§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I beg to move,That this House approves the report on the Progress of the Five-Year Defence Plan contained in Command Paper No. 662.In 1957, the House approved a policy for the reorganisation of our Armed Forces to be completed over a period of about five years. Two years have now gone by and the purpose of the White Paper is to tell Parliament how far we have got with implementing that policy.
This White Paper, I submit, has two virtues— one is a positive one and the other is negative. On the positive side, it shows that a very great deal of progress has been made; on the negative side, it has the virtue of containing no new announcements of policy, for the simple reason that the policy approved by the House two years ago has proved itself to be sound and workable and has, therefore, not had to be changed.
In the Defence White Paper of 1957 it was stated, in paragraph 8, thatBritain's armed forces must be capable of performing two main tasks:—(i) to play their part with the forces of Allied countries in deterring and resisting aggression; (ii) to defend British colonies and protected territories against local attack, and undertake limited operations in overseas emergencies.Until such time as international tension can be reduced and real disarmament achieved, which is the desire of all of us, we must do everything we can to maintain and consolidate the system of collective defensive alliances which we have established in conformity with the United Nations Charter, namely, N.A.T.O., the Bagdad Pact and the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation.
Britain alone is a signatory of all these three alliances and we have forces all round the world available to support them—land and air forces in Britain and in Germany, in the Mediterranean, in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Far East together with the Strategic Reserve here at home and an element of it in Kenya. Our naval forces are also well distributed for the support of our Allies in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and in the Far East. In addition to the forces which we have earmarked or have available for the support of the 1132 three alliances, Britain is also making her contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent which stands behind them.
It is not easy to measure the respective contributions of the various members of an alliance. The percentage of its gross national product spent by each country on defence does not provide a wholly satisfactory method of comparison, but it is really the only yardstick that is available. The most recent statistics from N.A.T.O. are those for 1957. These show that, judged on this basis, Britain's defence effort was the third largest, and was exceeded only by the United States and France. In the case of France, as we all know, her defence expenditure was quite abnormally inflated by the heavy cost of the operations in Algeria. Though the figures for 1958 are not yet available, the indications are that our relative position has remained much the same. I do not, therefore, think that there can be any doubt that Britain, by her contribution to all three alliances and to the Western nuclear deterrent is fully pulling her weight in the collective defence of the free world and is bearing her fair share of the joint effort.
Apart from our obligations to contribute to international alliances and to the Western deterrent, there are certain purely British responsibilities, for example, the protection of our Colonies, in support of which we must be able to carry out military operations on our own. There are those who say that our conventional forces for these purposes are inadequate. These criticisms arise, I think, from two misunderstandings. The first is a failure to recognise that the circumstances in which we might have to carry out military operations entirely on our own, without allies, are today very limited. In fact, apart from internal security duties and the defence of British Colonies and protected territories against local attack, I find it hard to visualise any wars which we might have to fight alone without allies. Nor are such wars likely to bring us into conflict with any major military Power.
The second misunderstanding arises from an under-estimate of the effective strength of the forces which we are planning to provide. There has been a tendency to compare the total manpower of the Services today with the reduced numbers they will have in 1963 without 1133 taking into account at all the major changes in their character and composition. For example, about 70 per cent. of the cuts in the manpower of the Army will be made in the administrative tail and not in the teeth units. That will largely be made possible, as the House knows, by the ending of National Service, with its heavy overheads, and by extending the process of civilianisation.
If we want to measure the adequacy of the Army for limited war operations we must reckon how many men there are avaliable for service in the Strategic Reserve and overseas, excluding Germany, which is a global war commitment. Today, there are about 75,000 men available for these duties. In the new all-Regular Army, if it is able to recruit up to its increased ceiling of 180,000, the comparable figure will be 70,000. The difference of 5,000 will, I submit, be more than offset by the higher state of training and general efficiency of a long-service professional force. The all-Regular Army we are bringing into being will also possess much greater air mobility.
For purpose of comparison, the House may be interested to know that the carrying capacity of the Royal Air Force — and I do not think that we should underrate the position today— is today about equal to that of British European Airways. The 20 Britannias which will begin to come into service in April will add half as much again. The Argosies and the Britannics— the long-range freighters— will add another 50 per cent. on top of that. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] In the early 'sixties, as has already been stated to the House.
I am not giving any new dates now. Having been Minister of Supply, I am not too anxious to forecast exact dates of deliveries some years ahead. These last ones have only just been ordered, but the Britannias are coming into the service at the beginning of April. When the present programme is completed, the carrying capacity of the Air Force will be over four times larger than it was in 1951. I choose that date because it is the date referred to by the Opposition, in their Amendment.
In overseas emergencies of all kinds the Navy offers a mobile and flexible means of bringing militiary power to bear where it is needed. We must, of course, pro- 1134 vide our fair share of the naval forces required by N.A.T.O. in the event of global war. But, in reshaping the Navy and replanning the distribution of its ships and bases, we have given especial weight to its tasks in peace and in limited war. In the area East of Suez, where naval forces can play a very important part, we are planning to maintain in the future a somewhat larger fleet than at present; and we shall shortly be sending out to the Far East the Commando Carrier "Bulwark", which may well prove invaluable in a variety of situations.
During the past few years internal security duties in Cyprus have been our most onerous overseas commitment. Our British soldiers in Cyprus have carried out their dangerous and unenviable task with remarkable patience and restraint and I believe that they deserve in full measure the praise and gratitude of the House.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not think that we want to repeat the scene that we had the other day.
The new settlement, which I believe all of us welcome from every standpoint, will, of course, be a great relief to us on the military side. We have at present a force of over 25,000 soldiers in Cyprus, apart from the R.A.F. We are planning to reduce this to a permanent garrison of 5,000 or 6,000. Until the establishment of the new State, we shall continue to be responsible for internal security. Nevertheless, we expect to be able to withdraw a number of units in the course of the next few months.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "responsible for internal security"? Does that mean that when this State is established, and independence is completely conceded, that, if there is trouble between the Turks in Cyprus and the Greeks in Cyprus our own men will be responsible for intervening?
§ Mr. Sandys
I did not say that. I said that until the establishment of the new State, that is to say, between now and 1135 some time not longer than a year from the date when the Agreements were signed in London, we shall continue to be responsible for internal security.
§ Mr. Sandys
After that time we have no longer any responsibility for internal security outside those areas which remain under British sovereignty. I hope that that has made the position quite clear to the right hon. Gentleman.
I do not propose now to go over all the military arrangement in the settlement which are well set out in the published documents before the House. If any points are raised on this matter during the debate, I shall be glad to give the House such information as I can.
§ Mr. Mellish
On the question of Cyprus, there is an item in the White Paper about £1 million proposed to be spent in the coming year for improvements in Cyprus for the accommodation of troops, and so on. Does that still stand? It says so in the White Paper. The right hon. Gentleman wrote it.
§ Mr. Sandys
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to the most recent White Paper on Cyprus, or the earlier one?
§ Mr. Sandys
I can give an immediate answer on that. We shall not be going ahead with a lot of expenditure on providing winter quarters in the Troodos Mountains in places where our troops will not be next winter— of course not. Any expenditure that is incurred on the troops in Cyprus will now be centred in the areas of the British bases which will be retained under British sovereignty.
I should like to say one word, in passing— e may deal with it more fully at another time— bout the Liberal Amendment which is on the Order Paper. The Government and the Labour Opposition are in agreement that Britain must continue to have hydrogen bombs and make her own contribution to the nuclear deterrent. I am happy that we are in agreement on that important point. The Liberal Amendment challenges us both on that position. I am quite prepared to defend the common policy of the Conservative and Labour 1136 Parties on this important question. With the assistance of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, we can bat together in the same team on this issue. But before deploying the arguments, I should like to wait for the Liberal Party to make its case.
There is, however, one aspect of the deterrent about which I should like to speak, and that is the British ballistic rocket. Public interest on this has centred on two main aspects. The first is the cost and the second is the type of rocket to be chosen.
Rockets — particularly long - range guided rockets with nuclear warheads—are, of course, expensive things. But the rocket is not a superfluous addition to our armoury. We must remember that the role of the ballistic rocket is to take the place of the V-bomber when it comes to the end of its operational life. If we did not make the rocket, we should have to develop and manufacture another generation of strategic bombers and provide the trained crews, airfields and control systems to operate them.
The cost of developing and manufacturing the rocket will, as far as I can estimate, be roughly of the same order of magnitude as the cost of developing and manufacturing another generation of strategic bombers. Of course, the cost of maintaining and operating the rockets, once they are installed, would certainly be considerably lower than the cost of running a bomber force. It follows that if we can afford a bomber deterrent now, we should be able to afford a rocket deterrent in the future.
§ Mr. Frank Beswick (Uxbridge)
A little earlier, when the right hon. Gentleman was meeting the charge that our conventional forces were inadequate, he said that he was quite unable to visualise this country waging war independently of the U.S.A. If that is the case with regard to conventional forces, in what circumstances does he think we are going to use the deterrent nuclear weapon independently of the U.S.A., and if not, what is the good of it?
§ Mr. Sandys
I have already said that I am going to wait to hear that case 1137 developed by those who have put their names to the Amendment on the Order Paper. I am quite prepared to reply, but not on a major issue of that kind in replying to an intervention.
§ Mr. Sandys
If the hon. Gentleman wants a debate with his hon. Friend, I think that he had better have it later.
§ Mr. Sandys
I gather than the hon. Gentleman does not wish to interrupt me on a point that I have been dealing with—
§ Mr. Sandys
—and he does not wish to correct a misstatement or a misrepresentation about himself, so I think that perhaps he should wait until he has an opportunity of catching your eye, Mr. Speaker.
So much for cost. [HON. MEMBERS: "How much?"] I am not going to estimate exactly what these things are going to cost. What I have said is that the cost of developing and making these rockets is likely to be about the same as the cost of developing and making a new generation of bombers. I also said, in the White Paper last year, that there is no evidence to show that the cost of the deterrent and its defence is likely to change significantly in its relation to our defence budget as a whole. Those two indications give the House as much information as one can expect over a period of years.
What is even more important than costs is that we should choose the type of weapon which will best suit our needs. Before coming to our decision, I can assure the House that we made a searching examination of this problem with the help of our scientists and military experts and with the full co-operation of those engaged on this work in the United States. We believe that the Americans, who can afford it, are quite right in developing alternative deterrent weapons, in addition to the intercontinental land-based missiles into which they are putting their main effort.
1138 Let us be quite clear about that. The Americans are at present putting their main effort into liquid-fuel intercontinental land-based missiles. We believe that they are quite right, however, if they can afford it, also to develop alternative methods. If we could afford to have an assortment of deterrents, if we could afford to have several clubs in the bag, we should certainly like to have a proportion of Polaris and Minuteman missiles in our quiver. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is always a good thing to have a niblick in case one gets into trouble, although one would not necessarily like to have to do the whole round with it.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Will the Minister now tell the House— because this is a matter of major importance—under what circumstances he conceives the use of these weapons by Britain independently of their use by other Powers? That is all we want to know.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member and I are agreed that we must have this weapon. Does he say now that he does not agree with his party that we must have an independent nuclear deterrent?
§ Mr. Swingler
If it is in order, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to make a speech now, but I understood that the Minister of Defence was supposed to explain to the House what is the Government's defence policy. On a matter of major importance he apparently refuses to answer a question of crucial significance.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is never necessary to discuss at length points on which there is wide agreement. It is tedious. If, in the course of the debate, as is just possible, some signs of disagreement within the Labour Party are revealed—
§ Mr. Sandys
—and if hon. Members opposite feel that it is not entirely a private affair, I might be allowed to join in, but for the moment I was assuming, perhaps wrongly, that there was agreement between the Labour Party and the 1139 Government on this issue and that it was only the Liberal Party, which will state its case, which was in disagreement.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
The right hon. Gentleman has been kindly referring to us. He could get out of his difficulty in dealing with this point— which many of us agree is difficult to answer— if he were to invite a member of the official Opposition to wind up the debate.
§ Mr. Sandys
It depends whether, at the end, the tail wags the dog or not. We shall see how we get on. I know that hon. Members opposite do not like us to dwell on this point and are very anxious that we should move on.
I think that we all agree on this— to change the metaphor again, if I may: we cannot put our money on all the horses, like the Americans can, and we therefore have to back our fancy. As the House knows, we have chosen the Blue Streak liquid-fuel, land-based rocket sited underground. Incidentally, one very serious newspaper, evidently very hard up for something on which to criticise the White Paper, said that we were most uninformative. It said that last year, in the White Paper, it was stated that the Blue Streak rocket would be fired from underground whereas this year there was no mention of it being fired from underground. If we are expected to repeat everything every year, and if it is assumed that because we do not repeat it there has been a change, we shall have long Defence White Papers.
In making the choice of the Blue Streak rocket we considered a wide variety of operational factors— thrust, range, vulnerability, size of warhead, spare carrying capacity for various future developments and, finally, date of delivery. The Blue Streak is going ahead but we shall, naturally, continue to watch the progress of other developments in America and elsewhere. With the rapid advances of science, which are constantly upsetting earlier assessments, strategic plans and weapon programmes can never be regarded as permanent of immutable. But in the present state of knowledge I am confident that our decision to continue with the development of Blue Streak is the right course, and, in fact, that any 1140 other course would involve a wholly unjustifiable gamble.
§ Mr. Beswick
The right hon. Gentleman told us that it was impossible for this country to afford more than one missile, and I think he impressed us with the argument which he used. In that case, can he tell us what will happen to Thor if and when Blue Streak comes along?
§ Mr. Sandys
I have always made it quite clear to the House that Thor is not an element of independent British nuclear power. Thor is an American rocket with an American warhead under American control, for which we provide sites and operational troops. It is, we believe, a valuable addition to the joint Western nuclear deterrent. But it is certainly not a successor to the V-bomber, which still has a number of years of useful life ahead.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
It would be useful to clear this point away now. The right hon. Gentleman has said that this is an American weapon for which we are providing the bases and operational troops, which seems to imply— what we have never been told before— that the decision to use it is an American decision. We have always understood that although the warheads were under lock and key arrangement with the Americans, it was being brought here as a weapon to be used in consultation with us and at least on joint decision. Is not that still true?
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that that is true. We cannot get away from the fact that it is an American weapon. It is made by the Douglas Aircraft Company. We cannot get away from the fact that the warhead is an American warhead. We cannot get away from the fact that the warhead is being kept under American control. Equally, it is operated by British crews, on British sites, on British territory. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, any decision to use that weapon is to be a joint decision by both Governments.
§ Mr. Sandys
We are paying £10 million and the Americans are paying a very large sum of money in developing the 1141 weapon. Incidentally, the progress that has been made in the development of this weapon in such an exceedingly short time is very remarkable.
I turn now to the subject of manpower. We recently had a full discussion on recruiting in connection with the publication of the Grigg Committee's Report, and the position is fully set out in the White Paper. I do not, therefore, propose to go over that ground again in detail this afternoon.
There never has been much doubt about the Navy's ability to get the men it needs. In fact, recruits have been coming in so well that for some branches there is now a waiting list, and it is proposed to raise the standards for acceptance.
The problem of getting recruits for the Army has always been a more difficult one, mainly because the Army needs considerably more men than either of the other two Services. That is why I am sure that we are all particularly glad to see the good progress of Army recruiting. As the White Paper shows,. 22,000 other ranks joined the Army during 1958 on engagements of six years or more. That compares with 4,900 in 1957. Expressed in man-years of engagement, the Army recruited in 1958 167,000 man-years, as compared with 96,000 in 1957. The returns for last month, which reached me this morning, show that the trend is still rising. Although January, 1958, was a good recruiting month, the figure for this January is 17 per cent. higher.
During the second half of last year, it became apparent that, unless the authorised ceiling was raised, it would, before long, be necessary to turn away suitable recruits. In view of past anxieties over Army recruiting, and the difficulties there might be if its strength fell seriously below the planned figure of 165,000, we decided that it would be wise to build up a small margin of safety. As the White Paper explains, additional recruits will be accepted up to a maximum of 15,000. Good use will be made of these extra men, who will be allocated to units overseas and in the Strategic Reserve.
Recruiting for the Royal Air Force last year also continued to improve. The new figures for last month show that the number of men who engaged for five years or more was almost double the number recruited in January of last year.
1142 In the Defence White Paper of 1957 we announced that we were planning to end the call-up in December, 1960, so that National Service would cease at the end of 1962. However, we added a proviso in paragraph 48 to the effect thatIt must nevertheless be understood that, if voluntary recruiting fails to produce the numbers required, the country will have to face the need for some limited form of compulsory service to bridge the gap.In the meantime, recruiting has gone so well that there is really no longer any doubt that we shall be able to end the call-up in 1960 as planned.
Most of the young men affected already know where they stand. Men born in 1940 were told that they need not expect to be called up, while men born in the third quarter of 1939 have already been asked to register. The last remaining class, namely, the men born in the fourth quarter of 1939, were told that it was unlikely they would be called up. It was not then possible to take a final decision.
However, in view of the favourable trend of regular recruiting and in the light of the latest assessment of Service requirements, I am now able to announce that men born in the last quarter of 1939 need not expect to be called upon to register for National Service. That clears up the last outstanding point.
I should now like to turn to the Amendment tabled by the official Opposition. In it, they charge the Government with having no coherent or effective defence policy. I really do not know how they can justify that accusation. The Government and the Opposition are in agreement on defence on almost all the essential issues. I could enumerate them, but I shall not do so now. I shall, therefore, await with considerable interest the explanation to be given by the right hon. Gentleman.
I must, however, say something now about the one and only specific criticism contained in the Amendment tabled by the Labour Opposition, namely, thatdespite a total defence expenditure of more than eleven thousand million pounds since 1951 there continue to be grave inadequacies in the armament and equipment of Her Majesty's forces.As the House will realise, this figure of £11,000 million covers a great deal more than the armament and equipment of our forces. The greater part of this sum went in paying, feeding, housing, clothing, 1143 training and moving our forces, the cost of which is very largely determined by the number of men in the Services at any time.
It also includes all sorts of unavoidable current expenditure, such as the replacement of ammunition used in training and other expendable stores, as well as Service pensions, the pay of civilian labour, and many miscellaneous items connected with the day-to-day running of the forces.
§ Mr. Sandys
I should like to get on with my speech, if I may.
Of the money spent on armaments, the Royal Air Force has received the largest share. Except in regards to the size of Transport Command, about which I have already spoken, there has been very little criticism of Air Force equipment in general. The position is fully set out in the White Paper and in the Memorandum of my right hon. Friend, on the Air Estimates. I do not, therefore, propose to go over the ground again.
The Navy, too, is being modernised and streamlined in a variety of ways. The cuts in manpower will fall predominantly on the shore establishments; and the ships that are being eliminated are mainly those in the Reserve Fleet. This is in accordance with the policy announced in the Defence White Paper of last year. The number of ships in the operational Fleet will not be greatly reduced. In the two categories that are perhaps the most important—aircraft carriers and escort vessels—the numbers will remain virtually unchanged.
In addition, the Fleet Air Arm is being almost entirely re-equipped with new aircraft, and some of the best radar and radio equipment in the world is being installed in our carriers. Altogether, I think that we can fairly say that, when our present plans are completed, the Royal Navy will be exceedingly well equipped to discharge its important responsibilities in peace and war.
When we turn to the Army, there has, I know, been a good deal of understandable criticism. I went into this matter fairly fully during the debate on the Grigg Report, the other day. As the White Paper explains, one of our problems has been that we have had large stock of 1144 equipment and weapons either left over from the war or produced during the Korean emergency. For the sake of economy, we thought it right, as far as was practicable, to try to use up these stocks, which were worth hundreds of millions of pounds. If we had not done so, I believe that we should have come in for very serious criticism from the House and from the public.
In the meantime, however, we have been going ahead with the development of a wide range of new Army equipment of all kinds. These are now coming out of the pipeline in an increasing flow, and a high proportion of the Army's needs will soon have been met. I understand and sympathise with the criticisms that have been made. I have explained the position quite frankly, and I ask the House to accept my assurance that in twelve or eighteen months' time the picture will look very different, indeed. I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) to say that that is admitting the case—
§ Mr. G. Brown indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Sandys
I have already said, in earlier debates, that I accept that much of the Army equipment is less up to date and less efficient than any of us would like. I explained the reasons for these large stocks which, for reasons of practical economy, we thought it right to use up as far as was practicable. We have done that, and are now in process of large scale re-equipment. If the right hon. Gentleman likes to make the case that we ought to have chucked all these large numbers of vehicles and other equipment as surplus stores on to the market at enormous waste of public money, let him make that case—
§ Mr. Sandys
We are charged with the wasteful and inefficient expenditure of £11,000 million over eight years. Broadly, my answer can be summed up quite shortly. A large part of that money was spent on irreducible current items like 1145 pay, food and training. So long as we have National Service, with its top-heavy and uneconomic overheads, I cannot honestly pretend that we are getting full value for money. But National Service, thanks to the policy of the Government, is now on its way out.
As regards armaments, we have, since the war, been going through what is nothing short of a technical revolution— supersonic flight, atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, nuclear propulsion, guided missiles, propelled bombs, ballistic rockets, and remarkable advances in radar and radio communications. Keeping abreast of fresh developments is a never-ending process. New weapons begin to be overtaken by still newer weapons almost before they leave the drawing board. We are at present in the middle of a large programme of re-equipment. But there is no good imagining—and I will not pretend it to the House—that there will ever be a moment, when, at the same time, all the weapons of all the Services will be fully up to date. I do, however, claim that by the time our forces go over to an all-Regular basis, they will be as well equipped for their tasks as at any time in our history.
Finally, let me say that I completely reject the contention in the Labour Amendment that our defence policy is incoherent and ineffective. We are working to a clearly stated five-year plan for the radical reorganisation and re-equipment of our forces, well designed to meet the requirements of the military and social conditions of the present times. It is a realistic and practical plan, and is going ahead smoothly and successfully. It is well understood and supported by the Services and the public. It has stood the test of these first two difficult years, and has amply proved itself to be both coherent and effective.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:regrets the continued failure of Her Majesty's Government to produce a coherent and effective defence policy; and deplores the fact that despite a total defence expenditure of more than eleven thousand million pounds since 1951 there continue to be grave inadequacies in the armament and equipment of Her Majesty's forces.1146 As far as I could understand the Minister's defence of what he called the negative and the positive, he really said that if the Opposition had not used, in their Amendment, the figure of £11,000 million, which he thought a little over the odds, he agreed with it entirely. He thought that there were grave inadequacies in the armaments and equipment, at any rate of the Army— he did not think that that was the case so much in the Navy and the Air Force. He thought that we were not getting value for money, but he also thought that with a bit of luck it would all be better in two years' time, though he could not honestly say that the situation was not very grave at present.
Whereas, earlier in his speech, the right hon. Gentleman spent a good deal of time showing the points on which he thought that we on this side agreed with him, towards the end he showed where he agreed with us. We shall be delighted to have talks behind the Chair, and to do something about the wording of the Amendment to enable him to vote for it without any trouble at all.
As one who, from time to time, has got into difficulties with the "grey area," I was tickled pink, in the middle of it, to listen to the Minister. At one time it seemed that he was digging a horse from underneath a bunker with a niblick that he carried round in his quiver. His attempt to prove that the Government and he had a coherent policy ended in what I might call a somewhat incoherent speech, at times, with a lot of false metaphors.
When, from time to time, I interrupted him, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to get angry. I have heard it rumoured that he thinks that sometimes I am a little hard on him. That may well be so—I shall have some direct things to say this afternoon—but he must not worry. The regard I have for him exists, none the less. Indeed, I have a very high regard for the right hon. Gentleman, and it might embarrass hon. Members if I said how great that regard is. If I merely say that it is far higher than the regard held for him by the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Carshalton (Mr. Head) and for Flint, West (Mr. Birch) he will, no doubt, have some idea of the sincerity with which I speak.
