§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
I beg to move,That this House regrets that Her Majesty's Government have announced no plans to arrest the run-down of Her Majesty's forces or of the reserves, particularly in view of the changed situation in Europe and of the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation communiqué in Brussels.I do not intend today to dwell unduly upon the many changes and reversals of Government defence policy since 1964. They have left behind a trail of broken pledges, abandoned commitments, and dissillusioned friends and allies through out the world. All that is a matter of record and it has been discussed on a number of previous occasions here and elsewhere.
What I will assert is that our present defence preparations and plans are now inadequate to provide us with reasonable security, either at home or within the framework of our alliances. As a result of the major decisions which were taken last January, the Government are now contemplating with apparent equanimity a run-down of our forces involving a reduction of no less than 20 per cent. in Service manpower and the abandonment of even the semblance of home defence.
As for the so-called general capability, which is all that is to remain of our power to intervene outside Europe after 1971, this will consist merely, so the Secretary of State has told us, of what we can spare—and, one might add, deploy—out of our assigned contribution to N.A.T.O. in the European theatre.
Even of the previous package of cuts after devaluation the Secretary of State said this on 27th November:The effect of these cuts on the capability of the Services is that the Services will be operating on narrower margins over large areas of equipment and stocks …908I frankly admit that there is an element of risk here, an element of risk which I would be reluctant to take in normal circumstances … I believe that the degree of risk is one which, in the current situation, is acceptable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 27th November. 1967; Vol. 755. c. 66–7.]I do not believe that the risk was acceptable then. It was even less acceptable as a result of the January decisions. It is certainly not acceptable now, in the aftermath of the brutal Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and in the face of growing naval power in the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
The wider issues of the strategy of the free world and Britain's part in it, including our position in the Gulf and the Far East, were reviewed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in the debate on the Address on 31st October. All I will reiterate today, as my right hon. Friend did last Thursday, is that, while we in no way contest the Government's decision in support of N.A.T.O., the danger is that the Government do not pay sufficient attention to what my right hon. Friend described as creeping expansion round the flanks of the free world. Indeed, the Government are actually abandoning positions which are vital to the strategic defence of the free countries.
I have great sympathy with the view, which was expressed by Minister of Foreign Affairs for Portugal, Mr. Alberto Franco Nogueira, at the meeting in Lisbon in October of the Atlantic Treaty Association:The N.A.T.O. Alliance should not be in different to the preservation for the West of vital strategic positions. We have never understood, for example, how one can separate the North Atlantic from the Southern Atlantic or how one can ensure the security of one without taking into consideration the security of the other.When the Secretary of State spoke as he did in Brussels of the need for a fresh look at N.A.T.O.'s command structure, I hope that he bore in mind the need for some re-organisation of the naval command structure and what my right hon. Friend described as the fluffy area of command in the North and South Atlantic areas. I hope that the Secretary of State will take the opportunity this evening to tell us that it is the Government intention to resume full co-operation with South Africa and take the maximum 909 advantage of the Simonstown Agreement in defence of our routes round the Cape. Perhaps, at the same time, he could con firm reports that the Government are now reconsidering their ban on military exports to South Africa for external defence.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Is the right hon and learned Gentleman advocating a South Atlantic Force; and, if so, at what cost?
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
He wants us to help in Angola.
§ Mr. Rippon
I say that it is important that we in N.A.T.O. should take steps to protect our position, not only in Central Europe, but in the Southern Atlantic as well, and we should take note very seriously of what our Portuguese allies say in this regard.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
It is important to get this clear. Are we to understand that the Opposition are advocating a physical British presence of some kind, naval or otherwise, in the South Atlantic, in addition to a physical presence in the Gulf and in South-East Asia, if they return to power?
§ Mr. Rippon
What we are advocating is a N.A.T.O. presence there, the full use of the agreements that we have, and the full use of the forces which the Government still allow us to possess.
What we must consider most particularly today are the immediate defence implications for us and for N.A.T.O. of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the consequent change in the balance of forces, and, above all, the nature of any future threats and our ability and will to react to them.
I will not attempt to analyse Soviet motives and intentions. The facts are that the Russians were able to move about 250,000 troops across a frontier in five days and that they remain in Prague. So we have learned, during the course of this process, the danger of optimistic illusions about an early detente. More specifically, as paragraph 10 of the N.A.T.O. communique says:… prospects for mutual balanced force reductions have suffered a severe setback.910 In defending the run-down of our forces, the Secretary of State, in the defence debate last March, made much of the revision of the strategic thinking of N.A.T.O. which had been agreed last December. He said:First, the Alliance has now agreed to take its opponents' intentions into account as well as their military capabilities, and sees those intentions as broadly peaceful at the moment. In the second place, N.A.T.O. has agreed that since the factors contributing to the present situation are unlikely to change overnight, the Alliance is likely to get a period of political warning should Soviet intentions change, in addition to the expected military warning of troop movements and so on."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 196S; Vol. 760, c. 60.]We now know a good deal more about Soviet military capability. As to intentions, as the N.A.T.O. communiqué says,The use of force and the stationing in Czechoslovakia of Soviet forces not hitherto deployed there have aroused great uncertainty about the situation and about the calculations and intentions of the U.S.S.R. This uncertainty demands great vigilance on the part of the Allies ".Apparently, a great deal of time was spent at the meeting in Brussels in discussing the need to warn the Russians of the consequences of further action either against their own allies or against uncommitted countries. In paragraph 6, the N.A.T.O. communiqué gives what can only be described as a veiled threat to the effect that members of the Alliance could not remain indifferent to any development which endangered their security, and thatClearly any Soviet intervention directly or indirectly affecting the situation in Europe or the Mediterranean would create an inter national crisis with grave consequences.Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to explain what that means, for example, to Austria, Finland, Yugoslavia or even Israel. If it implies any new commitments, how are we to meet them? How can we undertake new obligations when our ability to honour even those which we still stand by is so much in doubt?
