§ 3.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence (Mr. Peter Thorneycroft)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement on Defence, 1963, contained in Command Paper No. 1936.We are embarking upon a series of debates about defence. A few weeks ago we had a debate about the deterrent, and today we are starting on a two-day debate on some of the wider issues of defence policy, and that will be followed, as is our custom, by detailed examination, Service by Service, of the Estimates.
In 1962, we took a five-year look at defence policy, and obviously many of the basic problems, which are in part problems of geography, remain today much as they did then. Defence continues to take about 7 per cent. of the gross national product, and the deterrent continues to take about 10 per cent. of the defence budget. I should like today to concentrate in the main on some of the central problems of defence and, in particular, on the rôle of the Ministry of Defence itself. I will therefore start with some general observations on defence policy and defence equipment.
There are really three main factors, as I see it, which affect defence policy. First of all, there is the need to deter any attack upon these islands. This is an aspect which is at times forgotten. Nevertheless, I take it to be axiomatic in defence policy. Secondly, there is the need to provide a continental army and nuclear support for N.A.T.O. This is something really new in our experience in peacetime. Thirdly, there is the fulfilling of a world-wide rôle, particularly in the area between Singapore and Suez.
On any account, these are very formidable obligations and cannot, in any circumstances, be cheap. Indeed, I do not think that any major reduction in defence costs is likely so long as our commitments remain broadly as they are today. While we shall and must attempt to keep spending at around 7 per cent. of the gross national product, it must be remembered that the costs of research and development in all countries are rising faster than the increases in the gross national product. It is that single factor 32 more than any other throughout the world that is tending to force defence costs upward in this and, indeed, in almost every major country. The best way of containing that is by what is broadly called interdependence, which is by seeking to share the costs of research and development and production and, if possible, the markets with other countries. I think that that is the answer to those who say that every nut and bolt of every weapon ought to be made at home.
In dealing with the deterrent and the defence of these islands. I do not intend to repeat all that was said a month ago. There are sincere differences between the Government and the Opposition parties on this aspect of defence. I do not think that that is a bad thing. I remember Aneurin Bevan once saying that the House of Commons should not be a lot of old gentlemen leaning up against each other. When truly great issues which raise great moral and military implications arise, it is not wrong that both sides of the House of Commons should take an opposite view about them.
We intend to keep the deterrent. We intend to keep the V-bombers, to be succeeded later by Polaris and reinforced by the TSR2. As I understand it, the Opposition wishes to scrap the British deterrent. But, in our judgment, to scrap it would gravely impair the independence of this country in foreign policy and in the use of her conventional forces, and we certainly do not intend to allow Britain to be in a position where she could be just pushed around. Not only do we intend to keep the deterrent for ourselves, but we intend to subscribe it to our allies. We believe in a N.A.T.O. nuclear force.
The problems of command and control of a N.A.T.O. nuclear force are very formidable. They would have been formidable in a Europe that was united, and they are obviously the more so in a Europe which is divided. What is possible is to give to N.A.T.O., and through N.A.T.O. to Europe, a much larger say in the targeting and planning of nuclear weapons, both strategic and tactical. Indeed, the choice in the long run may be between this and the further spread of the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Thus I would say to the House that both sides should ponder well before 33 they dismiss as of no importance this conception of a N.A.T.O. nuclear force. We shall certainly do our best, with the United States and Europe, to bring a N.A.T.O. nuclear force into being, and as a first step we have offered to assign the whole of our V-bomber force to it. This has been widely welcomed in Europe. We shall support, too, the efforts which the Americans are engaged upon to bring about a mixed manned force as well.
The debate which lies ahead will, of course, deal not simply with the 10 per cent. of the defence budget which is concerned with the nuclear, but with the 90 per cent. which is concerned with the conventional, and I would like to say here a word or two about that in order to provide a background to the more detailed discussions that will take place when we come to the Estimates.
The object of a nuclear shield is, after all, to enable one to use, if need be, a conventional sword. We already have an effective sword. We are improving it and, as I shall show, are sharpening its cutting edge. Recruiting last year went well, and I can now say with confidence that we are going to have a volunteer Regular professional army. It will be attained on an all-Regular basis this year. We are working towards a figure of 180,000 United Kingdom troops, and this year will be the first year we shall see it on an all-Regular basis.
The Statement on Defence includes the announcement of purchase of a very wide range of conventional military equipment affecting all three Services, and I wish to say something about each of them.
The Royal Navy will, of course, be highly involved, for it will take over the main carrying of the deterrent after 1968, and, quite apart from the nuclear rôle, this year three new guided missile destroyers—"Hampshire", "Kent" and "London"—will come into service to join the "Devonshire", which is already in service. They will be armed with Sea Slug and Sea Cat anti-aircraft missiles. The Wasp helicopter in the "Leander" and "Tribal" class frigates, with new lightweight homing torpedoes, will be coming into service to match the full range of the latest detection equipment.
Looking further ahead, some important decisions will fall to be taken within the next eighteen months on whether to order 34 the first of a new generation of carriers. Some design work is going on on that. Meanwhile, we are examining, as it is necessary to examine, what the rôle of the Navy might be expected to look like in the 1970s and even in the early 1980s—what kind of ships and what kind of weapons will be needed to perform the sort of rôle one can envisage. These are very difficult exercises, but they are the questions we have to pose on both sides of the House in order to come to the right conclusion.
Some people have suggested that the Nassau Agreement jeopardised the Navy's chance of getting conventional ships. This is not so. The defence budget has to be considered as a whole, and other naval decisions, including carriers, have to be taken on their merits and not according to which particular Service is charged with carrying the deterrent.
I will now say a word about the Army. The acceptance trials of the Chieftain tank are due in a few weeks' time, and we hope confidently to place a production order then for delivery early in 1965. I believe that other countries will appreciate the qualities of what is our main battle tank. We are also taking steps to improve the fire power and the mobility of conventional artillery. There are two new weapons to which I would refer in this connection—the Abbot and the American 175 mm. gun. The Abbot self-propelled 105 mm. gun will replace the old 25-pounder in the close support rôle. It will give increased range and weight of fire. It will keep pace with the Chieftain and the armoured personnel carrier. It is already in production; that is to say, the long lead items are being ordered for production on the North-East coast, and it should start to arrive in 1965.
In addition to the Abbot, we wish to improve the longer range artillery, and after detailed consideration we have decided that the most suitable mobile heavy gun now available is the American 175 mm. gun, which is now in production. Subject to satisfactory contract arrangements, if an order is now placed it should come into delivery in 1964.
Then there is the signals equipment of the B.A.O.R., which has often been criticised and in respect of which there have been some delays, but, in fact, a very considerable equipment programme has been undertaken in the last few years 35 and it is now nearing completion. But we are already starting on a new comprehensive communications system which will eventually replace that now in service.
Nor should we neglect the world-wide rôle. The things I have been talking about perhaps have particular reference, if they have particular reference at all, to B.A.O.R. But, in the world-wide rôle, orders are shortly to be placed for the second and third logistic ships before the first is completed. This, incidentally, will give concrete help to the shipbuilding industry. Ail in all, this is a most formidable programme of equipment on the conventional side.
Thirdly, there is the Royal Air Force. Though the Navy will be taking over the main responsibility for the nuclear deterrent from the late 'sixties onwards, the R.A.F. will continue to perform some very important rôles. Until Polaris becomes operational, R.A.F. bombers will continue to be the front line of the deterrent, beginning to be phased out from 1970 onwards. But the Royal Air Force has many other rôles apart from that—in the battle area, to give close support; rôles concerned with reconnaissance and air defence, as well as the very important rote of transport, with which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation will be dealing in rather more detail when he speaks in the debate tomorrow.
Turning to the aircraft themselves, we lead the world today in the vertical takeoff techniques. Indeed, British aircraft are the only ones flying which are really capable of vertical take-off. Aircraft of this type are already flying, and they are being developed by the Hawker Siddeley Aircraft Group, and they will eventually replace those now in service.
Apart from this, there is the TSR2 itself, which is a long-range strike aircraft capable of delivering either high explosive or a nuclear warhead. This is due to fly early in 1964 with a weapon system capable of either a tactical or strategic rôle. Indeed, it is an aircraft unique of its type.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
Might I ask about the strategic rôle of the TSR2? What would its range be with the nuclear weapon? Would it be able to go there and back for a strategic strike?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I do not think that any country in the world has declared the range of its strategic strike, and I certainly do not propose to make a start with that now.
The Royal Air Force will, therefore, continue to have vital rôles, either independently or in co-operation with other Services, and the finest products of the aviation industry will be available to it.
Looking at the equipment which these Services have today and looking at the equipment which I have outlined, I think I can say that never in peacetime in our history have we had Services better equipped or better disposed in the various theatres which we are considering to meet any threat which they may have to be called upon to meet.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
It is so now. These three Services have today, and will have increasingly in the future, formidable striking power. Their maximum strength is deployed when they are deployed together. Modern warfare demands mobility, flexibility and fire power, and that requires the closest relationship between all three Services. A great deal has been done already to secure that relationship in joint planning of operations under the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chiefs of Staff and the joint planning system, and joint Service schools have been set up and a joint warfare organisation has been established within the Ministry of Defence.
Overseas it is already a commonplace for one Service to provide the hospitals for other Services, or for one service to take the responsibility of feeding the other Services, or for one Service to provide the petrol for all the Services. These are commonplace arrangements in most theatres. Unified commands have been set up overseas. In the view of Her Majesty's Government, the time has now come to take further important steps in this field and at the centre.
I turn, then, to the central organisation of defence, to the rôle of the Ministry of Defence itself, to its relations with the three Service Ministries and with the Ministry of Aviation. What I propose to do is to make some general reflections, to inform the House of what decisions 37 in principle we have taken and to indicate the kind of steps which must he taken in working out the many detailed problems which are involved. If I may say so, these are matters which go rather beyond party boundaries, for whatever decisions are taken about policy and whatever differences men may have about the deterrent, it is the common interest of all parties to ensure that the machinery for making and for implementing those decisions is the best that can be devised.
A great deal has been said and written about this subject over the years, and I have been assisted since I have been at the Ministry of Defence by being acquainted with it. I have also been assisted by discussions that I have had on an informal and departmental basis with Lord Ismay and Sir Ian Jacob, and I am grateful to them. But the decisions on policy are, of course, the responsibility of the Government themselves, and it is our view which I am now putting forward.
The formulation of defence policy falls into two parts. The first goes beyond defence proper. It is concerned with foreign policy. It is concerned with Commonwealth relations and colonial policy. It is concerned, as ever, with the Treasury, and it is concerned with strategy and politics on the international scale. Such problems fall within the ambit of the Defence Committee, which in many ways is the successor of the old Committee of Imperial Defence, presided over by the Prime Minister and eventually, of course, the responsibility of the Cabinet itself.
The second broad area, the area with which I am more closely concerned, deals with problems of a specifically military character. The centre of this part of the organisation is the Chiefs of Staff Committee and the subsidiary committees and staffs set up by it. This military organisation consists today of the Ministry of Defence, the three Service Departments and the Ministry of Aviation. The question is whether we should leave it as it is. Are we satisfied that these arrangements are soundly based? Obviously, any arrangements can be improved in detail, but is the broad principle right? Is this concept of four or five separate Ministries, each with its political head, the right one?
Few with experience of the Ministry of Defence, or the Service Ministries, or 38 the Ministry of Aviation, would say that these arrangements were ideal. After some experience in the Ministry of Aviation and the Ministry of Defence myself, and talking to those with much more experience than I have had, I am satisfied that real doubts exist about the present system. I might observe, too, that the Estimates Committee focussed these doubts in its Report of July, 1962, I believe that there is some substance in them.
May I try to summarise the doubts as I see them expressed? First, there is doubt as to the effective power of the Ministry of Defence to make the defence budget a real synthesis of defence problems rather than a carving up of the cake among different claimants. The second doubt is whether, when resources are under pressure, the interests of individual Services do not prevent the formulation of what could be called a real central policy. The third is whether research and development can really be effectively devised and controlled, and I may say that that is one of the most difficult problems of all.
I would emphasise that these are not doubts which are held simply by the Ministry of Defence. They are shared widely in the Service Ministries and also in the Services themselves, outside Government circles, and they have been voiced from time to time in the House of Commons. If there is substance in them, what steps should we take to remedy them? May I make a few reflections about how I think we ought to approach this problem?
First, I do not believe that we should look to an amalgamation of the Services as a solution. Fighting efficiency depends in the last resort upon the pride a man takes in his ship, in his regiment or his squadron. We do not want to blur that. What happens elsewhere, what the staff officers are doing, is by tradition a matter for cynicism among fighting men, but we want to preserve the pride in the unit which now exists.
Secondly, in action the Services are increasingly interdependent upon each other. Most operations today involve two of them, and many operations involve all three, and in my judgment this tendency will grow.
Thirdly, this situation in any event will compel the development of staffs drawn 39 from all three Services but trained to think and to act in terms of Services other than those in which they were brought up.
Fourthly, the sophistication of modern weapons and the problem of ensuring that expensive weapon systems and communications devices serve all three Services is increasingly difficult and there is a real need to centralise the operational requirement staffs of all three Services.
Fifthly, it is easy on paper to draw up a system which theoretically would give the Minister of Defence power over every aspect of defence, but the trouble is that in doing so one might so easily overload him with work and the obligation to answer Questions that he would never have any time to think about the main issues of defence policy.
Sixthly and finally, the Chiefs of Staff are the heart of any military organisation and should remain the professional heads of their Services and the principal sources of advice, together with the 'Chief of the Defence Staff, to the Minister of Defence and, of course, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
My right hon. Friend has raised a very important issue. When the Secretaries of State for the various Services have become Ministers of State, will the Chiefs of Staff have direct access to the Prime Minister?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to complete my review of what we intend to do.
Those are my reflections on the background to this problem and how in broad terms we should approach it. The main decision of principle which the Government have made is that there should be one unified Ministry of Defence and that it should be comprised of the essential core of the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry, grouped as subordinate branches to the new Ministry of Defence. The organisation will be on a Service basis, that is to say, each Service branch of the Ministry of Defence will have a Minister and a Chief of Staff responsible to the Minister of Defence. There will thus be one Department of Defence responsible for advising the Government on defence policy rather than four. I will refer to the Ministry of 40 Aviation separately, because it is a rather separate problem.
This new Department will be housed in one building. Its staffs will be grouped bringing the Ministers and the Chiefs of Staffs adjacent to each other, and the Naval, General and Air Staffs will be similarly adjacent. The fact that separate Services will no longer be in their embattled fortresses—that is to say, the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry will have disappeared under this arrangement—is certainly a step forward and much will stem from this. But some important and difficult problems arise, of which one is the question of the Ministry of Aviation.
I have served there and in the Ministry of Defence over the last two years, and I can claim to have seen something of this problem from both sides of the fence. The greater part of the research and development work of the Ministry of Aviation is work done for the Ministry of Defence and the Service Ministries on an agency basis. Clearly, military and civil aviation research and development—I think that this is common ground—ought to be kept together. It would not make much sense to have one person doing civil R. and D. and someone else doing military R. and D. The Ministry of Defence taking over research and development in full and doing the rather smaller civil part on an agency basis for another Ministry is obviously one possible solution. We have not taken a final decision on this, and indeed I think it requires some further consideration before a final decision is taken. The fact is that research and development cannot really be separated from production, and this makes it a very heavy burden indeed. There is the question of responsibility for the aircraft industry. To bring it down to practical realities, there is the responsibility for projects like the supersonic transport, or the European Launcher Development Organisation, and one hesitates a little before one adds these to the burden of the Ministry of Defence.
There is always in administrative reform the important task of seeing that the Minister of Defence is not so overloaded with detail that he cannot, no matter to what party he belongs, apply his mind to the big central decisions to which he ought to apply it.
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
This is the 64,000-dollar question. Is there to be one accounting officer for all three Services?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I do not agree that it is a 64,000 dollar question, but it is an important one and it is right to draw attention to it. I do not think we ought to make a statement about that too quickly. Obviously the Minister of Defence will have to answer for the activities of his Ministry, but there are many ways in which that can be done, and whether we have four separate accounting officers or one accounting officer for what will be a budget of £1,800 million is something which ought to be discussed in considerable detail with the Treasury before an announcement is made.
§ Mr. Paul Williams (Sunderland, South) rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to finish this.
There has been much discussion about whether all this would not be better done on a functional approach, that is, whether one Minister should be appointed to deal with all weapons, another Minister to deal with all research, or clothing, or supplies, or something of that kind. I believe that the effects of this would be grossly to overload the top, because in effect it would mean that there would be only one man in the Ministry who could ever answer any particular question—because most of them are broader than a single function—and so we reject the functional approach. I think that in any great administrative change it is important to preserve a clear chain of command, and where that chain of command exists it is a pity to lose it.
We are anxious to devise a system in which future Ministers of Defence can concentrate on the main issues of policy and intervene if they wish from choice but not from necessity in fields of administration within their Department. Under these arrangements, there will be a functional approach, but it will be on a case-by-case basis and will arise naturally from the proximity of staffs dealing with related subjects. There will also be a degree of integration at the top. Service officers above the rank of brigadier, though they will still belong to their own Service and wear their own 42 uniforms, will increasingly be doing jobs associated with all three Services. The principle to be applied is therefore a unified Ministry on a Service basis, and we think it right to put that decision of principle before the House for discussion and debate and then to listen to the views in Parliament and outside and take them into account.
Clearly there are many matters of detail to be filled in. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) mentioned the question of finance. There is the question of legislation, and there are some quite complex problems of administration. The task of solving these will fall, in the main, to the Ministry of Defence, and the necessary staffs are being assembled and, indeed, have already started work.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
There is to be a debate, but if hon. Members want to ask questions I am prepared to answer them.
§ Mr. Wigg
In view of the importance of this subject, would not it have been better if the Government, become coming to the House, had published a White Paper setting out their proposals? After all, in July, 1958, we were given an excellent White Paper, Cmnd. 476, for which one has to send hurriedly as soon as one hears rumours of the intentions of the Government. Is it not treating the House and the country cavalierly to come here and put forward proposals which, in the long run, may be a matter of life and death?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I have often heard the House of Commons complain that it was faced with all the details having been worked out without being given a chance to debate the subject. When a Minister says this is the principle we wish to follow, one Ministry on a Service basis with Service Ministers subordinate to the Minister of Defence, let us discuss and debate that principle so that later when we have heard the debate and heard the views inside and outside the House we can come forward with more detailed proposals, I should have thought that this was a proper way to treat the House of Commons.
§ Mr. P. Williams
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He will recognise that in talking of weapons 43 systems there are not two elements but in fact three. With regard to aircraft, there are the engines, the airframes and the control systems. The development of control systems can be of vital industrial and commercial importance. Where does this element fall in the outline that my right hon. Friend has developed this afternoon?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
A great many of the control systems fall within the electronics industry as it is broadly defined now. As far as the sponsoring Department is concerned, this is part of the responsibility today of the Ministry of Aviation, and it was because of these complexities that I said I thought it right to give further consideration to the precise relationship between the new Ministry of Defence, organised as I have broadly indicated, and the aviation problem. That is why I made that reference.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
On the question of machinery—and one congratulates the Government on having translated the principles we discussed ten years ago into some kind of action—what will be the position of the Board of Admiralty? Will it be in the new building, or in a separate one, and what will be its functions?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I said he would have heard me make it plain that there will be one Department of Defence presided over by the Minister of Defence. Within that there will be air staffs, naval staffs and the general staff of the Army. It may well be convenient to have an air board, a naval board, or an army board within it, but the Admiralty as we know it will disappear and the Services and the Service Ministers will be subordinate to the Minister of Defence.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton) rose—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
The hon. and learned Gentleman can ask questions during the debate and I shall be delighted to answer them. There will be public discussions of this matter. I believe that it will help and not hinder this process if these discussions take place and if we can have these views which can be expressed either here in debate—and we are to debate this subject for two days— 44 or outside, because many serving officers outside will have views to express. Our object will be to place detailed proposals before the House in the light of those discussions later in the summer, and I hope that the whole process will be well advanced by early 1964. These problems concern us all, and I hope that the House will help us in the work which lies ahead.
These then are our proposals both on policy and on administration, and I commend them to the House.
§ Mr. Paget rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
I thought that was probably so, but the appearances were that the right hon. Gentleman had sat down. If I was wrong, I will refrain a moment.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:has no confidence in a Government whose defence policies have collapsed repeatedly over eleven years and which now presents no policy to justify asking the taxpayers for the biggest defence expenditure in the peacetime history of Great Britain.We have just listened to a very lame and half-hearted speech from the Minister of Defence, in which he had nothing to say on the fundamental problems of defence policy which face the nation. It is not surprising that since he had nothing to say on those problems he seemed to have little confidence in what he was saying. The whole of his speech on the policy side was essentially a lengthy petition in bankruptcy.
Towards the end of his speech, he raised a great cloud of steam to cover the absence of any clear policy on the major issues of defence and he indulged in a lengthy philosophical ramble about general principles and about constructing the machinery for making decisions at the official level. All his proposals were completely vague. The general principles which he announced had in large part been suggested by Government after Government during the last ten years, and he seemed incapable of 45 answering any of the major questions on detail which were put to him. But what was most depressing about his speech was that he seemed neither capable nor willing to take any of the fundamental policy decisions about defence, on whose absence the weakness of our defence establishment at present depends.
I come new to this responsibility, although, like many hon. Members on both sides of the House, I spent so long in the Armed Forces that I am always tempted to give my profession as "soldier" when asked to state what it is. I have spent a great deal of time in the last eight years talking to serving officers at every level, from the Imperial Defence College down to candidates for the Staff College of Northern Command. What has impressed me again and again during those years has been the fact that Britain has never had such an able, alert and dedicated body of men to serve it in its Farces. Moreover, I doubt whether the military establishment of this country has ever been quite so open-minded and liberal in its attitude on general problems as that which we possess today.
It is also the case that we have never spent so much on our Armed Forces as we have in the last twelve years—£18,000 million. As the Secretary of State pointed out, that is a steady 7 per cent. of our gross national product, despite the very daunting economic problems that we face. Indeed, there is only one country in the Western world—the United States—which spends more. Most of our European Allies spend on defence less than half as much of their national product as we do.
Why is it that, despite the quality of the men serving us in our Armed Forces and despite the colossal sums of money which we have spent on those Forces, our units in Germany and other parts of the world still lack equipment, still are under strength, still are incapable of performing the tasks allotted to them—or succeed in performing them only at the price of taking hair-raising and quite unjustifiable risks? This is a question to which the House must address itself this afternoon. The Minister failed to throw any light on this; I will come to his suggestions later in my speech.
It is worth looking for a moment at the actual record of our defence achieve- 46 ment when we have been called upon to implement our policies over the last eleven years. Let us look back to 1956 and to the Suez operation. My hon. and right hon. Friends opposed it in principle, but the Government nevertheless decided to commit a large part of our defence services to a military operation against the Egyptian Government, and after three months of warning and preparation and in eight days' operations our forces failed to achieve a very limited objective against negligible opposition from the Egyptian Army. [Interruption.] I know that hon. Members opposite do not like to be reminded of these facts, but I suggest that they should read again General Keightley's report on the Suez operation and ask themselves honestly—because I think that some of them care for the security of this country and the morale of our Armed Forces—whether the state of affairs revealed by that report is one of which any British Government could be proud. I know that the Minister of Aviation agrees with me solidly on this—although he will recollect that his first responsibility when he came to office was to defend the conduct of the operation in question.
The Secretary of State will say, "But everything is different now. Look at Brunei." I understand that during the last N.A.T.O. Council Meeting in Paris he cited the Brunei operation as proof that we were carrying out our overseas responsibilities with panache and efficiency. There is no question that at Brunei, unlike Suez, there was prompt and effective action by forces close to the spot—although, let us admit it, the opposition that they had to face came only from a few thousand men armed with blowpipes and bows and arrows.
But let us look a little more deeply into the Brunei incident. At the first hint that the conflict there might be extended the Government were compelled to pre-empt one half of our Strategic Reserve and to plan to employ a full regiment of artillery—the Fifth Field Regiment—without its guns, in an infantry rôle, and to rob B.A.O.R. of an essential component of its Signals. Although it is true that the brigade group called upon from the Strategic Reserve to stand by a few weeks ago has now been stood down, a glance at any newspaper will show us that it may be called 47 upon today, tomorrow, next week or the week after.
Let us look at the situation in B.A.O.R. In 1955, the Government undertook to keep four divisions or the equivalent in B.A.O.R. until the end of this century. Within a year or two it had cut this commitment, after a great deal of arm-twisting of allies, to three divisions of two brigade groups and one of three brigades. I hope that some Minister in the course of his speech will either confirm or deny the rumour that the Government are planning to withdraw the third brigade from the division which contains three brigades, in spite of the fall in the number of effectives in the Rhine Army as a consequence.
Although we persuaded our allies in N.A.T.O. to agree to reduce our commitment to 55,000, we have still not achieved even that level. The situation is even worse than that because the shortages of manpower are, in the main, in vital technical arms. We have equipment which, on the whole, is inferior not only to that of our allies, the United States and Germany, but, much more important, to the enemies we may have to face in the field. The Government themselves admit in their Defence White Paper that it will be at least eighteen months before the Rhine Army has the strength in Signals that it requires in order to fulfil the rôle allotted to it by Her Majesty's Government.