In many ways the Minister has brought great qualities to bear on his office. One 1147 of them, unquestionably, was the courage and determination with which, in 1957— after a lot of water, many Ministers of Defence and a great deal of money had already gone over the dam—he tried to instil some order into the chaos then reigning.
The right hon. Gentleman has, however, the defects of his own virtues. He is an extremely determined man, who tries very hard never to give way. I must say that I have never met a man who stuck so strongly to a wrong decision once he had made it. That is one of the defects of being so strong. Today, I beg him to take into account, in examining what has been happening since he has held his present office, as well as before it, that much more knowledge of defence developments is now available both here and abroad. If I may say so, the great case against the right hon. Gentleman on his own policy is his constant refusal to face up to decisions, about which it may well be that not enough was known when he made them in 1957.
Before I come to a close examination of the White Paper, I want to say an introductory word or two. It is one of the melancholy duties one takes on when speaking regularly in defence debates that one has all the time to speak about defence as though it were unrelated to foreign policy. Almost inevitably, one finds oneself in a position where, unless everyone else who listens or reads makes the same assumptions as one makes oneself, one can seem to be almost defending weapons and forces as ends in themselves. This is not, of course, the true position.
The objectives we seek are these: a reduction of tensions in the world and the solution or isolation of the political conflicts which lead to them or maintain them; the establishment of growing trust and confidence between the conflicting Powers which would lead to a continuation of peaceful co-existence; and some effective and controlled measures of disarmament in both men and weapons. Of course, the attainment of all those objects depends very much on the foreign policy one pursues and the degree of determination and clarity with which one executes it. But even if we had all those things, or even some of them, we should still require a military defence policy, although it would be of a very different order and for very different purposes.
1148 It is worth while taking a moment or two to establish that the real defence policy of the country is, of course, the foreign policy of the country. The weapons and forces which we need, and the weapons and forces we shall be arguing about today, are fashioned, in fact, by the foreign policy which the Government are pursuing and by the degree of success, or lack of it, which they have in trying to persuade other nations to agree to it.
It is true, also— this is often forgotten, I think— that defence provisions themselves can condition foreign policy. In my view, it is quite likely that defence considerations and provisions very largely conditioned two of the greatest tragedies which have happened to our country under the present Administration. The Suez military failure, or fiasco— I am not now discussing the politics of it— was as much due to the failure to provide an effective defence force and policy for this country as it was due to any other single factor.
Many Ministers and many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have to bear responsibility for the fact that they were involved in that failure. Also, I have a strong feeling that it was the failure of the defence people in the Government to realise in time that the old conception of bases had completely changed which led to the preliminaries to and the dragging out of the Cyprus issue into the tragedy which it ultimately became.
Not the least of my problems, therefore—I explain it now because of possible misunderstandings—is that in discussing defence forces and weapons and policy at this time I am discussing those matters against the background of the Government's foreign policy, and from that policy itself and the execution of it I profoundly dissent. In particular, for example, the requirements would be changed were the Government's attitude to disengagement in Europe different from what it is. The situation would certainly profoundly change if we succeeded in establishing military disengagement in Europe, with all the consequences which would flow from it.
It is worth pointing out that Her Majesty's Government, on the subject of disengagement in Europe, are in danger of becoming as isolated from world opinion as they have always been since 1957 on the question of what was called 1149 the graduated deterrent, limited wars and the various stages of warfare policy. On this, opinion throughout the world has now moved against them, leaving the right hon. Gentleman as almost the only defender of a ditch which everyone else has left.
The same applies to the policy of disengagement, with which this party was intimately associated when it first began to be discussed. Now, the Government tend to be almost the only people, not excluding the Americans, who see little in it.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the Government or myself being isolated in a ditch— I cannot remember the exact words he used. What was he referring to?
§ Mr. Brown
I was referring at that moment to the graduated deterrent, to the whole nuclear philosophy, about which I shall have more to say in a few moments, on which the Minister's 1957 White Paper was based. The right hon. Gentleman told us that that remains unchanged. He used the word "unchanged". He referred to paragraph 8 only, but, of course, it contains paragraph 12, also, with its doctrine of massive retaliation as the great deterrent for everything. I said, and I repeat now, that he has been left isolated when everybody else, including the people who were then against it, has moved away.
I come now to examine the Government's defence policy and the three charges we make against them. First, we say that their policy has not been coherent or consistent. The right hon. Gentleman pretends that he cannot understand why we should complain that his policy has not been coherent. I find it difficult myself to believe now, without consulting the record again, how extraordinary and tortuous was the course which successive Ministers in the Conservative Government since 1951 have followed in their defence policy. It is not without significance that those Ministers themselves have to juggle a tremendous amount with dates in order to try to present a coherent policy.
The story begins in 1951, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) became Minister of Defence. It continues through the period of office of Lord Alexander, of Sir Walter Monckton as he 1150 then was, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton—through all these Ministers until we reach the present Minister of Defence. The present Minister wishes to forget the years from 1951 to 1957 and to speak as though the story began in 1957. I believe that one can make a considerable case against what has happened since then, but one cannot ignore the case to be made against what happened from 1951 until 1957 which, on his own admission, had to be almost completely changed when he took office.
It is interesting that, whereas the right hon. Gentleman chooses 1957 for the beginning of his five-year plan, the Navy takes January, 1956, in its White Paper, and deals with the period of five years from that date, talking about progress made between January, 1956, and the end of 1960. That, of course, is a long way off, and we have not got there yet. Therefore, there is no coherence among Ministers in their White Papers even about the period to which they are referring. The period about which" I am speaking is the period for which they have been responsible.
The whole of that period shows a long history of vacillations, changes, stops and starts, weapons ordered, cancelled, and then re-ordered. The same sort of thing is going on today. The Minister of Supply, no doubt, will tell us tomorrow why it is that the Swallow, the variable geometry plane, upon which he spent a good deal of money, keeping it going for quite a time, was cancelled only a little while ago and is now to be restarted. The vacillations, changes, stops and starts still go on. This sort of thing has been happening all the way through.
I will allow whatever credit they think it is right to take for the fact that, when the Government took office in 1951. of course, they inherited many decisions taken under the emotion and stress of the Korean situation. It would be quite proper to put something in the account of that. My charge against them is that it was years after that before they did any thinking about the changed situation whatever; they allowed the situation to continue while the circumstances surrounding it had changed much earlier.
We are flattered that the Minister of Defence is to wind up our debate as well as open it. We enjoyed having the 1151 Secretary of State for War with us last year. We miss the Secretary of State for Air today. We hope that the fact that the Minister of Defence is, for once, both opening and winding up the debate means that we shall, on this occasion, have some answers to the questions which we put.
In particular, I charge the Administration—not only the Minister himself but the others, too—with not having done any thinking during those early years and with having taken no decision about a central defence mechanism. Nothing was established. There were no effective steps taken to produce either effective inter-Service or supra-Service planning Little or no consideration was paid to the effects which the new nuclear weapons—I am not now thinking of the H-bomb or thermo-nuclear weapons—would have on the requirements of our troops and on the alliance planning.
Nothing at all was done about this until the right hon. Gentleman himself arrived on the scene in 1956, which meant that the four and a half years between those two dates were completely wasted. It is not much use saying that some of the money was paid to soldiers and therefore should be left out of account. After all, if we pay soldiers to go round with inefficient equipment to fulfil an out-of-date r61e, with no planning at all, it is wasted effort anyhow. In 1956, the right hon. Gentleman arrived on the scene.
§ Mr. Brown
The White Paper was in 1957.
In 1957 the right hon. Gentleman then arrived on the scene, together with the Prime Minister, who himself had been for a short while at the Ministry, and it was the Prime Minister who began to think about what ought to be done, but left before he had been able to carry anything out. The right hon. Gentleman arrived on the aftermath of the Suez affair. The right hon. Member for Car-shalton had his head chopped off, if he will permit me to use the expression, because, as we all understand, he was unable to fit in with the ideas that the Prime Minister wished his incoming Defence Minister to take over. The right hon. Gentleman, we understood, took over because he was able to fit in with 1152 all or some of the ideas, whatever the difference of opinion was at that time.
The result was that there was a complete switch in policy in the 1957 White Paper after the five and a half wasted years. The right hon. Gentleman takes credit for what he thinks the White Paper did right, and I will examine what it did right and what I think was wrong in a moment. However, if the right hon. Gentleman takes credit for what he says was right, by the same token the White Paper was made useless and wasted much of what had gone before. There was £6,000 million or £7,000 million worth of misdirected effort at that period. While the right hon. Gentleman may put his hand on his heart and say that during that time he was Minister of Housing and Local Government—£6,000 to £7,000 million worth of misdirected effort had taken place in the meantime—while he may say, "I was not responsible; I was not the Service Minister", the answer is that for some part of the time he was Minister of Supply and that, anyhow, all the way through he had been a member of the Administration which was responsible. The Government, which is shortly to go out of office, must take responsibility for the misdirected effort for which the right hon. Gentleman claims credit for having discovered.
I now want to deal with what is called the Sandys switch, which was not only inconsistent with everything that had gone before and, as the right hon. Gentleman would claim, superior to everything that had gone before, but was inconsistent within itself. It contained its own inconsistencies and errors, as we said during the debate on the White Paper in 1957 and as the leading article in The Times today very adequately points out. I must say that I am interested to see every year, when we have our defence debate, that The Times leading article on the morning of the debate is full of the speeches made from this side of the House the year before but with no acknowledgments. However, we are not very fussy.
May I give some examples which "top people" follow? These are the people who are supposed to read The Times. [Interruption.] Apparently the Secretary of State for Air is not one of them. I should like to give some examples of where I think the Defence White Paper of 1957 went wrong within its own new 1153 concept. The first concerns a major charge against the right hon. Gentleman to which everybody, not only my hon. Friends and myself, returns again and again. This is the exaggerated belief which the right hon. Gentleman demonstrated he held in the theory of massive retaliation, of the great deterrent, deterring not only itself and thermo-nuclear war, but all other kinds of wars as well. The right hon. Gentleman learns extraordinarily little on this matter. I thought that again today he used words about the kind of wars which he could not envisage, which suggested to me that he is still in a state of mind which virtually nobody else is in at all. We think that this was his major mistake in the 1957 White Paper.
When the right hon. Gentleman said that I have no disagreements with him on defence, he is quite wrong. I have taken my share of responsibility for the belief in the deterrent theory, and I still do. I have taken my personal responsibility for a belief in an independent British deterrent, and I still do. I shirk none of this. I take my personal responsibility for a belief in the need to deter at other levels and with other weapons. This is where the right hon. Gentleman and I part company, and, as the whole matter is developing, it is his refusal to face the need to be able to deter on other levels and, if possible, at lower levels than the thermonuclear level which we think is the great disaster in his own thinking.
However, if the right hon. Gentleman's paragraph 12 theory, if I may use shorthand terms about it, were still to hold water today, as he claimed it did this afternoon, a lot of other military provision would be unnecessary. A lot of the provision that he is making in the White Paper would be unnecessary if he followed through the consequences of his own declared belief in the power of the massive deterrent. There is an inconsistency here. The right hon. Gentleman is preparing for other things, for things which he claims his great deterrent theory will deter. In our view, this was already outdated when he embraced it in 1957. This had been Mr. Dulles's great position before Mr. Dulles began to leave it in 1957. The thing that changed everything in a way which the right hon. Gentleman does not face up to was the enormous technological advance in Russian rocketry, which has changed the balance of thermo- 1154 nuclear deterrent power in a considerable way.
The right hon. Gentleman's second great mistake in the 1957 White Paper was his failure to grasp the significance of the development of battlefield nuclears. We still cannot get him to discuss this matter, and he still gets rather angry when we press him on it. He has never made any real reference to this subject in a statement of his defence policy, yet it is again the new great compelling feature that nobody can leave out of account.
The third mistake which the right hon. Gentleman made in 1957 was the ludicrous idea which was then prevalent, and to which he fell prey, about the savings in defence spending which would be made as a result of this great new defence deterrent theory. I suppose that no one remembers the big headlines of those days. It was said that £300 million and £400 million would be saved. But the most cautious and conservative, with a small"c", journalists in those days forecast that the right hon. Gentleman would save £200 million. While the right hon. Gentleman may say that they were journalists' stories, which he says about so many other things, I believe that at no time has there been such a spate of direct inspired leaks to the newspapers about defence thinking as there has been under the right hon. Gentleman's administration. Very few of these stories appeared except through the pens of people who claimed to have direct inspiration for what they were writing.
I believe that the right hon. Gentleman fell prey to that idea at that time and thought that he would be able to drop things. That is one of the reasons for much of the delay which has happened since then. It is one of the reasons why things which we should have today will not be available for another two or three years.
Another charge against the right hon. Gentleman is not only that his defence policy was erroneous in many ways, but that it was implemented in a manner— and for this he must take a close personal responsibility—which aroused deep and violent resentment among his own Service chiefs and advisers. The consequence of that was that we had violent, in some cases barely constitutional, opposition to it from Service chiefs and advisers. I 1155 need only remind the House of "Operation Prospect" and various other actions of that kind by the Service chiefs and advisers to a policy which they not only thought to be wrong in itself, but the implementation of which they resented bitterly because of the way they felt it was being pushed at and over them without sufficient discussion taking place with those concerned.
Its worst consequence, however, was the passionate opposition which the right hon. Gentleman aroused to the proposed new central defence planning organisation and direction in his own Ministry of Defence. I happen to believe that that was a sensible and valuable proposition in its own right. I am not defending the details of it; whether we on this side would have done it the same way or another way is neither here nor there. I believe the aim and desire to have been sensible and valuable, but it foundered on personal antagonisms that were aroused by the right hon. Gentleman's attempted implementation of his own policy. It may turn out that the loss of that may have been the greatest loss that we have suffered since 1957. It may be a great reason for the Defence White Paper of this year being the kind of document that it is.
The consequences of all this were that the individual Services fought like mad to protect their own forces and their own projects. By so doing, they prevented the savings which at that time the right hon. Gentleman thought he could make and sought to make. This has led to contradictory decisions since 1957. The right hon. Gentleman's fight back for his own policy led to a refusal to place orders that should have been placed. The Minister of Supply has been hopping around in the House almost every time he has been questioned for the last year or more. He was obviously prevented from making announcements that he wanted to make, prevented because he could not get authority because there was no agreement.
If examples are needed, there is no doubt whatever that the Royal Air Force strike aeroplane is later than it should be. Whether it should have been one aircraft or another, the one finally ordered or the one that some people wanted to be ordered earlier, the decision is much later than it ought to be. Neither the 1156 Secretary of State nor his Chief of the Air Staff would deny that it is late, as are the transport aeroplanes, both the strategic and the other. They are late because, for a long time, the Minister of Defence was still believing that his doctrine made those things out of date.
The Minister's decision to allow them to be ordered this year reflects a basic change in the doctrine which, he says, has not been changed. He is unquestionably responsible for a delay which will be grave. He talks glibly about these new things being available in the early 1960s. We are now nearly half-way through 1959. Nobody who has had experience of these things can talk in terms of getting a new aeroplane like the T.S.R.2, with all its new concepts, which has not even yet been ordered, by the early 1960s.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot mean that we will get it before 1964. Even that would be a great improvement over all past practice. If we were to get it in four years, we would do extremely well. If we got it in five years, we would be doing well. If, however, we conform to past practice, we will get it in eight, nine or ten years' time.
It is not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman glibly to slide away. These things are late beyond recall because he thought that they would not be necessary. That he now thinks they are necessary is, in itself, to convict himself of a great change in his own doctrine which he does not follow up. That is why we say that in addition to the incoherence of it, there is the ineffectiveness despite the vast expenditure of money.
The Conservative Party must not grow too touchy. It expects us to take all the consequences of what happened in our day. The Conservative Party has spent £11,000 million on defence since it took over. If, at the end of it, we have these grave inadequacies, the Conservative Party is responsible. If, at the end of it, the right hon. Gentleman cannot put his hand on his heart, as he says he cannot, and tell us that we have anything like value for money or that we have an effective defence policy, the Conservative Party must stand up, take its medicine and put up with it.
Last year, the retreat was officially sounded. We had the first notes of this as we tried to tell the House at the time, but the right hon. Gentleman took the 1157 same bland attitude as he takes now, to which I hope by tomorrow night he will have said goodbye. When the White Paper on the Central Organisation for Defence came up, that was the first official requiem on the demise of the right hon. Gentleman's 1957 policy. That was the first recognition that it was going down the drain, although it was, of course, dressed up to save face. What happened under that White Paper was that the attempt to produce in himself, in his Chairman of the Chiefs of Staffs and in his Ministry an effective centralised defence machine, went. The Service Ministries gained against the right hon. Gentleman. Their standing gained against him. He ceased to be at that date the Vice-Chairman of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. The Defence Board, which was put in to make it look as though something grand and new was being done, was the face-saver.
I go so far as to assert—no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will tell me I am wrong, but there are many better informed than I who believe this—that what happened after July of last year was that from then on the Prime Minister had to become the effective defence chief on all matters of major disagreement, because virtually all matters of major policy became matters of disagreement and the right hon. Gentleman had neither the prestige nor the power to put through the decision, the settlement or the co-ordination. That was the beginning of the change.
That is very interesting in the light of what we all thought when we heard that the present Minister of Supply, the present Secretary of State for Air, the First Lord of the Admiralty and' the somewhat more convincing, perhaps, figure of the Minister of War had been given their posts. I must confess that I was guilty in those days, having had a look at them, of saying that the right hon. Gentleman meant to be boss. I can only say that one never knows how wrong one can be and one should not place too much reliance upon face judgments. That was the first great change.
Now, in February, 1959, we have this substitute for an annual Defence White Paper. This is not a Defence White Paper. This is no production that a Ministry of Defence is either worthy of or necessary to produce. It does not even bear the title "Defence Policy". This is 1158 simply a collection of bits and pieces taken out of the Estimates of each of the Services. In fact, the Service White Papers, on which I congratulate the three Service Departments, are this year much more worthy reading. They contain much more doctrine and much more evidence of a policy, whether one agrees or disagrees with it. By reading them, it is possible to build up a picture of the policy at which the Government are aiming.
That these three Service White Papers seem in conflict with each other in places is neither here nor there. There is, however, no direction in the Minister's White Paper. It is merely a collection of bits and pieces. There is no attempt to state the strategic doctrine. I will say some of the things that need to be said about it.
It really is incredible that issues which politicians and soldiers are now discussing the world over, on which the leading Allied commanders are moving their own thinking, and not minding saying so, on which they need only a political lead from the politicians in command of them, the Minister thinks it right to boast, as he did this afternoon, of making no reference at all. Even the references that the right hon. Gentleman makes to progress are misleading.
As I said before, I like the Minister and have every regard for him, but I wish he would stand firm on what he has to defend and not keep on seeking, as he does every year, to throw in bits and pieces in the hope that we will not discover the genesis, because we are an unoccupied lot of politicians here and we have so much time that we are bound to look up these matters, so he cannot expect to get away with it.
As for the references to vehicles and weapons, almost all of these are things he has thought of, or his Ministry has thought of, and many of them are not even ordered. The Minister cannot claim as progress today something that has not yet been ordered. He cannot even claim as progress for tomorrow something he has not yet ordered, because it must be ordered first. If my colleagues catch your eye, Sir, and speak in this debate, they will refer to more specific examples, but over and over again there are weapons, vehicles, and ships mentioned 1159 which it is proposed to have but which cannot justify the issue of a progress report today.
In the White Paper there are renewed references to things for which the Minister has already taken credit. There are weapons and aeroplanes mentioned here as part of his progress report, for which he has taken credit in previous years. I am a fairly generous chap, but I cannot let him claim credit for the same things over and over again. In many other cases the Minister refers to a state of affairs which cannot be reached until 1965 plus. I have tried to say to the Minister every year that the problem for him, or whoever his successor will be after the early General Election which we understand we are to have, will be that the Secretary of State for War will have his small, compact forces before 1965 but he cannot have much of the equipment he would like until after 1965 because he is only beginning to think about ordering it, and so he cannot possibly have the mobility he wishes.
The Minister referred to the Britannias coming in now. It is no use moving the men if we cannot move the equipment they might have to use if they are opposed when they get where they are going. The Minister must not be misled by the fact that when our men arrived in Jordan all they had to do was to sit there and wait until they came out again. Had they needed to do anything active when they got there, they would have been sitting there waiting for equipment coming by slow boats from China to catch them up, as happened at the time of Suez. The aeroplanes, much of the equipment and some of the new guns cannot be here until that period, so we are not to have progress, we are not to have achievements, but a period of at least three years, in my humble judgment, during which the Army will be small and compact, but not well equipped, and certainly not mobile if one includes in mobility its equipment as well as its men.
The White Paper calls itself a progress report, but reinforces, as the right hon. Gentleman frankly told us, what the Grigg Committee called the "scruffy" nature of much of the equipment being used. It is also a Paper of half measures. The Minister tells us in one paragraph that half the Army will be equipped with the new rifle in the next twelve months.
1160 I only hope that the other half can manage. On another page it is stated that half the Army's radio set needs have been or will be met. One is tempted to ask whether the half getting the new rifles is the half getting the radio sets, or if the man without a rifle is to get a radio set by way of compensation? It is a half-and-half thing—[Laughter.] What I meant to say was that it is a White Paper of half-measures.
The White Paper contains more contradictions which I offer to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. One cannot help doubting its sincerity. We are told about the vast re-equipment programme for the Army. The right hon. Gentleman said today that the past is the past, but that things will be better, and he turned round to his back benches to take a bow when he said that the position will be better twelve or eighteen months from now. But, Sir, one cannot get re-equipment without spending, and when we look at the money spent, what do we find?
We find that the total expenditure of the Army this year is down by £4 million on last year. I am taking here the gross expenditure, excluding the offsets and appropriations, because the gross expenditure shows what equipment and service we shall get. Last year the gross expenditure was £498 million; this year it is to be £494 million. I fail to understand how we can expect to get more equipment by spending £4 million less. Therefore, unless something special happens, this reduction in expenditure will mean a reduction in what we get for it.
We are also told that the Navy expenditure is up by £30 million, but that it overspent last year by £40 million. In fact, this is not an increase of £30 million but a reduction of £10 million. I cannot see how we can get more by spending £10 million less. If we look not only at what the Minister claims, but also at those nice pictures of cruisers ordered eighteen months ago, or at the aeroplanes which have been a long time coming—unless I completely misunderstand, in which case I would like to have the position explained to me—I find it impossible to have much faith in the re-equipment which is being carried out.
In fact, I believe that we are back to the old 1957 position and that this year there 1161 has been no central defence policy, which is why the Minister makes no mention of doctrine. We are back to the old days of a straight bargain between the three Services, in which they have each got as much of the money as they could and are putting it to the best use they can fox their own purposes. That is the measure of the right hon. Gentleman's failure. As one who, at the moment, is only an alternate member of the club, but with great hopes of becoming a full member of the club shortly, may I say that he has let down the "Union of Defence Ministers," particularly since 1957, and I wish he would face that fact. The only success the right hon. Gentleman can claim is the abolition of conscription and the raising of the figure for the Regular forces.
The right hon. Gentleman said—it was not quite worthy of him—that this was a result of the policy of the present Government. Well, we proposed that in the House two years and we could not persuade the Government to adopt it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes; every hon. and right hon. Gentleman now sitting on the benches opposite voted against the abolition of National Service when we tabled a Motion in 1956. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite told us how impossible is was, how wrong it would be. I am glad that we persuaded them later, but, once again, it is a case of their agreeing with us. It is worth recalling now that had they done it when we urged them to do so, we would have ended National Service one or two years earlier and would, therefore, have saved all that money on pay and movements. We could also have started on re-equipment earlier than we did, and, therefore, they have wasted two years.