The Government, and the Secretary of State in particular, have been singled out for special criticism by the Soviet Union for the firm reaction which they displayed to recent events. To most of us, that counts to their credit, but at the end of the day it is action, not words, which will count. It seems that the 911 threat does not lie in any lack of military or political warning but in military ability and the political will to react. Whatever the nature of the warning time may be, it is of value only if it is heeded and acted upon.
It is now accepted, I think, that Russian troops could strike at the heart of Europe with little or no warning. In these circumstances, speed of decision, military and political, will be vital. As I understand it, the essence of current N.A.T.O. strategy is based on the so-called flexible and balanced range of appropriate responses, conventional and nuclear, to all levels of aggression or threats of aggression. Presumably, that is intended to allow for the knowledge that no Government, let alone a collection of Governments, are likely to take a decision to use nuclear weapons automatically or except in the face of an unambiguous and total threat.
I agree with the view of the Secretary of State that if there is an all-out Soviet attack on Western Europe, N.A.T.O. exists to ensure that nuclear weapons would be used to resist it and that tactical nuclear weapons have a rô le in this respect. I agree also when he says that the real danger in Europe is not of a totally unambiguous attack; it is of a conflict the beginning of which is limited in size and geographical area, to meet which N.A.T.O. must possess sufficient conventional forces to control it, without resort to nuclear weapons at all. if that be possible.
The new N.A.T.O. strategy accordingly demands increased emphasis on conventional weapons, munitions and tactics and much additional training.Yet"—as General Lemnitzer said at the Lisbon meeting,with all this emphasis on conventional forces, this new guidance came precisely at a time when a number of NA.T.O. countries were considering, and in some cases actually making, reductions in their conventional strength. The inconsistency here is very apparent. In order to execute this new concept effectively, the means must be there.The lesson of recent events in Europe ought to be clear to us. We must halt the run-down of our forces and the destruction of our system of reserves.
912 Paragraph 8 of the N.A.T.O. communiqué calls for a collective response in order to improve the quality, the effectiveness and the deployment of N.A.T.O.'s forces. However, all that appears to be contemplated—no doubt, the Secretary of State will deal with this more fully—is for the most part either the redeployment of existing forces or the cancellation of future defence cuts.
The Government's own proposals for redeploying our forces, particularly in the Mediterranean, are welcome as far as they go. But is it realistic in this situation for the Government to assert that we face no new commitment which will affect the planned run-down of the British defence budget and forces? I understand that that is their position at present.
The House will wish to take note particularly of the decision to order a further 20 Harrier vertical take-off aircraft and the announcement that a carrier, commando ship or assault ship will be "almost continuously" in the Mediterranean. No doubt, we shall hear what the phrase "almost continuously" implies. It would be even better if we were to hear that we are to consider reversing the decision to pull out of Malta, where we are abandoning modern facilities, married quarters and barracks and an immensely valuable defence in vestment.
§ Mr. Healey
I shall try to answer the right hon. and learned Gentleman's questions, but he will help me a little if he will give an unequivocal assurance that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition to build up in Malta.
§ Mr. Rippon
What we must know is how the Government think that they will react effectively to what has taken place in Europe and how they will effectively protect the southern flanks of Europe, and protect our N.A.T.O. allies in the Mediterranean, fulfilling the new commitments and obligations which they appear to have assumed under the N.A.T.O. communiqué, without making any change whatever in their policy to run down our forces and reserves.
§ Mr. Healey
I shall answer that, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer my question? He says that it is desirable that we should build up again in Malta. Is that the policy of the Opposition? If not, is not his question pure humbug?
§ Mr. Rippon
I asked the Government whether they would consider changing their decision in that respect. It seems to us that they ought to do so. We are asking them why they still adhere to their previous view in face of the changed situation. We want the Government to give an assurance that our naval forces in the Mediterranean, in conjunction with our allies, will be sufficient for us to carry out our commitments to our allies on the southern flank of N.A.T.O., particularly Greece and Turkey, which require some evidence in the new situation which will give them confidence in our determination to support them.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept the question in a slightly different form? What additional cost, roughly, would he spend on the Malta base?
§ Mr. Rippon
I should spend whatever additional money is necessary to ensure that our forces are adequate to defend our interests and to meet our commitments. It is on the naval front that we can, perhaps, make our most effective contribution to the Alliance. We still possess a strong naval capability in spite of all the Government have done, and the Government have given welcome if belated recognition in their new deployment of forces to the importance of a naval and air strike force.
It is apparently intended that the additional carriers are to be provided so that another squadron may be stationed in Germany. But I hope that the order is also an indication that the Government recognise the potential rôle of the Harrier in naval aviation. We should be grateful if the Secretary of State would tell us how far his present thinking takes account of the operation of fixed-wing aircraft such as the Harrier from smaller ships than hitherto. In particular, can he con firm reports that the United States Marine 914 Corps is interested in the purchase of Harriers or super-Harriers for use in sup port of amphibious warfare? It would be a tragedy if we did not realise the full potential of a weapon which we have developed.
The Harrier is an excellent example of the benefit we can derive from willing the means to support our own technology. The scrapping of the TSR 2 and the wilful destruction of the prototypes has proved a costly as well as a criminal act of folly. That is underlined by what has happened in Europe recently.
I am in favour, as probably almost every hon. Member is, of European co-operation in defence procurement, especially in production. But it seems that many difficulties are raised by the sharing of design responsibilities, as we have found with E.L.D.O. and now find with the proposed new advanced combat aircraft which the R.A.F. and N.A.T.O. need and must have. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell us how they are being resolved. Judging by the report in today's Daily Telegraph, a rather complicated arrangement may have to be made. Perhaps he can also tell us the progress he made in his talks with M. Messmer the other day, which I think were the first he had had with him for a year.