The result is that the British Government have been compelled to adopt a strategic doctrine at variance with the doctrine of the alliance as a whole, so that the Rhine Army is compelled to fight on assumptions denied by the troops standing on its flanks. A few months ago the British Deputy Supreme Allied Commander at S.H.A.P.E. was saying thatthe Rhine Army must alter its dependence on nuclear weapons to come into line with General Norstad's policy of using conventional weapons first and nuclear weapons last in the event of a war in Europe,and the same week the British Corps Commander who was responsible for last year's exercise in Germany was saying,We are training for a nuclear war in Europe".Why is it that this has happened? How is it possible, despite the calibre of the 48 men who serve us, and an expenditure of £18,000 million, that after twelve years our defences are so gravely weak in Europe and overseas? The reason is thatfor twelve years we have been attempting to do more than our resources could manage and in the process we have been gravely weakening ourselves. We have, in a sense, been trying to do two things at the same time. First, we have sought to be a nuclear Power matching missile with missile and anti-missile with anti-missile, and with large—I am not suggesting that economies have not been made—conventional forces in the Far East, the Middle East and the Atlantic at the same time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January, 1958; Vol. 580, c. 1295.]I am glad to see that the Minister of Defence recalls those words. They were words used by him during the spasm of realism which he showed when he resigned from the Government in disgust five years ago. It was one spasm of reality, and what a contrast it made with the unctuous inanity which characterised most of his speech on defence policy this afternoon.
The reason is very simple and the answer to this problem is not to be found in changing the organisation of the officials who give advice to the Ministers, although this could help. The reason for this failure is that there has been no effective political direction of our defence policy from the top. The Government have usually avoided decisions altogether. When they have taken them, they have usually taken the wrong ones, so they have been compelled to take new decisions within a year or two, and, above all, they have tended to use slogans as a substitute for policy. Indeed, the Government at all stages have shown hair-raising irresponsibility in the way in which they have presented defence policy to the House and the nation.
Let us take the two central elements in our defence policy—manpower and deterrents. In 1957 the Chiefs of Staff gave advice to the Minister of Defence at the time. They said that we should need 200,000 men as the minimum to carry out our commitments. They said that we could only hope to recruit 165,000 men by voluntary service up to 1963. The Minister of Defence at the time—I regret that he is not here this afternoon to listen to the debate; it is rather like Hamlet without the grave-digger—insisted on presenting the figure of the maximum which 49 could be recruited by voluntary means as the minimum we should require to fulfil our commitments, eliciting a comment from the Chief of the Imperial General Staff at the time, which I regret that Parliamentary rule will not allow me to repeat in the House. What has happened since then? In 1962, recruiting went well—I give credit to the Government on this, one of its few achievements in the defence field—but the Minister himself suddenly decided that we needed 170,000 men as the minimum to fulfil our commitments. In 1963, without a word of explanation, buried away in the Appendix in the Defence White Paper, was the decision by the Government to allow recruiting to rise to 180,000 men. Why? Has there been some major increase in our commitments since 1957? Of course, there has not. Our commitments, in fact, are very much lower than they were then. The reason is, as we all know, that the Government think now that they can recruit 180,000 men, so they are prepared to tell the House that we really needed 180,000 men all the time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Unemployment."] Let us take a look at the deterrent problem.
In 1957 the Government wanted a virility symbol to compensate for the exposure of its military impotence at Suez. So the Secretary of State for Defence at the time decided to give first priority in our defence programme and expenditure to an independent British deterrent based on the missile called Blue Streak. He told us at that time that the end of the manned bomber was in sight. He said that Blue Streak would give us an independent British deterrent, and in the following year we spent £300 million on Blue Streak.
In 1960 the Government decided that Blue Streak was no good. Suddenly, the Minister of Defence decided that, in fact, the manned bomber had a very long future, always provided that we bought some Skybolts from the Americans. It was suggested to him at the time that perhaps the Polaris submarine represented a much more effective deterrent with a longer life, but the Minister of Defence said that the Polaris submarine was no good because there was every reason to believe that it would be detectable under seas by the time it came into effective service. 50 He got the argument completely out of his own head; nobody in the Admiralty had any reason to believe there was any truth in it. It simply suited his book to tell this to the House of Commons.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite swallowed this with the same inert complacency that they had swallowed every volte face in defence policy over the past eleven years. If we are to buy the essential component in a defence policy from the Americans, we can hardly call it an independent deterrent so we have called it "an independent contribution to the Western deterrent", although now and again the former Secretary of State for Air, who is now Minister of Civil Aviation, forgets himself and continues to refer to Britain's independent deterrent.
In 1963 the Skybolt project fell into trouble and although the American President offered Skybolt to the British Government at Nassau on most generous terms—50 per cent. of the total cost—the Prime Minister, at some time while over the mid-Atlantic, between getting into the aeroplane in London and getting out of it in the Bahamas, decided that Skybolt was no good anyway and that the detectable submarine Polaris was the real answer to the problem. Now we are committed by the Nassau Agreement to buy four or five Polaris submarines, one of which will always be in dock and the others, in a crisis, will be lurking around in easily identified and restricted areas in inland waterways, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Baltic and the Barents Sea because their missiles cannot reach Soviet targets if they are put anywhere else.
The question is now can we call this "an independent deterrent" or an "independent contribution to the deterrent." The United States President told us at Nassau that this must be an integral part of the N.A.T.O. collective forces. After all, we are to get all the missiles from the United States and an effective third of the submarines from the United States as well. But the British Prime Minister at Nassau took a different view and he is reported as making clear thatexcept where Her Majesty's Government may decide that supreme national interests are at stake, these forces will be used for the purpose of the international defence of the Western Alliance in all circumstances.51 Not surprisingly, the fact that the right to withdraw the Polaris force from the collective N.A.T.O. force was asserted by the British Prime Minister—without any indication whether or not the American President agreed with him—led to some concern among hon. Members on the benches opposite. Members of the Defence Committee of the Conservative Parliamentary Party went to see the Minister in the middle of the Recess—an almost unprecedented act. He did not come out very well on that occasion. He is reported in the Daily Express as saying at the next meeting of the Conservative Defence Committee:I made a mess of it last time I met you. I am worried about the party's opinion. I tried hard last week but this is a difficult job and I am learning the hard way.I dare say that we did not get the full report of what the right hon. Gentleman told them at that second meeting of the Defence Committee. But we were all agog to find out whether we had an independent deterrent as a result of the Bahamas meeting and when we had a defence debate in Parliament a few weeks ago we thought that here, at last, was an opportunity for the Minister of Defence to lay it on the line and make really clear what was the situation. I think it worth while reminding the House what the right hon. Gentleman told us on that occasion. These are his actual words:So far, I have dealt with the British deterrent. Independence is important, but interdependence matters, too.He added:As I have said"—here the right hon. Gentleman went rather philosophical, as he did earlier this afternoon—these are great issues. Some of my hon. Friends think that interdependence is so desirable and so attainable that we should abandon independence now. It is a very big question.The right hon. Gentleman went on, because he is very fair in balancing things when trying to deal with a serious problem of this nature:There are others who think that interdependence is so uncertain and so distant that we can trust no ally and that we must make every nut and bolt of any deterrent ourselves.First, the right hon. Gentleman set the scene. Now we are to find out what he really thinks about it. He went on: 52I ask the House to imagine the possibility that we are somewhere on the hard road between those two schools of thought.Then, delving even deeper into the broad philosophic approach, he said:The political institutions for the new world are not yet devised. Perhaps even the moral stature of the world has not yet reached that stage. Sovereignty is still a feature of national life. We still might find ourselves alone and, therefore, the case we argue is"—here it comes, clean like a dividing spear—that we must keep our independence but share our work with friends and contribute its products to our allies".—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 31st January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 1164–5.]This is not Mr. David Frost speaking, or Mr. Lance Perceval. This is the British Minister of Defence, trying to justify to the House the expenditure of £400 million. It is absolutely typical of the dishonest, misleading, equivocal way in which this Minister of Defence and his predecessors have dealt with every major issue of defence policy in the last eleven years.
It is easy to attribute the chaos for our defence policy to the fact that we have had so many Defence Ministers over the last twelve years. We have had nine. Some have been appalling and some have been good. The noble Lord, Lord Head, was a good Defence Minister. But he could not stomach his position under the present Prime Minister and so he resigned and passed the responsibility over to the right hon. Gentleman who held that office in 1957. The plain fact is—I think this emerged clearly from what was said by the Minister of Defence this afternoon—in one sense we have had nine Defence Ministers in the last twelve years. In another sense we have had none at all, because we have never had a Minister who has taken the necessary decisions and seen to it that the three Services carried them out.
Moreover, we have never had a Minister of Defence who was master in his own house. Not only have his three Service Ministers been free to do more or less as they liked, but the Prime Minister has insisted on taking the central decisions himself. And let us remember that the Prime Minister has been there for the last six years continuously.
The tragedy about the Prime Minister—I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not present this afternoon; I 53 should have thought this an important enough occasion to justify his presence—is that although the right hon. Gentleman served in the Forces and was at the Ministry of Defence, he does not take defence seriously. This has emerged again and again during his tenure of office. He told us, "There ain't gonna be no war"—"Its all got up by the papers". These casual, offhand remarks portrays his attitude to the whole problem. He is not interested in defence policy. He is simply interested in wriggling through the series of political crises with which he finds himself faced from time to time. Every time there is a crisis in the 1922 Committee we get a new statement of defence policy. It is the most expensive public relations exercise in British history. The extraordinary thing is that it is directed simply at a dozen hon. Members on the back benches opposite. It has cost us £18,000 million over the last twelve years.
The nadir of this situation was reached in the defence "Blank Paper" with which we were presented last week. The taxpayers are being asked to pay the highest defence budget in British history. The increase over last year is £116 million, with no policy whatever put before Parliament or the people to explain or to justify the expenditure. There are 200 words of platitudinous nonsense at the beginning and that is the lot.
The Minister of Defence claims that, after all, we issued the "Next Five Years" defence policy statement last year, so why do it again? I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why we should do it again—because the situation has changed fundamentally since last year. The Skybolt project has collapsed with a tremendous reduction in the rôle of the Royal Air Force. But there is no reflection of that in the Defence White Paper. On the other hand the Polaris submarine project is in, at a likely cost of £400 million to the Royal Navy over the next ten years. But apart from a reference to the expenditure of perhaps a million or so next year, there is no indication of that whatever in this year's White Paper. The major decision of policy so far as the Army is concerned—the right of the Army to recruit up to 180,000 men—is put before us, contradicting what was said last year, 54 with not a word of political explanation as to how or why it is possible.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
Will the hon. Gentleman say what was said last year?
§ Mr. Profumo
That is not true. I did not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. But I think he had better look at the facts. We have never mentioned a ceiling for the Army.
§ Mr. Healey
In addition to the fact that these major changes, which surely are implied by the failure of the Government's policy last year or its new policy this year, are not reflected at all in the Statement on Defence for 1963, we have what the right hon. Gentleman has described as a formidable programme for equipment. What we want is some formidable equipment, not a formidable programme. The plain fact is that this Statement on Defence is—as year after year such statements have been—largely a catalogue of "pie in the sky", of weapons which do not exist, whose prototypes do not exist, which are not operational and, so far as we know, may never be.
There is one novelty about this year's Defence White Paper, and that is the reference in the Navy Estimates to a cruiser which disappears even as we look at the Estimates. One of the three modern and versatile cruisers referred to in this year's Defence White Paper is H.M.S. "Blake". The hull, I believe, was laid down in 1940. The vessel was re-equipped at a cost of £15 million, and has just had its crew provided and captain appointed. Last Thursday we heard that it is to be put into "moth balls" in June.
Worst of all and the most staggering deception in the history of Defence White Papers is what has happened in the last twelve months about the TSR2. The TSR2 was presented to us in last year's Defence White Paper as a tactical weapon. It turns up in this year's Defence White 55 Paper as a strategic weapon. No wonder that the Minister of Defence was so coy about discussing its range when he was questioned during his speech by my hon. Friends. The only ground whatever for believing that the TSR2 is a strategic rather than a tactical weapon is the reference to the wonder bomb developed with the Buccaneer and now transferred to the TSR2.
It is difficult to discuss wonder bombs when we know nothing more about them, but it looks as though this is a powered artillery shell which will increase the range of the TSR2 by—at the outside—ten miles. It cannot possibly be presented as in any sense turning the TSR2 from a tactical to a strategic weapon. We do not know if the TSR2 will exist. It has not even flown yet. What we do know is that if it does and if these bombs are based on the TSR2 it will cost about £400 million to make such a system fully effective.
This is not reflected in any way in the Defence White Paper. Are the Government telling us that we are to spend £400 million on the Polaris deterrent and £400 million on the TSR2? If so, where is the money to come from? Are we to increase the percentage of the national product which we spend on defence or cut still further the equipment of our conventional forces, which many of us on this side of the House regard as infinitely more important than the attempt to maintain an independent deterrent?
Many will echo the question asked by so many defence correspondents in commenting on the White Paper, is it perhaps the case that reference to the TSR2 as a strategic weapon is another attempt by the Government to gull their back benchers by misleading and dishonest statements about the capability of weapons? I think that at some stage in the debate the Minister of Defence, or one of his spokesmen, should tell us what it implies. It is unbelievable that the Minister should not have referred to or explained all this in his speech. Are we to spend a colossal amount of money to make the TSR2 an effective strategic weapon and, if so, is there any chance whatever that we shall succeed?
I suspect that the answer to both those questions is no. I suspect that the 56 Government know it but are so frightened of a handful of back benchers on the Government side that they are not prepared to admit it in the Estimates this year. This would be funny if it were not tragic, but it is a tragic business. It is tragic for everyone in the country because it takes from six to nine years to implement a defence policy. As the Minister of Defence knows very well, he and the nation as a whole are paying now for bad decisions taken by the right hon. Gentleman who was Minister of Defence in 1957. It will be we on this side of the House and the nation as a whole who will pay over the next five, six, or maybe nine years for the total vacuum in defence policy into which this Government have finally come to rest in 1963.
What we believe is that it is vitally urgent to get this defence problem straight, to take the decisions on policy and weapons which will enable our forces to fulfil their proper rôle. I believe that there are a few simple principles which are of decisive importance and which so far the Government have consistently ignored. The first one, which the right hon. Gentleman came near to admitting in his speech, is that defence policy must be the servant and not the master of foreign policy and colonial policy. I confess that the Government and successive Ministers of Defence have been in difficulty here because the Government's foreign policy has been as inconsistent as their defence policy.
Over the last ten years they have been consistently unable to decide whether their future lay with Europe in the Common Market, and therefore had to curry favour with Dr. Adenauer and President de Gaulle, or whether their future lay in developing N.A.T.O. into a genuine Atlantic community. It is absolutely typical of the Government's behaviour that they should have made the Nassau Agreement a few days before the crucial talks in Brussels without attempting to acquaint General de Gaulle with decisions being made between the Prime Minister and President Kennedy at Nassau.
The Government have been equally incapable of deciding whether they wanted to disengage from Africa and Asia or to maintain their imperial heritage, or whether they wanted to stop the spread of atomic weapons or lead in a small 57 Power atomic arms race. What I want to do is to try to answer the fundamental questions of policy which must decide the shape of our defence forces. They are questions which, to be fair, the right hon. Gentleman himself asked. First, how do we ensure our survival as a nation? Secondly, how do we protect our interests overseas, interests which are less than vital? It seems that on the question of our survival as a nation there is a fair amount of common ground between the two sides of the House as to what the main threats are.
The major threat lies in the continuation of the arms race itself. This was frankly admitted by the right hon. Gentleman who was Minister of Defence in 1957, who had some glowing paragraphs about the importance of disarmament. But, if we want to stop the arms race, we have to decide what the first steps are to be and how the defence policy will contribute to them. There can be no question of what they are. The first is to stop the arms race between the great Powers, America and Russia, and the second is to stop the spread of atomic weapons to small Powers. Our defence policy must be compatible with those two basic aims.
§ Mr. Healey
I am going to explain exactly, and I am glad that the hon. Member appears ready to listen. Until disarmament is achieved, our national survival depends on our membership of N.A.T.O. I do not think the Minister of Defence, or his hon. Friends—or most of them—would contest that. It also depends on N.A.T.O.'s ability, on the one hand, to deter war in Europe, and, on the other, to halt it without race suicide if deterrence should fail. Surely one major fact stands out a mile. It is that the American thermonuclear capacity for deterring aggression is infinitely more than sufficient for its rôle. For most of this decade the United States will have 700 B.52 bombers and supersonic B.58 bombers, many A.3 Js, which are supersonic carrier-based bombers, several hundred Atlas and Titan based missiles, 950 Minutemen and 656 Polaris missiles. A single B.52 with a 20 megaton bomb 58 could cause more destruction to the Soviet Union than the whole of the allied air forces caused to Germany during World War II. It is ludicrous in the face of this American capacity to talk about any need for a contribution from America's allies in this field, but I do not deny that there is a serious—
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
I must have misunderstood the hon. Member. Is not this great American armament what he is seeking to get rid of by his first objective of disarmament?
§ Mr. Healey
I rather welcome this type of interjection because it reveals the intellectual incapacity, or lack of imagination—those are the only conceivable phrases to use—of hon. Members opposite. Of course we are seeking to get rid of these armaments, but only on condition that the Russians get rid of their armaments and in conditions which will enable us to look forward to a secure peace under some sort of international control.
There is a serious political problem, nevertheless. I feel that the military capacity of the United States is more than enough for every potential need, but there is the fact that our ability to rely on the United States using this capacity in any case of conflict is liable to be reduced if the result of using this capacity is 100 million or 200 million deaths in the United States itself.
The fact that the Soviet Union now has a large and invulnerable second strike retaliatory capacity of its own makes the old Dulles doctrine of massive retaliation far less credible than it used to be. My own opinion is that many fears of the declining credibility of the American deterrent are grossly exaggerated, and half the time, of course, Ministers in the present Government say that they are exaggerated. It is very doubtful whether Russia will risk challenging this capacity even if the risk of its being used is as low as, say, 5 per cent., particularly after Russia's experience in Korea, when she seemed to be given the green light by the United States to permit the North Korean invasion and then America hit back with almost everything she had.
The trouble is that none of America's allies is likely to remain content with the situation if the credibility of America's 59 assistance in case of conflict has sunk as low as 5 per cent. The problem is not a military problem or a problem of hardware; it is a political problem, a problem of psychology and a problem which has lain at the root of the trouble of the Atlantic Alliance for at least the last six or seven years. We on our side of the House believe that there are two lines along which this problem can be met. In the first place, we believe—and I gather that the right hon. Gentleman agreed with us here—that what is most needed is more co-operation and information for the European allies in the organisation and planning of the United States European nuclear forces. This, I understood, was agreed at the Athens meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council, among others, by Ministers sitting opposite.
I do not believe that the answer to this problem is a multilateral force under American veto, such as seems to be under discussion at the present time at meetings with Mr. Livingston Merchant on the Continent, because this would not add in any way to the deterrent capacity of the Western Alliance, although it might in some ways assist the American balance of payments. But I equally believe that there is no answer in having a lot of allied national nuclear forces which can be withdrawn from collective use in the case of an emergency, because I believe that this would both undermine the solidarity of the alliance in a most fatal way and greatly increase the risk of war.
It seems to me that the only answer on the military field is to bring America's allies into much more intimate consultation in the organisation of America's nuclear forces and the use to which they will be put. In return for America giving us a greater share in the control of her nuclear force, we on our side of the Atlantic must be prepared to reduce America's liability to use her nuclear forces by raising the threshold at which N.A.T.O. is compelled to use atomic weapons in response to a conventional attack and also by withdrawing atomic weapons back from the front where their use would be inevitable in any conflict. This has been American policy since the change of Government in Washington over two years ago and, as far as I can understand ti, it has been N.A.T.O.'s policy, too, over the last two years.
60 Personally, I tend to feel that American defence officials exaggerate the size of the conventional forces which would be required to deter or suppress a local conflict in Central Europe. But I ask the Government, if N.A.T.O., for reasons of pure collective self-interest, decided to adopt a non-nuclear policy and to redeploy its atomic weapons in order to make this possible, is there not everything in the world to be said for trying to make such unilateral action bilateral through negotiating an agreement with the Warsaw Pact Powers to control arms and forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain?
This is an idea which was put forward by the Prime Minister several years ago when he met the Soviet Head of Government in Moscow. It is an idea which has been put forward by General Norstad—the idea of limiting and controlling arms and forces on both sides. One variant of it has been put forward by the Polish Foreign Minister, Rapacki. Why do not the Government now take this question up again? I can understand that while they were trying to overcome resistance in Bonn and Paris to our entry into the Common Market, they played it down, but this inhibition should have disappeared by now, and thinking in this field in Germany is changing very rapidly.
Why do not the Government respond to the Soviet offer of a non-aggression pact between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact by saying that this is something about which we can negotiate but let us make it meaningful by tying to it an attempt to control and to reduce forces on both sides of the iron curtain, so that the whole thing makes sense? I believe that if we took an initiative on these lines there would at least at the moment be a great opportunity of getting a response in Washington as well as in Moscow. I believe that it would help to solve our most serious military problem in Central Europe by ruling out the possibility of a massive surprise attack and I believe, furthermore, that it would provide an invaluable pilot project for general disarmament.
The reason that the Government have taken no initiative in this field, I am afraid, is their obsession with the question of the British nuclear deterrent. 61 I ask the Government—it is not too late—to reconsider their attitude here. It is clear that they will never have an independent deterrent now, whether they like it or not. Why on earth do they not admit this and revise the rest of their policy accordingly? It is no good the Prime Minister saying, as he said in the last debate, "We are satellites if we do not have our own deterrent." Are the Germans satellites if they do not have their own deterrent? Are the Italians satellites if they do not have their own deterrent? Are the Turks satellites if they do not have their own deterrent? And yet if they have their own deterrent, how long does anyone think the Western Alliance will last?
Moreover, as long as we continue to chase after the will-o'-the-wisp of nuclear independence we shall never be able to afford the equipment required for a conventional strategy in Central Europe and, therefore, any form of arms control with the Russians will be out of the question.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I want to make sure that I have this right. I understand that he is against the N.A.T.O. nuclear deterrent, he is in favour of taking tactical nuclear weapons away from the front line altogether and he would abandon Polaris. Am I right about that?
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman is right on the last two points, and as for the N.A.T.O. deterrent, it all depends on what is meant by that. If the right hon. Gentleman means the type of joint consultation and planning which he endorsed in his own speech and which was agreed at the Athens meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council, I am solidly in favour of that. If he means the proliferation of independent national forces, then I am solidly against that. If he means a multilateral national force still subject to the American veto, then I can see no military or political function which it could possibly perform.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I want to get this absolutely straight. The hon. Gentleman would withdraw our offer to assign the V-bombers to N.A.T.O.?
§ Mr. Healey
No. Possibly the best answer to the problem of our obsolescent V-bombers is for their remaining life to assign them to the alliance nuclear force 62 and let them be completely integrated with the S.A.C. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to make this offer.
§ Mr. Healey
They are not fully integrated, for we retain the right to withdraw them at any time. We can withdraw them not only in a major national emergency but even to take them to Brunei if we wish to do so.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Do I understand the hon. Gentleman to say that the only circumstances in which he would never use them would be in our own defence?
§ Mr. Healey
I tell the right hon. Gentleman—and this has been stated often from these benches and it is a view widely held on both sides of the House, outside the House and throughout N.A.T.O.—that it is impossible to conceive a situation in which Britain would be threatened alone with massive nuclear attack by the Soviet Union and would even be given time to operate her deterrent in her own defence. If the Prime Minister is seriously suggesting that he is spending £800 million to prepare against every eventuality, I suggest that he goes and looks for another job. If there is one thing one cannot do in defence it is to prepare for every conceivable thing which any lunatic anywhere in the world might ever do.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely) rose—
§ Mr. Healey
I must get on. I appreciate the honour which hon. Members opposite do me in taking our defence policy a great deal more seriously than they take that of the Government. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), and his hon. Friends will have ample opportunity of asking these sort of questions in about a year's time. They will be able to ask them twice a week for an hour.
In my opinion—and this view is widely held by people who have thought about defence, including hon. Members opposite and independent experts—the Government's determination to maintain the fiction of an independent British deterrent is undermining the solidarity of N.A.T.O. and is thereby producing just the dangers against which it seeks to guard. It 63 decreases America's readiness to trust in Europe and European readiness to trust in the United States.
§ Mr. Healey
I know that my speech may be too long for some hon. Members opposite. It would be much better if some of them would contain themselves while I am speaking. It is criminal for the Government to undermine N.A.T.O. in this way, now of all times, when the collapse of the Brussels negotiations has meant that N.A.T.O. is the only instrument by which we can hope to bind Western Germany to the West and prevent the whole of Western Europe coming under the spell of the disastrous doctrines of General de Gaulle.
I will conclude with a word or two about the general principles which the Minister referred to in the latter part of his speech; the question of integration. All of us have agreed in principle for years that we need far closer integration among our Services than we have now. I urge the Minister to remember that there is no institutional gimmick which will achieve this. Integration does not mean dividing the Defence Estimates into roughly three equal sizes and combining them together in the same cover, as the Government have done this year—as an indication, they say, of their devotion to the idea of integration.
Integration does not even mean housing the defence staffs under the same roof like the Pentagon, although we were intrigued by the Minister's suggestions in that respect and some of what he said might be helpful. The United States had this type of integration for years, yet the "civil war" between the three American Services was more savage than the civil war between our own. That civil war went on until something happened—and what happened was that for the first time in their history the United States found a man, a Secretary for Defence, who was prepared to knock the heads of the Services and their arms suppliers together. I refer, of course, to Mr. McNamara.
Such integration as there has been in the United States has resulted from clear political direction from the top, and that is the only way in which we will get in- 64 tegration in this country. There is no answer in setting up a Parliamentary Defence Committee or a Royal Commission on defence. You will not solve defence policy problems in that way, although both of them may have a rôle to play if we have a rational defence policy. The plain answer is that there is no substitute for decisions at the top by the elected representatives of the British people. The only answer to our defence problems is firm decisions by the Prime Minister on the task which our forces must perform in supporting our foreign policy and firm decisions by the Minister of Defence on how the Services should work together to provide relevant and efficient forces.