For the remaining minutes I will turn to the question of the main defect, the absence of any overall strategic defence concept. I do not see how the Government can justify to the House or to the country a defence policy that does not base itself on a clearly understood conception of the strategy we are seeking to follow. In 1957, it was the massive deterrent which held the field. Now it is investment in all these other forms of conventional forces, but with apparently very little investment in tactical nuclears. On the other hand, the right hon. Gentleman says that it still holds the field and I am bound to say that his reference to the growing thermo-nuclear stockpile, to the 1162 strategic use of nuclear bombs, and to the development of the Blue Streak, on which he spent some time, suggests that decisions are still made on the basis of the 1957 doctrine.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question about Blue Streak. He sought to defend this intermediate range ballistic land-based missile today, but I find that in the White Paper he says that the Blue Streak decision is based "on present knowledge." The right hon. Gentleman does not say that we are going to order it, that we are going to have it. He says that on present knowledge, it seems as though it is best suited to our needs. Does the insertion of the phrase "on present knowledge" mean that we are not yet fully decided about it? Is it true to think that the decision at present taken is only a holding operation and that once again—and not for the first time—the work and the expenditure on the development of this rocket are being slowed down?
If that is the position, I am not necessarily criticising it. I think that in many ways it might be wise if it were. But I should like to know what the position is and to have a clear statement from the right hon. Gentleman on the matter. I do not think there would be any risk to security if he told us what the position was.
I am bound to say that I am surprised at the extent to which the right hon. Gentleman ties himself to land-based static launchers of the nuclear deterrent in the future, and why he rules out seaborne solid fuel rockets. The continuance of the V-bombers with their standoff bomb will carry us a long way ahead, probably quite long enough to reach out to when the seaborne solid fuel invulnerable mobile rocket arrives. Why does the right hon. Gentleman rule them out as firmly as he does? [HON. MEMBERS: "He does not."] Listening to the right hon. Gentleman today, I thought he did. I think that he ought to be a good deal more open in his answers to the questions I have just put to him on Blue Streak. I will leave the matter with those questions and see what the right hon. Gentleman says. [Interruption.] Since my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has mentioned it, perhaps I had better mention it, too.
§ Mr. Brown
It is all in myself. I have long since had my own radar apparatus.
The point raised by my right hon. Friend is that of cost. He says that if we are going to have all this lot it will cost a great deal. I am not saying that we should have all the lot. The land-based static rocket is in many mays the most questionable. We could make up our minds about the continuance of the V-bombers and the development of the stand-off bomb. There we have a project into which we are researching. We could then decide whether that would carry us through to the date when the solid fuel rocket, either land-based or submarine-carried would be available.
It does not follow that the cost at that date would be more than the cost of Blue Streaks and Thors if we got on with them at the moment. From what I have heard of the cost of research into and development of Blue Streak, I have good reason to think that the cost would be astronomical, whereas the solid fuel rocket when it comes will, in part, have been done across the Atlantic and its cost can be shared between us and America. It may well be a good deal cheaper.
Secondly, there is the right hon. Gentleman's failure to bring in any reference to the military and political control and the usability possibilities of tactical atomic weapons. Those matters still find no expression in the White Paper, and neither does their relevance to the organisation of our Forces. Will it not be a fact that in a few years' time—not more than five —a dual capacity to deliver nuclear or non-nuclear weapons will be available, which will probably be the order of the day in armies with which we are linked, for example, in N.A.T.O. Command?
Will our Army be so equipped? Are we relying on the Americans making all the provisions, providing the weapons 1164 and equipping our armies with them? One would assume that we shall then have two armies, one a dual capacity army in N.A.T.O. and one army outside the European theatre which will not be a dual capacity army because we shall not be equipping it. If we have two armies, one equipped and trained in such a dual capacity and the other not, we shall not be able to interchange them.
How does the right hon. Gentleman think he can do that with a 165,000 or 180,000 men? The whole of the troops must be interchangeable. As I see it, the right hon. Gentleman's refusal to face this means that there will come a date, not far away, when we shall be in extreme difficulty in this way.
I wish to put a series of questions to the Minister on his own 1957 doctrine. Is it not clear that thermonuclear weapons are more and more being limited to be deterrents of themselves alone? Is it not true that the terrible consequences of using them and the development of Russian rocketry will affect their credibility against things other than themselves if for no other reason than because of the likelihood of America becoming a jolly sight less willing to put herself at risk by using them in a situation in which she no longer has an overwhelming superiority, and, indeed, may well be in a very considerable minority?
If I am right, does not this gradual approach of the thermonuclear stalemate mean a much more urgent need for the development of and the statement on a doctrine covering the whole of our details philosophy and the conditions in which it will operate? It has been said that by stating that we should be playing into the hands of the enemy. But the Prime Minister is never tired of saying that the grave risk is that we may stumble into war by accident.
Is it not reasonable to assume that a good way of avoiding such a stumble is to make it quite clear to what our deterrent applies, what our philosophy is about its use and in what stages it would be used? After all, the deterrent theory only applies prior to the use, not at the use or after the use. The whole meaning of the deterrent is to prevent the use. Therefore, a statement on what it would be used against is part of the deterrence. That is the only thing that makes it into a deterrent.
1165 May I venture to suggest four bases for a strategical concept? The first is that we must accept—I hope we all do—that victory in any future conflict in terms of unconditional surrender is now out. The use of mass weapons to achieve that would not be worth the damage that it would do to the user. Must we not accept that our object, together with the rest of our Allies and of any alliance in which we are involved, must be to seek to halt an aggression, to seek to enforce opportunities for pause, for reflection and for negotiation, and to achieve that pause with the minimum force possible?
If that is accepted, is it not possible that the West, and Britain as well as the rest, may now be over-insuring at the thermo-nuclear level, where stalemate already exists, and under-insuring at the conventional and tactical nuclear levels, at both of which we also need to be able to deter because we have a supreme incentive to deterrence at the lowest level and not at the highest level? There is nothing new in this. We have hammered it out since 1957. I have looked up my own speech in 1956, the first I ever made in one of our defence debates, and I find that I raised it then, only to receive the same cavalier replies which we have been getting up to now.
I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, unless our idea of strategy in this matter it clear, how can we hope to influence allied thinking? Let us all remember that the next few years may well see a great change in the American position, in American thinking. For example, one has only to read the reviews of that remarkable book which has just been published—all sorts of people are thinking and talking about these things over there —to realise that the American outlook on this may change in the next few years. Moreover, since so many people are now interested in disengagement there may be a fundamental change in Germany's position. If there is, that will again force a complete rethinking upon us, and the need for a clear statement of our strategy.
Unless we get our ideas clear, we cannot influence allied thinking, we cannot get effective interdependence between the Allies. I do beg the right hon. Gentleman to remember that interdependence is important not only as between us and America, but important—it may become 1166 even more important if the changes in American thinking that I have in mind take place—between us and our European Allies. I have a feeling that we are not taking them, particularly France, nearly as seriously as we should either in weapons or in political control and discussion. Surely, unless we get this strategical concept clear, how can we get our small, compact, well-equipped and highly mobile forces which can move between theatres, which can face entirely different roles, without tremendous duplication?
None of these isues is being faced. We say that the White Paper ignores them all. We say that they are indispensable to the formulation of any effective or coherent defence policy and the provision of forces. We believe that there is, as the right hon. Gentleman himself clearly thought, no doubt that there is and has been grave inadequacy, grave ineffectiveness in the forces provided up to date. We believe that there is no doubt, as I have attempted to show, that there has been a great lack of coherence in the policy followed by the Government both prior to the right hon. Gentleman's advent to office and since. We believe there is clearly no strategic doctrine now governing the Government's defence policy. It is for these reasons that I move the Amendment.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Head (Carshalton)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) will not expect me, I am sure, to delve into his speech, or to attempt to answer it. That will doubtless be done, extremely adequately, by the Minister of Defence. I do not know whether the leader writer of The Times has culled a lot of plums for next year's leading article on defence out of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. If he has, I think that he is a better man than I am, because, although the right hon. Gentleman posed a very great number of questions, I do not think that he gave any very positive suggestions for guidance in the field of policy.
The debate today on this White Paper will, I think, bring out what has already been said in the Press about the White Paper: that it is a paper of reaffirmation. I do not entirely agree, as I have said, with some of the policies of my right hon. Friend, but, having read this White Paper, I would say that it is not correct 1167 for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper to say that the Minister of Defence has gone back on his policy or that we are without a policy. I would say that the one outstanding fact about the White Paper is that my right hon. Friend has stuck to his policy.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper compared his own admiration of the Minister of Defence at the expense of my own, but I would say that, because one disagrees with someone, that does not necessarily, mean that one does not admire him. I consider that the Minister of Defence is—to use a colloquialism—one of the toughest eggs in the business, and I admire him for it. I may not agree with him, but that does not stop my thinking that.
I have studied the White Paper, and I have read one paragraph with great pleasure and joy, and that is paragraph 27, which says that the size of the Army goes up to 180,000. I should like sincerely to congratulate the Minister of Defence, the Secretary of State for War and the War Office on their success in recruiting for the Army. I should like to say here and now that it has exceeded my somewhat pessimistic forecast. I should also like to say that I was wrong, and I am extremely glad that I was wrong.
I do not want, in this debate, to be involved in a series of detailed questions about various points of policy, but if the House will bear with me for a short while I do want to say something about defence in its very widest aspect. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper touched a little on the field about which I am proposing to address a few remarks to the House.
In these defence debates—I think that I have listened to every one since 1945, and, in passing, I think it sad that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) is not here today—we have always talked about weapons, manpower, the size and shape of the three Services, and so forth. The more I think of it the more I wonder whether, in 1959, we are entirely right to talk so exclusively in terms of weapons and purely military matters. If we analyse what the existing defence of the West comprises, we see that this joint effort has created, leaving out for the moment policing action by conventional 1168 forces, etc., what we call the N.A.T.O. shield, together with a large complex of atomic weapons deployed all over the world.
What is the effect of that great effort of Western defence? What does it do? As I see it, it says, "If, in your action or your policy, you go too far and you threaten the security and independence of the West we shall initiate a form of warfare of such immeasurable and unimaginable disaster that it may annihilate civilisation or at least put it back for hundreds of years". That is the effect of this fearful sanction.
Now, this is something entirely new in the experience and lives of all of us. It is a novelty in the world of defence, because for the first time in the history of the world we have got a deterrent which is of ultimate power. We have got something of, as I say, almost unimaginable power, and I cannot conceive that any nation, as a deliberate act of policy, would risk or embark on such a war. It may be that through some muddle, misunderstanding, great tension, it might happen—and I am very much in favour of discussions and talks with the Russians to eliminate all possibility of that—but as an act of deliberate policy, no. Can any hon. Member think that Russia, with her industrial and economic achievements since the war, with the spread of Communism which there has been through the world, will deliberately embark on or risk such a war? No. I cannot believe it.
If the House is with me so far, and if one makes that assumption, surely quite a lot of consequences stem from it. To try to assess these consequences, one has to be frank, and it is no good deluding oneself. The Communist today is a fervent and passionate believer that the future world can only be made safe and can only be well run if it is a Communist world. There is nothing wicked in believing that; it is part of Communism, and we shall not eliminate that by summit talks or the kind of discussions which the Prime Minister is having. Nobody would think that.
It would be just as well for the HANSARD reporters to ask the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to speak faster. I am not being insulting; it is a part of him. It is the 1169 same way with Communism. It is an integral part of Communism. That conviction and missionary zeal in the thirteen years between 1946 and now have led to a territorial expansion of the influence of Communism which is almost unparalleled in world history, and it has been achieved without a single Russian soldier firing a shot.
In the 1920s and 1930s, the French created the Maginot line, a vast complex of anti-tank obstacles, anti-tank guns, machine guns, artillery concentrations, searchlights, and so forth. Military critics and pundits of the day, as some hon. Members will remember, said that the strength of defence had outrun the attack. No names, but that is what they said. Many people said it, and many people drew great comfort from it.
What happened? The Maginot Line was completely outflanked by a new technique—the deep penetration of armour supported by aircraft. The line hardly fired a shot or played any part. What I am suggesting to the House of Commons today is this. May not our undue concentration purely on weapons, and atomic weapons, if it is pressed too far, become our kind of Maginot line? I am not saying that it is not necessary, because, until some form of disarmament takes place, a deterrent is vital. But, do we not concentrate too much on it? May it not be that our discussions in these defence debates, ignore and disregard some other but vital form of defence? What might that be?
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
The right hon. Gentleman is making a very interesting speech. He has told us that the Maginot line was turned or outflanked, whereas these other weapons he talks about will go over the line. The Maginot line was turned and then consolidated by ground forces.
§ Mr. Head
Yes. I am trying to suggest that N.A.T.O. and the atomic weapon may be outflanked by some technique against which we have little or no defence. That is all I am trying to suggest.
I was going on to ask: what does all this lead up to? At this stage, I should like to make a flat statement to the House that will explain quite clearly what I am driving at. It is my belief, rightly or wrongly, that if things continue as 1170 they are now, if the trend of events continues and we do nothing to stem it, within ten years, or maybe less, the vast majority of South-East Asia, the Middle East and Central and Northern Africa will either be under Communist Governments, or will, politically and economically, have their affiliations to the East rather than the West.
I am saying that as a rather blunt affirmation, and hon. Members may say "Well, maybe, but what of it?" Again, I maintain, that if South-East Asia, the Middle East and that part of Africa go Communist, it is my belief that the Commonwealth and Western Europe will be so weakened, strategically, economically and morally, that it will start a decline which may prove irreparable for the West.
Hon. Members may think that that is an exaggeration, but may I quote on my own behalf the Communists themselves? They are extremely frank, just like Hitler was about policy, doctrine and methods. The central tenet of Communism today is that the way for Communism to overthrow the West is by an alliance with the revolutionary trends in the dependent and Colonial Territories. That is the central theme. That is what they have been doing, and, what is more, are doing, today.
Hon. Members may well say, "Why do you suddently come out with that view in a defence debate?" I have had the advantage, through circumstances, that during the last two years I have not had very much to do, and I have had time to think, which I know is extremely difficult for the Front Bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] I am saying that quite seriously, because it is a problem with which every Minister is confronted. I have had time to read something of the theory and practice of Communism, and in the last two years I have visited South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
As a result of that, there has grown within me an increasing conviction that we are losing the ideological war—the battle for men's minds. Look at South-East Asia, Indonesia, Indo-China, Ceylon, where the Communists are working, or Singapore, with an 80 per cent Chinese population. S.E.A.T.O. does not really cater for the ideological question. Consider the Middle East, Syria, Iraq, 1171 and the Yemen, where the Russians are building a port which will be very handy for causing trouble.
Turn to Africa, where I was told that there was very little progress in the field of Communism. But in Czechoslovakia there is a very large school for young Africans to learn about Marxism and subversion, and in Russia itself scores of Russians are learning African dialects and about the geographical and economic problems of Africa. Again, at the Accra conference, the advice of the Russians to the African delegates was, "Get rid of the Europeans. Demand universal suffrage. If, industrially or economically, you suffer any deprivation because they have gone we will make it good, and you can run the show yourselves." In all these areas, there is from Russia central direction, efficient weapons for the ideological war— propaganda, books, intelligence, all perfected by experience, and proved by success.
If one contrasts this aspect of defence, or whatever you may call it—and I believe it is a highly important part of defence—with the efforts of the West, what do we find? Whereas in N.A.T.O. we have achieved unity, both of purpose and policy, in South-East Asia, the Middle East and Africa, we find the West in very ragged disarray. We find no unity of policy, and we find that the weapons for conducting the ideological war are inefficient, out-of-date, inadequate and too few
What I have been saying may sound alarmist, or it may perhaps sound exaggerated, but what I want to ask the House is: When does the House of Commons ever discuss this subject? Does it come into defence, is it a question of foreign affairs, of colonial policy, of Commonwealth relations? The answer is that it forms part of all of these, but, as a whole, it passes us by. We never discuss it. This is a quiet and insidious war, and as its victories occur, we are apt to look upon them as sudden events, rather than the consequence of a long and deliberate policy.
It is no good our expecting the Russians to stop this. Unfortunately, it is part of their belief and, unless we are willing to accept that these new and young independent countries now growing up are all going into the Communist ideology we have got to convince them that 1172 our way of freedom and our attitude to man and his liberties and rights are the best. It will be a tragedy if, one after another, these countries go over to a political and ideological doctrine which everyone in the West, including I think, almost every hon. Member, believed to be fundamentally disastrous and wrong.
Yet, can one sit back and answer that we are doing enough in this field. Is our machine good enough? Have we got a policy? It is all very well for me to talk like this, but I feel that the questions I have put oblige me to make some proposals about what should be done. I do not despair in this respect, because we have many assets on our side. The combined economic and industrial strength of the West is infinitely greater than that of Russia. The amount now being poured out in terms of aid and economic and technical assistance is very great.
However, it is scrappy, bitty, uncoordinated, and lacks unity or planning. We also have on our side the indestructible faith of many of these young nations in a God and that is one of the greatest counters to the spread of Communism. Furthermore, there is our own faith in free institutions, a faith which we should be able to spread. What, then, can now be done to stop the trend of events which I believe to be slowly leading us towards a major defeat which could end disastrously for the West?
First, and perhaps most important, is unity of policy and aim by the West as a whole. Perhaps the key to that is the attitude of our strongest partner, the United States. There is still a strong feeling of anti-colonialism in the United States. I have talked to Americans and found that some still think that it is a good thing that the British should be getting out of these areas, for the Americans do not approve of colonialism.
Let us leave colonialism out of the argument for a moment. I am not advocating a reactionary policy of sitting it out in these areas with hundreds of soldiers. I agree that these countries must be led to independence, but they must not be suddenly given independence when they are administratively incapable of running themselves and are, educationally, all but illiterate. That is not only a very feeble way out of our responsibilities, but is a way to hand these people, for whom we have done so much in the past, into a 1173 state which is bound to lead to tyranny and probably to Communism. Premature democracy can lead to disaster.
We must, therefore, convince America, which we are surely capable of doing, that the United States is just as much concerned with these territories as we are. Let the West adopt a policy of gradually leading these nations to independence when administratively and educationally they are ready to "make a go" of it. If we can convince America that domination of all these areas by Communism would be disastrous to the eventual defence of Western civilisation, we would have gone a long way.
Having done that, we must have a policy for both South-East Asia and Africa which is a common policy of the West. Again, do not all hon. Members agree that our own policy in South-East Asia and Africa—and within these areas what happens in one small country interacts on the other—is very bitty? We have the Commonwealth Relations Office here, the Colonial Office there, the Foreign Office there, three busy Ministers, three separate Departments and no coordination for the areas as a whole.
The same argument applies internationally. Having evolved a policy for those areas, we should take action to convince all the countries agitating for immediate independence that we mean business and that we are bringing in our educational schemes and improvements of native states, but that we will not be bounced into giving them premature independence. From the point of view of the defence of the West, I would rather see a £5 million education scheme for Kenya than a couple of Blue Streaks.
Having got a policy—and I know that I am asking a lot—we have to start to implement it. This must be done by a regional organisation smaller, but in its effect, equivalent to N.A.T.O. It would deal with South-East Asia and Africa—although not as large and not a military organisation like N.A.T.O. Such an organisation would have to be above party, as is N.A.T.O. We must not allow the organisation to feel that a change of Government will result in a change of policy. I do not believe that any hon. Member opposite believes in giving premature and sudden independence to backward and illiterate countries and thereby cause that state of anarchy and chaos which is the most likely field for 1174 Communism. What might so well happen after premature independence is that a Czechoslovakian-trained African would become Home Secretary and obtain control of the police and before we knew where we were the "People's Free Party" would be dominated by the Communists. That can well be a result of going too fast.
§ Mr. Head
I am sorry not to be able to take up that interjection, but I am trying to sustain a complicated argument.
I do not believe that this is a party matter. It is something for Western civilisation as a whole. I know that it is difficult, but if we achieve some international co-operation among the countries of the West there are, in addition, several domestic matters to be considered. There is a striking similarity in the criticisms and complaints which one hears in South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. I know that people always complain about Whitehall but these are too similar to be disregarded. First, I feel strongly that a person or a committee of great capacity and strength should overhaul the whole of our intelligence organisation.
This subject has been raised in endless debates and we can all recall debates when we were assured that Kenya was sound—just before Mau Mau; that Cyprus was sound, when we were getting out of Egypt; that all was well in Iraq. The latest example has been that of Cuba. It is clear that our intelligence organisation must be overhauled. If we want a policy to make sense in overseas countries, if we want even our propaganda to succeed we must know what is going on in those countries; and I am far from satisfied that we do.
Do our security arrangements make sense? I mention that because when the young Africans in the Czechoslovakian schools have finished learning about Marxism and subversion, and so on, they are allowed to go back to their homes in Africa. I am all for liberal institutions, but that is going a bit far. Are we right in allowing Marxist-trained agitators to return to areas where we have trouble enough?
§ Mr. Head
It may be that the noble Lord will have something more to say about that if he has an opportunity to speak. The London School of Economics is not to be compared with the considerable numbers going to Africa from Czechoslovakia. To give agitators passports does not make sense. Our security arrangements are not good enough.
It was curious that the three soldiers who went to areas where there was trouble, Templer, Erskine, and Harding, all reported unanimously, though separately, that intelligence, security, and police were weak and not good enough.
What about our propaganda? Everywhere I have gone I have been told that our case is going by default. There is nothing easier than criticising propaganda, and I know that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been all over the world trying to improve our propaganda. But is he not propping up a rickety building? Do we not want a radical overhaul of our propaganda arrangements if we are to put our case across? This is a matter which should be treated as urgent, something which requires men of brains.
I believe that it is now inclined to be the mark of a "dud" that he should go into propaganda. That was not the case during the war. In the ideological battle propaganda is of vital importance.
Finally, somebody ought to be thinking about this whole question. Who is the Minister of Defence for the ideological war? Who is thinking about the battle for men's minds? Ministers are desperately busy; they have their Departments and their day-to-day business. The Prime Minister is very busy. Who is watching this matter and thinking about it?
I am not suggesting a new Minister, or anything like that. What I am suggesting is that a committee or individual should be charged with thinking about, meeting and co-ordinating this vital question, and that should happen not only here but with our other partners in the Western world. I appreciate very much the difficulties, especially when everybody is busy, in starting up something of this kind and putting the proposals into effect, but if we do nothing, if things go on drifting like this, who in this House can deny that 1176 we are losing the battle for men's minds, who can say that we are giving ourselves a chance in this field? I do not think that anybody can. Who can feel that the West as a whole has any unity of policy in this respect? I believe it to be thoroughly inadequate.
All I can ask of those who have been good enough to listen to me is that those who are unconvinced might pause to think whether or not there may not be something in what I say. If any American should read my speech—it is not very likely—I hope he may pause and wonder whether there is something in what I say. In my maiden speech—I do not wish to be conceited; many things in my past speeches do not bear repetition, as the hon. Member for Dudley has demonstrated—I said that it was of vital importance for the world—this was in 1945—that America should realise that what happened in the Middle East was just as intimate a concern of hers as what happened in the Middle West. Today, what happens in Africa and South-East Asia is of intimate concern in the long run to the United States and to the West as a whole.
We on both sides of the House, on this subject which we hardly ever discuss, are really the trustees for the future. In my opinion, the next ten years will be decisive. If we do something about it, I think that we have no cause for despair, but if we delay, and things drift on and go from bad to worse, no amount of belated exertion and effort afterwards will ever be able to put things to right.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I am sorry that I interrupted the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) when he was on his main theme, but I thought that before he left what I would call a strictly military argument I ought to ask him how he substantiated what he was saying. That is why I intervened to ask him what he really meant or what was the connection between the turning of the Maginot Line, which as he will remember was done by tanks plus parachute troops and aircraft, and thermonuclear bases dotted all over the world. I cannot see that the illustration he gave is entirely apposite.
However, I will not develop that argument at the moment. The House has listened very intently to what the right 1177 hon. Gentleman has said on a subject which is not strictly within the White Paper. Actually, there is not a word about it in the White Paper. Indeed, listening intently to the right hon. Gentleman today, as the House did, one could hardly think that he was Minister of Defence two years ago and held the office of Secretary of State for War for some years before that. I can only suggest to the Minster of Defence and his colleagues that they should pay attention to what the right hon. Member for Carshalton has said.