If we are to maintain the quality of our forces—and we agree with the Government that their quality is the main factor—we must be prepared to pay the price of equipping them with the most modern and efficient weapons. But we must have the men as well; our forces must be properly manned and have adequate reserves. We know that the Government are planning on the basis of a total strength of about 341,000 in the Services in 1973, made up of about 79,000 in the Royal Navy, 96,000 in the Royal Air Force and 166,000 in the Army. Those figures involve a reduction of about 80,000 in the present total strength of our Armed Forces, and they are particularly hard on the Royal Air Force, the strength of which is now about 121.000, whereas that of the Army is 210,000 and that of the Navy is 96,000.
Such reductions are not compatible with the defence of our interests and the maintenance of our obligations. What is even more alarming is that the present levels of recruitment cast doubts on our ability to achieve even those reduced 915 figures. There were a number of interesting speeches on that point earlier today. No doubt the Minister of Defence for Administration, in the second speech that I hope he will be allowed to make, will say something further on it.
The Government have been quite frank about the position. The Secretary of State readily admitted in the defence debate on 25th July:Recruitment has fallen heavily during the last 12 months…. The figures in the current year are so far even less encouraging.The Minister has already said something about that. The reasons for the short fall are not hard to find. They are, primarily, the virtual ending of the prospects of overseas service outside Europe; uncertainty about the future; frequent cuts in the size of the forces, involving further amalgamation of regiments; and such matters as the disbandment of the Argylls, which has caused intense public disquiet, four defence reviews in two years, and the abandonment of the Grigg formula for pay.
To do him justice—we have no dispute about this—the Secretary of State has expressly said that he does not deny that… the progressive modifications of defence policy imposed on the Government by economic circumstances in the last two years are at the root of the difficulty; … ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1968; Vol. 769, c. 1008–1010.]We want to hear from the Minister how he hopes to improve matters. The considerable increase in the cost of advertisements for recruiting, which, at £3 million a year, is almost double what it was a few years ago, has not done the trick. What new inducements, if any, has he in mind? For example, has he considered the possibility of encouraging three-year engagement periods instead of six or nine, which seem a long time for many people to commit them selves for, even if they are over 16? Can he give an assurance that in the present situation the Government are not pre paring plans for some form of selective conscription?
Even more alarming, perhaps, than the sag in recruiting, and to some extent bound up with it, is the state of our reserves, the shabby treatment of our Territorial Army and the virtual scrap- 916 ping of the TAVR III, which involve a decision by the Government that we alone of all the N.A.T.O. countries need no form of home defence. I am not sure that this is yet fully understood in the country.
In any event, out trained reservists are well below the level of those of our major N.A.T.O. allies. Even little neutral Switzerland could muster 600,000 men if necessary.
The Regular Army Reserves are, on paper, expected to consist in 1969 of 15,000 in the Regular Army Reserve of officers, plus 43,000 in the Regular Reserve and 2,000 in the Long-Term Reserve. At present there is also the Army General Reserve, which is the pool of about 170,000 ex-National Service men, whose reserve liability ends on 30th June, 1969. It may be said that anyway they are something of a paper reserve since they are a wasting asset when considered in terms of trained fit men of the right age for the job. The Government have already told us that 15,000 of them are currently required on mobilisation to fill gaps in specialist duties in the reserve forces. The Minister announced on 28th November that he plans to meet this requirement from "other sources" as soon as he can. Perhaps he will tell us today what those sources are.
Generally speaking, as a result of the Government's statement of 28th November, the only volunteers who will be available will be the hoped for—they are only hoped for—54,000 men in the reorganised TAVR II. The right hon. Gentleman must tell us how he hopes to achieve that figure. What does he consider is the prospect of recruitment? How does he assess the damage which has been done by the fact that many people believe that the Territorial Army has ceased to exist, in view of the way the Government have behaved and the changes they have made?
It appears that to bring the units of the Regular Army up to war establishment will require all, and probably more, than the Reserves, Regular and volunteer, can produce. With the virtual disbandment of TAVR III, there will be nothing left for home defence and no Civil Defence Corps and no Auxiliary Fire Service, so that—and this must be widely understood outside the House—in the 917 event of war the civilian population will be left with practically no help, protection or direction.
§ Mr. Reynolds
In view of the seriousness of that statement, I must make it clear that it is incorrect.
§ Mr. Rippon
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will break down the figures. We have had some difficulty in following them. At one stage the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said that in the event of war it would be necessary just about to double the exisling forces in B.A.O.R. It was suggested that that was a figure of 50,000.
§ Mr. Rippon
Fifty thousand was the figure the right hon. Gentleman gave.
When one has doubled the figure, one has taken 65,000 of the Reserve. The TAVR II is a doubtful quantity, as far as reserves is concerned, and the figures which the hon. Gentleman gave related only to B.A.O.R. However, if the right hon. Gentleman is able to give us an assurance on this point, we shall be glad. We should particularly like to know how many people the Government think will be available for home defence through the volunteer reserves.
It is of little comfort to us that up to 100 cadres of eight men each are to be retained to provide the nuclei around which units might be formed in circumstances where it may be necessary to expand the reserves suddenly. If such circumstances arise, how do the Government envisage the recruitment drives taking place? What is to happen about the drill halls which the Government are disposing of at such a rapid rate? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the latest figure of disposals and an assurance that the Government are not arbitrarily disposing of drill halls which have been financed very often by voluntary and public subscription.
It seems to us that these cadres are really only a skeleton force representing a gesture in face of public anxiety and anger at the destruction by the Government of the volunteer forces, the members of which have shown themselves prepared even this summer to do their training, even at their own expense. These people, who have served their country well, are being ill rewarded for their devotion to 918 duty. We deplore the Government's attitude to the reserves and have placed on record our determination to restore the importance of the Territorial Army and of a genuine citizens' volunteer service for both military and civil purposes.
No one can forecast the circumstances in which we may be expected to expand our conventional forces, or require more home defence, or be faced with a national disaster beyond the capacity of the civil authorities. To take all this further risk with our security, and destroy the spirit of voluntary service that should be welcomed and not despised, all for an alleged saving of £3 million, is as incomprehensible as it is irresponsible.