The trouble is that our defence policy has failed over the last twelve years because these decisions have not been made, either in No. 10 Downing Street or in Storey's Gate. The Government have now reached an advanced stage of general paralysis. It was evident from the Minister's speech today that the Government no longer have the will or the power to take decisions. It is said that a chicken can stagger about for quite a time after its head has been chopped off. This Government is no longer capable of any form of life, except this macabre illusion of vitality. I suggest that the morale of our Armed Forces, the security of our nation and the survival of our alliances demand that they now resign.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Brigadier Sir John Smyth (Norwood)
I should like to begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on his appointment as Shadow Minister of Defence, although I was disappointed with his speech. It was a long speech and, while he was speaking, I recalled that he had been in the forces for a considerable time. He would have done far better to have spent more of his time being constructive about the Armed Forces instead of devoting half his speech to political party cracks which really wasted the time of the House.
I had the horrid feeling while he was speaking that the hon. Member was taking the line that he was God's gift to the world on everything to do with defence, for he repeatedly said things like, "This is the only answer" and "This is the answer to this" and "This is the answer 65 to that". Defence is not as easy as that. It is not an exact science about which the hon. Member for Leeds, East has all the answers. I apologise if I have misjudged him, but I must tell him that he gave us the impression that he knew all the answers and was announcing what he was going to do about America and Russia and how he intended to bring them together.
§ Mr. Healey rose—
§ Sir J. Smyth
Defence is a much more difficult problem. I must refer, firstly, to my right hon. Friend's speech, for it was an extremely important one on some subjects of lasting effect and interest. He began by referring to the success of the recruiting campaign, and I believe that all hon. Members would wish to congratulate the Government, particularly the Secretary of State for War, on that success. I am sure equally that a number of hon. Members have done much to achieve that success, and the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) has done a lot in this direction. However, the ordinary soldier in the ranks is probably our best recruiting officer. If he does not speak well of his Service we may be sure that a lot of people who have joined would not have done so.
The hon. Member for Leeds, East paid a generous tribute to the excellence of the men in the forces. They were, he said, alert and efficient, but, unfortunately, he then went on to say that almost everything was wrong with the forces. In my experience one does not get alert, efficient, capable men in a show which is as inefficient as he tried to make it out to be.
My right hon. Friend's approach to the central organisation of defence was admirable. He threw it into the pool of discussion and we shall have an opportunity of full debate upon it. This is not a new idea. Thirty years ago Sir Ian Jacob and I were discussing it together at the Staff college. Many people have talked about it but few people have ever gone much further with it. My right hon. Friend has taken a step further and I congratulate him on not overdoing it and on not trying to integrate the actual men in the forces but keeping them as essential separate units. This is very important, particularly in our long service 66 voluntary defence force. It was always of importance to us and was also of the greatest importance to the Indian Army which in two world wars has been the greatest voluntary defence force in the world.
The hon. Member for Leeds, East and others have criticised the fact that the policy statement which was announced in last year's White Paper was not included at the beginning of the Statement this year, despite the fact that we had a memorandum on the Nassau Agreement and we had a long debate on it on 30th and 31st January. It is a matter of opinion whether this should have been done, but certainly the Minister has made our defence policy absolutely clear to the House and to the country. The party opposite may not agree with it but the policy has been debated time and time again and I am certain that it is absolutely clear to the country at large. I agree with repetition and with the Government policy. Therefore, I should have liked to have seen a condensed edition of last year's White Paper placed at the beginning and introducing this year's Statement on Defence.
The expenditure, of course, is tremendous and we must watch it very carefully. It is now 7 per cent. of the gross national product, but when the Labour Party went out of office it was between 9 per cent. and 10 per cent., which was a great deal too much. It is extremely important that the cost of the nuclear deterrent should be kept to 10 per cent. of the whole budget.
§ Mr. Wigg
I have never heard the right hon. and gallant Member make a more unfair statement than that. He knows perfectly well that the Labour Government went out of office at the time of the Korean War and he and his right hon. Friends were criticising and pressing the Labour Government not because they were spending too much but because they were not spending enough. For the right hon. and gallant Member to compare the ratio of expenditure now with that at the time of the Korean War is utterly unfair.
§ Sir J. Smyth
The hon. Member is quite wrong over this. We, of course, supported the Government in power, as we always do over things of great national 67 importance. We supported the Government when they undertook, as they had to do, an increase and a re-organisation of the Armed Forces.
§ Mr. Sidney Silverman (Nelson and Colne) rose—
§ Sir J. Smyth
I cannot keep on giving way in the circumstances. I am answering the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). As soon as we came to power we started to reduce that three-year budget which the Labour Party had introduced in 1950–51, because we thought that it would lead to too great expenditure. Anyway, 9 per cent. of the gross national product is too much.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I wished to intervene only on a point of fact, and I know that the right hon. and gallant Member would not wish to get his facts wrong. I happen to have been one of the half-dozen people who were opposed to the Labour Government in 1950 when they raised the armament expenditure as a result of the Korean War. I am not defending or supporting that now, but I remember very well that I was persuaded not to vote against it because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) put down a Motion of censure on the Labour Government at that time. His ground was, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has just said, that the Labour Government were not spending enough, and as I could not vote for that I had to vote for the Labour Government.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I must get on with my speech, but I think that we would all agree that the expenditure this year is very heavy and that we must watch it continually or we may lose the cold war on the economic front.
The hon. Member for Leeds, East made a great deal of heavy weather about the independent deterrent. If the hon. Member wants to read a very good statement on it he will find it in what is in my opinion the best speech ever made on the subject from the Front Bench opposite. This was Mr. Gaitskell's speech on defence on 1st March, 1960. He deprecated very much our excessive dependence on the United States. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will re-read that speech. I have read it again over 68 the weekend. It was a most excellent speech.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The right hon. and gallant Member will have read the whole of the speech, which included very powerful arguments against as well as for an independent deterrent. Mr. Gaitskell set the arguments out for and against at that time.
§ Sir J. Smyth
As the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned it, I should like to recall to the House what Mr. Gaitskell said:The real case for our having our own independent nuclear weapons is fear of excessive dependence upon the United States … if we got into the situation—it may be very hypothetical, but one has to consider these things—in which we had had a little difficulty with the Americans, and the Russians were threatening us over some issue about which we felt strongly, I cannot help feeling that if the Russians knew that we had the power to inflict fairly serious damage on them it would be a factor that they would take into account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1136–8.]There is a great deal more and I suggest that the right hon. Member for Smethwick should re-read it. He may have forgotten some of it.
§ Sir J. Smyth
Some people, and particularly the hon. Member for Leeds, East, decry the effectiveness of our V-bomber force. I do not think that many people would agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, East, and I remember only a year or two ago the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), who is not now in his place, saying what a powerful force we had in the V-bombers. He said at Bristol:If the Royal Air Force got an order tonight to launch a sudden attack against Russia they could lay the country waste from end to end.No one wants to lay the country waste from end to end, but this is a deterrent and it is the deterrent effect that is so important.
Now I want to say something about N.A.T.O. We have committed about half of our defence forces to N.A.T.O. and we really know little about how N.A.T.O. is organised and what contributions the other nations are making.
§ Sir J. Smyth
I think that we ought to know more about that, and so does the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He has said so on a number of occasions, including on 11th February in a question to the Lord Privy Seal. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we could have details of the contribution that France had made in troops and aircraft over the last five years. The reply was that it was confidential and the House of Commons could not be told. But we discuss every detail of our own contribution to N.A.T.O. here in the House and this is all repeated in other countries and read in Russia and everywhere else. It is time that we were given more information and were allowed to discuss it.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred to me; otherwise I should not have interrupted. Has it occurred to him that the reason why the Minister said that it was confidential and he could not advise me what the French contribution to N.A.T.O. was is that the French are, in fact, making no contribution?
§ Sir J. Smyth
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for that interruption, but I shall not comment on it.
I come now to the difference of opinion between the two sides of the House on the essential matter of the increase of conventional forces in Europe. Both the Labour and Liberal Parties are strongly in favour of a very large increase in our conventional contribution to N.A.T.O. In a way, this has become a sort of parrot cry, that all will be well if we have more men permanently stationed in Europe. Marshal Foch, the great French commander, was very fond of posing this question in response to every problem. "De quoi s'agit-il?"—what is the object? I pose that question in response to the contentions of both parties opposite that we should pour more men into Europe.
Last Thursday, the Leader of the Opposition put a question to the Prime Minister about this:Will the night hon. Gentleman at any rate make clear that the policy of the Government is, and should be, based on the principle that the conventional forces of N.A.T.O. should be adequate to resist conceivable attacks so that we are not automatically driven into escalation and into the use of nuclear weapons?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February 1963; Vol. 672, c. 1444.]70 The important words are "adequate to resist conceivable attacks". We know the number of divisions the Russians could put into Europe, if they wanted to, and—the right hon. Member for Easington has said this before—we should have, at least, to treble the forces we have in N.A.T.O. to compete at all.
The important point is that an attack by Russia on that scale would be total war, and it would be evident to everyone that that was so. It would lead inevitably, very quickly, to global nuclear war. We must give the Russians credit for more sense than that. The most powerful weapon in the world today is, of course, the nuclear weapon, and the most powerful factor in the world of arms today is the ability to have, with the nuclear weapon, the first strike. We always talk about first-strike weapons and second-strike weapons, and we assume, very rightly, that we should never be a first-strike nation. On the other hand, we always imagine that it is possible that the Russians might be, and, of course, if they were, they would have an enormous advantage. They will not throw away all that advantage in order to become embroiled in total war by launching 100 divisions or more against us in Europe.
The role of N.A.T.O. has been clearly defined on many occasions, notably by General Norstad. He was quoted in The Times of 4th November, 1958, and he said quite clearly then that the rôle of N.A.T.O. wasto impose a break in continuity after an incident, to force a pause".In a later year, in a radio interview, he said:We do not contemplate the possibility of great land campaigns. Our task is to defend with relatively small forces and using all weapons.I maintain that we should never give Russia the impression that we are willing to wage a large-scale conventional war in Europe. This would be quite fatal because it might encourage them to try it on, and that would lead inevitably to global nuclear war.
The other day, at Question Time, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said some very wise things when he was being asked about whether we might fall into a global war by accident or owing to circumstances beyond our control. He reminded the House that, in 1914, when we 71 had mobilisation, counter-mobilisation and large standing armies, that was really more or less what we did; things got beyond our control, as they always do when one has large standing armies in close contact with one another. I have always regarded that as dangerous. I feel that these words of Shakespeare explain the difference in danger between the nuclear deterrent and the conventional deterrent, the large standing Army:Thy tooth is not so keen, Because thou art not seen, Although thy breath be rude".The nuclear breath is rude enough, but it is not seen; it is not something which constantly obtrudes upon one's attention.
Now, a word about our Strategic Reserve. In my view, it is more important today for Britain to increase the strength and mobility of her Strategic Reserve than to pour more men into the B.A.O.R. in Europe. The right hon. Member for Easington has always been very frank about the situation at the time of the Korean War when we had no Strategic Reserve but we had a very large Army. On 28th February, 1961, in a defence debate—I admire him for his frankness—the right hon. Gentleman said:I was Secretary of State for War when we had 400,000"—men in the Army—and I was Minister of Defence when, I think, we had rather more. It took us all we knew … to enable us to send a brigade to Korea."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1961; Vol. 635, c. 1458.]As we know, if it had not been for the Americans, the war would have been over before the brigade had got there. I believe that the threat facing us now might well be not in Europe but much farther east. There is a big Communist softening-up process going on all the way along the Himalayan barrier. Tibet has already been absorbed. Nepal and Bhutan are under very great pressure.
Recently, I received a letter from Sir Olaf Caroe, who was Foreign Secretary in the Indian Government some years ago and who is an expert on that part of the world. He said:The Nepalese economy has always depended on the pay and pensions of Gurkha soldiers. Cutting the Gurkha brigade cannot fail to have the worst possible moral effect in Nepal and will incline its rulers away from the West. There is more than a possibility that China will enlist the soldiers we do not want.72 Certainly, they are making every effort to do so. The Chinese campaign against India is by no means over just because there is a pause now. If India called for help, we might have to use our Strategic Reserve even as far East as India.
We have heard very little about the sort of conditions on the North-East Frontier of India which obtained when the Chinese did attack. I have received an interesting report from a company commander who gives information of the kind we should like to have in the training of any troops who had to go out there. This major was the only survivor of all the company commanders in the attack on his battalion which took place in October, 1962. The battalion arrived on the North-East Frontier only just before the attack took place. It was completely untrained in mountain warfare and had no warm clothing to stand the climate at those heights.
When the battalion arrived in the front line, it saw the Chinese picquets and the Chinese were extraordinarily friendly. They offered tea to the battalion and they had tea parties together every day until the attack took place. That is 'the Pearl Harbour and Cuban technique, so to speak, and we must be prepared for it. The attack came as a complete surprise to the Indian Brigade. I know that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will be horrified to hear that half the Chinese had not any weapons. They followed in the rear of the attacking waves and picked up the weapons from the casualties. They kept going forward in the same sort of way that the Japanese went forward when opposing our forces in Burma.
We should be prepared for such eventualities, and we should not be bemused with the Western Front, with Europe, all the time. There are many other places where the Strategic Reserve might be much more useful and important. Although we must be eternally vigilant in Europe and keep our forces there in a high state of readiness, it is, to my mind, even more important that our Strategic Reserve should be strong, mobile, and always alert and ready. I most warmly support the Motion.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I have often spoken either just 73 before or just after the right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth). I listen with pleasure and respect to what he has to say, although I do not always agree with him. He asked what was the purpose of increasing our conventional forces, particularly in Germany. I thought that he gave most of the answer to that himself. He spoke of the need to increase the strength of the Strategic Reserve which is, of course, under strength except for the Parachute Brigade. He spoke of the dangers on the Indian Frontier, but the only help of any use there is conventional help. We want to increase the conventional forces of this country in order to meet just the sort of danger about which he has been speaking, to build up the Strategic Reserve, and, as he said, to ensure that this country does not have to meet any level of conventional attack in Europe by instant resort to nuclear weapons.
Many people must have come to the House today hoping that we should have a few words on defence policy from the Minister of Defence. We had nothing in the White Paper and we looked forward eagerly to today when we thought that the Minister would expound the Government's policy. I recommend the House to look at this document, which is the statement by Mr. McNamara before the House Armed Services Committee. It is a formidable, serious and professional statement on defence. It compares very curiously with this document, which is all that the House of Commons has been given. It has some nice pictures in it and might be sent out as an advertisement either for holiday camps or for military equipment of some sort, but it does not compare with the detail which the American Congress is given. The contrast is striking and is very damaging to this Government.
However, the Minister of Defence told us some very important changes which will be made in the structure. Why were not these mentioned in the White Paper? When was the White Paper prepared? Even the Bahamas Agreement is hardly mentioned in the White Paper. Is this meant to be a serious statement of the Government's latest thinking on defence, or is it something which was put together probably before Christmas and which takes no notice of events? Perhaps the Government will 74 say,"Nothing has changed. We have laid down our policy. Why should we alter it?" Do not Cuba, the war in India and the failure of Skybolt make any difference? What would make any difference to the Government's policy on defence? The truth is that the policy is irrelevant and therefore it does not matter what happens in the world.
I welcome a unified Ministry of Defence and I think that the Minister was right to reject what I think he called the functional approach. I think he is right to keep the Service element but to subordinate the three Services plus the Ministry of Aviation much more firmly to the overall concept of the Ministry of Defence. But the Ministry of Defence must have some overall policy if it is to be effective. It is no good setting up machinery unless there is some policy to implement.
Are we to get a White Paper on this matter? The Minister said today that he would outline the general principles, but will these be laid before the House in more detail and, if so, when? Are we to hear anything about logistic, medical and communications changes? It might be extremely important and useful if there were greater co-ordination in these spheres between the three Services? Are we to hear anything about coordination with foreign policy, because if defence policy is to have any validity it must not only be co-ordinated with foreign policy but subordinated to it?
The Minister said in his speech that it was a good thing to have some difference of opinion about the major points on defence and particularly about whether this country should or should not have its own strategic nuclear weapons. He is in a very good position to know because he has been on both sides of this argument. When he was out of office he was not one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the British independent, nuclear deterrent, but now, of course, he says that it is essential. It is this curious ambivalence about the Government which destroys all confidence in their ability to manage our defence policy.
Another thing which the right hon. Gentleman said was that the Government believe we must keep the nuclear deterrent for ourselves but at the same time subscribe it to N.A.T.O. What is 75 double talk if this is not? How does one keep the deterrent and subscribe it to N.A.T.O.?
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
In very much the same way that we keep an Army and subscribe it to N.A.T.O. It strengthens, not weakens, it.
§ Mr. Grimond
If we keep an Army and subscribe part of it to N.A.T.O. we cannot withdraw it. It is under N.A.T.O. command and we should not withdraw it. That is the difference. We are not in a position to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I think that the right hon. Gentleman should study these matters a little more closely because they are important and should not be lightly dealt with. We can withdraw our Army from N.A.T.O. if we wish to do so.
§ Mr. Grimond
If it is the Government's view that we can withdraw the Army and count it both as an independent and as a N.A.T.O. force, the sooner we abandon that policy the better.
The fundamental assumption of the Government's view that we must keep our independent nuclear deterrent is that there might arise a situation in which this country was vitally threatened but in which the Americans would not come to our aid. This is the basic argument for the independent deterrent. But, of course, if the Government really believed that, that would indeed be a desperate situation. If they really believed this was a possibility, I should have thought that no consideration of how much the independent deterrent would cost would have stood in their way of maintaining it at all costs.
The Government do not intend to keep the independent nuclear deterrent at all costs. On the contrary, when the Americans offered to go on with the Skybolt programme provided the Government were prepared to pay a bit more, they said, "No". The man who has really shown up the Government's policy is 76 President de Gaulle. He says, "I rely on an independent French deterrent. I do not believe any deterrent is credible unless it is a national deterrent. I do not believe that anyone would use a deterrent unless it was in defence of his homeland, and therefore I intend to have a French deterrent come what may and whatever it may cost". But the Government do not say that. They are not willing to stand the cost. So the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence went off to the Bahamas having told us that Skybolt was much the best weapon for our purpose and that Polaris was not nearly so good.
What happened when they got to Nassau? In three days, they switched round and they came back saying that Polaris was the best weapon and was much better than Skybolt. Indeed, the Prime Minister does not seem to have appreciated what was agreed in the Bahamas, because he also said on his return that we had nuclear submarines, implying that they could be used for Polaris. Of course they cannot. The Prime Minister implied in his first statement that there would be nothing to pay for development costs, but there will be 5 per cent. to pay on the A.3, which will be the only Polaris weapon with sufficient range to make it suitable for the Government's purpose.
Paragraph 6 of the White Paper on the Bahamas Meetings said that the V-bomber force is to be targeted—and so, I think, are the submarines—on N.A.T.O. targets. It states that such forces would be targeted in accordance with N.A.T.O. plans. What does this mean? Is it simply a political gesture. Do the Government really believe that they will be able to withdraw their proportion from N.A.T.O. in a crisis?
Does that mean that, on the one hand, our contribution to the N.A.T.O. strategic deterrent will be permanently targeted on N.A.T.O. targets and not available for use outside the N.A.T.O. area? One of the great arguments is that there might be a threat by the Russians at some target outside the N.A.T.O. area and that in that case the Americans might be unwilling to risk their deterrent. What is the situation of our own deterrent in those circumstances? Would it be available or would it be reserved for N.A.T.O. targets?
77 There is one interesting fact about this argument which is quite contrary to The Hague Convention. I do not attach great importance to this, but it is an interesting sidelight on the treatment by Governments of international conventions. The Hague Convention, to which all the major Powers are signatories, lays it down that towns must not be bombarded from the sea. Nobody appears to have noticed this or to have been troubled by it.
This new version of the old attempt to maintain by this country an independent deterrent can have only two results. Either it will have the result of cutting down still further the amount of money and resources available for conventional arms, or it must increase still further the general bill for the country's defence.
I should have thought it fatal at this moment to cut down on conventional arms. Judging from what the Minister of Defence said when he was out of office, he should be extremely unwilling to lay a great defence burden on the country's economy. Indeed, this weapon is a step away from conventional towards further dependence on nuclear strength. The V-bomber force, at least, could be used in a conventional rôle. I understand that although our nuclear submarines may be fitted for torpedoes, these are intended for their own defence and these submarines will be reserved for a nuclear rôle and to that extent will be unable to assist in our general conventional defence.
It is our conventional defences which are vital. As the right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood has said, it is the Strategic Reserve which needs to be built up. All the events of the past year which should have made a difference to Government thinking have shown again and again the importance of adequate conventional strength. The reason why the Americans were able to deal with the Cuban situation was that they had a conventional force at their disposal. If we want to help India, it is by conventional assistance that we shall discharge our obligations and certainly not by nuclear assistance.
§ Sir H. Legge-Bourke
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to build up conventional forces and he says that we do not need a nuclear deterrent ourselves, and as we are spending only 1 per cent. of 78 the gross national product on the nuclear deterrent, how does he expect to get the money and how much extra would he want, or would he try to hold the defence budget as it is now?
§ Mr. Grimond
I am not saying that to get rid of the nuclear deterrent would necessarily mean reducing the defence budget. What I do say is that by keeping it, the Government add a proportion to our defence budget which serves no purpose.
Great discussions are going on about the future of N.A.T.O. Let us look at the situation. Mr. Merchant is touring Europe—
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West) rose—
§ Mr. Grimond
I cannot give way. [Interruption.] No, I do not intend to scrap the Royal Air Force. Mr. Merchant is touring Europe, trying to interest European countries in a multilateral nuclear force. That, I understand, is a force in which the nuclear potential, whatever it is, whether Polaris or anything else, would be manned by crews drawn from several countries. The main argument in favour of this is directed against the attitude shown by the Minister of Defence—that is to say, it is an attempt to prevent people pulling their contributions out of N.A.T.O. at vital moments. No doubt, the Americans also feel that this would give the Europeans direct interest in the nuclear defence of their countries. I dare say, too, that that might help in the standardisation of equipment.
We should not, however, assume that the reasoning behind the exertions of Mr. Merchant, and, indeed, of Mr. Finletter, are necessarily to be accepted, however good their motives may be. I doubt whether ther are many people in Europe who want to be involved in nuclear decisions. I do not believe that the smaller European countries do. If we go on talking about it and we put them in the position of having to say "Yes" or "No", they are almost bound to say, "If other people are taking a hand in these decisions, we demand our right to speak also." I cannot, however, find any enthusiasm among smaller European nations for a joint N.A.T.O., far less a joint European, deterrent.
It certainly would not meet the wishes of the French. President de Gaulle has 79 made it clear that he will not give up his independent French deterrent merely because there is a N.A.T.O. deterrent. I do not detect much greater enthusiasm among the Italians. Therefore, the only purpose of this exercise as far as Europe is concerned is an attempt to satisfy the Germans. I do not believe that it would do it. I am not at all clear that the Germans are itching to get their hands on nuclear weapons as it is. [An HON. MEMBER: "Some of them are."] If any of them are, I am sure that they will use the argument that this is a second-rate offer and that so long as Britain and France have their independent nuclear deterrents, offering them a share in a nuclear deterrent is not sufficient.
If one considers the American position, what the Americans are interested in is, first, being good allies and, secondly, getting a contribution towards the cost of Western defence. I am certain that they would rather have that contribution in the form of conventional than nuclear arms. Therefore, we should not assume that by setting up a nuclear deterrent we will meet a great demand for it, and I do not think that we will meet the main difficulties which face N.A.T.O.
§ Sir Beresford Craddock (Spelthorne)
The right hon. Gentleman talks a great deal about increasing conventional arms and forces. Would he be kind enough to give us an idea of the figure of conventional troops which he has in mind? Is it 180,000, 200,000 or 250,000?
§ Mr. Grimond
I will send the hon. Member the Liberal booklet on defence, which sets it out in detail. [Interruption.] It will do hon. Members a lot of good. Not only have I read it; I went so far as to write some of it.
The British proposal in these circumstances—the Minister will, no doubt, correct me if I am wrong—is for a multinational force, that is to say, one in which the individual contingents from different countries remain together and we do not have mixed crews. I think it is suggested that it might be controlled by a 10-nation committee, these being the 10 major nations in the alliance. If that is so it would seem to me that it would meet neither of the present needs of N.A.T.O.
80 This committee would not be a suitable body for deciding on policy and discussing the sort of situation in which nuclear weapons might be used, and it would be too big to take a final decision about the use of a particular weapon. As I say, I do not know whether it is necessary to have this type of deterrent at all, but if we do consider it necessary, then I should have thought that a much smaller body, if it is intended that this body should take decisions, would be essential. We have been assured by the Prime Minister that there is already a lot of consultation—over Cuba, and so forth —and that there would be if there were a crisis; but if we really want to have more say in the final decision then I should have thought that the size of the body must be brought down to two or three people only. Surely this is the thinking behind the President's remark that perhaps the Prime Minister or President de Gaulle should take the ultimate decision.
We must have a small body if it is really to be practical at all, but in my view this is not the main problem, and what is really needed in N.A.T.O. today is much better co-ordination between its political and defence responsibilities. What we need today is to have better co-ordination between the N.A.T.O. Council and S.H.A.P.E.
If the Minister has not read it I commend to him an excellent article written by Alastair Buchan in the Sunday Times yesterday.
Secondly, we need to advance on laying down guide lines. It is more than a year since work was started by Mr. Finletter, who has been presiding over the committee much concerned with this, and I would hope that before the end of this debate some report may be made on what progress has been achieved, because I think that this is a useful and fruitful road of advance, to try to lay down guide lines for the use of these weapons.