As I understood the right hon. Gentleman's argument—apart from the point about which should be the ideological or propaganda department; I should think that it ought to be the Foreign Office and not a Defence Ministry—it was that it is good to have enforced unemployment among Ministers from time to time in order to give them an opportunity of thinking. I can only echo the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion by saying that I hope the time is not far distant when the whole Government will have that opportunity as a result of the next General Election.
The right hon. Member for Carshalton reminded the House that he had listened to defence debates since 1945. I have listened to defence debates and read White Papers since 1935, since the first White Paper on Defence was initialled by J.R.M., the Prime Minister at that time, the late Ramsay MacDonald. I have been struck by the similarity of the content and form of the defence debates in which the House has taken part every year since those days.
Before the war there was no Ministry of Defence and no Minister of Defence, but we had a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, as the present Minister of Defence will vividly remember. I remember only too well Sir Thomas Inskip, who was the Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence, being the subject of much amusement in the House when the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) was taking him to task because of his lack of knowledge of the subject which he was trying to present to the House in those days.
Listening to the Minister of Defence today, I could not help making a comparison between those days and now. It would be insulting to the right hon. 1178 Gentleman to say that he equals or even approaches the late Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence in the days before the war in his misunderstanding of what is required in defence. Although I agree in the main with what the right hon. Member for Carshalton said about our propaganda effort, I think he would be the first to agree that it is not really part of our defence. If anything, it is part of our attack. Where should that attack come from? It should not come from the Service Ministries. It should obviously come from the Foreign Office, which is supposed to be responsible for presenting this country to the world.
It may very well be that in what the right hon. Member for Carshalton has said there is some criticism of his own Foreign Secretary and previous Foreign Secretaries. After the eight years of office which the Conservative Government have had, there must be some blame apportioned somewhere if the right hon. Member is right when he says that we are losing the battle and have been losing the battle in this regard for many years.
I referred to the Minister of Defence approaching in some respects the ineffective position occupied by Sir Thomas Inskip before the war. I think the present White Paper is sufficient illustration of what I mean. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, it is a collection of bits and pieces. In its way it is a good report, but it could have been far better done by the Service Ministries in presenting their Estimates to the House.
I do not think that debates like we are having today should be used as an occasion for telling us something about the details of the Service Ministries. Instead of giving a pencil sketch of defence, the Minister of Defence should have a broad canvas and a brush which can take wide sweeps and try to project the mind of the House of Commons over the whole strategic ground. I criticise the right hon. Gentleman because he has neglected or avoided that duty.
We in the Opposition, and I suspect quite a number of hon. Members opposite, do not know what is going on behind closed doors in the Ministry of Defence and in the Service Ministries. We know that the 1957 Defence White Paper had a terrific impact on Service Ministries. Aided perhaps by some of the leaks 1179 which occur outside those closed doors and are heard when voices are raised in heated argument by angry old gentlemen in the clubs who have connection with the Services, we can only guess at some of the difficulties which the Minister of Defence has had with the Service Ministries in putting over his policy.
I will not say too much on the question whether his policy, as expanded in the 1957 Defence White Paper, is right or wrong. All that I am concerned to do today, and I should have thought that the House would have been with me, is to try to assess whether the right hon. Gentleman's policy is an effective one for the five years for which he is supposed to be planning, and even for a longer period. The question is whether the policy of 1957—which has caused much debate and which the Minister himself said is a matter for agreement between the Government and the Opposition—the policy of the deterrent and the use of the deterrent, is right or wrong.
All I can say is that it has cancelled itself out all over the world. If it is a policy of suicide, as many hon. Members on this side of the House, and I believe on the other side say it is, and as large numbers of people outside describe it, it is a policy which is adumbrated by the Americans and the Russians. They have the same weapon. Therefore, they are all in the suicide club, if it is to be suicide.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Carshalton and with many other eminent leaders, both military and otherwise, who say that the danger of a global war of that magnitude is out. That is quite probable, but it is only because of the cancelling out of the ultimate deterrent among the States who have that weapon. I should be glad to hear from the Minister, therefore, some enlargement of the statement in the White Paper that we are increasing our stock of megaton bombs. I do not know, and I do not think that the House knows, and I do not know whether we are entitled to know, what the Government are aiming at in the provision of megaton bombs. The more I consider this matter, the more I am inclined to agree with what I understood to be the main theme of the argument of the right hon. Member for Carshalton in military, rather than ideological matters, that we need better provision of 1180 what are called conventional forces than we have had hitherto.
We do not want to criticise the Government or the Minister of Defence fatuously. The right hon. Gentleman has had quite enough criticism already from many places. We must give him credit where it is due, and in the realm of recruiting regular forces I think that he has been right. I hope that I have never said anything to the contrary. He has been right in his consistent desire to build up the three Services on a Regular basis. I will not say whether or not he or his advisers have been converted rather late in the day on the question of getting rid of National Service. I will not even echo the remark of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper that it was we on this side who advocated that policy some time ago, but I say that the right hon. Gentleman is being aided by certain fortuitous circumstances in building up his Regular forces.
It is interesting, and the right hon. Gentleman cannot take the credit for this, that his Regular forces are now being increased obviously by a certain amount of unemployment in certain centres. I wonder whether hon. Members saw in the OFFICIAL REPORT yesterday an answer given to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) about the number of recruits in 1957 and 1958 gathered in from various centres. It is a long list which it would be worth the while of hon. Members to look at, and certainly hon. Members who may follow me in the debate and deny what I am saying.
The fact remains that in centres of large or increasing unemployment the recruiting figures have gone up considerably. It only goes to show what many of us have believed for a long time. We who knew the circumstances before the war believe that unemployment and recruiting, for the Army at any rate, bear some relation to one another. These figures, which I call fortuitous circumstances which have enabled the right hon. Gentleman to give us a better picture of recruiting, should be studied. If that is the answer—and I will not say that it is or allege that the right hon. Gentleman has obtained his increase in recruits only from the unemployed—it is a very dangerous situation for Service Ministers to have 1181 confronting them if they are looking ahead to the days when they have only Regular forces.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
The right hon. Gentleman has been less than fair to my right hon. Friend. Two years ago, my right hon. Friend announced that conscription would be abolished. Since that time there has been a great upheaval in matters of rates of pay, pensions and so on. While what the right hon. Member is saying is true to some extent, this increase in recruitment is not a bonus. It was designed to happen.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I said that the Minister deserves considerable credit for his consistent policy in the intention to get rid of National Service and securing Regular recruits, but I also said that he has been aided in the last year, according to the figures, by unemployment in many of the large recruiting centres.
I do not want to go into details about the Navy, Army and Air Force in a debate of this kind. I should prefer that a picture on a broader canvas should be painted, and to hear interesting themes such as that of the right hon. Member for Carshalton relating to defence but not themselves strictly defence matters. I therefore, want to confine my remarks to general issues. The Minister has tried to show us the allocation in manpower and money between the three Services. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper that the Memoranda accompanying the Service Estimates give us a much better picture than that given in the White Paper of the composition and even of the purpose and role of those Forces, but I should like to ask the Minister a question.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us figures and made statements about the Navy. What is the policy to be followed by the Navy in the event of an emergency? Is it to be the old, traditional function which the Royal Navy has performed for hundreds of years of keeping the seas open for our merchantmen? No hon. Member will need me to remind him that Britain was nearly brought to her knees twice by the use of submarines against our merchantmen. What will be the Navy's policy in our defence plan, faced as we may be by 400 to 500, and perhaps even more, Russian submarines? 1182 I suppose that this is a question which we should ask the First Lord of the Admiralty. I ask the Minister of Defence because I should like to know whether the Navy is to perform that function primarily or whether its primary function is to take aggressive and offensive action in thermo-nuclear warfare.
We have heard a lot about the "Polaris" missiles and H.M.S. "Dreadnought", and it seems to me that the shape of things to come is to have submarines free to move about undetected under the seas, using thermo-nuclear weapons to attack the enemy behind his lines. I should like to know whether the Royal Navy will be built up to deal with the submarine menace or, together with the fleets of our Allies, to try to prevent any attacks upon our home bases which, if once lost, would mean that the battle was lost.
I will not say anything about the Russian battleships, except that I do not know whether we have anything to equal them. They have as much punch and power as the pocket battleships of the Germans ever had, and I should not be surprised if some ex-Germans were helping to plan and design them. The Minister may reply—as he has before—that we have powerful Allies. He has said that we should never go into any major war without the powerful help of powerful Allies. I hope that he is right. I am sure that if we had to go in against the Russians in a fleet action the Americans would have an answer to the Russian fleet which would be more than sufficient, and I hope that the Russians are as conscious of that fact as are others who consider these matters.
I now turn to another matter which is part of our defence policy, although it relates particularly to the Army, namely, the Strategic Reserve. That phrase is used like mumbo-jumbo, time and again, just as in (television programmes we hear a sentence used for two or three seconds in an effort to persuade us to use somebody's hair cream. The right hon. Gentleman is endeavouring to sell us the Strategic Reserve.
What is the Strategic Reserve? Where is it? How can it operate? We have heard a lot about it in previous years, but I begin to doubt its possibilities. The right hon. Gentleman says optimistically that he is looking forward to building up 1183 a strategic reserve of 70,000 men, exclusive of Germany.
§ Mr. Sandys
I was talking about the number of troops which would be available for service overseas and in the Strategic Reserve, excluding Germany.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I evidently misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. If we are to keep 55,000 troops in Germany, an extra 70,000 will make a total of 125,000, leaving about 55,000 out of his target of 180,000 men for the Army. Whether or not I am right, the right hon. Gentleman should tell us a little more about the Strategic Reserve. I have never believed that it should be based entirely in Britain, and I would like him to tell us if it will be. I should also like to know what its role will be if we reduce the number of our troops in Cyprus to 5,000 or 6,000.
I hope that I will carry some hon. Members opposite with me in what I have to say as a result of examining the right hon. Gentleman's plans, so far as I can understand them. My remarks may be a little uncomfortable for the right hon. Member for Carshalton, because he was Minister of Defence at the time with which I am concerned. I am alarmed at the possibilities for the future if the strategic reserve is intended to operate as our forces operated against Egypt at Suez. I say nothing about the policy behind the operation, but we have all read the dispatches of General Keightley, and any hon. Member who knows anything about military matters must be perturbed, to say the least, to realise what a failure that was as a military operation.
I know that our parachute troops did a wonderful job of work, but it was only by luck, or because of the inefficiency of President Nasser's forces, that they were not massacred when they landed. They were not properly supported. I hope that I am not being alarmist in saying that that operation was a military failure and might have been a military disaster, whatever it was politically. I am going upon published facts which have never been properly debated in the House. If the Strategic Reserve is to be used in that way I am afraid that there might even be a case for impeachment at some future date.
I remember the flourish of trumpets with which the Mobile Defence Corps was introduced, just as the Home Guard was 1184 introduced. We now read in the White Paper that the Mobile Defence Corps is being thrown into the waste paper basket, just like that other cardboard tiger, the Home Guard was. More and more I have the impression that the Mobile Defence Corps was no more than an exercise in agile thinking on the part of the War Office, which was faced with large numbers of National Service reservists for whom it had no work. It accordingly thought up this idea, which would at any rate enable it to utilise these reservists during the time they had to spend in camp each year. That is not good enough when we are planning for defence, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will not be afraid to say so if they agree with me.
I would ask the Minister whether there is a plan which clearly defines the roles of the three Services and the civil arm, as it is called. Every time I read the words "civil defence" I feel very uncomfortable. That subject is mainly the responsibility of the Home Office, but here again we have a policy which seems to have been thrown overboard—the policy of evacuating millions of people to different parts of the country in time of war. The House has not debated the subject of civil defence for a long time. I suppose that it would be appropriate to do so on the Vote of the Home Office. Nevertheless, it is part of the co-ordinated planning for defence, although the Minister of Defence has said little about it.
The Minister of Defence, who has been a Member of the House as long as I have, will recall the words used by the right hon. Member for Woodford from time to time in interventions in our defence debates before the war. Hon. Members will remember that the right hon. Gentleman openly scorned the lack of policy and energy of the Government of the day, of which he was nominally a supporter. We know that that Government had very large Defence Estimates, even if they were not quite so expensive as they are today.
I want to read a short passage from a speech made by the right hon. Gentleman in a debate in March, 1939, a few months before war broke out. The right hon. Gentleman said:It is only in recent times that we have reached the position where, whatever the Government decide to do or not to do, there is no means of shifting them by Parliamentary 1185 debate or by the pressure of party, and in many cases the arguments are not fairly met."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1939; Vol. 345, c. 253.]Those words are apposite today. The arguments adduced by the Opposition are sometimes dismissed contemptuously by the Government. I have been in the House long enough to know that the Conservative Party has held the Labour Party in contempt over defence matters and has said so on more than one occasion But we are the official Opposition and the alternative Government. We have shown that we know more about defence today than perhaps we did before the war. Therefore, the Government must advance argument against argument. They cannot pass the matter off, as did the Minister of Defence today, with a quip or a smile. The right hon. Gentleman must produce something more tangible than that.
I hope that I can persuade right hon. and hon. Members opposite to understand that the Opposition are advancing cogent arguments to try to ascertain from the Government what is their defence policy. Whether we are right or wrong in moving our Amendment to the Government Motion is a matter of opinion. I suppose that the Division figures will go against us, naturally, but that is not the last word. The nation is more defence-conscious today than before the war, although members of the public may not understand these matters in detail. Indeed, there are only a few hon. Members of the House who can understand them after having made a study of such matters. Nevertheless, the nation knows and feels when things are going right or wrong. I believe that after the Suez incident the nation felt—quite apart from the political issues—that something went wrong militarily. It is up to the Government to prove that they have an effective defence policy which will protect the nation if ever we are attacked.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
Defence debates always provide a wonderful opportunity for the Opposition. In these days it takes up to ten years to produce almost any new instrument of defence, by which I mean ships or aeroplanes and things of that kind. During that period there may be a change in international policy. The knowledge acquired by scientists con- 1186 tinues to increase the whole time, and it is not very easy to carry out the duties which are imposed upon a Minister of Defence. If he produces a plan, he is told that he is too rigid. If he has no plan, he is told that he is just drifting along, in the way in which the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) referred to in the peroration to his speech.
I was interested, as I think was the whole House, in the subject of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). Ideological defence runs in parallel with what might be described as the physical side of defence. The two things are not interchangeable; they must go together. My right hon. Friend said that he thought—and I agree—that there is little chance of a world war with Russia. Perhaps I am wrong, but I am simple enough to believe that the steps taken by the nations of the West, including this country, to provide a deterrent against such a war is the reason why we shall not have one. While what was said by my right hon. Friend is, I think, perfectly correct, and while we must develop more effort to deal with the ideological war than in the past, we must also remember that while there may be Africans going to a college in Czechoslovakia to be trained in Marxism there are many hundreds of Africans going to colleges in the British Empire where they should be learning our ideas and all we stand for.
I wish to discuss two specific points which are both important physical points of defence. Both were commented on by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw. The first is the threat presented by Russian submarines. I do not think one can dismiss that threat by saying that it will never arise. For Ministers to do that would be to betray their trust. Something must be done about it. But we do not need great knowledge of technicalities to realise that today the techniques of attack, particularly when aided by enormous numerical superiority, have far outrun the techniques of defence. It seems to me that we are panting along in the rear and clinging to the doctrine which we learned so hardly in the last two wars, namely, that first we must detect the submarine, and then destroy it.
Obviously, that method still holds good, but I am not certain that it is the only approach to the problem. There may be many others. No doubt many 1187 hon. Members know that efforts have been made to render merchant ships incapable of destruction by torpedoes, and, in some way or other which need not be dealt with now, to be able to destroy the weapons used against them. That is an illustration of the sort of thing I have in mind. I do not believe that if we proceed along present lines, we shall have much chance of catching up with the new offensive techniques of submarines. Even though, individually, we succeed in dealing with this problem, I do not think that we shall be able to weld the efficiency of a small group into the team spirit that we should need in the great N.A.T.O. defence force, which is our only shield against the submarine menace.
The point to which I wish to direct the attention of the Government is that the only hope of dealing with this problem is to work for a scientific break-through. By that I mean the same sort of thing that saved us from being bombed by the Germans in 1939 and 1940. The discovery of radar, coupled with the possession by us of the best fighting plane in the world, saved us at that time. But that did not happen by chance. If we had not possessed radar, even though we had the best fighter in the world, we might well have lost the war. Radar was a scientific break-through, something which nobody had appreciated before.
I ask the Government to regard tackling the menace of the Russian submarine as something which should be given a high priority. The best scientific brains of the country should be engaged on evolving some method of putting the submarine out of date. I believe it possible that we might find something which would enable us to do that. I wish to be reassured that not only are we studying the problem, but that we are consulting with our Allies and sharing information in an attempt to find a real scientific break-through and a solution to at least one of the difficulties facing the Minister of Defence.
The question of the Strategic Reserve was also referred to by the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw. I do not wish to discuss it in quite the same way as did the right hon. Gentleman. I suggest that it is high time that the great centre of a great Commonwealth, which depends so much on vital communications should have a strategic mobile reserve.
1188 I would like to tell the House the sort of dream I have of what that might be. I can see a force of about 20,000 men, of whom about 12,000 would be soldiers or marines, a corps d'elite made up from some of the best of our forces. I would like to see in that force of 20,000, Commando carriers, landing craft, craft which have to carry the landing craft, supply ships, and ships capable of delivering the force to any destination; and all that to be provided by the Navy.
I would like to see in that 20,000 men a force from the Royal Air Force working in close conjunction with them. I would like, in my dream, to see them working, living and playing together. I would like to see one, or part of one, of our great Royal Naval dockyards given over to them for training, for the repairing of their mechanisms and the storing of their various stores. I would like to see them in the same state of readiness and coupled together as one unit. From that experience alone we might learn a great deal about the integration of the three branches of the Services.
I would like to see them work and train together every year, perhaps for three months. Just let the House think what the effect would be if such a force of 20,000, fully equipped, with Commando carriers, naval escort and troop carriers, and all the rest of it, were to carry out exercises in, say, British Guiana. I cannot help feeling that it would be extremely useful and practical, and would, at the same time, have a very considerable political effect upon a part of the world which is not vary stable.
I would like to see such a force going on, after its exercises, to call at one of the great South American ports. I am sure, because I have seen it happen, that prestige—that indefinable word which often precedes trade—would flow in great measure from action of that sort. It would be something new, something from the centre of a great Empire.
The Government are rightly wedded to the idea of international disarmament, but even when that arrives and we have a world of peace and nothing to fight about, just our own business to manage, we must still have certain forces; police forces or fire brigade, or whatever we like to call them. Such a force, as I have suggested, would go a long way towards forming the nucleus of just the sort of 1189 force that we should need in those conditions.
There is the question of expense. The initiating of such an idea will obviously be expensive, but there is no real need for it to be more expensive, once it is in operation, than the maintenance, training and all the rest of it, of 20,000 men in their ordinary services.
There is one tremendous snag, and I would draw the attention of the Government to it: our present system of estimating for the three Services independently. I believe that the idea which I have put forward, rather badly perhaps, would find favour among many people who have the good of our defence at heart, but it would never come to anything, because each Service would say, "We can never afford it, because we have so much to do on our own."
If this idea of a central mobile reserve, fully integrated, is ever to happen—I believe it is essential to our security that it should—it is absolutely necessary for the Government to provide a different method of finance so that a scheme of this sort could be started. Otherwise, it is a hopeless proposition.
I have brought forward these two points which I believe to be important. I have at least initiated one thing; I have made a short speech.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
The hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland) speaks with authority on defence. Certainly his idea of a mobile reserve seems most attractive, and, although it might be expensive, the money spent on such a thing would be better spent, bearing in mind the type of operation it might have to undertake, than if spent in various other ways to which we are now committed.
The Minister of Defence, who opened this debate, was good enough to say that one of the important things at issue in defence policy today was whether or not this country should make its own nuclear deterrent. He pointed out that it was the official policy of the Government and of the Opposition that Britain should have her own nuclear deterrent and that the only people in the House who disagreed with this policy officially were members of the Liberal Party.
1190 As the right hon. Gentleman will know, there is outside the House wide discussion on this question, and there is a large informed body of opinion which takes the view that we should not make or maintain our own deterrent. I need only mention that Captain Liddell Hart, Admiral Brown, Admiral Buzzard and now General Gavin, have all called in question the present policy of this country and America as regards dependence upon the nuclear deterrent.
I dissent from what I regard as the obsession of our defence policy with global nuclear war. It has been said over and over again in this Chamber that this war is unlikely, but I have the feeling that the global nuclear war idea still dominates official defence feeling in this country. Secondly. I cannot visualise a situation in which this country alone threatens or uses the deterrent and starts a third world war. I am not a pacifist, and I do not deny the need for the deterrent, but I cannot visualise a situation in which Britain, without America and allies, would be prepared to embark upon a world war against the Communist Powers. I am not alone in sharing these doubts. Of course, there are many crypto-Liberals on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Grimond
That may be, but it is better to be late than never to arrive, and it is better to be alive than dead. There are many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen among Government supporters who have doubts about this matter. The Minister of Defence will no doubt have studied the speeches of his right hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft).
We of the Liberal Party say that Britain should not make its own nuclear deterrent. We believe the nuclear deterrent should be held by the West on behalf of the West as a whole and not by individual countries in the West. We recognise that at present America is so much the most powerful nuclear Power that the development of the Western deterrent must rest largely with her, but we are perfectly willing that this country should make a contribution to her nuclear programme if it is wanted.
1191 Therefore, on this point of stressing the importance of the nuclear deterrent and on the question of making it ourselves we dissent, as has been said, from the official views both of the Government and of the Labour Party. Further, we are not impressed by the arguments for actually mounting nuclear rockets on land in this country. We share the view of many experts that those weapons would be better mounted at sea, or perhaps more widely distributed round the world.
The first advantage of our policy is that it meets the facts of the situation. Everyone has said again and again that the foreign and defence policies of the Western world must be integrated. That has been stated by innumerable people, including Field Marshal Montgomery. The conclusion and corollary is that the deterrent is a Western deterrent and not a deterrent which need, or should, be left in the hands of any one country.
If we consider the sort of crisis in which the question of the possibility of using the deterrent might arise, we see that it would be a world crisis. It could not be anything less and it certainly would have to be a crisis involving every country in the Atlantic Alliance. There could be no question of one country saying, "It is our crisis. We are going to resolve it"—r threaten to resolve it— "by resort to world war regardless of the rest of our allies." Certainly there would be no possibility of confining the crisis and the subsequent war, if it came, within the boundaries of one State.
The second advantage of this country ceasing making its own deterrent would be that it would do something to stop the trend towards every country making, testing and holding a deterrent by itself.
§ Mr. Sandys
This is very interesting and it is important to hear what the hon. Member is advocating. He said that he does not consider that the deterrent should be held by any one country—it should be held on behalf of the West as a whole; by the West jointly. He also said that he considers Britain should make a contribution to the deterrent At the same time, he said that Britain Should not make nuclear weapons. Would he explain? Perhaps he was going to do so, but he seemed to be getting away 1192 from that point. What is the contribution which Britain is to make to the deterrent, and what would be the system for controlling the deterrent by the West as a whole?
§ Mr. Grimond
I should say that the sort of contribution we could make is a contribution to research and a contribution, if wanted, by money. As to controlling it, I should hope that we would come to some agreement with America about the type of circumstances in which we would threaten to use the deterrent. I am not in a position at the moment to know military secrets, but the vast weight of the deterrent rests with America and the real problem is vis-à-vis America who might refuse co-operation. With the rest of our Allies there should be some arrangement, some agreement, some orders as to circumstances and conditions in which the use of the deterrent might be considered. This is why I think such decisions should be jointly taken and not necessarily taken by one country. I shall come to the question of what would happen if America refused our offers of collaboration over the bomb.
