corollary of that, would the money be better spent on, say, hunter-killer submarines or other conventional weapons? This is not the first time that we have faced such questions. There has been a constant development of our deterrent capability, beginning with the decision of Mr. Attlee's Government to create the V-bomber force, the later development of the hydrogen bomb, then the deployment of Polaris and, most recently, the plan to update it with Chevaline.
§ These decisions have been taken by successive Governments, Conservative and Labour. But the theme has been constant, that every Government with the responsibility of being in power has come down in favour of the wisdom of this country making a contribution to the nuclear deterrence of the West. So the theme has been constant, but just as constant, I must say, has been the Labour Party's threat, when in opposition, to jettison our nuclear deterrent. Yet when in power, with the advantage of all the professional and expert advice then available to them, they proceed not only to live with it, but to improve it—and very rightly, too.
§ I remember, and many noble Lords may remember, Mr. Harold Wilson saying in the general election of 1964 that he was going, somehow, if the Labour Party won the election, to "internationalise" the deterrent and change the way in which it could be ordered and commanded. But when the Conservative Party returned to power in 1970, there was the deterrent not changed in any way, except that it had been, to some extent, improved; and this is, I think, understandable. But, so far as I know, no noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite disputed, when they were in power up to 1979, the wisdom of maintaining our deterrent and, indeed, improving it with Chevaline; and I suspect that, if they were to find themselves back in Government again, they would still be persuaded by the very same arguments.
§ To those who favour the argument that it would be more advantageous for us to spend the Trident money on conventional weapons, I shall not waste the time of your Lordships' House repeating—because so often has it been repeated before—the actual expense and cost of Trident and the proportion that is of our total defence expenditure. But I would ask your Lordships to ponder for a moment on what the Russians might think about this argument. Perhaps we should ask ourselves whether the Russians would rather see us introduce more killer submarines, more tanks or more conventional surface ships; or would Trident perhaps make them pause longer?11
§ I believe that one has only to pose that question to know the answer. It must surely be that the appalling damage which could be inflicted on the Soviet Union by the Trident force is an immeasurably greater deterrent to war than any increase we could make to our conventional forces. It is also, as a result of that perhaps, significantly more cost-effective. A decision by the United Kingdom to renounce its strategic nuclear force, no matter what implications that carried for an increase in conventional forces, would surely weaken rather than strengthen the deterrent capability of the alliance.
§ There are also those who argue that we should abandon our nuclear capability, because the possession of nuclear weapons by this country serves to make the United Kingdom a priority target in any conflict that might break out. In a Question last Friday, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, suggested that the wishes of certain local authorities to have their areas declared nuclear-free zones should be respected. With respect, this is a totally fallacious argument. Does anybody believe that if during the last war Coventry had declared itself a weapon-free city it could have escaped attack? Regrettable as it is, it remains a harsh military fact that, if a war should break out, our political, geographical and industrial importance, let alone our military importance, would inevitably make the United Kingdom a primary target. The possession of nuclear weapons does not alter that basic fact. In fact, the reverse of the argument is true. It is the alliance's deterrent capability, of which our contribution is no mean a part, which makes the risk of war less. Our nuclear forces make it less likely that any conflict would break out and therefore less likely that the United Kingdom would ever be attacked.
§ So far as tactical nuclear weapons are concerned, the Government remain firmly committed to NATO's December 1979 decision to modernise its long-range theatre nuclear forces by the deployment of ground launched cruise missiles and Pershing IIs, while at the same time seeking negotiations to limit such forces on both sides.
§ As noble Lords will be aware, over the past few months there has been a concentrated and sustained effort by the Soviets to call into question the need for any NATO modernisation of theatre nuclear weapons, on the ground that parity in that area already exists. That might he useful propaganda, but in no way is it approaching reality. We must hope that this is not a sign that the Russians will be unwilling to enter into serious and well-documented discussions in the autumn. Meanwhile, let none of us be deluded.
§ Those who say that we and our allies should unilaterally abandon the deployment of cruise missiles are I am afraid, be it wittingly or be it unwittingly, playing the Russian game. For the Soviet Union have already deployed 200 of their medium range SS20 missiles and they are increasing that deployment at the rate of one a week, while we have nothing except our ageing Vulcan bombers and the American F1–11 aircraft, with a question mark over the ability of either for very long to be able to penetrate the Russian defences.
I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I indulge myself in quoting a few words from a speech which I
made when winding up a defence debate in another place as long ago as 1958. As some of your Lordships may remember, the burning issue of the day at that time was the deployment of American missiles in this country. I said the following:
When we are framing our speeches for a defence debate, we cannot help feeling a great sense of awe at the terms of terrible destruction in which we have to speak when discussing the topics with which this House has been dealing. I know that I felt it deeply, and the more one thinks about these problems, the more one becomes convinced of the dire necessity for broad and far-reaching disarmament agreements between the Communist and Western worlds".
I submit that that is as true today as it was 23 years ago.
§ Then, as now, the propaganda of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was having some impact, but the fact is that since that time we have had peace. Would we have been so lucky if the unilateral disarmers in the West had had their way then? Who can tell? But what is surely beyond argument is that the deterrent has had at least some part to play in the keeping of peace. And at our peril would we reject that.
§ This is a view which is shared by all the Governments among our allies. Doubtless your Lordships will have taken note of the new French President's recent insistence on the importance of the European allies fulfilling the NATO decision on nuclear theatre forces, something to which the Chancellor of West Germany has for long been dedicated. Of course we must work with a genuine desire to achieve by international agreement the control and, hopefully, the reduction of arms in general and nuclear weapons in particular. Let us strive for that—we must—but for God's sake let us not take the risk of throwing our own deterrent away without achieving a proper balance in return.
§ I hope noble Lords will feel that although they may not agree with every detailed decision announced in the White Paper, at least it represents a realistic and laudable attempt by the Government as a whole, and by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my noble friend Lord Trenchard in particular, to grapple with the daunting problems of how best to defend ourselves in this highly dangerous world, with all the commitments that we have, with our limited resources and with future plans complicated by the rapid escalation both in sophistication and cost of modern weaponry. It is bold to plan on increasing our defence expenditure at 3 per cent. per annum in real terms, for who can tell, in the face of so many unknown quantities, how our gross domestic product will move in those years? But in the face of the vast expansion of Soviet military might, we have our obligations to the alliance, upon which our whole security depends, to increase our defence expenditure along with our partners. There are certain aspects of defence, notably a contribution to the strategic deterrent, the defence of our vital sea lanes and a state of readiness for possible operations outside the NATO area, to which this country can and should bring a unique contribution to the defence of Western interests.
§ We are already spending 5.2 per cent. of our gross domestic product on defence, a higher proportion after the United States than any of our other NATO allies. Of course it is true that money spent on defence is money which cannot be spent on other vital needs. But, given the hideous spectre of modern war, we 13 believe that the mass of our people do not begrudge money properly spent on the nation's security. I emphasise the word "properly", for they do want assurance that these enormous sums are being spent wisely and to good effect. It is up to all of us who make it our business to study these matters of prime national importance and great complexity to ensure that this is so—that it is money well spent, and to persuade the people of it. The Government are convinced that the White Paper points the way. I beg to move.
§ Lord Peart
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, will he withdraw any impression he may have given that any noble Lords on these Benches were wittingly playing Russia's game? I think he must withdraw that accusation.
§ Lord Soames
My Lords, I would not withdraw any accusation if the cap fits, but if the cap does not fit … I said, whether wittingly—
§ Several noble Lords: No.
§ Lord Soames
I said, whether wittingly or unwittingly—and not only in this House but in the country as a whole. There are many who, wittingly or unwittingly, advocate unilateral nuclear disarmament, and I repeat that any who do that are wittingly or unwittingly, in my view, playing the Russian game.
§ The Lord Chancellor (Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone)
Forgive me, my Lords, but I am now going to put the Question. The Question is, that the said Motion be agreed to.
§ Moved, That this House takes note of the White Paper The United Kingdom Defence Programme—The Way Forward (Cmnd. 8288).—(Lord Soames.)
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Lord Peart
My Lords, the noble Lord has spoken for much longer than I thought he would. I shall try to keep very close to a much shorter timetable. I am not complaining about the noble Lord going on longer; I think he made an effective case for his point of view. No doubt later in the debate there will be arguments as to whether we should have Trident or whether we should continue in the way we are doing. I accept that the defence paper is a very good one; I do not agree with all that is in it, but at least it gives one information and it also stresses important points on defence from a local point of view.
Not long ago I was fortunate enough to pay a visit to the Army of the Rhine with some of my colleagues on both sides of the House. I am so glad that the Army of the Rhine was mentioned in the Defence White Paper and that it is not to be destroyed by removing manpower back to this country. I think I am speaking for noble Lords and particularly for the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, who arranged the visit—the morale of the Army is magnificent. This applied to the RAF, the Black Watch—the regiment we met—and also to those gunners who were operating missile sites. I was a gunner and I was very proud to see them 14 in operation. So that is one example where our people are playing a major role in the defence of Europe and also really within NATO. We must remember that we are members of NATO and when we talk about defence it is basically our commitment to NATO.
I believe that we are now possibly on the eve of a major summit in Canada. The noble Lord, Lord Soames, will have been following the press and I am certain that Helmut Schmidt will tackle President Reagan and will see that he is aware that the time has now come for more negotiations. It is all very well talking about the Russian bogey. We must negotiate. That is why on every defence occasion in this House I have argued for the need to have an extension of the strategic arms limit and to create a situation whereby we can get together. It is no good using strong words to the Russians at this stage; whether they are weak is for them to decide, but I believe it is right and proper that we should continue with the search for strategic arms limitation to work successfully. I am glad that the noble Lord has said so.
Indeed, one noble Lord from the other side of the House, the Foreign Secretary, has already done sterling work. His visit which enabled him to talk with the Russians direct over Afghanistan was a major achievement and I hope that one day very soon the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will again achieve success in a much larger theatre of operations. So I hope we do not have this anti-Russian bogey played up too much. In the end we must negotiate with them and they must negotiate with us, and with the Americans and in NATO. So I do not see why we should be too testy about it.
On the other hand, I recognise that we have our problems. We have to work out in our own minds whether or not we have Trident or something else. That is something that I am certain will be raised continually today. I will not deal with it because already my time has been frittered away partly because I answered the noble Lord. I believe that, on the whole, from the domestic point of view this defence paper is very reasonable.
On the other hand it is no good the Government pretending that they are not harming some of our good citizens. Many of the mayors in the south-west have protested strongly to the Government and they are of different political complexions. The Conservatives have been strongly critical about destroying the role of the Navy, cutting down Chatham, and the same applies to other bases in other parts of the country. May I say to the noble Lord that it will not be easy to get the right people to operate these bases, because of the cuts that have been made. The noble Lord is head of the Civil Service and he is responsible for some of our industrial civil servants in different parts of the country. He must realise that there is tremendous anxiety at the present time. The cuts have been made and I believe they will hurt, and in many cases they will mean that we shall be losing skilled men whom we cannot afford to lose. It is no good relying on a sophisticated defence system unless we have the trained personnel to operate it. That is why it is important to have colleges of technology, which are now under attack from the Government in another way.
15 If I may just add a lighter note, the latest United States military aircraft moved into a hangar recently because it was not operational on account of its sophistication. It has now been nicknamed "the hangar queen". What I am trying to prove is that we must have good technology and we can have it only if we have the trained men who come out of our colleges of technology, and indeed others at university level. I believe there will be irreparable harm done to the services because of the failure to have that recruitment which is so essential to our industrial base. I think my time is up. I hope the debate continues and that it will be good tempered. There has been a bit of heat, but it was not my fault—I am sorry to say!
§ 3.26 p.m.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, I promise that I do not propose to detain your Lordships for more than a quarter of an hour—which is rather more than the six minutes which seems to be sufficient for the Leader of the Opposition. I shall not examine in detail the decision of the Minister of Defence to scrap or mothball something like a third of the Navy's ships and eventually to replace frigates and destroyers with new frigates and, to some extent, with hunter-killer submarines. Nor shall I attempt to judge whether that is to our advantage, because frankly we have not had the time to go into it in detail. It may well be that, given our limited financial resources and provided that we really are not as a result—and perhaps the Government will tell us about this in the winding-up speech—going back on our NATO obligations to increase our real expenditure by 3 per cent. (the Government have only said that; they have not pointed out how it is to happen), the new policy would be the best way to prevent the Soviet Murmansk fleet from getting into the Atlantic. Or perhaps not. Other noble Lords who are better qualified than I am will no doubt pronounce on that in the course of the debate.
But to my mind one thing stands out a mile, in spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Soames, has said. For the price of Trident, we could, among other things, such as additional tanks and hardened airfields, produce substantially more hunter-killer submarines over the years. That specific point was made by the Guardian defence correspondent some little while ago, when he said:As a result of the Trident commitment there will be a seven-year gap in the construction of nuclear hunter-killer submarines at Vicker's Barrow-in-Furness yard, while the Trident submarines are built there. Mr. Nott said recently that there were no plans to re-open a second nuclear submarine line at Cammell Laird's Merseyside yard. So while he may be 'shifting the emphasis of the Navy's submarine effort', he is not able to put substantial new resources into the North-Eastern Atlantic for this purpose".
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me. For the price of five hunter-killer nuclear submarines, which would cost a billion pounds, and therefore it would be only 25 extra submarines—does he think, in the words of my noble friend, that that would actually deter the men in the Kremlin more effectively than Trident?
Yes, my Lords, I do because we could spend the additional £6 billion not only on more hunter-killer submarines but on other things as well. That is my considered view. Anyhow, all such speculations are naturally based on the assumption that war, if it should come, would not be nuclear. That is what we are talking about. And if it is not nuclear, our whole future may well depend on the number of our hunter-killer submarines. If, on the other hand, for one reason or another, the war is nuclear, then there is little point in speculating whether one kind of conventional defence is better than another. As has been said many times, in a nuclear war there cannot be a victor. Indeed, given the present superiority of the Soviet Union in nuclear weapons of all kinds, and more particularly given their present ability to devastate Europe with their SS20s without European retaliation, there is little doubt that, even if the super powers were exempt, which is quite possible, much of Continental Europe, and possibly part of this country too, would emerge from such a war as an uninhabitable wilderness. In any case, and whether or not Polaris—and, subsequently, Trident—would be able to deter the adversary from reducing the United Kingdom to such a state, the actual decision to wage nuclear war will depend not on us but on the super powers.
However, could our strategic nuclear force, whatever it may consist of, nevertheless play such a deterrent role? In theory, yes, it could. If the Americans had made first use of nuclear weapons in Europe and an interchange in the so-called theatre of operations if these appalling missiles had duly taken place, it is true that a declaration on our part of our intention, if bombed, to bomb Moscow might give us some immunity. That is possible. However, that would presumably depend on Soviet appreciation of the fact that United States nuclear weapons in this country were not being used in a first strike. The essential function of cruise missiles is, however, to prevent the first use by the Russians of their SS20s, thus maintaining the general nuclear balance, and a general nuclear balance is the thing.
On the other hand, it is entirely possible that if the Americans did not make first use of nuclear weapons and allied armies were pushed back to the Rhine, it is inconceivable that we should, over the heads of the Americans and even the Germans, threaten to use our strategic nuclear weapons to impede a Soviet advance, thus deliberately courting national suicide. Assuming that the Soviet Government did not themselves proceed to use this weapon, which is possible but unlikely, the war would then be decided by "conventional" means—including, no doubt, some kind of air and sea blockade of this country and indeed of France. But to argue that the Russians, even if initially successful, would be bound to win such a war with the Americans, as I have seen suggested in the press, is pure defeatism. If that were so, why should we have any "conventional" weapons at all? Anyhow, I believe that most of our people, though still prepared to die, if necessary, resisting an alien dictatorship, would not, as to many of them, consciously opt for national obliteration.
There is another scenario now accepted as possible by the Government. What would happen if the Americans gave up the defence of Europe in despair 17 and went back to America? The Government seem to think that we could then still rely on the mere existence of Trident, and perhaps also of the French force de frappe, to discourage the Russians from ever attempting to overrun Western Europe or, indeed, ever risking war anywhere in the world. This is much the same as the original "Duncan Sandys" theory, if I may so describe it, announced way back in 1957 when reliance was, I rather think, placed on a rocket called Blue Streak which subsequently, as we all know, streaked into oblivion. Alas! the theory that the mere possession of nuclear weapons in itself averts war, even if valid once, no longer holds good. The balance of terror may or may not have prevented for many years a major war between the super powers, though it has not prevented goodness knows how many rather vicious conventional wars all over the world; but a general war between the super powers may also have been prevented by the preponderance in world politics, until recently, of the United States of America. Nevertheless, if the theory is valid, it applies to the balance between the super powers and not to the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union.
It would be absurd to suggest that this country, or indeed France, could prevent war in (shall we say?) the Middle East from spreading to Europe by brandishing her nuclear weapons. It is just possible that America could, but only on the assumption that the United States of America builds up an indisputable nuclear preponderance, which seems to be rather unlikely. Either "Western Union", which means Western Europe, would have to be able successfully to hold the fort on land, on sea and in the air by its own "conventional" efforts, which is highly improbable, or it would be overwhelmed. In fact all such speculation is rather otiose. What would happen if the Americans went back to America would be the emergence of neutralist government in the Western European democracies and, I am afraid, even in this country, who would be prepared to negotiate some deal with the Soviet Union.
It must surely be clear that, just as the primary function of American nuclear weapons is to deter the use of Soviet nuclear weapons not only against America but also against the whole alliance, so any British strategic nuclear deterrent can have only one conceivable use—which is to deter, or help to deter, the first use of Russian nuclear weapons against this country. If it is really thought that this capability is essential, even though the Soviet Union in the absence of the Americans could no doubt reduce us to impotence by air and sea blockades, then we could, if necessary, in, say, 10 years' time—when Polaris is becoming no longer effective—and presumably in the absence of disarmament or in the absence of some complete ABM system in the USSR, purchase from our departing friends some of what could be the latest and possibly the most effective weapons—submarine, cruise or other—which might in theory give us a certain immunity from Russian nuclear attack and would in any case preserve us from the possible threats of some irresponsible dictator such as Colonel Gaddafi.
What is clear however is that to spend a great deal of money now on Trident at the necessary expense of our conventional forces is to run a grave and unnecessary 18 risk. Why are we apparently prepared to run this risk? I have heard it argued by responsible people that the chief reason is that if we, as they say, "opt out" of the nuclear arms race by deciding not to replace Polaris now, we shall suffer a loss of prestige which will diminish our standing in the alliance and reduce us to the status of a second-rate power, with the French remaining the European "Great Power" to whom all would consequently turn for leadership.
Apart from the fact that we could always, if we had to, continue to be a nuclear power of some sort after Polaris is phased out, I regard this argument as totally unrealistic. Does anyone really think that in the Atlantic Council, M. Mitterrand has more influence because he has behind him the force de frappe? Is it seriously believed that when it comes to any bargaining in the Community, the French will be in a more powerful position because of their theoretical ability to bomb Moscow? The grim fact is that the force de frappe will have only the same limited power of deterrence as Polaris or Trident, and that in the absence of American presence and support it would be equally useless as protection against the ultimate hegemony of the Soviet Union.
What, therefore, could ensure such protection against hegemony by the Soviet Union? Pending disarmament, or the limitation of armaments, only the strengthening of the present alliance in a conventional sense could ensure that. This is not defeatism; it is the reverse. The Russians do not want a war and a war is only likely if the two super powers are drawn into some conflict, almost against their will, over (shall we say?) the inability of the American Administration to induce the Israelis to carry out their obligations under the second stage of the Camp David agreement, or for any other reason.
Conjured out of existence by inspired diplomacy and a renewed disposition to come to terms with arms limitation though such dangers may be in the coming years—and we must all devoutly hope that they will be and work together for that end—there is none the less no doubt that they do exist. We must therefore insure against them in Europe and we shall probably be faced soon in in any case with the necessity of taking over part of the American commitment to defend the Continent by "conventional" means. Already we hear serious suggestions that the European nations—some of whom are now just as rich as their protectors—should provide the equivalent of two new armoured divisions to take the place of United States contingents that henceforward may be earmarked not for reinforcement of Europe but for the "rapidly mobilisable" force for possible deployment elsewhere.
Could the Western European democracies respond to such a suggestion—and it may soon be a demand—if they put their minds to it, without any fearful effects on their economies? Of course they could. If, instead of pouring out billions for the purpose either of maintaining 1 in 12 or 1 in 10 of their workers in idleness, or of paying them to produce certain unsaleable goods, they pooled their research and development; arranged for many of the unemployed to produce the necessary new additional conventional weapons; and, in our case, for some thousands to join the Services in order to deploy them, they could at one and the same time raise the nuclear threshold, increase the 19 chances of peace, preserve the Atlantic alliance, and in all probability stimulate their economies and put new heart into the whole industrial system.
Nor could anybody say that this was preparing for a war or provoking the Russians. On the contrary, far from appearing to overwhelm them by pursuing the will-o'-the-wisp of nuclear superiority, it could, by calming apprehensions, represent the first real step forward towards a negotiated settlement with the Soviet Union. As it seems to me, it is such possibilities as these which should now be the main preocupation of the Foreign Ministers and indeed of the Defence Ministers of the Community.
My Lords, to pursue such a policy in this country would clearly require a Government capable of instilling in our industrial workers some feeling of national purpose. It would also necessitate an abandonment of the strict principles laid down by the guru, who, though beloved by our leader, is, I believe, held by some to be an unqualifiable leprechaun. It might mean taking, along with the French Government, some economic risks. But it would surely be better than mouldering on with 3 million unemployed or more, and only an unusable virility symbol at the end of the tunnel. I do not say, of course, that turning over from Trident to the increased production of conventional armaments would itself effect such a desirable revolution, but it certainly would help.
I will rest my case, and conclude, by quoting from a recent article by Professor Michael Howard, now Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, and formerly Chichele Professor of Military History at that university, whose views of these matters, and indeed whose admirable interpretation of the doctrines of the great Clausewitz will, I feel, command considerable respect. After deploring the present insensate rush to produce ever more devastating and complicated weapons of destruction, without apparently, at any rate on the part of the United States, any reasonable politico/strategic objective, and pointing in these circumstances to the continuing necessity of constructing some credible conventional system of defence, he concludes:It is politically much easier, much less of a social strain, to produce nuclear missiles rather than trained, effective, military manpower, and to believe that a valid trade-off has somehow been made between the two. It has not. And the more deeply we become committed to this belief, on both sides of the Atlantic, the greater will be the danger that we are trying to avoid: on the one hand, the impossibility of defending the specific areas and interests that are seriously threatened by a potential adversary, and, on the other, the possibility that, in a lethal mixture of hubris and despair, we might one day feel ourselves compelled to initiate a nuclear war. Such a war might or might not achieve its object: but I doubt whether the survivors on either side would very greatly care".In other words, the nuclear balance is the thing—and there, at least, I agree with the Government—gradually lowered, it must be hoped, by negotiation, but still a balance. For, short of some fully effective ABM system, which seems impossible for many years—and is in any case impossible for Western Europe—neither side—and I repeat "neither side"—can expect to impose its will by building up a first-strike nuclear capability, hoping, if war should come, and in spite of huge inevitable losses, to "win" a first-strike nuclear war. For though the presumed political 20 objective, namely, the physical elimination of a hated political régime, might thereby be achieved, it could only be at the cost of the acceptance, if not of anarchy, at least of some inconceivably dreadful new régime at home. It is for these reasons that I commend the wise words of Professor Howard to the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ Lord Hill-Norton
My Lords, we are asked by the noble Lord the Lord President to take note of the White Paper. It would be difficult, for me at least, not to do so, since it represents the second attempt by a Tory Government in the last 24 years to destroy the Royal Navy. It will not, therefore, surprise your Lordships if I address most of my remarks today to what is now so foolishly proposed for the service whose uniform I have worn for more than 50 years.
But, before doing so, it would only be fair to welcome certain aspects of the White Paper. I concede with pleasure that an attempt has been made, for the first time for many years, to carry out a Defence Review on the right basis, even if it has been constrained from the beginning by a fixed monetary ceiling, arbitrarily chosen, and quite unrelated to a geopolitical, much less military, requirement. The fact that the Government have arrived at the wrong solution is their fault and not the fault of the method. I shall say where and why I think they have got the wrong answers.
I welcome the announced increase in the staying power of the Rhine Army by increasing its war stocks, though I have not found a corresponding mention of parallel increases for Royal Air Force Germany, without which, of course, the Army increases will be of very little value. I agree with the Government that such increases will serve significantly to raise the nuclear threshold in Europe, as will the much needed improvement to the weapons available to both services in Germany, and to the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom. It is good news, too, that the Territorial Army is to be substantially increased, though whether, or when, the increased numbers will be given suitable kit and weapons is not mentioned.
We are also invited to welcome the commitment to increased defence spending by 3 per cent. over the next three or four years. But what, my Lords, is the magic of this 3 per cent.? It is unrelated, as I have just said, to any strategic assessment of requirements and is merely what the Government think the market will bear. You cannot buy defence like you buy soap powder in a grocer's shop, though the whole thrust of this White Paper seems to be based on that simplistic notion. Finally, I warmly welcome the intention modestly to improve capability of the Army and the Royal Air Force for out of area operations, even though that of the Navy, which would be more useful there than either, has been sharply reduced.
I feel constrained to remark first on the management of defence, for the changes so recently made in ministerial responsibilities seem to me a wholly retrograde step, by detaching the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State from the three individual services, apparently, or so the announcement implied, for fear that they might become too closely identified with their single service as opposed to defence as a whole. Surely 21 the whole object of appointing the service Ministers always has been to represent the point of view of services of which they acquire detailed knowledge, and of the men and women in them, both to Parliament and to the Cabinet.
We have two greatly distinguished former First Lords of the Admiralty in your Lordships' House and, having served under both of them, I can recall no instance in which their loyalties were divided to the point of embarrassment to the Government of the day; indeed, I have always supposed that the reverse was true. Loyalty can exist only when members of any team share a belief in their objectives, and share a determination to achieve them; it can certainly not be ordained, much less organised. I find it a regrettable sign of weakness by the Government that such an attempt should have been made. Management, and more important to the armed forces of the Crown, leadership, will be the poorer for it.
I turn from the general to the particular. The Government's thinking—if I may so dignify the process—seems to be based on several demonstrably false assumptions which flow almost certainly from sheer ignorance of the total defence problem. There is certainly some political adroitness in what is before us, but no intellectual consistency, much less any sign that strategic realities have been studied and measures appropriate to deter them or to deal with them, has been devised. I am not alone in this view of the White Paper as a whole, for it was described in the other place two weeks ago as:faulty in reasoning, incomplete in strategy and totally mysterious in arithmetic"—and so it is, as I shall seek to show. That is not really surprising, partly in the light of what I have just said about management; partly by the very short acquaintance with the subject of the Ministers now responsible; and partly from a dogged refusal to accept the advice of those who are constitutionally responsible for giving it. I refer, of course, to the Chiefs of Staff who have felt obliged to exercise their right to represent their anxiety about this review to the Prime Minister twice in the last six months. I do not believe that that has happened before in this century.
The three most damaging false assumptions to which I have referred are, first, that any future war in Europe will be short and therefore the problem of reinforcement and re-supply across the Atlantic is of secondary importance, which wholly misunderstands the concept of deterrence. Secondly, if we abandon the NATO task in the North Atlantic someone else will do our job for us; which no other European ally can, and the Americans are already so overstretched that they will not do so. Thirdly, the job of surface warships in the Atlantic can be done by maritime aircraft and submarines; indeed, the White Paper at paragraph 26 actually says:Our most powerful vessels for maritime war are our nuclear-propelled attack submarines".I do not agree with that view and I know of no other war-experienced practising sailor who does do so. I have heard of some superficial, so-called scientific, theories upon which the Government's view may well be based, despite the complete lack of any operational or even experimental evidence in support of them. I 22 may be forgiven for preferring a widely-shared professional opinion of how best to deter, or if that fails, to fight a war at sea.
I should like to deal briefly with the first two of those false assumptions. Before remarking in more detail upon the effect of the White Paper proposals upon the Royal Navy, I must say at once that deterrence to all war, nuclear or conventional, long or short, is indivisible. It is as much in the mind of an aggressor as it is in our own. It applies as much in the Atlantic as it does in the central region of NATO, or as it does outside the NATO area. It depends critically upon a flexible response, enshrined from the outset in the North Atlantic Treaty. There is no scenario to which an allied response, and hence our own defence policy, could be seen to be adequate, which can be based upon a short war. The United States Secretary of Defense, Mr. Weinberger, said only a few weeks ago:The idea that all future wars will be short has been overtaken by events".Nor is the short war notion any part of NATO doctrine; and it is hard to see how anyone in the West planning for such a war, is planning to do anything but lose it. I need hardly remind your Lordships that both the last World Wars were expected by politicians, and thus by the public—on both sides—to be short wars. Nor need I remind your Lordships that we came very close to defeat in both of them, in the battles of the Atlantic.
As for the notion that somebody else will pick up the tab in the North Atlantic, we now provide 70 per cent, of all the allied forces there deployed, for 20 per cent. of our defence budget, and we provide 10 per cent. of the land air forces in the central region for 40 per cent. of our defence budget. There simply is no other ally with the means to do the maritime job. Moreover, our allies expect us to do it, and the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic has recently stated that his escort ship strength is even now only 50 per cent. of what he considers the necessary minimum. The United States Department of Defense report for fiscal year 1982 states:the powerful and operationally effective Royal Navy provides the bulk of the non-U.S. contribution".The International Herald Tribune recently commentedif British ships are taken out of service, there are no other allied naval forces to replace them. The US Navy is stretched so thin, and is so undermanned at the moment, that it could not possibly fill the gap".The same paper goes on to say:cuts in British naval strength will weaken the alliance's capability to fight a prolonged conventional war in Europe".One might have supposed that the Government were unaware of these simple truths; but when agreeing with a statement in another place recently thatthe principal role of the Royal Navy is to keep open the North Atlantic for reinforcement and re-supply, without which we could not survive",the Defence Secretary declared only two months ago:I entirely agree that a vital factor in any war on the central front will be the reinforcement of NATO, much of which will need to be done by sea"——he might have said, more accurately, 95 per cent. of which will have to be done by sea. NATO, as Melvin Laird said when he was the United States Defence Secretary, is "an alliance strung together by ships". 23 Reductions in our surface fleet must, in all these circumstances, strike at the very cohesion of the alliance upon which our whole defence policy is based.
What then is left of these ill-advised proposals, and what will be the outcome if they are given effect? It can only be the absurd notion, to which I have already referred, that the Atlantic lifeline can be kept open by maritime aircraft and submarines. I imagine that some of your Lordships may have seen Captain Stephen Roskill's comments on this foolish assessment, in his letter to The Times last month. No one in the country is a greater authority on naval warfare, and he described what is now proposed as the height of folly.
The mysterious arithmetic, to which I have already referred, was much discussed in the debate two weeks ago in another place. It appears, though it is far from clear, that the intention is to reduce our destroyer and frigate force from 59 ships, three of which are in reserve, to 50 ships, of which eight will be in reserve, or from 56 to 42. This is a huge reduction, but the facts may well be much worse. Mr. Speed, who has very good reason to know them, has asserted that 26 such ships will be disposed of in the next three or four years, with perhaps nine coming forward in the same time-scale. Whatever the truth may be—and I can understand the Government's reluctance to reveal it in plain terms—it seems clear enough that the operational escort fleet will be reduced by between 25 and 35 per cent.
The White Paper suggests that ample compensation will be made by adding three Nimrod aircraft, five nuclear-powered submarines (which represent no addition, because they were in the programme already) and some newly-designed diesel submarines arriving at the rate of one a year, starting about six years from now. I find it inconceivable that anyone, much less the responsible Ministers, could believe that such a preposterous rate of exchange could leave our capability unimpaired. It certainly cannot fail to reduce our capability to deter the Soviet fleet outside the NATO area, to which the White Paper rightly accords some priority. Moreover, it takes no account at all of the loss of some 20 helicopters, which fly from the destroyers and frigates, each of which is nearly as good an antisubmarine weapons system.
Maritime warfare today is a team business; surface ships, submarines, ship-borne aircraft, and maritime aircraft each have a part to play. Grossly to reduce any one element of that team fatally unbalances the whole, and an arbitrary decision on our part to change the shape of this allied deterrent in the North Atlantic makes nonsense of our emphasis on defence through the NATO Alliance.
I might perhaps add here that of the 20 new ships coming into service in the next five years, to which the White Paper gives some prominence, less than half are destroyers and frigates—the rest being mine countermeasures vessels and submarines—and that of the 20 ships concerned, 15 were ordered by the last Labour Government and only five by this Administration, of which just one is a major war vessel. To compound the folly, the Government propose to complete the last two big ships of the "Invincible" class, and then dispose of one of the three, thus paying their high 24 capital costs and failing to reap the reward of their very low running costs, when they are ideally suited, and unmatched by any other Navy in the alliance, for both Atlantic and out-of-area operations.
I must, before concluding, say a few words about Trident. As your Lordships are aware, I am totally convinced that the Government are right to go forward with this corner-stone of our defence policy, and there is no need for me to rehearse my reasons again. They were put cogently and briefly by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir William Dickson in a letter to The Times a few weeks ago, and it is more than a coincidence that his views are shared by three other former Chiefs of the Defence Staff; leaving the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, in a dissenting minority of one against four.
The proposition which the noble and gallant Lord has put to your Lordships in the past—and for all I know he may well do so again today—that an armament of immense power, unique in its politico-military nature, is of less strategic value than a necessarily modest increase in conventional forces, is certainly not self-evidently true, even if the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and perhaps some other noble Lords also believe it. In my view the very reverse is true; and the critics of the programme have lost the argument. What is depressing about it to me is that the repeated assurances that Ministers have given to Parliament that the Trident programme would not diminish our conventional forces, now seem to have been abandoned so far as the Navy is concerned. I find it even more depressing that last year we looked our American friends in the eye and told them that we would not be cutting our surface fleet to pay for Trident. Indeed, I have understood from the published papers that we obtained very generous terms from them, on the basis of that assurance, which has now plainly been broken. I am glad that it was not my word which was given.
I have spoken at greater length than usual, and greater length than the noble Lord the Lord President invited us to, because, for me, this is an unusual occasion. There are, however, two further points about the Royal Navy which I must mention briefly. The White Paper says that more naval training will be done at sea, rather than ashore. It is probably news for the Government that this has been tried before, only about 10 years ago; and it was shown not to work and to cost much more. Nor is any account taken in the White Paper of career structures; the vital importance of officers and sailors obtaining sea-going experience; and the whole morale of a service which is to lose 15 per cent. of its trained manpower. What, if any, thought have the Government given to problems of this nature? No doubt they will leave their solution to the professionals, whose advice on operational matters they have so arrogantly rejected. Thank goodness that we have immensely competent senior officers to make the best of this very bad job!