Thirdly, the time has come for better co-ordination over foreign policy. Foreign policy must take precedence over defence policy. Surely, there has been a lack of co-ordination in the Western foreign policy. Indeed, I think earlier planning, general planning at an earlier stage of foreign policy as well as of defence policy, is a much more important subject than that of whose finger is ultimately 81 to be on the trigger. I do not think that more than one or two people can make the ultimate decision, and the best one can hope from proliferating control is to impose some negative veto rather than assist in positive decisions at the very moment of crisis.
To sum up, I should like to have seen the Government taking advantage of the collapse of their policy. I should like them to have said, "Well, Skybolt has gone; we are no longer going to attempt to keep up even the façade of an independent British nuclear deterrent." I should like to have seen them this year making a review of their overseas garrisons and commitments. I should like to have seen them firmly changing the emphasis to conventional arms and bringing the Strategic Reserve up to strength if only to make sure that they are in a position to meet brush fires wherever they may break out—and, I agree, not only in the N.A.T.O. area. I should like to have seen them improving the machinery of planning in N.A.T.O., and I hope that by the end of this debate we shall have heard something about that.
On 6th February a letter appeared in The Times from which I should like to quote:I believe our defence and foreign policy has never been in such a shocking mess as it is at present.That was not written by some wicked Liberal politician. That was written by Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir John Slessor. That is his conclusion on eleven years of Conservative Government. The Minister laughs. He thinks it is very funny. He thinks the total collapse of this country's defence is a matter for joking. [Interruption.] Oh, indeed, yes. He was laughing. He is laughing. He thinks it is a joke. The whole policy over the last five years has been carried out on the frivolous assumption that it does not matter so long as the Government can keep the Conservative back benchers quiet. It has not been the safety of the country, it has been the unity of the Conservative Party which has been at the back of all these changes of policy—and not only in this House but in the Services and in the country this has been realised. This is no joke. It is not a matter for pleasure.
The time has come for decision. The time has come to make positive policy 82 changes, the Government must tell us what their defence policy is and make it relevant to the situation which faces the country.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Glyn (Dorset, North)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) has made an interesting speech, which included a number of categorical statements with some of which I find myself unable to agree. I had thoughtfully provided myself with the Liberal pamphlet to which he referred, and both before and during his speech I looked at the figures published in it, and the only figures published in it, which, I understood him to say just now, refer to the number of conventional forces which Liberal Party thinks should be maintained.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
They have gone to get the pamphlet.
The right hon. Gentleman took a distinguished part, it seems, in sponsoring this pamphlet, but I cannot help feeling that it was written some time ago and that he has, perhaps, rather forgotten what he wrote, because the only figures given to this end are expressly shown as totals for each Service, including those men, a substantial number in each Service, serving with nuclear weapons as well as those engaged with conventional weapons. No distinction of any kind is drawn between the two.
There were one or two other of the right hon. Gentleman's more important points on which I disagree with him before I come to the major issues of defence. On the larger question he posed as to how we keep the deterrent and ascribe it to N.A.T.O., this, of course, was spelt out in words almost of one syllable in the Nassau Agreement.
It is within the knowledge of many Members of this House that in the original N.A.T.O. arrangements any nation was entitled to withdraw forces which it assigned or lent to N.A.T.O. subject to certain conditions and a time limit which, if my memory is correct, was laid down as a year. This latter condition has frankly not been honoured. If a nation felt the need to withdraw its forces 83 from N.A.T.O., this was done, as and when it felt the need to do so, and France, to give an example, has withdrawn virtually the whole of her forces from N.A.T.O., in some cases at very short notice indeed.
But in the Nassau Agreement it was expressly laid down that we can withdraw the Polaris submarines envisaged in that Agreement and which may be lent or assigned to N.A.T.O., and we can withdraw them at the discretion of the British Government if they decide that our supreme national interest is involved.
Without going into too many of the details, I was fortunate enough to be one of a group of hon. Members of this House, from both sides, who spent a little time aboard one of these submarines, the "Ethan Allen", a week ago today, and we saw the handling of these weapons of which the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, and if he thinks that the A2 is not capable of carrying out its task, and if, as he suggests, is unsuitable for our purpose, I can only say that it is entirely suitable for the Americans' purpose, for the N.A.T.O. purpose, and, in my view, for our purpose, too. If it be true that it is of no use, what does he really think the Americans are doing with it?
He also referred to the difficulty of its being targeted on N.A.T.O. targets. This was a question some of us specifically examined. Without saying too much, I want to assure him that if a Polaris missile is originally targeted on N.A.T.O. targets it could be switched—each missile could be switched—to any predetermined alternative target at very short notice indeed.
There are one or two other aspects of this interesting pamphlet to which the right hon. Gentleman referred the House, and I should like to refer to them, too. The right hon. Gentleman envisages in the pamphlet, which, I understand, is published under his auspices, that we should not only abandon the Polaris plans but arrange…for the integration of the V bomber force into the structure of the Atlantic Alliance without reservations of political or military independence.A few lines later the pamphlet goes on:The abandonment of an independent nuclear striking force will enable the Govern- 84 ment to devote a substantial sum to the provision and equipment of first class conventional defence forces…We all want first-class conventional forces, but what the pamphlet does not consider is bow the V-bomber force is to be paid for and maintained if we hand it over to N.A.T.O. We have spent £170 million or more a year on this force. Is it suggested that it should be handed over without any endowment or contribution towards its support? If we did go on maintaining it under N.A.T.O. then there would be no economy for us.
If N.A.T.O. were to maintain it, where would it get the money? What funds and income has N.A.T.O. for this purpose? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that N.A.T.O. would accept this force without provision for its maintenance? This is an important point. The pamphlet says that having got rid of the V-bombers there would not be much use in continuing the Royal Air Force. It says that there is a case for abolishing the air force as such and concentrating on air arms attached to the Army and the Navy. I cannot think that that policy would recommend itself to a majority of hon. Members in this House or, indeed, to the country.
Now I come back to the main subjects raised in the debate. I feel that always to publish a White Paper on defence at the same time as the Service Estimates may be rather old-fashioned. The Service Estimates have to be published at this time of the year for administrative reasons and I cannot see why it is necessary to publish a defence statement at a time like this simply because it has been the custom in bygone years.
I am surprised that the critics of the Government in this respect should have been so forceful, because they are not always people who support outmoded customs merely for the sake of tradition. At present there is a great deal to be said for waiting until certain problems have been resolved before publishing a further defence statement.
As far as our overseas forces go, I think that the present policy is working well. Last autumn I was a member of a group of hon. Members who visited some of our Middle East defence bases. Everything I saw there convinced me of the need for our continued military presence in those areas and for a continuation of the present policy in this regard.
85 There are very big changes in the wind in N.A.T.O. There has been the proposal for a multilateral force, and it is perhaps for one point in the speech of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland with which I can agree that one of the main aspects of such a force is that it would not be able to be withdrawn from N.A.T.O. because it would, in effect, be under the control of N.A.T.O. as well as under the command of N.A.T.O.
Up to now, everything alloted to N.A.T.O. is able to be withdrawn because it remains under the control of its Government. But with the suggested multilateral nuclear force not a vessel will belong to any one nation. The plan is that the force shall not be capable of being withdrawn because it will be under the control of N.A.T.O. Our Polaris submarines which will be working with this force are to be expressly excluded from the arrangement.
There is another aspect, of course, of very great importance. The proposal enable, and is designed by the Americans to enable, European countries to share with the United States the very substantial cost of maintaining the deterrent. Hon. Members who say that the United States alone should have the deterrent may, without consciously meaning it, imply that the United States alone should therefore pay for it. The Americans are beginning to think otherwise. This new force, which has long been discussed in America and has become almost a term of art in Pentagon circles, is designed to spread the very great burden of the cost of the nuclear deterrent.
I feel very strongly that the greater cost involved in putting Polaris weapons into submarines instead of into surface vessels is money well spent. I believe that those hon. Members on both sides of the House who were fortunate enough to go to Holy Loch and go to sea in the "Ethan Allen" will feel the same way. It is quite the best second strike nuclear device at present in existence.
From what we saw ofit—and we asked a lot of searching questions, receiving very frank answers—there is no prospect of its being overtaken by anything better. The Polaris system is very attractive. As I boarded the "Ethan Allen" I could not help 86 remembering the little rhyme ascribed to the American Navy:Send those missiles out to seaWhere the real estate is freeAnd they're far away from me.I think that there is great force in the argument for a multilateral Polaris fleet which would, I believe, greatly strengthen N.A.T.O. I think that it is very much to be desired, and would be approved by the very great majority of hon. Members. There are great technical difficulties, however. Negotiations are going on and we are in a delicate stage. That is another reason for not publishing now a firm policy statement, since, if it dealt with the matter at all, it could not possibly help the negotiations and might well make them harder.
It has been pointed out, and it is important to remember, that in building up our Polaris submarine fleet we are to order—at least, I hope we are to order—only the missiles and the missile control system from the United States. We shall build the submarines ourselves. It is, of course, far better that British money should be spent on building British submarines in British yards than in subscribing to the multilateral force, for in that way we should have to provide money for N.A.T.O. to buy some part of the multilateral fleet knowing that the money might not be spent in Britain in the long run.
Some pressure might be brought to bear on us to subscribe financially to the N.A.T.O. nuclear force as well as provide Polaris submarines. I would prefer to see our money spent in British yards. We should also have the right to call on these submarines in an emergency, which is also the way I prefer it.
§ Mr. P. Williams
My hon. Friend talks about building submarines but that is only part of the matter. Does he think it just that we should have the full right to all the knowledge of the control system and be able to make these ourselves as well?
§ Sir Richard Glyn
That was a helpful intervention, for this was my next point. We can easily make this equipment. But anyone who has seen the enormous complexity of it will appreciate the task. If one saw it reproduced on film one would say it was exaggerated. One can scarcely conceive the complexity. In the "Ethan 87 Allen" there is a multitude of dials, switches and levers in every corridor, reaching shoulder high, and it all involves the most intricate electronics. We could make it but it would take a long time.
This is an argument for buying it in the first place, but it is only right that we should be given the fully detailed know-how so that we can later on build the system ourselves. We should also be able to make replacements. We should know the circuits and the whole layout. I urge strongly that this "know-how" should be delivered to us forthwith. I believe that this would be a great gesture from America which would be very well received here and would do a great deal to restore the slight impact on our confidence which was caused by the Skybolt incident.
Let us spend a moment considering the argument that the money for Polaris would be better spent on conventional weapons. This argument has been put forward strongly. I recognise the need for more expenditure on conventional weapons, but it is worth thinking how much conventional force we could buy for the cost of the Polaris fleet. We are to spend about £300 million on the Polaris submarines over seven or eight years, about £40 million a year. What conventional force could we get for that? While the money would be spread over all the Services, I prefer to take the example of the Army, of which I had some personal experience. Let us see what £40 million worth of Army looks like.
We all know that the teeth of the British Army are about 60 battalions and that they cost more than £500 million every year. That is not for just the battalions but also covers the supporting arms and services, maintenance, barracks, and what in N.A.T.O. would be called the infra-structure. An extra £40 million would not increase the Army to any enormous extent. It might give another three brigade groups and possibly four as a maximum. Do hon. Members think that a brigade group has more striking force than a Polaris submarine carrying sixteen nuclear missiles which have between them an explosive force equivalent to the total bombs dropped by both sides in the last war, including the two atomic bombs?
88 Seen in that light, there is no comparison. Especially in view of the great need for a second strike nuclear weapon, the money is far better expended on Polaris.
There is another side to this story. It has been said today and it was said in the Nassau debate that the British deterrent was small, infinitesimal. It is perfectly true that our stockpile of missiles and nuclear bombs is very much smaller than America's, but I do not accept that this is the right comparison. We ought to consider the means of delivery, without which the stockpile of bombs is useless. In the Nassau debate, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) said, and seemed to get some satisfaction from saying, that our nuclear potential was only 1 or 2 per cent. of America's. Let us consider that.
When the 30 new Vulcans are delivered, our V-bombers will number more than 200. Each can carry two, and some more than two, missiles or nuclear bombs, so that we have the means of delivering something over 400. No one will suggest that America could deliver 40,000 or even 20,000. The hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has just given us some figures, but his figures of what the Pentagon hopes to have at some future date bear no relation to what it now has.
Not long ago, the Americans published an account of the occasion of the inauguration of their 200th intercontinental ballistic missile. Together with the 144 missiles on their nine Polaris submarines, that gives the Americans about 350 missiles. They have some good aeroplanes, not as good as our V-bombers, and the great majority of their aeroplanes are obsolete and on their way to being scrapped. However, giving them the fullest account for their new aeroplanes and allowing something for the old, I do not think that they could deliver more than about 2,000 missiles, rather than the 40,000 mentioned, from what I admit to be their great stockpile of atomic missiles and bombs. In other words, our proportion is nearer 20 per cent. than 2 per cent.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that last year Mr. Gilpatric, the American Under-Secretary of Defence, said that the Americans had in their possession against 89 the Soviet Union means of delivery numbered in the tens of thousands, and that they had more than two nuclear weapons for each means of delivery?
§ Sir Richard Glyn
It is perfectly true that they have more than two nuclear weapons for each means of delivery, and many more nuclear weapons than the Russians possess, but is is perfectly clear from that speech that Mr. Gilpatric was including every tactical weapon in every part of the world. I am talking about weapons capable of attacking Russia. The Americans have many other nuclear weapons, right down to the two-man mortar which is issued to companies in some units. Those were included in the numbers of means of delivery, but they bear no relation to the intercontinental missiles about which I am talking. Mr. Gilpatric also very properly included the out-dated intermediate-range missiles which the Americans had sited in Europe at that time, but which they have now removed.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
It is true that a small number of the intermediate-range missiles have been withdrawn, but does the hon. Member challenge Mr. Gilpatric's statement that the Americans could strike Russia with tens of thousands of vehicles?
§ Sir Richard Glyn
They could strike Russia with a great number of weapons; if the two-man mortar were moved near enough to Russia, they could strike Russia with that. Whether they claim it or not, they do not have enough intercontinental ballistic missiles to justify that claim. Let the right hon. Gentleman look at the American Press of about five weeks ago when he will find the celebration of the installation of the two hundredth missile capable of reaching Russia from America. That is the Americans' own figure.
Hon. Members opposite who take pleasure from decrying the effect of our nuclear deterrent, such as it is, are not speaking in the best interests of this country in the long run. We have offered to lend our V-bombers to N.A.T.O. and also to lend our Polaris missiles when they come along. When we have completed this process we shall then be assessed for our further contribution to the multilateral force. The Americans consider that European nations are not pulling their weight in this regard and 90 the smaller we make out our nuclear contributions to be, the more we shall be asked to subscribe in this other way. We should take a look at this side of the matter in the light not of the future boasting of the American Defence Department, but of the rather less sensational statements about what the Americans actually have.
I want to say a few words about our own independent deterrent. Much has been said about our not needing it. What happened at Cuba has entirely knocked out any argument which could have been made against our needing it. Over the years, the Americans' policy has been to instal missiles in other countries, allies of America. Russia has now started doing the same thing.
In his speech to the Supreme Soviet on 12th December, last year, Mr. Khrushchev made a very interesting reference to Cuba and gave his reasons for sending rockets there. They were not very involved. He said that he had sent them there because the Communist Government of Cuba had asked him to do so and because he perceived that they would be able to reach America. He went on to say that he was guided exclusively by humanitarian motives, but that was his own assessment.
A month later, in East Germany, Mr. Khrushchev made another reference to this and said that Cuba had not proved a good place for rockets because it was within reach of American conventional forces. He said that he knew of one or two other very good places, but he gave no indication where they were except to make it clear that they were not in Russia or within reach of any democratic conventional forces.
Suppose at some future date a Communist State, perhaps, like Cuba, newly converted to Communism, requests and gets a loan of missiles from Mr. Khrushchev. Suppose also that this Communist State is within our sphere of influence, and outside the N.A.T.O. area, say in the Middle East, an area which Mr. Kennedy himself referred to in this regard. If we had a second strike nuclear weapon we could send it there to redress the balance while we negotiated.
If we had no second strike nuclear force available, what would we do? This is a fair question to ask hon. Gentlemen 91 opposite who deny that we need our own nuclear deterrent. What would we do? As I see it, we would have a limited number of choices, all unpleasant. We could withdraw wholly from the Middle East, giving up our great national interests in the area, and of course betraying our allies to whose defence we are pledged. We could do that, but if we did it would be the end of Britain as a world power. Or, considering all the alternatives, we could launch a conventional invasion with conventional troops, as the Americans were about to do in Cuba. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite advocate that course after what they said in 1956 about Suez? Or, to take the only other course if we had no nuclear deterrent of our own, would hon. Gentlemen opposite try to borrow one? Would they go to America and ask for the loan of Polaris, and on what terms do they think we should get it? Or, coming to the only other source, would they bow in supplication before the soi disant modern Charlemagne and ask for a loan of the force de frappe. If that is what they would do, let them say so, because this situation might well arise.
After what has happened in Cuba, and after Mr. Khrushchev's statement, we must retain the right to use an independent second strike nuclear force, not to attack, but to redress the balance of power in these areas while we negotiate, as was done over Cuba.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who speaks so much while sitting down, asks where we would get them. The Nassau Agreement spells out our rights when we get Polaris. Till then we have the V Bombers.
The Americans had three months' notice of what was going on in Cuba. They could not be sure what the missiles were until rather late in the day because people could not believe what they saw in the photographs, but they knew three weeks before the first missile would have been ready to fire, and that would have been plenty of time for us—
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
This is an interesting position and in all 92 circumstances this would be a second strike weapon, but is it not just possible that the catastrophe could happen with America and China or America and Russia? With Polaris at the Holy Loch and the base there, how does the second strike weapon come in? Russia would probably knock that out to protect Moscow.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
The hon. Gentleman is not following my argument closely. Perhaps I have not put it very clearly. There is no suggestion that we should necessarily base our Polaris submarines at Holy Loch. In any case there would never be more than one out of four—
§ Sir Richard Glyn
It would be possible to destroy the Holy Loch without in any way impairing the efficiency of the four Polaris submarines normally operating from there; this would be unfortunate for the hon. Gentleman and he would have the greatest sympathy from his fellow Members, but this is nothing to what Russia would get from the Polaris submarines, not only from those belonging to us, but also from those in the N.A.T.O. fleet, and I have no doubt from those in the American fleet. Russia would know that this retribution would follow, and so she would never attack the Holy Loch in this way. My example was not of a war with Russia. It was a question of Russian satellites being given missiles and thereby changing the balance of power in an area vital to our interests.
I think it is wrong and unfair that the whole weight of this nuclear cost, which must be very great, should be borne by any one Service. I do not think that the Navy is looking forward to this burden. I think that as the nuclear component of our Forces is becoming so important, and as these weapons are to be lent to N.A.T.O., subject to our national requirements, we should have a new Vote, perhaps to be called the N.A.T.O. Vote, on which the cost of the nuclear weapons would be borne. It should include the Polaris, and could logically include the V-bombers. Perhaps it could also include those brigade groups of the Army at present assigned to N.A.T.O., and if the TSR2 is going to N.A.T.0., that, too, 93 could be included. The Service Estimates should carry only the cost of that part which is not assigned to N.A.T.O. In this way we would preserve a better balance in our expenditure, and the whole world could see what a substantial effort we were making financially on N.A.T.O.'s behalf.
To return for a moment to the Motion, I support the Government in this. I support them in delaying their White Paper until these important and complicated negotiations about a multilateral force and other measures have been resolved. When these have been resolved, when the administrative details of the new streamlining in Whitehall have been settled, I hope that we shall have a new full statement on defence, and I understand why it is inadvisable to issue one today.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
I should like to make one or two comments on the speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn). On the whole it was a well-reasoned argument, but, as I hope to show, it was in parts fallacious. I agree that there is nothing wrong in the form of the White Paper that has been issued. There is no reason why we should have the White Paper issued by the Defence Ministry and then three separate Estimates booklets. Indeed, in view of what the Minister of Defence said, it seems that this is the natural pattern, because this is an indication of what the Ministry of Defence is supposed to do in the future. I shall have a few remarks to make on the right hon. Gentleman's speech, part of which dealt with a revolutionary change in the whole set-up of the control of our defence force.
Coming back to what the hon. Member for Dorset, North said, I can only hope that if we are to have this format in future the White Paper itself will be as forthcoming as the three Service memoranda. It follows the pattern of the Minister's speech today, which I feel is to some extent treating the House of Commons with a certain amount of contempt. At Question Time the Minister of Defence has evaded answering Questions by saying that these are matters of high security. Obviously it would be foolish for the House of Commons to discuss its defence policy in full hearing 94 of the main enemy, but I suggest that at least we might be given a little more information than the Minister of Defence has given either in this White Paper or in what he said today.
Another remark made by the hon. Member for Dorset, North with which I agree is about the cost of paying for the deterrent. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Americans are now beginning to think that it is not entirely their burden to provide the cost of the deterrent, and I see no reason why Britain should not also pay her share in the cost of research and the weapons themselves.
But I would rather have a co-operative effort in research. That would mean a great change in the whole of America's research action; it would mean a change which would have to be approved by Congress. But, if the hon. Member is right, at least it might enable us to make use of the many British scientists who are now leaving this country for America. Indirectly, at least, we would be able to get something for ourselves out of their efforts.
I now turn to what I consider to be the fallacious comparison made by the hon. Member between the Polaris weapon and the brigade group. If we are thinking in terms of the weight of destruction it is obvious that the Polaris weapon is much more effective than the brigade group. But we cannot use Polaris everywhere. What should we do in a blow-up like that which recently occurred in Brunei? What would we do if such a thing happened in Singapore, or Hong Kong? Obviously the right weapon to use would be the brigade group. I suggest that the hon. Member's comparison was not quite watertight.
§ Sir Richard Glyn
I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman says. Not for one moment did I suggest that we should do without brigade groups. I was not suggesting that they should all be replaced by Polaris; I was merely resisting the suggestion that Polaris should be replaced by brigade groups.
§ Mr. Bellenger
I understand what the hon. Member is drivingat—but that is the difference between the two sides of the House. Many of us—I for one—think that our troubles will never reach the point when the deterrent will be used, 95 either as a first-strike or a second-strike weapon. Therefore, I believe that we must fall back on the "brush fire" problem as it is now called and provide a military gendarmerie, as I prefer to call it, all over the world, in those spots where trouble may break out or may be fomented by our enemies. That is the difference between the hon. Member's argument and the argument put forward by many of my hon. Friends, and, I believe, by some of his hon. Friends.
The pattern of these defence debates follows the same line year after year. I have listened to very many of them since I first came to the House. The difference between our present debates and those which took place before the Second World War is that in those days we had one or two giants intervening in the debates. We had, for example, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), with his wide experience of Government office—including office in Service Departments—and with his close contacts with leading authorities on defence matters, both in this country and abroad. He was able to puncture his own Government when these matters were under the ægis of the then Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence—Sir Thomas lnskip, I believe. The right hon. Member for Woodford was able to argue that what the Government were then saying was either largely not true or much too vague. Now that the historical records have been opened to us we know how true were the right hon. Gentleman's allegations.
Any Opposition are entitled to say to the Government, "Either you are not telling the truth, or you are hiding something from the public, or from the House." The Opposition are supposed to be the watchdogs of expenditure. They probably were in Gladstone's days, but they no longer can be. Debates like this illustrate the point. We have an expenditure of £1,800 million, and however well informed some hon. Members may be, how many of them can say that they know whether we have adequate numbers of weapons, or whether the signals of the B.A.O.R. are up to date? It was interesting to hear the Minister of Defence—after a lot of criticism from his own side of the House as well as from this side in previous debates—say that he is gradually 96 bringing our defence forces in B.A.O.R. up to date in signals equipment. In his next breath he said that we were starting to replace it with more modern apparatus.
It reminded me of some of the statements we used to listen to from Ministers of Defence or Service Ministers before the war.
They did not attempt to answer our questions, or to give us a true picture of what was happening in their Departments. They always tried to evade giving an answer in the House of Commons. Only when a Service Committee or the Defence Committee of his own party tackles the Minister does he open out a little. I wonder what he told that defence committee. Whatever it was, I do not see why we should not be told. But he is afraid to tell us. He does not want to tell us too much. His speech this afternoon was a classical illustration of the art of evasion.
Ex-Service Ministers—the "old guard"—who know something about what goes on in Service Ministries take part in these debates. Some of them are getting a little older. Some of them, such as the hon. Member for Dorset, North, have had long military experience, and they understand these problems. But I do not think that any hon. or right hon. Gentleman who speaks in these debates can present the House of Commons with the global picture.
Let us consider how we should be discussing this subject. In the earlier part of his speech the Minister gave what was almost an inventory of some of our weapons. He referred to the White Paper, but the larger part of his speech dealt with the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. If I were compiling a Defence White Paper I would prefer to include a few illustrations of Russian weapons. What do we know about them? We do not know whether our weapons are adequate in relation to the opponent that we may have to meet.
Instead of having these very nice pictures of infantrymen, equipped with short bayonets—and the short bayonet is a matter of common knowledge, however ignorant people may be of military affairs—I would prefer pictures of some of the weapons which are displayed every year on May Day in Moscow. Obviously we could not be shown those weapons which 97 are not on display, but we would at any rate be able to make some sort of comparison. What is the good of merely giving us a list of what some of my hon. Friends refer to as "hardware"? Only those who have some sort of experience in these matters, because of their acquaintance with the Service Departments, or their military training, know what it means.
Recently the Secretary of State for War kindly allowed me to visit B.A.O.R. when the exercises with the Territorial troops were taking place. I was lifted from London Airport and taken with the troops to B.A.O.R. It was interesting to see the system prevailing there. I suspect the system exists because of the shortage of troops. Almost a duplicate storehouse of weapons is already there, available for units in this country to pick up if it is necessary to send them overseas. It all seemed to work very well, except that the troops were Territorial troops, which, as the hon. Member for Dorset, North knows, vary in training and capacity. I thought how easy it would be for one or two bombs to be dropped on those depots, after which we would have no weapons to issue to our reinforcements.