I wish to point to the second advantage of this country giving up the manufacture of its own deterrent. I do not pretend that if Britain were to say, "We will make no more bombs" other countries would necessarily follow suit. But I think the converse is undoubtedly true, that we are not in a position to ask other countries not to make bombs so long as we go on making them ourselves.
I do not believe that the deterrent in our hands adds significantly to the total deterrent already in the hands of the Americans. As I understand it, the British deterrent measured by any standard—is a very small percentage of the American deterrent. I doubt very much if it is any significant deterrent to potential enemies who know how vulnerable we are and how small is our nuclear striking power. I should say that it bedevils our defence policy by taking our eye off the important things and making us allocate too much of our resources and of our thinking to the question of global war and to the question of deterrent. It is also a heavy strain on our budget.
I must try to deal with some of the objections to the Liberal view. Like all 1193 hon. Members who think about defence, one cannot claim to know everything about it. I put forward this view as a coherent reading of the facts, but I fully realise that on this subject no one can be absolutely dogmatic.
It has been said that if we were to give up the deterrent we would be sheltering under the wing of the Americans. I do not need to spend much time on this. It is a misunderstanding of the position because we are willing to make a contribution to a joint programme. It might well be that the Americans would refuse to take our contribution. In these circum-I would still give up our deterrent and rely on theirs. We have after all sheltered under the American deterrent for a great number of years. [Interruption.] As an hon. Member behind me says, the whole conception of integrated defence means that all the allies are dependent on each other, and because one does not make a particular weapon that does not mean one does not make a contribution to Western defence. For many years, America sheltered behind the British Fleet and I never heard it said that it was immoral for her to do so.
If this is the argument against our policy, it is ridiculous. Because of some scruple we must duplicate the American effort on a tiny scale without achieving anything in the process and take on a heavy burden because America has an even heavier one. It is time that it was said, and realised publicly, that Britain is not a military Power on the same scale as Russia or America.
Then there is the argument that a time might arise when we should want to use the deterrent by ourselves in a situation in which we were threatened but when the Americans were, perhaps, not prepared to brandish their deterrent on our behalf. Let us be clear what that situation would be. As I see it, it would be the total break-down of the interdependence of the West. It would presuppose that the whole foreign policy not only of the Government but of every party in the country had failed and the Western Alliance had virtually disintegrated. Therefore, I do not see it is a commonsense reason for saying that we must keep the British deterrent in case there is a total failure of the structure of foreign policy and defence which we are laboriously creating.
§ Commander Maitland
The hon. Member has spoken about the British deterrent. Does he mean by that the hydrogen bomb and does he include atomic weapons? Is he referring to all atomic weapons? What exactly does he mean when he uses the phrase "British deterrent"?
§ Mr. Grimond
I am referring to nuclear strategic weapons by rocket or bomb, which are generally known as deterrents, weapons of massive retaliation. I quite agree that there is a point about tactical atomic weapons. I might as well say this now as I was going to say it later. I should like to see the time when we can concentrate on the provision of troops armed with conventional weapons only, but I am bound to admit that at present we do not seem to have many troops nor many conventional weapons. Whether we can in fact afford to give up what tactical atomic weapons we have at the moment, I should not like to say. It would also depend on some agreement with the N.A.T.O. countries.
The third reason for keeping the deterrent is, so to speak, to aim it at America.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am anxious to get the hon. Gentleman's case clear so that I can answer it. Is he suggesting that for the time being at any rate—and I rather gather that he was—we should continue to make tactical atomic weapons for our forces but we should stop making strategic nuclear weapons?
§ Mr. Grimond
That is broadly so. From my studies it seems to me that our forces are much under strength and much under-armed at the moment and I understood from the Minister's own speech that he does not deny that. He talked a lot about what is going to happen in the future but for the present it may be that for even tactical purposes we would have to rely on the weapons that we have and they are not necessarily atomic. I hope we shall reach a stage at which this country will confine its contribution to troops armed with conventional weapons.
I was saying that another objection to this suggestion that I am making is based on the need to aim at the defences, so to speak, of America and to increase our interest in American policy. If there is something in this argument—and I do not deny that there may have been—we probably have got as much out of it as 1195 we are going to get. We have had some amendment of the McMahon Act and I think that it is useful. I take it that the argument really is that looking back over the last few years there have been occasions when this country has differed fairly substantially from American policy. It is all very well to say that we must have a common policy, but it seems that it is sometimes difficult to find it. Suez was one occasion. I imagine that if we had had a Labour Government in office there would have been some digression of policy at the time of Quemoy. I cannot believe that in either of those circumstances our influence would have been greatly increased by having our own nuclear deterrent.
I cannot imagine a Labour Government finding any advantage, if they wanted to stop the Americans taking a too intransigent attitude against a Communist Power, saying, "We have got the deterrent". I do not feel that that is a likely picture.
§ Mr. Grimond
Korea is a confused story, but I think that it is now coming out that it was probably pressure from within America which stopped the Korean war from going further.
I notice that the Government are slipping their moorings on this argument. The Government spokesman in the House of Lords in a recent debate stressed the argument that if we had our deterrent it might deter the Russians from making a move in Europe under the mistaken impression that America would not react. He also went on to say that it was essential for Commonwealth defence.
I can hardly believe that Europe will welcome a nuclear deterrent except as a desperate last remedy. There is no part of the world more vulnerable in a third global war than Europe. The Commonwealth, whether we like it or not, depends to a great extent now on America for its defence. My conclusion, therefore, is that what is being said more and more I think on both sides of the Atlantic on this matter is true and that is, first of all the great dependence on nuclear weapons is now being overstressed and, secondly, for this country it is time to 1196 look again at this policy laid down in 1957 and to cease making our own deterrent.
I believe that our interests, our standing and our prestige will be much enhanced if we put the effort that is going into this type of defence into other forms. There is a need at the moment, as was said by the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), for a totally different approach to the argument about Communism. We have a great interest in being economically strong. I think that we have to distinguish between the argument about Communism and the threat to British interests. I do not believe that the argument about Communism is going to be won on weapons or deterrents at all, but it may be largely on the question of aid to under-developed countries, our success in our own countries and our effect on Communist minds. But there is the question of building up our conventional forces to a position in which we can, with our Allies, resist attack in Europe or other parts of the world without necessarily lighting a nuclear flame.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does the hon. Gentleman believe that we shall build up our conventional forces to a degree which would enable us to resist a conventional attack by the Soviet Union?
§ Mr. Grimond
No, I do not think that we can do this quickly, and certainly not alone. I think that the Western world has to make an effort to provide in Europe a more effective shield. Surely that is the Government's policy to provide a shield in Europe. It may be inadequate, but at least it will enable us to deploy considerable forces and deal with certain questions of difficulty in the world without necessarily calling upon nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Sandys
Does the hon. Gentleman's policy include the continuation of National Service, because very large numbers of men will be needed for this kind of policy?
§ Mr. Grimond
I hope that we shall eventually have the publication of the Hull Report. We have heard a lot about it. We should know more then what is the position about the manpower required. The right hon. Gentleman has said that we have spent £11,000 million and we are spending £1,400 million a 1197 year. Surely we can see what we can get for that. I am not suggesting that Britain alone should depend wholly on conventional defence. I think that we shall have to depend in the short run certainly on atomic tactical weapons. Again, the right hon. Gentleman has not told us the circumstances in which he visualises these being used and the type of weapon that there may be. Nor am I, of course, excluding the ultimate threat of the deterrent.
§ Mr. Paget
The hon. Gentleman said that only in the short run should we have to rely on atomic tactical weapons. I find it difficult to understand that, unless the hon. Gentleman also visualises that the Russians will not have atomic tactical weapons. Does he want to match our troops with conventional weapons against the Russians with atomic weapons?
§ Mr. Grimond
I agree that it is difficult. And certainly at present we may have to use tactical atomic weapons in N.A.T.O. But every war up to date has been totally different from what anyone thought that it would be beforehand. If we are at the moment in the position in which it seems we are, then we have very few troops indeed and very few weapons indeed. I am told that the troops in Germany are 40 per cent. equipped with post-war weapons. [An HON. MEMBER: "Disgraceful"] I am told that our divisions are under-strength, and in these circumstances we shall have to use what weapons we can get.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
Is not the hon. Member allowing himself to follow a red herring? Is there any reason at all to suppose that even in the event of a conventionally mounted attack by Russia the European countries, and Britain in particular, would necessarily have to defend themselves alone? After all, there is N.A.T.O. and the Americans are in Europe. If an attack were launched by whatever method by the Russians into Europe, must we assume that the Americans would do nothing about it?
§ Mr. Grimond
I thought that I had agreed with that in advance in saying that it would not fall on us alone—as he says we are part of N.A.T.O. and of the general Western Alliance.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Christopher Soames)
Will the hon. Gentleman say what sort of size of armies in terms of numbers of men he visualises would be necessary for this country to keep up its contribution to N.A.T.O. forces in Western Europe as a shield against a purely conventional attack?
§ Mr. Grimond
That is a very queer question to come from the Secretary of State for War. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House. Is it not his policy to make an adequate contribution to N.A.T.O.? I understand that we have two and a half divisions. I would have thought that we would want to double those, at least for a start. I should have thought that if we had four or five well-equipped divisions we should be at any rate making progress and doing much better than we in fact are doing now.
§ Viscount Lambton (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
The hon. Gentleman has not answered the Minister of Defence as to whether it is the Liberal Party's policy to reintroduce conscription.
§ Mr. Grimond
It is not the Liberal Party's policy to reintroduce conscription. We have N.A.T.O.
The hon. Gentlemen are in fact saying that we depend entirely upon nuclear power.
§ Mr. Grimond
If that is what the Government mean, let them come and say it. Do they mean that if there is a local threat in Germany today, around Berlin or anywhere else, they are prepared to blow the whole of Europe to smithereens? That is the point which the country will have to face.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must ask hon. Members to refrain from interrupting. It would be much wiser to allow the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) to conclude his speech, and then perhaps it could be answered, if there is time.
§ Mr. Grimond
I will complete my speech, and for the benefit of the House I will leave out three or four pages as 1199 a gesture towards a common defence policy.
I do not believe that in these matters we can afford to blanket the difficulty about being geared to the deterrent. I do not believe that it is wise that this country should have such inadequate and immobile forces as it has at the moment Moreover, I believe that these matters have to be dealt with before China becomes a major Power. The next two or three years may be very dangerous, and I hope that in that period we may make some progress in disarmament. But why should the Russians disarm when they have this tremendous preponderance in conventional weapons and we have reached deadlock in nuclear weapons? Surely we must prove to the Russians that it is worth their while to make some sensible arrangement about conventional war, and we must do that fairly soon.
Lastly, I am certain that there is determination in this country and in Europe as a whole, to resist aggression, but I do not feel so certain that if the people of Europe believe that resistance to local aggression, wherever it may be, almost inevitably means the unleashing of nuclear war, they will think it entirely worth while. I cannot speak for them and I do not know, but it is a position which we must consider.
We must find ways of doing two things —and the first is to win the argument of Communism. I do not believe that there will be any clear victory here. I think that in Asia and Africa a compromise may be reached, I hope with a leaning towards our side. We have also to find means of resisting local aggression. I do not believe that the Russians want a third world war. At the moment, in my opinion, we lack the means of doing either of those two things.
§ 7.12 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
It is always very pleasant to listen to the Leader of the Liberal Party because he has such an agreeable, matter-of-fact way of making such outrageously controversial statements and suggestions. He has given the House today what I might call one case for what is commonly described as unilateral nuclear disarmament, although it 1200 is nuclear disarmament with a rather important difference, because apparently it allows for the continued possession of so-called tactical nuclear weapons by this country, if necessary. I think that that reservation would result in the hon. Member's expulsion by the remaining members of the nuclear disarmament club, although I may be wrong; I do not think that would be accepted by them.
In any case, as has so often been pointed out, there is no real difference between a tactical and a strategic weapon. What makes the difference is the target and the circumstances in which the weapon is used.
Nevertheless, I take the hon. Member's point that his party wishes to rely upon the United States of America in what is commonly called the great or major deterrent operations and that our contribution would be in another form. When he told us the advantages of this policy I felt that he was on very shaky ground indeed. I thought that we should be told that we might save some money, but it appears that we should have to pay a contribution to America for their contribution to the deterrent. Furthermore, unless I misunderstood him, we were to augment our conventional forces as part of the deal whereby America provided the whole of the main deterrent. That would be an immensely expensive undertaking. I was not at all convinced by his arguments from beginning to end, and judging from the number of interruptions I was not alone in that view.
One point to which I should like to draw attention before I leave the hon. Member's speech, which will no doubt be more effectively answered by my right hon. Friend, is the assertion which he made that our contribution towards the deterrent must be a very small percentage of that of America. I put it to the hon. Member that he cannot possibly know and that, outside a small circle of people, none of us knows. That is a point with which I want to deal later in my speech.
The Opposition Amendment refers to the failure of the Governmentto produce a coherent and effective defence policy.That is a piece of effrontery if ever there were one coming from a party which at no time produced any form of policy for defence. I do not entirely blame 1201 them, because it was not easy to do it, but the fact remains that they did not do it. Coming from a party which allowed money and manpower to run to waste like water during their administration and which left us with a defence policy which, had it been allowed to continue, would have committed us to expenditure far more than anything which is contemplated today, that is a piece of effrontery.
In contrast, nothing could be clearer or more precise than the Government's policy as set forth in the famous White Paper of 1957. I thought that hon. Members opposite objected to it because they found it a great deal too precise and too uncompromising. It is certain that no one from the Opposition benches has yet shaken the arguments which were advanced at the time by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence or which have been advanced since. I will go further. I do not think anybody has seriously challenged those arguments, except certain pacifist interests, whose point of view we understand and respect, and, on the other hand, certain vested interests who do not like the run-down of the conventional forces.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am not sure that among those vested interests I should not include the Labour Party, because I suspect that they are still smarting under the annoyance of finding that it was the Tories and not the Labour Party who brought conscription to an end.
None the less, I concede that there are uncertainties about our defence policy. These are quite inevitable during a period of almost bewildering technical development. There are questions to put, as I hope to show later in my speech, but it is one thing to question a policy and quite another to condemn it. In any case— I have referred to this point before and I shall do so again— no one outside the Government has the knowledge with which to advance any authoritative criticism of policy today. Since the last annual debate on defence, at the time of the Estimates, we have had the publication of the White Paper on the Central Organisation for Defence and the debate upon it. As a consequence of that new organisation, any matter touching policy or strategy can be advanced or debated usefully only in this defence debate. It 1202 is true that it would be in order, I suppose, to talk about policy and strategy on the debates on the various Votes of the three Fighting Services, but I understand that even if only one Service is concerned the proper time to raise an issue of policy is now, because the responsibility among the team of Service Ministers rests alone on my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. The departmental Ministers are responsible more for the implementing of that policy. I do not complain about this. I have always strongly supported greater centralisation. I call attention to the point to explain why I wish to refer, to begin with at any rate, to naval policy in its widest sense and why I am doing so now instead of waiting for the debate on the Naval Estimates.
I wish to refer to the present size of the Navy, which so many people in the country find deeply disturbing. After all, Britain is the classic example of a maritime power, if ever there was one. Ever since Elizabethan days, our wealth, power and influence have depended, in the last analysis, upon our overseas trade. That, in turn, has depended upon sea power in times of trouble. That was the compelling reason that led us 200 years ago to build and maintain the strongest Navy in the world. That was why we preserved our supremacy at sea through the long years of nineteenth-century peace. That was why even a Liberal Government was forced to face the challenge of the Kaiser's navy. That was why not even the fearful cost of the First World War deterred us from remaining, right up to 1939, the most powerful country at sea.
Consider the position today. I have some comparative figures between the British, American and Russian navies. I have done my best to confirm their accuracy. I hope they are correct. They include not only ships in commission in the three countries, but also the worthwhile ships in reserve. Aircraft carriers: the United States of America, thirty-seven; Britain, seven. It is true that the Russians have not any, so far as we know, but they have large numbers of shore based, naval trained aircraft, for which there is no counterpart in this country. Cruisers: the United States of America, seventy-four; Russia, thirty-two; Britain, twelve. Destroyers and frigates: the United States of America, 1203 about 700; Russia, 440; Britain, just over 160. Submarines: the United States of America, 200; Russia, 500, so we are told; Britain, forty-eight.
People ask why it is that Britain, which has depended so long, and which still depends so utterly, upon sea communications should have allowed her naval power to fall so low. What is the true explanation? Is it just the cost? Is it because, by trying to be simultaneously strong by land, sea and air we have attempted the impossible? Is it because we know that we can rely upon America as our ally, and being exceedingly clever people we see no reason to maintain a costly fleet so long as America will do it for us? Or is it not in truth because successive post-war Governments on both sides of the House have felt that any future war would be fought with nuclear weapons?
Even if such a war were to last long enough for sea communications to matter, which is doubtful, it is very hard to believe that surface ships could survive in face of attack by nuclear weapons. Accordingly —at least, so runs the argument—the shape and size of the Navy can safely be scaled down to the needs of peace time or the needs of a minor local war. Indeed, the present shape and size of the Navy, though not perhaps the complexity of its equipment, could be so justified. That at least would provide a logical argument for what has been allowed to happen.
Yet are we quite sure that there would be no real role for the Navy in a global war? If— and I stress that word— those who assert that such a war would involve immediate all-out nuclear attack and counter-attack are right, then worldwide devastation would follow, and navies would indeed be irrelevant. But— and this is a vital but— is it quite certain that that theory is right? Need the great deterrent be any less great, even if it were thought that we might refrain from immediate unlimited retaliation, unless we ourselves were attacked by nuclear weapons?
Could not the Government take us more into their confidence and tell us how they picture the Navy being employed during a major war? They might give us their reason and, what is more important, the facts upon which it is based.
Without knowledge, we can only speculate. I suppose all of us who take an 1204 interest in these debates have given some thought to what might happen, and what our military policy ought to be, in the possible case of a major attack by superior conventional forces. My own opinion, for what it is worth, which probably is not very much, is that we ought to try to establish a military deadlock, and I assume that that could only be achieved by the use of nuclear weapons in the tactical and defensive rôle.
I have come to doubt whether this would necessarily trigger off their unlimited use against civilian populations. There is surely a profound difference between the bursting of nuclear weapons, in the tactical and defensive role, over the high seas, or over one's own home land against attacking aircraft, and using those same weapons against the enemy's home land? I think that the consequences would be the reverse of triggering off a general war. I should hope that the warring nations would be sufficiently appalled by such a demonstration of the fearful power of these weapons that they would pause and draw back from the abyss of total war.
One asks whether this is a practical concept. Could we destroy or neutralise superior conventional forces by the use of atomic weapons? For example, could the Russian cruisers be dealt with by this means? Could bombing squadrons, possibly attacking this country, be stopped by nuclear headed guided missiles? Could the Russian U-boats be dealt with by some form of atomic depth charges? Above all, how soon will it be— because I am sure the day will come — before we can take the deterrent to sea, as has been so often advocated in these debates, and thus remove at one stroke the temptation to make the United Kingdom the target for a spoiling attack?
No one outside a tiny circle of Service officers, Government officials and, I suppose, senior Ministers can hope to answer these questions. No one else possesses the information which is the essential raw material of any kind of worth while opinion.
This is a novel and, I believe, a very dangerous situation. In the past, so much of our country's military thinking has been enriched by the work of people outside the Services, outside the Government and outside politics, outside public life 1205 altogether. It used to be possible for anyone who was interested to find out what ships we had, what divisions, and what squadrons of aircraft and to understand in general terms the power and performance of their armaments. We had so-called students of war, who wrote seriously and objectively about strategy and tactics. We had other imaginative writers who produced stories about hypothetical wars and imaginary battles. Writings of that kind were not always without influence upon people in high places. What was perhaps more important, they often made a profound impact upon the thinking of junior officers, who incidentally themselves had access to the information on which to reach independent judgments of their own.
All that has changed. Although such writers are still at work, with great respect to them what they write is scarcely worth the paper on which it is written. How could it be otherwise? It is based on guesswork: guesswork as to the number of atomic weapons available; guesswork as to their power, and guesswork as to the limitations on their employment.
I wonder whether hon. Members realise how very few people possess this vital information, without which it is a waste of time to study strategy and tactics today. I wonder, for example, whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War or my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty have the information. I very much doubt it. I think it would be argued that it was not necessary for their day-to-day work and that therefore they were better without it. Yet they are both members of the governing boards of two of the great Fighting Services.
I can certainly say, from my own experience, that I was never let into these secrets, either when Vice-Controller of the Navy or even, and perhaps more surprisingly, when I was second-in-command of the Anglo-American Striking Fleet. I always supposed that our American carriers carried atomic bombs, though no one ever told me so officially. I had no idea how many there were, or which aircraft could lift them, or the conditions necessary for their use. Yet, had there been a sudden emergency of which the American authorities always seemed so frightened, and had the Commander of the Fleet been killed, the 1206 command of that force would have devolved upon myself.
The great danger in this secrecy is that the handful of experts who alone have the information are not necessarily the people best qualified to interpret it. Here, it may be relevant to remind the House of our experience with radar before the war. As everyone knows, it was a British idea. It occurred to Sir Robert Watson-Watt that a certain publicly-known phonemon could be applied to the detection of aircraft.
He was able to convince a few senior Air Force experts, and a few senior Ministers who, to their great credit, at once grasped the possibilities of the project. From 1934 all went forward with the greatest secrecy. The story has often been told of how the great chain of C.H. stations, as they were called, was erected throughout the United Kingdom, and played so great a part in winning the Battle of Britain.
All that great work was undertaken without the German authorities having an inkling of what was afoot—neither, Mr. Speaker, had the Admiralty. It did not occur to those in the secret that there might be a great application of radar to naval war. Had the naval experts been told in 1934 of the possibilities of this means of detection, it is surely no exaggeration to suggest that, by 1940, the Fleet would have been equipped at least up to the standard actually achieved at the end of 1942.
Let the House consider the consequences. I do not know how, in those circumstances, the German invasion of Norway could possibly have succeeded. I believe that the German U-boat campaign would have been stopped in its tracks from the outset, and the consequences, in shortening the war and saving lives, would have been measureless.
I repeat: the danger in excessive secrecy lies in the fact that those in the know may not be the best qualified to interpret the knowledge. I hasten to add that I say this in no spirit of disparagement at all, and I am sure that the more thoughtful of the individuals concerned would be the first to recognise the point, and to agree. As it is, they are always in danger of repeating the great offence of the mediaeval priesthood, which maintained its power largely by keeping the people in ignorance.
1207 Ever since the war, those responsible for our defence policy, and for the defence policy of the United States of America— and for that matter, I suppose, of Russia's defence policy as well— have been like men working in sealed and shuttered rooms, as if afraid lest the mysterious light by which they work should be seen by the world outside. Yet, in so doing, they shut themselves off from the natural light, the bright light, of wisdom and learning in the world at large.
I beg the Government to consider very seriously whether it is any longer in the true interests of national security to be so very secretive about these matters. Are they quite sure that the sort of information that many of us would like to have cannot already be deduced with fair accuracy by the rulers of, say, Russia? I hope that Ministers will remember that by denying to others the knowledge by which, alone, their actions and policy can be judged, they take upon themselves an altogether unusual and rather unnatural responsibility. I therefore ask my right hon. Friends: may not the time have come to open the shutters and let in the light?
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
After the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), it takes a good deal of courage to speak at all. Clearly, I have not the necessary knowledge that he deemed desirable. At the same time, I think that hon. Members on both sides will agree with him in asking for more information when it can be given without affecting security.
I was rather taken by the hon. Member's distinction between questioning of policy, which, according to him, is what an hon. Member does if he is on the Government side, and condemning it, which is the attitude of the Opposition. I would remind him that, to Ministers, so-called questioning can very often be more awkward than condemnation. I would not have thought it unreasonable if the hon. Member's speech had been delivered from this side of the House—at least, after he had got over his electioneering opening sentences.