To conclude, I regard these savage cuts in the Royal Navy as a highly dangerous gamble with our national security. They flow from a misunderstanding of the threat, ignorance of the best means to counter it, disregard for the combined capability of the alliance, a mistaken assessment of priorities and a total neglect of history. War may be, as Talleyrand said, too serious a business for the generals; but defence policy 25 certainly seems too difficult a business for this Government. I am appalled by what is proposed; I am affronted by the way it has been done; and I am deeply concerned about the almost certain consequences.
Lord Home of the Hirsel
My Lords, will the noble and gallant Lord allow me to ask him to correct one fact about which I think he inadvertently misled the House? He spoke as though the 3 per cent. increase for five years was a figure snatched out of the air by the Government. Of course it was not. It was the figure asked for by the Secretary-General of NATO and all the allies.
§ Lord Hill-Norton
My Lords, with the utmost respect to the noble Lord, the figure was produced by the Secretary-General, who is as well known to me as he is to the noble Lord, Lord Home of the Hirsel, because that was what he thought the NATO market could bear.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Lord Thomas of Swynnerton
My Lords, I thought that it would be appropriate in a maiden speech to make some reflections on the nature of the Soviet threat as, naturally, had that not existed, we should not be discussing these other matters in the way we have. To historians it is certainly evident that the present size of Soviet military endeavour is something new. For example, in 1940 the Germans had some 2 million men under arms, and the Soviet Union now has something like twice that number. In 1940, again, the Germans, in the attack on the Western front had something like 2,700 tanks, whereas the Russians have added rather more to their armoury than that number during the course of 1980, as the White Paper has made clear.
If statistics of that sort seem rather old-fashioned to your Lordships, I think that we might also remember the size of Soviet industrial might. Whereas, for instance, in 1939 the Germans were producing about 24 million tonnes of crude steel in one year, the Russians are now producing 150 million tonnes of that commodity. That seems to give some indication of the size of Soviet industrial might. As for the other far more important weapons which we have been discussing in the Soviet domain, my noble friend Lord Soames mentioned the number of nuclear-powered missiles. I think that there is an even more important point to mention, and that is that, if we read Soviet military journals, we see that they make it perfectly clear that Soviet strategists do not distinguish, as we do, between a deterrent and a war-winning capacity.
It may be in the short term that the Soviet Union are interested in amassing this military might in order to force the West to withdraw in some repeat of the events of Cuba in 1962. That would not be deterrent capacity, that would be an intimidation capacity. But there is no doubt whatever—Soviet strategists make this clear in their writings—that if a war were to break out they are determined to use all weapons in order to win that war, nuclear or not, in order to ensure the survival of their system.
That said, I think there is no doubt that the Soviet Union are not interested in attempting to engage their forces in war against us at the present time. As my 26 noble friend Lord Chalfont may indicate later in the course of this debate, they are more interested in such matters as subversion, conspiracy and intimidation than in actual conflict. There is nothing in the Soviet or communist dogma to say that they are invigorated by the idea of war for its own sake, as was the case with the Nazis. Nevertheless, it must be said that the idea of conflict and the idea of the use of force plays an essential part in the Marxist ideology. Since it is obvious that force can be effective in the 20th century—perhaps even more than in any other century, who knows?—it is obvious that the Soviet Union have gone to great lengths in order to supply themselves with surrogate forces. Cuba has at the present time, if you will forgive another historical comparison, more men under arms than Frederick the Great of Prussia had at the height of his power.
Turning from the military aspect of these matters may I talk about the nature of the Soviet régime. I do not think that it is always appreciated that it is an unusual form of government. It is one that is very difficult indeed to make arrangements with. There are certainly many strands within the Soviet world. There is Russian nationalism; there is bureaucracy; there is an extremely reactionary side to the Soviet régime, of that there is no doubt, on matters such as environment, the status of women, or the status of ethnic populations, which interests many of us. That reactionary side is something which deeply shocks, or causes to be embarrassed, many communist parties in the West and elsewhere, whose attitudes are normally quite conventional on such matters.
All these strands are held together by the ideology of Marxist Leninism. That ideology should not be regarded as something which gives the Soviet leaders in every instance a chart, or a timetable, for what they should do. What it does certainly give them is some kind of compass which tells them how to direct and arrange their institutions and motives. These are individuals who regard themselves as subordinate to a scientific system whose victories are preordained historically.
The West has been facing this threat for something like a generation. I do not think the nature of the threat is very well understood in this country, nor perhaps in the West in general. We see many interesting films on television as to how badly the Germans behaved in the course of the last war, and there are films available as to how unpleasant a nuclear war would be. We do not see very clearly depicted the sort of régime that the Soviet Union has, nor what would happen if there happened to be a Soviet victory in a war against us. I think something could be done along those lines.
It is possibly difficult to represent in visual terms censorship or thought control, but nevertheless it could possibly be arranged to show that the best this country, or the West in general, can hope for in their relations with the Soviet Union is what Litvinov described as being the only possible aim; namely, an armed truce. This was a remark he made in 1946.
Many people have supposed that in the generation since 1945–46 the nature of Soviet expansionism has changed. We have seized on hopes that, for example, the death of Stalin, the accession of Khrushchev, the signature of the SALT I treaty might indicate a fundamental 27 change. This does not seem to me to have been the case.
It is desirable to be hopeful but it is not desirable to be naive, and there is no doubt that in the era of so-called détente we have seen, on the one hand, the very substantial build-up of Soviet military forces both in the conventional and nuclear sphere that we have been talking about, and also the display of Soviet ambitions through their surrogate forces in the most remote tropics, in which one would once have thought it inconceivable that a Soviet intervention could occur.
Others have seen in the changes within the Soviet Union another sign of hope or comfort. They point to the fact that the Soviet Union have not managed to fulfil Khrushchev's prophecy and overtake the West industrially by 1980. They point out that Soviet agriculture is unsuccessful. It is also easy to notice that in the nationalities within the Soviet empire there is a great deal of restlessness. Corruption is rife. But I do not think that from an analysis, or understanding, of those things one should draw the conclusion that the Soviet empire is about to crumble.
On the other hand, indeed it might very well be that these anxieties at their back may persuade the Soviet leaders to take advantage of any Western weakness and compensate, if they can, for domestic failure with military adventure. I am sure that that would be a possibility if they thought they had the slightest chance of getting away with it.
In these circumstances it would seem that something like the policy of preparedness indicated in the White Paper is essential. Indeed, in some respects it seems to be modest. I am told that it would not be appropriate to use a maiden speech to discuss the appropriateness of this or that weapon, but I think it probably would be appropriate to remind your Lordships that over the last generation the Soviet leaders have been at their most cautious and most responsible when they have been faced with a steadfast manner.
A good indication of this quite recently was the occasion to which the noble Lord, Lord Soames, pointed a few minutes ago in relation to 1979 when the West determined to modernise their long-range theatre nuclear forces, only to find that within a matter of months the Soviet Union were anxiously requesting discussions on arms control, whereas previously they had promised that should that modernisation go ahead it would be the end of all possible contact.
In the long run I must say that I think there is a possibility of optimism. This may seem a contradiction of what I said earlier, but it seems most unlikely that in the 20th century (an age of nationalism) nationalism or economic failure will not play the serpent in the Soviet paradise in the same way that the first of those things, nationalism, did so in the much gentler Western European empires in the past. That should give us some ground for comfort.
Perhaps this would be the unforessen element which the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, in a previous debate on this subject in this House, suggested might alter our picture of things by the 1990s. I hope very much that that will be so, since it is difficult to see that there could be a better hope than would follow from that for the achievement of real disarmament such as noble Lords on both sides of this House desire; for a real 28 removal of the threat of nuclear war, such as we all desire; and perhaps for the refurbishment of the brilliant, if somewhat bruised, heritage of the West.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the House will be greatly enriched by the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, who brings to it a wider knowledge and greater experience of world affairs in our generation and earlier ones than most of its new recruits. I am glad to have the opportunity to say that and of speaking immediately after him, and also just after his respected father-in-law, my noble friend Lord Gladwyn—I am all for families cropping up in this House—and I look forward with great pleasure to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Mayhew, whose speech on a very similar occasion nearly 20 years ago I remember as if it had been yesterday.
We heard a corker of a speech from the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton; without his inside knowledge of recent negotiations it would be quite presumptuous of me to say anything about that. I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, when he replies to the debate will be able to take up some of the points made by the noble Lord, particularly the graver allegations of bad faith towards the United States, which I fear is something we may hear more about, if indeed that was the way things went.
I share some of his more mildly expressed feelings about the cuts in the surface fleet, and by way of consolation to those who feel even worse about this than I do, I will tell a story about a recent radio interview in Moscow. A visiting inquirer from the West said to a Soviet pundit called Adamov, "Yes, but what about the death penalty?" and Adamov's answer was, "We regard the death penalty as a temporary measure". It may be permissible to hope—at least in the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton—that the death penalty inflicted on the Navy by the Government may turn out to be a temporary measure of the same sort.
The naval cuts are part—are they not?—of a rather spectacular decline in recent years in the maritime activities of this country altogether; it is not only the surface fleet which has been cut but it is the complete failure to succeed in building any warships for export, the drastic decline in the ability to build any ships for export, the shift of British shipping away from the British flag into flags of convenience, the reduced proportions of world trade carried in British bottoms and all the rest of it which has been debated so often and so despairingly in your Lordships' House.
I do not understand why we should have been overtaken by countries so similar to us as France, Italy, Germany and Holland in naval construction in general. If it were Japan, one could understand, but why should it have been the case with close neighbours with the same sort of economy? Some Government at some time—if not this Government, then another soon—will have to take this matter very sharply in hand to obtain the understanding of the reasons for this decline and to obtain the best methods to rectify it. I believe there is a wide open case (and a wide open market in other countries) for a new approach to the export of maritime products of all 29 sorts—the so-called offshore package, as I have described it to the House before—which would be a collection of small sturdy ships for coastal protection, fisheries protection, energy installation protection, the communications and command and control systems to go with them, and the experts to train the mariners of third world countries in running them. This is a market which is exploited very effectively by certain other countries, but not at all by ours. I do not know why that should be the case but we should find out; and I am certain that the new British Naval Equipment Association would be anxious to co-operate in any inquiry the Government might set up.
The Government appear to have forgotten that the Navy has other roles besides deterring Russian attack and fighting a war if it comes. There is the whole immense responsibility of keeping the peace in Her Majesty's recently expanded dominions. Those dominions have been increased recently fourfold by the annexation of sovereign rights over the seabed and, in cerain respects, over the waters above the seabed; and are about to be intensified by the taking of outright sovereign power over territorial waters out to 12 nautical miles, as was announced last month in the House of Commons. It is difficult to see how one can with one hand increase the extent of the dominion fourfold and with the other hand reduce the power of the only armed force which can stand to the civil power in respect of peace-keeping in that increased role.
A few words about a forgotten subject—I say "forgotten"; perhaps I should say "undiscussed"—and that is the North. We read all the time, in what we are able to glean of NATO planning, about the Greenland/Iceland/United Kingdom gap; the importance of bottling the Soviet fleet up on the right side of that if there should be a war. But I ask myself, as I ask the Government: Why is that the gap we talk about? Is Norway not a part of NATO? Why do we not talk about the Greenland/Svalbard/Norway gap; or, if that is too far north, the Bear Island gap or the Jan Mayen gap? That is where the frontier hits you in the face if you look at the map.
I was interested to read recently—I do not know how true the account was—that the Government had decided to send naval units to patrol in international waters round the North Cape in the Barents Sea. About time too, say I. The Soviet Union have been patrolling in the southern North Sea and we all know that there has been for years a Soviet listening ship permenently stationed between Ulster and the Clyde Estuary to keep track of the Polaris submarines, both British and American, which go in and out of the Clyde. There is another one just off the Shetlands monitoring radio traffic of all sorts up there. If they can do that, it is about time we exercised our corresponding right in the opposite direction, because rights which remain unexercised quickly become forfeited rights.
Svalbard—or Spitzbergen, to use its less accurate but more familiar name—is the Berlin of the North. The Barents Sea, in its so-called Grey Zone, contains the only disputed frontier between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and every historian of war and diplomacy knows that disputed frontiers are where hot disputes break out and turn into wars. This is a neglected 30 matter and I wish to ram home the fact that the "salami tactics" which we used to worry about in Central Europe, heaven help us, 20 years ago, which were not realistic, are still alive, well and alarming in the Barents Sea, where there is a continual shove against Norwegian sovereign rights in a small way. They never seem worth making a fuss about; Norway never likes to embarrass the world by asking her bigger neighbours, or very seldom does she do so, but this is happening all the time.
I will give the House one example. In 1976 Norway commenced seismic research for oil exploitation in the Grey Zone of the Barents Sea. They had not got very far before the Soviet Union announced that they were going to do some rocket testing in just that area, so the Norwegians went away. The Soviet Union are now starting seismic research for the same purpose in the same part of the Barents Sea. That is the only story I have time for, but there are many more like it.
When we had the Statement in this House on the Defence White Paper, I asked the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, whether we had talked to Norway about the changed situation in our military relations which would be caused by the cuts in the surface fleet. He said, No, we had not, but we would. I think that we may be distressed, alarmed and disapproving at the fact that we have not in advance. It will affect nobody more than Norway, except possibly the United States, to whom we did talk in advance. We should have talked to Norway. The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, said that we now would, even if belatedly. Perhaps at the end of the debate he can very kindly tell the House whether we have, what we are saying to them, and how he sees that relationship developing.
I come at last to the great question of Trident. As I think all your Lordships know, the SDP is not a one-cider party in disarmament. I do not like the word "unilateralist"; it is needlessly pompous—unilateralist and multilateralist. There are one-siders and all-rounders in disarmament; and we are all-rounders. But we find certain questions in the proposed Trident purchase worrying questions. To begin with, the decision was taken only one month after a House of Commons Committee had started to inquire into the question of what should be the successor to the Polaris, and it was taken nearly a year before the Committee reported, which it now has. This gives a bad taste to the whole thing. I am not going to blame everything about it, some things are good, but let us take things in order. There is the possibility that the whole deal may be "Skybolted". I do not need to say more. The House will remember how the Skybolt deal feel through in 1962, and at the Nassau agreement between Mr. Macmillan and President Kennedy we got Polaris for the first time.
The United States Navy are now having trouble with the hulls to carry their Trident system, and if that trouble turns out to be bad, they may be tempted to cancel it, just as they cancelled Skybolt. The invulnerability of Trident is good. This is good deterrence, and we are talking about deterrence. We are also talking about getting systems which point towards disarmament. The expense is very bad. The Government will know that the team of Mr. David Greenwood at Aberdeen University, who has had a formidable record for getting things right, already says 31 that the Government's estimate of £5 billion at 1980 prices should be £7½ billion by now. And I would ask rhetorically what major weapons procurement ever did not run away on the cost side? They all have; this one will, too.
Mr. Nott has had fun knocking the gold-plated frigates which it was proposed to construct, but he has instead after all chosen the diamond-studded Trident system. There are two difficulties that are particularly bad. One of them it shares with its predecessors, and that is what is called C3, communications, command and control. Although it is good to have this vast range which enables the submarine to get lost in yet more distant bits of ocean than the Polaris boats could, it is bad that there does not seem to be much reason to hope for an advance on the situation where the poor old submarine has to come up very near the surface to get its orders:—and, of course, its orders include the order whether to fire or not fire in a crisis.
The Americans have a system to overcome this, and it is the EC13 aircraft system, called Tacamo, which helps them to spread all over the world's oceans. We do not seem to be getting a corresponding system, and I wonder whether the gain in range may not be partly nullified by the need for us, being a smaller country without a Tacamo equivalent, to keep our boats closer to home, where communications are possible.
Last and worst of all, there is the question of accuracy and "mirving". The Trident is about the most accurate thing that has ever been seen and each rocket is going to carry eight warheads giving—somebody gave a figure just now. How many targets in Russia?
§ Lord Kennet
Up to 120 targets in Russia. It involves extreme accuracy and extreme penetration ability. That is something which cannot but be seen in Moscow as a possible addition to the general western first strike capacity which they fear may arise. They would be mad to think that anybody had it now. They would not be mad to think that the West might get it at some future date, and they would obviously fear that multiple centres of command in such a force would be a greater danger to them than a system under single command. That is obvious. This does not point towards disarmament.
Ours is a small country. If we wish to have the thermo-nuclear deterrent force, all we can say with it is: "Do what you like to us; but if we don't like it we will exterminate you even after our death". Ours is always a bee-sting deterrent. It has been so, and should remain so; as the human hand avoids the bee, so the super-power hand may avoid swatting a small country with a bee-sting deterrent. Trident is not like that, and I believe that the Government would have been wiser to look for a continuation force to succeed Polaris which would not necessarily be terribly accurate—For Heavens sake! five, 10 cities, or even one city, totally eliminated will be a sufficient deterrent against any sane Government in the world; I have always thought that—not terribly accurate, not very highly equipped with penetration gear. What does it matter whether we get through the ABM screen over 32 Moscow? If we can destroy a lot of other cities, that is good enough, and—
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Viscount Trenchard)
My Lords, having supplied the figure of up to 128, I should like to add that I shall be dealing with the question of ballistic missile defences in the 'nineties, which is what we shall be talking about.
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, if the noble Viscount is able to convince us that there is going to be an ABM screen all over Russia in the 'nineties, and if he is also able to convince us that that will be an effective defence against cruise missiles (which is another question), then some of my doubts will be allayed. I shall wait with the greatest interest to hear what he has to say.
There are plenty of other ways in which a country like ours might equip itself with a thermo-nuclear deterrent force in the 1990s—ways that are almost equally invulnerable, not so provocative, and which point better towards possible arms control at this level. I do not think that I need go into them. There remains the question of the so-called short-range theatre nuclear weapons, which has not yet been mentioned. Here NATO doctrine can be expected to develop, and here I think that this country should continue to play the same kind of modest but effective role as it has played in the past.
Lastly, though one should really begin with it in any speech on defence—lastly disarmament. I have addressed this House so many times on the subject over the last 20 years that I shall not detain it long now. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Peart, say that the White Paper was very reasonable, because no one-sider among disarmament buffs could say that it was very reasonable. We all know, though, the commitment of the party which he leads in this House, and many of us hope that our former friends in that party will in due course draw the consequences of the contradition between the commitment of their party and their own convictions on this matter.
It is at the moment bad weather for disarmament. An increasing difficulty in the attempts to reach arms control over the generations is the fact that the United States has an 18th century constitution in the age of instant communication. President Reagan was elected last autumn, and it will be this November before the United States is ready to meet Russia about arms control: that is, November 1981. By the summer of 1983 electioneering will have started again. American presidencies are now down to a year and a half in this respect, and that makes difficulties for the rest of the world, and I hope that the Americans might agree to discuss ways of overcoming the difficulties in common with their allies.
I do not share the belief that the so-called "two-track" decision of December 1979 was a wise one. It came after 20 years of unexplained neglect of the presence of 600 or 700 Soviet MRBMs pointed at Western Europe, which could not reach America—the SS4s and SS5s at first, and then succeeded by the present much more powerful SS20s. We said nothing about that. We never talked to them about that. We never asked them to take them away. We never said, "Come and sit down and let's talk about what we might do which would make it easier for you to take 33 them away ". Then suddenly in December 1979 we had a very bold two-sided reaction: first, we will unconditionally permit the deployment on our territory of the American cruise missiles and the Pershing IIs, and at the same time we would like to talk to the Soviet Union about nuclear arms control in Europe. I think it was clumsy, and I think it is now time for us to hurry to correct any possible bad effects which may come from that. We should also hurry to improve the whole structure of negotiating fora, now a bit cumbrous, which has at last, in the last year or two, been given a proper place to report to in the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, and in the successive Special Sessions of the General Assembly itself to deal with disarmament.
My Lords, I have spoken too long. May I end by apologising that I have shortly to leave the House for an engagement which I undertook many weeks before this debate was announced? It is not ill-manners; it is a prior duty.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Lord Kaldor
My Lords, I, too, should like to begin by congratulating our maiden speaker, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, whom I have known for a number of years as an academic colleague and as a friend—not a noble friend, but a friend—and who I am sure will add a great deal to the intellectual resources of this House as far as history and historical analogies are concerned. I do not expect that I shall agree with him very often—not so long as he sits on the other side of the House—but that will not in any way diminish my respect for him.
I do not claim any expertise in defence, and if I were asked why I wished to speak in this debate it is to pin-point some glaring contradictions (or what I thought were glaring contradictions) in the White Paper and in Government speeches, and to ask some questions which might help to clear up at least some of them.
The main theme of the White Paper and of the speech in the other place of the Secretary of State for Defence was the need to modernise our defence system, mainly as regards nuclear defence. This implied a plea—to NATO powers generally, to America particularly and to ourselves equally—for a tremendous acceleration in the nuclear arms race. Consider only the fact—and here I am quoting from the Secretary of State's speech in the other place—that for the last three years the Soviet Union has been deploying long-range theatre nuclear missiles of enormous accuracy on targets throughout Europe, and on our own homes here in the United Kingdom, whereas all that NATO possess is a force of ageing Vulcans and United States F1.11 aircraft. Indeed, the Vulcans are increasingly difficult to keep maintained and flying in the air, let alone capable of penetrating Soviet defences".—(Official Report, Commons, 7/7/81; col. 275.)If that is so, and if our new efforts and the introduction of Trident and the cruise missiles will change all that, as we are told that it will, in a few years' time, why do the Russians not make use of this extremely favourable but fleeting opportunity to finish us off before it is too late? Why should they wait with folded hands to watch us gradually reduce their advantage and then for us to regain superiority? It is well known that escalating arms races are designed to preserve peace but usually end up in wars, only 34 because one side or another gets out of step and there is a moment when it gains the upper hand, or thinks it has, which it feels it is bound to lose again in a few years' time. Such a moment is now.
Hitler was in a terrible hurry to attack Russia because he knew of the scale of Russia's fast-growing military preparedness; hence the decision to abandon the invasion of Britain in September 1940 rather than allow the "Barbarossa" operation to be postponed, possibly for another year. If the Secretary of State's intelligence is anywhere near correct, including his estimate of the vast Soviet superiority in conventional weapons, surely it would be extremely foolish of the Russians to allow us to carry out a vast nuclear modernisation programme, in America as well as here, without stopping it while there is still time.
Yet nobody thinks that anything of the sort is likely to happen. None of the previous speakers today thought that it was likely. Indeed, the Secretary of State went on to say in the same speech:I do not believe that at present the Soviet leadership seeks direct military confrontation with Western Europe—and that in itself is proof of the success of the Western Alliance".—(Official Report, Commons, 7/7/81; col. 277.)I cannot understand what he meant by the word "success" in this context. To have allowed the Russians to get the upper hand in both nuclear and conventional weapons after 20 years of a virtually uninterrupted arms race would be proof not of the success of the alliance but of its miserable failure—particularly when there was no real reason for it—when both in total manpower and in industrial resources NATO is and always has been greatly superior to the countries of the Warsaw Pact.
Indeed, the Secretary of State's argument would have been more logical if he had said that the Soviet leadership does not seek a military confrontation because it realises that the NATO alliance has been such a continued failure, not a continued success. This would make sense since, in view of this miserable record, there is no reason to fear that the Western powers will be more successful in the future than they have been hitherto. Indeed, they might well think that the longer they wait the easier their final job of liquidating Western capitalism will be. This, I fear, is more likely to be true if leading Western powers like America and the United Kingdom become progressively more enfeebled as a result of following monetarist policies.
I am not suggesting that what I have said is likely to be an accurate description of what is in the minds of the Russian leaders, though it is not likely to be less accurate than the view put to us by the Secretary of State. In fact, as far as nuclear arms in general are concerned, the terms "superiority" and "inferiority" have no meaning since both the super powers possess an armoury of bombs and delivery vehicles of the most varied kinds in such vast numbers that they are capable of completely annihilating each other many times over. Any addition of new types to one side or the other cannot make any difference except on the far-fetched assumption (which is tacitly, if not explicitly, adopted by many speakers) that the Russians intend to play a strictly defined game according to well-defined rules, as if they were playing tennis, in the manner that they will only hit the ball inside a certain circle and not 35 outside, and the nuclear war-play will be confined to particular circumstances and particular types only.
It was a NATO conception, not a Russian conception, to use small nuclear bombs as "tactical" or "theatre" weapons, to offset NATO's inferiority in conventional weapons. The Americans thought, and everybody else thought with them, that with tactical nuclear weapons we could get defence on the cheap. This was a silly idea, and it was branded as such by no less an authority than the late Lord Mountbatten on more than one occasion, and by the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, in this House in his speeches on 23rd April and 8th May, 1980, as well as by many other noble Lords, including the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver. They all made the same point, that once nuclear weapons are introduced it is impossible to prevent escalation into a full-scale nuclear war; it is most inappropriate, therefore, to introduce nuclear weapons to meet a non-nuclear attack.
The idea that the introduction of new nuclear weapons on either side—be it the SS20 or be it the cruise missiles—will permit one side to dominate the other is absolute nonsense. With 50,000 or so nuclear warheads in the world, divided between the two sides, neither side can hope for a minute that it can attack the other and survive. If noble Lords do not believe this, I commend to them a recent book by my friend and colleague, Professor Robert Neild, entitled How to Make Up your Mind about the Bomb. He sets out the evidence and arguments and puts them in a historical setting with more clarity and precision of analysis than I have found anywhere else.
In my view, which I trust will be shared by other noble Lords, current innovations in the nuclear field emphasise the danger and uselessness of putting your trust in nuclear weapons, and greatly strengthen the case for concentrating our preparedness on conventional defence and not weakening it. When it comes to the point, whatever the brave words being used now by Ministers in this country or any other country, neither side will take the risk of introducing atomic weapons into the fighting, just as the Americans shied away from taking such risks even when they were most hard-pressed in Vietnam. There were two nuclear bombs dropped in anger in 1945. That is all. Since then, 50,000 or more have been produced but none of them has been dropped.
But when I look at the White Paper, as many noble Lords have already pointed out, it is precisely in the field where we are most in need of stronger defences, in conventional weapons, that the Government's defence programme leaves most to be desired. I should also like to refer to the brilliant letter by Captain Roskill in The Times to which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, has already referred. He said:Why should the Soviets launch a nuclear attack and risk retaliation in kind, or launch a land attack on Western Europe, when merely by sinking our Merchant Navy, they can bring us to our knees in a few weeks?The Russians possess 400 submarines—almost as many as the Germans were able to keep operational at any one time in the last war. The Navy will not be in a position to protect our merchant ships or to rescue the crews of sinking ships, which is essential if 36 you want to maintain the capability of the Merchant Navy, as they did in 1917 and 1918 and in 1942 and 1943, because the escort vessels, indispensable for protecting convoys, will not be available (killer submarines and shore-based aircraft are no substitutes for them). Their number—which amounted to between 400 and 500 in the last war—and that was a close shave—not counting those of our allies, is, under the Government's present plans, to be reduced to 42 operational units or less; our capacity for enlarging their numbers in times of war will be impaired by the closure or emasculation of the naval shipyards.
I realise, of course, that escort vessels are the most unglamorous things, serving only defensive purposes, and so they are apt to get overlooked when such trendy and dynamic weapons as killer submarines, SS20s, Tridents and such like command all attention. Nevertheless, I think the Government would be well advised to think again and invest in a large fleet of escort vessels—particularly as I understand that an entirely new design of escort vessel could be constructed at a small fraction of the cost of the £125 million envisaged in current estimates.
Otherwise, if it were a credible notion that the Russians should want to colonise an island as bankrupt and as unruly as Britain—their troubles with Afghan tribesmen would pale into insignificance when confronted with British trade unionists—they could do the dirty on us and finish us off where we least expected it—not with a bang, but a whimper, not by the latest missile but by the old-fashioned method of sinking merchant ships as in the first and second world wars.
The Government's plans—as has already been pointed out by several speakers—only make sense on the assumption that they are thinking of the next war, unlike the last two wars or most other wars in history, lasting not for years but for days or perhaps only for hours. But that means that they put all their eggs in the nuclear basket—they put themselves into a situation where they are forced to rely on nuclear deterrence not only against nuclear attack, but any form of conventional attack as well.
This is a most hazardous undertaking; Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Nott might be genuinely prepared to respond to the sinking of merchant ships by dispatching a Trident, Polaris or whatever the big stuff happens to be in hand. But can they bind their successors in this? If not, the lack of capability for defence with nonnuclear weapons would be fatal. Is such a threat, whether genuine or not, credible? Is it really credible that a Prime Minister of this country will order the collective suicide of the nation in order to avenge the sinking of some merchant ships by submarines? I submit that it is not.
Anyhow—and I am nearly finished—I want to ask just one more question. Why do we have to go through all this slimming process now? I raised the same question when we discussed educational cuts the other day, and was listened to with incredulity as if I were mad. How could I doubt that cuts are a good thing which will make us better off?
Well, I do. At the moment we operate 25 per cent. below capacity; we have 3 million unemployed. Whether we have more or less than 3 million we shall discover tomorrow. Surely this is not the time to contract; it is the time to expand in all possible direc- 37 tions—since in so doing we are not depriving anybody of anything—we are bringing idle resources into use, quite apart from the satisfaction which jobs create for those who have them. The Government behave as if the less we produce the less we can afford to produce and consume.
The White Paper prides itself on having already cut civilian work for the Ministry of Defence by 20,000, or 8 per cent., since 1979, and on having now taken measures to secure additional cuts in civilian manpower of 20,000 to 30,000. In addition, the personnel of the three forces will come down by 20,000—altogether a wonderful achievement, which increases unemployment possibly by 100,000 or more, if the indirect multiplier effects are taken into account. What is the point of it all if no alternative opportunities are available? Or if there are, where are they? Speaking more generally, what is the point of increasing productivity if its effect is not more production but simply more unemployment? Given the Government's proclivity for reducing output, from the point of view of public safety as well, it would surely be much better to follow policies of decreasing productivity which would make it possible for the available work to be shared more equitably all round. Unfortunately, such policies would run counter to Mrs. Thatcher's almost insatiable appetite for what Marx called "the reserve army of labour" necessary for disciplining the workforce, for bringing down wages and for improving incentives for earning profits. My fear is that, as Marx might have predicted, she will succeed in this only by destroying democratic capitalism.
§ Lord Boothby
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him one question? I quite agree with him that there are no such things as tactical nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are total or they are nothing. If one side can annihilate the other and the other cannot do anything back, sooner or later it will. If both sides can do it, neither will. What is his answer to that?
§ Lord Kaldor
My Lords, my answer is the same as the noble Lord's. Neither will; but that does not mean that one side can make itself defenceless in conventional warfare when the other side is not defenceless. That is the point. If you want security, NATO must be able to match the Russians both in the nuclear field and in the conventional field and not use the one kind of weapon to offset inferiority in the other.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ The Earl of Orkney
My Lords, I very much welcome the Government's declared intention to increase defence expenditure by 3 per cent. in real terms each year, and to maintain its commitment to the NATO target for the next four years. However, I should like to take this opportunity to remind my noble friends of the promises made by the Conservative Party in the general election campaign of 1979. The manifesto stated quite clearly that a Conservative Government should take steps to improve Britain's defences, in consultation with the Chiefs of Staff and with our allies overseas. It said also that such improvements would require significant increases in defence expenditure.
38 I am not at all sure that recent ministerial statements have been entirely in the spirit of those manifesto commitments, and I would suggest that failure to stand by our original position would be a grave mistake, particularly in view of the adverse psychological effects on the morale of our armed forces. Such effects could only bring comfort to the leaders of the Soviet Union in its determination to pursue its aggressive foreign and military policies.
Our principal objective must be steadily to increase our defence spending, particularly on our conventional forces, with full regard for the economic constraints which dictate the level of general public expenditure. In this respect I fully accept the Secretary of State's view that reallocation of resources to the defence field must be undertaken and that we should review our defence commitments with a view to developing a more rational and constructive balance between the various elements involved.
May I briefly draw the Minister's intention to the three areas which are of concern to me? First, the paramount importance of the Royal Navy to the security of our islands should not be underestimated. Morever, it is also vital to protect the sea lanes which bear 95 per cent. of Britain's imports and exports. This country is above all a trading nation, so that those sea lanes are all the more important to our survival. Secondly, I support the Trident project as an essential dissuasionary strategic weapon for the defence of the nation. However, I suggest that its cost should be treated separately from the main defence budget because its role is quite different from that of the conventional forces.
Finally, in our deliberations on this issue we must take care not to undermine our excellent relations with the United States—and I note with pleasure the success of the Secretary of State's recent visit to Washington to explain our position. We must remember that the United State's represents the ultimate deterrent to the Soviet Union's designs, and also that Russia is currently increasing military spending by 4 per cent. each year. Our overriding aim must be to maintain peace in the world, but we must remember, sadly, that peace can only be assured through a military balance between East and West. Britain must play its part in contributing to that balance.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I hope I shall be forgiven if I refer only briefly to the admirable maiden speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, and the noble Earl, Lord Orkney. My only reason is that time is very short and we shall have an opportunity of hearing them both again on future and perhaps more spacious occasions.
I have already expressed on several occasions certain reservations of mine about the policies put forward in the document we are debating today and, as those policies seem now unlikely to be substantially changed by anything that we might say here. I do not propose to pursue today further arguments about Trident and the Royal Navy. In any case I suspect that they will be, and indeed already have been, dealt with in a formidable manner. We have already heard the thunder of the naval broadsides and I have no doubt that shortly we shall hear the armoured divisions moving 39 into action when the noble Lord, Lord Carver, rises to his feet. Instead, I want to refer to one sentence, the first sentence in paragraph 11 of the White Paper, which says this:We cannot reduce our effort in direct defence of the United Kingdom homeland".I want to revert briefly to a subject I have raised before in this House—one which is as relevant to our defence policies as the threat of military aggression from outside: that is, the danger that our home base might be destroyed from within. No foreign aggressor would choose to achieve his political aims by going to war, especially now while there exists the probability that it might become a nuclear war. He would, of course, much prefer to prevail without firing a single shot, as my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton pointed out in his wise and thoughtful maiden speech and, indeed, as a distinguished Russian general has put it:The role of the Red Army is to shake the tree when the rotten fruit is ready to fall".For that reason I believe it is important that we should remind ourselves of the extent to which that fruit—the fruit of our liberal democracy and our political freedom—which may in spite of everything look reasonably firm and healthy on the surface, is being eaten away from the inside by men and women some at least of whom hate and despise our political system and are ruthlessly bent on destroying it.
To get some of the flavour of the way in which these hidden destroyers operate, one needs to look no further than their involvement in the outbreaks of violence which have taken place in the streets of our cities over recent weeks. I have no intention—indeed it would be inappropriate to do so—to enter in this debate into any discussion about the root causes of the riots, or indeed of the methods which might be used to deal with them. My concern today is to suggest that, whatever the causes of the current unrest, it has been exploited and to some extent organised by those who see it as an instrument of subversion and political disruption.