No doubt we will be told that we can not afford not to go on cutting down our defences. As soon as anyone in this House mentions that it might be right for the country to honour obligations or a treaty or commitments solemnly entered into, he is asked, "Are you prepared to pay for it?" The answer is that we must be prepared to pay for the defence of our own interests and security and to honour our commitments and obligations. What a curious thing it is that we should pay such attention to our own private insurance policies and yet be so unwilling to pay the premium for our power to survive aggression.
No doubt the Secretary of State can confirm it, but from the figures available it would appear that the latest Soviet defence budget represents about 15 per cent. of the gross national product. Of course, we all understand that a balance has to be struck somewhere, but the first duty of the Government is to safeguard the country and it seems to us that defence expenditure, in face of the growing danger represented by recent events in Europe and elsewhere, cannot be contained within any arbitrarily fixed percentage of the gross national product.
Either the nation is adequately defended or it is not. It is our view that the risks the Government are taking with our security are not, in the current situation, acceptable and must be condemned.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence for Administration (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) on his first major appearance as Opposition defence 919 spokesman. I want to deal mainly with the question of the reserves, recruiting and the size of the regular forces, leaving it to my right hon. Friend to deal with most of the political and strategic aspects vis-à-vis the position in Europe and the events of the last few months there.
It is necessary to get straight at once the factual position of our reserves and what has been happening to the regular forces—and not only in the last four years. Judging by the speeches made opposite, one would think that the run down has been going on for only four years. One must go back rather further than that to get the right impression. I intend to show that the run-down of the last four years is chickenfeed compared with the run-down that took place during the previous eight years under right hon. Members opposite, about which there were no petitions signed by 1 million people incensed by the amalgamation, disbandment or destruction of a large number of battalions. I remind right hon. Members opposite that they were sup ported in this and other things relating to defence objectives by ourselves when in opposition. In contrast to that, we the Government have had to stand constant attacks and carping criticism all the time.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I have the table. The Third Battalion, Grenadier Guards and the Third Battalion, Coldstream Guards were two examples. Of course, right hon. Members opposite dodged the issue slightly by calling it "suspended animation" rather than disbandment. I will give further details later in my speech. I have them here.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Since the Opposition raised the matter of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, will my right hon. Friend once more make it clear that they were offered a chance of amalgamation?
§ Mr. Reynolds
The colonels of the Scottish Division, particularly those concerned with the Highland Brigade, had the option of an amalgamation of two battalions of that Bridgade or of one 920 battalion being disbanded. This was the same option as given in the last two years to several other divisions and brigades in the Regular Army, with the sole exception of the paratroops, although I would not like to state that definitely without further checking. All brigades of infantry were given the option. A number decided to secure the reduction of one battalion by an agreed amalgamation.
In Scotland, it was decided deliberately by the representatives of all the battalions that they were not prepared to have an amalgamation and that one of the battalions must be disbanded. It is still not too late, if they wish, for them to change their minds and get an agreed amalgation in Scotland. I suggest that those who are concerned with retaining the glories and history of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in a living form should turn their attention to persuading those with responsibility for this matter to come to their senses and agree to amalgamation if they are serious in their concern for the future of the Argylls. The Government want one battalion less and how that is achieved does not particularly worry us. We are prepared to fit in with local wishes. It is not right for people to make a choice and then try to blame the Government for the consequences.
§ Mr. Ramsden
It is up to the Government to make up their minds what is best in the interests of the Army and of Scot land and not pass the buck to local people.
§ Mr. Reynolds
The right hon. Gentleman is the last one qualified to talk like that. As Under-Secretary of State and then as Secretary of State for War he piloted a plan—no doubt he remembers it—for what he called "large regiments". All the brigades were to be merged into large regiments. He wanted them voluntarily—this is the point. He did not force them to amalgamate. In the same way, we are not prepared to force the Scottish battalions to amalgamate. They must make up their own minds which way they want to meet the Government's requirement. They have a choice now as they did under the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman knows that amalgamations and disbandments have always been done in this way. It is by choice of the Scots that the Argyll and 921 Sutherland Highlanders should go rather than that there should be an amalgamation of any kind following the decision of the Government that there shall be one battalion less.
I want to talk about the position of the reserves, which we are told we are destroying, and the manpower position in the regular forces. I became interested in the reserves at the time of Suez, be cause I was appalled at the time that it took to get them called up and brought into action. I spent about four years on the Opposition Front Bench helping to deal with defence affairs, and I interested myself in what was happening in the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve, Classes I and II.
As soon as my interest was known, commanding officers of Territorial Army units wrote pressing me to ask the Minister for better equipment and telling me about the terrible position their units were in. Such letters are not sent now. That is because the units have got the equipment that they should have but they did not have it in 1964.
When I became Under-Secretary of State for the Army in 1964 there were about 120,000 men in the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve I and II. The T.A. had an establishment of 180,000 men, but the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) refused to allow the Territorial Army to recruit about 75 per cent. For what reason? For financial reasons. In other words, Her Majesty's Government of that day, now shouting and telling us that we should have a citizen army of one kind or another, for financial reasons would not allow Territorial Army units to recruit about 75 per cent. What is good when the Tories are in Government is apparently out when they are in opposition.
The Territorial Army was organised in divisions and brigades as an Army in its own right. However, I must point out that most units were only 50 per cent. of their strength and no plans existed to use the T.A. as an Army in its own right. So an Army with divisions and brigades was being maintained with a large number of regular major-generals and brigadiers when no plans existed to use those formations.
922 The position now is completely different from what it was in 1914 and 1939. The contingency plans have all been changed, many of them by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member. What they lacked was the courage to do anything about changing the Territorial Army to fit in with the changed contingency plans. The plans existed to move 30,000 T.A. personnel to B.A.O.R. on mobilisation, but they could only be called out on general mobilisation; not when there was just a threat in the air.
Once called out, they would, first, have to mobilise, and, secondly, have soldiers from other T.A. units, the Army General Reserve and from the Regular Army Reserve drafted in to make up the establishment—more than half the men in each unit would be strangers drafted in from elsewhere to make it up—and the unit would have to be moved to B.A.O.R. All this would have to be done in seven days to meet B.A.O.R. contingency plans.