I condemn the White Paper and the Government's defence policy on four broad grounds. I shall not seek to 1208 develop them at any length, and if, Mr. Speaker, I speak in a kind of shorthand it is because I want to find favour with you on this occasion.
The first paragraph of the 1957 White Paper, to which we are still referred, says that the Government's policy is to develop their defence in conjunction with N.A.T.O. and other nations. Whenever the Minister of Defence speaks, or whenever one reads a Government document, one gets the idea that we are still committed to a complete British defence covering all Services and all weapons. I do not think that that is a practical conception nowadays.
My second point is that a good foreign policy is probably the best form of defence policy. For example, the tragedy today is that in Europe we stand lower than we have in living memory, whereas ten years ago— and I put it at ten years quite deliberately in order to put a little of the blame on this side as well as to put a lot of it on the party opposite— we could have assumed the leadership of Europe in any direction we chose.
Thirdly, I do not think the Government's is a good defence policy, because they have spent a very great deal of money and have very little to show for it. I do not want to develop that in detail. The proof of it is contained in paragraph 8 of the current White Paper — the fact that only this year, and not completely, even then, after eight years of the present Government, is the Army on the Rhine to get any decent equipment at all.
My fourth condemnation this year is: is it reasonable for the White Paper to read, and the Minister to come here and talk as though nothing has happened in the world to affect our defence policy since early in 1957, when the original plan was produced?
Since the Minister of Supply is to intervene in the debate at a later stage, I will say a word now about equipment and, in particular, about the need for standardisation. There is nothing in any of the recent White Papers or documents about this. While I know that the current thinking is that Western European Union is not a very useful body, I myself feel —I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East will agree—that the Standing Armaments 1209 Committee is a very useful body indeed and that we have not made sufficient use of its possibilities.
Standardisation is more necessary now than ever because, odd though it may seem, we are likely to achieve less standardisation in the next year or two than in the two or three years which have just passed. The reason is this. There has been a good deal of artificial standardisation of weapons among the N.A.T.O. Forces simply because many of them have been using up surplus American equipment. Now, naturally, every nation wants to re-equip with the most modern equipment and weapons available. Consequently, unless decisions are made very quickly we shall have the old story of three or four types of antitank gun, different sorts of tanks, and so forth.
Even today, after the decision to standardise on the 0.300 rifle, the British Army is only just beginning to be equipped with it in Germany. Even if we take a decision today to standardise artillery ammunition, how long will it be before the actual ammunition is there in the field? Apart from the very important matter of nuclear equipment, there are very many conventional items which are at the point of being replaced. As far as we know, no decision has been taken, and it is very difficult to discover any information about it. I hope that the Minister of Supply will tell us what our Government have been doing to try to produce standardisation in these matters.
The problem is not one of economics and production only. It has a very important military aspect also. We understand that the basis of N.A.T.O. strategy is that, in the combat zone, there will be supply dep6ts designed to produce the basic essential supplies, namely, food, ammunition and fuel, for at least fifteen days. This raises the problem of different fuels used in vehicles. We have gone only a very little way towards using diesel engines in our vehicles, whereas other countries have gone much further. If we all use different fuels and different ammunition, any kind of collective shield defence becomes a practical impossibility. The soldier's stomach, perhaps, is not the least important factor, but I think it is possibly the most adaptable part of the problem. I do not think that any question of standardising food need arise.
1210 An urgent political decision is required so that we may press on with standardisation for military as well as economic reasons. Certainly, no equipment should be produced today which does not contain the N.A.T.O. standard components. Because of the enormous time factor involved, I hope that we shall have information from the Government on this point.
The second question is this. Why is there no change in the White Paper since 1957? The immense development of Sputniks, Luniks and all the rest in Russia must mean that, if not already, then, very shortly, they will be able to match the West both in the deterrent and in its means of delivery. It seems to me that this may well lead to a kind of nuclear stalemate or nullity. It is all very well to say that, because one has the hydrogen bomb, other people will not attack one. But what is the position to be when, if one considers authorising the use of the strategic deterrent, one knows at the same time that such a decision will condemn all one's own major cities to immediate or very probable annihilation? That is the situation.
I feel that this has completely changed the whole concept of Western strategy. For example, if the Russians decide, as on military grounds they might well do, that it would be easy for them to sweep across North Germany to Denmark, there are no shield forces there at the moment capable of stopping them. Would we or would the Americans say, "As soon as you pass beyond Hamburg we shall unleash the strategic deterrent", knowing perfectly well that London, New York and many other Western cities would be destroyed immediately as a result of that decision?
It is essential that even more emphasis should be given to conventional forces and equipment today than the Government were giving to them in 1957. Presumably, they have let events pass them by. The position in N.A.T.O. in Europe is that there are 21 divisions, most of them undermanned and ill-equipped, out of a minimum of 30 which S.A.C.E.U.R. says is the minimum required to attempt to hold a Russian aggression. Moreover, that 30 is based on the assumption that they would all be equipped or served with tactical atomic weapons. We know that at the present 1211 time the only atomic weapons are in South Germany, though I believe that a British regiment, which will be the only one in North Germany, is likely to go next month.
A great deal more attention should be given to the N.A.T.O. shield. The Assembly of Western European Union passed a resolution last December which I commend to the Government. In their own interests, as well as ours, they should seek to have it implemented. The resolution proposed that the Brussels Treaty should be revised. As the House knows, under the Brussels Treaty only the United Kingdom is obliged to keep a particular number of troops on the Continent of Europe and needs the permission of the Western European Union Council of Ministers to reduce the number. The resolution of the Assembly of Western European Union, which was passed— this is its significance—without dissent by the Parliamentary representatives of the other countries concerned, was to the effect that the Treaty could well be revised so that every member of Western European Union was obliged to place at S.A.C.E.U.R.'s disposal a certain number of troops so that we could come within sight of the minimum target of 30 divisions.
The next matter which I will deal with briefly, in view of the time, although it is a very urgent one, is something about which we really must have the Government's view. Now it is clear that so-called tactical atomic weapons are an essential part of our defence, and, next month, the first regiment of British artillery equipped with such weapons is to go to the combat zone, we ought to concern ourselves with the control over the use of such weapons. It is quite misleading to try to compare, as some people do, these tactical atomic weapons with conventional artillery. No doubt the Minister of Defence will contradict me if I am wrong, but I understand that the smallest of the warheads likely to be used in such weapons is half the size of the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima, and some of the warheads which are likely to be used in the so-called tactical weapons are two or three times as big as the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima. This makes it quite ridiculous to draw comparisons and discuss the deployment and command of these weapons as though they were some kind of field artillery.
1212 Can one envisage some kind of limited war? Clearly if a straightforward Russian or enemy aggression takes place, the strategic weapons may be used, in which case, of course, no one will argue about authority to use the lesser tactical weapon. But I think it most unlikely that there will be a calculated attack by the Soviet Union. On the other hand, I share the views of high level German commanders, that the danger of a local incident provoking a limited attack is possible. I think this must be the view of the Minister of Defence, because on 4th December he said:In the present state of nuclear armaments and air power, the Russians would not dream, I think, of deliberately starting a global nuclear war. Therefore, the only way in which a major war could come about in Europe is by accident or through miscalculation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December; Vol. 596, c. 1492.]I would take the opportunity of complimenting the Minister of Defence and the other Ministers present. This is the first time in my recent recollection that a back bench Member, speaking at this hour, has had the attention of any senior Minister, and I am grateful to them.
It is pure speculation as to how another war may be caused or begin, and my guess is no better than anyone else's. But I think it would be extremely rash to rule out the possibility of a local incident, the grey area kind of decision, and if that is the case the authority to fire the first tactical nuclear weapon cannot be vested in military commanders, no matter how senior they may be. I think that the decision to fire the first tactical weapon is as important as the decision to use the first strategic nuclear weapon. As soon as any kind of nuclear weapon, the smallest of which, as I have explained, is half as powerful as the bomb on Hiroshima, is used, it will be practically impossible to avoid a global nuclear war.
In my view— and this is endorsed by the Assembly of the Western European Union— we should make a distinction between the authority for the initial use of tactical atomic weapons and the subsequent use. Obviously, once nuclear weapons are used, then a military commander of high rank could be authorised to sanction subsequent use. The first use should be a political decision of the same character as that required for the use of strategic weapons. That political decision should be a joint decision determined by the N.A.T.O. Standing Group.
1213 The argument against this distinction is that it may lead to delay of a crucial character. That can be countered by the setting up of agreed political directives in advance which will cover the obvious cases where it may be appropriate to use these weapons. If delay should occur because there is doubt as to whether a local incident will lead to major aggression, surely that is the kind of position in which the exercise of political judgment is necessary. My fear is that if a military commander, possibly on the basis of wrong information, orders a nuclear strike and there was not going to be a war, there would be a nuclear war as a consequence of that error of judgment. The initial use of weapons of this character must be subject to political authorisation.
Finally, I should like to say something about the cost of defence, about which the Minister of Defence made some observations. He gave the percentage of the gross national product of ourselves, France and the United States, but he did not tell us that the significant thing about the N.A.T.O. figures is that there has been a steady downward trend in all the major countries since 1953. In my view, it is difficult to have an efficient and effective defence and at the same time continue the reduction in the percentage of the gross national product of N.A.T.O. countries devoted to defence. This ties up with the point which I tried to make earlier, that we cannot possibly have an independent British defence policy. We must have interdependence. We must consider defence as part of a foreign policy.
The first things which are necessary today in defence matters are the strategic deterrents and the means of delivery, which are both costly and changing. We need tactical weapons, warheads, rockets of all kinds, and adequate conventional forces and weapons. I do not differ from the Minister on this matter, but I think that he missed the point about adequate conventional forces. He should come to the Assembly of the Western European Union some time and hear what other countries say about the withdrawals which we have made from the N.A.T.O. shield. We need adequate conventional forces and weapons, not because we are going to have wars on our own, but because we need to make a proper contribution to N.A.T.O. In the changed con- 1214 ditions, conventional weapons are most important.
We cannot afford to do all these things alone. The Government have accepted this point in principle. They have reduced the percentage of the gross national product devoted to defence but have not accepted it in practice. They continue to spread the whole of the defence expenditure over the whole range of possibilities, with the consequence that they have not spent the money in the most effective way. They have not made enough out of the possibilities of co-operation that exist through N.A.T.O. and the Western European Union. We need collective defence in practice as well as in theory.
The question of cost is very serious for us. We know that defence expenditure stands between the hospitals, schools, roads and tax reductions, or whatever kind of Government expenditure we happen to favour. In a democratic system, with elections, one asks oneself: how long can democratic countries generally match the necessary expenditure to keep up to date with the totalitarian countries where these considerations do not apply? It seems to me that we cannot possibly rest on the political status quo. We cannot possibly have a satisfactory defence unless, through political initiatives, we can break the deadlock, halt the arms race and bring about substantial disarmament. I agree that, we cannot have disarmament except by agreement, but unless through our political initiative we can get such agreement the future for the whole of the human race is very dismal.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Howard (St. Ives)
I hope to be brief, as other hon. Members wish to speak. I will, therefore, confine myself to one or two points in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.
Before I do so, however, I think that I would be joined by many other hon. Members in paying tribute to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), who made an excellent speech. I agreed with him when he mentioned the fact that the Lords of the Admiralty have been kept in the dark about radar, as I was when I was keeping watch on a fleet destroyer which was travelling very 1215 fast in the middle of the night in enclosed waters. I know what radar could have done for us then.
The first point in my right hon. Friend's speech with which I should like to deal concerns his statement that our naval forces are well distributed. According to a statement issued by the Admiralty, three aircraft carriers will be operational throughout the year. One is to be in the Far East, one in the Mediterranean and one at home. That leaves no operational reserve whatever.
The next point made by my right hon. Friend the Minister was that we are doing our fair share in N.A.T.O. My hon, and gallant Friend 'the Member for Croydon, North-East, asked whether we could be told more about the Government's thinking in so-called broken-back war. It has been said that if a bomb was dropped on Russia, it is inconceivable that the Russian submarines which might be out in the Atlantic Ocean would continue the fight. I cannot agree with that. If they were at sea, and in an aggressive mood, it would be all the more likely that they would continue the war as long as they could be supplied.
We have heard a great deal today about interdependence. I agree that it is excellent in principle, but we saw in the last war, at the time of Pearl Harbour, what happened to interdependence. In the recent debate in another place, Lord Stanhope made some telling references and quotations on this subject.
Let us think not of what happened in the last war, but rather of the present situation. Let us imagine, for example, that the Russians have a patrol vessel lying off the American coast. If that vessel lobbed a shell, either of the conventional type or of a modified atomic type, into a city in the United States, what would be the pressure of American public opinion? Where would N.A.T.O. be then from the viewpoint of defending us? It is only human to think of these things.
My right hon. Friend the Minister spoke about the purely British responsibility. Recently, it was expressed to some of us that the Navy's role in the recent Icelandic dispute had stretched our naval resources to the limit. Nobody, in this House or outside, can have anything but praise for the diplomatic and splendid 1216 way in which the Navy has played its part in the extraordinarily difficult task in Icelandic waters. At no time have more than four vessels been in that area and recently, I understand, the number was down to three.
To maintain that number of vessels there, however, and to be sure that they got to the right place at the right time, no fewer than 23 ships have been involved, plus five fleet tankers. This illustrates what a great proportion of our resources must be in the pipeline to fulfil even these modest requirements. If it is true— and I hope we shall be told whether it is— that the Navy has been stretched by recent needs in Icelandic waters, what would happen if trouble broke out in other parts of the world?
It has been stated in the American Congress that there have been no less than 13 shooting wars since the end of the Second World War. In many cases of this nature, the role of the Navy is bound to be most important. The Navy has to take people from one place to another. It is all very well to talk about transport aircraft, but can anybody imagine that in an emergency in peacetime, in the "fire brigade" role of which we hear so much, aircraft will be able to carry all the requirements that are necessary for a modern force to operate in a place where it may be needed?
My right hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), in a very thoughtful speech, stressed the importance of the ideological aspect and the well-known Communist technique that as soon as trouble is over in one place it must be stirred up elsewhere. That is why the role of the Navy is so important in peace-time. To land men by aeroplane in a trouble spot does not have nearly the same effect as a British warship steaming into a place where, traditionally, British warships have called for many years without any warlike intention and with no other purpose than the making of courtesy calls. We all know how often a courtesy visit has averted serious danger.
In other words, we must have an insurance. If we are to have a Welfare State, part of its protection must be an adequate insurance. Do we possess it? Many people, not only in this House but outside, feel gravely concerned that the Navy is not adequate for the tasks required of it. Even leaving out of account 1217 the arguments about global war, the Navy is not adequate today for the jobs required of it in our purely British responsibility of which my right hon. Friend the Minister spoke this afternoon.
My right hon. Friend made a significant point about whether we could afford to have a full assortment of weapons. By comparison, the Americans can have this, that and every other form of guided missile. They can afford to carry out more tests than we can. That being the case, one can only hope that in such matters as the building of the "Dreadnought" we will not hear it said, as has so often been the case with designers in the past, "We can improve on that a bit. The American design of hull and the rest is excellent, but we can improve on it just a bit and do something to it here and there." That would mean that the delay in the arrival of the vessel would be considerable.
The answer to my right hon. Friend's question whether we could afford an assortment of weapons is that we cannot. I hope, therefore, that the Government will go all out to co-operate with the United States and that the United States will give us the utmost and speedy help to enable us to produce a "Dreadnought ". Do not let us try to make too many modifications of our own. If we are to embark upon nuclear development for ship propulsion, let us devote our resources to producing it for merchant ships, particularly tankers, in which branch of marine engineering Britain has led for many generations.
A great deal has been said today about fixed bases. Here again, we need to be quite clear in our thinking and in our policy. We hear many different things about submarines and about the Polaris. I once heard it said that for every submarine which lurks in the ocean three ships could be waiting above ready to destroy it. Even during the last war, however, most of which I spent hunting submarines from escort forces in the Atlantic Ocean, it was extremely difficult to find submarines, even with their slower speeds of those days. Especially nowadays, when submarines are capable of penetrating beneath the ice, it is quite wrong and out of date to imagine that they could be found and destroyed before they were able to unleash the Polaris weapon.
1218 Again, almost in the same breath, we are told that now submarine development has gone ahead so fast we have no means of finding them. Which of these views is correct? It is most important that we should know. If we consider the speed of modern submarines it is not necessary to be an expert in tactics or in submarine hunting to appreciate the problem. It is only necessary to take a piece of paper, put a dot in the middle, and draw a square of 15, 20 or more miles to realise where a submarine can be in a given time. Many would say that the only way we can tackle the problem is by using submarines to do the work. As my hon. and gallant Friend said, that is not our job, but there is a feeling in the country today that our Navy is inadequate to perform the jobs which it is called upon to do.
We cannot do all the jobs, but what can we do? I suggest that it is not outside our capabilities to have three or four well-balanced task forces of, say, one carrier, one cruiser, four destroyers, two frigates, a submarine and supply vessels, such as tankers, etc. That sounds easy and possible according to the figures in the White Paper, but can it be done? Can it be done when, as I said at the beginning of my speech, we have only three carriers in the active Fleet and nothing in reserve? We should have an assurance on that score, because we have been told by my right hon. Friend that we can look forward to a larger fleet.
I say, and I mean it, thank God for that, but let us hope it will not be in the dim, distant future. I was talking to an admiral the other day who, during the war, had a conversation with one of his superior officers. That officer said to him, "Did you not serve in the old 'Tiger' years ago?" He was speaking in 1941. The bright officer replied, "Yes, Sir, I did. "Then the other said," If things go as I think they will you may well get the command of the new 'Tiger'. "That was a great many years ago and the "Tiger" is only coming into service this year. Are we really, again to use the words of the Minister, exceedingly well-equipped to discharge our task? Are the Government clear about what is the task of a Navy in a nuclear or global war, or in the limited cold war? Are we sure that our Navy is large enough to discharge its responsibilities?
Lastly, can we have an assurance that no further ships will be scrapped until 1219 others can be put in their places? I know that many people disagree on this point, and I may be talking from out-of-date experience, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) used to ask this question before the last war. I remember that in the early days of the last war we would have given anything in the world to have the ships that we are told today are so out-of-date and useless. Those were days when we were convoying 100 ships across the ocean with four escorts, two of which were trawlers, and if they had to find a contact they took five hours to catch up with the convoy. All I can say is, thank goodness the Germans did not torpedo the escorts in those days.
We can dispense with the usual talk about the Navy and about those who go down to the sea in ships, but can we dispense with the real job that the Navy has to do? Can we really feel that the men who have given their lives to the Service which has made England famous have adequate forces at their disposal today to discharge the job of which they and we are so proud?
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) and his gallant colleagues on both sides of the House will forgive me if I do not discuss tonight the kind of defence which obviously interests them and is no doubt at the moment extremely important, because I am not competent to do so. To a layman in military and naval affairs this problem is so perplexing and so utterly baffling as to appear almost entirely futile.
I only have to turn to the White Paper to see set out in paragraph 2 the fact that we now have the Seaslug missile which is—… a most effective weapon for the interception of attacking aircraft at longer ranges.We are told that this is very important to the County Class carriers. Yet if we turn over the page to paragraph 16, we discover that:The development of propelled stand-oft bombs continues to progress satisfactorily. These will greatly reduce the vulnerability of the aircraft by enabling it to release its weapon a long distance from the target, outside the range of the missile defence system.Obviously, if the Seaslug is of some use then the stand-off bomb is of no use, or 1220 if the stand-off bomb is of some use the Seaslug is a waste of money. The whole notion of contemporary defence seems to me to set the conundrum of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. A layman like myself throws up his hands in despair and can only murmur that he has often been asked the conundrum but nobody has told him the answer.
I have a fellow feeling for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), who made an extremely interesting speech, when he said he was hesitant because he did not really know what kind of a debate would be appropriate in which to ventilate the views he now wanted to discuss. He did not know whether it should be on foreign affairs or on defence, though obviously foreign affairs and defence are closely related.
If one ventures to intervene in a debate on foreign affairs, I for my part find myself almost equally baffled because hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem then to discuss almost metaphysical subjects, such as how many Ministers can sit on a "summit" or does the Foreign Secretary fear parity? I do not know what they are talking about; I have not a clue. All I know is that there must be something in the notion that there at at least two kinds of defence.
Let me say at once, before I discuss the kind of defence that I believe the right hon. Member for Carshalton was getting at, and certainly the Leader of the Liberal Party discussed in a most interesting way, that whereas I am interested in and sympathetic to the kind of notions which the Liberal Party are now discussing, I must say candidly and honestly that I would far rather have in power our Front Bench, with its conventional wisdom— which I think will not be very helpful— than I would have the Liberal Party with its half-baked notions.
What makes the problem excruciatingly difficult is that there is no halfway house between the conventional wisdom of the Front Benches, which is absolutely terrifying, and what I shall hesitatingly discuss, which I am afraid everybody will call utterly Utopian. There is a long gap between the two, but no stopping place in between. I would elaborate by picking up two points made by the Leader of the Liberal Party, 1221 whom I want to support; indeed, I not only go with him but go much further.
First, the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) seems to be arguing that the reason why Britain, in her conventional wisdom or unwisdom, has decided to have her own manufactured nuclear weapon is because there might conceivably be some occasion when we should need to use this unilaterally, without being in close military alliance at that moment with the United States. I do not think it is entirely the reason; a major reason is just a passion for military prestige which every nation seems to have and which Foreign Secretaries and leading statesmen seem to have in abundance. But that is by the way.
The argument, which is most compelling and which is most generally used by these gentlemen, is that if a nation like ours did not have a British-controlled massive deterrent it is remotely conceivable that the enemy— and here we talk of Russia— might one night, all of a sudden, attempt to pick us off, or some other nation in the Western world, and then say to the rest of the world, "You do not wany anybody else to suffer the fate of those who used to live in the island called the United Kingdom. Let us now come to terms." Britain, rather than be Pearl Harboured and have great Powers settle their differences over our dust, wants to feel that those who wanted to do that would have to face the risk of having something blowing back in their faces, although we would have to be very quick before we were atomised.
If this is a compelling reason why Britain should have her own weapon— because we fear that the Americans might hesitate a fraction too long before coming to our aid, only to find that there was nothing left to aid—that must be an equally compelling reason to other nations. Precisely the same point must be made by Frenchmen and, more compellingly, by Western Germans. If we are compelled by this argument to have a British-made, unilateral deterrent, it stands to reason that sooner or later, and much sooner than most people imagine, other nations must follow our example—France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and then the Middle Eastern countries may well follow too.
1222 Can anybody except the noble Lord, Lord Strang, argue that that makes the world safer? Clearly nobody but a lunatic can do so. Begging his pardon in advance, I do not think that Lord Strang is a lunatic, but he has been trained in the Foreign Office, which is very much the same thing. Nobody else could make such a masterly speech and argue that the world would be a safer place if sixty or seventy nations had nuclear weapons of their own.
Everybody else agrees that if we could confine this weapon to the few it would be a laudable political effort to try to do so. I hold this view, and evidently the Liberal Party holds it, too. One aspect of defence is to try to prevent some new, irresponsible nations, who may be in great difficulties and under great temptations, using this weapon. We should try to prevent the proliferation of these hideous weapons under sovereign national control.
If we want to do this for the safety and security of the human family, it stands to reason, first, that Britain must do it. I do not believe that it is possible to draw a line under three nations and say that these are three superior nations which should have these weapons and that all other nations are inferior and must not have them. But a line must be drawn. I wish one could draw it so that a world authority belonging to the United Nations could be the only possessor of an overwhelming force, and all the nations, including America and Russia, were part of a world State. That is a Utopian goal at which, of course, everybody agrees we must ultimately aim.