I think it is interesting, as a point of departure, to note that at a meeting of the Labour Party Young Socialists at Brixton Town Hall on 15th April, Mr. Kevin Ramage, the national chairman of the LPYS, talking about the Brixton disorders, said:Thatcher says unemployment has nothing to do with it—but unemployment has absolutely everything to do with it … and there will be riots in Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and other cities, if unemployment is not brought down".My Lords, are really so naive—
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, would the noble Lord give way on the point he has just made? I have continually denounced the activities of the militant tendency in the Labour Party, but would the noble Lord not agree that all the classic ingredients for social instability are in our economy at the moment, with high unemployment, an unstable currency and very high inflation? Does he not agree that these aspects of our economy are bound to lead to trouble and that they allow these people to make hay?
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I should much prefer not to enter into that argument. As I said, I do not 40 wish to discuss the root causes of whatever is happening in this country. My concern is to point out how it is being exploited. That there is a situation to be exploited, I do not contest for one moment. But as I said: are we really so naive as to take the statement that I have just quoted as a simple, innocent exercise in clairvoyance? It is, as has been said elsewhere in a different context, the kind of remark which is designed to provoke precisely the events which it foreshadows. When the riots came, as they inevitably did, in Liverpool, Manchester and other cities, are we really so simple-minded as to believe that they were all spontaneous or just imitative?
It was abundantly clear to neutral observers, including a number of foreign journalists who reported them at length in their newspapers, as well as it was clear to many policemen to whom I spoke, that in Brixton, Liverpool and Manchester there were substantial numbers of outsiders, who moved in and organised a great deal of the violence, moving supplies of petrol bombs from one sector to another and directing operations with impressive professionalism. Nor should any of this be at all surprising. Let me quote briefly two more statements made by political personalities over recent weeks.
In an interview with the newspaper Socialist Organiser on 14th May, Mr. Livingstone of the Greater London Council said:wherever there is an industrial dispute in London, we shall go down and support it. Local GLC facilities will be put at the disposal of the strikers".Then followed this phrase:You can't jump from the Callaghan government to a perfect revolutionary position. You have to go through a spectrum of left-wing opposition".Interviewed by the same newspaper on 4th April, another member of the Greater London Council said, when asked what he thought should be done if the GLC were taken to court on some matter by the central Government:I think we defy the law. Major changes have always come about as a consequence of direct action and that direct action in most cases has been in contravention of previous laws".You will note, my Lords, that I have attributed to no one any views which they have not themselves publicly expressed. If there were time, I could give literally hundreds of other examples. Is it, then, really a matter for astonishment that, fed on this kind of subversive rhetoric, people are turning to violence to express their frustration? To say, in the light of this orchestrated campaign of provocation, that there is no organised political direction behind the violence in our streets is, quite simply, casuistry and self-deception on a massive and dangerous scale.
Let me now turn briefly to another aspect of the threat to our security—equally relevant, in my view, to a consideration of defence policy—the unilateralist movement which was mentioned in his opening remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Soames. Here perhaps I might, in passing, take mild issue with my noble friend Lord Kennet, if I understood him aright. I believe that there is a great and crucial difference between unilateral disarmament and multilateral disarmament, and between those who advocate these points of view—
§ Lord Kennet
My Lords, the noble Lord did not understand me aright at all. I was emphasising that difference with all the strength at my command. What I was doing was suggesting that we might call unilateralists "one-siders" and call multi-lateralists "all-rounders", simply to get back to short Anglo-Saxon words.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. Perhaps I might begin my few brief remarks on the unilateralist movement with one more quotation from a leader of public opinion. From the Communist newspaper Morning Star last week I collected the following gem of political philosophy:Anybody with eyes to see should know where the threat to our schools, housing, health, employment, living standards and, indeed, life itself comes from. It comes, not from the mythical Soviet threat, but from International Monetary Fund cuts, the Common Market, the investment and pricing policies of the multinationals and from the United States inspired arms race".Straight forward Communist propaganda, you might say, from a straight forward Communist newspaper. Yes, my Lords, but it was written by Mr. Ernie Ross, the Member of Parliament for Dundee West. I mention it as an example—because I think it is an important one—of a certain approach to the problems of our defence and security in which the Soviet threat is always "mythical" and in which the arms race is always American inspired.
This is an attitude which, whether we like it or not, lies behind much of the rhetoric of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which is not, I am going to suggest quite the harmless idealistic movement of popular protest which it is sometimes represented to be. In most movements of this kind it is not difficult, if you look far enough, to identify the hand of the World Peace Council—an international front organisation controlled by the Soviet Union. And, surely enough, the World Peace Council was active in organising near Ostend, in October 1979, the European Forum on Disarmament and Security. This conference, which was, incidentally, attended by two of the foremost Kremlin experts on subversion, had as its principal aim to oppose the development of the so-called neutron bomb and the deployment of new theatre nuclear weapons in Europe. These are, predictably, now among the principal targets of the unilateralist and neutralist movement in Western Europe and, more significantly, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in this country.
When contemplating the activities of the CND in this country, it might be wise for all of us, whatever our political point of view, to consider certain facts about it which are not widely disseminated in the press. What I have to say will be unpopular and will, indeed, be resented by some people both inside and outside your Lordships' House, but I believe it essential to say it. The first thing to say is that the governing hierarchy of the CND has a very significant element in it of men and women with Communist affiliations. Two of the vice-chairmen of the organisation are members of the Communist Party. Its national organiser, its Scottish secretary and the editor of its magazine are all members of the Communist Party. Furthermore, it would be strange, indeed, if the CND were not substantially assisted from Communist sources, since the Soviet Union spends vast sums of money on its so-called 42 "peace campaigns" all over the world. And, indeed, Monsignor Bruce Kent, the general secretary of the CND, has publicly expressed his appreciation of the support which CND has received from the Communist Party, among others.
In case anyone should be tempted to regard this as another example of anti-Communist paranoia, let me once again proceed by means of a direct quotation. Speaking at Birmingham University only a month ago, on 16th June, Mr. Gordon MacLennan, the general secretary of the Communist Party said—and I quote his exact words—the primary force for creating conditions for a general election, the defeat of Thatcher and a Labour government of a new type is mass action involving millions of people, like the People's March for Jobs, the present wages struggle and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament".Thousands of people in this country, many of them young, many of them idealistic and of high principle, have turned to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament because they are, understandably, afraid of the appalling consequences of a nuclear war. I happen to believe that they are ill-advised and that unilateral disarmament by the West would be more likely to bring about the disaster which they most fear. Nevertheless, many of them hold their views honestly and sincerely. But I wonder how many of them realise how cynically they are being manipulated and for what political ends.
As the noble Lord the Leader of the House has pointed out, many other noble Lords wish to speak in this debate and I must therefore detain the House no longer, although this is a subject which I think deserves, and I hope will get in the future, more detailed analysis and discussion. I believe that it was important to raise once again an issue of national security on which I have spoken before at greater length in your Lordships' House, because the dangers which I outlined in your Lordships' House some years ago have not diminished or receded. At that time, many of my warnings were greeted with disbelief, derision and sometimes outright hostility. Now some of the things which I foretold have come to pass.
There is in this country an extensive network of subversive and extremist organisations, and the most militant of them are systematically preparing for confrontation on the streets of this country with the power of the state. The level of violence, the contempt for law and order, the hatred and vilification of the police, the hostility to the armed forces, the rejection of the parliamentary process, have all grown to a degree which ought to sound alarm signals of an insistent kind. Protecting the values, the freedom and the safety of our people is not exclusively a matter of defence against the enemy outside the walls. We shall not be protected by Polaris, or Trident, or by our ships and submarines, or by our soldiers on the Rhine if we allow our freedom and security to be eroded at its foundations by those who, protected by a tolerant and sometimes over-permissive political system, are working ruthlessly and unscrupulously to bring that system down in ruins so that the enemies of freedom may take its place.
I know that there will be many people who, for various reasons, will prefer to pretend that this problem does not exist or that perhaps it is irrelevant to a discussion of national security. It was, I believe, Dante who said that the hottest places in Hell are reserved 43 for those who stay neutral in the face of a great moral crisis. This is a grave crisis, moral and political, and one which I believe touches upon our very survival.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, for having so succinctly put before us some of the dangers which face our country. I recall that some six or seven years ago in a longer speech he gave a very trenchant presentation of the dangers which beset us. He is right in saying that they have grown since then. It is significant that that particular edition of Hansard was out of print 24 hours after it was published, and has never been reprinted. It was a source of immense value to those of us both inside and outside this House who study these problems. I am sure that today's Hansard will be equally in demand as a result of the noble Lord's intervention.
May I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, on the content and delivery of his maiden speech. How many of us can make a maiden speech of 12 minutes without reference to any notes? His succinctness in a long debate was absolutely admirable and an example of what a maiden speech should be. We hope to hear him speak on many occasions in the future.
I should like to refer briefly to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. I do so as very much the amateur rather than the professional. After having served as a Minister on the Board of Admiralty for five years, however, I feel that I can deal with some of the arguments which the noble Lord put forward. What has to be remembered is that the White Paper's promise of 3 per cent. more in each year for five years in real terms is done on a diminishing GNP of probably minus 2 per cent. this year and in the face of a worldwide slump. It is not easy to promise in these circumstances that more money should be diverted to defence. Therefore, I think that the Minister and the Government ought to be congratulated on what they have done.
The White Paper is framed in terms of today's economic climate and in terms of what is politically possible in Europe. I agree with the noble Lord—I shall refer to this later—that we ought to rethink our strategy over the part that different forces should play in NATO. But that is not possible today. Therefore it is no good the noble Lord saying that the service which has suffered the penalty has been the Navy and that the other services have not been affected. It may be that this had to be done in today's context.
I would also ask the noble Lord not to belittle the effectiveness of maritime air power. In World War II, 60 per cent. of the submarines were sunk by the air force. Since then the power and sophistication of electronic detection methods and attack have enormously increased. It was 60 per cent., and the Navy accounted for the balance. Lastly, I am sure that the noble Lord does his cause no good by suggesting that the professionals are always right and that Ministers are always wrong. One has to remember the history of World War II. I could cite many examples where the professional advisers in all three services were not always right.
44 I aim to cover in as short a time as possible two aspects of defence. First I wish to deal with the soaring cost of each new generation of ever more sophisticated equipment. Secondly, I wish to deal with the high cost of all the armed forces when they are entirely professional. Fig. 14 on page 45 of the Defence White Paper sets out in real terms the immense growth in the cost of our ships, aircraft and armoured vehicles. It is desperately sobering and alarming. My noble friend the Minister of State for Defence has made this point again and again. If you look at that chart, it shows that the Leander Class, which cost £5 million when I left the Admiralty, now costs £125 million. If you reduce that to real terms, it has gone up in 13 years by an average annual percentage increase of 23 per cent. The Hunter, followed by the Harrier, has gone up by 28 per cent. in real terms each year. Armoured vehicles have gone up by 20 per cent. in real terms each year and the Seacat missile and its successor has gone up by 27 per cent. each year. This is an enormous increase. Although the White Paper has done its best—and should do because of the increasing threat from the Soviet Union—in real terms, it is 3 per cent. over the whole of the defence budget. Since the pay of our armed forces virtually moves with the RPI, that means a 6 per cent. increase in the hardware budget. A 6 per cent. increase in that budget does not bridge the gap. We shall find that we are embarking on a process of disarmament. All three services must look at this problem most carefully.
The crux of the matter is whether we can afford to develop and order ever more sophisticated weapons in ever smaller numbers, weapons which are so sophisticated that we do not succeed in selling them to third world countries. It is significant that no major Royal Navy ship has been sold overseas since 1970 to the third world. No small ship, even, has been sold overseas since 1975. Of course, there are honourable exceptions. The Rapier missile system is one. But the alternatives are far too common. Ships now are so expensive that the cutting which the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, quite rightly referred to is really the result of the cost of our whole armaments system.
It has been necessary to run the fleet down by 35 per cent. This is extremely alarming and something which should be put right again as soon as we can conceivably do so. More vigour and more attention must be paid to cost effectiveness. One cannot go on, even on a budget of spending 6 per cent. more in real terms on hardware, when that hardware escalates each year at a cost of between 12 and 20 per cent. extra, or you finish up with a handful of tanks, aircraft, missiles and ships which are no effective conventional deterrent. This, I suggest, is creating disarmament by inflation. This Government are quite rightly pressing for multilateral disarmament. They are pressing on with the reduction of inflation. But it is equally alarming that in trying to achieve cost effectiveness in arms we are slowly disarming ourselves in terms of the number and effectiveness of our armaments.
I now turn to the second point—and we all have to try to keep our speeches short in this debate—and that is the cost and the number of men. I suggest that we have now cut our forces in numbers to a much greater extent than we can afford in the face of the threat. Britain is almost alone among the Western European 45 nations—the United States being the only one that is equal in this connection—in depending on all professional armed forces and having no national service whatsoever. These professional armed forces are so expensive and have such an extensive tail—for example, the married quarters, the schools, the hospitals and everything else for BAOR, which are costing £700 million a year—that I suggest we must seek every conceivable way of using part-time volunteers. They proved themselves in the exercises last autumn and I think there are many valuable social advantages in doing just this.
I was pleased in the last White Paper—and I think other noble Lords will share my pleasure—that it was stated there that,The Government are determined to make more use of reserve forces".I suggest that the Royal Naval Reserve should be built up. Our ports are essential for the reinforcements due to come to this island base and the threat to our ports is such that we should seek to appoint a commodore in charge of each of our major ports and he should seek among the fishermen and among the merchant seamen and the yachtsmen too, of which there are very large numbers, to build up a reserve which could make use of almost every small ship.
Now that our replacement minesweepers are to cost no less than £30 million we cannot afford to build them and scatter them around our ports. I suggest that we should make use of some of the more sophisticated fishing trawlers. They now have very ingenious electronic sonar in order to detect fish. I believe it is said that they can now find a bucket which has fallen overboard, and if they can do that, then they can start to hunt mines and do a host of other jobs. I believe that until we build up this reserve we are very vulnerable in a most important area.
I also hope that we meet the target of the Territorial Army and its expansion from 70,000 to 86,000, set out in the White Paper; that at least half that number will be here for home defence, for a whole host of reasons, some of which were sketched by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont.
I have tried to get the figures of costs and I should like to point out that the cost of a regular officer—and I am speaking about military salary and other matters and not the armaments, because that would be very difficult to aportion—is £13,000 per annum, but for a TA officer the cost is £1,700. That is to say we get eight Territorial officers for every Regular. The average cost of a Regular other rank is £7,000 a year in salary; the cost of a TA other rank is just over £1,000. So we get seven TA other ranks for every one Regular other rank. Surely this is an area where we have a willing population, where people can be persuaded to come forward and help to defend our country. I very much hope that the Government will give a high priority to this concept.
I was delighted to see in the White Paper that our school cadet forces now number 142,000. What is sad is that so many of those young boys, aged between 11 and 17, when they come forward to volunteer for the armed forces have to be rejected because in a period of unemployment the more senior NCOs and other ranks do not wish to retire early. They wish to hold 46 on to their jobs in the services and therefore there is not the flow through. That is a desperate waste of the enthusiasm of those young people who may, of course, fall on to the job market as a result.
There are many parents and others who would like to see the reintroduction of national service. The spring gallup poll on this showed that 68 per cent. of the population would greatly favour it. It is certainly true that every Western European nation, save Britain, relies on national service to some extent or other. As a result their reserves are larger, they are more recently trained, and of course they are younger.
If we introduce this, may I suggest that your Lordships might consider what it would mean. It would mean that over 400,000 would come forward for national service every year. It is absolutely impossible to organise or to divert Ministry of Defence funds to such a project. On the other hand, I do not think it would be right to neglect or to deny to those who wish to serve some possibility, but I suggest that there will be two opponents to this suggestion. One would be the regular forces; they do not want to see money diverted to the amateurs, and I am afraid that even applies to our regular police. I find they are not all that keen to build up the strength of our reserve police forces; so I am afraid there is a resentment between the full-time professionals and the amateurs.
I would advocate that perhaps a modest scheme which might affect between 1,000 and 3,000 young people could be introduced. I happen to have believed for long, and I have made speeches about it in this House, in the desirability of introducing universal community service for school-leavers, and I have many allies in all parts of the House in this respect. Never has there been a greater need to think of every conceivable way of providing useful employment for young people leaving school. I would suggest that a properly organised scheme each year would offer to the young people 24 different forms of service. I suggest that one of them should be voluntary service, perhaps for six or nine months, attached to our armed forces, disciplined and in uniform.
Immediately people will say, "Who is going to pay for it?" The cost would be £2.3 million a year per thousand people. The Manpower Services Commission has a budget of £1,000 million every year and of that £320 million goes on the Youth Opportunities Programme; and I should like to see perhaps a few million scratched off that, but I believe there is considerable opposition within the MSC to such a suggestion.
Alternatively one goes to the Ministry of Defence and says, "Surely somewhere in your £12,000 million budget you can find £2.3 million"; and they will say, "If we had a little extra we should like to recruit more Territorials, more trained reservists, so we are not anxious to do it". So I suggest that the Government go to the Department of Employment. After all, when National Service existed that department was then called the Ministry of Labour and National Service, so they have a long-standing interest in a form of community service in this area.
I have three further points that I wish to raise. Let the Government now open talks to restructure the various allied contributions to NATO. In this I agree to a certain extent with what the noble Lord, Lord 47 Hill-Norton, was saying, but I believe that such an operation would take many years to negotiate and more years still to put into effect. In addition to providing our nuclear deterrent, I think we have a big responsibility for defending not only the air space around our country but the sea lanes and the ports to which our reinforcements, both in equipment and personnel, would come. Britain has the largest navy in Western Europe and I think they are suited to defend the sea lanes. If we have to economise, then let us start negotiations about the reduction of BAOR. Other countries have soldiers on the ground; no other country has a navy able to do the tasks which we should have to do.
Finally, I think we should have a fresh attack on the escalating cost and sophistication of our armaments because they have to be made to go further every year; and, lastly, we should build up our reserves and let the Ministry of Defence play a worthy and a social part in offering job chances for young people.
My Lords, I hope I have not been totally unconstructive in making these proposals. But I believe there is a deep desire on these Benches—and I think in most parts of the House—to give jobs to our young people, to make our armed forces effective, and to concentrate them where they can best do the job of defending this country and our alliance.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, it will be remembered that for a short period after the last war this Chamber was used by the Members from the other place and in asking for your Lordships' indulgence, as I do, I should perhaps explain that this will, in fact, be the second maiden speech that I have made in this particular Chamber. The first was made in support of the Attlee Government. I see now that my speech was rather poor but I believe that it was a very good Government, and I am sure that my noble friends will allow me to say that. It was a very good Government if for nothing more than its handling of defence. Mr. Attlee, who was a strong leader with plenty of robust common sense, not only committed this country to producing nuclear weapons, but did so without consulting his party or Parliament. Mr. Ernest Bevin, another strong man of great integrity and character, probably did more than anyone else to unite the West against the menace of Stalinism.
§ Lord Mayhew
My Lords, I must wait until an occasion other than my maiden speech to give my views on the Government's plans for Trident and the Navy. On this occasion I would rather make a few comments about our defence problem in Europe, and to ask what lessons, if any, we can learn from the past. I am following to some extent the admirable speech made by my fellow maiden speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton.
The outstanding change over this period, of course, has been the vast increase in the number and lethality of modern weapons. In the late 1940s all-out war with Russia would have been cataclysmic; today, however, it 48 would be the end of civilisation. At the same time—as a number of speakers have made clear in this debate—the likelihood of such a war breaking out has mercifully become more remote. I remember a particular meeting at the Foreign Office when I was a junior Minister, just as we began the Berlin airlift. A Soviet plane buzzed one of our aircraft and our aircraft crashed with a loss of life. Mr. Bevin had to decide whether this incident marked the beginning of a deliberate attempt to block the air corridors, which would have meant war, or whether it was an accident. It was not easy for him to decide, but he decided rightly that it was an accident, and the crisis passed.
On that occasion, and on other similar occasions, war with Russia looked very likely in those times. Part of the reason why war is more remote today is the appalling nature of the weapons now in the hands of both sides. I do not consider that it is inconsistent to support multilateral disarmament, and to believe that if the forces of the communist and the free worlds had been armed with bows and arrows they would have been fighting each other without interruption ever since the end of the last war.
The further important change to which I shall draw attention is that, while Soviet policies are still, of course, a threat to peace, while the Soviet empire is a reality, as is the spectacular increase in Soviet arms and their occupation of Afghanistan, I do not feel that we should allow these things to obscure the extent to which—in terms of ideology, living standards, politics and diplomacy—the free world has now placed the Soviet Union on the defensive.
It is not so many years ago since Soviet communism was engulfing seven European states, and then China, and was organising powerful and obedient fifth columns in France, in Italy, and even in West Germany, and was also threatening a number of the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth. Even in this country, at that time—and here I beg to differ from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont—the Soviet Union commanded the loyal support of a much larger and more influential pro-Soviet communist party than it does today. It had the use of a network of high level secret agents far beyond anything it has today. Having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, I think it is important—although I must be careful not to abuse my status as a maiden speaker—not to deny the worrying increase in subversive elements in this country, but at the same time one should distinguish very clearly between those subversive elements which are pro-Soviet and those subversive elements which are profoundly and bitterly anti-Soviet. It is an important distinction from the point of view of national defence. However, the problem of subversive elements is one which, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, pointed out, needs very careful attention.
Today, however, the main challenge to the status quo in Europe no longer comes from Soviet communism, but from the growing and ultimately irresistable demand for freedom in the Eastern European countries. Moreover, China has now become one of the Soviet Union's main adversaries instead of being a complete ally. Hostility towards the Soviet Union has grown considerably in the third world since those years and the Russians' economic problems have become more acute and more insoluble.
49 I would therefore respectfully challenge the view expressed by my fellow maiden speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. I do not believe that it is either naive, gullible or complacent to conclude that, while the Soviet challenge is stronger today in military terms, it is considerably weaker in every other respect. The Soviets continue, of course, striving to maximise their power worldwide, but proportionately less of this power is now used towards making the free world communist and proportionately more towards keeping the communist world loyal to the Soviet Union. That is the true and realistic picture of the use of Soviet power today.
It may be, as the Americans claim, that the Russians' occupation of Afghanistan was the first step in a deliberate attempt to control the Gulf, but when viewed in perspective it seems much more likely that it was aimed at preventing the emergence of a hostile régime on the Soviet borders. It was, if you like, another attempt to shore up the Soviet empire. It would be hypocritical to pretend that the break-up of the Soviet empire and of the Soviet régime would not give all of us a great deal of pleasure; I believe it would be hypocritical to deny that. And, it is certainly no part of NATO's task to try to help Mr. Brezhnev to prevent that from happening. Nevertheless, our priority task obviously must be to prevent war with Russia.
If any of these comparisons are fair, and I think they are, certain conclusions seem to follow. First, the West should maintain the military balance with the Soviet Union which has helped to keep the peace for 36 years and which has made the prospect of war in Europe much more remote. We must not fall behind, either because of our economic problems or because of political pressures from neutralists or unilateralists.
However, if it is true that the Soviet Union's political and ideological position is a great deal weaker, or more precarious or more defensive than it was, as I believe to be the case, then some other conclusions follow too. We can conclude that Mr. Brezhnev's invitation to discuss disarmament, disengagement and the Middle East ought to be taken a good deal more seriously than we used to take similar invitations from Stalin and Khrushchev. It also seems to me that we should be careful not to exploit the Soviet Union's difficulties in a way which may persuade them to resort to desperate measures. I think we should show some restraint, for example, in arming China. I think we should keep out of intervention in Poland and Eastern Europe.
It seems clear that before deploying cruise missiles in Europe we should insist on really serious negotiations for the removal or the reduction of all long-range theatre nuclear weapons on both sides in Europe, including European Russia. Similarly, before deploying larger forces round the southern border of the Soviet Union, something about which they are entitled to feel anxious, I think we should be willing to discuss Mr. Brezhnev's proposals, which are unanimously supported by all the states in the region, for the neutralisation of the Gulf. Finally, in the Middle East I think we should acknowledge that American and Israeli actions are pushing even the most moderate Arab states further towards the Soviet Union, and acknowledge, too, that some degree of Soviet participation in a settlement is essential if the settlement is to last.
50 In conclusion, my Lords, I am aware that, after all, I have not managed to avoid controversy in my maiden speech. I can only plead that this is, I should think, the least controversial speech I have ever made in this field; and I am grateful for your Lordships' indulgence.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, two noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton and the Earl of Orkney, have made their maiden speeches and have been congratulated, deservedly, by succeeding speakers. It has fallen to me to offer congratulations to Lord Mayhew, but I must confess it presents me with some difficulty. His speech, excellent in delivery and impeccable in content—I would largely agree with him so far as that is concerned—still makes me a little reluctant to offer him congratulations, because of events that occurred in another place years ago. Nevertheless I bow to the traditions of this noble Assembly. It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done before.
It may have been noted that the Leader of the House, Lord Soames, invited your Lordships to take note of the defence White Paper. It will also be noted that we were not asked to approve it. That, in my opinion, denotes considerable sagacity on the part of the Government, for obviously the White Paper, the contents of the White Paper, have not been received with acclamation. There has been some element of faint praise, but there has also been devastating criticism. I assume, from what the noble Lord said about taking note brushing aside the matter of approval, that this White Paper is not the final word. Nor did I believe it to be so when the Statement came before your Lordships' House, or when certain discussions took place among some of our colleagues associated with the Defence Group dealing with the study of defence. We have had several reviews and we have not seen the last of them, and it is all to the good, because we can defer final consideration of some of the ingredients contained in the White Paper.
To take an example that has created considerable controversy, and rightly so, there is the question whether we should spend billions on the manufacture of the Trident missile, which will occupy the attention of Her Majesty's Government, and probably succeeding Governments and the country at large, for several years to come, Perhaps the final word has not been uttered about the Trident and perhaps that is all to the good. Nor has the final word been uttered on the very important topic raised by my noble friend Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton. How right he was to refer to the need for maintaining the Royal Navy, not just at its present strength but strengthened even more in the future.
There was one aspect of the problem that he raised to which reference could rightly be made, and that is the protection of our trade routes in time of war. We have had vast experience in this connection. In the First World War the convey system was in operation, and in the Second World War, and without the aid of our naval vessels and the assistance we received from some of our allies we should never have been able to supply the equipment or the material or the oil and so forth that were required in order to prolong the war and in the end achieve victory. But there again the subject of the strengthening of our naval forces which 51 was advocated by my noble friend is a matter which can be reviewed in course of time. I repeat, the White Paper is not the final word.
I want to take the opportunity this afternoon, in one of the many defence debates that many of your Lordships have indulged in, as I have myself, to dispose of some of the dialogue, some of the dialectic, some of the shibboleths, some of the clichés that have been associated with defence. There is one to which I pay particular attention and it is this. If missiles of a ballistic character are ever in operation, if the targets aimed at by our aggressor—the only possible aggressor we can conceive of at the moment—are reached as intended, thousands, perhaps millions, of the civilian population will be destroyed; there will be enormous, massive devastation, earthquakes following earthquake, avalanche following avalanche, to the detriment and destruction of our people and perhaps the end of our country as a civilised state. I want to dispose of it by saying I agree with all of it. Of course that dialogue should come to [...]nd.
Of course we recognise that if ever major countries go to war and use these missiles there is bound to be the devastation suggested; of course there will. But it is part of our intention, and, fortunately, part of the Government's intention, and part of the intention of NATO and our allies, to prevent war if at all possible. Never let us forget that aspect. We seek to create a deterrent in order to avoid the catastrophes that have been suggested.
There are some features that are perhaps to our advantage. Of course Russia has an overwhelming superiority in missiles—conventional, nuclear and so on—and we recognise it. But let us not emphasise our weaknesses. Why exploit them? After all, we recognise that, in the event of a conflict—conventional or otherwise—we shall have allies. I take as my illustration the declaration made quite recently by General Haig, the American Secretary of State, who stressed in particular that the objective of the United States was to ensure the security of its allies just as much as it sought to ensure the security of the United States. That was a very welcome reassurance. He went further and said that we must never set aside the possibility or renewing the talks intended to control armaments, or perhaps to make an end of some of them, and to promote the possibility of peace. However, he added—and rightly so—that it is no use talking about negotiations and conferences and the possibility of compromise and so on unless we talk from strength; that is essential.
To go to the conference table weak or, as the late Aneurin Bevan said, "naked", would be disaster in itself. Therefore, we must strengthen our forces not merely for the purpose of using them, but for the purpose of avoiding the need for using them. That is our aim. If we have those assurances from General Haig, who knows what he is talking about and who represents, if not the whole of American opinion at the present time, at any rate the American Government, we can take the view that we are not as weak as is sometimes alleged.
I wish to emphasise that point again having regard to some of the speeches that have been made in another place. I deplore those speeches. They have 52 been made by people who profess to understand everything connected with the defence problem and who are sure that we shall be defeated whatever happens, whether it is in the conventional sphere or in the nuclear sphere. They say that we shall be defeated. That is not the way to talk. People who talk that way are ready for surrender. I want to say to your Lordships' House, to all of my colleagues on whichever side they may sit and whatever their opinions may be, that we must never allow the word "surrender" to remain in our vocabulary. That is the last thing we want. Why should we do so?
My noble friend Lord Chalfont intervened with what might have been called an irrelevance; the Chief Whip or the Deputy Chief Whip might sometimes describe it as raising wide-ranging issues. He referred to the question of civil subversion. Of course we must be careful about that, but it is nothing new. I recall in the last century—although I did not experience some of it myself, but I read about it—the anarchy that prevailed and the disturbances that occurred all over the place. Assassinations occurred, there was trouble over the Irish question and there were many problems that assailed us at the time and assailed the people. It is nothing new.
When it is suggested that we must be careful about the communists who are using what is called "unilateral disarmament" merely for the purpose of intimidating people and of civil subversion, I venture to direct attention to some of my colleagues. Will anyone suggest that when my noble friend Lord Soper indulges in some of his pacifist utterances—which he is entitled to do because he holds strong views about that subject—he has allowed himself to be intimidated by some of the people to whom the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred? Will anyone make similar suggestions as regards my noble friend Lord Brockway—who is not with us today—or the noble Lord, Lord Noel-Baker—who is now leading a procession in the United States in connection with unilateral disarmament? Object to their views, reject their views, have nothing to do with their views and regard them as subversive, but they are not, surely, allowing themselves to be intimidated by these communists or some of the people who are engaged in riots and who are thinking about more riots?
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, I ask the noble Lord to give way for a moment, because I think that he is totally misrepresenting what I said. The views of my noble friends in this House and of my noble colleagues are, indeed, a matter for them and I have the greatest respect for them. What I said, and what I stand by, is that there are thousands of people in this movement—the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament—who are not so intelligent and sophisticated as they are, and who are being manipulated by the communists, and let us not forget it.
§ Lord Shinwell
My Lords, there are two points that I should like to make in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I would not for a moment impugn his integrity in connection with defence matters—I recognise that. But it seems to me that to intervene with an issue of this kind is forgetting the problems 53 associated with defence. We should never allow that to happen. I shall leave the matter there.
I wish to come to a conclusion and I shall do so by making reference to my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition and the speech that he made this afternoon. So far he is the only member of your Lordships' House who has engaged in this debate who has referred to the White Paper as being reasonable. No one else has made that suggestion, but no doubt in view of what I have just said some of those who are to follow me may decide to use the term "reasonable" and perhaps even say that it is a very good White Paper.
I shall venture to give my opinion of the White Paper. It is produced by the Government after consulting with the professionals in the three services and the Ministry of Defence and all the people who know something about the subject of defence, who have experienced it and who can speak about it theoretically as well as practically. That is what the Government have done. If the Government have gone through the hoops so far as these matters are concerned and have delved and delved and inquired as far as they possibly can, and say, "That is the best we can do", then I say, not as a member of the Conservative Party, but as a member of the Labour Party, and as one who believes in the Labour Party and its ideals and who will stand by the Labour Party, that I support the Government in their efforts in the sphere of defence.
I would have nothing to do with unilateral disarmament and I say that because this morning I received—I do not know whether my noble friend Lord Peart received it—the agenda for the Labour Party Conference. What did I find there?—scores and scores of resolutions demanding unilateral disarmament; no defence at all. There are resolutions denouncing defence of whatever kind—conventional or nuclear. They must have the conference before those resolutions are agreed. I want to say to them that, if ever the time should come when we were engaged in a conflict—it might emerge as the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, said perhaps in the Middle East, but I hope not, or it might happen on the borders of East Germany and the Federal Republic of Germany—and our troops were involved, does anyone suppose for a moment that the Labour Party in this country (the official Labour Party and even the unofficial section of the party) would dare to oppose the Government in their efforts to stand by our forces? Of course not. That will not happen. When it comes to the crunch they will support whichever Government are in power, whether it be Conservative or Labour—I was about to add "or SDP", but I do not think that that will ever happen. For the second time I say—and I am sorry to repeat myself, and will sit down in a moment—that the Government have submitted a White Paper that is subject to criticism. There will be more criticism, there will be more views and there will be more inquiries. All that will happen. But whatever the Government do—and I speak of whatever Government are in office—it will be the duty of your Lordships' House (if it still remains, as I believe it will remain) and of the other place (if it remains, as it is bound to remain) and of our civilised society—which perhaps will become more civilised—to stand by whatever Government are in power in order to maintain our security, not in the interests of political parties, 54 whatever they may be, but in the interests of every man, woman and child in our country.
§ Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal
My Lords, it is never a very easy matter to follow the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, when he is in robust form, as he obviously is this afternoon. Unlike him, I have no difficulty in one respect, in that I can give an unequivocal welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, and I am the first to do so from this side of the House. I can only say to him that he is just as articulate now as he was when I first heard him argue and, indeed, had the temerity to argue with him, in, I think, 1938. We shall look forward to hearing more from him for as many years ahead.
This evening we are, in fact, discussing two White Papers, one rather more slim than the other. But before I embark upon that matter I should like to suggest to the noble Lord the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip that they regard a list of 36 speakers as a gentle reproof; that they seem to be imposing somewhat on the good nature of this House in the amount of time that we are allowed to devote to defence matters which, as the noble Lord himself rightly said, is a matter of great interest to all of us. May I once again suggest to him that it would be immensely valuable if, somehow, we could find time to discuss some of the specific issues which are embraced within the broad spectrum of defence. If he wants a few suggestions, there is the matter of the dockyards; there is the matter of the Territorial Army; there is the matter of the Royal Ordnance factories; there is the question, which I shall mention in a moment, of the exploding costs of technology, research and development; and there is the whole matter of how we should relate our procurement policy to our defence policy. All are very difficult and interesting questions, and, following the noble Lord's advice, I shall do my best to exercise great self-restraint and return to the more general questions.