The first thing I discovered was that the plan was impossible to carry out. The reinforcement of B.A.O.R., with the machinery we inherited and the seven days laid down for it to be done would have been impossible—[Interruption.]. This is not ridiculous. This is the position. It could have been found out be fore the debate started. It could not: be done in the seven days available with the position of the Territorial Army as it was in 1964.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
Would my right hon. Friend agree that, even in the days that he is talking about, the Territorial Army Parachute Battalion had taken part in weekend exercises with N.A.T.O. forces?
§ Mr. Reynolds
I also discovered that there was no rô le for the T.A. Parachute Battalion laid down by the previous Ad ministration. The T.A. Parachute Battalion had no active rô le assigned to it.
At that time the Territorial Army and the Army Emergency Reserve, Classes I and II, had about 120,000 men. We must look closer at this figure. The right hon. Gentleman knows how fictitious this figure was. Many of these men were just names on the books. Anyone who had any connection with the T.A. knows that this is so. Those names were kept on 923 the books, because every name on the book provided another half dozen or more training days available for the keen members of the units. It was well known throughout the T.A. that there were thousands of men, not active, who were kept on the books in order to fiddle training days to allow the keen men to have weekends out.
Many of the 120,000 were over age. I went into a number of sergeants' messes in my first year as Under-Secretary of State for the Army and I was horrified at the average age of the sergeants. They were over age. Again, there were fictitious figures in the 120,000 figure given to this House. The ages have now been reduced below the level at that time. If I remember rightly, the average age for a sergeant ranged between 40 and 45. These men were blocking promotion to the sergeants' Mess and recruits were leaving the T.A. because there was no hope of pushing out the old and the bold and getting promotion. All these things are well known.
§ Mr. Reynolds
The right hon. Gentleman need not say "nonsense". They were well known.
More important, the units were not related to the requirements of the regular Army. The previous Administration rightly decided, in running down the size of the regular Army, to have a preponderance of teeth arms and to rely on reserves for bringing support arms up to requirement on mobilisation. This was a right and proper policy to follow. The only snag is that whilst they did it for the regular Army they did not follow it through and make sure that the Territorial Army had the right type of unit to meet the changes made in the regular Army when those units were required on mobilisation. Thus, the T.A. did not have the right balance of units of support arms to meet the need of the regular Army.
In the administration of the Territorial Army most interest was in the county infantry and yeomanry units to the detriment of other newer arms in other parts of the country.
Equipment was out of date. The men only had battledress. No combat kit was available. I also discovered in 1964 that 924 there were no plans at any time in the next 10 years to purchase any. I do not know what the intention was. I suppose it was to carry on with that kind of equipment for at least the next ten years. Many men, out of desperation, bought their own equipment.
Many 25 pounder gunner units had no active artillery rô le planned for them. Yet it was costing £12,500 a year to provide the ammunition for them to go to annual camp. The right hon. Gentleman knew that they were never going to take those 25 pounders anywhere near the enemy. Yet he was afraid to make changes at that time. Wireless sets, transport, mortars and most other equipment of the old T.A. was out of date and rapidly becoming incompatible with regular Army equipment, so it would be difficult for the T.A. to have acted in concert with the regular Army.
There were no plans in existence for replacing equipment when we took over in 1964. There were no plans to buy new equipment, because the previous Administration had no plans for using the T.A. as an Army, so it is understandable. To re-equip the old Territorial Army—in other words, to expand the present T. & A.V.R. II to the size of the old Territorial Army—would cost about £145 million and take upwards of three years. That is the present position and what it would cost to equip what the right hon. Gentleman calls a citizen army.
§ Mr. Ramsden
Since the right hon. Gentleman has made a sustained attack on the Territorial Army, as it was, and on me as being one responsible for it, perhaps he will allow me to say that I do not accept a word of what he has said as accurate. I intend to deal with this matter when it comes to my turn, if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I intervene only in case it should be assumed that I accepted a single word of what the right hon. Gentleman said. I do not.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I make one last point on this matter for which the right hon. Gentleman was not responsible. I do not hold him personally responsible for all that I have been saying, because he was only in office for a short time. But there were Conservative Ministers in that job for about 13 years dealing with this problem.
925 We must also face the fact that it is no good having a large ill-equipped reserve Army if at the same time we have not got reserve Air Force and naval forces to back it up—particularly an Air Force. It is no good having men armed with rifles if there are no aircraft to back them up.
But what did right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite do? In 1957 they abolished the auxiliary flying squadrons of the R.A.F. They cancelled the air support which should have been available to the Territorial Army if it was to operate as a separate Army. We have only to look at the absence of a reserve fleet when we took over in 1964. I could go through the numbers of operational vessels in the Royal Navy. In 1951 a Labour Government went out of office leaving nine aircraft carriers in operation. In 1964 only five were handed back to an incoming Labour Administration. There are three in operation at the moment. No new aircraft carriers were built during the whole of that period. All they were doing was talk about it. The reserves of the three forces were completely run down.
In the early part of 1964, the R.A.F. had a reserve of 541,000 men. Legislation passed early in 1964 cut that in 1965 to 84,000 men. That was legislation passed by the Conservative Government when the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham was a member of the Cabinet. That is a cut in the reserves which makes anything done by the Labour Government pale into insignificance. The Conservative Government cut those reserves for the Navy and the Royal Air Force either because they were not needed or because the Government were not prepared to pay for them. In my opinion it was a bit of both.
But let us face the fact—I say it deliberately—that the Government were afraid to carry their policy to its logical conclusion and to reorganise the Territorial Army at the same time. They knew that they could get away with cutting the Navy reserves and the Air Force reserves, but they were afraid of the vested interests behind them in the House and in the country, and they dared not do a proper job of reorganising the Territorial Army and making it fit for operational use in the second half of the twentieth century.