If that is something which is necessary for the future, in the stationing of our forces in various parts of the world, I accept it. If that saves manpower, and it is foolproof—that is to say, if we can quickly reinforce, and the weapons can be quickly taken from the depots, so that the men can get at the enemy wherever he may be—it is a very economical way of operating. But it is by just that kind of experience, or by making such comparisons as I imagine the Chiefs of Staff do when they are drawing up their plans, that this House of Commons can obtain an adequate and proportionate picture, so that it can judge whether the Minister of Defence is or is not doing his duty. I should like to be as revolutionary as the Minister of Defence. I know of our obligations and our undertaking to keep 55,000 men in B.A.O.R. I am wondering how long that can go on. It is not a question of defaulting on our obligations. I do not want to do that—I do not think that any hon. Member opposite would accuse me of taking that line—but I wonder whether, with an Army of 180,000 men, it is wise to have so many eggs in one basket.
98 The question is: What about the Americans? There is also another question: What about the Germans? The Germans are the strongest military force in numbers in Central Europe today, and as time goes on they will be the bulk of N.A.T.O. Accepting N.A.T.O., as we do, and accepting the Germans as part of N.A.T.O., why should not we take that into consideration? The picture has changed since we first gave the undertaking. Fifty-five thousand men are never there at one time. There are many in the pipeline, sick, on leave, in transit and so forth. Nevertheless it is called part of our strategic force, although it is locked up in one position there. No successful general likes to find too many of his men locked up on one part of the front. He is always trying to break through the enemy line and get more movement, as we did in the last war.
There may be cogent military arguments against my suggestion, but I have not heard them so far. I have merely heard that we have obligations because we have signed a certain treaty. Let us hear the arguments for and against. I am quite prepared, speaking as an individual Member of the Opposition, to support any Government on meeting their obligations. The only thing I want to know is what is this obligation, and it has to be explained in precise terms. I want to know why we want so many men there in relation to the considerable troubles which are happening overseas.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) mentioned something about what might be necessary if war flares up again between China and India. I think that he went on to say that it might be necessary for us to send troops there. That is quite out of the question. I do not suppose that India would allow it, and if we got involved in such an operation it would he goodbye to our 55,000 troops in B.A.O.R. It might soon develop into an operation in which hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Chinese could be involved and we could not withdraw our troops in the face of a more serious threat nearer home. I think, therefore, that the House needs far more information as to the facts before it can draw the right conclusion. Whether we shall ever get that information, I cannot say.
99 I come to that part of the speech of the Minister of Defence about the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. I wonder how many hon. Members realise the force of what he was saying when he said it? The first thing is that while this operation is going on control of the military forces will be affected. At present, with all its faults, the Army is under the Secretary of State for War and the other Service Departments have their Secretaries of State. If the Ministry of Defence is to take over and, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman, the Service Departments will disappear, let the House consider the implications of that proposal. First, there are two Secretaries of State and a First Lord with duties to the Crown, to this House and with responsibilities for their own Departments. Does the Minister of Defence mean to integrate these Ministers into his own Department and that the Minister of Defence will answer on all matters affecting the Service Departments concerning policy?
Moreover, I think that we would need legislation before this could be accomplished, and I hope that whoever winds up the debate for the Government will tell us a little more about how this is to be accomplished. I think that the Minister was very woolly in his remarks as to how he was to accomplish all this. He went on to say that he had consulted General Lord Ismay and General Jacob. They are very experienced. He went on to say that he had consulted others, but I would say that in the Service Departments there is considerable apprehension as to what this all means and so much has it become attached to one man's name that there is a good deal of rejection, possibly of some good things, because Lord Mountbatten is supposed to be the godfather of this operation.
Let the House of Commons know who has the final word in these matters and what it all means. The Labour Government set up a Ministry of Defence after the last war and we issued a fairly comprehensive White Paper long before we came to the legislation which had to be passed through this House setting up the Ministry of Defence. I would echo what has been said by other hon. Members—I think by the hon. Member for Dorset, North—who suggested that before we came to a final conclusion on this matter 100 we ought to have definite proposals in the form of a White Paper so that we may study them.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman in outlining these ideas to us was much too casual in his approach to them. I had the impression, I might be wrong, that the right hon. Gentleman was worried. He seemed to wear a worried look, and I do not wonder at that. Whether he fully understands all these proposals, I do not know. I could not tell unless I knew what the proposals were. I had the impression that although the right hon. Gentleman talked about principles, which we hear so often in this House, the implementation of those principles would be quite a different matter.
§ Mr. Bellenger
My right hon. Friend suggests that the Minister had asked us to tell him. That is not our duty. Our duty is to hear his proposals and then hammer them out on the anvil of debate. Military matters are neglected for trivial matters, even matters raised by the hon. Member for Dorset, North. Those are the "trees", and we cannot see the wood for the trees. What we should see is the whole picture, and it should be presented to us by experts.
Finally, I come to the Motion, relating to Reform of Procedure, introduced by some leading members of Government supporters, of which I wholly approve. I have had to put my name to the Liberal Amendment which brings in defence and foreign affairs because that was the only constitutional way I could approve it. I had to sign the Amendment, which, of course, includes the original Motion. Whatever my hon. Friends may say or hon. Members opposite may say, I think that I am speaking for a good number of hon. Members when I say that we want more information from the Government not only on defence but other matters if we are to do our job properly.
Why is it that so many people in the country are dismissing the House of Commons as a talking shop? It is because they do not believe that we are doing our duty and hammering out policies for their benefit or for the benefit of the country. I may be a lone voice—I do not think I am—when I say that I should like to see, at any rate in respect of defence, the setting up of a Committee 101 of this House with power to call for the experts.
Some time before the war it used to be the custom to invite certain hon. Members to visit the Imperial Defence College. On occasions they addressed the students there. The interchange between military students and hon. Members, and prominent members of the public, was mutually beneficial. But that has all been dropped. Now we are all military experts—even those who do not want any military forces at all. I say that it is a farce, and because it is a farce, I strongly advocate that this House should do something more than merely take part in a defence debate once a year.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
The right hon. Member for Basset-law (Mr. Bellenger) has raised a number of interesting points and, as a former Secretary of State for War, he speaks with considerable authority. I think that the right hon. Gentleman went straight to the point with his reference to the numbers in the Army taken up by B.A.O.R. That is not a popular subject at the moment, but it is something which strikes one on studying the figures. I consider also that the right hon. Gentleman made a valid point about the overlapping of research effort here and in America. He alluded to the obvious difficulties of greater co-operation. He used a phrase which I should like to hear used more often in this House when he described us as the "watch dogs" of defence expenditure. We are apt to lose sight of that fact. I shall have more to say about it when I discuss the new reorganisation. I believe that it will prove one of the matters which we must watch carefully in order that there is no relaxation of that Parliamentary control over the Services which has been hardly won in the past.
The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw spoke of the shorter White Paper with a certain amount of approval which I was glad to hear. The form of the White Paper is certainly novel in its shortness. It ushers in considerable changes within the Service, because in a few years' time Polaris will give a predominant rôle in defence to the Navy at the expense of the Royal Air Force. It may be that that is the reason why the Minister 102 referred today to the far-reaching changes which have not been mentioned in the White Paper. There is something to be said against that. But, for the moment, I prefer to take the charitable view that my right hon. Friend has not referred to them because he did not wish to "nail his colours to the mast" and make hard and fast proposals. I hope that is the case. I believe that we shall have to examine the proposals very carefully.
I welcome the shorter White Paper. I know that in these debates it is inconvenient not to have an "Aunt Sally" to shie at. Three years ago I wrote to The Times, expressing the hope that White Papers would not become an annual affair. I am delighted, therefore, that the Minister has cut down the White Paper to the minimum. I am glad to note that the right hon. Gentleman has just re-entered the Chamber. I was saying that I hoped that we have not been told about reorganisation in the White Paper because my right hon. Friend is prepared to listen in greater detail to what right hon. and hon. Members have to say about it. I do not like the unified binding of the White Paper, and at 8s. 6d. I think it is too expensive.
The Opposition Amendment makes great play with the cost of defence, which is indeed considerable. But if we compare the cost of defence last year—that is. 1961–62—now that we know what was the actual out-turn against 1951–52, we see that the rise is not so much. The figure has risen from £1,110 million to £1,688 million, which is actually a decrease in the proportion of the gross national product used from 8.6 per cent. to 7.1 per cent. In the same years we find that expenditure on the social services has risen from 15.9 per cent. of the gross national product to 17.6 per cent. It is not surprising therefore, that expenditure on defence has had to be increased when the figure has gone up by so much in the civil sphere.
The Opposition Amendment complains of a breakdown of defence policy. I suppose that what hon. Members opposite are getting at is that some of the research projects which seemed very promising at first have turned out to be disappointing. Any hon. Member who has had experience of a Service Department will know the tremendous difficulty of picking the 103 right projects. The number of promising projects which may be selected for defence is so few, because of the money factor and the limited number of scientists, and it is easier to select a Derby winner than to be certain that the right project has been selected. There must be a certain amount of trial and error and it is not surprising that there should have been one or two failures. This makes me all the more pleased that we have been able to obtain Polaris, which has been tried and has reached the operational stage.
I am delighted that in the White Paper more stress is laid on individual papers from the Services. The picture is brighter than it was. The Minister mentioned various weapons which are coming along. For the first time for some years there are a number of promising weapons coming into production which will shortly be available. My right hon. Friend referred to the three sister ships of the "Devonshire". Seaslug has arrived and is in action, and Seacat has arrived. "Dreadnought", our first nuclear submarine, has completed her sea trials, not, unfortunately, with a British reactor. Regarding naval aircraft the second Buccaneer squadron is coming along. A number of hon. Members had the opportunity this summer to visit "Shop Window" and see this aircraft; and I for one was extremely impressed.
It is just over a year since a number of hon. Members attended the Army display at Chobham, on a very wet day which will long be remembered. A number of new type weapons were displayed. We were impressed and came away wondering when they would actually be delivered to the troops. It is something to know, even after a year, that manufacture has started on the Abbot self-propelled gun which appears to be an excellent weapon. The Chieftain is to have its acceptance trials and the Stalwart is to have an initial delivery. I should have been happier to hear that all these weapons had already reached the troops because that is what really matters.
We have been given a promising account of activities in the Air Force. The vertical take-off aircraft is a remarkable machine and the TSR2 must fill us with hope.
104 I wish for a moment to return to the question of inter-Service co-operation. It is a little difficult at this stage to comment on what we have been told by the Minister of Defence and to realise its full implications. Many certainly are agreed that more integration would be a good thing.
Traditionally in the country in peace time in the old days we never tried to maintain more than one of the two Services at a peak. I think that one of our troubles in defence has been that we have tried to maintain all three Services on a high level in recent years. When that happens, even if the Opposition thinks that the money being spent is too much, there are bound to be big gaps. It means that competition for the money available is bound to become fiercer than it should be. It may be that under this new kind of set-up it will be easier to divide that money—which has always been a great problem.
When looking at this matter we must be very careful to remember the question of Parliamentary control. So far as I see, under the new set-up a tremendous amount of extra work will be given to the Minister of Defence. From what I have seen of Service Departments—I am sure other hon. Members will agree—already it is almost impossible for any one Minister to understand all the technical details of his Department. Indeed, it would require a superman for a Minister of Defence to be able to grapple with the technical details of all three Departments. That must mean that more power will go into the hands of the senior officers. In examining this new structure we must have due regard to that.
Many of us will agree that there is duplication in the Services, particularly when they have been run down, as they have been, after a war. There is room for more development on the lines of the Gibraltar experiment, where one of the Services which happens to be predominant in that base undertakes far more of the supply services for the other two Services. Certainly at this level I believe that a great deal should be done, whatever is done at the top level at the Ministry of Defence.
In the light of what we have been told this afternoon, I find it even harder to understand why the works services of the three Service Departments have been put 105 under the Ministry of Works. That means separating these services even further from those who will use them. I remember that the Navy works department had many complicated things to do. It was concerned largely with workshops, jetties, runways and all kinds of things of which the Ministry of Works could have had little experience. The chief criticism was that it was physically too far from the Admiralty, being out at Pinner. It was the job of the Ministry of Works to provide headquarters accommodation but that Ministry could not find accommodation nearer. Now this is to be handed over to the very Ministry which could not find accommodation nearer to London. That seems to be an odd outcome.
On the question of reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence I was very relieved to hear that the Minister definitely said that the three chiefs of staff should retain their separate access to the Cabinet. In the present stage of Service organisation it seems absolutely essential that those who should be called upon by the Cabinet to fulfil a certain military task should have at the head of their own Service someone who can speak for them and explain what the difficulties are. If he takes the responsibility, he should also he in a position to give advice. That is something we should never wish to remove, because it would be a great danger.
§ Mr. Healey
I am sure that the hon. Member would not want to mislead the House, but I understood the Minister of Defence to give no such assurance about access by Service chiefs to the Cabinet.
§ Mr. Digby
I am grateful to the hon. Member. The Minister, I think, spoke of access to the Prime Minister. I took that to mean access to the Cabinet as a whole. I shall be grateful if whoever is to wind up the debate deals with that point.
I should like to deal with the question of the deterrent. I do not want to argue the point. I am in favour of an independent deterrent. I certainly agree with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw in regarding it as something which will almost certainly never be used, but possibly as something required to hold 106 the ring for other things. It is now over a hundred years since Clausewitz wrote his views on war. I am inclined to think that they are out of date. Possibly we have gone back to an earlier phase in which wars, if they take place, will be much more limited arid no longer directed at the overthrowing of whole peoples. It may be that in that light we should remember that with the equal balance of the deterrent achieved there may be room within it for rather more limited wars than many people give credit for at present.
I am not sorry to see the Thor missile disappearing because, with its fixed site it seemed to be something of an invitation for a "Pearl Harbour". I was one, like my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset. North (Sir Richard Glyn) who visited the American Polaris submarine, "Ethan Allen". I was very grateful for the insight into the problems of that weapon, and I was most grateful for the hospitality which was given to us by the Americans. My impression was that perhaps it would cost a little more than I had originally imagined—
§ Mr. Digby
Yes, a little more—but it was a very much more effective and a more developed weapon than I realised before I visited it. Concealment in the sea, which after all constitutes four-fifths of the globe, gives very much more chance in this modern age of not being found. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North spoke of the tremendous amount of electronic equipment in that submarine. It was a staggering amount—something which could not be carried in an aeroplane or in anything movable except a ship. I believe that we gained an advantage in being allowed to get this weapon from the Americans. I hope, in addition to it being an excellent weapon, that we shall make full use of the technology which it can bring to us. It will give a tremendous opportunity to industry in this country to get up to date in these modern techniques, which I am sure have come to stay. I hope that the Government will see that that happens and that they spread the work, in however much of a hurry they are, so that the greatest possible advantage to our industry may accrue from it.
107 In regard to our own version of Polaris, a number of points immediately emerge. Are we merely to lengthen the "Dreadnought" hull, or are we to go one further? The "Ethan Allen", which we visited, is already being followed by two further classes of Polaris submarines in the American Navy. I think that the hull of the "Dreadnought" goes back to something earlier. The hull of a submarine is not complicated to design compared with that of a surface ship. I hope that we shall not plunge into something which is already based on an out-of-date American idea, as I understand the hull of the "Dreadnought" is based on an earlier American one. I am delighted that we are not to cut down the number of missiles to be carried but are to stick to the number of 16, the same number as are carried on American submarines.
I come to the vexed question of the reactor. The successor to the "Dreadnought" is to have a British reactor. I am sure that in submarines we should stick to a form of pressurised water reactor which is most suitable for this purpose. I hope that here again we shall not slavishly follow the American design and have an out-of-date reactor. It must be a totally different kind of reactor from the one we have been talking about for merchant ships. The Americans have had a number of submarines with pressurised reactors. It would be folly if we did not try to learn from that experience in our submarines which will not be commissioned for four years.
I believe that the success of the nuclear-powered submarines in the American Navy has been largely due to one man, Admiral Rickover, who has applied tremendous drive and foresight to this problem. We want someone like him. We must try to find an Admiral Rickover to put pep into this programme and to get the best results.
Next, there will be the manning problem. In manning and training I believe that we have rather a larger task than has been envisaged in some of the newspapers which have written on the subject. I was at first surprised to learn the high average age of both officers and enlisted men in the "Ethan Allen", but I understood it when I was told about the amount of technological training and 108 attachment which they had had. I am sure that we must do the same thing here. We cannot afford to waste any time in starting, even though some of these officers and men may have to do attachments to outside industry in order that they thoroughly understand the very complicated apparatus which they must handle. I believe that the men must be of a very high standard. I was most impressed by the high standard of the officers and enlisted men in that submarine—and with a submarine costing such a large amount of money we can afford to have nothing but the best.
It is a challenge to us technologically to make the best of this Polaris submarine but it is also a great opportunity for our shipbuilding industry, which sadly needs the orders. It could not have come at a better time. It is a challenge to our electronic industry, too, and lastly, it is a challenge to our nuclear engineering.
I have said before in the House that the Atomic Energy Authority pays far too much attention to power stations, in which respect its calculations turned out to be wrong, in that the stations were not economic in the end. It pays far too little attention to marine nuclear engineering. Here is an opportunity to do something about that, and I hope that the Government will take it. If we can show determination, then we have something very useful here, and we are perhaps fortunate from rather broader reasons than the narrow reasons of the deterrent to have the opportunity of developing it in this country.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), like most hon. Members who have spoken in the debate so far, has detailed Service Department experience and speaks fairly frequently on this subject. I confess freely to amateur status on the subject of defence. When I think of the errors in defence policy which seem to have been made by the professionals among the Ministers, if they may be so described, I am somewhat emboldened to take part in the debate.
I want, in particular, to deal with some points made not by the hon. Member for Dorset, West, but by his hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn). We seem to have had many Dorset 109 speeches in the debate. In his speech the hon. Member for Dorset, North deployed in an extremely interesting way, and with a nearer approach to conviction than I have heard from the Government Front Bench, the case for an independent deterrent. I did not, however, find his case wholly convincing, and, in particular, I did not follow his extremely interesting attempt at an example of how we should deal with a Soviet missile threat in the Middle East by means of Polaris. But I will leave that point for the moment in the hope that he will have returned to his place in the Chamber when I get back to the subject at the point at which it would arise, I hope, fairly naturally in the construction of my speech.
In spite of what is said, I have a strong feeling that this will be the last Statement on Defence, or at any rate nearly the last, based on the idea of an independent deterrent. I am not assuming this from the fairly safe assumption of a change of political power by the time that we have another Statement on Defence, but I am assuming it from the fact that if we look back over previous defence statements it becomes clear that year after year there have been stark changes—not evolutionary but drastic changes—of direction. I find it difficult to believe that there will not be further changes in the future and that the next will not take us away from the idea of an independent deterrent.
I want, therefore, to look a little at the considerations which are involved and the reasons why we should be prepared to accept this change, I believe happily, as well as at some of the foreign policy implications which follow from it. I mention only briefly what are perhaps the more obvious and more frequently mentioned, though I believe subsidiary, reasons against an independent British deterrent or an independent deterrent held at present by any members of the alliance other than the United States. There is, first, the expense. One can argue how great the expense is, but clearly the argument is positive and not negative. Secondly, there is the consideration that it militates against the provision of greater conventional forces. Once again we can argue about exactly how far it militates against this provision, but I think that nobody could dispute that without an independent nuclear deterrent, 110 it would be possible for the same expenditure of money—
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton) rose—
§ Mr. Jenkins
—to have more conventional forces. I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member who rose to interrupt me decided to wait until the end of the sentence and that this enabled him to subside.
§ Captain Elliot rose—
§ Mr. Jenkins
That is always a mistaken comment to make. I apologise for making it, and I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for subsiding again.
Thirdly, there is the fact that to some extent it encourages others to emulate one in having a nuclear deterrent, and to the extent to which one is against a large proliferation of these weapons—and I am sure that everyone is against it—that is a disadvantage. Fourthly, a point which I will mention at a little more length and which was argued at some length by the hon. Member for Dorset, North, is that the value of our or any other independent deterrent is pretty negligible to the alliance as a whole at present.
The hon. Member for Dorset, North had a dispute with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) about the proportion which the nuclear weapons which we might be able to deliver by means of the V-bomber force bore to the total nuclear striking force of the United States. But even if I give him the whole of his argument and assume that everything that he said was correct and that everything that my hon. Friend said was incorrect, I do not think that anyone would seriously argue, if the Western Alliance as a whole were not a group of independent countries but a single unified State, under a single unified military command, with no question of national prestige or possible independent action arising, that the contribution which we make at the moment or which the French may make in the future would significantly strengthen the balance of power between the West as a whole and the Soviet Union. The fourth point I also take to be true. Those seem to me to be four important but to some extent 111 subsidiary reasons against our continuing to maintain an independent deterrent.
Before I come to what seem to me to be the less frequently mentioned but the most important of all these points, I wish to deal with two possible arguments in the other direction. The first has some little force but by no means enough to outweigh all the other considerations, and it is that the possession of the deterrent gives us a certain status and a position in the test talks and possibly in wider disarmament talks. There is something in this point, but it could not be set against all the other considerations.
The second argument which might be advanced on this side is that the independent deterrent gives us a greater strength, power and influence within the alliance and a greater ability to make our voice heard. I am extremely sceptical about this argument. Let us assume that the more extreme devotees pf Skybolt, for instance, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), had had their way through the Prime Minister at the Nassau talks and had persuaded the Americans that in spite of what they thought about the performance and possibilities of Skybolt, they should go on making it, not on the terms subsequently offered to us but on the terms originally envisaged, under which it would be a weapon manufactured by them and perhaps used by them, and given to us.
Let us suppose that these views, relayed through the Prime Minister, had prevailed at Nassau and that the Skybolt project had been carried forward. Would such a result have weakened or strengthened our position in dealing with the Americans within the alliance? Short of circumstances in which we actually launched a thermonuclear attack in the face of a thermonuclear onslaught—on our own and independent of the Americans; surely highly unlikely circumstances—the victory of the Skybolt project would have brought us nothing but weakness within the alliance of the future. Every time we attempted to put a contrary point of view on defence or, perhaps, on wider matters to the allies, they would have said, "For goodness sake, we gave you Skybolt; we have gone on manufacturing the thing and have wasted billions of dollars. Surely you do not expect more from us?"
112 Once one is in the position of wanting one's ally to manufacture a weapon which he does not think is any good, his having given it so that one can call it "independent", the result is weakness and not strength for the recipient. But the overwhelming disadvantage is that an independent deterrent, certainly to the extent that it retains any real independence—and, of course, the French one will when it comes into being; General de Gaulle is not thinking hypothetically in this case, but the British one presents a different picture—they are either totally useless because no one can conceive of their being used, or if there is any thought of them being used they are excessively dangerous.
Why is this? It is certainly not obviously because—and I say "obviously" because it seems obvious to me—the Americans are more responsible, cautious or statesmanlike than we or the French or any other country which might be concerned can be termed. It is simply because the only relatively safe methods of delivery—and the whole nuclear question has become overwhelmingly a matter of delivery and not of warheads—are immensely expensive, perhaps impossibly so, for any country in the alliance other than America.
I share entirely the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East about Mr. McNamara and the degree of cohesion with which, by immense energy and force, he has brought into the Pentagon essentially a policy of almost limitless options; of having a different weapon and a different possibility to deal with almost any situation one can think of. This seems to be a continuing aspect of his process of thought. I am told that when Mr. McNamara was managing the Ford Motor Company the greatest single decision he had to make was whether, in a position in which public taste might be changing in favour of small cars, Fords should go in for smaller or bigger cars. He came down on the side of producing both; for the whole range; and this has been very much translated into the method of thought which he has brought into American military thinking. However, it is something totally impossible for any other Power even to contemplate.
113 In that instance Mr. McNamara went in for them all. But what is the point of making them all—of having this vast great option—if, by doing that, one slightly reduces the danger concerning the thermonuclear balance? There are three reasons. The first is that by having this wide range of options one is in the position of hardly ever needing to estimate—a rather horrible word, I suppose. One can always put the other side in the position of having to do the estimating. This, of course, is tied up with conventional forces and the Western Alliance, but I will come to that later. The second advantage of this policy of almost limitless options is that one pushes back the threshold of decision; one is given much more time to see just what is happening and what the other side is trying to do. One can see all these things before doing anything decisive.
I remember that it used to be a great source of worry to some people that a flight of geese appearing before the radar screens might he taken as representing some enemy activity, with the result that someone might press the button and cause the outbreak of a nuclear holocaust. We have come far beyond the point where that sort of thing might happen. I am told that, theoretically, it might have happened in 1905 when a meteor fell in Siberia. A few years ago there might have been no question of there having to be an immediate reaction. However, with the process of time, if the Russians were by mistake to let off some rockets which landed on the United States there would be no military need for any reaction. I am not saying that there would not he any political reaction. I am trying to show the advantages onegets by pushing back the threshold of decision, so giving one more time in which to see just what has happened.
The third advantage of this policy of limitless options is that one is able to concentrate—not entirely, because that would be a contradiction in terms when dealing with limitless options—even after a nuclear strike has been made by the other side, it would be possible to concentrate on counter forces; on destroying installations rather than going for cities— unless, of course, the other side went for cities in its turn.
114 These are the three advantages one gets from a policy of limitless options, despite the immense expenditure necessarily involved. None of them is really possible with an independent deterrent. Firstly, one must envisage—and I understand that this applies to a large part of the thinking behind our independent deterrent; and certainly it applies to the French one—using it at a fairly early stage against a conventional attack. Secondly, one must use it at a fairly early stage or else it is completely useless. The right hon. and gallant Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) said that the V-bomber force could destroy the whole of the Soviet Union now. So it could—if it started first, but it could not if the Russian attack took place beforehand. Thus it is a different sort of weapon when one thinks in terms of, say, the American Minuteman equipment when it is fully developed.