For the time being, we must be hard-headed, and it stands to reason, I think, that if any nation has this weapon it is far safer that two nations should have it. If Russia is to have the weapon it would be far safer if another nation, and this would be the United States, should have it. If only one nation held the weapon, whether it be Russia or America, the world would be at its mercy.
If we add a third nation, namely, Great Britain, we cannot draw a line, because if we put Britain in France insists upon coming in and that makes four. Germany will follow suit, and that makes five. Then will come Sweden and the rest. Therefore, there is no line to be drawn anywhere if we attempt to draw it under 1223 three. I suggest that the line should be drawn under two; that is to say "Count us out" Here I am still with the Liberal Party.
At this point, however, it seems clear to me that if Britain counts herself out of the nuclear power club she can do so in order to provide added security to the whole human family only if, in the process, she can be sure that no other nation joins the club to take her place. Although it is dangerous to have a world in which two nations, or two great power complexes, have atomic bombs, it is still more dangerous with three—and it would be slightly more dangerous still if those three were Russia, America and Germany, with ourselves out.
In other words, if we get out of the nuclear power club we must do so in such a way that nobody else can get in. I say that not because I am jealous of others getting in; I am ashamed that my nation is in.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
I am proud that my nation is in, and I make no apology for saying so. Can my hon. Friend explain how added security is given to Britain as a result of her not possessing the atomic bomb?
§ Mr. Usborne
I propose to do so. I am arguing that it is desirable to get out, and I am explaining where I part company with the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Grimond
If the hon. Member is saying that he would try to get some agreement with other nations when Britain came out, I would agree. If we could limit the possession of the bomb to Russia and America, that would be excellent. But even if we could not, I think that, on balance, we should not make our own bomb.
§ Mr. Usborne
That is a very important point. In the last analysis, if there were only those two alternatives— first, to get an agreement, which we could not get, and, secondly, unilaterally to renounce this weapon, I should probably join with the Liberal Party. But I do not believe that this Hobson's choice exists. I am convinced that it would be right for Britain to get out of the nuclear power club if and when, with other nations, we could contrive a system by which nuclear disarmament could be enforced on a great number of nations. This is the price 1224 which has to be paid by the middle world if Britain is to come out of the nuclear power club and if, in the process, membership of that club is to be restricted to two, until we can eventually get all nations out of this hideous situation.
It is clear that the kind of agreement about which the Liberal Party is talking is no agreement at all; it is the creation of a political system, and nothing less than a federal union, because the nations that agree collectively to ban these weapons will be obliged to set up a supranational authority to make the banning law, and see that it is enforced. No purpose is to be gained by any nation— by Britain least of all— taking a decision not to manufacture these weapons, only a few years later suddenly to change its mind and regret that it ever took that apparently moral but now utterly stupid decision.
If we ever take this decision— and Heaven hope that we may— we must do so in such a way that we can never live to regret it. In other words, we must ensure that the other members of the federation or group of nations which agree to have nuclear disarmament enforced upon them create a system by which a supra-national federal Government is brought into being to represent them and enforce the law of nuclear disarmament. The supra-national body must have the power to enforce this law.
That is where the crunch comes. If we set up a supra-national authority, having the power to enforce a disarmament convention— and everybody now seems to believe that we cannot have disarmament without an all-powerful authority— the nations which set it up above them must give up their sovereignty absolutely. If this authority is to be powerful enough to be effective it must also be so powerful that nations will not continue to waste their money on national armed forces, because if national armed forces are effective for defence they are also able to deny the right of a supra-national authority to enforce law upon them.
If we want supra-national law to be effectively enforceable for all time we must give up national sovereignty and the duty and power of attempting to defend ourselves nationally. Otherwise, the supra-national job simply cannot be done. It is not worth attempting to set up this 1225 sort of supra-national system if we pretend that it is anything else than a Government. We are living in an extremely dangerous world and it is probably better to accept what I call the conventional wisdom than to take any half-baked risk.
Like the right hon. Member for Carshalton, I think that this is the time when those of us who have no responsibilities but any amount of time should think hard and speak loudly about the nature of this problem. The right hon. Gentleman did a great service to the country and the world when he admitted that people in responsible posts on the Government Front Bench literally do not have time to do this kind of thinking. But this also applies to both Front Benches. I do not believe that either the "Shadow Cabinet" or the actual Cabinet have time to deal with this sort of long-term thinking, so that those of us who have the time also have a duty to think deeply and out loud about this matter.
The right hon. Member for Carshalton said something which I believe to be extremely important. I believe that nine-tenths of the problem of defence is now connected with what the right hon. Gentleman called the ideological war. Britain has a lot to offer in this connection, but I do not think that we can offer the kind of things which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that we ought to offer. The notion that we should try to persuade the Americans that it is rash of us to give our Colonies and the newly emerging people self-government, because they are not educated to govern themselves, and thus try to call off the colonial witch hunt which the Americans are de-developing against us, seems to me to be monstrous. Macaulay once wrote that if it is argued that Britain should not give her Colonies self-government until they are able to govern themselves, the logic of that is that they would never get self-government at all. Today, I would say, the logic is that if we do not give them self-government they will take it, and if they do so against our wishes then almost certainly they will look to the East for comfort and support.
This may sound shocking, but I do not believe that one of our exportable commodities which has any particular value outside this country is British Parliamentary democracy in the sense that so many 1226 people seem to think. I am not shocked by the notion that emerging peoples might well govern themselves by some form of Communism. The Yugoslavs are doing a very good job under their Communist system. I do not believe it is sensible to assume that new countries must necessarily be able to copy the kind of Parliamentary and political system which we operate so successfully in this country, a system which demands an official opposition, universal franchise and free debates all round. After all, it took us 400 or 500 years of practice and trial and error to contrive our system, and it is difficult to copy. I do not think it at all wrong if some new nation decided to adopt a system which was as democratic as they could make it but which nevertheless had to be made to work. If some Colonies decided to adopt a system which they called Communism, I would still say that we should give them all the support we can, both economically and in every other way.
That is what we are doing with Yugoslavia. We are not concerned with the Communist system which exists there; we are only glad that it happens to be independent Communism. If, for example, Ghana, or any other community, should decide to run its affairs in its own way, and in a way which was different from that in which we run our affairs, I would say that is their business, and I should not necessarily regret it. I think it wrong that, as a nation, we should thrust on these nations national sovereignty—
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I ask in what way the remarks of my hon. Friend are relevant to Command Paper No. 662, which is the subject of the Government Motion?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
The debate is fairly wide, which is allowed when we are discussing the defence situation.
§ Mr. Usborne
I was coming to the point. It is not right to expect new nations suddenly to have complete independence and national sovereignty. In order to get autonomy and self-government they ought to be integrated in some bigger community. But so long as this nation stays sovereign and has all the 1227 weapons in its own private army, all the lesser nations and the newer nations will try to copy our bad example.
If we could contrive a federal system such as I advocated earlier, Ghana or any other nation could join with us on a basis of absolute equality with effective abrogation of sovereignty. These nations could then govern themselves in whichever way they thought best, without the fear that they would be peeled off one by one by Russia, and I believe that political unity is an essential part of Western defence and that there is far too little thought given to this aspect of our problem.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Vere Harvey (Macclesfield)
I have listened to many speeches by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Usborne) in the last fourteen years and I always thought him sincere, but he was really wide of the mark in almost everything he said today.
For an hon. Member who has been here for fourteen years to say that one of the things which is not a good export is the British Parliamentary system, beats me. I have probably travelled as much as he has in recent years. I have been to Malaya, where they are delighted with our Parliamentary system, which, as the hon. Gentleman said, we thrust upon them. It is working well, in spite of difficulties, as it is in India which has gone through its teething troubles.
In India, the British are looked upon with more favour than any other nation in the world. Let us go round the globe. Every nation will have difficulties, whatever system of Parliamentary Government it has in its early days. I have been bored for many hours in this House, but I still believe that we have the best Parliamentary system available, and I hope that we shall still go on trying to get our Colonies to adopt this system when they get their independence.
§ Mr. Usborne
I am not denying that ours is far and away the best Parliamentary system, and I am sure that every nation will try to get it some day, but it is not something that they can suddenly start using. It may be that they have to start with one system and gradually evolve another. To ask communities 1228 suddenly to adopt a system which has taken us 300 or 400 years to develop is unreasonable.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
The system has been working in Australia for only 100 years and in Malaya for only two years, so it does not take all that time to develop. I profoundly disagree with all that the hon. Gentleman has said.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who opened the debate, made a spirited attack, but with very little cohesion in his arguments. I was disappointed. The main point of his speech was the cost of Britain's defence since 1951, but if we compare the cost from 1945 to 1951 I think we have more to offer than the party of the right hon. Gentleman opposite had in the six years when it was in power, although it had many bonuses from the war to assist it.
The right hon. Gentleman several times referred to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence as not having a clear policy about V-bombers. I have never heard it suggested that the V-bombers are being dropped as a stand-off weapon. I understand that contracts are still running, that probably only about half the number of the machines has been delivered and that it will be a very effective weapon. The right hon. Gentleman should explain why he said that. It is a very dangerous supposition.
When my right hon. Friend the Minister introduced his White Paper two years ago he showed a lot of courage. He was criticised by many of us on both sides of the House, but he has yet to be proved wrong. I have gradually come round to his way of thinking. He is probably right in the line he has taken. The only criticism is that he has perhaps not been sufficiently flexible in dealing with his right hon. Friends in the Service Ministries. He has now shown himself willing to meet at least some of their demands, such as fighters, transport and freighter aircraft.
The programme is developing. Any hon. Member who imagines that a White Paper can be published and can stand for five years without change is expecting too much. We must be flexible to changes in defence as things happen in the world. I am very glad to see that the numbers in the Army are to go up from 165,000 to 180,000 by 1962. I always felt that the 1229 numbers were dangerously low. I do not think there will be a surplus even with 180,000. Now that the Cyprus burden has been unloaded, that will help enormously.
The real difficulty is the cost. It is a tremendous burden on the country and on taxpayers to pay for this form of defence. Unless some agreement is made between the Western Powers and the Soviet Union, I cannot see how great economies are to be made. As time goes on we shall probably need more conventional weapons. I shall try to explain why as I proceed with my speech.
Possible submarine attack has been referred to this afternoon. Britain, being a maritime nation in spite of air Power, submarine attack is very dangerous for us. Only one nuclear submarine has been laid down for Britain— the Dreadnought— and I understand that it will take four or five years to complete. I cannot understand why we have laid down only one. I know the cost. £25 million, is great, but, if it is worth laying them down, would it not be better to sacrifice other things and to build four? This is not an unknown weapon. The Americans have taken it under the ice to the Pole, and obviously it would be a tremendous factor in any war.
I hope that before time marches on and we are too late we shall not discourage the Navy spending money, provided that money is well spent. I cannot see that money spent on aircraft carriers is well spent. An American senior officer said last year that the aircraft carrier is like a sore thumb sticking out of the ocean. By all means let us make good use of those we have, but do not let us build any more.
That brings me to the question of Coastal Command. Last July in the States I heard Admiral Wright, Commander of the Atlantic Forces speak at Norfolk, Virginia. An hon. Member opposite was there also and heard what was said. The Admiral said, "Try to impress on your Government at home that they should pay more attention to Coastal Command. It is a very definite requirement and you ought to do more". I know the Secretary of State for Air has done what he can in that direction, but he cannot do these things unless he has the money.
Wherever enemy submarines come from, they will be sought from the air 1230 with the very latest up-to-date scientific equipment. I should like to see more done about Coastal Command as a command. We are told that there are good aircraft such as the Shackleton which has a long range, but there are not enough of them, and there is a certain amount of complacency about the matter. We have to lay on the top brains of scientists and physicists to tackle the problem. It is the equipment which goes into the machine, the ship or the aircraft which counts when the time comes.
Hon. Members opposite have often given us to understand that if they were in power they would go in for a considerable degree of integration of the Services. I do not disagree with that provided it is done gradually over a period of years without upsetting the Services or the people in them. I should like to make a suggestion which concerns my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air. A start should be made with Coastal Command. We are told that the Navy would like to get it back, and no doubt Lord Mountbatten, when he takes over, will do everything in his power to get it back.
Why cannot we compromise and have a joint command? I know that years ago when the Air Force piloted the aircraft of which my right hon. Friend has had experience with the Royal Navy in the Fleet Air Arm this did not always work, but that was some time ago. With the right will it could be achieved with a joint command run by the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy in the form of Coastal Command. That would be a good start towards integration.
Another thing which gives me concern is the mobility of our forces. They have been steadily reduced, and rightly so, but we have to make them more mobile so that they can get to places quickly. I am concerned about how we are to move our men, to whatever Services they belong, in five years it may be, when there might be difficulties in Aden, Kenya, Singapore, Malta, Cyprus and the Maldive islands of the Indian Ocean which will prevent stops being made for refuelling. I should like to know what is the position concerning these islands and when there will be an airport available.
There is no doubt that the flying routes are being stretched. As the Colonies gain 1231 independence we have less freedom in which to fly. I refer in particular to Iraq. We can no longer fly over Iraq. That means crossing Turkey and Persia to get to the Far East, unles we go round Africa and Transport Command has only Comets pressurised to fly at over 20,000 ft. to go on that route. We shall next year have twenty Britannias in Transport Command and they will be of enormous help.
I was very disappointed with the statement made last week regarding the Britannic freighter for which the Government are now about to place an order. I have nothing against the Britannic and I think that if we could have it within two years it would be a very useful aeroplane, but we were told yesterday by the Minister of Supply that it was selected because it had good commercial prospects. I should like to know who told him that it had good commercial prospects, other than the builders. Did B.E.A. or B.O.A.C. tell him, or any other airlines?
We are already in the position in which airlines like B.E.A. are discarding the turbo-prop aircraft and going in for the pure jet. The French are doing that with the Caravelle and all airlines are thinking that way. This freighter will probably not arrive for another five or six years and then it has to last another eight or ten years, as the Hastings has done, which means that we shall be saddled with this aircraft for fifteen years. Today, a freighter may not be a great thing in world commerce but in the years to come it will be.
The cost of buying a pure jet aircraft as opposed to a turbo-prop, aircraft is not very different, but 250 miles difference in speed is a bonus which will mean money and profits to airlines. Britain cannot afford to build military transport aircraft unless they have civil application. I have spent thirty-two years trying to build and sell aeroplanes in all parts of the world, sometimes with success and sometimes with bitter disappointment and, believe me, it is not easy. There is tremendous competition. Britain has the brains and know-how to produce the equipment, but I think that in this case we have made a dreadful mistake, and I am sorry to say so.
1232 To go back to the deterrent, I think that the Government have done the right thing all the way along to have a deterrent. Now we have got it. But I cannot see how we can go on, unless an agreement is reached with Russia, trying to keep up with the Jones's. I think that when we got to a certain level, whatever we think sufficient for a stockpile to defend ourselves, we shall turn then to more conventional weapons. I believe that we shall have to swing back to the necessity of defending ourselves by that means.
I want to ask my right hon. Friend if he will tell us a little more about the Government's intentions for the air defence of this country. We were told last year, and we were certainly told the year before, but a great deal happens in the course of twelve months when dealing with fast aircraft. I should like to know what is the role of Fighter Command, how efficient my right hon. Friend thinks it will be and when we shall have the Lightning aircraft? May we also be told a little more about the Valiant bomber aircraft which is to come under the control of N.A.T.O.
Looking back over the years since the war, I have blamed successive Governments for many things, but I also blame the Chiefs of Staff for many things which have happened in this country in recent years. I do not want to become involved in the controversy over the Suez campaign, because this is not the time for that, but we have learned much from it. I believe that the Chiefs of Staff have a great responsibility to bear for what happened at Suez. When I was in America last year I was told that they would have done the operation and carried out an airborne operation probably with 100 Globemasters first, a few days before any ships were brought on to the scene.
The Minister of Defence and his Service Chiefs must see that our senior officers think upon the right lines, and are up to date, modern and progressive, and that the younger officers are also trained to think that way.
I should like to be reassured, too, that the Service chiefs feel that they can maintain the morale of the younger officers in all three Services. I know that it is difficult today to convince headmasters and parents that the Services offer a good career, although personally I think they do, but a great deal more will have to 1233 be done by the Government of the day to put it over and to assure parents that these boys have continuity in their career.
I have disagreed often with our American friends. They have done many stupid things and they have still a great deal to learn, from this country in particular. Nevertheless, I am convinced that we cannot get along without them. We have to work very closely with them. I only hope that they will take more heed of the view of the British people. We may not have as much money but we have had much more experience. I detect that in recent months this change has taken place, and my only hope is that Britain will give the lead, as the Prime Minister is giving it now in the Soviet Union. We cannot survive without a good working arrangement with America.
It seems to me that there is not nearly enough co-ordination among the Western Allies. I read on Monday that the two Canadian companies, Avro and Orenda, had paid off 14,000 workers because a contract had been cancelled for a jet interceptor fighter. It seems crazy that the Canadian contract has been cancelled and that many skilled workers and designers will go over the border into the United States. We must work much closer together and not duplicate the manufacture of equipment. I know that the Americans will say, "We cannot do this or that", but in recent years they have gone some way towards liberalising their trade, and I believe that we can go much further if we make the effort not to duplicate military equipment.
Our method of ordering military equipment for all three Services is extremely cumbersome. I am not criticising my right hon. Friend or the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Supply, but the system today of ordering equipment from the Ministry of Supply could not be worse. I have had business dealings with the Ministry of Supply. It takes ages to make up its mind and constant modifications are sent out by its technical people, who are not a match for those in industry.
I should like to see the Ministry of Supply abolished. There has been much talk about this, but I should like to see the Ministry of Defence take over perhaps aircraft and electronics, with the remain- 1234 der of the equipment put under the three Services to order for each other where necessary. I do not think that we should save a great deal, although there might be some saving in personnel, but it would be more efficient and we should bring the user in touch with the supplier. It is very important that something should be done about that as early as possible, and I ask my right hon. Friend and the Service Ministers to get in closer touch with the industries which are supplying them with equipment. The present division exists because of the Ministry of Supply. In these days, when trade is difficult, industry needs not merely a five-year programme but a continuous five-year programme. More information could be given.
In the week to ten days that I was in the United States with the right hon. Gentleman we heard more information at Omaha from the Strategic Air Force and the Navy than I have heard in the House in fourteen years. In the United States they take the view that it is wise to make public many things that we consider secret. They say that, if they do not make them public, the newspapers will anyhow, and what is the good of having something good if one's potential enemies do not know about it?
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has now come in. I should like to congratulate him on the job he has done in the last two years and to ask him, if he either reads or is told the few things that I have said, to try to implement some of them.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The speech of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) is one which the Minister of Defence certainly ought to read. It started by complimenting the Minister, but the remainder of it was very highly critical and was the sort of criticism which cannot be ignored. The hon. Member for Macclesfield has expert knowledge, particularly of aircraft, and his contribution to the debate was worth while. I am glad that I was able to listen to it.
I have the honour tonight of winding up the debate on behalf of my party. It was originally intended that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. de 1235 Freitas) should wind up the debate. Unfortunately, he has been taken ill and I have been asked to take his place. I should like to say to my right hon. and hon. Friends that I am very conscious of the honour. I hope to be able to wind up the debate as well as I know the hon. Member for Lincoln would have done.
I should like to start off by complimenting the Minister of Defence on one aspect of his Defence White Paper— pay and pensions. It is right that we on this side of the House should place on record our view that the recent improvements in pensions are worth while. We can be justifiably proud of the rates which are now offered to those who retire after twenty-two years' honourable service. The Minister has said that a sergeant, after twenty-two years' service, will now receive a terminal grant of about £550 and a pension of £3 10s. a week. Let us assume that the sergeant joined the Army at the age of 20 and that he finishes at the age of 42. I know of no industry today where a man would get such a pension and such a gratuity. This is very important, because this must, in the long run, help the manpower situation.
I should like to congratulate the Minister on his statement about the ending of National Service. I am one of those on this side who have always thought that the abolition of conscription was right and proper. We advocated and urged it. Reference has been made in the House to homework and how figures work out. Most of us based our calculations on the conception that defence strategy would not remain just as it was at that time, or for that matter as it is now. I say at once that most of us on this side believed that conscription had to go and that we are delighted that the Minister has been able to give us that reassurance today.
There is one other matter on which I want to congratulate the Minister. Very shortly I shall have to stop congratulating him, because I have so many criticisms of him. I congratulate the Minister on his attendance. Throughout the debate, which started at about half-past three, he has hardly missed a speech. We cannot ask more from him than that. We are indebted to him. It is a great improvement on his last performance. Having listened to the speech made from our 1236 Front Bench, he left the House and came back at half-past nine and said that he was quite aware of what had been said. At any rate, he is aware now of what has been said and we are obliged to him.
The Opposition think that the Defence White Paper is a sham. It really is. It is not a Defence White Paper at all, but a so-called progress report, giving details of the equipment vehicles and weapons which, at some time in the distant future, we are to have. We have never been able to obtain from the Minister the exact dates when we shall have them. He lumps them all together in the progress report. If he were the managing director of a firm, and presented such a report to his company, he would be sacked forthwith by his shareholders. If not, he would probably be prosecuted by the police for trying to put out a bogus prospectus. Much in the White Paper is just a sham.
I recognise that any Minister of Defence must have very difficult problems at any time. The present Minister has two problems, or handicaps, to overcome. The first, and this is not so difficult for him, is his own personality, and his approach to some of these fundamental problems. It is well known, although he thought that it was so secret— all Britain knows it and the Press have declared it — that there has been a constant row going on between himself and the Secretaries of State. As far as I can judge, that includes his Chiefs-of-Staff.
The right hon. Gentleman need not deny that, because we all know that, to a large extent, he has lost a good deal of ground. He has been fighting with his Service Ministers on whether or not we should have manned bombers. He had very strong views about that at one time but, apparently, he has changed his mind. Fighter and troop-carrying aircraft have also been the subject of dispute. There has been a lot of quarrelling, and, to a large extent, the Minister of Defence has had to give way. I do not make much of that, but, as I say, one thing that he has to deal with is his own personality, and his approach.
The right hon. Gentleman has a second handicap, and I can assure him that he has my very greatest sympathy. He really has the worst Foreign Secretary that we have ever had. For the Defence Minister 1237 to work alongside the present Foreign Secretary must be almost impossible. I think that it is within the terms of the debate to mention Cyprus. For the last three years the Secretary of State for War and the other Service Ministers have been heavily committed in Cyprus.
Within the last week or so we have learned that a settlement is almost in sight. We hope that it will soon be achieved. It will mean that the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for War will be relieved of many problems— but what a terrible story it all is. When we consider how the matter has been finalised, how terrible it is that the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for War should, in such circumstances, have been asked to provide men.
This man Makarios— this holy man— is today staying at the Dorchester Hotel at a cost, I understand, of £25 a day. Last week, according to the benches opposite, and particularly from the Treasury Bench, he was a murderer and traitor, someone with whom we should have nothing to do. Most ironic of all, when a poor little chap who is a member of the League of Empire Loyalists said the same thing he was fined £5 for saying it.
While I sympathise with the Minister of Defence and his colleagues in the Service Departments on their task in Cyprus, the way in which it has now been settled makes me thoroughly ashamed to be British. I mean that, and I think that most British people, and most Conservatives, too, think the same. We could easily have had this settlement, or an even better one, three years ago, but the struggle has gone on and on, with a great loss of British lives, and a great deal of criticism of our equipment in this House. Yet, today, when I asked the Minister about the £1 million to be spent on accommodation and amenities in Cyprus, he had forgotten that it was there. The fact is that he, and others like him, want to forget Cyprus.
The trouble with all Conservatives is that they will not learn from history. They will not learn that, at the end of the day, one has to negotiate with people like Makarios. De Valera, Gandhi, Smuts —all, at one time, were enemies of British imperialism yet, at the end of the day, we had to negotiate with them. Had we learned that lesson three years ago, we would not have had the terrible loss of 1238 life in Cyprus and all that has gone with it. I for one will never allow them to forget what they have done in these matters.