May I start by saying that I have a special reason for making more than what one might call the ritual genuflection in the direction of NATO. Even a cursory attempt to list the possible roles of our forces demonstrates the impossibility of the United Kingdom going it alone. We have talked about short, intense wars on the central front. We have to think about larger conflicts perhaps developing elsewhere, perhaps threatening the European sea routes, and certainly ending up by our having to protect our reinforcement routes across the Atlantic and round the Cape. On top of that, we worry about the threat to the northern flank in Norway and about the threat to the southern flank in the Mediterranean. We worry about the situation in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf, and we even still have peripheral interests in places such as Belize and the Falkland Islands.
Clearly, the United Kingdom cannot make available resources of men and equipment to deal with all these alarming threats. So the hope is that by binding ourselves together with our allies the aggregate security which we achieve will form an entity greater than the parts that go to make it up. Therefore, I want to make 55 the fundamental point that the judgments that we are now being asked to make are essentially political. The immediate criterion is not so much a question of military effectiveness as the effect upon our NATO allies. Sadly, the alliance is not in good shape. For one reason or another, most of our continental allies are demonstrating by faltering in their resolve. One can ask the question: Has NATO the political will to pay the price of buying the luxury of a sense of confident security? But this ought to be possible because NATO, collectively, is spending on very much the same scale as the Soviet Union, whence comes our principal threat.
There is nothing new about the underlying cause of what I might call the present crunch. The cost of sophistication is rising perhaps twice as fast as the rate of inflation, a point which the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, dealt with admirably. All other countries are experiencing much the same phenomenon and are worried about it. Equipment costs are increasing at perhaps the rate of 20 per cent. over the years while the rate of inflation has been 10 per cent. The arithmetic is quite simple. If you increase your real resources on defence by 3 per cent. in real terms, you still have a shortfall, and it is a shortfall which gets larger and more alarming as the years go by. Of course the 3 per cent. is welcome, but it will not bridge the gap which opens up before us.
As regards the overall level of resources, I have said before in this House that the long-term ability of a country to defend itself has to depend upon its industrial prosperity. If we look back, we see that this country, in its time of exercising the powers of pax Britannica, did so based upon its industrial leadership and its wealth, which it deployed throughout the world. Now all defence expenditure is not necessarily lost to the economy. There are gains in employment and there are gains in inventions, which ultimately set up new industries and create exports. But I believe that in peacetime it is hard to claim that you can have a defence-led return to prosperity, which, of course, is what happened in the lead-up to the Second World War.
Therefore, I applaud the Government's courage in, to use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, grappling with the daunting choices. I must say that I have slightly greater doubt as to whether the White Paper deserves similar plaudits for its forthright honesty regarding the overall effect of spending over the next few years, though I am lost in admiration at the skill with which the White Paper has been written. Judging by the criterion of the political impact on others, I come to the reluctant conclusion that it is probably as good a balance as we are likely to achieve.
As a modest, erstwhile naval man, I would naturally wish to see us maintain our traditional maritime role. No thinking person could fail to be alarmed by the implications of doubts of our ability to maintain the sea routes for reinforcement, which leads to a lowering of what I might call the threshold of desperation. I would not wish to repeat the passionate and logical exposition of this point of view from the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. It seemed to me that there were two things lacking, which I have no doubt he left out in the interests of brevity.
56 One was where he proposes either to persuade the country to spend more overall on defence; or alternatively, is he prepared to say which other branches of the armed forces he is going to raid in order to increase his naval power? I believe that you need to have either one of those if you are going to support the Navy in the way which I, like he, would wish to see happen. Whatever the misgivings one may have about the naval effects of this White Paper, it would surely be even more catastrophic if our continental allies in NATO, or if NATO itself, were to disintegrate because our continental allies started to believe that our commitment to Europe was weakening, and that we were once again reverting to the offshore island posture of the maritime power which was our position pre-NATO.
Some good may come of the depredations which are being made on the Navy if this forces them to concentrate their minds on exercising their ingenuity and fresh thinking to produce simpler and more cost-effective equipment for the discharge of their certainly arduous and demanding tasks. Here again I go along with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who suggested that in this area the pursuit down that road might very well lead to an increase in exports and a corresponding increase in home employment. But I believe that it is dangerous for us to delude ourselves that salvation in this difficult moment lies purely in the pursuit of efficiency. I am glad to see that efficiency is, indeed, mentioned in the White Paper, and of course there is scope in a department of the size of the Ministry of Defence.
I have always been suspicious that size leads to management problems, and it is very much easier to mask waste in a large organisation than it is in a small one. But here again we should applaud the Government's devotion to the cause of efficiency which is epitomised by the successful efforts of Sir Derek Rayner and his special little department. I am also glad to see in the White Paper—I think it is paragraph 42—reference to the Government continuing to seek a partnership with private industry. However, here again I know from experience that this is a difficult area and to make achievements in it is a slow process. You have to avoid disruption of the existing state of affairs in introducing a more efficient way of setting about some of your problems. Not only is the search for efficiency no universal panacea but it also tends to be a long-term business. Therefore, there is little hope that we will find true alleviation for the shortfall over the coming years of thousands of millions of pounds which is suggested by the White Paper.
May I say at this juncture a word or two about something that has not been mentioned this evening, which is the question of the Ministry of Defence overspend. This needs to be put into context. Supposing the Ministry of Defence overspends by some £250 million. That is a lot of money. But remember that this is on a budget of over £10,000 million. I suggest that almost any commercial business in this country would be proud if its budgetary system operated within the limits of less than 3 per cent. of accuracy. When you bear in mind that this is a business operating on the frontiers of technology, and a business where you commit yourself to many of your orders many years ahead, getting within 3 per cent. of your budget is no mean achievement.
57 The Prime Minister herself is not above riding with the hounds and running with the hare on this issue. She brags to our allies about how high our level of expenditure is in comparison with our GDP, and she then turns round and castigates her Minister of Defence at the same time for spending more and showing that he cannot manage his affairs. Lying behind this matter of budget management is an issue of wider relevance than defence alone. This is the nonsense of the Treasury's rigid system of annual control of budgets. I believe this to be a contributory factor to overspend, and it imposes distortion and waste across the whole field of Government, so I venture to bore your Lordships with it for a couple of minutes.
Any prudent housewife knows that she likes to give herself headroom in her budget by planning to undershoot a little. I do not say she would use these words to express this process, but that is what she does. Yet if the Government department follows this course the first thing that happens is that the Treasury takes away the savings, and they are lost forever. On top of that they then say, "Since you have underspent your budget this year, I think it is likely you will not need such a big budget next year, now, will you?"
What an incredible way to treat the "wise virgin" who tries to plan ahead and have a little bit of room to manoeuvre. Anybody who has had any experience of dealing with a Government department knows the results of this kind of thing. On the one hand you get work being interrupted. You get road contracts being interrupted because the local government, or the authority concerned, run out of money, so the contract stops towards the end of the financial yearand it has to be restarted. On the other hand, there is the even more ridiculous state of affairs, that you find an underspent department rushing around to try to find something on which they can quickly get rid of some money. What an incredibly wasteful practice! I am sure that any noble Lord can think of examples of this with which they have to deal at all levels of government. If everybody does this, and if it is such "common sense", why on earth do we go on doing it?
I have no doubt that intelligent men will produce marvellous excuses about it being necessary for the control of finance in this country. That excuse is wearing a little thin, since I believe the Treasury have been able to accommodate themselves to a loss of something like £10,000 million of revenue as a result of the Civil Service strike; so it cannot be all that difficult. But I also suspect that lying behind it is what I can only call a shabby device. The Treasury believe that every department is fearful of overspending, and so the aggregate effect will be an undershoot. That enables the Treasury to apply a block adjustment to all the budget put in by all the departments, and in that way they have a little less money to find each year. One sympathises with them in their difficulty. One suggests that the gain they make in no way outweighs the inefficiency—the waste, frustration, pain and grief—they impose on everybody in this country by their present practice. I urge the Minister to see whether he can get some sense into this matter as far as his department is concerned, and I hope in the process he will manage to bring a breath of fresh air into Whitehall as a whole.
In spite of my efforts, I have already overrun my 58 time, and I apologise. I have tried to say that our present uncomfortable posture was inevitable and was not of the Government's making. I have tried to suggest to the Government one way in which they might make their management task a little easier for themselves and do us all a good turn in the process. I applaud their courage in facing their problems. I should have liked to see them have the courage to be totally frank with the country and the House as to exactly what are the financial implications, but perhaps that was expecting too much. I conclude by again emphasising that our yardstick in judging defence decisions should at this juncture be the effect on our allies in NATO, both on the continent and in the United States. My concern is that the health of the alliance is even more precarious than the twin problems of defence overstrain and the ailing health of our own economy.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, I also join in the congratulations to the maiden speakers today. I do not like to make invidious comparisons but I must remark that I was immensely impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. I speak with some apprehension because I speak under the eye of my former sergeant major; Company Sergeant Major Low (as the noble Lord, Lord Aldington, was then) always had trouble with Lance Corporal Carver in Winchester College OTC about keeping his puttees wound up. But puttees, like theories of naval warfare, have become a bit outdated.
It gives me no pleasure to tell the Government, "I told you so". In previous speeches in this House I said, first of all, that we could not go forward with a replacement independent strategic deterrence system without adversely affecting our conventional forces. I told the Government they were overloading the equipment programme, and I told them that unless they restored the financial cuts they were making they would be forced into a review by the summer of this year. All three have happened. To a certain extent they brought it on themselves. When they came to power they made a number of additions for cosmetic purposes; they brought back old "Bulwark", gave the Army some more manpower, and saddled the Air Force with that flying white elephant, the Chinook. With the exception of the Chinook, they have had to give all those up.
They have laid great stress on equipment cost growth, but, as has already been pointed out, there is nothing new in that. It is the problem with which successive governments have been faced. The problem is not equipment cost growth—that is a problem but it has always been there—but the lack of any growth of the GNP, and I find it ironic that we have a Conservative Government implying in the paper, and actually saying in private, that the trouble with Labour's Defence Review was that it did not cut enough. That is an example we should take to heart, the folly of using defence as a political football to kick around from one side to the other when parties are in opposition or in power.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, perhaps the noble and gallant Lord will permit me to ask him whether he 59 could explain why Trident is the reason for our problems and not equipment costs, when Trident expenditure has barely started and the problems have been with us more acutely in the last two years?
§ Lord Carver
I will, if I may, my Lords, come to the Trident issue towards the end of my remarks. Trident apart, if this task had to be done, and I accept that it had to be done, I say that it was well done. I think that, faced with the problems which, to a certain extent, they brought on themselves and which, to a certain extent, were inherent in the situation, they have set about it very sensibly; and that I say in spite of the naval broadsides that have been fired off by my noble and gallant ex-gunnery officer, who turned one turret upon me. It made me wonder whether some of the great naval precepts were still applicable, such as:No man can do far wrong if he lays himself alongside the enemy".I do not want to spend long on naval strategy, but I suggest there are three aspects we need to look at. I reject entirely the concept that suddenly, out of the blue, Russian submarines will start sinking our merchant ships. We have to think of all the other implications that would be involved if that happened, including the effect on the Russian fleet. Of course, the submarine threat in the oceans is a very serious threat indeed in the condition of a major war between the two sides, but, with the number of nuclear weapons about, I do not believe that a major war between the two great rival powers could go on for long before becoming nuclear; and once it had become nuclear matters such as what happened to our trade routes would become practically irrelevant. Perhaps a more difficult subject is one which I suspect the noble Earl, Lord Inchcape, will raise later; namely, the problems of shipping in comparative peacetime interfered with by minor powers. That may well be a real problem, but I believe that the frigate strength which has been left to the Royal Navy is quite enough for that.
Then there is the question of the great emphasis that is placed on the reinforcement problem of NATO across the Atlantic. Unless those reinforcements and supplies reach this side of the Atlantic before hostilities start—that would be of great importance in a period of tension—then I have not much hope, whether they come by air or sea, that they will be very relevant to the situation; which means in practical terms that we can forget the whole great World War I and II idea of escorting convoys. Whether we are talking about the Navy, Air Force or Army, it is no simple matter at all to get the balance right between quantity and quality.
Great stress has been laid on the fact that everything to get the balance right between quantity and quality. is becoming too sophisticated, but nothing could be a greater waste of money than to produce a large number of equipments none of which are capable of dealing with the enemy. We cannot escape the consequences of the extraordinary revolution that is going on in electronics applying to all three Services.
Some questions arise out of the thinner White Paper—which is the one I thought we were discussing—to which I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, will be able to produce some answers. The first is whether the Royal Navy will be able to maintain the 60 planned number of nuclear powered hunter-killer submarines until the new ballistic missile submarine programme is completed; rightly in my opinion, they have put great stress on the long-range maritime patrol aircraft acting with the hunter-killer submarine, but it is not clear to me from the Paper whether the planned number will be maintained in spite of having to build some new ballistic missile submarines.
Secondly, is it intended to keep the Jaguar flying into the 21st century? If not, what will replace it? Will there be some other aircraft, are we going to buy the F.16, or shall we be relying on a mix of Tornado, Harrier and Phantom for as long as it will fly? If all that the Royal Air Force is to have in Germany and elsewhere is the Tornado and the Harrier, I would not be too happy about that.
Thirdly, what sort of brigade is it that it is planned to withdraw from the Rhine Army? I hope that it is not an armoured brigade. Mr. Healey made that mistake before, and he had to send it back again. If it is the curious formation that is known by the name of the Fifth Field Force, I would have no objection to that. But since this is a unilateral withdrawal can the Government confirm that they now have no hope of achieving any mutual and balanced force reduction withdrawals as a result of the endless conversations in Vienna?
Finally, on the question of the Territorial Army, I welcome the emphasis that is being given by the Government, but can they assure the House that they will not use extra manpower for the TA to resurrect old units for sentimental or local political reasons, but will apply it where it is really needed?
Turning to the part of the White Paper headed, "Beyond the NATO Area", I welcome the fact that some of the more fantastic ideas which were being played around with some time ago have now faded. I note the role that the Government suggest for the Royal Navy, but I would suggest that cruising around the world with whatever they call it—a substantial naval task group—going to the South Atlantic, Caribbean, Indian Ocean or further East, is not a very practical way of bringing more actual military power to bear to something like the rapid deployment force.
The only other mention of something practical in this nature was the suggestion of some soldiers, the Eighth Field Force, and lengthening the Hercules. I am astonished to think that there is absolutely no mention of Royal Air Force strike and reconnaissance aircraft. In practical terms if we wish to produce a real contribution, say, to a rapid deployment force in the Middle East, which could actually do something useful, air forces would be of far greater value and could be deployed far more rapidly than could either soldiers or sailors. I would suggest that a practical way of showing our interest in this would be to resurrect the Royal Air Force station at Akrotiri as a fully operational base from which Royal Air Force aircraft could contribute to a force like that. I was astonished to see no mention of that.
Nor do I see any mention of what I had understood the Secretary of State was hoping to achieve, and to which the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, made reference. I understood that the Secretary of State had hopes of somehow creating a form of financial reserve which could meet unexpected 61 increases in costs on the way. Well, I wish him the very best of luck in that, but I suspect that the reason why there is no mention of it here is that the Treasury would make absolutely certain that it did not succeed.
I now wish to turn to the nuclear problem. My main disagreement here with the Government is that they have their priorities wrong. Whatever they may say, they have sacrificed the conventional forces to the independent strategic deterrent, which I believe to be unnecessary, and to a certain extent undesirable. I do not pretend that if they cancelled a replacement system—I am not saying cancel Trident—for Polaris, then they would not have had to do any of these awkward things. I think that they would have had to do some of them, but nothing like enough. I am not impressed by the argument that the noble Viscount has often deployed in this House: that, oh well, the Tornado programme as a whole takes up more money than Trident. But Tornado is a flexible weapon system that can be used anywhere, and it can be used in conventional or nuclear operations. It is a flexible weapon that can be used in support of one's policy and in support of one's strategy, whereas an independent strategic deterrent cannot.
I would appeal to the Secretary of State for Defence—if the noble Viscount will make the suggestion to him—that he applies to the nuclear aspect the same hard, penetrating logic that he has applied to conventional forces, and I suggest that NATO rethinks its nuclear strategy. In my opinion NATO relies too much on nuclear weapons more so than is needed for deterrence; and this distorts. It distorts the equipment programmes, it distorts the training, it distorts tactics, and finally it distorts the strategy itself.
My fear is that if NATO does not do something about this, then the popular support for NATO and for NATO strategy will wither away and will be directed against defence generally. The credibility of NATO strategy will be weakened, and if as a result of that, the deterrent to war failed, NATO would suddenly face the reality that it would gain nothing and lose everything by implementing its agreed strategy and war plans. Therefore, it must think again. It will not be easy, and I doubt whether it can be done through NATO's normal machinery, through the NPG or anything like that. It will have to have resort to that to which it has resorted in the past and try to find three wise men.
So what do I think should be the way forward for NATO strategy? First, there must be reliance on the United States nuclear arsenal to deter war and to deter the Russians from using their nuclear weapons if deterrence were, tragically, to fail. The United States has more than enough for that, both overall and in Europe. Other NATO members should participate by manning delivery systems to show their association with, and support of, the American nuclear deterrent. All the rest of NATO's effort should be devoted to conventional forces, both as a deterrent to war and, if that were to fail, to ensure that the situation is brought under control before there is any temptation to use nuclear weapons. Flexible and strong mobile army and RAF forces in Germany are essential to that end and are of a higher priority than maritime forces, which must exist, but which are much more slowly acting.
62 Finally, NATO must give up its ideas which undoubtedly exist—and exist at certain lower levels, certainly—of fighting a nuclear war. It is illogical, because whether or not we could limit it—and I do not believe that we could—in any scenario of nuclear war the West would come off worse than the East. It is impractical because you cannot fight a controlled nuclear war, and it is immoral because the total results of it in terms of the destruction, the misery and the after effects could not in any conceivable sense of the word be called defence.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to congratulate the maiden speakers, my noble friends Lord Thomas of Swynnerton and Lord Orkney, and the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. I hope that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, will forgive me if I do not follow him precisely, particularly in the nuclear argument, though I shall touch on it as I go. There is a great deal to be said and we must try to hurry.
I should like to start by saying that I think that the White Paper is good on money and weak on strategy, and in that sense I wish to endorse what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, and the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, had to say. Perhaps I should speak first about the points where I agree with the Government. I agree with the end of paragraph 22, which states:we must therefore retain a large and versatile ocean-going surface fleet".I do not detect that in the rest of the White Paper. I agree with the Government in running down the dockyards, and like them I am appalled at the high cost of modernisation. I very much take the point of, and agree with, my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing on this particular matter. In this general area, I agree with much of what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, said. But perhaps he might agree with me that fundamentally since about 1945—possibly earlier—we have had, working out what sort of systems we should have, and how much money we can spend, people, none of whom are subject to the discipline of themselves balancing the books—that is, the service chiefs, the senior civil servants and, indeed, some Ministers who may have had no experience in this area—though some, of course, have—and the scientists, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, who I see is not in his place. So I believe there has been a tendency, over and above the one that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, mentioned, which has emerged because of the appalling difficulty of balancing quality against quantity—something upon which I greatly sympathise with the Government.
I think that this is a problem. Though I have not had time to read it, the introductory article in the latest edition of Jane's Fighting Ships was reported on page 5 of The Times of July 16th. I shall not quote it to your Lordships because there is not time, but as one reads one sees that that introduction raises the whole point of how appallingly lengthy and costly is the total procurement system. It takes 10 years—or did in the early 'sixties, and I expect it may be more now—to produce a medium-sized new weapons system, and it took 15 years to produce a major one. When we looked into 63 this in the 1960s we found that half the time was spent on committee meetings and in exchanges of correspondence, and the other half was what you might call the hard work.
I am not saying that you have not got to have committees, but I really think that what needs to be looked at in all sorts of areas is sacrificing the best, if you like, in order to have the second best, buying off the shelf more and being less insistent on rigorous, elaborate and comprehensive staff requirements all being met in every detail. I would suggest that we could also usefully denationalise British Shipbuilders, so that there was a greater degree of competition between the shipbuilding firms, and could introduce within the background to the whole of this a sense of the need to balance the books. The people who make the decisions and the people who make the recommendations should be conscious of the fact that every minute they spend is going to be a cost to the project which may be a wasted cost and an unnecessary one.
So, basically, I agree with the Government's difficulties in this area, and I would make just one other remark on that subject. On page 5 of the same edition of The Times from which I quoted the editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, Captain John Moore, there is an article, on page 2, describing the activities of Sir Derek Rayner, who is clearly trying to inject into the bureaucratic machine exactly the sort of thinking that I have just been suggesting. I think that this would be a very useful supplementary way of trying to bring down the costs. I commissioned a Leander-class frigate in 1963, and it cost £5 million. We are told in the White Paper that to do a major refit on it—not to rebuild it—is going to cost £70 million. That is surely ridiculous.
Coming now to the points on which I disagree with the Government, it is really on what I would call their basic strategic thinking. I would put as their priorities the need for the United States' contribution to NATO. That is the most important one; and in the naval context I wrote a letter to The Times on 22nd June on that matter. I apologise to your Lordships for giving the basis of my newspaper comments without quoting them to your Lordships but it is because I want to save time. In that letter I endeavoured to show that the bridge across the Atlantic is vital. It is vital not only in the event that we need to get resources across—and that is not just United States reinforcements; it is also the food, the fuel and what we need in these islands, because we are importers, and always will be. So that is one point. But, also, this Atlantic bridge serves to convince the American families that their people, their boys in Europe, are able to be reinforced and re-supplied. If this basic requirement is seen to be reduced below what I call a credible level, then we might find that the Americans would fall out of NATO, and that would be a disaster. So that is the first important thing.
The second important thing is that we really need naval forces also for home defence. I was appalled to see the lack of mention of the Navy, except in relation to mine counter-measures, in the section of the White Paper on defence of the home base. Apart from mine counter-measures there is to mention of the Navy in that position at all. To me that is nonsense, and your Lordships may indeed wonder why. 64 I would suggest now—and this is where I come to the nuclear deterrent—that the important thing is that we have a deterrent capability which is both comprehensive and credible. I am not going into the arguments pro and con the deterrent; I am for it, as many noble Lords will know, but that is not the point. The point is that if we have these levels of deterrent they must be credible.
So far as the lower levels are concerned, like ships, like aircraft, like tanks, like men under arms, they are credible if there are enough of them in the right place and they are well trained. But in the case of the nuclear deterrent this depends in a very special way on the leader of the nation that possesses it, and what one needs to be sure is that the credibility of the nuclear deterrent will remain if it is in hands which are less firm than those of the present Prime Minister.
One can look forward—and I particularly suggest the years 1987 and 1988. I do not know whether it has occurred to your Lordships, but in 1988 we shall be due to have a new American President, and it will be the end of the second term (if he is with us) of Mr. Reagan, so it will be somebody new. Heaven help us!, we might get another Jimmy Carter, who cannot make up his mind, and that would surely reduce the credibility of their deterrent, though there are a lot of forces in the States to keep it going. Then, in France we shall have an election. Let us hope that the French will have seen that the soft option of socialism does not work, and that they will return to something a bit tougher and we shall get a firm Frenchman. Then, how about this country? Let us hope that our present Prime Minister not only gets in at the next election but has the physical strength to survive to the one after.
But we shall find ourselves—and this is the essence of it—at points of what I would call low credibility, and it is under those circumstances that I feel that the threat at the lower level of deterrent becomes more important. That is the sort of occasion when I can foresee certain sorts of thing that might be done with a more credible naval force—one of a size to do its job properly in the Atlantic, one greater than is now being suggested by the Government. I am not going to enlarge on that. I have a certain amount of practical experience of actually doing it, and I am not going to enlarge on it because I do not want to put ideas into any potential enemy's head. They can do their own thinking quite well for themselves.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me, but I shall not speak for much longer. It seems to me that the Secretary of State has been advised only in relation to a high nuclear credibility, and, from what I can see in reading between the lines, with what I might call a Maginot Line attitude. It seems that perhaps he has been advised to assume that the Soviet capabilities are wholly invulnerable, and I would suggest that this is not by any means always the case. New weapons systems, particularly with limited testing, often falter when first tested in action. As to the threat to ships at sea, I should have thought there were many other things such as airfields and troop concentrations which are as threatened as ships, if not more so.
So what is the answer? The answer must lie in balancing gradually towards a main maritime contribution to NATO, as was said by the noble and gallant 65 Lord, Lord Hill-Norton. I would not castigate the Government for what they have done; but I suggest that they can work towards that and that it should take perhaps 10 years to do. To produce the new ships that I suggest we ought to have to augment what we have already, and to replace many of the ones that will go out of service, will take the best part of 10 years. Your Lordships will remember that I said that I thought 1988 would be a particularly important period, so we cannot wait to do this.
Where is the saving to come? I suggest that in the same period we persuade NATO that our main use to them is in preserving the North Atlantic bridge, that we are not doing anything useful for them by keeping the military forces in Northern Europe and we should therefore gradually, over a longish period, phase out our commitment there—others have broken the Brussels Treaty so there is nothing new in that respect. As for immediate savings, I suggest to the Government that they could bring home the families of operational troops as soon as practicable. Your Lordships might think that that is tough on the operational troops, but it happened to us in the Navy in the mid 'fifties. I had my family with me in Malta in the late 'forties and early 'fifties and, when I did a commission in the Far East in 1958 and 1959, I and my ship's company had to do 18 months without seeing our families at all. That was rather an abrupt change. In this case, they are quite close and they could go across at their own expense. Bringing home the families would make quite a saving.
Furthermore, I had always understood that the camp followers of armies are a great target for the enemy, and I should have thought that they were less effective as a deterrent if they had their families around them in houses which could be destroyed. So let us hurry it up, get them home and then gradually phase this system out and concentrate on developing a good Navy. We must maintain the North Atlantic bridge; we must maintain sea defence of the home base, and we must allow for periods of low credibility of the nuclear deterrent. We should adjust the strategy to maximise these points and we must start now.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, for the past 14 years I have heard a lot of defence debates. I have taken part in not a few. There have been times when I have had a feeling of something like unreality—I do not think that this is peculiar to me—in which the atmosphere has been that there are not many people taking part and they are people really committed to the subject and are talking to one another; but the people they would really like to be talking to are not listening or are not even here.
This debate seems to be a departure from that. It is a much longer debate, there are more speakers of more kinds and more persuasions, and the background against which it takes place is a more dramatic one than usual. The situation in the world is more fluid. In some ways it is more frightening and in others perhaps less frightening. At any rate, I personally have a sense of occasion and this debate has done nothing to abate it, containing, as it does, admirable maiden speeches and notable speeches expressing various points of view. There are many 66 more speakers still to come. My contribution will be brief because I am going to talk only about deterrence. I have something to say which may be worth while because perhaps not many of your Lordships have heard this put very closely before.
I have said before that the strategic key geographically speaking, from the Russian point of view, to Western Europe is the British Isles. This is a familiar point of view: Russian armaments are such now that we can perfectly easily be blockaded and invaded from the West, from the seaward side. I do not say that this is likely to happen; I do not think it will happen. It is one of several possibilities of hostile action, all of which are gravely dangerous to us.
It is not enough to anticipate such moves and hope to be able to block them by force of arms, although we must do what we can. What is needed is interdiction—that is a word fashionable in air defence circles, meaning authoritative prohibition. In the 20th century the most authoritative prohibition that we have is that to which we give the name of the independent strategic nuclear deterrent. I am in favour of this. I am in favour of Polaris and Trident. I have nothing whatever to say—I hope your Lordships will be relieved by this—as a contribution to the controversy. I make that statement to get it out of the way.
Starting from the point that our means of interdiction is the nuclear deterrent—Polaris as we call it now; Trident as we shall be calling it in a few years—we come almost at once upon a question: In what circumstances might a Polaris or Trident force be used, if at all?
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
That, my Lords, is a wrong question in spite of Lord Gladwyn's "Hear, hear!". The deterrent is being used all the time already. The question is really: When will the rockets be fired, if at all? This is a question which must not be answered by anyone in any circumstances at all. The reason why is this: the missiles in their submarines in the depths of the ocean are not really the deterrent in themselves. The deterrent is ignorance; the ignorance of the Russians as to whether and in what circumstances those missiles might be fired.
Before enlarging on that statement, may I clear a rather curious misapprehension out of the way. Some people believe that our submarine forces are not by themselves powerful enough to deter the Russians. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said in December 1979 that any threat to use it would clearly be ignored by the Russians. If it were carried out it would inflict only limited damage on the Soviet Union, whereas the United Kingdom would cease to exist as a nation by reason of Soviet nuclear retaliation.
"Limited damage", my Lords. One bomb, with a yield of 12 kilotonnes of high explosive, destroyed a city of a quarter of a million people and knocked Japan out of the war. One corresponding bomb in a Polaris submarine has a yield of 50 kilotonnes. I am enlarging slightly on what my noble friend the Lord President said earlier, but it is worth doing. Each missile carries 10 bombs. There are 16 such missiles in one submarine and all of them are independently targeted. One boat carries 160 bombs, each four and a half times as 67 powerful as that which destroyed Hiroshima. That is only one quarter of our total Polaris force. What that force can do was described by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, as only limited damage that would clearly be ignored by the Soviet authorities. It is all very well for the noble Lord to stand up and tell the Russians that the possible destruction of all their big cities and most of their population is something that probably they need not bother their heads about, but I daresay they think differently over there—
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, does the noble Earl really think that if war breaks out—and it may just break out, like that—the Russians will, as it were, surrender, because they will be in ignorance of whether we are going to bomb them by nuclear means or not?
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, I am talking about deterrents. There will be no war breaking out: that is the object of deterrents, to prevent war—
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, the force is quite big enough, being undetectable and therefore invulnerable to a pre-emptive strike. What needs to be improved from time to time is not the hitting power, but the means of delivery. What we need sometimes are cleverer missiles, not more and bigger ones. I return to my statement that the true deterrent is ignorance. To lessen or remove this ignorance is to remove or destroy the effect of the deterrent. That can be done in two opposite ways. First, we could let the enemy know, in what circumstances we would fire. To do this would enable him to alter his strategic planning so as to make sure that those circumstances would not arise, and therefore that would be self-defeating.
Secondly, I should like to draw your Lordships attention to the fact that the enemy's ignorance can be lessened or dispelled by telling him that we would never fire at all. To make that statement is to destroy the effectiveness of the deterrent by exactly the degree to which the statement is believed. I myself said during the debate on the Unstarred Question of my noble friend Lord Kimberley last December that I believe in the effectiveness of the independent deterrent and that I believe we would be prepared to use it in certain circumstances, but that I could not see how such circumstances could arise. I acknowledge now that that was a mistake. I am satisfied now that such circumstances could arise. I certainly never made the deadly, dangerous mistake of saying that we would never fire.
However, there are those who do say that, and in prominent places too. I will take an example that lies close at hand, because on 26th May The Times published a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, which said this:The idea that we or the French could commit suicide by telling them to retire or face the elimination of Moscow is only tenable on the assumption that we have a Prime Minister who is mad"—mad, that is in the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. Does the noble Lord really believe that the 68 "elimination of Moscow" is of so little account to the Russians? If anyone else does. which I doubt, perhaps he will reflect on my summary of a few minutes ago of the unimaginably greater damage that even a single submarine could do. No nation on earth would dare to move in the face of such a threat if they believed it or if, as I have already said, they did not know or could not tell whether to believe it or not. Only if they were certain that they were safe from nuclear attack would they advance regardless of such a threat. And here we have the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—a man who has stood at the heights of the diplomatic representation of his country—writing to the newspapers to proclaim in advance his belief that it would be safe.
§ Lord Gladwyn
My Lords, in my opinion of course we could have a nuclear deterrent in order to deter the Russians from bombing us, but if war breaks out—and it might break out tomorrow—we cannot expect the Russians to surrender because they might be under the impression that they might nevertheless be bombed by us. If they are bombed by us and we start it off, of course they bomb back and everything is lost anyway.
§ The Earl of Cork and Orrery
My Lords, the thing is that we expect the Russians not to start a war. They have the deterrent and we should not expect ourselves to start a war. That is what I am talking about: deterrence a no-war situation. I wish the deterrent to exist and I do not wish people to say that we would not use it. Nor do I wish them to say that we would use it. I wish silence to be maintained on this subject. The question now is: Do the Soviet leaders believe the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn?—because, if they do, he has dissipated their ignorance and the deterrent is dead: he has killed it. He may believe (I am sure he does) that Trident is "simply not credible"—those are his words—but what are we to think of a man who stands up in Parliament and says so for publication to the world? But do they believe him? Not entirely, I suspect.
I am sorry to have to bring the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, into my speech, because he is not here at the moment, but I think he should be mentioned. He has not said in so many words, like the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, that the independent nuclear deterrent is not credible—or perhaps he has—but one of the things he has said is this:…I have never heard or read a scenario which I would consider to be realistic in which it could be considered to be right or reasonable for the Prime Minister or Government of this country to order the firing of our independent strategic force at a time when the Americans were not prepared to fire theirs—certainly not before Russian nuclear weapons have landed on this country".That is a quotation from column 1628 on 18th December 1980. I confess that the more that I read that statement in the Official Report, the more obscure do I find it. But it seems to me to mean that the noble and gallant Lord has never come across a credible plan to fire Polaris independently when Russian nuclear weapons have not landed here. I should like now to afford the noble and gallant Lord an opportunity to correct me if I have wrongly interpreted him, but I cannot do that, so I will go on and hope I have interpreted him correctly. I will just say that coming from a former Chief of the Defence Staff, this revelation 69 of secret information from the Ministry of Defence—because that is what it is, if your Lordships consider it—can hardly fail to invite criticism on the grounds that it is likely to give aid and comfort to an enemy. I will not pursue this matter any further in the absence of the noble and gallant Lord, because I think it would be improper.
As I have said, the true deterrent is ignorance. Statements such as those that I have analysed may not entirely dispel that ignorance, but they might well go some way towards encouraging an enemy to take what, without them, would have seemed an unacceptable risk. For this reason alone—and heaven knows it is powerful enough!—we are entitled to ask that such statements shall not again be made.
Whatever effect damaging pronouncements about the credibility of our independent deterrent may have beyond the Iron Curtain, I am quite certain that they are damaging at home, and for this reason: they provide generous and gratuitous helpings of jam on the bread of the unilateral disarmers. In saying that, I do not intend a general attack on the unilateral movement. It has been most ably and creditably dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and others, and I do not think that there will be a great deal of disagreement if I say that within this CND organisation—sincere and admirable as it may be in many ways to many people—there exists a strong focus of subversion on behalf of one party or another. And what could be more welcome to them in their work of manipulating and misleading their fellows in this country than a statement from a former British Ambassador to Paris that an independent firing of Polaris would be possible only if the Prime Minister is mad? What could be handier for them in their efforts to strip us of our defences than the published opinion of a field marshal that it would be neither right nor reasonable to fire our deterrent weapons either before or after the Russians had fired them against us? Such utterances play straight into the hands of those who, for their own base reasons and base ends, wish to argue the uselessness of the deterrent.