§ Mr. Reynolds
The hon. and gallant Member was never in the Territorial Army. He was afloat—and I am not dealing with the Navy at the moment.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
If the right hon. Member says that it was wrong for the Conservative Government to reduce the reserves, how can it be right to reduce them still further now?
§ Mr. Reynolds
I am not saying that the Conservative Government were wrong to do so. I am merely stating exactly what was done and pointing out how hypocritical it is of hon. Members who, when they were on this side of the House, supported the action which was taken then, but, as soon as they are in Opposition, for purely political motives, start making attacks on the Government when the run-down is continued.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
The hon. Member said that in 1951 the Labour Government handed over nine aircraft carriers to the Conservative Government. He will agree that they were built in wartime. How many of these nine could take all the first-line Fleet Air Arm aircraft?
§ Mr. Reynolds
Speaking from memory, I think that four of those carriers were completed several years after the end of the Second World War. One of them is now in the process of being converted to take the Phantom IV. But no new aircraft carriers were built during the whole of that period. We discussed the matter in the House. Each year there was a Defence White Paper stating that CVAOI was still in the planning stage—year after year after year. But not a penny was spent on providing it. It was a Labour Government who were prepared to take the decision that this money would not be spent on it. That was what hon. Members opposite wanted to do, but they were scared to take the necessary action. Nevertheless, they attack us for having taken it.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
It is nonsense to pretend that we did not modernise our carriers for successive generations of air craft. The right hon. Member suggests 927 that nothing was spent on the carriers to bring them up to date. In fact, we brought those carriers up to date progressively, and when we handed them over they were fit to operate the present generation of naval aircraft. That was done throughout our period of 13 years in office.
§ Mr. Reynolds
No new aircraft carriers were built and four were scrapped during the period. Of course money was spent on maintaining those still in operation.
I am glad that the hon. Member intervened, because that will save me wasting more time in dealing with the mini-carriers and the Harriers mentioned by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) explained to me, when he was sitting on the Government benches, why such a thing was not possible when I raised this point five years ago. Will he please explain it to his right hon. and learned Friend after the debate is over? That will avoid my wasting time.
§ Mr. Rippon
Is the Minister suggesting that nothing has changed in five years in a matter involving so much technology? It is absurd for him to conduct the debate in this way. Why does he not answer our questions, deal with the situation as it exists and tell us what is the Government's policy?
§ Mr. Reynolds
What has not changed is that aircraft still take up as much space in a ship and still need as much maintenance in a ship and still need as many men in a ship as they did six years ago. That was the argument which the hon. Member for Hendon, North explained to me from this bench five or six years ago. It is an argument of space, no matter which type of aircraft we have. The fact that one aircraft can take off straight up and that another is shot off by catapult does not affect the size of the ship, as the hon. Member explained to me. Will he please explain it to his right hon. and learned Friend? He told me that it is the facilities which must be provided which determine the size of the ship. The hon. Member got through to me. If he tries, perhaps he will get through to his right hon. and learned Friend. I am having difficulty in doing so.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
We have always conceded that, in cost effectiveness, the bigger the ship, the larger the number of units. But it is not possible to have a 53,000-ton aircraft carrier when the economy of the country is in the hands of the present Government. Therefore, we have to have smaller carriers. I would point out that, in those days, the P1154 supersonic aircraft was under development for the Navy. The position has radically changed in the last five years. May we know what the present Government will do to provide the air defence of our Fleet in the mid-1970s.
§ Mr. Reynolds
The hon. Gentleman will find that the R.A.F. abandoned that aicraft before we came into office and finally development was brought to an end after we came into office.
The hon. Member explained the position to me clearly in those days, and I am sure that his statement is still in HANSARD. He explained that we had to have 53,000-ton carriers because we could not get enough aircraft on a 30,000-ton carrier. Would he please ex plain it to his right hon. and learned Friend while I pass to the next point?
In 1964 we were wasting £30 million a year by having a Territorial Army which in no way met the requirements of the Regular Army and which would not have been able properly to back up the Regular Army in B.A.O.R., in particular at a time of mobilisation. I will not go over every detail, but we had to make proposals for setting up in TAVR I and II the units required to support the Regular Army in meeting its commitments in 1967. I must stress that the commitments which TAVR I and II were designed to meet in 1967 were exactly the same commitments as we inherited from the Conservative Government in 1964.
We provided a force of 50,000 men to be properly trained and equipped to meet the commitments. There was a spare element not required at that time by the B.A.O.R. mobilisation plan but which we have since allocated to B.A.O.R. because of further commitments made during the last few years. We provided TAVR III with 16,000 men for home defence; as the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham pointed out, it is being disbanded at the end of this year. Two 929 factors affect that. First, it was announced as one of a number of economy measures on 16th January, 1968. Secondly, N.A.T.O. assumes a longer warning period for action in Europe, which in our view, both in civil defence and in home defence generally, gives us a longer warning period in which the necessary action can be taken.
But the claim made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there will be no military forces left in the United Kingdom if and when B.A.O.R. is reinforced by TAVR and by regular forces from this country is not true. Thousands of regular soldiers will still be left in the United Kingdom after B.A.O.R. has been reinforced. There will be several thou sand regular airmen in the United Kingdom after B.A.O.R. has been reinforced and several thousand regular sailors in the United Kingdom, once the requirement of the Fleet has been met. Further more, there will be many thousands of reservists who will not be required for a B.A.O.R. reinforcement rô le. We are satisfied that there will be a considerable number of regular and reservist troops in the United Kingdom, after B.A.O.R. has been reinforced, in order to support the civil power or to take such other military action as might be necessary in the United Kingdom.
The position is that we have 56,000 reservists in TAVR earmarked for B.A.O.R. reinforcement. That is 16,000 more than were earmarked for reinforcement from the Territorial Army and AER I and II in 1964.