Thirdly, the independent deterrent—and this will apply even to a semi-independent deterrent like ours, and still more to the French one—is completely unsuitable for a counterforce strategy. In our case Polaris does not have the accuracy to enable it to be used against military installations, except with the hope of hitting something of that sort. It must mean, therefore, that it would be a force to be used against cities.
Bearing this in mind, one must accept that throughout the 1960s at least—and it may well extend beyond then—the United States is, whether we like it or not, the only possible manufacturer of a complex, sophisticated and, therefore, relatively safe means of delivery. If one goes for a means of delivery to be developed independently, that means will not only be less effective but more dangerous.
What does acceptance of this argument mean in terms of foreign policy? It clearly means that we must try to work towards a closer alliance with and a more closely integrated N.A.T.O. A possible alternative, which some of my hon. Friends might advocate, is a completely unilateral position in which one goes out of the alliance altogether. Acceptance of the argument of the nuclear deterrent, however, is incompatible with the generally hostile attitude, and is a resistance to a closer integration of decisions and a more closely developed alliance.
115 Obviously one very much wants to have closer consultation, but it seems to me that views about this are to a large extent confused by discussing it, as is done quite frequently, in terms of the, on the whole, untypical and bad parallel of Cuba. What does follow, from this point of view, from the experience of the Cuba week last October? First of all, it certainly does not suggest that one is consulted more if one has an independent deterrent than if one has not. Mr. Dean Acheson carried out an important mission at this time. He first went to see General de Gaulle. Then, I believe, he sent a message but did not come to London, and he went to see Dr. Adenauer.
The reason, secondly, why I think Cuba is a bad example of how co-operation ought to work and a bad reason for our blaming the Americans in this sense is that the plain fact is that nobody in the alliance had anything approaching any worth-while advice to offer on Cuba. Hardly anyone knew anything about the Cuban situation. We were entirely dependent on the American intelligence to know what was going on. If they had been consulted about what should have been done to a large extent beforehand, instead of being told what had been decided but before it was done, what everyone in the alliance would have said would have been, "Do your best, but please be careful", which on the whole I do not think would have been a very helpful piece of advice to any country. Before we take an example of how consultation ought not to work, it would be better to choose an example where people had more worth-while advice to offer than was the case with Cuba.
In a situation of crisis which arose out of the movement of nuclear forces into a new area, in a situation in which nuclear forces were enormously in the background, it was shown in Cuba that United States conventional superiority in the area was of overwhelming and decisive importance and that it was for that reason that the Russians were extremely frightened on the Friday and Saturday nights as to what the Americans would do. They were not frightened that the Americans would drop an H-bomb on Moscow. They did not believe that the Americans would do that. They were frightened of 116 either an air strike against the missile site on Cuba or a conventional invasion against the island, because both were perfectly possible to the Americans and therefore were credible threats.
There has never been a crisis which more proved the point about the importance in an even highly nuclear situation of conventional weapons. I draw the conclusion from it that if we want to improve the degree of consultation within the alliance and improve our influence vis-à-vis the Americans within the alliance, we can do it more effectively by increasing our conventional forces than by any other method of which we can easily think.
I turn now to ask how all this ties in with our relationship with our European allies. Have we already clung on so long to our own independent deterrent as to now make it inevitable that all our European allies will want to become and eventually will become nuclear Powers in some form or other? I certainly would not take the rather extreme view that we bear the final responsibility for General de Gaulle's insistence on his force de frappe. I think that he would have wanted to do that in any case, but it is the case from statement after statement by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, and from the statement by the Prime Minister in debate on 30th January, that General de Gaulle could quote words to justify up to the hilt his policy of an independent deterrent. And holding the bilateral conversations, independent of what came out of them, at Nassau, at the particular moment when these were held, when the Brussels talks were clearly in an extremely delicate situation, was an extremely foolish thing to do.
But to some extent, in dealing with Europe and our European allies at present, we regrettably have to regard France and General de Gaulle as the odd man out and our relations must depend upon those of the other Powers. I do not believe that either from the point of view of stopping the spread of nuclear weapons or from that of maintaining as far as we can our position of friendship with the other Powers, we in this country can expect to maintain a qualitatively different position of independence than we are prepared to see them have.
It would be best if we could do it on the basis of a non-nuclear Europe, 117 and by that I mean a Europe in which no Power itself possessed nuclear weapons, nor the European Powers in combination possessed them. If that could be achieved as far as ourselves and the other Powers were concerned, I would not mind General de Gaulle being the odd man out with his little force de frappe, but it may be too late to have that, and we have now the American project of a multilateral nuclear force.
I cannot feel even the beginning of enthusiasm for this idea, though I am not sure that having allowed things to get on to their present stage we would be wise to rule it out completely. I do not think that it would be particularly dangerous, because I cannot conceive that the weapons contained in this multilateral force would ever be used. The possibility of obtaining co-ordination of orders and agreement and political decision, which we would have to have in order to have the weapons fired off, is something one could hardly conceive. That is why one may reasonably regard it as political concept to begin with and not one which would add substantially to the deterrent power of the West.
There is in Europe at present, and by no means only in France, a great desire to build a Europe which would be on terms—I hope and think not of hostility —of equality with the United States in which there would be a much more equally placed partnership on either side of the Atlantic. This is a highly desirable goal which we should encourage, though, for the reasons I gave earlier, I think that it would be a mistake to try to pursue complete equality in the thermonuclear field.
But even if in this field we cannot regard equality between the two pillars of the alliance on either side of the Atlantic as desirable, we must certainly regard equality within the pillar on the European side of the Atlantic as something of which we must be in favour. We cannot expect to maintain indefinitely a more independent position than the other countries on the Continent. And I do not think we can afford to base our policy on a sort of feeling of moral superiority towards Germany.
This may be something which some hon. Members may feel, but on the whole moral superiority, even if felt and 118 justified, is not something to be expressed publicly. I certainly think that in circumstances in which France does not base her policy on it, in which Russia, if she had the opportunity to deal with West Germany would not base her policy on it, to try to base policy on ineffective moral superiority is a luxury which we in this country cannot possibly afford. It is meaningless to think, in terms of defence or anything else, of keeping Germany in a position of permanent inferiority.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am speaking in all senses, including the military. The immediate conclusion I draw is that the only hope of keeping Germany in the long run as a non-nuclear Power lies in ceasing ourselves to be a Power with an independent nuclear deterrent. The other position is both hypocritical and, moreover, one which one can never succeed in carrying through.
Today, to a greater extent than is usual even in our recent defence debates, our defence policy, for reasons which are largely our own fault, is in a state of confusion and chaos. Our foreign policy, for reasons which are, perhaps, less our own fault, is also in a fairly confused state. Defence policy should, essentially, support foreign policy, and, in reconstructing our defence policy at the present time, we should bear in mind very much how we can use it to help our foreign policy objectives, which should be those of trying to bring new cohesion back into N.A.T.O., on the one hand, and, on the other hand, preserving so far as it still exists the friendship for us of the other Five in Europe and, indeed, in France itself since it is foolish to treat France simply on the basis of what General de Gaulle said in January. We should use our defence policy as the basis for achieving the foreign policy objectives which we wish to attain in those two directions.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
I am very glad to follow the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins). In the first place, he said that he was an amateur in defence matters 119 and, since I have spent a good many years in one of the Services, I ought to have an advantage. I admired the skill with which the hon. Gentleman linked military matters with foreign affairs, although I do not intend to follow him in foreign affairs. I shall confine my remarks to more material things. Perhaps I may be able to give the hon. Gentleman a little information.
The hon. Gentleman displayed his amateur status—in this, of course, he is not unique—in speaking of the deterrent being used. He even envisaged using it at a fairly early stage against conventional attack. Of course, one does not use the deterrent. The deterrent is a psychological weapon. If nuclear weapons are used, they are normal weapons, although of greatly increased destructive power. This looseness in the use of words to describe these weapons leads to a great deal of trouble and confusion.
The hon. Gentleman referred to expense. I was about to interrupt him when he corrected his statement of the position. I think that we are agreed on both sides of the House that expense does not come into the argument about nuclear weapons or conventional weapons. We agree that we will not save money either way.
In speaking of the value of our deterrent, the hon. Gentleman related it only to the contribution to the Western Alliance as a whole. I shall take up this point later. One of the most interesting comments he made arose out of his discussion of the Cuba incident when he said that the United States conventional forces were the deciding factor at that time. I wonder whether they would have been if the missiles had been installed in that little island. I very much doubt it.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins
Will the hon. Gentleman develop that a little? Why would it have made a decisive difference to the response of the Russians to the American reaction to Cuba if the missiles had been on site at the time?
§ Captain Elliot
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will take that up during my speech.
Underlying the debate, whether hon. Members have voiced it or not—and 120 most have—is the argument about whether we should replace our nuclear forces with conventional forces. As I see it, the argument is this: within a defence budget of £1,800 million, how should we spend £180 million? Should we retain our nuclear arms or give them up and use the money for conventional forces? Presumably, the Socialists and the Liberals believe that, if we gave up our nuclear arms and strengthened our conventional arms, it would give the country greater security.
Before I examine the argument further, I make this point at once. We now possess a nuclear armament. The planning is over. We have built it up. Whatever the advantages or disadvantages of having it, it is now in existence. Weapons become obsolete, of course, and have to be replaced, but this applies as much to conventional arms as to nuclear arms. I do not think that there is very much in the point about expense.
I believe that it is the primary job of the House of Commons to settle the basic principles clearly. Once this has been done, it is the duty of the Service chiefs and the scientists to deal with the types and numbers of weapons which we have. The right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), who is not in his place at the moment, complained that the White Paper did not give us enough detailed information about weapons. I do not believe that hon. Members will ever master the details; they will never get enough information. We here must settle principles, and I wish to give now what seem to me to be one or two of the principles upon which is based the conception of an independent nuclear deterrent for this country.
Apart from a few hon. Members, we accept the need for a Western deterrent policy, and we accept, also, that the Western deterrent is valid. The nuclear armament is not a secret weapon. There is no bluff. It is a terrible weapon. Nor is there any adequate defence against it, because, unless the defence can stop every missile getting through, it is not adequate. There is no arms race in the old sense. Both sides reach a stage when they can do an unacceptable amount of damage to each other, and they remain at that level. To deter, one needs only the capacity to inflict that unacceptable damage, and no 121 more. The Western deterrent can do this, so it is valid.
Do our nuclear arms in this country constitute a valid deterrent? It is here, I believe, that confusion begins, and it begins because of a failure to draw a distinction between, on the one hand, this country making a contribution to the nuclear arms of the West and, on the other hand, the possession by this country of an independent nuclear deterrent. It is a vital distinction. I shall not argue whether or not our nuclear arms do make a worth-while contribution. I believe that they do, but this is not relevant to the point I make. The distinction I draw bears directly on what should be the strength of our nuclear arms. If that strength falls below the level of what is necessary in order to deter, we have not got anything worth while.
I do not want to take up too much of the House's time, but I should like to quote one or two examples of the confusion of thought which arises if this distinction is not made. In our debate on the Nassau Agreement, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) said:Do they"—I presume that that is the Government—really think that the addition of four or five British Polaris submarines to the general deterrents of the West is significant in Russian minds?I interrupted him to ask whether he would make the distinction which I have just mentioned, and he replied:I do not know what the hon. and gallant Gentleman means. I am talking about an independent British deterrent. The Government's argument is that it adds something significant to the general deterrents of the West, and I say that that is nonsense."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1963; Vol. 670, c. 997.]Of course, he was not talking about British nuclear arms in the sense of their being used as an independent nuclear deterrent.
The most confused remark of all was made by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), the then Socialist Shadow Minister of Defence, who, unfortunately, has just left the Chamber. He said:As Mr. McNamara has said, the only justification for the British maintenance of the 122 weapon is that it is wholly integrated with the United States weapons system and so 'targeted'".I believe that is exactly the wrong way round. If that is the only rôle, it may well justify giving it up. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say:… one logical argument for it is that it is integrated and makes a slight addition to the American nuclear deterrent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1962; Vol. 667, c. 943.]To my mind, the one logical argument for the British deterrent is that it should be seen by the enemy to be completely independent. Again, the right hon. Gentleman has got it exactly the wrong way round.
We have been told that Cuba showed how useless our nuclear arms were. Quite the reverse. Speaking in our last nuclear debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) said:Cuba did what Soviet missile-carrying submarines never did. It shocked American public opinion into a realisation of the full implications of a deterrent policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1962; Vol. 667, c 910.]It did indeed. I wonder it did not shock all right hon. and hon. Members opposite. Those with eyes to see—and the small countries have eyes—saw the effect of the threat of a nuclear deterrent installed in the tiny island of Cuba—only 40 missiles, I am told—and the dramatic deterrent effect that this had on the mighty United States. The reactions are well known and the United States acted only just in time. Was the reaction any less violent because the nuclear arms in Cuba were but a fraction of their own? Of course not, and this has a direct bearing on the validity of the British independent deterrent.
The hard fact is that when aggression is contemplated retaliation must be related to the stake involved. Throughout history aggressors have made this calculation. Hitler, in his writings, said that to achieve his ends in Europe he had the right to demand the lives of 1 million men. I do not suppose that he would have had the right, in his view, in order to take the Sudetenland. Mussolini, before the fall of France, said to his chiefs of staff, "I need a few thousand casualties to allow me to take my place at the peace table".
If anybody wants to threaten Britain, he must consider what he is prepared 123 to risk, and he would not be prepared to risk as much in obliterating this island as he would in doing the same to Russia or the United States. Therefore, this country could obtain as much security as the United States with a vastly smaller deterrent force, and Cuba would need a very much smaller deterrent force than this country.
Those are briefly some of the basic principles, as I see them, on which rests the idea of an independent nuclear deterrent for this country, and I should like to examine in a little more detail some of the arguments for retaining it or abandoning it and strengthening our conventional forces. The case for a credible deterrent, whether for the West as a whole or for another country, is well known and, I think, generally agreed. It gives freedom from nuclear blackmail. I will not elaborate on that, because I am sure all hon. Members know exactly what it means and all the implications for the West as a whole or for this country.
The arguments put forward against our nuclear weapons are, I believe, two. The first is that our nuclear weapons are too weak to act as a deterrent and in any case will not be independent in future as we have to rely on the United States Polaris. It is argued therefore that the nuclear shield should be held by the United States alone. The second is that by strengthening our conventional forces, and, I understand, more particularly our forces in the Army of the Rhine, the West as a whole will be strengthened because we are better able to react to a conventional threat which, if allowed to develop, may escalate to full-scale nuclear war.
I should like to take those two points in turn. I do not believe that the question as to whether our nuclear weapons are strong enough to act as a deterrent can be debated sensibly by this House. Unless we know the details of our opponents' defences, and the full capabilities of our own forces, including all the technical counter-measures on both sides, we are most unlikely to arrive at a correct assessment. Anyone who has been in the Services for some years knows how quickly one becomes out of date in a year or two when one gets outside. It is the job of the expert Service Departments 124 to provide the weapons which will adequately back our purposes.
I assume that the present size of the V-bomber force has not been decided by guesswork and that the strength of any future nuclear weapon will not be decided in that way. The strength of our nuclear deterrent is, or should be, decided by careful calculation of the forces needed to inflict unacceptable damage on a potential aggressor, taking into account every detail of the offensive or defensive measures which might be deployed against it. If our nuclear weapons are strong enough to deter, we need not waste time arguing about whether they will make a useful contribution to the Western deterrent as a whole; they will undoubtedly do so.
The next point is, are they independent? The V-bomber force is. To my mind, it is an irresponsible argument to say that it is not, because targeting is co-ordinated. Obviously, when working with allies, that must be so, otherwise the alliance will not work. I always find it difficult to take seriously the argument from the Socialist and Liberal benches that when Blue Streak was cancelled we no longer had an independent deterrent. We can argue about the respective technical merits of, say, Blue Streak, or the V-bomber force, but that argument is confined to the advantages of the respective delivery systems. That seems to me to be quite irrelevant to the question of independence.
The fact remains that in future Polaris will be supplied by the Americans, although, I understand, our deterrent will be supplemented by an airborne missile, and that is all to the good. If America denounced the Nassau Agreement, we would not get Polaris. But is that realistic? Can this possibility be taken seriously? I believe not. Such action would have a disastrous effect on the Western Alliance as a whole. It would be a complete justification for the policy of General de Gaulle and all the dangers that that entails. In any event, I do not see how hon. Members opposite can sensibly argue that America can fail to supply Polaris while, at the same time, they are willing to shelter under the American nuclear shield.
I shall not spend time arguing about the advantages of possessing our own 125 deterrent. In our last debate, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence put the arguments powerfully. I agree with him. In these times, with the new power groupings arising throughout the world, it would be madness to throw away our own shield.
I turn now to the final argument that strengthening our conventional forces, more particularly B.A.O.R., would give us greater security. On this point, I was struck by a paragraph in the Liberal pink paper, which states on page 4 that in the circumstances of the nuclear stalemate,it has become more likely that the Soviet Union, or one of the other Communist Powers, may use the shelter of this balance of terror to undertake military operations short of nuclear war.I believe that to be wrong. The realities of nuclear war are known to both sides. There would be no victor and no loser. The logical argument to he drawn from that is that because of the grave dangers of conventional war escalating to nuclear war, the great Powers will do their utmost to avoid a conventional war.
There are, however, people who consider that a conventional war could be fought without it developing into a nuclear war. They hanker after bigger conventional forces, particularly in Europe. If they did not think in this way, why do they want hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of men under arms in Europe? Surely, they do not believe that these are needed to contain a little local incident or to deter or identify aggression if it occurred. I believe that if we were to save £170 million or £180 million by doing away with nuclear weapons, it would make only a trifling difference to our conventional strength in Europe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) used certain arithmetic in his calculations. As I see it, half of that saving, or £90 million, would provide approximately 34,000 additional men and the rest would go on equipment. If the Army were to get one-third of those rnen—say, 11,000 or 12,000—and they all went to Germany, can anyone seriously believe that that would make the slightest difference to our security? I speak from memory, but I believe it is calculated that to rely upon conventional forces to halt the East in Europe, we would need 90 divi- 126 sions. We have not the slightest prospect of getting them. The fact is, as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) mentioned, we have too many men in Europe. To build them up still further would, if anything, increase tension and, therefore, the risk of war.
The Russians will not embark on war, either conventional or nuclear, for one reason only, and that is because they are frightened of the nuclear retaliation of the West. To argue that if we add another division or two to B.A.O.R. that would affect this fact is rubbish. All that it would do would be to affect our balance of payments to our detriment.
We need fewer men in Europe, properly organised in highly mobile divisions, able to go at once where they are needed. If this highly mobile force could not stop local aggression, nuclear war would follow. I do not believe that Russia would allow this situation to develop. If, however, she did, whatever number of divisions we had in Europe would not make any difference.
To sum up, I believe that the Government are right and I do not believe that anyone would disagree with maintaining mobile forces to stop incipient wars all over the world where we have responsibilities. These mobile forces should be strengthened as far as possible. They suffer as a result of the large forces which we maintain on the Continent. Those large forces are straining our resources and, sooner or later, I believe that the treaties which bind us to keep troops in Europe must be reviewed. There must be fuller recognition of the fact that war anywhere is a danger to world peace and that with our world-wide system of bases, this country renders the greatest service by the provision of mobile forces which can operate all over the world. Properly organised mobile divisions in Europe can be provided by the Continental countries with American support.
At this time, when new power groupings are arising, it would be disastrous to throw away our nuclear shield. I support the Government defence policy laid down in 1962 and continued in 1963. I ask them to hold firmly to their present course. Peace has been maintained and incipient wars checked. I congratulate the Government on their success.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins), I have no claim to be an expert about these matters, and I can offer the House no technological assistance of any kind. I am not sure that I regret that. I am not one of those people who sneer at experts—I am far too frightened of them to sneer at them—but when I listen to a series of speeches examining the killing power of a nuclear weapon and arguing whether it should be used in these or those circumstances, I am amazed at the coolness, callousness and cold-bloodedness with which hon. and right hon. Members of this House are content to deal with weapons of this kind.
The argument against nuclear weapons, and, therefore, the argument against our having them dependently or independently, is that they are morally inadmissible. This argument has been used about all weapons and, I suppose, with varying degrees of validity, but I should have thought it impossible in this day and age for anyone to think of any cause, any claim, any frontier or any national or limited interest, which would justify the use of a weapon which would devastate the earth and leave the human race either non-existent or back at the most primitive levels. In all the arguments today, I have not heard any suggestion of any cause which would justify it.
We do not have to argue that here in our country, because, quite apart from the ineffectiveness of an argument advocating the use of such a weapon, I wish that right hon. and hon. Members would bear in mind that we do not have an independent nuclear weapon of our own.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Member, when he makes his speech, will make his speech. At the moment I am making my speech.
§ Mr. Silverman
Very well, but I shall go on doing that. I shall be very willing to listen to anyone who can point out the error of my ways, but, like all of us, I have been studying this question for a long, long time, and I have never heard any convincing exposition of the claim, which I know is frequently made, that we have in fact any nuclear weapon of our own which we can deliver with our own delivery power, which we can control for ourselves, and which we can use or not use exactly as in our discretion we think. I do not believe, in spite of what the hon. and gallant Member has said, that there is any Member of this House who thinks that we have ever had such a weapon, or that we have such a weapon now, or that we shall ever have such a weapon.
§ Sir O. Prior-Palmer rose—
§ Mr. Silverman
I am stating what I believe to be a fact. What is more, the only weapon that I know of for which such a claim has been made, namely, the V-bombers, even in respect of those, it is admitted, even by their most persuasive advocates, that they may be defective independent weapons now but they are on their way out and that in a year or two they will not be effective. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I really wish that hon. Members would try to follow the argument, because this is a developing argument and a developing situation. If hon. and gallant Members concede that the V-bombers, for which alone this claim is made, will not be available to us after a year or two, then what they are really saying is that we can protect ourselves for a year or two, and that only with Russian restraint and good will, and that, I believe, would be a very hazardous attitude to take. That is all I want to say with regard to the hon. and gallant Member's speech. I want to come now to my own.
First I wish to say that because I am not an expert I should like to go back to first principles, as I understand them a little better. Defence policy. Defence of what? Defence against whom? Wherever the ultimate argument might lead, it must begin—must it not, since we are responsible for the fate of our 129 own country and our own people?—with the question, can we defend, if war occurs, the people of our own country? Not some of them; not the majority. That may have been all the question in earlier times, but, with the development of these nuclear weapons, what is at stake, if a war takes place, and what we must be able to defend, is the bulk of the civilian population of our own country. I am amazed to see hon. Members opposite dissenting from that, shaking their heads in despair. Are we then to imagine that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who shakes his head so gloomily believes that the safety of 40 million or 50 million British men, women and children is not the object of our defence policy? Is that what we are to infer from that? Because if it is not the object of our defence policy, what is our defence policy for? What else can we defend if we cannot defend them?
§ Mr. Silverman
Yes, I know, and I shall deal with that argument in due course, but I cannot deal with everything at once. What I am postulating now is a defence policy which concedes that, should it fail to prevent war—and the hon. and gallant Gentleman must face the possibility—it is incapable of protecting the population of these islands, our citizens. If war were to take place tomorrow, it is conceded that nuclear weapons would he used, and that would be the end of the story so far as our country is concerned. So the first, primary object of defence policy is admittedly not served.
We have spent in the last ten or twelve years, I suppose, more than £20,000 million on producing nothing but the situation where we place the whole of the gravamen of our argument, as I understand now to be conceded, not on the basis that we can actually protect or defend, but on the basis that in this way we shall prevent war from taking place at all. That is what I am asked to accept now, to come away from the first, primary object, and to say that the object will be achieved more effectively—and, as would be said against me, more effectively than in any other way—by preventing the outbreak of war at all. If we compare the state of the world today with the state of the world as it was ten years or seventeen years ago, 130 is there anybody who believes that any nation in the world or any statesman in the world thinks that the world is really freer from the threat of war than it was then?
The hon. and gallant Member and my hon. Friend the Member for Stechford were talking about Cuba. Here we had the two main nuclear Powers face to face, each threatening to use what it had got, and the safety of the world ultimately depended on the fact that one or the other of them would give way. I am not arguing about who gave way or why, or the moral merits or the balance of virtue, or anything of that kind. In fact, one side did give way and the crisis for the moment passed. Is there a Member of this House who can say with his hand on his heart that at the time he knew that would happen? Or would it not be agreed that we all feared that we were at the end of the road already? And if we ask what contribution nuclear arms had to make to that—well, true, the Americans were terrified by the presence so near to their shores of nuclear arms, just as they had attempted and perhaps succeeded in deterring other nations all over the world by having their own nuclear arms so close to them.
But why were they there? They were there in order to prevent an invasion of Cuba, and the existence of nuclear weapons, far from being a deterrent, was an incitement to the Americans to push things up to the limit, but fortunately the Russians retired.
§ Captain Elliot
The fact is that nuclear weapons were not in position and were not at that moment menacing America. In another month perhaps they would have done.
§ Mr. Silverman
That is speculative. The hon. and gallant Gentleman may be right or wrong. But if there had been no nuclear weapons in the world the Cuban situation would have been less dangerous than it was. Possession by both sides of nuclear weapons increased the risk and did not lessen it. That must be quite clear.