There are arguments in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament, though I personally profoundly disagree with them, which are arguments that may be called respectable. It is also possible, though I believe wrong, to argue logically for the abolition of our own independent strategic nuclear deterrent. But if, by pronouncing it incredible, you damage or destroy the effectiveness of our deterrent and do so on no authority higher than your own opinion—however sound that opinion may seem to you—then, in my submission, you will have done something for which it is hardly reasonable to expect the forgiveness of your countrymen.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to those already offered to the maiden speakers, and to thank them for the substance of what they had to say and the characteristic way in which they said it. Were this debate confined to recondite arguments as to the disposition of available resources within the defence policy, and, indeed, decked out with speculations as to the psychological reactions of major powers, it might seem to your Lordships' House 70 that the intervention of a parson was irrelevant and perhaps impertinent. I have listened with deep melancholy to a very great deal of what has been said, and feel impelled to add something to it, because the second part of the title is "The Way Forward" and I believe that the way forward, as indicated by the substance of this White Paper, is inadmissible to a Christian, or a would-be Christian. I say it in tabloid form, if you like, but with all the lack of ecclesiastical authority at my command, that modern war and Christianity are incompatible and the prosecution of one prevents the furtherance of the other.
I could have wished that in this debate I had been supported by a number of members of the Church of various kinds and denominations, who increasingly have come to share the conviction that there is no middle road; that, in fact, we have to abandon the Christian faith if we are to give wholehearted support to a White Paper. We are in no way involved merely at the point of commitment to war. The intention, in certain circumstances, to resort to the implementation of these weapons is as immoral as the actual practice of them, and the Sermon on the Mount is quite clear on that point.
I say this with considerable difficulty, because it involves an immediate response on the part, I suppose, of a great many people who would claim to be practically minded, but we are in such a dilemma that we have, so to speak, to help out the Almighty. Whatever might be the good intentions that are involved in the Christian faith, they are inoperable in the kind of wicked world in which we live. Therefore, for me, a simple choice results. I either renounce the Christian faith, because it is inapplicable, or I seek to be obedient to it, even though I cannot foresee the consequences of such an obedience.
I would dare to remind your Lordships' House that the Service of Prayer, which immediately preceded your affairs this afternoon, contained the words:The Lord of Hosts is with us,The God of Jacob is our refuge",and on most of the official Christian state occasions we sing the hymn:Oh God our help in ages past",which contains those pregnant words,Sufficient is thine arm aloneAnd our defence is sure".Your Lordships will not be surprised that there are not a few who feel that there is a basic sense of hypocrisy, for which we parsons are very largely to blame, in that we contrive to blend two issues, two moral principles, which are fundamentally incompatible. That is where I stand, or where I would prefer to kneel.
But having said that, I am well aware of the fact that it would be quite incomplete and irrelevant merely to make a claim, without assessing something of the virtue which belongs to it, which is, so far as I understand the Christian faith, that if you look at the time sequence, you find that that which is morally right will turn out to be politically right as well. Those short-term excursions into probabilities and results may give a dusty answer. Yet if you look carefully enough at the sequence of events over a period, you will find that obedience to the Christian faith not only derives power for those who exercise it, but can be ratified by the processes of history itself.
71 On 3rd December, there was an extensive debate in your Lordships' House on defence. I would invite you to contemplate a little some of the events which have happened subsequent to that debate. It is perfectly true that we have not, as yet, been involved in a nuclear war or even in any kind of international conflict of that dimension. But I find very little comfort in the assurance that things are going well because there has been no war. If you fall off Beachy Head, it takes longer than if you fall off a ladder. But it does not seem to me a very comforting reassurance when you are halfway down to say, "We have not got into trouble as yet". I believe that descent is inevitable and, therefore, the time lag is irrelevant.
We are on a juggernaut process which accumulates the dangers and which, in my judgment, in no way minimises the risks. Only a week ago there was evidence, which I cannot quote accurately because I am sure what happened has not been accurately represented, of yet another accident whereby some kind of nuclear missile went astray. I remember listening with a sense almost of terror to the noble Lord, Lord Snow, offering this prognostication, that the multiplicity of nuclear weapons increases the probability that some of them will go off, to such a point as to make it inevitable that some kind of holocaust will, sooner or later, arrive. I find no comfort in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, so that within the next two years 12 more countries will be so equipped. The danger persists; in fact, it seems to me to escalate.
I am further perturbed when I read this White Paper and discover the somewhat subtle transfer of emphasis. One of the emphases, which is very suggestive, is:the balance of our investment between platforms and weapons needs to be altered so as to maximise real combat capability … The best way of enhancing the deterrent effort of our armed forces, for example, in raising the nuclear threshold, is to give more resources to their hitting power".I wonder whether Mr. Begin read that. I do not believe that a deterrent stands anything like the kind of scrutiny which will encourage people to believe that it is effective.
As regards the cruise missiles and other methods that are now available—and I have not noticed that this has come within the ambit of discussion today among those who are expert in these matters—the suggestion which now seems to be gaining a good deal of credence is that you are more likely to deter, if you initiate a strike which will take out the capacity for the return. I notice that noble Lords are not receiving that with any assurance or with any agreement. But at least it is part of the argument which persuaded Mr. Begin that to take out the Iraqi possibility of a retaliatory strike was the best way in the difficulties from which he suffers.
I believe that the perilous process whereby you accumulate weapons on the assumption that that accumulation will provide a general state of deterrence is threadbare to the point of being useless. I am further convinced that the whole process, whereby we now look at individual and unilateral action, needs revision.
I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, had to say about subversion, which I agree is now fairly prevalent. But you do not subvert pacifists. The guarantee of the renunciation of violence as a pacifist proposition is the best defence 72 against subversion. I agree—I was grateful for what the noble Lord said in his maiden speech—that it is perfectly obvious that some kind of violence is involved in the process of revolutionary activity and should be recognised as such. That is precisely why it would seem to me that today the only relevant process is that which renounces entirely the instrument of violence, because subversion is likely to take place even among those who may be persuaded of high motives in taking up that violence—as of course now belongs to the liberation theology that is prevalent in South America.
It would be foolish to pretend that such a programme as is envisaged now would not leave a blank and a vacuum if it were repudiated. Therefore, I would presume to make an appeal, for it is all I can make. I believe we are in a terminal condition. That is not the opinion only of scaremongers but is an eschatological derivation from the kind of circumstances which belong to our technological ability. I believe that this terminal condition demands an altogether unprecedented act in order to avert it. I therefore would offer to noble Lords what may appear to them to be Cloud Cuckoo-land, but what for me is an article of faith: that what we need in the world today is one community to take the risk of peace-making, as innumerable communities over the centuries have taken the risks of war-making. I do not believe that the people of the world would be subjected merely to the military objectives of leaders who now are prevalent. I do not believe that dictators would find themselves impervious to the effect of such an initiative. That is the kind of unilateralism which I would commend.
Unilateral disarmament in terms of nuclear weapons is in many cases an invitation to the discovery of worse weapons. I have no use any longer, although I served with CND, sat down for it, walked around with it and occasionally got arrested for it, for CND's commitment to the proposition that if you initiate disarmament in terms of the nuclear threat you will ill dispose those who are conventionally armed to ways of peace-making. I do not believe it. I wish I could. But what I do believe is that there are millions of ordinary people, who have not had much of a say in this debate this afternoon, who would respond with a new sense of purpose if somebody—and who better than a country which has initiated so many liberal and splendid ideas in the past?—were to take the great risk of total disarmament, which would include with it vast social and political changes. This seems to me to be the only answer that gives any credence to a programme which looks to the future with hope, and for peace.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Earl Cathcart
My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating the three maiden speakers who took part in our debate this afternoon. They each spoke from wide and varied experience and they have greatly enhanced our debate today. Noble Lords will be glad to learn that in the interests of economy of time I have decided to make drastic cuts in the speech which I brought here this afternoon. If I omit to mention the pros and cons of the various alternative reductions in our defence expenditure, and in particular fail to 73 comment on the proposed reduction of surface ships in the Royal Navy, it is not because I fail to appreciate their importance.
It is a fact that whatever cuts we make in order to keep within an increase of 3 per cent. per annum, those roles which would be cut out of our defence expenditure will not go away. They will either not be done or they will have to be done by somebody else. That is an unpalatable fact and makes it extremely difficult to propose any cut. Nor will I argue the case for Trident. Rather, in the interests of brevity, I will nail my colours to the mast and say that I am in favour of this country possessing a strategic nuclear weapon and that I regard Trident as the most cost-effective deterrent available to us. Rather, I would wish to direct your Lordships' attention to a subject which we have not covered this afternoon, that of service manpower and our reserves and the decision to increase the TA by 16,000 men.
Before I do so, I must try to respond to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Soper. I agree very strongly that the Christian way forward is disarmament by negtotiaion. Everybody in your Lordships' Chamber would probably agree with that. Unexpectedly I find myself also agreeing with the noble Lord that we cannot accept unilateral disarmament. It is not a viable proposition. The Russians are not only non-Christian; they are anti-Christ. The policy which the noble Lord was so sincerely putting to us is the most difficult lesson of the Bible—that when you are smitten on one cheek you should turn the other. But what would have happened if the noble Lord had persuaded the large majority of the men and women of this country to do what he suggested in 1939 when this country was threatened with invasion? We should have suffered, and maybe we should still be suffering under a Nazi régime.
§ Lord Soper
My Lords, if I may briefly reply to the noble Earl, I quite agree that by 1939 we had fallen over the cliff and that there was nothing we could do but go to war, but the prevention of war must take place much earlier than that. I am committed to the belief that the wages of sin are death: that if you go on doing what is wrong for long enough, you lose your capacity to do what is right.
§ Earl Cathcart
My Lords, I suspect that the real difference between the noble Lord and myself is that he does not appreciate and agree with the policy of deterrence as a weapon to keep war at arm's length, which I do. Unilateral disarmament is not only not a viable policy. Russia will not be impressed by good examples and soothing words. We cannot ever effectively argue that they should disarm when we ourselves have already done it. Nor can we maintain peace in a situation of rising tension leading to all-out hostilities from a position of self-imposed weakness.
To turn to the White Paper, I must point out—it has been mentioned already by one noble Lord—that, although we are all extremely anxious about the reduction in the strength of the Royal Navy, this new Statement on Defence Policy must be seen as a whole. It certainly represents an increase in our total defence effort because our annual increase of 3 per cent. 74 has been extended until 1986. The statement also confirms the coming into service of many new and vital equipments. It is a pity that the publication of our future defence policy, issued on 25th June of this year, could not have coincided with the publication of the annual defence estimates, published only two months earlier, which would have cut out a great deal of speculation about cuts and reductions and would have been seen immediately in its proper perspective.
I want to spend the rest of my time upon discussing service manpower and the proposed increase in the Territorial Army. During the Second Reading debate on this year's Armed Forces Bill, my noble friend Lord Bridgeman discussed this most important subject of service manpower and our reserves of manpower. He described paragraphs 37 and 78 of the White Paper as "the least decisive paragraphs of them all". When my noble friend the Minister, Lord Trenchard, replied to that debate he said that he would prefer to deal with the matter when he wound up today, so I should like to take this opportunity to raise the matter now.
The Defence White Paper envisages a total reduction in the armed forces of some 19,000 men and women over the next five years. This is nearly 6 per cent. of the present total strength of all three Services. The reduction of 8,000 to 10,000 in the Royal Navy by 1986 is presumably accounted for by the reduction in our surface ships and the fact that a number of shore training establishments will be closed down completely or reduced in size to enable more training to be carried out at sea. But how will the RAF reduce by 2,500, or 3 per cent. of their present strength, by 1986? During the same period no reductions have been announced in the RAF; indeed, two Phantom squadrons are being retained instead of being phased out and the RAF is to receive an addition of 36 Hawk aircraft while the total force of VC10s is being increased by a third. So I wonder how the reduction of 2,500 is to be achieved?
During the same period the Army is to be reduced by 7,000, and that, too, poses some unanswered questions. I understand that in some regiments and corps there has been a curb on the number of new recruits accepted from civilian life. This is at the very moment when the opportunity to serve is most needed by young school-leavers. This was referred to by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing in his speech. It appears that the Army Information Offices and school liaison teams have to a great extent been run down. I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm that this is so, and would tell us whether this limitation on recruiting applies to the whole Army.
At the same time, the number of men, and especially the more senior non-commissioned officers, have not been leaving when their engagement ends, but have been re-engaging for a further period of service. Excellent though this is, because it maintains experienced non-commissioned officers in the units, it causes regimental promotion rolls to become unbalanced and it limits the opportunities for younger trained soldiers to earn promotion. However, this state of affairs will eventually work itself out and the need for recruiting will become more apparent again. Once the recruiting organisation has been allowed to run down, it will be extremely difficult to get it back into top gear. As table 15 in Section 4 of the original 75 White Paper shows very clearly, the total number of young men in the age group from which men are recruited starts to fall very dramatically between now and 1991, while at the same time the number of recruits needed to join the armed forces is higher than it has been in recent years. This further enhances the argument that we must not let the recruiting organisation run down.
We hear that the Territorial Army is to be increased by 16,000. This is very welcome indeed and will be a great encouragement to all who now serve in TA units. I calculate that a strength of 16,000 territorials will need an establishment of 1,200 regular officers, and non-commissioned officers; and I wonder whether that figure of 1,200 has been taken into account in the saving of 7,000 regular soldiers. As was said in the debate in the other place on 9th July, it is to be hoped that this increase in TA strength will not be made piecemeal. I hope that it will be established with emphasis and all at the same time. The Ministry of Defence will presumably make a proper plan in conjunction with the TA Association and, through them, with the local TA headquarters to ensure that not only are the new TA units formed in those localities where recruiting successes can best be achieved, but also that these new units will have a really worthwhile role and task. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, made that point in his speech. It is an extremely important point for the future of this new element of the TA.
Another important factor is that of good TA drill halls which must be easily accessible to residential areas. Do drill halls exist in sufficient numbers, and what sort of condition are they in? Has the cost of providing them, maintaining and re-establishing them in good order, been allowed for in the plan? Furthermore, if 16,000 men are to be recruited into the TA with a sense of purpose, they must have modern equipment to a proper scale and also the opportunity to train. Will there be sufficient ranges and training areas available for them, bearing in mind that the present ones are already overcrowded and many have been disposed of as unwanted? I hope that the recent limitation on training which all quarters of the armed forces are experiencing will not adversely affect these new TA units when they are formed.
Finally, I want to speak briefly on the regular reserve. One has the anxiety that we are not making the best use of the trained personnel when they leave the armed forces at the end of their engagement. They are certainly a very valuable reserve, and although I regard as a good thing the new process which was begun by this Government, of calling-up reservists in order to maintain contact with them, and to check that their personal equipment is still in good order, I believe that with the modern and technical equipment that is now in service in the armed forces there is a need for these individual reservists to be updated and refreshed in the use of this equipment or, maybe, to meet it for the first time. Therefore, when they are recalled to check on their equipment and their dress, and so on, they need to have a longer period than at present occurs for training for their commitment in the event of mobilisation.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, I think we should all be grateful to the Government for having passed the defence programme that we are debating today in a realistic framework, in order, as the Secretary of State for Defence said in another place, to stop the drift down a path which has led to cuts in ammunition, fuel, training and deployment and which, as he put it, would inevitably lead in the next few years to increasingly degraded operational ability—his words.
This alarming situation has come about because we have not been able, certainly not over the past two decades, to maintain even a constant level of defence expenditure, measured either as a percentage of gross domestic product or, more correctly I believe, in terms of real purchasing power for which there has been a slight decline over the period. I am relieved to hear that over the past three years, reading the White Paper, the level was 8 per cent. higher in real terms than it was three years ago, and that the intention is to increase it at the rate of 3 per cent. over the next two, and possibly four, years—even though again, in the words of the White Paper, this may well mean that defence will absorb a still higher share of our gross domestic product than it does now.
These figures worry me, as they have other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate today—as the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, put it in his contribution to the debate—because they make me ask whether the programme which is incorporated in the White Paper, and which has been spelt out by the Secretary of State in another place, is not already over-stretched in relation to the resources that are postulated. Dr. David Owen in the debate in the other place warned that if the economy goes on declining, it will be difficult to justify the present level of expenditure, let alone to increase it. This is a point which I expected the noble Lord, Lord Balogh, to bring up in his contribution, he being an economist while I am not—
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, on a point of Order. Was the noble Lord referring to the noble Lord, Lord Kaldor?
§ Lord Zuckerman
I see. I apologise to both noble Lords. I was about to say that, even if the GDP stops falling it seems to me that the Government and the nation as a whole will have to steel themselves to the proposition that a 3 per cent. increase per year will not assure the present programme. All experience shows, and this point emerged from other speeches, although not quite in the way I wish to make it, that a 3 per cent. annual increase is likely to be very much less than the cost increases that inevitably occur in the development and production of military equipment, which makes up some 40 per cent. of defence expenditure.
77 It is misleading to talk of major items of equipment as implying only a small percentage of our total defence spend. We have first to subtract an amount nearly half the total—which constitutes manpower costs. These will rise at least pro rata with the increase in GDP. All other costs—research and development, procurement, building airfields and barracks—will certainly rise at a faster rate. Let me illustrate the point with an expensive example.
The Tornado aircraft programme is now said to have cost twice as much as it is projected the Trident will cost. Today one machine is said to cost £14.3 million. I shall be grateful if the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, will give us that figure, and one other figure I shall ask him for, when he winds up the debate. That figure of £14.3 million is at least three times greater than what was estimated at the start of the programme. The German price today is 75 million deutschmarks, which is three times what was estimated in 1973 and seven times the 1964 estimate. This vast increase occurred over a period when inflation was on average less than 5 per cent. By 1984 the Tornado project will, it is said, consume something like one quarter of Germany's defence equipment budget.
This may be an expensive example and I might have chosen something simpler—such as the cost of 5,000 dollars for a single round of ammunition for a particular type of anti-tank gun in the United States. But the example I have given illustrates a general process; one which in a previous debate I called "the inexorable law of research and development". I am not talking about the increase in cost between successive generations of equipment, such as was referred to by the noble Lord the Leader of the House in his opening remarks, but rather about the increase in costs which occurs within one generation of equipment. That is the danger.
That "inexorable law" carries the simple message that the increasing cost of introducing new technology in the development of weapons inevitably leads to the shedding of commitments. It is against the background of this process that one should view the concern felt by those who are not unilateral disarmers—and I am certainly no unilateral disarmer—about the claims on our resources which Trident is likely to make in the years ahead on the proportion of our total defence spend that will be available for procurement. It is the cost that may occur during the lifetime of Trident that is the cause for concern, and let us hope that it will not distort the whole pattern of our defence strategy.
The Secretary of State has assured us that his present proposals will raise the staying power of our conventional front line, and that consequently the nuclear threshold for all NATO's defences will not be lowered. I hope that he is right. His is a bold statement. For if NATO were ever to resort to the use of nuclear weapons—and I am repeating here what has been said several times in your Lordships' House—it would almost certainly be the end of the industrialised world north of the equator. The only credible theory about nuclear armaments is that responsible leaders on both sides know that they should never be used; that fear of their possible use acts as a deterrent; and that the safest way to counter active aggression is by the use of conventional arms. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, made this point earlier in the debate, 78 and it is not playing the Russian game to repeat it, because the Rusians have absorbed this message. The Russians have nuclear arms, but we go on protesting that they also have an overwhelming superiority of conventional arms. That is the point which worries my noble and gallant friend Field Marshal Lord Carver.
It is not just the initial cost of modern weapons that goes on increasing at such an alarming rate. Because of their technological complexity, modern weapons systems not only cost more and more; their maintenance demands more and more in the way of scarce and increasingly expensive technological expertise. Adequately trained supporting personnel do not grow on trees. It is because of the scarcity of such personnel that, for example, so large a proportion of the most advanced aircraft deployed by the Americans is always out of service—sometimes nearly half. Those people who are concerned with the "increasingly degraded operational ability" of our forces—to quote again the words used by the Secretary of State in the other place—would like to be assured, I am sure, that the Secretary of State's new costings look far enough ahead to avert this internal contradiction of the technological arms race in which we are participating.
Unilateral disarmament is not on, as I see it. If we can afford Trident in place of Polaris, well and good. If we cannot, we ought to pause. Laser and particle-beam weapons, which the Secretary of State says—correctly, in my view—are never likely to be a threat to Trident missiles, are equally no threat to Polaris missiles. Nor will they be a threat over the next 10 years. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has referred to ABM systems but there is little hope that an effective ABM system will ever be deployed. If one is ever deployed around Moscow or around Washington, they will certainly not be deployed around the capitals of Europe.
§ Lord Soames
Will the noble Lord permit me to intervene for a moment, just on the question of costs? I am not sure that I understand him correctly. I bow to the noble Lord's great knowledge and experience in respect of increasing costs—not only for successive generations of equipment but also, as he has said, within the same generation. Referring to Trident, however, as opposed to Tornado, surely the Americans have carried the expenditure on the research and development of Trident and it is on the point of coming into service in the United States, if it has not already done so? That being the case, there is no reason why Trident should escalate in cost to us any more than Polaris did, because the Americans have borne the heat and burden of research and development.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite correct. The Americans have borne the cost of the research and development for the missile. If I may resort to a little personal history, I was with the Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Harold Macmillan, at Nassau when that arrangement was concluded. Like all the civil servants present I was busy on the drafts and there were some words which had to be added about R and D to make it plain exactly how the Polaris deal had to be agreed in the way that it was, and why the Trident deal followed suit. Those words said that the Americans 79 would provide missiles "on a continuing basis". But the design of the missile changes. That is the trouble. And we make the warheads. A reference was made to Chevaline, for which we are responsible because, to the best of my knowledge, we did not buy the components for Chevaline. We did not buy the components of Chevaline, and the costs have gone up. On top of that there is the escalation in the costs of the hull.
There are many questions which could be asked on the single subject of the Polaris, whether or not the Polaris is, as it were, obsolescent now. But I shall forebear, because all I am concerned about now is the point that the noble and gallant Field Marshal Lord Carver made, that we do not want our conventional forces eroded. That is the point at which I am getting.
May I make a concluding point. I make a plea, to endorse what my noble friend the Leader of the House said about negotiations, a point which was taken up by the noble Lord, Lord Peart. The Government should, in my view, use all the influence they have—and they have still got influence here—to resume negotiations for a slowdown of the nuclear arms race. And let negotiations be resumed on a realistic and honest plane. The noble Lord the Leader of the House, in referring to this matter, spoke about parity and reality. I myself am one of those who believe that parity has been achieved—even if not in numbers. If we believe we have enough to provide for an independent nuclear deterrent, then how much more have the Russians got and how much more have the Americans got? If the unit of deterrence for a country which is responsible for its own security is what we have, then there is a great deal that could be bargained away at the negotiating table.
But I also want realistic negotiations. In my list of priorities I would put the comprehensive test ban first, followed by the elimination of presumed battle field nuclear weapons, not so called theatre warheads. I would do that well before embarking on arcane discussions which add up to possible agreement to abolish the twentieth avalance of strategic nuclear warheads which would be launched, either against the United States or the USSR, after they had been totally devastated by the first.
I am confused by some of the things I have heard about Russian intentions. I listened with pleasure and admiration to the maiden Speech of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, when he was referring to the Russians' views. I do not know what the Russians think, but I do believe that they would not gamble physical existence of their whole state, the whole of the USSR, in a nuclear war, any more than I believe the United States would. Without a conventional underpinning, there is little credibility to our nuclear deterrent.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Lord Murton of Lindisfarne
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friends Lord Thomas of Swynnerton and the Earl of Orkney, and also to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, on their distinguished maiden speeches. We look forward very much to hearing them on future occasions.
80 I intend to confine myself, in this most important debate, exclusively to the subject of the Royal Navy. Paragraph 11 of the White Paper sets out clearly the crucial role this country plays in support of the NATO alliance and as the main base for continental reinforcement in time of war. First, the Channel and its approaches. It is now the stated intention in the White Paper to make yet more use of reserve forces to bring British Army of the Rhine up to full strength. Moreover, a TA Reserve Division will be formed as a reinforcement for one British corps. To quote the White Paper, there will be,a very extensive commitment for rapid reinforcement from the United Kingdom in emergency".Exercise Crusader was reasonably successful as a large-scale peacetime exercise, but it would be a very different matter if all or any reinforcements had to be ferried across the Channel after hostilities had begun. Can we be certain that this will not be the case? I must confess I have never felt too easy about the Channel dividing BAOR from its reinforcement. And in the case of the mobilisation and concentration of this new TA Reserve Division the same considerations apply. The Royal Navy might in certain circumstances, therefore, have to undertake extensive mining to guard the flanks before any sea crossings could take place, and also to sweep enemy minefields in the path of ferrying vessels. How many ships have we in service for effective mine counter measures? How many modern minesweepers?
Paragraph 15 tells us that no orders can be placed this year for financial reasons. Surface warships and extensive air cover would have to be provided to protect those cleared channels. One thing is certain. In the next war, if it ever comes—and pray God it does not—there will be no eight-month respite, as there was in the so-called "phoney war" of 1939–40. Moreover, the next war may, contrary to many published expectations, turn out to be a long war.
Paragraph 22 states that the power of maritime air systems and submarines in tactical offensive operations is especially apt and telling in our forward geographical situation. This of course is very true, but it cannot, in my view, function successfully without the co-operation of a sufficient number of surface warships also. As NATO's major European maritime power, we have special responsibilities in the Eastern Atlantic. Britain contributes over 70 per cent. of the ships available for escort duty. Something which we should never forget is that in two world wars the German U-boat menace all but starved Britain out and defeated us. To go back some 40 years, the existence of a mere 60 German U-boats was critical. Now the Soviets have a fleet of submarines numbering approximately 370, many of which are very powerfully armed, deep-diving and fast.
What is the strategy of the Soviet Naval High Command at this present time? I am sure we should like to know. There are known to be two battle cruisers, two helicopter cruisers and two aircraft carriers in commission, some 35 nuclear powered light cruisers and 10 older ships, 90 destroyers, 245 frigates and 64 corvettes, at least half of these with very modern weapons. Remarkable strength, if these vessels of war have been built only for the defence of home waters, as was previously believed. In fact, however, it is known that approximately 10 per cent. of Soviet 81 naval strength is deployed "out of area" at any one time, in the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, off West Africa, or on passage.
It is perhaps appropriate to think back to May 1941 when the "Bismarck", a battleship of 45,000 tons, in company with the heavy cruiser "Prinz Eugen", attempted to break out into the North Atlantic through the Denmark Strait, the objective being commerce raiding. During the ensuing engagement, chase and final battle, all of which covered three days, the British Admiralty issued orders directing towards the scene of operations a large force in support of the "Prince of Wales", the "Hood" and the two cruisers "Norfolk" and "Suffolk". Converging on the "Bismarck" were no less than four other battleships, two battle cruisers, two aircraft carriers, eleven other cruisers, 33 destroyers and eight submarines. This huge concentration of effort indicates the extreme anxiety with which the Admiralty viewed the threat of a fast and powerful enemy vessel with one escort traversing the sea routes in mid-Atlantic with the object of capturing or destroying unescorted shipping.
What assurance have we got that our proposed naval resources will be sufficient to defeat the intentions of a Soviet battle group which might break out and be aimed at destroying allied convoys in the same manner? Given the increased accuracy and longer range of anti-surface ship guided missiles, a possible tactical counter measure would be to have a wider dispersal of ships in convoy. Sonar detection of hostile submarines over a wide area would, therefore, be essential and the helicopters carried by our surface ships would play a vital role to search and to destroy, with missiles, those very submarines.
A major weakness in the White Paper, in my view, is its failure to acknowledge the fact that the protection of convoys in the East Atlantic will be made extremely difficult, if not virtually impossible, for us alone as a nation if the proposal is carried out to reduce the number of destroyers and frigates to a sustained figure of 50 and to keep in being only two of the three aircraft carriers. Incidentally, those three small aircraft carriers or through-deck cruisers are much praised by the United States Admiral Stansfield Turner, lately Director of the CIA in the Carter Administration. In a recent article in The Times newspaper Admiral Turner maintains that they are just the sort of small flexible ship which the United States Navy will need when—and these are his words, not mine—it [the United States] awakens from its ill-conceived fascination with mammoth super carriers".Likewise, what is the wisdom of phasing out earlier than the end of their useful life the specialist amphibious ships "Intrepid" and "Fearless"? Could they not be retained in standby reserve? The Royal Marines, mercifully, are to survive relatively unscathed in the proposed force reductions, but their effectiveness under certain operational conditions will not be improved by the withdrawal of their specially designed vessels.
It is, however, in that part of the White Paper headed "Beyond the NATO Area" where I think that a certain air of unreality enters into the discussion. Up to that point the message has been a contraction of our naval strength in surface vessels and we understand the reasons why. Now we are told at paragraph 34 of the particularly valuable role which the Royal Navy has 82 to play in providing a naval presence in other parts of the world. The specific example is quoted of our maritime presence which is being maintained continuously in the Indian Ocean as we speak this day. We pay tribute to a ship's company on a five month deployment in a hot and humid climate in the Persian Gulf, which patrols for seven weeks at a time at sea without a break; and only a short shore leave in between those long patrols.
No enhanced submarine building programme can replace the need for surface warships in the vital role of "showing the flag". The same paragraph—paragraph 34—refers to the resumption from 1982 onwards of the practice of sending:a substantial naval task group on long detachment for visits and exercises in the South Atlantic, Caribbean, Indian Ocean or further east".Further on in paragraph 36 it is stated that our forces will continue as necessary to sustain specific responsibilities overseas, ranging from Gibraltar and Cyprus to Belize and the Falkland Islands. It is a pity, incidentally, that the "Endurance" in the South Atlantic is to be phased out in 1982. She was acquired 14 years ago from a Danish shipping line and adapted as an ice patrol ship. She has helicopter space. There is nothing to replace her as a support and guard ship. A conventional frigate with her thin skin could not possible penetrate ice. Who will show the British flag in the Antarctic region and the South Atlantic apart from a very occasional visit from a warship detached from a naval task group? Presumably, the only permanent presence will be the existing small garrison of the Royal Marines in the Falkland Islands, and I think that at least we should be thankful to them.
I turn briefly to the question of new ships. As regards surface ship replacements, I fully understand the proposal to build simpler and cheaper Type 23 antisubmarine frigates; but for goodness' sake! let us get the designs out quickly. Let the shipbuilders themselves have a go, give them their head and tell them to produce quickly a modern weapon system ship which is economical in manpower and which can speedily be built, launched and fitted out.
Technology moves fast. Our procurement procedure is apt to be inordinately slow. Let us see a change for the better as from now, otherwise it may well be too late. For the rest, I much regret the decision to end the life progressively of the Leander class frigate. They are excellent seagoing vessels and the key frigates for escort duty in the Atlantic. If it had been possible to afford mid-term refits with up-to-date weaponry they would have had an even better capability, in my view, than the proposed newer Type 23 which is to be built; but that is be as it may.
What will be the state of the Standby Squadron into which some of those unmodernised Leanders will go? Possibly a depressing situation for the ships' companies concerned? What can be done to maintain good morale?—for, in their case, it is hard to see where there will be:clear evidence of important and satisfying work properly supported"—that is, in fact, a quotation from paragraph 37 on "Service Manpower". However, the question still remains: how many destroyers and frigates will be in service in 1990? That really is a vital question.
83 Finally, I turn to the question of service manpower and training establishments. I do not intend to dwell upon the proposed contraction of Portsmouth, except inasmuch as to say in passing that if the dockyard itself is to be reduced, it should not be forgotten that it is estimated that 13,000 jobs will go and it has also been said that 10 per cent. of all civilians employed in this part of the County of Hampshire are involved in defence or defence-related industries. There will be a good deal of effect upon them.
It is well understood that manpower in the services is now a very expensive commodity. Economies can no doubt be made in cutting out posts and establishments ashore, but I wonder how exactly it is proposed to implement the intention that more training should be undertaken afloat. Training in those ships now in commission is already stretched to the limit. Ships are already fully manned and there is no accommodation for extra trainees. Moreover, there is no space in ships to install sophisticated equipment specifically for training in the advanced technologies of weaponry in all its forms, communications, radar and tactics. Indeed, there are nothing like enough technically qualified and experienced instructors, both officers and ratings, to deploy round ships at sea; and it would in my opinion be a waste of expertise to attempt such a measure, and more expensive than the present system.
From what I have seen by personal visits to the major training establishments, I do not think that the proposal in the White Paper is feasible. Many establishments have students on courses which amount to a throughput of hundreds annually: while in some, officers' specialist courses last more than 12 months at a time and allied officers attend them too. I noticed that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, told us that this policy was tried 10 years ago, but it proved even more costly than the present system.
While I understand the reasons for the Government's decisions, all in all as regards the Royal Navy I find that the White Paper has little of comfort. Its naval strategic basis is, in some respects, defective; it leaves a number of major questions unanswered; and it proposes certain economies which could be harmful to operational efficiency. I would say that this is an unhappy time to be reducing the surface fleet by 35 per cent. and to be cutting by 15 per cent. the number of trained seamen. I worry about the possible effects upon our allies.
On the facade of the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, is inscribed in vast lettering:It is upon the Navy under the good providence of God that the health, wealth and prosperity of our country do chiefly depend".Foolish indeed would we be to ignore those wise words.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I join gladly in the congratulations which have been offered to the noble Lords who have made maiden speeches. They were interesting, informative, to the point and commendably brief. I propose to make a somewhat specialised contribution to the debate. There have been one or two references already to the doctrine of unilateral disarmament. It is, of course, relevant 84 to our considerations here as, if we accepted that doctrine, we should not want either this White Paper or indeed any other, and the argument about the comparative merits of short and long-range nuclear weapons and conventional weapons would cease to be of interest.
The doctrine of unilateral disarmament has been urged in this country by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and, indeed, by others. It suggests, as a remedy for the terrible and dangerous tangle into which the world has tied itself, with heaps of armaments and massive armed blocs of nations, that this country should dissociate itself altogether from nuclear weapons, should neither possess nor manufacture them, nor have them on its territory. There must, of course, be one further step to be taken from that. If we accept the logic of that doctrine, we must not be allied with any nuclear power. I would not charge the CND or anyone with the hypocrisy of saying: "We shall dissociate ourselves from nuclear weapons because we believe that they are wrong and dangerous, but our security will be all right because there are always the Americans to fall back on". The doctrine of unilateral disarmament therefore involves our leaving the North Atlantic Alliance and not having any nuclear allies. It will mean, in practice, not only nuclear disarmament but, in effect, complete disarmament.