§ Mr. Reynolds
I accept that. But the units are at present recruited on average up to 73 per cent. as against way under 63 per cent. for most Territorial Army units. We hope that they will be recruited up to 80 per cent. of strength. We should be in a position in another six months where only 20 per cent. of the strength of the TAVR II units will be drafts from the regular reserves or others to bring them up to strength before going to B.A.O.R. compared with the position in 1964 when 50 per cent. of the men in those units being sent to B.A.O.R. would have been drafted in to make up the numbers. We have a much more efficient force from a manpower 930 point of view to back up B.A.O.R. than we had at that time. Far from having a limit on recruiting for purely financial reasons, TAVR II units can recruit to over 100 per cent. compared with the 75 per cent. limit imposed in 1964.
The TAVR II units are better trained than the T.A. units. They have 24 paid days a year training compared with the 18 days which were available to the old Territorial Army. Furthermore, one-third of them go overseas for their training each year. During this current year 12,000 of them went overseas for training compared with 3,000 Territorial Army soldiers in 1964. We are doing far more in training for the TAVR than was done, or could have been done, for the large number of men in the Territorial Army in 1964.
The TAVR is better equipped for the rô le which it is supposed to undertake. It has modern equipment, and the full entitlement of its equipment. This was never the case with the Territorial Army, and it was never intended to provide the equipment; the cost would have been prohibitive. All infantry units will receive 81 millimetre mortars by the end of this year and 84 millimetre tank guns in 1969. They have combat kit and No. 2 dress. All these are things for which we were pressing during the 13 years while the Opposition were in office. One regular signals officer told me that some of the signals equipment which his unit had was better than any he had seen during any previous three-year tour. We have provided £4½ million worth of new equipment for the Territorial Army since 1967, and we shall provide £2 million worth a year for the next ten years. This is much more per man than was ever provided for the Territorial Army.
We have easier power to call them out. They can be called out while war like operations are in preparation or in progress, whereas the Territorial Army could be called out only on general mobilisation. TAVR units can be called out and get to Germany several days earlier than was possible with the Territorial Army units, which can make a big difference in relation to the reinforcement of B.A.O.R.
§ Mr. Ramsden
The phrase" on general mobilisation" is not in any Act. The phrase is "on a proclamation".
§ Mr. Reynolds
That is perfectly right. But that was a proclamation affecting the whole of the reserves. We will now be able to call out the TAVR several days earlier than would have been possible in 1964.
I was with a parachute battalion of TAVR only a few days ago when the men were drawing bounty, both training and call-out bounty, of £100 per man on average, a substantial part of which was completely tax free. We still would like to get 10,000 volunteers for TAVR units over the next year or two. There is a place for them and I hope that in the months ahead, once we have got over today's argument on a censure Motion, we shall have the support of the Opposition in trying to convince people that the TAVR is still an active, well-equipped, well-trained and well-paid force. We have better volunteer reserves, better trained, better equipped and better suited to their rô le than at any time since the end of the Second World War.
I have recently returned from a visit to Singapore where, in consequence of statements about Her Majesty's Government's policy on withdrawal from this part of the world, we are giving up one of our commitments, which is one of the reasons why we are able to reduce the size of the regular forces. I was in Singapore on Sunday, 8th December, to hand over the Royal Naval Dockyard to the Singapore Government. They have appointed Messrs. Swan Hunter in this country as the managing agents to run the dockyard as a commercial proposition. Some people in Singapore were slightly surprised that we were handing over to the Government of another country a dockyard complete with all the equipment necessary to run it so that the agents for that country could operate it straight away as a commercial dockyard. The Treasury minute was £16 million.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite, when in office, walked out of Suez and left £75 million worth of guns and ammunition which has been used against us all over the Middle East ever since. They left guns, ammunition, land mines and anti-tank mines lying on the ground just to be picked up. They were used against us in Aden. They have been used against us throughout the Middle East ever since. Therefore, let us not talk about giving assets to countries 932 which will make use of them unless we remember some of the stuff which was left behind and which has been used against us ever since. I shall be answering a Written Question from the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) which will give more details about the hand-over of the dockyard to the Government of Singapore.
I took the opportunity on my return to visit the Gurkha transit camp at Barrackpore and the Gurkha Eastern Depôt at Dharan, and to go to Katmandu. The run-down of the Gurkhas is proceeding smoothly. Retraining them to enable them to fit more easily into their villages is going well. The compensation being paid to them for the early restriction of their careers is considered by the vast majority of them to be reasonable. We shall keep an eye on the level of the compensation and the pensions paid to Gurkhas to make sure that any increases in the cost of living in Nepal do not erode the value of those benefits.
§ Mr. Dalyell
My hon. Friend will have read various comments in the Press about handing over facilities in Malaysia and Terehdak. Can he say whether they are being used for constructive purposes, or are negotiations going on with the government of Malaysia to ensure that they are so used?
§ Mr. Reynolds
The arrangement with the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia is that we will hand over free of charge installations of this kind and equipment to enable them to carry on the same functions provided that the local Government requires them for either defence or economic purposes. "Economic purposes" has a very wide interpretation. I should not like to answer off the cuff about the assets to which my hon. Friend refers, but I will drop him a line about the matter after the debate.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Is there any arrangement with the Singapore Government to ensure that those facilities will be available for British forces if required in future?
§ Mr. Reynolds
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to the dockyard in Singapore, it is the other way round.
933 We have; promised the company managing the dockyard and Messrs. Swan Hunter, who are the managing agents, that we shall make available naval work in the dockyard for the next two or three years in order to assist them in the transition to commercial work. We must, however, face the fact that a position may arise sooner or later whereby, if the company does well in attracting commercial work to the yard, the needs of the Royal Navy for getting work done and the needs of the company to make a commercial success of the dockyard may clash.
However, I do not think that we shall have any great difficulty in resolving this matter. There are on secondment to the company 150 Navy Department officials assisting with the management of the dockyard—three naval officers and 147 naval civilians. With the relationship between the naval staff at Singapore and the company and Messrs. Swan Hunter, I am convinced that we shall be able amicably to resolve any difficulties which may arise. But it is our intention to help the dockyard by providing the amount of naval work for it over the next couple of years which it would have received had it remained a Royal Naval Dockyard.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
My point was whether, after 1971, the refuelling and repair facilities will be available to us by agreement.