In that situation, what is the Government's policy? Having spent £20,000 million over a number of years, producing at the end of it a situation in which no country can protect its population if war actually takes place, this is 131 the Government's document. I have seen a number of White Papers on defence and have heard them debated, but never one like this. It is the only document I have ever seen that proceeds directly from the foreword to the appendices without any policy whatever in between. It does not describe itself as a statement of policy at all. On the first page, it is headed "Statement on Defence". This is followed by the foreword, which consists of about 280 words. Then, over the page there are appendices containing defence statistics, and throughout the rest of the document there are more statistics. But there is no statement whatever of what the Government's defence policy is. That is understandable, because if one follows the policy of depending on nuclear weapons, and if there is a situation in which one has no nuclear weapons of one's own—or, if one has, then it is only for a few years and one admits that the time will shortly come when one will not have these weapons—then it means that one cannot have an independent defence policy at all. I am not saying that that is a bad thing, but it is a necessary consequence of depending on nuclear weapons in circumstances where one has no nuclear weapons.
The Minister of Defence said that the Government intended to keep nuclear weapons—in other words, we intend to keep what we have not got and have never had. But then he spoke of the necessity of having an independent foreign policy and in the same breath referred to an interdependent defence. That is a contradiction in terms. One cannot have an independent foreign policy if one is compelled to have an interdependent defence.
One cannot separate defence from foreign policy. If one's defence policy depends on alliances with other people, of reaching agreement with them and maintaining those agreements, then one's foreign policy must equally depend on alliances—on agreements and maintaining those agreements. If one cannot take an independent defence policy, one cannot have an independent foreign policy either.
Again, that is not necessarily a bad thing in the modem world. I can see at once that if one were able, tomorrow or next week, to get rid of all nuclear 132 weapons in the world—supposing that one had an agreement not to test any more, not to make any more, never to use them and never to threaten to use them—it would be all right as long as war did not occur. I concede that if war broke out we would still have the "know-how", that it would not take long to make them again, and that if one side felt that it was being defeated the weapons would be made and used again.
So, in that situation, it is not a bad thing that one's foreign policy must be interdependent with somebody—the more the better. This is the Government's dilemma, and it is why they cannot give a fuller and more detailed defence policy than is contained in the White Paper. Their foreign policy, as well as their defence policy, has utterly and completely broken down. They have no agreements either with Germany or with France or with America as to whether there should be nuclear weapons outside America and the Soviet Union, or, if there are to be such weapons, who is to make them, own them and control them. The interdependent defence policy which they regard as inevitable is one that necessitates reaching a number of agreements which they have not reached and which, I understand, they confess to be, at the moment, beyond their power.
We reach a situation in which we have no independent nuclear weapons ourselves, in which we are compelled to accept a policy of using them at all by maintaining an alliance with those who do have them, in which we abdicate all control and influence over foreign policy and in which our fortunes remain at the mercy of others. We were not consulted about Cuba. We will not be consulted in any other such emergency if it occurs and if one or the other of the great nuclear Powers feels that its fundamental interests are directly at stake.
If, therefore, the Government wish to have a defence policy that works—works in the sense that it reduces the danger of war and gives us some possibility of defending our people if war actually breaks out—then clearly the abandonment of nuclear weapons would be the first requisite. In view of the fact that that would not be enough—because, in the event of the outbreak of war, nuclear weapons would reappear—then one is driven to the conclusion, the inevitable 133 conclusion, that the only real hope for mankind is to abandon weapons altogether.
There was a time when this looked like an empty pipe dream. It is not an empty pipe dream now. When there are disarmament conferences, at any rate lip-service is paid to the idea of getting rid not merely of nuclear arms but of all arms. I was amazed that the Minister of Defence throughout his speech had not a single word to say about disarmament. We still have representatives at the Geneva Conference. The American proposal for total disarmament is not so very different from the Soviet proposal for total disarmament—some difference about timing, some differences about staging, but no differences in principle and no differences in timing or staging which, with good will, could not be overcome.
How is it that in a situation of that kind the Minister of Defence did not have a single word to say about disarmament negotiations, not even to condemn the other side for insincerity or to say that it was necessary and desirable and possible and that we would have had it long ago if it had not been for the wicked Russians? He did not even say that. He had not a single reference to it from the beginning of his speech to the end. This is callous this is light-minded; this is irresponsible. Not a statesman in the world today does not realise that ultimately our own safety will come out of total disarmament, however long it takes, and that the world will not be at peace until then.
In the meantime, if it takes longer, are there not other matters of foreign policy which might assist? I was delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) referred to the proposal for a non-aggression pact between the Warsaw Powers and the N.A.T.O. Powers. Why not.? What is wrong with this proposal? Why have the Government never declared themselves about it? The Foreign Secretary made a reference to it and said that we might be prepared to consider it at some time or other, but only after we had had an agreement about a test ban, which itself depends upon reconciling the difference between three on-the-spot inspections and seven on-the-spot inspections.
134 If there were a non-aggression pact between the Warsaw Powers and the N.A.T.O. Powers and if there were an area of disengagement in Central Europe in between, would not this help? Might it not help to answer the question: "Against what is your defence policy directed?". Might it not help to answer the question of whether the amount spent on armaments is to go on mounting year after year without end?
Disengagement has been explored and debated for many years. It would have come to pass long ago if it had not been for Dr. Adenauer's objection. Lord Avon, then Sir Anthony Eden, was in favour of this when he was Foreign Secretary. My late right hon. Friend Hugh Gaitskell was in favour of this for many years. Indeed, one of the more practical forms of the suggestion was named after him because of his contribution to its working out—the Gaitskell Plan, the Eden Plan, the Rapacki Plan; East, West and Central there has been acceptance of this principle.
Why has nothing been done about it? Is it seriously suggested that this would not help, that it is not part of a sensible defence policy? Can a senseless document of this kind be produced which tells nothing about how this sum of £1,835 million has been spent and which says not a word about why or how or in what circumstances these weapons are to be used, which, when we are afraid of the mounting cost, makes not a single practical suggestion for reducing it? I am not saying that in a defence debate one can roam at large over every aspect of foreign policy, but it is a senseless, idiotic defence policy and defence debate which make no reference at all to foreign policy.
References have been made to what my right hon. Friends, or some of them, and other people in other parts of the House have said on other occasions. If is a non-profitable debate. This is a developing situation, and I doubt very much whether any honest man in the world is of exactly the same opinion today about armaments and nuclear weapons as he was ten years ago. Of course, the facts have their own logic and of course honest, responsible people, whatever they have said, keep the developing facts in review and reach other conclusions. I hope that the Minister of 135 Defence, who certainly has changed his mind over many defence matters during the past few years, will develop his own thinking about it too.
In the meantime, I am very grateful to him for the form of the White Paper. In the old days there was a certain amount of trouble because we took the Defence Estimates separately from the Defence White Paper, and I found it, and so did some of my hon. Friends, extremely difficult to stomach voting against the general defence policy in a White Paper and then allowing every penny of the expenditure, when we came to consider it separately in the Service Estimates, to go through as it were on the nod, unexamined, unchecked, and uncriticised.
We are not doing that now. The Government Motion is to approve the whole of this White Paper, which includes the Army Estimates, Navy Estimates and the Air Estimates, and even a passage about Civil Defence. The voting will be about the whole lot. The Amendment will be about the whole of it, and it will enable my hon. Friends and myself to vote with our friends above the gangway on the Amendment tomorrow night and not to embarrass them by further votes later in the week, because on this form of White Paper it is not necessary to vote more than once.
§ Mr. Profumo
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that he will not take part in voting when I present the Army Estimates next week?
§ Mr. Profumo
I was asking whether this great pronouncement means that the hon. Gentleman will not be taking part in voting when I present the Army Estimates next week, which are not contained in this White Paper?
§ Mr. Silverman
Either the right hon. Gentleman was not listening with his usual care, or I was speaking with even more lack of lucidity than I normally do. I was saying that there was no policy on the first page. It is headed,Statement on Defence 1963—Foreword".Nothing about policy in that. There is a memorandum on the Navy, Army and Air Estimates, and I thought that the Minister of Defence was claiming it as a merit that this was a new type of Defence White Paper precisely because it included these things, and I therefore made the statement which I did.
I hope that before we leave the matter we can get away from these more intimate and personal questions. There is surely resting on this generation of the world, and on no shoulders more heavily than those of our own generation in this country, the responsibility to deal carefully, prudently, and I do not hesitate to say morally, with the questions which really involve, and are pregnant with, the ultimate fate of mankind.
We can score off each other, and make debating points. We can remind each other of the things that we used to say and the things that we are saying now, and of the discrepancies between them, but the ultimate responsibility for not taking steps to increase tension, and for taking every possible step to reduce it, is one which we cannot escape. My own complaint against the Government—and I dare say that my hon. and right hon. Friends agree with me about this—is that for the past ten years they have shown no ultimate sense of responsibility in these matters. They are showing no responsibility in this White Paper. They are shirking and evading the questions that we have to decide.
The number of Members of my generation is dwindling. It was a generation which lived through two world wars. In the first there was a loss of human life of perhaps 30 million—30 million wasted human lives. In the Second World War there was a loss of 50 million human lives. Looking back, it is very difficult to justify the casting 137 away of those lives. It is very difficult to see what was gained by either war in the end that might not have been gained without it—although I agree utterly and entirely that we had no option in the case of the Second World War. I do not know whether we had in the First World War.
But if we do it again we shall not count the loss of lives in millions, or tens of millions; it will be in hundreds of millions or thousands of millions, or more. Let us remember that when we talk about our defence policy, and about who should have this kind of weapon and who should not have it. It is a solemn responsibility, and I cannot think that the Government have even begun to measure up to the responsibilities and obligations which they assumed when they became the Government. The best thing that can happen to this country and to the world is that they should get out, so that we can put in their places people with a greater sense of responsibility and a truer and sounder outlook on world affairs, who will adopt a policy that at any rate may take us nearer safety and peace.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) says, "If we do it again," by which I assume that he means that if we again have a major world conflict. But if that happens the whole policy of the deterrent will have failed. The whole point and purpose of the deterrent will have come to nothing. I genuinely believe that the mere fact that we have peace in the world today is due largely to the possession by the West of effective means of nuclear retaliation. If he wishes that this should he denied to us—as, indeed, virtually the entire Opposition appear to wish—it will mean the end not only of Britain's independent rôle in history but, more important, a weakening of the deterrent capacity of the West as a whole, which in itself could well bring much nearer the sort of holocaust which the hon. Member rightly fears.
The hon. Member asked what this policy was all about. Taking the White Paper, he said, "It is for the defence of what, and against whom?" I shall try to tell him in my own way. It is for the defence of British interests, against any 138 potential aggressor who is capable of raising his head in order to harm British interests.
I want to take up some of the points made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins). We possess this deterrent capacity today for one overriding purpose, namely to prevent the outbreak of a nuclear war. In a very searching examination of our deterrent policy the hon. Member for Stechford seemed—I say this in all humility, in case I myself have the point utterly wrong—completely to misunderstand what the deterrent is all about.
For example, he used the phrase, "If we launch one on our own." We are not going to launch one on or own. We are not going to launch it as though we were the aggressor. In any case, if we had to launch one on our own, as I indicated a moment ago, the policy of the deterrent would have failed. The purpose of the deterrent is to deter, riot to be launched. It is to deter principally against the threat of an attack; it is a counter-offensive weapon, as I understand it.
The hon. Member for Stechford went on to give an example, asking if anyone could imagine our using this weapon to answer "a Soviet missile threat from the Middle East. That again, to my mind, is a complete misunderstanding of what the deterrent is about. The British deterrent is to protect this country against the threat of a nuclear strike, and to ensure that we have sufficient nuclear capacity to make the threat of an attack against this country unrealistic and impossible. That is what we possess today. To all those who wish to get rid of it, I say that they are taking a much bigger responsibility and a much more important decision in deciding that we shall cease to continue development of the deterrent than was ever taken by Lord Attlee, as he now is, when he decided to proceed with this development in the first place.
That is one of the reasons why we should continue the deterrent—because we possess it today and because it is a vital part of our whole defence structure today. It adds to the complement of our total military power, and if we take it away, we take away a most valuable part of the defences of these islands. I 139 hope that hon. Members will recognise this when they go round the country preaching about it.
We are not attempting to match the enormous defensive nuclear power of the United States of America. We cannot possibly do that. The hon. Member for Stechford spoke on this theme and held up Mr. McNamara, or somebody over there, as the great ideal, referring to the wide range of counter-strike weapons which they possess, and saying that they are seeking to cover every eventuality. We cannot do that; we are not attempting to do it; and it is not necessary for us to do it. It is not necessary for us to match the immense destructive power of the United States because we are, with them, part and parcel of the overall Western defensive system. All that we are seeking to do is to contribute towards this defensive system by the best means available to us, both in resources and the genius in this country.
The hon. Gentleman asked about a number of other points dealing principally with the foreign policy aspect of our possession of the nuclear deterrent, and, like many other of his hon. Friends, he ridiculed the feebleness of the British effort and rather scoffed at our attempts to keep this for prestige purposes. It is not maintained for prestige purposes. It is maintained for realistic purposes of foreign policy. It is giving us a say in the overall direction of Western policy today and, quite frankly, without it we would have no claim to participate in the discussions of the West at all.
We have been aiming to try to work our contribution in this country into a European framework, and that is right; but the European framework itself is part of the overall Western defensive structure. If we take the major strategic element of this argument, I do not see ourselves apart from the United States. I see ourselves as part and parcel of the same Western structure, and I should regret it very much if our policy were ever to be based on or arise out of thinking which envisages ourselves on these major issues as being completely apart from the United States. It does not arise now and I do not think it ever will. But I think it right that we should share the responsibility of contributing to Western nuclear defence. I think it also 140 right that in matters of foreign policy we should not leave all the issues to be settled between Washington and Moscow, or strictly European issues to be settled by France. These are matters in which we must play our full part and give to the overall structure of Western defence such strength as we can provide.
I do not believe that there is any question of our having to search for a rôle. What may change is the means by which we seek to fulfil that rôle. One way of fulfilling our rôle is by keeping our right to independent action. This is an important aspect of our defence policy as well of our foreign policy. We must keep the right to independent action, and the ability to act independently, should that become necessary, in the unpredictable course of future events. I do not think that the ability to act independently in defence of our obligations and interests can ever properly be maintained by the deployment of conventional forces alone, no matter how strong and effective they may be. It is a matter of balance in our defensive structure and I do not favour being all nuclear any more than being all conventional.
I agree that in Europe we must ensure that, with our European allies and friends, we take an increasing share of the burden of Western defence. It is right that we should do so and it is proper and understandable that America should call us to count on this score. If we are to pay more of the Western defence bill we should also play a much more active part in the command structure of the Western defence forces as a whole. I think it fair to say that to the Americans although I fully understand their difficulties vis-à-vis the Atomic Energy Commission, and some of the laws which they have inherited from the past.
As was said by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, it is a developing situation. Circumstances are changing, and as the power of Europe in military and economic terms increases, and as the contribution which we make to Western defence grows greater, so must we have a greater say, not only in the dictation of policy but in the control of the weapons we contribute. I would say to the Americans that we must exchange trust for trust and recognise that we are all part of the same overall defensive structure.
141 I have not time to deal with the N.A.T.O. nuclear force which I regard as an extremely important matter. I would merely say that I hope that the idea of Mr. Livingston Merchant's multilateral ships does not "get off the ground"—if hon. Members appreciate what I mean. I hope that the idea does not come to fruition. I think it extremely important that we have a multinational force. But this idea of "mixed men in a boat" is not realistic, and I cannot see it working out in practice. We should be doing a disservice by encouraging too much support for this project. Go for multinationalism, which is the spread of national contributions to the Western defence structure in Europe—that I agree with—but how much more important, if this is ever to be effective for military purposes, first and foremost is the political organisation of Western Europe. I hope that we shall stress this and aim for this first.
Meanwhile, let us be satisfied with really effective targeting plans such as we have had in operation for a long time between the V-bomber force and Strategic Air Command. Let us move forward in this context, as I think we can do and as my right hon. Friends have already indicated we are prepared to do, by contributing our V-bomber force and ultimately Polaris, by Strategic Air Command contributing its force, the Americans contributing some of their Polaris submarines and eventually bringing the French in to contribute their nuclear deterrent when and if it comes along. These things are sound.
Much of what is being proposed by the United States of America, although militarily logical, does not today really fit in with political realities. This is one thing to which they should pay a greater degree of attention, if I may say so with all humility, for the political implications of some of their military decisions—witness Skybolt—are all too often not foreseen and land themselves and their friends in very great difficulties. The American decision over Skybolt certainly landed us in a difficult spot.
Many have said—the Liberals in particular—that this is the finish of the R.A.F. They want to scrub the V-bomber force wholesale. That is a typically irresponsible proposal. The R.A.F. today, certainly in its V-bomber force, is at its absolute peak of efficiency. Some of my 142 hon. Friends, and some hon. Members opposite, have been rather taunting me and others like me who have had our doubts about the Polaris missile, but let us remember that we have had very little information and, naturally, we still have comparatively little on which to base a judgment. It was an extremely rapid decision and quite a reversal for us, even though we had been careful to say in the 1961 memorandum on the Air Estimates—we hedged—that our Skybolt would be included subject to the successful completion of its development programme.
The R.A.F. has a tremendous future ahead of it. If I have an opportunity, I hope to develop this in the debate on the Air Estimates. The Memorandum with the White Paper we are at present discussing indicates an enormous diversity of tasks for the Royal Air Force. The future it has with the immensely exciting developments which are taking place will challenge the highest degree of man's physical courage and inventive genius. I have no doubt that the Royal Air Force, in terms of manned aircraft, both in the air and in outer space, will for long contribute to the defence of this country.
I turn for a moment to the proposal in my right hon. Friend's speech about the co-ordination of the Service Departments in Whitehall under the Ministry of Defence. Like other hon. Members, I shall, of course, want to study the White Paper and think about it more fully; but generally, in broad outline, I welcome the proposals. I welcome the principles enunciated by my right hon. Friend. This is something which many of us would like to have seen happen before, but let us be quite realistic about it. This is an enormous decision to take. It will have many far-reaching implications and obviously cannot be taken overnight.
The main doubt I have, and which I want to express straight away, is that it could—I hope it will not—weaken the voice of the Services in Cabinet decisions. This is important. If he finds himself alone without the assistance of a Secretary of State from time to time, that might weaken the voice of the Minister who will have such detailed overall responsibility for the separate Service Departments. I have my doubts about the wisdom of including the Ministry of Aviation in this, although I know how 143 important is the rôle of that Ministry to the Service Departments. There are probably other ways in which the Ministry of Aviation can be strengthened. I have a particular bee in my bonnet about the importance of space and space developments. This will probably have to become a rôle for a separate Minister, and I certainly would not like this matter handed over to the Ministry of Defence along with everything else.
I appreciate that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) wants to make his speech and, unfortunately, I have had to chop mine about the leave out more than I have been able to include. I will merely end by saying that in this choice of weapons systems there no doubt have been and no doubt will be mistakes. I defy anybody to have the wisdom and insight to prevent that from happening. We live in a highly complex technological age in which developments are so fantastically rapid but in which, at the same time, the programmes take a long time to reach fruition and completion.
Inevitably, with long-range development and new technologies, mistakes will from time to time be made. But the White Paper is part of a continuing story. It is a story which certainly was well begun in the White Paper, "The Next Five Years." Changes of weapons do not mean changes in the overall defence policy of this country. But, and this is something for the electorate to recognise, changes in the complexion of the Government will mean changes in the policies concerning the defence of this country. Given a Labour Government, they will mean the denuding of our defences. One thing has certainly come out of the debate; the electorate would be well advised to keep my right hon. Friends in office and not hand over to the hotch-potch of neutralists, pacifists and nuclear disarmers who sit on the benches opposite.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
I regret that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) had to curtail his speech, because it was probably the most eloquent argument we had heard so far for having some statement on policy from the Government be- 144 fore a defence debate starts. It seemed to me that when he talked about an independent foreign and defence policy and so on the hon. Member had forgotten the existence of N.A.T.O. and its objectives. Those objectives have been admirably stated by the Government—though, perhaps, less admirably followed in preceding White Papers—but I should not pass from the speech of the hon. Member for Bournemouth. West without finding something in it with which to agree.
I certainly hope, as he does, that Mr. Merchant's mixed manned ships or three-men-in-a-boat vessels or whatever they are will not come to fruition or, as the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West put it, "take off". But apart from that, I must avoid the temptation to comment on the quality of the debate because that important programme which commands a much bigger audience of hon. and right hon. Members than we ever get for defence debates in the House considers that, when winding up a debate, an hon. Member should not say that it was a good debate because that obviously means that it was fairly dreadful. I could not help thinking, as the Minister of Defence was developing his theme this afternoon, that when "That" programme comes to comment on his speech next Saturday night it will be a pity that it will not have a tape recording of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, because that would fit into the programme very well without it needing any adaptation.
I was particularly touched with the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman when he was talking about the independent deterrent and other things and when he said, "We are not going to let anyone push us around". The right hon. Gentleman's memory is rather short and, as he said that, I wondered whether he should get some professional advice before he comes to write his speeches. This constant failure of Government policy would be a farce if it were not such a serious matter. Those of us on this side of the House who think that the defence of the country is a very important matter resent the flippant and light-hearted way in which the right hon. Gentleman chooses to present his case to the country through the House.
A pamphlet called "Entitled to Know" was published recently. The people of this country are entitled to 145 know why the Government ask us to vote £1,838 million for defence without presenting any case at all on the nature of the policy which they are trying to pursue. It has been calculated by a clever journalist, working on the number of words and the amount of money involved, that the White Paper cost £9 million a word. I advise the right hon. Gentleman that this could be simplified. The Statement on Defence for 1963 could be presented in one sentence, "The defence budget for 1963–64 will amount to £1,838 million". There is nothing else in the so-called Statement on Defence, and that would work out at about £180 million a word.
We cannot trust the Government when we do not know what they intend to do. On past form every single decision that they have taken has turned out badly. I cannot think of one incident where our armed forces had to be used during the present Government's term of office which turned out well. We got to the Lebanon only by means of United States air transport, and the much vaunted Kuwait operation has had much of the shine knocked off it by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
It seemed to me that the Minister of Defence was deliberately trying to take the attention of the House away from the Government's shortcomings by devoting more than half his speech to the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. I listened to him with great admiration, because he seemed to speak as if he thought he was putting some original ideas to the House. He should know that the question of the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence and of the Service Departments is a very long story. He knows that Command 476 was published as long ago as June, 1958.
Would it not have been a proper course, if the House was to give the necessary consideration to these proposals, for the right hon. Gentleman to have issued another White Paper setting out the considerable background to the problem and presenting some of the principles, which he explained, so that hon. Members could have had the chance of studying them before the debate took place? I hope that the fact that the right hon. Gentleman chose not to do this does not mean that the House will be denied a proper opportunity 146 to debate the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence. This is not a subject on which we should concentrate now when we are being asked to approve in broad terms the whole of the Government's defence programme, which is the most expensive defence programme ever put before Parliament in time of peace.
I certainly do not propose to be diverted by this rabbit pulled out of the hat this afternoon from trying to discuss the real problems of Government policy. The defence correspondent of The Times, with his usual perception, probably summed up and anticipated the statement made today when he described the Press conference held by the Minister of Defence on 21st February. The Press always gets to know about these things much sooner than does the House of Commons. He said:Mr. Thorneycroft arid the three Service Ministers took their place on a platform behind a table which carried one microphone—in front of the Minister of Defence. A suggestion from an official that the microphone could be adjusted if necessary to allow the Service Ministers to make use of it met with a frosty smile.The Minister of Defence acted as conductor and principal instrumentalist in this elegant quartet. An occasional short solo by Lord Carrington or Mr. Profumo, who was particularly good on the slow movement about Army manpower, and a virtuoso passage from Mr. Fraser on the future of the Royal Air Force did nothing to disturb the smooth line of Mr. Thorneycroft's performance. He gave the impression that next year he may play all the instruments himself.This seems to be the basis of the proposals we had put to us today.
It is not our function in a debate of this sort to explain the opposition's defence policy. This is, essentially, a time when we want to have from the Government a statement of their defence policy. In the Amendment moved so well by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), we are right to draw attention to the complete failure of Government policies during the past eleven years. In preparation for the debate, I have been rereading the White Papers of recent years. They make extremely dismal reading. In practically every case the Government's policies have either been proved wrong or turned out badly.
There was the great preoccupation with the problem of the European Defence Community from about 1952 to 1955, 147 when, as we all know now, the Government could have got the much more satisfactory vehicle for German rearmament of the Defence Community for the price which we had ultimately to pay for the rearmament of Germany in the modified Brussels Treaty, the Paris agreements of 1954. If the Government had not intended to keep their pledge to maintain four divisions and a Tactical Air Force in Germany, why did they make it? A good deal of the trouble we have had in Europe and in N.A.T.O. over the years has stemmed from the Government's failure to keep this pledge.
The next item—I do not need to dwell on it—was the complete fiasco of Suez. Immediately after Suez, of course, the Government turned to the nuclear strategy of the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies. They came to that nuclear strategy at a time when all the other N.A.T.O. countries were beginning to draw the logical lessons from the Russian sputnik of 1957. I asked last year—perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will, this year, answer the question which his predecessor declined to answer—whether the doctrine set out in paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper is still Government policy. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that they then said that:It must be well understood that, if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons".May we know in this debate whether that is still Government policy? Of course, it is not only the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations that the right hon. Gentleman has to repudiate. It is the Prime Minister as well because, as we all know, the notorious policy of 1957–58 was largely foisted on the Government by the Prime Minister personally. But if that is still the Government's policy, how does it tie in with paragraph 8 of the 1962 White Paper, the last Statement on Defence which we have, when the Government said:We must continue to make it clear to potential aggressors, however, that we should strike back with all the means that we judge appropriate, conventional or nuclear".If that is not enough contradiction—none of these things has been denied—what is meant by this very cryptic phrase 148 in the Bahamas joint communiqué talking about a "nuclear shield" and a "nonnuclear sword". What is a "non-nuclear sword"? We all know the reference, which I should have thought should have been dropped a long time ago, to the sword and shield metaphor about N.A.T.O. in the days of massive retaliation, but what do the Government and the United States Government mean by this, and why do they choose, two Governments out of N.A.T.O., to make this unilateral, or bilateral, declaration of a modified N.A.T.O. policy? Surely it is time the Government said how they stood with regard to the general strategy of N.A.T.O.