Let us consider the position of this country if it had no nuclear weapons and no nuclear allies. If any nuclear power approached us in a threatening guise, all our conventional weapons would be so much useless ironmongery and a very limited selective use of nuclear weapons against this country could render us completely helpless. In effect, it means a doctrine of surrender. Some years ago a Danish politician urged his fellow countrymen that all the expenditure on defence should be abolished and some of the money so saved should be used in providing cities and villages with a large number of recording machines which were ready to say in the Russian language, if the need arose, "We surrender".
In the framework of his own logic he was quite correct; that is the alternative to effective defence. If you like, you may say—and I say this with no animosity to anyone: "I am prepared to pay that price; nuclear weapons are so terrible and the whole concept of nuclear war so horrible that I am prepared to see my country in a position of complete helplessness, obliged to concede any demand which a nuclear power made on it". That is simply one form—the form in the nuclear age—of the consistent pacifist doctrine; that the evils of waging war and using the weapons of war are so great that you must be prepared to submit to anything rather than do so.
But it seems to me that those who so advocate must make it quite clear that that is their position. What I criticise about much nuclear disarmament propaganda is that it always dodges this. The disarmers want complete nuclear disarmament, but they assume that somehow or other you can escape this unpleasant consequence of it. I do not believe that we can do so. Sometimes it is argued on the unilateralist side that what I am conjuring up is a bogey; that the idea that if we were defenceless a great nuclear power would make 85 demands on us, is not in the realm of reality. Let us very briefly examine that.
It is, of course, part of communist ideology that it is the duty of a great communist power to spread communism throughout the world, and that, as Lenin put it, the process will be accompanied by frightful collisions. I do not build too much on that fact alone, because we know from experience that human beings rarely act up to the best of their ideologies nor down to the worst of them. None the less the fact that that piece of ideology is there is not reassuring. If we turn from ideologies to facts, every one of Russia's western neighbours, except two, has been reduced to a greater or lesser degree of servitude to the Soviet Union. The two exceptions are Norway and Turkey, and they are both members of NATO. That, if I may say so to my noble friend Lord Kaldor, is one thing one might mean if one said that the alliance had been a success. Its success in preserving its members from invasion and in keeping the peace has been considerable.
Then, if one looks at the Soviet Union's behaviour towards its own allies, one sees the harsh repressions that have been experienced in East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the dark shadow that now hangs over Poland. A Polish trade union leader, speaking to his members not so long ago and counselling on them a path of moderation, said: "We must remember the Russian tanks". I pray heaven that no British trade union leader is ever in a comparable position.
One line of unilateralist propaganda is to say, in reply to this evidence of possible dangers from the Soviet Union, "This is only the other side of the penny from the behaviour of the United States". That will not wash. No ally of the United States has been treated in the way in which the Soviet Union treats its allies. As I said, no British trade union leader has to consider, when counselling some course of action on his members, what will be the attitude of the American Government. It might be said that Russia's allies are her own business and that that is within her sphere of influence. That reminds me of what Queen Elizabeth I said to the French ambassador when she first met him after the massacre of St. Bartholomew. She said: "If your master the King of France treats his subjects like this, how can he expect foreign princes to trust him?"
Of course, Russian behaviour does not stop within what we understood to be her sphere of influence, as the Afghan example has recently shown. I understand that a Select Committee of another place considered that the motive for the Russian action was not a desire to get nearer to the oil routes, but an anxiety about their security if there was trouble among their own Islamic subjects. That may be true, though I must say that I do not know how anyone knows that so positively. It has always puzzled me that there be so many Kremlinologists and so few accurate prophecies as to what the Russian Government will, in fact, do next. I shall not be dogmatic about that. I shall merely say that, in view of the record, I for one am not prepared to stake the way of life and independence of this country on a favourable assumption as to the behaviour of the Russian Government towards an unarmed and defenceless Britain. I put it no higher than that.
We should notice that this policy of surrender would not get us neutrality. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, referred to the actions of the Soviet Government 86 towards the Norwegian island of Spitzbergen. If we are required to allow them military facilities in Orkney or Shetland, if we have no defences what do we say? If anyone says that this is a fantastic supposition, I say, "Look at what is happening in Spitzbergen and look what happened elsewhere in Europe". If we are required to use our industries and our technology to help supply the Russian military machine, what are we to say? We are in no position to say, "No". We should have adopted a formal posture of neutrality only to find that we were quite unable to defend it. There is no way out then—no way of trying to walk out of the world in this fashion.
I should like to mention one other tendency of unilateralist propaganda, and that is to obscure the argument by advancing a number of propositions which are indisputably true, and then hoping that somehow their truth will rub off on the proposition that this country should be made defenceless. We are repeatedly told in unilateralist publications that the world would not survive a nuclear war; that the money spent on nuclear and other defence could be very happily and usefully employed in aid to the third world, and towards improving the standard of life and social service of the people of this country. All those propositions are true. But there is no process of logic by which you can jump from the truth of those propositions to the quite different proposition that we should, therefore, render ourselves helpless, not even able to say how we would distribute our resources between arms production and anything else.
If we do not follow the unilateralists' doctrine, they are prepared to say to us, "Where do we go? Is there anything better in front of the world than two huge camps glaring at each other over an ever-growing pile of armaments?" I have suggested already that, distasteful as that project seems, you do not escape from it by disarming this country. I cannot accept the idea that, if we did that, others would follow our example. It might be that some would, but who would do it? The most humane; the most gentle; the most civilised. The toughest, the most ruthless, would be in a position to take advantage of the situation. It is always the objection to pacifist doctrine that it is a recipe for putting the government of the world into the hands of the most unscrupulous people in it, and I think it is wrong, even in the context of nuclear weapons.
We must, therefore, try to cope with the situation in which we live and not run away from it. There are various paths on which that can be done. One is making deterrence work. I listened to the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, who was arguing, quite reasonably, the importance of proper conventional defence. But he said, and it is essential to his argument, that this was all on the assumption that the nuclear balance was maintained. So I do not think that we can assume that because conventional weapons may be necessary—indeed, are necessary—the nuclear balance does not matter.
On deterrence, I agreed very much with the noble Earl, Lord Cork, that a great part of deterrence is ignorance on the part of a possible opponent as to what may happen to him. He is much less likely to wage war if he is aware that you and your allies are in a position to strike back in a variety of ways, not all of which he may foresee. That surely is how deterrence 87 is supposed to work, and it means keeping your defences, both nuclear and conventional, adequate. That will be expensive.
Here, I shall just say on a rather different theme that it is going to be expensive, and the party opposite has to realise that the cost of paying for it has to be more equally spread among the population than the burden of taxation is at the present time. You will not rouse this country to believe that there is a real and pressing need for increased expenditure on defence unless they see that that burden is being borne increasingly by those who are really able to bear it. It is a most dangerous thing to do to talk about defence and make passionate anti-Russian speeches, and then talk as though the only way of paying for defence is cutting the social services on which the poorer section of the population rely. If you are serious on defence, the burden must be more fairly shared.
The other way forward beside deterrence is conciliation. I am not going to develop that because that takes you into the whole field of foreign policy, but experience has shown us that, with great patience and pertinacity, you can make progress with the Soviet Union. They are totally unlike the Hitlerite dictatorship in that respect. There is the Austrian State Treaty; the non-proliferation treaty. You must just sweat away. Indeed, we ought to have as a complement to this debate at some time a debate on disarmament, and a full statement by the Government on the progress they are making and hoping to make.
The third thing besides deterrence and conciliation is multilateral disarmament. If you want that to be effective, you must try to get as far as the Russians will go on the question of verification. To sign an agreement with not the least idea whether it is being carried out or not does not get you very far. I wish some unilateralist propagandists would urge that consideration on the Russian Government. If they would make a move on the question of agreeing to verification it might alter the face of disarmament negotiations. But the one condition on which you certainly will not get success in disarmament negotiations is if the Soviet Union have reason to believe that if they fail you will disarm yourself anyway. That is an invitation to them to make no concessions at all. Unilateral disarmament, then, is not a complement to multilateral disarmament, it is its enemy. I believe that it is a doctrine that has in it no safety, no armour, and no road out of the difficult problems that now face mankind.
§ Lord Kaldor
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may be permitted to clarify the meaning of some of my remarks which he evidently misunderstood. Maybe they were somewhat convoluted. I did not mean to say that NATO was a failure as such. I said it followed from the views of the Secretary of State for Defence and his speech that we must infer that NATO had been a failure, because he tried to represent NATO as so inferior both in conventional weapons and in nuclear weapons. Obviously that is not the case, because if it were the case then what was said—that NATO defended the freedom of all these countries from the Russians—would not have happened. So I was criticising the 88 view of the Government. But, on the other hand, what I missed from your speech was a clear statement whether you wished—
§ Several noble Lords: Order!
§ Lord Sandys
My Lords, the noble Lord must curtail his remarks, if possible, to a question on an intervention and not make the opportunity for a further speech.
§ Lord Kaldor
The question I want to put is: are you prepared to think of nuclear weapons to be used to counteract an aggression, or a war, or fighting with conventional weapons? In other words, are you prepared to use nuclear weapons as a first strike, and not as a deterrent against a nuclear attack on yourself?
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, first I am glad to hear that the noble Lord does not think that NATO is a failure. Secondly, I am certainly not going to be in the position of informing a possible enemy in advance that he need not fear the use of nuclear weapons. The important thing is to give him the impression that if he commits aggression it is an inexcusable thing in itself. He does it at very great risk, and he is not going to be obligingly informed in advance how great or small those risks are.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ The Earl of Inchcape
My Lords, it is a tradition of this House that those taking part in a debate should declare an interest. To do so in a debate on defence is surely unnecessary, for all citizens have a vital and proper interest. But I should declare a particular interest as chairman of a large shipowning company and of an international trading group, as well as a director of oil companies. This means that I have an important interest in, and responsibility for, a wide range of merchant shipping of all types, and of trading activities throughout the world which would be devoted to the national and NATO effort in time of conflict. These include cross-channel ferries, container ships, general cargo ships, bulk carriers, tankers, oil rig supply ships, and passenger ships, which I only mention to remind your Lordships of the wide variety of merchant shipping operations for which defence is required. It was surprising that in the recent debate in another place little was said about merchant shipping specifically.
Sadly, the British merchant fleet today is not as large as it once was, and in the coming months we shall see it get smaller. But we are still a major maritime nation, and one of the largest contributors to the maritime alliance within NATO—for Greece apart we have the largest fleet. The reduction in the United Kingdom fleet is in itself something of which we should take note in defence terms. Since 1975 we have come down from 1,600 ships to 1,100, and in carrying capacity from 50 million tons deadweight to 34 million tons. Some of my colleagues in the shipping industry foresee a further decline, possibly to 30 million tons 89 within the next couple of years. But I should make the point that within this smaller fleet is increased efficiency and increased carrying capacity. For example, 18 large container ships can do the work of 120 conventional ships.
To turn now to the White Paper, nowadays most of us would accept the need to review our defence capability in terms of economy and effectiveness. One can also accept that with developments in weapons technology certain long held assumptions, indeed possible preferences, or prejudices, may no longer stand up to scrutiny. In a recent debate in another place the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence, referring to three main tasks in the Atlantic, mentioned the importance of covering the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom gap, and other choke points against Soviet submarines, the prosecution of antisubmarine warfare generally in the Atlantic, and the protection of reinforcement shipping. He expressed confidence that our capability in respect of the first two was being enhanced, and then made the point that if we were to lose on those fronts, reinforcement would be irrelevant. It is apparently accepted that the airlanes should be protected in the first days of a war and that as much heavy equipment as possible should be pre-positioned in Europe. The latter of course is what the Sealift Operation would supplement, and that is part of the deterrent philosophy to which we have so far subscribed.
The Secretary of State also acknowledged that if the deterrent failed and the first aggressive thrust could be held, massive reinforcement of heavy equipment by sea would be essential. His words could be taken as implying that defence of reinforcement shipping is of secondary importance. They were chilling words to all those concerned in shipping, and especially to the seafarers. Presumably our ships would not be left undefended until it was found that a continuing reinforcement operation was needed, or if conflict at sea occurred before a land war in Europe, which seems to me very possible.
Assuming that a reasonably effective defence capability is intended, is there not a responsibility on the Government to convince the shipping industry and others that they can rely on the effectiveness of a modern weapons technology, that the presence of naval surface forces is really no longer the answer, and to prove to those who will be exposing their lives and their ships that they are not to become the forgotten arm of defence? Of course, we must not think of fighting the battles of the future in terms of those of the past, but in the last war there were certainly moments in the Battle of the Atlantic, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, pointed out, when we were at severe risk. The rate of attrition became frightening, and that could occur again.
I mentioned that increased efficiency meant that 18 large container ships could now do the work of 120 conventional ships. By the same token, only 18 missiles are needed to do the work of 120 torpedoes in the last war. It may be that future maritime air surveillance should provide us with some reassurance. If so, it is, as I say, for the Government to convince us, for merchant shipping would not be confined to a cross-Atlantic operation; not everything we would need could be brought from the arsenal of democracy in 90 the United States. Raw materials for military purposes and food to sustain the civilian population—a factor rarely mentioned nowadays—would have to come from further afield, where merchant ships would need protection.
I have concentrated on the position of merchant shipping at sea, but are the Government confident that our ports, as my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing mentioned, would be adequately protected or that our ships could be discharged at emergency anchorages? What of the vulnerability of the sophisticated cargo-handling ports on which our trade is becoming increasingly dependent?
I spoke earlier of the reduction in size of the British merchant fleet. Are the Government satisfied in their assumptions, admittedly together with colleagues in NATO, as to the tonnage needed in merchant shipping terms for military, civilian and economic purposes in time of war? Those in the shipping industry who are involved in the quite extensive discussions with Government on contingency planning for defence are aware of the estimating that is done for military purposes, but the impression is that very little has been achieved in terms of assessing merchant shipping needs for economic or civilian purposes.
I wish briefly to refer to two other aspects. It is understandable that when matters of principle are being attacked, less attention is paid to alternatives. Now that we can see the determination of the Government to reduce the number of destroyers, frigates and so on, I hope serious and radical attention will be devoted to cheaper and more cost-effective platforms; that is, ships from which the important surface element of maritime defence could very well be conducted. There are several comparatively cheap designs available for study which would ensure that such ships could carry out very useful escort duties in various parts of the world. Their construction could provide much-needed work in our shipyards, and perhaps such vessels could in peacetime be made readily available in potential trouble spots. They could have provided an alternative to a naval presence in the Arabian Gulf; they could help to dissuade those to whom I am told we must now refer as "robbers" instead of "pirates", who are still active in various parts of the world; and they could provide a useful service in respect of Vietnamese refugees. In those ways, they could fulfil the role on which the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, suggested I might be able to comment.
My final point concerns the Hydrography Service, which is not part of the White Paper, although it is a matter on which I have spoken in this House on previous occasions. From what was said in the recent debate in another place—or perhaps, rather, from what was not said—one has the impression that this is another area which the Government have under examination for some substantial economies. I appreciate that we can no longer afford to provide an efficient but uneconomic hydrographic service for the oceans of the world, but we must ensure that the Hydrography Service in respect of the waters around the United Kingdom remains fully effective, not only for defence but for environmental and general marine safety needs. The Government must guard against short-term thinking and false economy.
91 I have been careful not to reject the need for this Defence Review or for change. We in British shipping have a responsibility to the nation to provide an efficient and economic service to the country in peace and in war. The shipping industry is reluctant to look to Government for economic protection in times of peace, but our ships and seafarers are entitled to reasonable protection in time of war.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Viscount Ridley
My Lords, I do not wish to join in the nuclear bombardment, or even the naval bombardment, the Government Front Bench has suffered this evening. I intervene in the debate only because I want to speak about the Territorial Army. I speak as chairman of the North of England TA Association, and I wish at once to welcome most sincerely the Government's decision to expand the TA by 16,000 men. I know from personal experience how very welcome that news is, and I believe it is much the most cost-effective way we can increase our ground forces and meet our defence commitments. We shall have to depend on the TA more than ever before in the next few years.
I spoke first to your Lordships on this subject as long ago as 1965, and I remember saying then that the Territorial Army was hopelessly inadequate. I am glad to say that I am now finding it extremely good indeed. We saw the virtual destruction of the Territorial Army by a Labour Government in the 1960s—a process which was known to those involved at the time as "Hacking and Carving"—but since then it has risen in a remarkable way, like some phoenix from the ashes, so that it can now be said to be a very effective army indeed, as was shown during Exercise Crusader last year.
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that the "Hacking and Carving" contributed considerably to its present health?
§ Viscount Ridley
I cannot agree with the noble and gallant Lord: I have never disagreed with a Field Marshal before, but I fear that on this occasion I must, my Lords. The Territorial Army is at the moment 94 per cent. recruited, which is a very fine percentage. However, in welcoming the Government's announcement, there are a few points I must make. Before we expand the TA, we must be quite sure that the existing units we have are fully up to the standard we need. It is said that only 64 per cent. of the present TA are classified as trained, and that is not enough. The Shapland Report, with which many of your Lordships will be familiar, has done a great deal to cut down wastage in the TA—the problem is the soldier who joins and leaves too soon—particularly by the payment of realistic bounties, which have done a great deal and which I think have been largely responsible for the increase in 10,000 soldiers over the last two years; and I hope the Government will allow the bounties to keep pace with inflation because we must find ways to prevent soldiers leaving too soon. The current rate of wastage at 28 per cent. is much too high.
One major cause of that is the financial cut-backs which have been experienced this year, although one 92 realises the problems the Government face. However, the cut-backs have especially been affected by the restrictions placed on man-training days, and I apologise at this late hour for having to adduce certain technical figures. The figure was 44 days per annum, but it has now been reduced to 38. Although 38 was the average used in the past, as a statistic that figure can be extremely misleading; it has caused great hardship and I know from experience that it is very worrying to many commanding officers. It is very good news that the figure is to go up to 42, but if the Government mean business about the TA, they should put it back to 44, if possible.
Further, and perhaps even more important, commanding officers should have much more flexibility so that they can use the extra days to pay the men whom they need to help with training and to help the TA generally. Inevitably these men are going to be noncommissioned officers and officers, their pay will be greater and so they will cost more. But they are needed—they are needed now. The widespread disappointment in the cut-back in man-training days could so easily be put right and the flexibility could be increased. Over and over again in visiting TA units this summer people have asked for this. The more technical the equipment, which as I have said is extremely good, the worse is the problem. One commanding officer said to me, "We shall have a situation, if we are not careful, of too many Indians and not enough chiefs". It will mean sacrifices in other directions, but I ask the Government whether they can seriously consider raising the level to 42 at once for the rest of this year, and try to recover some of the lost ground.
The next point I would make—again I apologise for the technical language—is that the amount of overbearing which is allowed in particular units to carry recruits should revert from 10 per cent. to the previous figure of 25 per cent. I hope that I can leave that point there.
I wish to follow the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, in what he said about the question of drill halls. If we are to expand the Territorial Army, we shall need to face up to the need for more drill halls. Many were sold off in the 1960s, and although many have been built since, it is very doubtful whether the 16,000 extra men can be trained in the existing buildings. It may be possible temporarily to squeeze some of them into some of the existing drill halls, but that will not be a permanent solution. It might take four or five years to build new drill halls, and I am sure that many volunteers would put up with inadequate places meanwhile. There may well be redundant factories or schools which could be converted if they are in the right place. Surely the construction of new drill halls would provide much needed jobs for the building industry and there would be civilian staffs employed in them as well. So there must be an advantage in that.
May I commend to the Government a suggestion which has been made, that employers, in particular those with small numbers of employees, might receive some minimal tax relief for allowing their employees time off to go to camp. There have definitely been problems here, with the unemployment situation as it is. A chappie is a bit worried about completing his training if he has to go to camp and his job might not be there 93 when he comes back. I think that we could help a bit in that field at no great cost.
I have no intention of being critical of the Government. Everybody connected with the Territorial Army is delighted. They wish to know as soon as possible—it might not be immediately possible—what plans the Government have for the expansions, what arms are needed, where they may be based, when, and so forth? In the North, which has traditionally been one of the best recruiting areas, we believe, looking at the waiting lists, that we could probably raise enough men for at least three major units, if needed, given the facilities I have mentioned. I hope that we have a chance of a fair percentage increase and I know that it would be welcomed.
Finally, I would make the suggestion—again I find myself in disagreement with the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver—that this seems to me a very opportune moment to revive for the Territorial Army alone some of the more famous names of the line regiments which were abolished in recent years. I speak, naturally enough, of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, the DLI, and so forth. If they should wish to be rechristened the DLI, instead of the Seventh Light Infantry or whatever, I believe that that could be easily done, would cost nothing, and would be highly popular. I do not accept that it would be purely for sentimental reasons. I think that it would be for the best possible reason.
I believe that the Territorial Army is well worthy of the confidence that is being placed in it and that it will respond with great enthusiasm to the challenge. No longer will it be possible to say, as Hilaire Belloc said in his Moral Alphabet, 100 years ago, or it may be less:V stands for the Glorious VolunteerWho fills the armies of the world with fear".
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Lord Clifford of Chudleigh
My Lords, like the noble Viscount who has just sat down, I first inflicted myself on your Lordships on the subject of the Territorial Army in 1965, and of course he will remember that we had a couple of rather traumatic years when rumours followed rumours and eventually the Territorial Army was as good as decimated. I recall the time when the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, first came to this House. After a defence debate in which I had been making my usual points, the noble Lord came up to me and said, "My boy, what has always worried me more than anything else has been our lack of reserves". I am pleased to say that since then I have worked very closely with the noble Lord over the years.
I want to speak only about the reserves, though I feel strongly on various other subjects in the White Paper. We used to have a magnificent set-up for reserves—reserves for everything. It was called national service. Well, I will not remind the Government who abolished national service, but it is worth remembering that national service gave us reserves for the regular forces, TA, civil defence,—practically anything under the sun. To my mind it was one of the most regrettable things that have ever happened when it was abolished.
94 In those days I was a regular soldier and we did not like it. The reason we did not like national service was that we had to send off our best NCOs and officers, whereas we wished to keep them for our own unit. Think what national service would have done in today's context. Think, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said a couple of years ago, of the problems regarding ethnic minorities and so on, with violence in the streets and so on. All that energy could have been channelled into seeing that A company beat C company in a football match, rather than all this trouble. The reintroduction of national service ought to be considered. I do not think that it has to be as we had it before. There could be sections in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has previously suggested in the House.
The first thing we did was to abolish national service. Then in 1964–65 Mr. Healey, with the able assistance of whom I think we used to refer to as the hatchet man, took action. I had better be careful. I shall put it into Italian: it is known as talia carne—a cutter up of meat. That is what decimated the Territorial Army then. It is all very well people saying now, "Oh yes, it is a good thing, get all these things going". But what happened as a result of that earlier decision? All the drill halls were sold for bingo or something like that. Nobody paid any attention when we asked about arrangements for preparing for any emergency. We said there was nowhere for mobilisation. The thing had gone absolutely haywire.
The noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and the noble Viscount, Lord Ridley, have covered a lot of the points, so I am not going to go on very long this evening. All I want to ask the noble Viscount who is to reply is: please may we have something definite? How many units are going to be added to the Territorial Army? Where are they going to be placed? I ask those questions because the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, was going on about figures—so many here, so many there. I have certain information, but it does not seem to have gone down very far. I am afraid that, as one very senior officer has said, the increase announced will not lead to the raising of new units. Is that right? Further, it will take some time to effect, because the Government will not immediately make the necessary cash available. Is that correct?
Then, it is said that the increase will largely be in the form of enhancements to existing units. T must say that at present I would use extra cash, if it were my decision, to increase the man-training days. Does the noble Viscount realise what damage has been done to the Territorial Army by the recent restrictions on man-training days? Does he realise that, if you are going to do any training at all, there are certain individuals who have to be there every time—your leading officers, your NCOs, your quartermasters and so on?
Let me tell your Lordships what happened in the case of the unit of which I am the honorary colonel. The second-in-command repaid a visit from an American National Guardsman. We did a "recce", and he came back. Then he took them over for 10 days. This was repaying a visit from them to us. Then what happened? He had annual camp. Just by doing those three duties he had overstretched on his man-training days. You cannot run a unit when you have the main people responsible for it limited solely to training. All right, you say; there is a reserve. 95 But what happens then? You are taking it from a private soldier.
All I would say in conclusion about reserves and the Territorial Army is: Let us have some definite figures, facts and dates of when we are to have the promised increase, and do not let this rumour (if it is a rumour) get around because it will only have a reverse effect on the morale of our main reserves.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I welcome the fact that in his speech the noble Lord, Lord Soames, declared in favour of international disarmament. This surely must be the forward road, not only, for the reasons so powerfully argued by Lord Zuckerman, on economic grounds, but on human grounds—indeed, for the life of mankind. I was a little disappointed that Lord Soames did not follow up that declaration by proposals on how international disarmament could be achieved. I ask the House to bear with me tonight if I try to suggest how international disarmament could be achieved—not theoretically, not Utopianly, but realistically, in practical terms.
Three years ago the United Nations held a Special Assembly on Disarmament. The leaders of all the Governments of the world were there, and unanimously they came to quite remarkable recommendations. Those recommendations are now being considered by a committee at Geneva. This is not theory; it is what is happening. The committee at Geneva are to report to a second assembly of the United Nations in June of next year. Tonight, I want to take the four principal recommendations of the United Nations Special Assembly—not in the air, but actual recommendations made, which are now being considered by the committee at Geneva.
The first recommendation was the abolition of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. At the Geneva committee, decisions can be made only by consensus; but even there I think two important recommendations are going to be made to the United Nations Assembly next year. The first is for an international convention to outlaw underground nuclear tests; and the second is for an international convention to ban chemical and radiological weapons. That will be a considerable advance in the disarmament which we are seeking. But I am afraid that it is unlikely because consensus is necessary in the Geneva committee for there to be any recommendation in the foreseeable future for the abolition of nuclear weapons, even though a majority on the committee at Geneva is now in favour of those proposals.
There is an increasing recognition in the world that man cannot live with nuclear weapons. That view has been expressed by leading ex-generals, admirals and leaders of the Air Force. It has been expressed by outstanding scientists and doctors. Indeed, the overwhelming opinion of those with knowledge of the effect of nuclear weapons all take that view. It has been endorsed in the most remarkable way by a United Nations document.
The General Assembly of the United Nations requested the Secretary-General, with the assistance of qualified experts, to carry out a comprehensive study of 96 nuclear weapons. That report has now been published and there is an almost entire ignorance of its contents. I have the report in my hands. What do the United Nations experts say? The report estimates that the number of nuclear warheads in the world now is in excess of 40,000. It says that the largest nuclear weapon is now, 4,000 times more destructive than the Hiroshima bomb. It states that there is no limit to the explosive yield that may be obtained by nuclear weapons.
It records that the total strength of present nuclear arsenals is equivalent to about 1 million Hiroshima bombs. It states that there now exist three tons of explosive for every man, woman and child on earth. It says that it is possible to release by one nuclear weapon more energy in one micro-second than from all the conventional weapons in all the wars of history. It emphasises that the systems of intelligence are not infallible. I quote:There is growing concern that control may some day fail—under the influence of, for example, a false message or a misunderstood command—and that nuclear war is thus triggered inadvertently".That is a frightening report.
Hiroshima Day is to be remembered on 6th August. The bomb which fell on Hiroshima killed 65,000 people directly and 200,000 died from it. As I have said, now there is a nuclear bomb 4,000 times as destructive as the bomb which fell on Hiroshima. There are enough explosives for three tons to fall on every man, woman and child on earth. With the nuclear weapons that now exist in the Soviet Union, in the United States of America, all mankind could be destroyed and it is difficult to accept that if a nuclear war began it could be contained. Nearly all the world today is divided between support for the United States of America and support for the Soviet Union. There are unaligned nations, yes, but if a nuclear war broke out it would be difficult for any part of the earth to be saved from it.
I want to be honest: while I shall be arguing tonight for international disarmament it would be honest to the House to say that I support the CND in its proposal to end nuclear weapons in this country. But I add this: nobody can be urging the ending of nuclear weapons in this country without still more deeply urging the ending of nuclear weapons in the world. On this first recommendation of the United Nations Assembly, I beg the Government to support the proposals which are now before the Committee in Geneva, that nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction should be abolished.
The second recommendation of the United Nations Special Assembly was the abolition of conventional weapons in phased stages. It is not enough to end nuclear weapons: 50 million people were killed by conventional weapons in the last war. There are now discussions on a bilateral level, trying to balance tanks on one side, missiles on the other side. Those discussions are having little effect, but if you had a plan as proposed by the United Nations—a world plan—in that atmosphere then discussions for the phased abolition of all conventional weapons would also be practicable.
The third recommendation of the United Nations Special Assembly was that these proposals for ending weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons 97 should lead to complete and general disarmament. This would clearly become practicable if the first and second proposals were carried out. There were two modifications of this proposal by the United Nations: first, that weapons should be allowed which were thought to be necessary within a nation for its internal security and, secondly, that contributions should be allowed to a United Nations peace-keeping force.
Those are the first three recommendations of the United Nations Special Assembly. Are these recommendations just idealism? I recognise that if they were to be carried out it would be a revolution in world affairs, but I have seen in my time a revolution in world affairs just as radical as the proposal for ending arms in this century. I was one of a small group before the First World War who were opposed to imperialism. No one at the beginning of this century could believe that within this century political empires would be ended in the world. The party opposite at that time even claimed to be a great imperialist party and rejoiced in that fact. Western Europe, Spain, Britain, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Turkey—these imperial powers occupied the whole of Asia, the whole of Africa and of Latin America—but within this century that enormous power of imperialism has been destroyed—
§ Lord Carver
My Lords, would the noble Lord give way for a moment? Would he not agree that there is one empire which has not diminished, and that is the Russian Empire?
§ Lord Brockway
My Lords, I hope that the noble and gallant Lord will forgive me. One of the faults of growing old is that one does not hear. I do not want to be discourteous and it is only because I am not aware of what that intervention was that I am not replying to it. I do apologise to the noble Lord. I was saying—and I hope that that intervention has not destroyed my argument—that within this century there has been a revolution in world affairs in the destruction of political empires, as great as the proposal now being made that armaments should be destroyed in the world.
There was a fourth recommendation by the United Nations Special Assembly. It was for the transference of military expenditure to world development. Honestly, I do not know how we can accept the comforts of life when we know that, according to the statement of Robert MacNamara, the ex-chairman of the World Bank, 8 million of our fellow human beings are starving and are on the border of death. Recent reports have shown that nearly half the children of the world are so hungry that they suffer permanent mental and physical damage, and the gulf between the rich and the poor in the world is growing every day.
Have the Government seen the very notable articles by my noble friend Lord Lever in The Times recently, in which he urged that a mere patching-up of trading arrangements in the world is now inadequate; that what we need is a new world economy? Will the Government do their utmost, not only at the Ottawa Conference that is going on this week, but at the Mexico Conference which is to come in October, to end this intolerable situation?
We have had the Brandt Report. That report stated that a mere fraction of 1 per cent. of military 98 expenditure could end hunger in the world within 10 years. Next Monday, there is to be launched a remarkable document. It is a declaration by 53 Nobel prize winners—not only peace prize winners, but scientists and authors, and experts in medicine, chemistry and economics. They are going to urge that we should take immediate steps to end the intolerable poverty that there is in the world. I shall read only one passage from this remarkable declaration, which states:We, the undersigned, appeal to all men and women of goodwill, appeal to the powerful and the humble, to act, each in his or her various responsibilities, for tens of millions of people on the point of dying from hunger and under-development, so that they may be restored to life".They ask that military expenditure should be transferred to ending hunger in the world. Can there be any doubt that the danger of the destruction of life on earth by war and the millions already dying from hunger are the overwhelmingly dominant issues of our time? They are interdependent. I believe that in the early future, much sooner than we think, the peoples of the world will so press for the removal of these evils that we shall see them removed in our time.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ The Earl of Kimberley
My Lords, I agree with part of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in as much as I believe in multilateral disarmament. I thought that the noble Lord made a very fine speech. Without in any way trying to be funny or sarcastic, I think that a speech like that might well be sent to the Kremlin for Mr. Brezhnev to read.
I was very encouraged the other day to hear the new Socialist President of France, M. Mitterrand, publicly state, with Chancellor Schmidt, that the only way you can talk to the Russians is from a position of strength, and also back up NATO's requirement for ground-launched cruise missiles. Secondly, I am delighted to see how many speakers there are, from all sides of the House, in the debate today.
I am going to talk very briefly on four topics: on overall principles, on how to deploy our natural resources, on our strategic industries and on cost comparisons. On principles, how to deploy our natural resources, we should try to lay down guidelines to ensure that the national interest is fully maximised. This is industrial strategy, because investment in defence is of prime importance to this country for two reasons. First, defence provides a national environment secure from external threats. Secondly, because of the sheer volume of expenditure, it affords vast opportunities to our industry, not necessarily in defence only but in other jobs, in research and development, and profit. If we grasp these opportunities, we shall create other marketable products as our capability and infrastructure develop, as well as improve our exports.
Infrastructure means mutually supportive capability in components and sub-assemblies as well as complete defence systems. It is a vital key to our national survival, economic recovery and prosperity.
I know that the disarmament lobby will wail that more money should be spent on schools, health, housing, et cetera, but all these are constrained when you are in an economic hole. If, however, we can get 99 industry going, then all the rest will follow naturally.
The fundamental question for defence, as for all these other good things is, "How much should we spend?" or, even more basically, "How much can we afford, given our straitened resources?" By deploying our defence budget resources intelligently, we can achieve what I believe the economists call a "multiplier effect" to give a positive stimulus to the whole economy as well as ensuring a continuing national capability. A less perceptive policy might well effect some measure of short-term saving at considerably greater long-term cost, both financial and strategic.
I should like to enlarge upon the point which my noble friend Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal made this afternoon. I would ask my noble friend the Minister when he winds up to say whether the thoughts of Her Majesty's Government perhaps go in any way towards having defence budgets spread over, say, three years instead of annually.
I come now to my second point: strategic industries. These must be maintained to preserve a credible defence posture, and I know of no list of these industries which are needed to maintain this position, because such a list would constantly change as technology evolves; for instance, in something called C3, which is command, control, communication. But these systems are vital to deploy rapidly the necessary resources in changing battlefield situations.
We should have a national policy about party politics to define these areas where we have a national capability or we shall have to rely more and more on imports such as radar, telecommunications, computers, et cetera. But if we could do this it would enable our industry to plan in a long-term way. In the past we have seen radar orders lost and the threat of an American takeover of our computer industry; a conservative attitude (with a small 'c') to take up British technology and innovation. In every instance our foreign competitors have benefited. Examples abound in the aerospace, electronic and dynamic industries. I hope the Marconi heavyweight torpedo will not go the same way or, for instance, the antisubmarine warfare airship, which will fly next month.