The Foreign Secretary, of course, is a terrible handicap for Britain. He is now in Moscow. I can only say that I hope sincerely that the Prime Minister will ensure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's hands are tied behind his back and that he keeps his mouth shut. That is the only possible way to reach any kind of settlement in Russia or with the Russians. I sympathise very much with the Minister of Defence in having the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) as the Foreign Secretary. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said, we cannot divorce defence from foreign policy; it is part of it. The Minister of Defence has been, and still is, in an impossible situation in this respect.
I turn now to the strategy of defence, which is not mentioned in the White Paper at all. As all of us on this side will agree, the White Paper is no more than a hotchpotch. It does not say anything about defence as such. It talks about things we shall have, improvements we have made, and so on, but, by and large, as one of my hon. Friends said, it is just a series of extracts from the various Services Estimates which we shall be debating in the near future. Indeed, I propose not to argue about much of the detail which usually forms part of the subject matter of this debate until the Estimates come along. In my view, much of what is in the White Paper is not relevant to a debate on defence as such.
I wish to talk about the strategy of defence, with particular reference to N.A.T.O. What reference did the right hon. Gentleman make to N.A.T.O. in his White Paper? One small paragraph, as follows:At the same time, Britain in co-operation with other members of the Commonwealth and with her Allies in N.A.T.O. … must continue to play her part in the collective defence of the free world.I should have thought that N.A.T.O. was worth a little more comment than that. Something should have been said about what we have been doing in the last year to try to improve N.A.T.O. I hold the view, and I know that my party shares it. 1239 that N.A.T.O. is a necessary part of our defence strategy today. It is a defensive alliance and, whatever we do in Britain, we must sustain it. I regard it as the greatest deterrent against Russia. It is a much greater deterrent than our own H-bombs.
I do not believe that Mr. Khrushchev and the crowd at the Kremlin have many sleepless nights over the fact that we have our own atomic deterrent in Britain. What I do believe they lose a lot of sleep over— indeed, they have shown it by their Warsaw Pact— is the fact that N.A.T.O. exists. They know that, if there were to be an attempt by Russia to cross the frontiers and come West in any numbers at all, they would immediately find 15 nations ranged against them. It would be 15 nations that Russia would have to fight, including, of course, America.
I am sure that we can all agree that N.A.T.O. is the great deterrent which matters, but it is something which could work better and more effectively. What reference is there to N.A.T.O. in the White Paper? Just a few words which are hardly worth speaking about. There is hardly any reference whatever. We have a right to know far more about what the Minister of Defence intends with regard to N.A.T.O. in the future. I hope that N.A.T.O. itself will develop. The principle of N.A.T.O., as I said, is that it is a defensive alliance, not something designed to make war. It never was.
I resent the implication that, when the party opposite and mine went into N.A.T.O., we did it with any idea of making war. The trouble is that when one is talking in this House or anywhere about defence the ball is never at our feet. There is not a single Briton, if he is a true man at all, who can say that Britain intends to fight, or, for that matter, that America intends to fight. The only aggression, so far as we are concerned in all our defence, must surely come from the East. The ball is at the feet of those in the East.
I have heard speeches today about how the Russians would fight a war. I have given up even trying to listen or understand. But this much I know. N.A.T.O. can, in my belief, become a far better organisation than it is now. I will explain what I have in mind. In the White Paper there is a general statement 1240 about how we must continue to provide protection for our Colonies and other overseas territories, towards which we have special obligations. We can no longer live in the past. This is a different age. Our people in Britain, although they may buy the Daily Express, do not believe in the rubbish about the British Empire. Things are different now. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen can take that from me.
Any intelligent Tory— this certainly applies to the Labour party— would agree that this talk of Empires is a world to which we can never go back. It may be nice to think about it and to think about the wars of yesteryear which we won and about which we read in our history books in our schooldays, but we have our Commonwealth to think of and we must now move away from that conception. NA.T.O. has tremendous possibilities.
Some time ago, I heard my right hon. Friend Earl Attlee, who was at one time Prime Minister and leader of our party, talking on this subject. I support what he said. He used the phrase "inter-nationalisation of our commitments abroad". When will the Government recognise that we cannot, as a nation, carry out those commitments on our own? We need abroad only trip forces. But those trip forces ought to be composed of other nations, those other 15 nations, so that when the aggressor, whoever it may be, makes a move, it will fight not merely Britain but at least 15 nations.
That is the tone in which we should talk about defence strategy. We should be prepared, as a nation, to give a lead and give up some of our sovereignty. Every time sovereignty is mentioned in the House a Tory gets up and talks about British possessions and says that this is of vital interest to us. We must move away from that idea. The world is too small to talk about personal sovereignty. If we talk in terms of a global strategy with NA.T.O. in it in the sense that many of our possessions are also possessions which interest NA.T.O., it would solve many of our problems.
I would argue that NA.T.O. is the foundation upon which eventually one day even my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Usborne) will be satisfied. To talk about Utopia, as my hon. Friend did, at this stage is quite 1241 unrealistic. If we want a Utopia we must work for it and, perhaps, fight for it. We must have defence forces to ensure that one day we get it and not, as my hon. Friend said, wishfully think about it and hope that it all comes to pass.
We must have adequate defence forces. The Labour Party has never said that we can get defence on the cheap. We do want, and Britain has the right to expect, value for money, but we are not getting it. The foundation of the N.A.T.O. concept is there, and I do not see why it should not be extended.
I hope that we shall have a General Election soon and get the Labour Party back in power. I think that a Socialist Foreign Secretary would have the point which I have mentioned in mind. If that is his aim and object, and he strives for it, I believe that the task of a Socialist Defence Minister will be a much happier one than that of the present Minister of Defence. As I have said, I have sympathy with him. He cannot be expected to be responsible for Suez and Cyprus. His job is to provide forces which foreign policy has dictated are necessary, and then he comes in for criticism because the forces are not modern and up to date. He must take all that criticism, but the people responsible for the original move that was made by the forces under his control are often ignored. Naturally, we want a Socialist Foreign Secretary who will talk in the terms that I have mentioned.
I should like to refer the Minister to at least one paragraph in his hotch-potch of a White Paper. That is all it is— a progress report. This is the sort of problem which he has to face:Successful trials of the mobile anti-aircraft weapon Thunderbird have been carried out in co-operation with the Australian Government and deliveries to the Army have now started. In addition, work is proceeding on the development of a more advanced version.In other words, before work on the Thunderbird is completed, and even before there is delivery of it, we are proceeding with the development of a more advanced version. Britain is trying desperately hard to keep up with the Joneses in the nuclear world. What I have said about N.A.T.O. applies here. There should be a far greater sharing, not only of ideas, but—
§ Mr. Mellish
I am not suggesting that it is. I am talking of the new weapons that will come along and of new research and development and I am saying that immediately weapons come into use, automatically they are obsolete. This is a problem which faces the Government and our small country. Through N.A.T.O., we must have a better sense of agreement concerning the use of these weapons. If the theory of 15 nations counts for anything at all, it counts for genuine sharing. I consider that it can be done if it is approached in the right way.
We had a very interesting speech from the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head). I have not heard the House so quiet for a long time. I was shocked that this speech should come from the right hon. Gentleman. With much of it I agreed. I did not agree with his conclusions, but I certainly agreed with his premise. We had to wait until the right hon. Gentleman went out of office and spent two years in going round the world before he could say anything like this. Now he finds that the one way to defeat Communism is not by weapons, but with ideas. It has taken him two years to discover that, and it is true. Communism will not be beaten purely by defence strategy. We must have a different policy from top to bottom.
I want to say a few words to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), the Leader of the Liberal Party. I am always confused with the policy of the Liberals, if they have one. Are they in favour of the main deterrent being in the hands of the Americans, because they can manufacture better and more cheaply, whereas it is all right for us to have the smaller atomic weapons, or do the Liberals say that we should not manufacture anything atomic at all and that it should all be done by America? May I have an answer?
§ Mr. Grimond
I made a considerable speech earlier and I do not wish to make another. Our position, which I outlined, is that we are prepared to leave the main provision of the deterrent to the Americans. If they want a contribution from us, we would be willing to make it. We say that the lesser tactical weapons could, no doubt, be held by the West until we can properly equip some conventional forces. At the moment, we do 1243 not seem to have conventional forces adequate for our responsibilities.
§ Mr. Mellish
I leave those remarks on record. If anyone can work them out for me, I shall be obliged.
One of the problems that troubles us on this side of the House is the secrecy of the Minister. Whenever we try to get information if we ask a question on the Floor of the House, he replies, "It is not in the public interest to give the information." Therefore, we have had to find out as best we can in other ways. In this way, the Minister has for a considerable time treated the House with contempt. He ought to take the British people much more into his confidence. He has not done so. As a result, he has now landed us with the most inadequate Armed Forces, so much so that my party is entitled to table the kind of Amendment that we have done today.
Recently, I went to the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Association in Paris. I was impressed with that conference. I learnt, however, that in the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Association, the Ministers of Defence rarely meet. One would have thought that they would be having regular meetings. They rarely meet and have no standing committee. The Foreign Secretaries, however, meet often.
That supports my earlier argument that N.A.T.O. strategy is not being considered except from a European viewpoint. A great deal of argument goes on about the exact contribution to be made by the various countries. The real aims and objects of N.A.T.O. have been obscured. I ask the Minister of Defence, when he replies to the debate tomorrow night, to say something about N.A.T.O. Whatever he says about it, it will be more than he said when he made his speech earlier today.
I promised to finish by 9.30 and I end on this note. I am one of those who believe that the vast majority of the British people are fully aware that this country of ours must have armed forces. Election after election has proved that only a tiny minority of people do not understand that. Cheap applause can be won by talking about the total abolition of all kinds of weapons, but this does not win votes. The bulk of our people 1244 recognise the inevitability of Armed Forces. What we have said on this side of the House today, and on many previous occasions, is that we have not had value for the money spent. We are entitled to say that because we have been able to prove it, and in this progress report the Minister has conceded our case to a large extent.
If our case is proved, if what we have today— not what we shall have in a few years' time— is a third-rate Army, a third-rate Navy and a third-rate Air Force, after all the money we have spent, that is the worst indictment of the Government that could be made. The Minister himself admitted that the equipment of our troops today is not of the best. He admitted that there have been deficiencies. He admitted many things, but he said that in a few years' time we shall have one of the finest armies in the world. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that the British soldier is the finest in the world and that he has a right to be properly equipped. The Government have failed to do that, and this justifies our right to put down our Amendment.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)
I cannot agree with the pessimistic appreciation made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) of the state of our forces today, but I was glad to find that I could agree with him in his reference to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and in his high hopes of what may be achieved under it.
I think I shall not be out of tune with the general tenor of our debate if I confess at the outset that I am feeling very optimistic of the chances of preserving peace. I am one of many hon. Members who believes that the fact that it is now possible for man to destroy the whole of mankind and that this is realised by an ever-increasing number of people everywhere, gives considerable hope that nuclear warfare will not break out, provided both sides have the nuclear weapon. Here is the one essential for our hopes as I see it.
Yet there is always a danger that the present position of both the East and West holding the nuclear weapon, and thus preserving the balance, might be upset. I do not think it is likely to be 1245 upset by America going to sleep. Together with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), I went with a party of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians to the Strategic Air Command at Omaha last summer. I think he will agree with me that nothing is less likely than that the Americans would find themselves caught unawares on such an occasion. I am not nearly so sure that we in this country can be relied upon not to become soft, because if we were to have the present alternative Front Bench in office, I am happy to know that their spokesman made it clear today that they are not in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament. But having also listened during the debate to one of their own back-bench supporters and to the Leader of the Liberal Party, and having read the debate in another place a fortnight ago, one cannot but be conscious that there are all too many people in the country who are prepared to take the side of the pacifists, although they may not be pacifists, and to advocate the abolition of rocket sires in England, either in our own hands or in the hands of the Americans.
If we did that and relied upon the umbrella of the American rockets still to defend us, it seems to me that there would be great danger that the Russians might be tempted to think that, although the United States would undoubtedly let loose everything horrible in her own defence, she might hesitate to do so in defence of Britain, since to do so would call down upon America the inevitable nuclear reprisal. I do not have very much fear of the United States failing to back us up and going the whole way, nuclear weapons and all, if we were attacked, but I am not prepared to laugh a Russian out of court, for thinking that there might be such a chance. It might be thought that the Americans would be entitled to feel sore with us for failing to help with rocket bases here.
Whether it is an unhappy memory or an immensely distressing one, let us remember that it took two years before the United States came into the First World War and two years before she came into the Second World War, and that both times it required a direct attack on American lives to bring her in. We should remember also that there have been occasions, not so very long ago, when American and British foreign policy 1246 and defence policy have been by no means in line at a time of stress.
I am bound to say, therefore, that the Russian who read his history book would be entitled at least to toy with the idea that Russia might get away with an attack on England without bringing American nuclear weapons down upon herself. Let us not forget— and I say this in particular to the Leader of the Liberal Party— that we have no force at hand in Europe, America, British or other European force, with which we can match Russian conventional forces. I was amazed at the unrealistic appraisal of the facts of that situation by the Leader of the Liberal Party.
§ Mr. Grimond
Surely it is our intention to have forces which are adequate to make up the N.A.T.O. shield. That surely is the present Government's policy.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
Yes, but the N.A.T.O. shield requires to be backed by the deterrent and, as I understand, the Leader of the Libera! Party is prepared to see the United Kingdom without the deterrent.
§ Mr. Grimond
But not the Western world. The deterrent now is held by America effectively, and I am prepared to go on with that present position.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
The hon. Member is prepared to shelter—whether it is in cowardly fashion is neither here nor there—behind the umbrella of the Americans.
§ Mr. Grimond
The hon. and gallant Member referred to this as cowardly. It is recommended on quite respectable authority. Field Marshal Montgomery said this or the quivalent. General Gavin and Admiral Buzzard said something like it. None of these are cowards, surely.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
There is no personal accusation of cowardice between me and the hon. Member or any of the distinguished people whom he has mentioned, but I think that it would be a cowardly act for Great Britain to be dependent for her security on the efforts of another country without making a full contribution.
§ Sir W. Anstruther-Gray
Not yet. The hon. Member may intervene presently, no doubt.
1247 I want to go even further in my optimism, even further than hoping that we shall not find ourselves faced with a nuclear war. There is good ground for hoping now that we shall not have a third conventional war either. I am as anxious to avoid such a war as I am to avoid a nuclear war, because in a nuclear war the West could at least give as good as it got. But in a conventional war I do not see what there is to match the 200 Russian divisions which are quite close to the frontier, or the 20,000 Russian aeroplanes and the 500 or more large Russian submarines. I think we can look forward to a nuclear war not coming, and also to a third world war not taking place. The nations on both sides of the Atlantic are conscious now that it would be only too easy to slide into a world war by losing self-control, and I think we have good reason to hope that will not happen.
We have good experience on which to base such a hope. Since the last war came to an end there have been several occasions and incidents which could have become quite dangerous. But each time the Governments on both sides have hesitated to fight the war to a finish. I think it true to say that of the Korean War. In Korea there was a sort of tacit agreement, not written, it may be not even voiced, but it turned out that these wars were not pressed to a finish. The same might be said of Suez and in the Lebanon and in Jordan or Quemoy. The steps which anybody took were on tiptoe and non-provocative. Therefore, I think we have experience on which to base the hope that not only have we the nuclear stalemate to save us from a nuclear war, but there is a good prospect of avoiding a third world war as well.
It is on that basis that I should like to examine the White Paper which is the third of a series, and the last two each had a particular theme. In 1957 the theme was that the overriding consideration in all military planning must be to prevent war rather than to prepare for it. I see that theme carried on in the present White Paper. In 1958 the theme was that never in peace-time has the British soldier, sailor or airman a more vital part to play, and never had he deserved the respect and encouragement of those who live their daily lives under 1248 his protection more than at the present time. That theme also has been continued in this White Paper.
I was glad when the hon. Member for Bermondsey made much of the fact that their pay is on a more realistic and satisfactory basis than ever in the past, I do not think it reasonable that, in their Amendment to the Government Motion, the Opposition should complain that this White Paper is not coherent. It is perfectly coherent. It is a continuance of the general defence policy laid down in 1957. Far from agreeing with the Amendment, in which there is reference to failure, I would say that, under the guidance of my right hon. Friend, we have gone a long way towards success in moving on with this general defence policy.
My right hon. Friend has succeeded in laying the foundations for the changeover from conscription to Regular forces, and I know of nobody who is not delighted about that. Hon. Members opposite have talked about it, but in practice it has been carried out under the direction of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. It is almost impossible to overrate the importance to the Army of getting a volunteer force of men who join the Army because they choose it as their job and are not press-ganged into it so that they count the days until they can get out and go back to "Civvy Street".
My right hon. Friend would be the first to recognise that it was cutting the figure a little fine to aim at 165,000 in the first instance, but all's well that ends well, and I am delighted that he is now able to raise his sights to 180,000. That will make a tremendous difference in all the commands who will benefit from it.
Having said that, I must admit that there are some weak spots. Nothing goes right all at once. The shortage of Army officers is a big problem, and it is not at all easy to solve. We can emphasise it and ask the Government what they will do about it, but it is not easy to suggest a solution. Either last year or the year before I suggested a solution for the shortage in the Women's Services. I will repeat it. Would it not be worth while introducing a home service section of the Women's Forces? Many parents are reluctant to allow their girls to join up and go overseas, although they would 1249 be willing to allow them, or even encourage them, to go into the home Services, if they were sure that they would be called upon to go abroad only in an emergency. I put that to my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench because so long as they are failing to get the required numbers they are not entitled to brush aside roughly any helpful suggestions which are put forward.
The most serious shortage is that of Air Force officers. I suppose that that is largely the fault of the once general feeling in this House. A few years ago, hon. Members on both sides of the House were thinking in terms of a great economy in the defence Forces, and a saving of perhaps £200 million or £300 million. There was talk of the abolition of Fighter Command. That made the men feel uncertain of their future, and once serving officers begin to feel uncertain about being declared redundant, and fear that they will have to leave, there is not much encouragement for boys who are just growing up to go into that Service. There were also many accidents in training. I am happy to note that, according to the Air Estimates of this year, the training accident rate is the lowest ever.
I am falling into the mistake of doing what I ought not to do, which is to talk about detailed points which should be debated in the Service Estimate concerned. I should get back to the Amendment, and especially to the part which says:there continue to be grave inadequacies in … armament …The right hon. Member for Belper, with his experience in these affairs, knows full well that the time may come when he will be Minister of Defence. I hope that that time will never come, but if it did the right hon. Gentleman would find himself in the same position as every other Defence Minister. No Service has ever had all it wanted, and it never will. It is nonsense, therefore, for the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that nothing is being done about it. In fact, a great deal is mentioned in the Defence White Paper. The yield of H-bombers is satisfactory, for a change, and the production of the long-range rocket Blue Streak has been put in hand. We have a really good testing range— I was out there last year — at Woomera for developing these 1250 rockets and firing them. I am one of the simple-minded people who believes in testing a weapon before I put my faith in it. I like to know that the thing will work, and I very much welcome what the Government have done in conjunction with the Australian Government in developing the Woomera range.
On the Army side, we are to have a replacement of the twenty-five pounder gun and a new self-propelled gun. Awfully important too is a new transportable anti-tank gun. The lorry situation is very much improved. Some people tell me that only about 20 per cent. of our lorries last year were new, but now 80 per cent. of them in Germany are new. Strides are being taken.
The position of air transport has very much improved, and the grant in the Air Estimates for transport capacity is going up in a satisfactory way. I think I have said enough to show that the Opposition Amendment, although in theory can have some standing, is not reasonable, in the nature of things.
I would now put a question to either of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Defence or the Minister of Supply, whoever might find it convenient to answer tomorrow. It is really the question my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) put during his speech. I would feel better about it if I had the naval qualifications of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett), who made such a notable contribution to the debate earlier this evening. I was impressed, as I am sure the House was, with the point he made about the difficulty, not only for the ordinary citizen but for serving and ex-Service personnel, to keep abreast of inventions. Only about half a dozen people know about them.
I will not suggest that I have anything sensational to put forward, but I want to ask a question about the nuclear submarine "Dreadnought". After the performance of the American nuclear submarine, we should not be content to be without this important ship. When is the keel to be laid down? Perhaps it has been laid down already; if so, when will it be completed? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield talked of four or five years, but that seems a very long way off. Cannot the 1251 process be speeded up. What is the meaning of these words in paragraph 5 of the White Paper:The progress of this project is being greatly advanced by the assistance of the United States, from whom the first propulsion unit is being bought."?The question I wish to ask my right hon. Friend is: are there any strings attached to this assistance? Is there any restriction against our using it for civil purposes in connection with the Mercantile Marine? I very much hope that there is not. I ask this because J am most anxious that we should not drop out of our position as a country in atomic marine propulsion.
People tell me that there are enormous possibilities, that a ship can move faster under the water than on the surface and that it is cheaper to drive a 10,000 ton submarine across the Atlantic— that it would be two-thirds of the cost of pushing it across on the surface. I am told it will be no more expensive to build an atomic submarine liner than the "Queen Elizabeth". I hope we have not in any way sacrificed our lead in this matter because, for the sake of spending £25 million for an atomic submarine, it would be a great pity to allow ourselves to drop behind.
I have dealt with the Opposition Amendment and I have put my question to the Minister. I should like for a moment to deal with the theme of much Socialist talk. It has been mentioned in this debate and much bruited in the country. That is the policy of disengagement. The Labour Party, I understand, proposes to support the establishment of a neutral zone consisting of East and West Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. In that zone armaments would be reduced, nuclear weapons banned and foreign forces, both Russian and N.A.T.O., would be withdrawn. We should look very carefully at the military implications before we on our side lend any countenance to such a policy.
It would mean Western Germany leaving the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. This proposal of disengagement would mean Germany leaving N.A.T.O. If Germany were to leave N.A.T.O. we should have the physical separation of the German forces from the other NA.T.O. forces. There would be the complete breakdown of the system of joint com- 1252 mand, joint planning and integration which N.A.T.O. has been trying so hard to form. It would dispel any chance of a spirit of comradeship growing up between German and other N.A.T.O. troops, and one would hope that that comradeship would be possible.
On the physical side, the withdrawal of their frontier to the general line of the Rhine would deprive the air powers in Europe of their depth and room to manœuvre. That is ever more necessary in present air developments. There would be the cost of replacing west of the Rhine the airfield communications, workshops and other essential installations which British forces, American forces and other N.A.T.O. forces use. They would all have to be scrapped and shifted back. I cannot see any such disengagement, unless it was presaged by a complete political solution to our problem, being good practical politics for a country like ours which believes in supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.
It is not easy from a back bench to attempt to wind up even the first day of a debate on a complicated problem like defence, but I think we have seen and heard enough to know that, apart from the usual, automatic reaction of criticism and general complaint that all is not so good as one would wish it to be, there is fairly solid support for the Government contribution to world peace. There is fairly solid appreciation, with the exception of the Liberal Party and some back benchers of the Labour Party, of the need for Britain herself to retain the nuclear weapon and not to leave the defence of our country in this vital sphere entirely to a foreign country, even a foreign country with whom, happily, we are on such good terms as America.
In the figures of recruiting that my right hon. Friend was able to give us at the beginning of the debate there is a clear indication that the people in general of this country, given reasonable terms of service, will not be backward to join as volunteers. It is the knowledge of all of us who have served in peace and in war that, provided we keep our army in good heart, and a voluntary army in peacetime is the right army to be in good heart, those joining it will make the most of the weapons which are steadily coming into production and steadily coming into their hands.
1253 We have survived safely these last years since the war, and I believe that we are entitled to hope with good reason that we shall survive again and retain our position happily in peace and not at war.
§ Debate adjourned.— [Mr. J. E. B. Hill.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.