To clear up just a few of these things is sufficient justification for a White Paper, but what about the complete failure of the Government's policy represented by the cancellation of the Skybolt missile? Why do not the Government tell the House, and particularly their own supporters, why they chose unilaterally to abandon Skybolt, because it is absolutely clear—and I went to some trouble in the United States to establish this—that there are no technical difficulties about the Skybolt programme other than those which were pointed out in this House about the time that the agreement was signed.
I gather that the test which was made the day after the Nassau meeting was completely successful and had been so planned two years before. The programme was running only one month late, partly because the test itself had been suspended. There were no technical reasons for abandoning Skybolt. I do not say that it was wrong to abandon it. It ought never to have been started. But that was not the way that the Government played it. They should explain why suddenly between London and Nassau they decided that they no longer wanted Skybolt which hitherto had been such an important part of our defence programme and why on the 'plane Polaris appeared to be something different from what it had been in the debates here.
I turn to the question of equipment. It was good to note the Minister of Defence today speaking about the improvement in conventional equipment. But, of course, we all recall the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones), when he was Minister of Supply, saying in 1959 that the Government could 149 not get on with obtaining decent equipment for the Armed Forces while there was conscription because it was too expensive. This clearly was a scandalous choice that the Government took before 1959.
Take the incident of the all-purpose TSR2. if it ever flies. It was described in the 1959 White Paper as an Army support weapon. Now it will be an important part of the strategic strike force and will fill the gap between the V-bombers and Polaris. Yet, this afternoon the Minister of Aviation said, as I understood it, that there had been no modifications made in the original design. Perhaps he will explain tomorrow how one can get an Army support plane to fulfil such a vital part in the strategic independent deterrent.
Then there is the other conflict in regard to the TSR2. On 22nd January, the Minister of Aviation told my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) that it would not be in the public interest to say what weapons the TSR2 would carry. Yet the only original point in the Defence White Paper or the Memoranda is this very mysterious missile, which obviously cannot be a missile at all, with which the 'plane will be fitted. The Government should make up their mind about priorities in equipment.
We had the extraordinary statement in paragraph 27 of last year's White Paper that in future we would have a range of aircraft suitable for both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. That came just after the arguments that had led to the Buccaneer going to the Navy and the TSR2 coming as a separate Royal Air Force machine. The Government always seem to be locking the door after the horse has gone.
This afternoon, the Minister of Defence said, quite rightly, that we lead the world in vertical take-off and landing aircraft today. He very much emphasised the "today". I am fairly certain that as a result of the Government's policy the Americans and others will tomorrow get ahead of us. Already the Rolls-Royce Company, with its composite lift system, has had to supply it to the French for the Balzac, the pilot plane for the Mirage III. I believe that the Government made a mistake in only supporting the P1127. They should also have supported the composite power concept of V.T.O.L., because for transport 150 aircraft this is essential. I understand that the concept on which the Government have put their money will be suitable only for light fighter aircraft.
The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) said that he was strongly in favour of mobile forces. Where are we to get the mobility for them? In the last five years, only 10 per cent. of all the money spent on aircraft and equipment has been spent on Transport Command. We still have no strategic freighter. We are dependent on flying troops without equipment to stockpiles around the world. How long can we be sure that those stockpiles will be there?
As a result of the negotiations conducted by the Minister of Aviation, we have the situation in Cyprus that the sovereign base areas are a long way from each other. I understand that the stockpiles will be at one end of the island and the airfield at which the troops land will be at the other end. This does not make good sense in developing mobile forces, particularly in an area which may not always be favourably disposed towards us.
We had the expense of the base which was built in Kenya and which had to be abandoned. In the same context, we have the delay and mystery about the OR351, the new aircraft for Transport Command. I do not know why the Minister of Aviation must wait till tomorrow to tell the House what it is all about, because it has been widely reported in the Press and my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley told the House last Wednesday—and I am sure he was right—that it will be the Whitworth Gloster. Why must the House of Commons be last in the list for an announcement of this nature? I hope that when the Minister of Aviation speaks about it, he will tell us what its payload and range are and whether any part of the aircraft is anything more than a mere drawing. Has any development been done of the engines? How long will it be before this urgent addition to our freighter capacity comes into service? And so one could go on.
We shall be exploring the Government's manpower difficulties in the Estimates debates. Ultimately, however, we come back to the real dilemma of the Government and the reason why we have 151 had no Statement on Defence this year. It is, of course, the question, which has occupied so much of today's debate, of the independent deterrent. Whether it is independent, whether it is a contribution or whether it is integrated with the forces of the Strategic Air Command, all these difficult questions would have been unavoidable had it been necessary to produce a statement.
I wonder myself why the Government have to have an independent deterrent in the light of their own doctrine. I commend to the right hon. Gentleman paragraph 25 of the 1958 White Paper which seems to me to set out the complete answer as to why this country need not have an independent nuclear deterrent. It says quite simply:The policy of interdependence is particularly applicable to the North Atlantic Alliance, which has an international command with a joint planning organisation. Within this integrated structure, it should be possible gradually to get away from the idea that each member nation must continue to maintain self-contained national forces, which by themselves are fully balanced. Instead, each should seek to make the roost useful contribution it can to the combined forces of the alliance as a whole.If this is the Government's view still, why do they suppose that somehow or another the best contribution we can make is the somewhat obsolescent contribution of the so-called nuclear deterrent? Does the right hon. Gentleman still believe that this argument about an independent deterrent has any military relevance at all? All this argument about the independent deterrent is an argument about politics, politics within N.A.T.O., and it has no bearing on the military strength of the alliance as a whole vis-à-vis any possible aggressor. Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that, taking the alliance as a whole, it needs any more nuclear weapons than it has now? Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that we can contribute to the one military problem in this field, keeping abreast with delivery vehicles? What does he really mean by our "contribution" to the nuclear deterrent?
Of course, now the answer is to say that we have assigned the V-bomber force to N.A.T.O. and yet we can take it away, we are still independent. Really, the right hon. Gentleman's proposition to the House is rather like someone trying to back a horse with a blank piece of paper 152 and going to the bookie after the race and telling him which horse he backed. Really, the people of this country will not take this kind of proposition from the present Government. They have really got to say what they want.
Throughout all these discussions about multilateral forces the Government and the United States Government, I submit, are addressing themselves to the wrong question. There is no need or desirability to have physical control of nuclear weapons. What the affiance needs is to have discussion and participation among the members about formation of the policy of the alliance as a whole, and particularly the guide lines for the so-called nuclear strategy.
This idea of putting Polaris in surface ships seems to be just about the craziest idea yet. Because this would undoubtedly be a first strike weapon like the Thor and Jupiter, which are to be taken away, because they are obsolete weapons, and yet the proposition is to introduce another similar weapon in ships which no one would suggest would be a suitable substitute for submarines in terms of invulnerability.
The whole question of control is vitiated by this system of mixed manning. I think it was the defence correspondent of The Times who described this as a form of "control by mutiny". Before the Government put this forward, surely they must give a little more thought to it than they seem to have done. We cannot have multilateral forces and cannot get a solution to this problem if we are to stick, as the Government appear to want to stick, to the phrase in the Bahamas Agreement about "supreme national interests".
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East said, we have first-class officers and men in all three Services who are frustrated by the procrastination and prevarication of the Government. The Government should stop talking about interdependence and do something about it. They should stop talking about disarmament and do more about it. Over the past eleven years they have followed the wrong priorities and have been pursuing the wrong objectives. Their failure to present a case for the biggest arms bill in the peace-time history of this country represents contempt not only of this House but of the nation.
153 I am satisfied that the Government's behaviour deserves the censure of our Amendment. I am sure that that Amendment will he defeated, because all the critics opposite will be bound to vote against it for motives of survival, for none of them wants to submit this programme to the nation. But I am sure that the nation, when it votes in the forthcoming by-elections, will give the Government quite a different answer.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) said he had been reading, as his homework, old Defence White Papers and that he had found them very gloomy. His speech, I think, was made while still under the shadow of that reading, because it was very gloomy. I could not help reflecting how our Victorian forebears had, with every right, looked forward to a period of one hundred years or more of peace but encountered two world wars. The fact remains that since the last Armistice we have had, although an uneasy period, a pretty lengthy period of peace and one cannot wholly divorce the success of the Government's defence policy from the maintenance of peace.
The word "interdependence" figures prominently today in international relations. It has assumed such proportions that it is in danger of becoming a cliché. It is of very real and deep significance in our defence policy, however. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about this. We are far too prone to look at defence problems in a vacuum, In reality the interdependence between defence policy and foreign policy is so complete that one cannot be separated from the other. I was, therefore, full of hope that the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—whom I congratulate on his new appointment—would follow that line. But then his logic went adrift, and I want to say something about that later.
The foundation of our foreign policy is, first and foremost, the maintenance of peace, and to achieve this we work to a considerable extent through the agency of various international organisations and allied pacts. But it is equally important to preserve Britain's influence so that she can continue to play a leading rôle in 154 international affairs. Our defence policy must therefore be an extension of our foreign policy. This is the background against which we must examine the validity of the Amendment.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has already outlined the three corner-stones of our defence policy. Since hon. Members opposite have sought to make much of the fact that we have not got a defence policy I will reiterate them. First, to retain an independent nuclear capacity; secondly, to play an agreed part in N.A.T.O.; and thirdly, to discharge certain responsibilities all over the world in connection with our Treaty obligations and our Colonial and Commonwealth interests.
Leaving aside the question of the deterrent, one of the troubles is that our other two major commitments—a standing army in Western Germany and an international fire brigade—are two wholly different rôles requiring significant differences in equipment—the air portable equipment demanded by the fire brigade rôle contrasts with the heavier equipment needed in Europe. For instance, there are the tactical nuclear weapons like Corporal, Honest John, the 8-inch howitzer, surface-to-air guided weapons, the heavy and self-propelled artillery, armoured personnel carriers and heavy bridging equipment.
Much of this extremely expensive and sophisticated equipment is not likely to be needed for what I would call the world-wide rôle. There is, equally, a fundamental difference in the training requirements, the deployment and so on, and the world-wide rôle requires different tactics and even, in some cases, different types of unit. All this places a fairly heavy strain on our resources of manpower and material, but we must face the fact that if our defence policy is to be in reality an extension of our foreign policy, we simply cannot afford to abandon any of these three essentials.
What of the Labour Party's insistence that we give up having a nuclear capacity of our own? I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn), who made a most thoughtful speech, and with my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) and with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) at this point in his speech. I 155 believe it to be a profound mistake, whether the view stems from moral or financial reasons. On moral grounds, I cannot believe that it is any better to shield behind our allies in the use of nuclear force and do so knowingly rather than make some constructive contribution ourselves.
On financial grounds; the deterrent accounts for perhaps only 10 per cent. of the defence budget, whereas the cost of the pay of our conventional forces alone adds up to 20 per cent. Yet, without the deterrent we should be stripped of certain features essential to the basic principles of both our foreign and defence policy. It is the fact that we are a nuclear Power, and only that, which gives us the right to a voice in decisions of the highest importance both to ourselves and the whole of the Western Alliance.
"We believe that Britain has a tremendous rôle to play in the world." Those words were used by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in a television broadcast the other day. How can we hope to retain a position of that sort if we are shorn of our ability independently to defend ourselves in the ultimate issue? Even if these powerful arguments fall on deaf ears, surely hon. Members must see that the size of our conventional forces would be of no consequence—and there has been a great deal of talk about building up our conventional forces—if a hostile Power could always prevent us from using them as and where we wished.
There has been a good deal of talk, including the speech of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, about increasing our forces. I believe that it would be a complete negation of our policy if we were not able to use them as we wanted. Let us face the fact that it may well suit Russia to say on some future occasion, "Let one British soldier, or perhaps a marine, set foot on the soil of such and such a land, even if by invitation of those who dwell there, and we will deliver a devastating nuclear attack on your island home". We can ensure against this only so long as it would not be worth it to the Russians to take such a risk, and the risk, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Eden) said so rightly, is of nuclear retaliation.
§ Mr. Healey
Is the right hon. Gentleman really telling the House that he seriously believes that there is a real probability of such a situation arising and the United States not offering us any protection whatever? Is he prepared to maintain this in the light of our experience in Suez, when we put our troops on foreign soil against the will of the Americans and yet, when this threat was made, the Americans immediately came to our assistance? If he really believes that, I do not see why he thinks that we should be in N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Profumo
I shall refer to N.A.T.O. later. Some of the things which the hon. Gentleman said about it were fairly incongruous. What I am saying, and I think with every right, is that if we do not have a nuclear capacity of our own, we abrogate our sovereign right to conventional military intervention wherever we believe that that might be in the interests of the West as a whole. I cannot for the life of me see why hon. Gentlemen opposite who have been at such pains to insist that Polaris should be really independent are now quite prepared to abandon the right of Britain's independent conventional action wherever she feels it right.
§ Mr. Grimond
Does the right hon. Gentleman's argument apply to Germany? If the Germans felt as he does, they would demand nuclear weapons, would they not?
§ Mr. Profumo
I am speaking for Her Majesty's Government and, I believe, also for the people of this country. If we abandon what we have, which is an independent deterrent, and rely entirely on the United States, we might as well abandon having a foreign policy of our own.
What about our contribution towards N.A.T.O.? There does not seem to be any opportunity for cutting down here. Indeed, we have been urged today to increase our contribution to N.A.T.O., and I shall have more to say about that later, but for the time being may I make it clear to the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that the forces in the B.A.O.R. could be withdrawn, if necessary, to meet an emergency elsewhere. This is separate from the Strategic Reserve force which may also have a rôle to play in N.A.T.O. and elsewhere.
157 What about our world-wide presence? In creating the Strategic Reserve the Government have made considerable economies as against having large numbers of troops stationed in bases all over the world. But that process cannot go past a certain point, and I think that we have more or less reached it now. Therefore, it is difficult to see where any major economies can be made in the defence field as far as our commitments are concerned. We must continue relentlesssly to seek economies within our defence organisation at every single level, and economies can come in various ways, one being greater efficiency in the tri-Service outlook. I am speaking on behalf of my two Service colleagues when I say that we very much welcome the proposals put forward today by my right hon. Friend.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite may be surprised that the Government are solid on these things. [interruption.] The hon. Member for Leeds, East said that this was no new idea, but my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir J. Smyth) got it right. There is all the difference in the world between having ideas and taking action, and I am sure that this reform—and reform it is—will win the approval of officers and other ranks in all three Services. So long as the structure of the Services themselves, their traditions, and their wellbeing are preserved, then these proposed changes should give a great fillip to the Services, and they are not just a matter of reorganising civil servants and officials, as the hon. Member for Leeds, East said at least twice in his speech. This is a major reorganisation of defence, and I seemed to detect a little bit of jealousy among hon. Gentlemen opposite when my right hon. Friend read out his proposals.
Already there is a great deal being done to streamline inter-Service organisation and increase the tri-Service outlook. For instance, in Gibraltar today the Navy runs the victualling and the hospital for all three Services. In Hong Kong the Army provides rations on an inter-Service basis. The Navy runs the wireless transmitter station, and the Royal Air Force the receiver station for all signals traffic in and out of the Colony. In Cyprus the Army will now take on the third and fourth line servicing of all 158 Royal Air Force motor transport. The R.A.F. will undertake the administration of all Army personnel in the Episkopi cantonment. In Aden the Royal Air Force rations the Army and furnishes and administers all hirings for the three Services, and so on. In Bahrein and Singapore the education of Service children is done on a zonal basis. Children go to the nearest school irrespective of the Service of their parents.
It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen opposite to laugh, but in their time in office these things did not exist. They can now laugh, but these are things which have happened during our period of office. I am sure that a great deal can be done in standardisation, and we must make every effort to avoid any sort of overlapping taking place in any of the administration. It is proposed that the new higher defence organisation plans will extend both the area and the scope of inter-Service co-operation, and, most important, do away with the feeling which we must recognise as existing in the lower levels of all three Services that there is inter-Service rivalry and too much single-Service outlook at the top. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) that these new proposals will have to be the subject of further discussions both in the House of Commons and outside, and in the summer it is my right hon. Friend's intention, as he said, to put the plan in detail to Parliament, and if it seems the best way of doing it, that can be done in a White Paper.
§ Mr. Profumo
It is too early yet to decide whether it will require legislation, but it may well do so. If that is the case, the matter will first be put to the House in some detail. Today my right hon. Friend was concerned with making to the House an announcement of the plan, in order that this might be the subject of a wide debate.
The concept of a Strategic Reserve, able to fly at short notice anywhere in the world where our interests are involved, is in line with the principle of economy and the use of manpower. We are using the mobility which worldwide air transport gives us to get away 159 from the old concept of large static garrisons stationed all over the world. The idea now is to keep garrisons as small as possible, and behind them to have a Strategic Reserve in this country to back up the theatre reserve when trouble threatens to assume great proportions.
All this involves the closest co-operation between the Army and the Royal Air Force, not only at the time when an operation takes place but constantly in training and in preparation for such operations. 38 Group R.A.F. has been set up specifically to work and train alongside the Strategic Reserve, so that staffs and units which have to co-operate when an operational move is called for already know each other and share a knowledge of the same techniques which are required to stage these complex operational moves at very short notice.
Throughout the year exercises are taking place at battalion and even brigade group level which involve long airborne moves and realistic training as soon as the troops arrive at the other end. Only recently exercises have taken units of the Strategic Reserve to Canada, Libya, Thrace and Malaya, to mention only a few places, and it is as a result of this constant training that the fire brigade concept, as it is sometimes called, has been shown to work so well—whether it be comparatively small-scale emergency movement to British Honduras or British Guiana, or larger-scale movement to Kuwait or Brunei.
Some people seem to think that because the arrival of our forces in Kuwait a year or so ago, or in Brunei more recently, did not result in large-scale fighting, neither of these operations provided a real test of the efficiency of the system. I do not share that view. The fact that we were able to transport effective striking forces to Kuwait and Brunei as quickly as we did nipped in the bud troubles which could have been far more serious than they were. I will not apologise for not having a victorious battle, or a long roll of casualties to go with it, to prove my point. The point has been proved far more effectively and acceptably without bloodshed.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have had their usual fling at the expense of B.A.O.R. The hon. Member 160 for Leeds, East said, in a rather damaging passage in his speech, that B.A.O.R. was so depleted and lacking in equipment that it was not able to do its job. I know that he is new to this, but I assure him that such statements are damaging without being truthful. My hon. and right hon. Friends have said time and time again that during this period of changeover from National Service to an all-Regular Service there would be shortages. We have explained time and again our re-equipment programme. It is all right for the hon. Member to say that we have not gone fast enough, or planned well enough, but I hope that he will not assert that at any time B.A.O.R. was not able to carry out its job, because that is damaging to the truth.
§ Mr. Healey
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will recall that I quoted the British general who is the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe as stating in public that the strategy along which the British troops were trained was not the correct strategy for N.A.T.O., and asking for a change, and I also quoted the British Commander—and I could have given many quotations from the British Corps in N.A.T.O.—who said that there was no alternative to adopting this nuclear strategy, because we were not equipped to pursue the N.A.T.O. one.
§ Mr. Profumo
I can only tell the hon. Gentleman—I repeat my invitation that he should go and have a look himself—that in point of fact the training of the British Army on the Rhine and the allied forces is entirely in concert with the existing orders of the Supreme Allied Commander. It may well be that with the newest thoughts of the United States Government and indeed of N.A.T.O. superior officers we should try to avoid as far as possible using tactical nuclear weapons. Up to the present our forces have not only been trained according to the lines of the orders of the Commander in Chief but have been capable at all times of carrying out the orders that have been given.
B.A.O.R. is based on an organisation of three divisions and seven brigade groups, with a peace establishment of 55,000. At present, its strength is just over 53,000 and, with the progress of Regular recruiting, as I have told the House, I hope that we shall reach 55,000 161 by the middle of next year. This is a force unique in the peace-time history of the British Army, because it is prepared for war in a way which no other part of the peace-time Army has ever been in the past. I do not want to go into too much detail about its equipment today, because I think that the right place for that is when we debate the Army Estimates next week.
Those who talk of B.A.O.R. as though its equipment was still all last war stuff are completely off the mark. From the up-gunned Centurian tanks, through the range of new vehicles, Sapper equipment. the Thunderbird guided weapon, the nuclear armament of Corporal, Honest John, and the eight-inch howitzer down to the automatic rifle there is a vast range of equipment which has appeared in B.A.O.R. within the last few months. This is a continuous process of re-equipment. When the Army reaches 180,000 strong, all the units will be up to peace-time establishment.
What about the Amendment, or Motion of censure, as it really is, against the Government. To make it all the more realistic, the Opposition have come to the House with what they say is an alternative defence plan. But what did the hon. Gentleman's speech really amount to? It seemed to me a selection of bits and bobs, unco-ordinated, with no clear plan and no attention to phasing in time. It included as many as possible of the slogans which appeal to the party opposite or, perhaps I should say, to various sections of the party opposite. The idea seems to be that we should give up our nuclear deterrent with the pious hope that, in return for a larger number of men in our conventional forces, the United States would voluntarily let us and our allies in on the planning and political control of what would be the sole remaining Western strategic forces. In my opinion, this is asking a great deal, even of allies.
The hon. Gentleman would wish to initiate a great plan to reduce the forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Desirable as this might be, it is not part of a defence policy. It does not seem to me to fit in with the intention to increase the size of our conventional forces deployed in the N.A.T.O. forces. I share the view of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norwood, that we cannot rely entirely on conventional 162 forces in Europe. That does not make sense, unless we are prepared to have a standing Army vastly greater than anything at present contemplated. Apart from anything else, I believe that this would lead the country to bankruptcy. That would be a defence policy which would be welcomed by the Russians.
Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked us not to undermine N.A.T.O. Yet it appears that part of his policy would be to withdraw all the tactical nuclear weapons from N.A.T.O.—
§ Mr. Healey
I know that it is late in the evening, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman has been carried away by his own enthusiasm, but he should know that at least on two points he has said exactly the opposite of what I said. I never said that the nuclear weapons should be withdrawn from N.A.T.O. I said that they should be deployed differently and taken out of the front line—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Oh."]——That is what I said. Did not hon. Members opposite listen to me?
§ Mr. Profumo
I suppose the hon. Member was meaning only that they should be taken away from the Germans. Perhaps that is his policy. At all events, if we are to be good members of N.A.T.O., I do not believe that we can suddenly start telling them to withdraw their nuclear weapons and that we are to have no part in this except by increasing conventional forces. One thing is clear. It is that the party opposite wants us to do without any form of nuclear weapon of our own. Some hon. Members opposite have been honest enough to admit that this would leave us naked from the defence point of view, unless we are to rely on the Americans to do the job for us. Recently this appeared to be the official view of hon. Members opposite, but now we have the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) coming with a demand that American bases be removed from this country.
I think that the hon. Member for Rossendale is to be chairman of the Labour Party next year—[Laughter.]—it is all very well for the hon. Member for Leeds, East to laugh. He will not laugh when he gets to his party conference and finds that this appears to be the policy. 163 Even if this is not so, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) is reported as having recommended to the party committee concerned with creating Labour's defence policy that we should have no foreign nuclear bases in Britain. Now that the right hon. Gentleman is Leader of the Opposition and speaks for all—well, I do not know—speaks for a large number of Labour voters in this country, does he still represent that view? If so, how can he reconcile this with reliance on the Americans to give us assistance if we get into difficulties and require nuclear assistance? It does not make sense and hon. Members opposite know it.
In reply to what was said by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park about the country being entitled to know, I believe that the country is entitled to know what are the true facts—
§ Mr. Mulley
If the right hon. Gentleman cares to read the speech that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made on 31st January, and in particular if he refers to my right hon. Friend's three main points, I think that he will find it a very clear exposition of the Labour Party case.
§ Mr. Profumo
So far I have found nothing which is a clear exposition of the Labour Party case. I am concerned with this debate and during it nothing was clear to me except that hon. Members opposite want to leave the country in a situation which would mean that from the defence point of view, we should be absolutely naked, and without any independent deterrent or nuclear weapon of our own; and that we should rely on the Americans and at the same time tell them that they must take their bases away from this country. They say that we must spend a lot more money on conventional forces in Europe and have all the conventional forces we want. But we should be unable to use them in the ultimate because we should have no nuclear deterrent of our own. This, to me, seems extraordinary, particularly when, as I understand, hon. Members opposite do not want a return to conscription.
164 If we are to have a significant increase in the strength of our conventional deterrent and manpower, where can we get the men? How are we to pay for them? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite still of the opinion that they can be obtained without conscription? If we were to ask the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) he would say that we ought to have conscription, and he knows much more about these things than any other hon. Member opposite. We do not say the same. We do not say that we should have conscription, and our recruiting programme is going very well. But it is on the basis of having a balance between conventional and nuclear weapons which I believe is about right.
The truth is that the opposition simply do not know what they do want or how to reconcile their conflicting party views. This censure Amendment is nothing more than a decoy to take the minds of the public off the fact that the party opposite is deeply split on every issue of defence and has been split ever since the war. If the party opposite were returned to power it would continue to be split, and therefore I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West—Heaven save us from the party opposite getting into power with its defence policy in such a shambles as it is at the present time. It is nothing more and nothing less than chaos.
This is why they have brought this Motion of censure against us. It is because they know that my right hon. Friend has a proper defence policy which relates to and backs up our foreign policy and which is in part based on conventional forces and in part on nuclear forces. This is the way in which we can continue to maintain peace, as it has been maintained since the last war, not by any sort of policy put forward by hon. Members opposite. That is why when we come to the end of this debate I know that we shall have a majority for the policy of my right hon. Friend.
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.