I have a vested interest in the airship and I should like to say a few words on it. Because of its extraordinarily long endurance the airship is particularly suitable for surveillance and for anti-submarine warfare operations. It has a very high degree of space available inside, coupled with low vibration and noise levels, making it a very suitable vehicle for C3. Perhaps this is a surprising area of aeronautical research in which Britain may lay fair claim to a position of preeminence. A small airship, embodying many aspects of the latest available technology, is about to commence trials in the United Kindgom but this is under consideration already by the United States Coastguard for evaluation as a surveillance and radar development platform, both civil and military, and Australia, Indonesia, France and Japan are very interested in it. So I hope that once again we shall not invent something and then lose it.
I come now to my third point of cost comparison, domestic and foreign. Usually United States products are cheaper initially because of the sheer size of the 100 American market, which makes it easier for them to produce them, and the Treasury seems to favour the policy of buying cheap goods. But are "Treasury rules OK"? If this is so, should we not logically conclude that we should get a quote for defence equipment from the Soviet Union?
If a British product costs £x and a foreign one £½x, and if in the make-up of 'x' 50 per cent. is labour costs, 40 per cent. materials and 10 per cent. profit, what happens? Probably more than 50 per cent. comes back to the Government in tax and earnings, national insurance contributions, corporation tax, VAT et cetera. There are also multiplier effects from the prime contractor because it goes to subcontractors and other smaller services as well as providing employment. In other words, sometimes spending more costs us less. If we spend £½x on an import our balance of payments is affected, but we can pump more oil from the North Sea to pay for it. But one day we shall run out of oil. Secondly, there is a reduction in local production, workforce and profit. The Treasury says that unemployment costs £3,000 per head per annum. The TUC says that it is £6,000 per head and that is before we cost the riots in our cities, which we have had in the last few weeks.
Our industry is very often pressurised to cut research and development for false economies. Also we lose many of our best people through the brain drain, and in addition our export potential is reduced. What foreign Government will buy a British product if our own Government will not buy it?
Lastly, my proposals for the Government's consideration, which are very brief and very humble. The first one is to buy British if one can. If one cannot then import it, but on the basis of licensing the technology and know-how so that we can eventually develop our own capability. The second is that defence procurement principles apply to all public sector purchases; particularly in high technology areas such as information technology. The Ministry of Defence is to be congratulated on following these principles, and let us now consolidate them. This whole issue is our national survival and prosperity. It may be that the Navy's problems have not yet been sorted out as well as they could be, but, on the whole, now is the time for us to all support the Government's positive initiative of The Way Forward.
§ 9.36 p.m.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley. He has probably done more for defence than anyone else in your Lordships' House in the past few years, unless it be the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who rendered such signal service to the nation when he was Minister of Defence and who gave such a distinguished speech this afternoon. I should like to join in the congratulations to the three maiden speakers, although I can see only two of them in your Lordships' House at the moment. In particular may I mention my old pupil—if he does not mind my mentioning it—Lord Mayhew, and also Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. They both said a number of things which I had it in mind to say myself, but they said them so much better that I do not think anyone will recognise my version of them.
101 I personally believe that there was never a moment when it was more necessary for the Labour Party to be returned to power as quickly as possible. I know that all my colleagues will agree that the policies of Her Majesty's Government are disastrous in their short-term implications, but still more so in their long-term implications. But I must acknowledge that for the first time since the war, I feel no small disquiet about the defence policy that a Labour Government might follow if returned to power.
§ Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!
§ The Earl of Longford
Well, my Lords, those remarks were more appreciated by the noble Lords opposite than the remarks which immediately preceded them! Anyone who listened to my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham's brilliant expose of unilateralism would have noticed the connection between that and leaving the Atlantic alliance. Anyone who listened to that exposé must feel that any Government committed to such a policy would probably never be returned to power in the first place, and that if they were returned it would be a very sad day for this country.
I hope and believe that that will never be the actual situation. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, quoted a number of resolutions in favour of unilateralism which are down for our party conference. He took a fairly cheery view, and in a sense he assumed that if the resolutions were carried they would in the end be forgotten when the time came. I cannot be quite so optimistic. The noble Lord the Leader of the House will certainly remember what Sir Winston Churchill once wrote about the resolution not to fight for King and country which was passed at the Oxford University Debating Society. This resolution was opposed by Mr. Randolph Churchill, Lord Hailsham and myself. Sir Winston Churchill wrote that little did the foolish boys who passed that resolution realise that within a few years they were to conquer or to die gloriously and to prove themselves to be the finest generation bred in Britain. So whatever happens at the party conference in the autumn I shall continue to believe in the ultimate sanity of my colleagues. But at the moment, as I say, I feel considerable disquiet.
We in the Labour Party have much reason to be proud of the record of our party in Government in the 17 years or so we have been in office since the war. I am saying nothing in disparagement of Conservative Governments, but in fact we were responsible for a notable historic achievement which was not open to them. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, had something to say on that matter. But it was a Labour Government, led by those great socialists Lord Attlee and Mr. Ernest Bevin, which played the main part in founding the Atlantic Alliance. I shall always consider that Mr. Bevin had a bigger share in that achievement than any other individual in this country or in America. Lord Mayhew has good reason, of course, to speak of Mr. Bevin. Mr. Bevin was very fond of him when he worked in the Foreign Office; he always used to refer to him in glowing terms. But what he would have thought if he had been told that Mr. Mayhew had joined the Liberals, I shudder to think. If Lord Mayhew had actually gone to him and said that he thought possibly for one reason or another of defecting 102 to the Liberals, the eruption, I think, would have blown Mr. Mayhew and the Foreign Office sky high. But that is by the way. The fact is that Mr. Mayhew rendered very valuable service at that time.
We must ask ourselves about this Atlantic defence system which has, after all, been the foundation of our national defence and security since the war. What is the raison d'être? Why is there such an alliance at all? Well, I am afraid there is only one answer; it is the response of the free world to the threat of Soviet domination. Whether I can say that more easily perhaps than Front Bench spokesmen I know not, but at any rate there is no doubt it is the fact. No one supposes that it was a response to any threat from any other quarter or is due to some instinctive aggression on our own part. Today we are spending £12,000 million a year on defence. I noticed, incidentally, when I was looking up something in the Library, that Lord Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston's father, resigned because of excessive defence spending, which was £31 million. So things have moved on a bit, from £31 million to £12,000 million; but that again is by the way.
If we consider this colossal sum of money, of course one must agree with Lord Brockway and anyone else that it is the most appalling waste, on the face of it, to spend all this money and these resources, which could be used for improving the standard of life of our own people and of the impoverished nations about whom my noble friend Lord Brockway spoke so movingly. Of course we would all much rather spend it in that way. This colossal expenditure can only be justified by the Soviet menace. Were it not for that the expenditure of these vast sums would be not only a nonsense but a wicked nonsense. We must, I am afraid, recognise that we are still dealing with this threat. Though I thought Lord Brockway was at his best tonight, and that is very good, the fact is that he did not seem to realise that all these ideals are being hamstrung at the moment by the policy of Soviet Russia.
This attitude that I am referring to has of course been the basis of Labour Party policy, in office and out of it, but particularly in office, since the war. There has been only one moment when the attitude of my party to national defence seemed to waver. That was at the moment when the Labour Conference in 1960 defeated Hugh Gaitskell, and for that matter the parliamentary party, at Scarborough. Seeing defeat approaching, Hugh Gaitskell made his never forgotten promise to fight, fight and fight again, which he did to such effect that the decision was reversed a year later. I am sure that some noble Lords were present on that occasion; certainly Lady Gaitskell was. He asked at that time—I am summarising what he said, but it can be looked up in the Library—how could the parliamentary party be forced to turn themselves into pacifists, neutralists or fellow travellers? That was the question that was asked in 1960. It is still the question today. That is the issue before the party to which I have the honour to belong. How can the parliamentary party, which agrees with none of these things and whose case is put so well in this House and the other place on the Front Bench and elsewhere, be forced to force itself into these strange categories?
103 In a speech on the Address last November I discussed the pacifist case, with, I hope, proper seriousness. No Christian and I should think no one of any ethical sensitivity, can occasionally avoid the feeling that perhaps there is something in it after all. One feels that one must go back time and again to make quite sure that one does not accept the case. I set out the moral dilemma last November as honestly and as starkly as I could. I explained then why I came down reluctantly on the side of national defence, even in the nuclear age, which means—as my noble friend Lord Stewart has explained—not only possessing nuclear weapons ourselves (that is a matter of argument) but certainly being allied to countries and helping countries that possess nuclear weapons.
If one rejects the pacifist case, is there any alternative to the type of defence system in which we have participated since the war? There is something that we could call "neutralism". I shall not deal with fellow travellers now that those words are not in common use: I think that the current word is "subversive" which covers an even wider category. At any rate, I do not consider that fellow travellers are an important issue in this particular argument today.
One can look at neutralism from two points of view. One could feel, as I do, that, in view of the traditions of this country and in view of our wealth—referred to by my noble friend Lord Brockway—and our moral ideals, it would be a terrible abdication and be highly dishonourable to say, "No, we shall opt out and play no part whatever in trying to maintain the peace of the world". However, I have met mothers who have said, "I am sorry, I am not interested in international affairs; I am concerned only with the safety or survival of my own children". Without going over ground dealt with so well by my noble friend Lord Stewart, one has to say that it is an impossible policy, that the policy of neutralism cannot, in fact, provide neutrality in time of a nuclear war. So there is no escape along that route.
I shall not go at length into the details of those issues. The crux is whether we continue to face our responsibilities as members of the Atlantic Alliance. I would concentrate on that one question. The tremendous issue was so rightly dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Carver, who is a distinguished general, and all other issues are, in a sense, subsidiary to that issue. Until it is settled we cannot make sense of any of the other policies. That does not mean that I feel that all wisdom has been delivered to me on any of the other questions. I would be inclined to follow the great service chiefs if they could agree with one another. If that were so I would be a slavish adherent to them. However, I am dealing with this single issue.
If anyone objects to our continued membership of the Atlantic Alliance he must adopt one of two lines of argument. He must either say that it was a mistake from the beginning or that it was the right policy at the beginning—in the days of Clem Attlee and Ernie Bevin—but it has become wrong for some reason since then. In a sense one is preaching to the converted here, but somehow or another I hope that these words will filter out elsewhere. I can only say that nearly everyone whom I respect most in the Labour Party agrees that it was the right policy to start with. I 104 cannot believe that anyone can seriously come forward and say that the Russian threat today is in some way diminished from what it was when Ernie Bevin took over. At that time Russia had already overrun Eastern Europe and there was no small prospect that she might overrun the rest of Europe. That was the situation. Taking the whole world scene, I do not see any substantial difference today.
I conclude on this note. I sat with Mr. Ernest Bevin for three weeks in 1947 at the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers, which broke down. The next morning he was more depressed than I had ever seen him, because he felt that the world was breaking up into two halves. The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, who served with him a long time, will know that to the end of his life he clung to the idea of somehow reuniting the world. Therefore, to put it in one sentence, if one is to take a firm line—as I think most of us do here, and I certainly do—in favour of an active membership of the Atlantic Alliance, one must never lose sight of the higher, wider vision of a peaceful world society.
§ 9.52 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the two maiden speakers today, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew. I remember him resigning in the other place on a matter of principle because he did not agree with the policy of his party, together with Admiral Luce. It was a very brave thing to do and we are very glad to see him here today taking part in this debate.
I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, because I found what he said extremely interesting. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, is not here at the moment, but I should like to thank him because he did a good job and was very helpful to me; he had a great deal of patience in answering Questions, and so on. I should like to put on record my thanks to him for all the help he gave me.
I like the approach to the defence White Paper; it appears to me to be more realistic than many that we have debated in the past. I think that we should congratulate Mr. John Nott on the excellent work that he has done in a short time and the fact that he has produced a very clear and succinct Paper. Napoleon stated that the factors that affected morale in the war were fatigue, distress and fear. I should like to add another at the present time, in peace-time; that morale is affected by uncertainty. Therefore, I hope that today we shall—and I think that so far most people in the House agree with me—reach some agreement whereby we can back most of the proposals in this White Paper. Many times in the other House we heard—as we do today—a party who did not like a Bill say that they would repeal it next time they were in power, or that they would change the policy. I believe that that is very detrimental to defence.
I welcome the fact that the three services are to combine. I remember the debates that we had in another place where we often competed against one another to get the Minister's attention and his services. We should also remember that it was Lord Mountbatten who originally wanted the services to come 105 together. He did his very best to get them to do so. Unfortunately, at that time he failed.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, mentioned the very interesting point about propaganda. Recently I have been collecting all sorts of subversive literature in South London which I have sent to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, for his use during his inquiry.
I should like to ask the Minister some questions, of which I have given him warning. In regard to the points I raised previously concerning the Royal Dockyards and the letter that he wrote to me in December, has any action been taken on those various points? Time has moved on and I should like to have some further knowledge of what action can be taken? I know that everyone who is interested in naval matters will regret the closing of Chatham Dockyard, where excellent service has been given for over 300 years.
I should like to suggest to the House that we should very quickly set up a committee of the local people, businessmen and others, because the Medway towns are going to be in a great difficulty with employment if some action is not taken in the very near future. Also, we want to keep their morale going because we have to wait for another two or three years before the dockyards close. Uncertainty with regard to what they are going to do is unfortunate.
I should like also to suggest that the excellent barracks there might be used for the RNR and also the Territorials, and perhaps a marina may be made, as they are popular at the present time. Perhaps my noble friend would also say a word, or let me know, what is going to happen about the dockyard at Gibraltar. If that is going to be closed in due course, there will have to be other work provided there, because the whole of the fortress is so dependent on this dockyard.
I thought the White Paper realistic in the proposal in regard to the United Kingdom and NATO, and the role of home defence. Regrettably, the latter has to be taken very seriously indeed, as events in war could become just as much a problem with home defence as external security. The very bad literature that I have been collecting recently gives great point to this. It is essential to hold our key position in NATO. But if we are to keep the sea lanes open we need faster, smaller and more heavily armed ships, and less costly surface ships, for the vital anti-submarine, anti-air and missile tasks.
For many years I have been against the ship construction branch at Bath, and the manner in which they run the dockyards. I should like to suggest that the Ministry could merely produce good staff requirements, and that private enterprise could carry on a shipbuilding programme much more quickly and less expensively than is being done at the present time. I understand that in Norway, which some people have mentioned in respect of NATO, small subsidies are given to shipping firms, and if the floorboards of car decks are lifted in some of the Norwegian fjord ferries, there are rails ready in place so the ferry can rapidly be converted into a minelaying role. I consider this an admirable suggestion from the Norwegians.
106 Small conversions can be made at relatively low cost, and it would enable some of our small roll-on/roll-off ferries to be taken quickly from trade at a time of crisis to carry mines or landing craft, or helicopters that are used for the Royal Marines. I think that only one noble Lord has mentioned the Marines. I am glad that the three commando brigades are being kept, but it is unfortunate that No. 41 Commando is abolished. I do not know whether there is any chance in the near future of having No. 41 Commando reinstated.
The Royal Marines have a very special role with NATO, and I understand that SACLANT has more tasks than the United States Marines, combined with ours, can undertake at the present time. There is a need for a reserve for the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy. There has always been a demand among young men, and still is I gather, to become members of the Royal Marines. When recruiting is allowed, I hope perhaps they will consider the Royal Marines first, because it is very advantageous for young men, and the training is probably easier than on going into the Navy of the Air Force.
To do the required tasks in and beyond NATO of course mobility is essential, and this is what worries me at the present time. I gather that the LPHs—the "Bulwark" and "Hermes"—are to be done away with, and also the LPDs "Fearless" and "Intrepid". In fact, I have the Sunday Times here, which even gives a picture of the catalogue which is concerned in putting these ships up for sale. I should like to suggest that, until we get some other ships, "Fearless" and "Intrepid" should be kept, and also, if possible, the other ships I mentioned just now.
Having mentioned the roll-on/roll-off ferries, it is clear that the other ships, the LPDs, would be very useful, and I believe we need them for transporting helicopters, for example to the Norwegian and Danish islands. If the Royal Marines are to perform their tasks, then I have been led to understand that we need to keep both ships to which I have referred.
Finally, a word about war stocks In regard to NATO planning, there has been a failure on the part of many countries to achieve the recommendations about the levels of war consumable stocks, for example ammunition. I understand that at least 30 days' stocks are required, that being the time it would take for the production line in America to gear up and supply replacements, and especially is that the case for stocks of air-to-air missiles. I understand that the rearward location of combat stocks for 1 (BR) Corps in Germany, the inadequate and somewhat unrealistic sources available and planned for forward re-location in time of emergency, has been of concern to 1 (BR) Corps Rhine Army and SACEUR for a number of years.
I wish to offer my congratulations to the women's Services for the part they are playing at the present time. We discussed this when we debated the Armed Forces Bill, so I will not go into detail. I hope the present White Paper will be acceptable to the Opposition and will give confidence to the men that we shall have better services in the future.
§ 10.2 p m.
§ Lord Hankey
My Lords, I warmly support the general line of the White Paper and of the Government's defence policy. I am sure the Government are right to concentrate on the effective introduction and use of the newest proven technologies. These weapons are very costly, but we owe it to our people and defence forces to provide them with the best weapons we can afford. As the White Paper makes only too clear, that involves the most difficult decisions, and in my view the Government are being courageous in going forward the way they are with what is, on the whole, a well-balanced programme, and they have my support.
Having said that, I wish to make a few pointed comments, and I beg the Government earnestly to think about them. First, it is important to think more about NATO now there is a new Government in France. Frankly, NATO has not seemed to me to look very impressive so long as the French did not co-operate on the military side but only on the political side. The position of the allied forces in Germany, especially in South Germany, has always looked rather uncertain unless they were sure of having secure lines of communication back through France. But to what extent have they? Do they know the strength of all the bridges? Have they stocks of arms on the airfields and so on further back along those lines of communication? The whole thing looks to me to be very dicey.
The new French Government of M. Mitterand seem to be much less unto-operative than their predecessors, and I should have thought the time had come to approach them to see whether a fresh deal could be arranged. Even if the staff contacts exist, and I do not know whether they do, my mind goes back to the Anglo-French staff arrangements of 1913 and 1914. Having studied the history of that period in a German university, I have a sort of impression that the Germans never believed we were fully committed. We claimed that we had no formal alliance, just the Entente Cordiale, and said that we were formally committed only to Belgium. I am not making excuses for the Kaiser. But I want to say that uncertainty in these matters is dangerous in the years we live in, and I believe that if there were certainty about France's position now, there would be somewhat less likelihood of a future possible miscalculation in the Kremlin.
Secondly, I come to Trident. I think that the Secretary of State has made a quite unanswerable case for Trident. I entirely support him. But the decision involves some further points which have not been mentioned and which I am fairly sure are quite important. First of all—and this is an awkward one—is it any use leaving the servicing and maintenance of our Polaris and Trident submarine force in the hands of civilians on the Clyde?—civilians of such doubtful loyalty that they go on strike when a fresh submarine has to be serviced in order to go to sea, as happened last winter. Personally I think that that behaviour was quite intolerable. I do not care what the legislation of 1906 or 1974 says: in a matter of national defence importance that kind of behaviour is intolerable. If we cannot have better arrangements, the civilians 108 should be got rid of and replaced by service personnel, even if it involves further training and an addition to manpower. It is only reality that counts in these matters. If the whole of Scotland goes on sympathy strike when that happens, our Department of Employment will have an opportunity to show the effect of its legislation on secondary action.
For my next point about Trident, I ask your Lordships please to conjure up in your minds a picture of the map of the Clyde, and then across the sea—it is no great distance—to the coast of Northern Ireland, full of indentations. Should we ever—I repeat ever—risk that indented Northern Ireland coastline being out of our own control? Certainly not, certainly not. If a Soviet hunter-killer submarine were able to lie undetected in one of those bays, as I am pretty sure German submarines lay undetected occasionally on the bays of Western Ireland, then it might very well neutralise our deterrent. I do not think that there can be any question but that we must hold on to Loyalist Northern Ireland; and let us remember that the Loyalists are anyhow in a handsome majority.
Thirdly, I want to say a few words about communications across the Atlantic in the event of war. This matter has been mentioned by many noble Lords today, but I believe it to be of outstanding importance. Unless we have new secret weapons which one must not ask about, I just do not believe that we can dispense with convoys for the absolutely vital protection of shipping which will be bringing arms, food and troops across the Atlantic for the support of NATO.
In the First World War the Admiralty tried to maintain open lanes which were effectively patrolled. They failed completely; we had to have convoys. In the Second World War various methods were tried, but in the end we had to have convoys. Let us face the fact: we very nearly lost both wars because we could not use the North Atlantic without unacceptable shipping losses. Even if we have secret weapons, we do not know how effective they are going to be, or what response other navies might have to them. I should have thought that it was not worth the risk to have an unacceptably low number of escort vessels to provide protection for our convoys.
At the end of the last war we had 600 escort vessels. We now have 50 or 60. I am not quite sure of the arithmetic; I find it rather hard to follow what the Government really have. The Russians certainly have many more submarines than the Germans had, even at the height of the war, and the submarines are much more effective. They can go further, they can stay submerged for longer, and they have much more sophisticated weapons. Ever since Helsinki ushered in the period of so-called détente, the Russians have been making submarines and tanks just like sausages. Why, my Lords? I ask, why?—certainly not for their own defence. Really, can we not all see the writing on the wall?
I am glad that we are constructing more escort vessels. I hope the new Type 23 will be approved, and its construction pressed forward as fast and as extensively as possible. We have to think of the oil supplies for NATO, including the United States, coming all round Africa now. If, as I hope, many of your Lordships 109 have read that great book by Admiral Gorshkov, the Soviet admiral—it is called Red Star at Sea, and it is available from our Library—your Lordships will realise that the Soviet Navy has been built up and trained to operate in all the oceans of the world; and I believe many of their nuclear submarines can catch any commercial vessel, even the fastest ones.
So I come back to the vital need for convoys and for the escort vessels which are essential for them. In the nuclear age I believe convoys will have to spread out—otherwise, one atom bomb would destroy the whole lot—and this means even more escort vessels than were necessary before. So I do not think the danger has got less; I believe it has got greater.
Of course, there is the problem, I realise, of paying for these vessels. I know that this is a balanced programme, and the great difficulty is that we do not want to cause inflation. But I want to support what Lord Kimberley said. He made some extremely cogent points. The industrial ramifications of ordering ships are immense. Not only does it help to support the shipbuilding yards; it is a great help to steel, to coal, to transport, to engineering, to electronics and to weapons production. It goes right through industry; and a lot of the cost will be recouped by not having so many unemployed and by not paying people off to be redundant. When you take into consideration the enormous sorrows and miseries of unemployment and the social disasters we undergo on that account, I am sure that it is well worth while and will handsomely repay the effort.
There is now another similar question. I want to press the Government strongly to decide in favour of our new heavyweight torpedo, which is already in an advanced state of development by Marconi. I understand the Americans want us to lay off the production and to buy, instead, their projected Mark 48 ADCAP, although, as a matter of fact, it has not been developed so far as has our own heavy torpedo. The Americans are suggesting that they might buy some of our lightweight Stingray torpedoes in return.
I have had a lot to do with export promotion in my time, and I can assure your Lordships that our American allies, whom I admire immensely, are really ruthless in these matters. They will, I think, string us along with talk about Stingray, but when it comes to the crunch, especially in Congress, I do not personally believe they will buy any, or not any large quantity. They would be crazy to become dependent on us for any large quantity of their own torpedoes.
So let the Government not be bamboozled by the Americans, if they are indeed in any danger of it. We are well on the way to making a first-class heavy torpedo of our own. Let us not waste all the money spent on developing it. Let us not lose the valuable teams of scientists, of technological experts and of engineers who are now working on it. Let Mrs. Thatcher's Ministers show more character and consistency of decision than those who have failed so often, in both parties, to press great British inventions and enterprises through to a successful conclusion.
Of course, this will cost money; but we need to promote employment and development in precisely these areas of very high and very new technology. The 110 engine will be American, so the Americans will have their share, anyway. If necessary, I think we should bring in the Germans to help. They are very good at torpedoes, and co-operation with them would be good for Europe. Moreover, I am told that there will be an immense technological spin-off from the new heavy torpedo. Just think of the enormous spin-off from the American space probe. Just to mention only one example: it gave such a leap forward to "Silicon Valley" in California that they overtook the Japanese—almost incredible at that time. I believe that there would be a very valuable spin-off which would help just those new industries which the Government are most anxious to help. So I press this proposal on the Government.
That is all I want to say today, but I want to wish the Government Godspeed in their efforts to improve our defence forces. NATO must be able to defend itself in a conventional war. We cannot be quite sure what is going to happen or how long we have to prepare; and, in the face of the SS20, we must have the Trident deterrent ourselves.
§ 10.16 p.m.
§ Viscount Mersey
My Lords, I wear two hats: a personal hat and a trade union hat. Wearing my personal hat, I have this to say: I support the Government White Paper, lock, stock and barrel. While lamenting the loss of surface ships, I believe that the Government have achieved the best mix in this period of economic stringency. In particular, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that the best way to achieve a lasting peace lies in Trident D5: a horrible weapon but one that is proven, inexpensive and accurate.
I have only one nagging doubt about the system—and it has already been touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—and that is that boats, working at maximum range from the Admiralty, might have their wireless communications jammed by the Russians. I should be grateful for any reassurance that the noble Viscount could give me on this point. The reasons for my arriving at my pro-Trident decision are measured but I do not think that I will go into them. They have already been stated by others far more distinguished; I will merely say that I support them.
I turn instead to my second or trade union hat. I have been a loyal member of the Association of Cinematograph Television and Allied Technicians for 20 years. On 7th June my union set up a committee for disarmament: not just nuclear disarmament, total disarmament. Thus I find myself party to a pacifist trade union block vote. When the head of our union, Mr. Alan Sapper, tells the TUC that his 20,000 members want Great Britain to disarm then I am one of the 20,000 despite being pro-Trident.
I note with great interest the remarks of both the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, about CND. It is easy to dismiss Alan Sapper as one who is singing the Kremlin song. As a matter of fact, I think it is too easy; it is just not that simple. My union at least consists of reasonable, intelligent people whom I know well, and Mr. Sapper 111 himself is a reasonable man; a trade unionist who does not support a system where trade unions are illegal. So I shall just quote two paragraphs from our union journal to show how the ACTT arrived at what is to my mind a catastrophic decision. The first is this:Proposing the motion, Yvonne Richards of the writers section said that the danger of nuclear war was suppressed and distorted in most of the press. No headlines had been given to President Carter's statement that in the first few hours of nuclear war the killing would be equivalent to all the wars of history".That is correct so far as it goes, but Miss Richards has fallen into the trap of thinking that the point of the deterrent is to use it: whereas surely we all know by now that the deterrent's job is to prevent war and if we use it we will have failed, as the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, has already said.
I continue quoting from the journal:Jim Connock of the editorial section was a lone voice opposing the motion. He argued that the ACTT had enough difficulty in calling meetings to deal with its own work, to which Miss Richards replied 'I don't see how we can separate our work from our survival'".She is absolutely right here too, so far as she goes. We all want to survive. We all want peace. But she must realise, and we all must realise, as the noble Lord the Lord President of the Council told us at the start of the afternoon, that this country would be a prime target for Russian attack even if we did disarm.
It may not be a nuclear attack: it could involve chemicals—even more horrible. Even if it is conventional, I now believe that the damage caused would be just as destructive as that caused by any other type of warfare. I believe the Government face a difficulty, which is that the CND argument can be expressed by slogans so simply and quickly. I am sure that your Lordships know them well: "Ban the bomb", "No more nuclear deaths", "Rather red than dead"—whereas the pro-nuclear argument is more complicated and cannot be put across in much under 20 minutes. I have dwelt on the ACTT attitude not merely because it is my union, but because it is a union, on film and television, of communicators. It is obvious to me that the communicators themselves are suffering from a lack of communication from the Government. How else could they have come to such a disastrously naive conclusion?
It is indeed in the general field of communications, or public relations, that I would mildly criticise the Government. The Secretary of State, Mr. Nott, has told our defence group that he wants to make a film publicising the sophisticated, pro-nuclear, pro-Trident, pro-White Paper view. I have a suggestion for Mr. Nott, and in no way is it special pleading. I am not suggesting that he comes to my company or indeed to the companies of the noble Lords, Lord Birkett, Lord Brabourne, Lord Chalfont, or the noble Lord, Lord Snowdon. What I do suggest is that he comes to our union and asks them to make that film. I doubt whether they will laugh in his face. The ACTT has made films on its own before, and of course it would mean extra work for the film industry, which is at present 80 per cent. unemployed. Provided that the Government arguments can be seen to be well balanced, provided that they cannot be dismissed as Tory propaganda and are patently reasonable, I think they will have a sympathetic hearing, as Mr. Sapper is a reason- 112 able man. He would certainly listen with interest and intelligence to the Government's case.
It is only by taking the bull by the horns in this way that I believe the White Paper and Trident have any long-term chance of success, because the Trident programme itself is long—at least 11 years before it becomes operational. It must be probable that during those 11 years a Government will come to power which is not a Conservative Government. And if that Government scrap Trident, then indeed we shall have wasted billions of pounds and, worse still, we shall have lost the best and most credible deterrent, so that some form of Russian attack will be more, not less, likely. We must prevent that through strength. We must deter. We must have Trident D5. Most importantly, we must explain to the people of Britain why we must have it.
§ 10.23 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I should like to join in the congratulations that have been given to the maiden speakers today. I must confess that I did not hear every word of them—sometimes one has to leave the Chamber—but I heard enough to know that the congratulations which were conveyed to the maiden speakers were very well justified. I should like to convey this warning to them, however. Their future utterances in this Chamber will not necessarily be followed by the same universal acclaim which always greets their initial statements, so they must be prepared for the possibility in future that things may not go quite so smoothly as they have done on this occasion. None the less, I congratulate them.
In the last war millions of people lost their lives, but perhaps the abrogation of the laws of the war themselves may yet prove to have been an infinitely greater disaster. Early in the war British bomber pilots brought their bombs back or dropped them in the sea if they could not find the designated military target, so as to avoid any possibility of civilian casualties. By the end of the war the RAF was killing—possibly incidentally, but none the less killing—certainly hundreds and thousands of men, women and children in Hamburg, Dresden and other German towns, while at Hiroshima and Nagasaki the American Air Force, with our connivance, committed the atrocity which may end civilisation, if not humanity itself.
I should like to tell your Lordships of a little incident which happened during the war. I was in India at the time, a very humble member of the command presided over by the late and deeply lamented Lord Mountbatten of Burma. We were due to go down to Burma, and then the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The story was put around that this would have the consequence of saving our lives, and there may have been a good deal of truth in that—I do not know. But I recall one airman saying to me all those years ago, "They may have saved our lives at the expense of our children's". That thought has remained with me for the rest of my life and it is the punch, the drive, which has carried me in total opposition to the whole idea of the nuclear weapon.
I believe it was a somewhat similar consideration which moved Lord Mountbatten in his different opposition to the nuclear weapon. But, make no mistake about it, although not a unilateralist, Lord 113 Mountbatten was deeply and fundamentally opposed to the whole idea of nuclear war, and one could quote him time and time again on that issue. In 1941, British officers received a little booklet called What Acts of War are Justifiable? It was written by Professor A. L. Goodhart—a famous name known to many of your Lordships—and published by the Oxford University Press. I kept my copy and I have it here. Goodhart said:the separation of armies and peaceful inhabitants into two distinct classes is, perhaps, the greatest triumph of International Law. Its effect in mitigating the evils of war has been incalculable".Alas! even as he wrote, those laws were being set aside, and since then mankind has been accumulating weapons which make their observance impossible. Furthermore, since then in relatively minor wars civilian populations have been the targets. The monstrous attack by Israeli aircraft on Beirut is only the latest example. Goodhart closed his little book by saying that the war was being fought to re-establish the laws of war. If that was so, that war was fought in vain.
The modern nuclear weapon is an instrument of mass murder and Lord Mountbatten did not believe that its so-called tactical use was possible, without unleashing the total destruction of civilisation. Behind his constant protests one senses the indignation of the decent military man, who feels that lie has not joined the Royal Navy to become involved in the wholesale slaughter of innocents. Lord Mountbatten has been foully murdered, but other leading military men are beginning to stand up and, in different ways—not necessarily in unilateralist ways—are beginning to express their grave doubts about the desirability of nuclear weapons. Notably among them, I listened with great attention this afternoon to what the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, had to say on the subject. Though we differ in important detail, I think that fundamentally we both have at root a horror of the possibilities behind this weapon.
In what was the last big speech that he made, Lord Mountbatten said:The world now stands on the brink of the final abyss".If we are erecting a statue to Lord Mountbatten, those words should be engraved upon the plinth. What Lord Mountbatten was talking about was the nuclear abyss. In this context, standing on the edge of the nuclear abyss, the Government's defence programme The Way Forward reads a trifle ominously. I will not rub it in. The Astronomer Royal, the Nobel prizewinner, Professor Sir Martin Ryle, does not believe in civil defence. He said in a BBC World Service Broadcast on 27th May:I think the way things are going nuclear war is almost inevitable. I think the enormous excess of destructive power which both super-powers now have and the gradual transition from weapons which were clearly designed to make deterrence work and are clearly not designed for that purpose now but are weapons of first strike capability means that one side or the other will attempt to send sufficient precise weapons to destroy the launching sites of the other. The system is inherently unstable and one side or the other is eventually bound to do it".The problem is that all through these post-war years while talks about multilateral disarmament have been taking place the weapons themselves have piled up and piled up. And they are still piling up, despite 114 the fact that we have reached the point at which there are so many powerful weapons targetted across the world that Sir Martin Ryle says that the Soviet Union could be wiped out 30 times and the United States 20 times.
The polls are now suggesting that the majority of people in this country believe that Ryle is right and that Mountbatten was right and that if Britain does not opt out of nuclear war, this country and its people will be wiped out of history. It is a hard conclusion to arrive at.
The argument against nuclear disarmament is that if we do it, the Soviets will walk in. I believe this to be nonsense. Russia has enough on her hands without wishing to occupy an island several countries away. It is also suggested that the Soviet Union will drop nuclear bombs on a Britain without nuclear weapons. This seems to me to be equally unlikely. Present nuclear missiles on all sides are targetted on the bases of the other side—in sheer self-protection. If you have nuclear weapons, this must be done. To waste nuclear weapons on a country without them would be sheer folly.
I recommend to your Lordships a book which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Kaldor, Professor Robert Neild's How to Make up your Mind about the Bomb. I do not agree with everything Professor Neild says in his book, but one thing we can be sure of is that he is neither a scoundrel nor a fool, which the noble Lord, Lord Soames, suggested supporters of CND must be. He says that they are either wittingly or unwittingly playing the Russian game. That means they are either fools or scoundrels. Of course it does. If they are wittingly doing it, they are scoundrels. If they are unwittingly doing it, they are fools. Perhaps the noble Lord does not like it to be put so baldly, but that is what he is saying. Is my noble friend Lord Brockway a scoundrel or a fool? Is my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder a scoundrel or a fool? What has the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, got to say about that? Into what category do these noble Lords fall? And into what category does Monsignor Bruce Kent fall? Is he a scoundrel or a fool?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the noble Lord may say that, but it is not exactly what he said before. He is toning it down a bit, because he realises that there is an intellectual argument here if only he will take it up and try to deal with it on an intellectual level and not go in for the business of smearing, of which the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, gave us an example this afternoon.
§ Lord Chalfont
My Lords, as the noble Lord has made a very serious accusation, perhaps he would give way. In my speech, which the noble Lord has called "smearing", I stated a number of facts from which people may draw their own conclusions. Will the noble Lord deny any of the facts, or will he confirm them?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I will neither deny nor confirm what the noble Lord said. I have my own speech to make. So far as McCarthyite tactics are concerned, I do not play that game. I will deal with what I have to say. Let me get back to a point on which perhaps there may be a little more agreement. The USA and the USSR will keep their nuclear weapons until they agree a basis of mutual reduction.
Unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain is not an alternative to multilateral nuclear disarmament throughout the world. It is a means whereby the process of de-escalation may be started; without it there is a straight line from here to the ultimate holocaust. How long the line may be is anybody's guess. War by accident could occur at any time—there have already been more narrow shaves on our side. We do not know how many or how narrow on the other side, but to suppose that the USSR is more technically efficient than the USA in this respect flies in the face of expert opinion.
Then there is proliferation. More and more countries are reaching out towards the bomb, and some of them are not stable democracies. How long is the line? How near the brink of the abyss? It could be days, months, years—a decade is perhaps an overestimate. In other words, the expectation of life of a child born in Britain today may not be more than 10 years. That is the reality of the situation we are in, and that is why any talk about preferring to be dead than red is simply failing to deal with the problem at the level it demands. To choose personally to die rather than to live in slavery may be noble, but to determine the end of civilisation is a choice no one is entitled to make. A nation is entitled to live to struggle back to freedom and not to have its nuclear extinction decided by foreign nationals. For that is our position. We have handed over to the United States of America the power to determine our own destruction.
The question now is whether or not European civilisation is to continue. After the "theatre" nuclear war now being planned in the United States, Europe will cease to be a place of urban living; it may be a place of no life. The assumption is made that human life is permanent. It is an assumption we all share and each one of us believes in our own immunity: I would almost say, in our own immortality. I was in Fighter Command in the last war and I never met a pilot who did not assume that he would be the exception and would survive the war. He was usually wrong.
Today, we extend our personal confidence into a belief in the indestructability of our own civilisation. This time we may all be wrong. The human experiment may be God's decision or it may be a marvellous accident, but either way it is probably unique. It is, however, much more fragile than we care to admit, and for the first time mankind is now capable of destroying the conditions of human existence. We have the power to terminate life on earth, and all the indications are that we are on the way to using that power to commit the ultimate blasphemy of ending consciousness. We can turn our beautiful earth into another moon spinning eternally—bereft perhaps of the most wonderful creation of all universal time. There is 116 no guarantee that this terminal disaster can be prevented, but we must struggle against it for it is more dignified that man shall end protesting against his fate rather than supinely submit to it.
Why is CND—this effort to make mankind safe from self-extermination—resisted so fiercely, so passionately? Partly, I suppose, because to recognise the validity of the struggle against it means recognising the reality of the danger. To some extent Governments do recognise reality. The official estimate of survival after a nuclear attack is not at all optimistic. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, on behalf of the present Government, put the survival figure in this country at between 15 and 30 million. Further research since then suggests that in fact it is unlikely that so many would survive a major attack. In any event, the conditions in which the survivors would exist would be such that they would regard the dead as fortunate.
There is an alternative scenario which we can follow if we choose; one that would lead us to a world in which, if we were not totally free from fear, fear would be reduced to tolerable levels. The future demands a Government committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament. It further demands that the policy shall be carried out rapidly and totally.
The second necessity, in my personal view, is that like Canada and the other non-nuclear countries the United Kingdom shall stay in membership of NATO for as long as NATO remains. As a member of that body the United Kingdom will take part in negotiations for multilateral nuclear disarmament with the Warsaw Pact powers. There is every likelihood that such negotiations would bring about a gradual reduction in nuclear arms in Europe, accompanied by a process of mutual inspection—provided that the United Kingdom has set the example by showing that it regards the possession of nuclear weapons as a danger and disadvantage rather than a deterrent. We are uniquely placed to set that example because in this overcrowded island even the present Government admit that with our nuclear weapons we are at this moment so vulnerable that we could be destroyed overnight as a functioning entity, with all our great cities in smoking ruins and the remnants of our people wandering wounded sick, and praying for death.
The two super powers could only gradually dismantle their missiles. This would have to be done under mutual inspection and accompanied by an agreed scaling-down of conventional arms and manpower, perhaps leading in the longer term to the mutual dissolution of NATO and the Warsaw Pact. There is no certainty that such a procedure will succeed, but what seems to me to be quite certain is that if something like it is not embarked upon soon, then, at the very least, we shall be approaching the end of European civilisation.
§ 10.42 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, it would appear to be the view of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, since he entered your Lordships' House that we are an exceptionally foolish and ignorant body of men and women. Does he seriously believe that anybody in this House is unaware of the potential of nuclear destruction; that the documents and reports which he and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, have quoted 117 from come to us as a vast surprise? The noble Lord asks us to discuss this matter not with passion but with intelligence—and the beginning of intelligence is to agree that all of us recognize that a nuclear war would be damnable and, perhaps, terminal. The differences arise only over how such a catastrophe is to be avoided.
It is the view of Her Majesty's Government, and I believe the view of the majority of your Lordships, that catastrophe can only be avoided if we analyse in detail the international scene with which we are confronted and which has led us and our allies to have as part of our defence capability a nuclear deterrent. In his maiden speech, my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton made some useful and helpful remarks to us all about the nature of our principle antagonist. I would add only one point which my noble friend did not make, and that is that the major difference between the Soviet Union and the rest of us is that the Soviet Union, to judge from the statements made by its leaders and from the instructions given to its military and diplomatic personnel, believes that that is still a possible instrument of policy and that it does not exclude from its armoury any form of forcible compulsion.
This is not to say—and indeed it would be absurd to say—that the Soviet Union desires nuclear war. We are constantly being asked to make a claim which no one here claims. What we say is that the Soviet Union, like other great imperial powers in the past, will use or threaten to use, and will use if it can use with impunity, the minimum of force necessary in order to secure what it regards as its national objectives. And in this respect of course the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was perfectly right, because one way of achieving your objective is to weaken the resolve and capacity of your opponent. It is, after all, far cheaper to move people to protest against your opponents' nuclear weapons or other forms of armament than it is to go on adding to your own armoury. And, from the Soviet point of view, it makes very little difference whether they add another set of missiles in Europe or persuade our Governments through popular pressure not to counterbalance them with missiles of our own.
From that point of view, Lord Chalfont, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Soames, were perfectly right to indicate that objectively considered, if I may use a Marxist term, the various movements going on in Europe today to make it impossible to match Soviet theatre weapons are instruments of Soviet foreign policy; and CND is the instrument of Soviet foreign policy in this country. I think that Lord Chalfont made an omission, which the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, called to our attention: that is to say, it is probably more dangerous that we should have in Government service persons who take these views than those who are liable to riot on the streets. And I think one of the assurances that Lord Hankey asked for from the noble Lord the Minister when he winds up was to be told the precautions that will be taken to see that our ability to manipulate such defences as we have, whether in our nuclear weapons or in our communications, is not at the mercy of those who may take views hostile to the interests of this country.
The noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, with whom I have 118 been arguing on and off for half a century, in a most interesting and exhaustive maiden speech did, I think, commit one serious but perhaps unintentional error. He said that we should distinguish when we deal with subversive forces between those like the Communist Party, who are more or less—it varies at different times—adherents of a pro-Soviet line, and others like the various groups that call themselves Trotskyist who hate the Soviet Union as much as any lover of freedom may do. I would not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that the name of Leon Trotsky is not one to conjure with in Red Square. But does it very much matter? If these groups are making civilian life or Government activity difficult or impossible, the ultimate beneficiaries can only be the enemies of our country, who at the moment happen to be the Soviet Union.
After all, if we look at the partial disintegration of the French armed forces in 1940, which preceded the French catastrophe, the number of those who were plotting in favour of a Nazi takeover of France was very much smaller than the number of those who were inspired by the Communist Party, which at that time was hostile to the French war effort. Yet in the end it was the Soviet Union that suffered from the fall of France, to which the communists had contributed, and it was Nazi Germany, which had very little to do with their activities, which profited by them. Therefore, it seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, was perfectly right in saying that we must look at all those movements in our country which tend to devalue our confidence in our own Government and our own institutions and our confidence in our own allies if we are properly to see the dangers with which we are faced.
I emphasise the word "allies" because it seems to me that a great deal of the propaganda and the suggestions that are made, are, in fact, based on the assumption that the protection which we have received from our allies, and notably the United States, has not been the principal reason for which we have enjoyed 36 years without war. Our whole defence posture, as is made clear in this and in every preceding White Paper—and it has been made clear by speakers on both sides of the House tonight—depends upon the maintenance of the alliance. I think that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will hardly disagree with me—indeed, it has been said in terms by the noble Lord, Lord Stewart—that it is absurd to think that we can somehow decouple our preparations for defence from the NATO alliance and continue members of that alliance.
For that reason it seems to me that our attitude to the White Paper and to defence policy in general must be to see whether we are playing within that alliance the most useful role that we can. I can see that there can be serious differences of opinion as to whether the existence of a separate deterrent in our hands or indeed in the hands of the French is an important or major contribution to the general position of the alliance. I am inclined personally to give it the benefit of the doubt in the sense that it is a producer of doubt, that it is even less likely that the Soviet Union will challenge in any important way the vital interests of members of the Western Alliance if there is even a 119 thousandth or a millionth particle of fear that they might otherwise incur a deterrent nuclear response.
If we agree with that, then certainly we must take account of what our allies think is the most important contribution we can make, and we must do it in the light of the fact that the Soviet armoury consists not merely of nuclear armoury, not merely of its conventional forces massed in Europe, but also of a navy, though even the admirers and defenders of the Soviet Union's position could hardly claim that a large ocean-going navy is needed to defend an almost land-locked motherland.
We must, therefore, consider that it may be that there are uses to which this navy will be put which are not necessarily part of some cataclysmic plan for a global conflict. Indeed, if we look at those countries where Soviet power sustains Governments—Cuba, Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen and Vietnam—one can see the classical pattern (and as we were reminded by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, we have all done it in our time) of asserting national interest through the use of sea power. If we believe that those interests are inimical to us, then clearly some consideration should be given to our ability to use sea power to repel it. That is why I have, without his knowledge or his authority, some sympathy with the point of view put forward by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton.
It seems to me that if one discusses these matters with, let us say, our American allies or with others, one again and again comes to the conclusion that what the British are good at is messing about with boats. Why then do we seek an alternative role? There is, therefore, some slight criticism in my mind about the diminution of the surface fleet, which is the only thing that prevents me from giving wholehearted support to this White Paper.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, may be right that the Labour Party will reject the policy of unilateralism; that the alternative Government will not be a Government led by someone who honestly and openly professed the unilateral creed before he was elected leader of the party and since. If your Lordships believe that these are grave risks to ourselves and our friends, then you have very little alternative not only to taking note of the White Paper but to giving it your support.
§ 10.56 p.m.
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, I wish to congratulate our three maiden speakers, two of whom I was able to listen to. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Mayhew, that I was not in the Chamber when he made his speech. But I think he will be amused to learn that I remember, with some clarity, almost the precise moment when he resigned from the Labour Government, because that evening I was due to dine with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer who turned up rather late and informed me that the Government were having a little trouble with one of their Defence Ministers.
I am sorry that I was unable to get to last Tuesday's Defence Group meeting; I had other duties in this House at that time. However, I am very grateful to the members of our Defence Group because when one attends that group before debates of this sort 120 it is almost a dress rehearsal, and one can structure one's speech around the contributions that are made at those meetings. I am particularly pleased to be able to thank the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal—this is the first opportunity that I have had to do so—for all the kindness he has shown me and for the courteous way in which he has helped us all when he had his responsibilities.
Before I lose my note, I want to say one or two things to my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney. One does not have to be on the Right-wing of the Labour Party to recognise some of the things that are going on at the moment. In the 1950s, like him, I was a Bevanite, and Aneurin Bevan had something to say about persons who were then entering the Labour Party with a view to subverting it. He said that they were: "Death watch beetle. Get them out". That is precisely the kind of battle that some of us are waging at the moment. Aneurin Bevan had something else to say about the Soviet Union. He said that modern Soviet communism was the running mate of fascism. I have never heard anyone ever say that Aneurin Bevan was on the Right-wing of the Labour Party. He was a sound, sensible Left-wing member of the Labour Party who believed in the traditional values of what the Labour movement stands for.
I cannot and will not attempt to comment on the 30 and more speeches—
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, before the noble Lord moves on, and as he specifically referred to my speech, does he recognise that the leader of our party in another place is himself a unilateralist? Who is he fighting?
§ Lord Brooks of Tremorfa
My Lords, I said that I did not want to lose the note that I had made on what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, had said. I was simply referring to what seemed to me to be the core of his speech, which was that everything that the Western powers were doing was wrong, and he made virtually no mention of the external threat from the Soviet Union. I simply wanted to try to put the record a little straighter.
I approach this task with a large measure of humility. To be privileged to listen to the many noble Lords who have over many years served at very senior level at the sharp end of our defence commitment is an experience that I value greatly. As one who served briefly as a young private in the last war, and who has taken on my present responsibilities, I have listened to this debate with a great deal of interest.
The White Paper, The United Kingdom Defence Programme: The Way Forward, shows precisely the dilemma facing any Government embarking on a major review of our defence programme. It is, as my noble friend Lord Peart says, a reasonable paper. My doubt is whether it will stand the test of time. The White Paper spells out in some detail the escalating costs of defence in a continuing climate of rapid technological change. We spend more than 5 per cent. of our gross domestic product on defence, one of the highest figures anywhere in the alliance, even though we are not among the wealthiest members. We continue to face sharp economic difficulties. The White Paper tells us that.
121 We are also told that the technological advance is sharply changing the defence environment, and that we need to set for the long term a new force structure which will reflect in up-to-date terms the most cost-effective ways of serving the key purposes of our defence effort. There is, of course, nothing new in these sentiments. We have had five major defence reviews since the Second World War, and the scrutiny of defence expenditure has been almost continuous. Successive Governments have had to come to terms with the need to adjust our defence expenditure to our changed role in the world and to a series of domestic economic crises.
Paragraph 7 on page 5 of the White Paper—and I apologise for quoting at some length, because I think that page 5 goes to the core of this White Paper—says:We have now four main roles: an independent element of strategic and theatre nuclear forces committed to the Alliance; the direct defence of the United Kingdom homeland; a major land and air contribution on the European mainland; and a major maritime effort in the Eastern Atlantic and Channel. We also commit home-based forces to the Alliance for specialist reinforcement contingencies, particularly on NATO's European flanks. Finally, we exploit the flexibility of our forces beyond the NATO area so far as our resources permit, to meet both specific British responsibilities and the growing importance to the West of supporting our friends and contributing to world stability more widely".Paragraph 8 tells us:There can be no question of abandoning our contribution in any of these roles, especially in face of a growing threat. The issue is not whether to undertake them in the future, but how best to do so from our growing resource allocation. Within this key objective, the review has taken nothing as exempt or sacrosanct. The rest of this White Paper sets out the Government's broad conclusions".Paragraph 9 refers to the need to maintain, as the Government see it, our present nuclear role in the alliance. Paragraph 10 tells us that the Government intend to proceed with the Trident, and that certain aspects of the programme are still being studied, but however these are resolved expenditure over the next few years will remain comparatively modest.
Defence policy since the war has been referred to as a long succession of agonising reappraisals. Mr. Brynmor John, in the defence debate in another place on 7th July, reminded the Secretary of State for Defence that the Financial Times had reported Mr. Nott as saying that the Government had never produced figures of long-term costings, and that they would not do so now. We simply do not know how much greater a share of our gross domestic product is to be devoted to defence expenditure, and it is my belief that the decision on Trident will distort our efforts in the conventional field.
The arguments for and against Trident have been fully aired and there has been further reference to Trident today. I say only that the original figure of last year for Trident was £5,000 million, and the figure has already been raised to £6,000 million. The system is to be fully operational by 1994. No one really knows whether by then the cost will be £8 billion or £10 billion, or even more. It is my view that, despite the case for Trident made out on many occasions by the Government, we shall have, sooner rather than later, yet another reappraisal of our defence 122 strategy because of the failure of the Government to recognise the reality of our economic position.
I have referred on other occasions in this House to the failure of successive Governments to appreciate that the nation will support only a defence programme that we can afford. One Minister after another responsible for defence has had to learn that lesson. I believe that full public support for our defences will become more and more difficult to obtain unless demonstrable progress is made with international arms control. I stress the question of the cost of the Government's defence programme at this time because I can see a growing disenchantment with the Government's economic policies which will seriously weaken the public's support for adequate defence.
The fact that the industrial nations of the West are meeting this week in Ottawa has been referred to in the debate. As they meet, there are 25 million people out of work and, as The Times said, many in the dole queues are young, educated and ready for useful roles they may never fulfil, domestic stability is at risk in even the most ordered societies, and political co-operation in defence and trade is daily undermined. A leader in The Times to which I have referred also said:We cannot be unilaterally prosperous. In a world wracked by competitive deflation, interest rate and currency wars, what any single country can achieve is limited … Today everyone recognises the prewar acceptance of chronic underemployment of our resources was wicked and unnecessary. But there is no more reason than in 1931 to accept the waste and misery. There is nothing inevitable about our crisis. It is a consequence of our failure to respond to changed economic and financial circumstances and no country can respond on its own".Finally, a brief reference to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I recognise his enormous expertise in this field. I certainly agree with his conclusion on the question of the Government's policy on Trident. But his speech today was only half a speech. He quoted from certain journals—nobody can deny that such things are being said in those journals—but it was only half a speech because it is not good enough simply to cry wolf. I do not want to make too much of this, but if we look carefully to see what is going on around us, is it not true—as I asked Lord Chalfont in an intervention—that the classic ingredients are appearing in our country which inevitably will lead to social instability? That is why I intervened; because it seemed to me that he was simply crying wolf and was not paying attention to the causes.
I have been involved in politics for some 36 years. I am as active now, perhaps even more active, in local politics as ever I was. I am still the secretary of my constituency party and the minute secretary of my local branch, so I know exactly what is going on and to some extent the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, is right. But I do not intend, like certain members of my party, to run away and leave it when the heat gets hottest. I intend to stay and fight because I believe that the traditional values of the movement to which I belong are still worth preserving and fighting for. I am sorry to have spent so much time on something which may not seem strictly applicable to the debate, but these matters have been raised during the day and it was right, I think, for me to refer to them.
I say this finally. Certainly there is a strong mood within the Labour Party and without to pursue a 123 policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. I say only this to the House. Yes, last year, at Blackpool, in October, there was a resolution passed which advocated this policy. There were two other resolutions passed, which do not seem to have received quite the publicity that they deserve. A resolution was passed advocating multilateral disarmament. Now, these things are not unusual at Labour Party conferences. Indeed they are not unusual at many conferences of that kind. The very climate of conferences, the arrangements on which conferences have to run, inevitably mean that these kind of contradictions emerge. But, most importantly, there was a resolution passed at that conference by an overwhelming majority committing the Labour movement to NATO. It seems to me axiomatic that if the Labour movement is committed to our NATO allies, then inevitably the consequences of that must be plain.
This has been a long and very interesting debate. I hope that I have made some small contribution to it, and, as I said earlier, I certainly do not envy the noble Viscount in attempting to answer the 30 or so speakers who have taken part.
§ 11.11 p.m.
§ Viscount Trenchard
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, for those kind words. Indeed, in winding up the debate it is clearly impossible to deal with more than a tiny proportion of the many very valuable and knowledgeable contributions that the 34 or 35 speakers have made. So will they all please accept my apologies in advance? I shall go through the record carefully and where we can answer specific questions we shall do so in writing if, as is inevitable, I do not have time to answer tonight. I also propose in the main to leave out the names of those noble Lords who have made remarks, since the repetition of a phrase such as "the noble Lord, Lord so-and-so of what-not", would take quite some time.
I believe that the debate has shown that the majority of this House, and I believe of the country, and certainly already of the other place, support my right honourable friend's efforts to enhance our defence strength. In my view the word "cuts" should be banished in relation to the defence effort as a whole. As an overall description, the word "cuts" is a travesty of the real plan. In 1985–86 we intend to spend in real terms 21 per cent. more than in 1978–79. By any standard that is a major strengthening of defence.
Since the days of spears and bows and arrows, fire power has increased and become more expensive. This age-old trend has accelerated to breakneck pace in the modern age of technological possibility and, as the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, mentioned, the microelectronic revolution. While this has allowed the production of weapons of war many times more powerful than their predecessors, it has in many fields necessitated a reduction in numbers; for instance, of aircraft, ships and major fighting platforms.
Let me give your Lordships a few more figures in addition to those that my noble friend the Leader of the House gave early this afternoon. In 1950 we had 1,500 front line combat aircraft. In 1981 we have under 500. Of ships of frigate size and above, 124 we had 387 in 1950, and we had 97 at the start of 1981.
If your Lordships look again at page 45 (which has already been mentioned) of the Annual Defence Estimates, your Lordships will see a chart indicating the rise in the cost of equipments over the last 25 years; and if those figures are extended on a straight line basis and on the assumption that you have an inflation-proof but otherwise static defence equipment budget, you could, for the same real money, afford only one aircraft as a replacement for Tornado in 62 years' time. For frigates, the Type 22 extrapolation would result in our being able to afford only one ship in 27 years' time. However powerful that aircraft and frigate were, our defence would not be secure.
Steps to bend the straight line of increased cost have been increasingly taken over the last two years; and, therefore, this road to a degree of absurdity is not going to be followed. My right honourable friend has, I believe, sounded a further major call for a much better balance in defence. Of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooks, says, the follow-through to the new direction that he has set is not going to be easy, and he is the last to believe that it is. But he has set a new direction; and even before that we had already decided that the Type 23 frigate had to be much simpler and cheaper.
New technology, when first invented, can be up to a hundred times more expensive than repeat technology, and for this reason I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, that I believe it is not always true, or even usually true, that the escalation takes place on the follow-through phases within the generation of equipment. The arithmetic that I have described forces us to select more strictly a smaller number of vital attributes for new application in each generation of weapons. That is if we are to have a sound balance between numbers and weapon power.
In the past, reduced numbers have more or less coincided with the abandonment of roles, such as East of Suez and in the Middle East. My Lords, we have no more roles which we can abandon. I believe it possible that with an increasingly commercial approach, taking account of foreign markets, examining the equipment requirements of each role rather than just each service, collaborating closely with other members of the alliance in equipment matters and, most important, forcing the selection early of narrower key areas for research and development and new technology applications—doing all these things, we can retard and perhaps prevent the future necessity for numbers reductions in the majority of key defence units and so, I hope, thwart the inexorable law of the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman.
§ Lord Zuckerman
My Lords, may I put a question to the noble Viscount? Is he aware that precisely what he has just been saying was said, no doubt in this House but certainly in another place, 20 years ago?
§ Viscount Trenchard
Yes, I am, my Lords. Indeed, when I first went to the Ministry of Defence, when I said, "When will we get to the day of one frigate or one aircraft?", everybody said, "Well, it will be in about 60 years or 25 years—now shall we go on with business?"—because that is precisely what they have 125 been doing for the last 25 years. But the vision is now that we are well down a road to absurdity, and we can no longer afford to shrug our shoulders and go on. Thus there is (may I say it?) at least a new determination to try to bend this line. I have studied the cost-lines of other nations, and I believe that this line can be bent quite considerably.
In addition, we are also doing everything we can to push forward in the use of what we call force multi-flyers. The emphasis on early warning systems, electronic battlefield control systems, in air refuelling and Army transport helicopters, are all designed to maximise the potential use of a superbly equipped but relatively numerically small force.
While still on equipment, let me say to the noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, and the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, that we buy 90 per cent. British equipment in the Ministry of Defence. Furthermore, in many cases the premium we pay for buying British is substantially larger than either of those noble Lords mentioned, and has been up to twice the purchase price that we could have bought abroad, because we do know the indirect benefits of buying at home. I shall not have the time to comment on the individual items that have been mentioned, but I shall say that the torpedo question will not be decided for a few months yet; and I have noted all the points that were made.
If I may answer the noble Lord, Lord Zuckerman, the Tornado costs of GR-1 are £11 million each, and the fighter version, £14 million. The German funding problem has arisen largely through making insufficient financial provision for the programme and it is not because of inflation. In real terms, Tornado costs have gone up by 25 per cent. in a decade. This is our Tornado cost to us. What has happened in the Federal German Republic is that all that increase has tended to be pushed back until the last year. The 25 per cent.—I would not call it a reasonable figure, but for the complex project that it was, as a first swing wing military aircraft in the first instance, it is not completely out of court.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, asked me about the Jaguar replacement. I have not the time to go into it in detail. The Jaguars will go on for a long while and the Tornado will take over some of their roles, particularly in Germany. When we do come to a final replacement, the next generation of aircraft is either in the field of European combat aircraft or in advance V-STOL. Considerable discussions and studies are of course going on in relation to the degree to which one should jack up the platforms in the next generation with all that is involved in cost and in pushing forward technology on every front rather than in arming them with much more modern weapons.
If I may turn quickly to manpower and services, because a number of your Lordships have raised very important questions, may I start with the point that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, raised. I assure him that it is indeed the intention to take out from Germany the headquarters of Five Field Force which will be re-located, together with its signal regiment to Catterick in 1983. The number of in-station armoured brigades will remain the same, and overall combat strength, as has been announced, 126 will not fall below the present level. My noble friends Lord Cathcart and Lord Ridley, and the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and others, all raised questions of manpower and the reserves. The two do overlap. Let me say to my noble friend Lord Cathcart that within the degree of accuracy of the current estimates of manpower, the Army have taken into account the regular requirements to look after an increased territorial force.
There are many important matters here which overlap. There is recruiting restraint at the moment but at the same time the outflow from the services, even in 1980–81, was about 37,000 people, and we are talking of a reduction of 15,000 to 17,000. So we have to keep those figures in perspective. Recruitment restraint, the question of how much redundancy will be needed and the detailed planning of it are matters for which we have to work the details through from now on.
I do not have time to go into these important subjects in sufficient detail now, but I would say to my noble friend Lord Ridley that we shall of course review bounties against wastage and other factors when we see how the increased recruiting in the Territorial Army will go. I believe that, as regards facilities, ranges, training areas and the other points that were mentioned, we shall find a way to accommodate the major increase in the reserves which applies not only to the Territorial Army, of course, but to the RAF and the Navy as well.
May I now turn to the naval case? The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, fired a very formidable broadside. He also fired, if I may say so, a well-aimed salvo at the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, in which he made it clear that the latter—and I believe this is true of most retired service chiefs and in addition retired Chiefs of the Defence Staff—my old brigadier, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, is the odd man out among the defence chiefs on the nuclear issue.
With regard to the future of the Royal Navy, let me first say that we trust them to guard with zealous care the four new flagships—for that is what they are—which are going to carry Britain's nuclear deterrent for the remainder of the century and beyond. Secondly, we certainly plan to expand our submarine power, both SSNs and SSKs. The conjectural assumptions made on the basis of our building capacity, taken together with the need to build Trident submarines and taken with some assumed dates for the phasing out of our older submarines, are, I believe, at this stage unreliable. We are working on the details of our shipbuilding programme following the review, including the details of Trident submarine construction. But though in quality and, over the years, in quantity, our submarine force may not be entirely even, it will expand.
In surface ships, the noble and gallant Lord included in his figures for reductions ships which have been phased out and which were planned to be phased out. Some will be phased out earlier. His reckoning ran very much along the lines spelt out in the other place on 7th July by my right honourable friend Mr. Keith Speed, recently Under-Secretary of State for the Navy, whom he quoted. It is very easy to have a long discussion on these figures which will not resolve the issue as to the extent of the real reduction, but I should like, if I may, to use for a second Mr. Speed's own figures in the debate on a longer-term basis, which I 127 believe is the only way to look at this. He pointed out that in 1970 the Navy had 81 destroyers and frigates, and contrasted that with the 50 intended for 1986, including eight in the stand-by squadron. I think that is the true nature of the reduction. To take that longer period I have looked at different years and believe it to be a fair comparison. Of course that is a substantial reduction, but the 1986 ships will have a fire-power and sophistication of immensely greater proportion than the 1970 fleet, and of course, as I have already described, a much higher cost.
So we have the same phenomenon as I described in relation to equipment. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State made clear in the other place, there will be fewer long mid-term refits, and he pointed out the higher utilisation, which a recent dockyard study showed, that can be obtained from shorter life ships. So I believe he claimed correctly that this number, including all the new ships going through the shipyards at the moment, will not represent a very serious reduction. All kinds of further research will go on into the various roles in the maritime field, and I would not disguise for one moment, as my noble friend has already described earlier this afternoon, the fact that there is a change of emphasis at work. But that change of emphasis will constantly be tested against technology and against the advice of all our main advisers in the service and outside.
There will remain a large and vital role for the Royal Navy, which I am sure they will discharge with the efficiency and courage that they have already shown. I am only sorry that the noble and gallant Lord accused us of a degree of arrogance. I do not believe that that is correct as regards my right honourable friend, who has listened at length and patiently to the views of all concerned. One has again to make the point that the situation which he inherited was untenable, and those who may disagree with the emphasis must suggest where else the money can come from.
The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Hill-Norton, mentioned the USA and the question of our consultations with them. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has agreed that I shall reveal the agreed text of the agreement after the consultation which he had with United States Secretary of Defense Weinberger. It reads as follows:The United States Secretary of Defense welcomes the decisions taken to increase still further our defence effort, understands the basic thrust of the proposals for reshaping our programme to make the most cost-effective use of the resource effort, and will be working side by side with us on the process of deciding how best the proposals can be translated into detailed plans to sustain and enhance capability in Europe, the Atlantic and further afield. We shall be discussing these matters informally together during the coming months".Time prevents me from going into the questions of the methods of reinforcement in a future war, on which many different views have today been expressed, and also from going into the important points that my noble friend Lord Inchcape made—and many others made them, too—both in relation to small and cheaper ships, but also in relation to the defence of our shipping and our sea lanes all over the world. I have to say that in time of war, or even tension, we have never been able to protect our ships all over the world on our peacetime strengths and, clearly, emergency plans, 128 should emergencies arise, will have to be made.
I must touch for a moment not on disarmament, which needs a separate debate, nor on the many views and counter-views that have already been expressed, but on the nuclear deterrent. I believe that wars are, on the whole, started by aggressors who think that they can get away with something. The danger is greater if potential aggressors have desperate problems at home. The threat to NATO is therefore very real. We have to ensure that no aggressor thinks he can get away with it. I am unashamedly convinced that NATO has a greater respect for life than have the Soviets. If one then bears in mind the enormous preponderance of Russian conventional forces, and the recent demonstration of their ruthless use, I believe it is essential to have nuclear deterrent options of all the main kinds. I welcomed the speeches from many noble Lords on the Benches opposite which supported that view.
These options are necessary to resist nuclear blackmail to which we would be open if we did not have them. They are also necessary to deter prolonged and bloody conventional aggression. Those who find the first use of any nuclear weapon by the defender incredible—and I understand their thinking—and who also believe in the inevitability of uncontrolled nuclear escalation if once a nuclear weapon were ever used fail, I believe, to distinguish between the different positions of the aggressor and the defender. The aggressor is trying to get away with it. He is trying to get his objective at an acceptable cost. If he ever started, because he thought he could get away with it, he would most probably cold-bloodedly review at every stage whether or not he was getting away with it at an acceptable cost. Provided, therefore, we have an adequate response at every level and, one has to say, if need be the will to use it, or to indicate that one will use it, then he will know that he cannot get away with it. We must be able to say "Stop it" and to back that injunction with any of the options which seem appropriate at the time. That is deterrence based on flexible response. I agree so much with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, on the causes of the Second World War.
Now I must answer those who believe that the United Kingdom should not maintain its own nuclear weapons but should rely on the United States. We must remember that we are dealing with Soviet perception—that they might believe that they could get away with a victory in Europe without incurring the main American response. Notwithstanding the American commitment to Europe, for which we should be eternally grateful, a British nuclear decision-taking centre can help not just now but in any unforeseeable future to ensure that there are no miscalculations by the Soviets on this point. We can help to make sure that they are even more certain, both now and in the future, they that cannot get away with it—that is, with a quick European coup. In this connection it is perfectly possible to imagine that a plan for such a coup could include conventional forces or selected nuclear forces, or both, and that they might be backed by degrees of nuclear blackmail. I believe that the case for maintaining the British independent nuclear deterrent is overwhelming, and that is why our allies welcome it.
129 There is not the time to go again into the costs of our nuclear deterrent, but I must say to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, that the expenditure has not yet started and our problems therefore palpably are not due to it at the present time. I must also say that it is our estimate that, with every kind of back-up and necessary air cover, the cost of Trident over 15 years would, if it were not spent on Trident, allow us perhaps to add one armoured division to NATO's 25 to 30 on the Western Front. Even if the noble and gallant Lord—I can give him chapter and verse for this—were to dispute my figures, it certainly could not be above two, and that as an addition to the conventional defensive force is not, unfortunately, of sufficiently material effect, in my view, to mean that we can get by without the British deterrent. It would take something like a 60 per cent. increase in our budget and those of many other allies in relation to the European central front.
Those who first take the costs of Trident over 15 years—this has been done outside the House—and then tend to exaggerate them and calculate how many tanks they would buy with the next 15 years' money, and who make no estimates of the men, fuel, ammunition, air support and back-up facilities are, I believe, guilty of a one-hundredfold travesty. We really must live in this world. I hope and believe that enough has been said from the other Benches to make my noble friends' belief and hope correct: that the party opposite, when faced with the real decision, would come to a realistic decision on the British nuclear deterrent, as it has done so often before.
My Lords, I can only say that I have noted with great interest all the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and those who on both sides have commented on it. I have noted the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, who is I think the chairman of CND at the present time, and I would reiterate on behalf of my noble friend and myself that there is no question but that we believe that there are many very sincere members of the CND. But one has to add that there is no question that the effect on the public understanding of issues like Trident, which is the Polaris replacement, and cruise missiles, which are the ageing bomber replacements, is exactly what the Soviets might wish.
I support 100 per cent. my right honourable friend's efforts to deal with a very different defence situation, to tackle it more at its roots and to cut the overhead and the back-up; to use the force multipliers, to bend the equipment cost escalation line, but in all to ensure that this country has a modern and highly efficient force to meet the growing Russian threat.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.