§ Mr. Reynolds
After 1971, of course, as of today or as of 1st December, it is a commercial yard. I have no doubt that like other commercial yards, it will be only too pleased to get any work that it can from whatever source it can get it. Our own military position in that part of the world, however, after 1971, when we have actually withdrawn our forces on the ground out there, is a matter which my right hon. Friend is discussing with other countries concerned in the area. He had discussions with them two or three months ago and hopes to resume the discussions in June next year. I cannot, therefore, make any statement about that at present. The hon. and gallant Member must wait.
I intended to give information on the question of recruiting, but I find that my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) gave most of it in his speech a little earlier. Suffice it to say that 934 recruiting, as the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham quoted me as saying, is not at all satisfactory.
§ Mr. Rippon
Before the Minister goes on to recruiting, can he deal with my question of the future of the Army General Reserve, the 170,000 ex-National Service men?
§ Mr. Reynolds
Certainly; I intended to do that. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman rightly said, 15,000 men are at present required from the Army General Reserve on mobilisation. The staff is going right through these figures to see whether this requirement is an active one or whether there have been changes which would enable us to reduce that figure. Also, I announced an increase of 3,000 in the establishment of TAVR II two and a half weeks ago. Those 3,000 posts replaced 3,000 of the 15,000, bringing down the number still further. I am still examining what we can do and I hope in due course to report to the House the Government's intentions concerning the possible future, or lack of future, of the Army General Reserve, but it will not be until after the Christmas Recess that I shall be able to make a definitive statement on this problem.
As well as the factors which have been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton and by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham which affect recruiting, one of the main factors is that we must get the pay and allowances of the forces right. For this we are dependent, as are all other Government Departments, and private classes also, on the consideration of the Prices and Incomes Board. The Board is at present looking at the case.
We have put to the Board proposals for far-reaching changes in the system of pay of the forces. The Board is considering those proposals and we expect its report next year. If we can get that part of the picture right, that will be one of the main encouragements to make sure that people want to join and stay in the forces.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Prices and Incomes Board is in a position to take into account the needs of recruiting, which was something that the Grigg Committee had to consider?
§ Mr. Reynolds
Yes, very much so. That is one of the factors which the Board has to bear in mind. I can only say at present that I am impressed by the thoroughness with which the Prices and Incomes Board is going into all aspects of the problem. We shall get its report, which will deal, I hope, with all aspects of pay and allowances, some time next year, when it will be considered by the Government in the normal way.
The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham suggested a three-year engagement. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War is fully aware, this problem was considered ad nauseam from 1962 onwards to 1966. At that time, it was decided that it was not the right thing to do. Two months ago, we decided to look again at this option. Everyone who has looked at it since 1962 has come to the conclusion that it is not a particularly good idea, but we are looking at it again to see whether there is any advantage in it. We are doing all we can to improve recruiting.
There is, however, a slight dichotomy in the debate this afternoon. On the one hand, attention is drawn to the difficulty of recruiting. On the other hand, we are told that we should not be reducing the size of the armed forces when their size is rather lower than we would wish because we have not been able to recruit the number of people that we would like to have in those forces.
If one looks at what has happened concerning the forces over the past few years, it must be borne in mind that in 1957 there were 227,000 men in the Royal Air Force. When we took office in 1964, the figure had dropped to 136,000. By this year it has dropped to 121,000. The big reduction took place, not in the last four years, but during the seven years prior to that. I have already referred to the Air Force Reserves.
One must face the fact that the previous Administration decided, announced and continuously supported in this House that we required 182,000 United Kingdom-recruited regular soldiers to maintain our then commitments. That was in 1964. The aim of that Administration was 182,000 United Kingdom-recruited male, regular soldiers. In 1964 there were only 174,000 serving, or 8,000 936 short of the target figure set by right hon. and hon. Members opposite.
We plan to have in the Army in 1971 161,500 United Kingdom-recruited regulars, or 20,000 less than right hon. and hon Members opposite. It has, however, been the constant aim of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and others to make sure that this reduction in numbers is closely linked with a reduction in the commitments that these men have to meet and I submit that this has been done.
One must face the fact that there will be a drop of 20,000 United Kingdom-recruited men but, at the same time, during that period, our commitments in Aden, the Gulf and the Far East will all have completely disappeared and those in other parts of the world will have been considerably reduced. This, therefore, gives us a larger number of men available for N.A.T.O. than there were in 1964. That is not the picture which we have been given by the Opposition Front Bench during the last half-hour or so.
In addition, regular Army reserves, which in 1964 numbered 43,000, today number 53,000 and in 1973 the figure will be 66,000. The Motion says that we are reducing the Reserves. I am giving the number of regular reservists, men who have completed a period of regular service. On the regular reserve side, therefore, we shall be in a better position to support N.A.T.O. than we were in 1964, and we will be in an even better position in the 1970s than we are at present.
Criticism has been made from the benches opposite concerning our action in the reduction of the number of infantry battalions. Eight battalions were put into suspended animation, as it was then called—not disbanded—between 1955 and 1957. Thirty were amalgamated to form 15 battalions between 1957 and 1961 and two were disbanded. This com pares with our proposals from 1964 to 1972 to disband 10 battalions and for eight to amalgamate into four. Again, the reductions during the period of the pre sent Administration are, therefore, considerably less proportionately than happened during the period of the previous Administration. These things should be realised.
937 I believe that the Opposition are out of date. They look back to 1914–18 and 1939–45 and still think in terms of mil lions of men grappling with each other across Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. That is not the position to day. Numbers of men are not the only criterion. Our main defence is in the N.A.T.O alliance with its nuclear shield, to which we make our contribution.
From our man power we want highly-trained, professional sailors, soldiers and aircrew equipped with a wide range of heavy and light equipment, capable of moving fast and safely across Europe or, if necessary, elsewhere. They must be well-educated, properly paid and able to justify the high place that they deserve in our society. It is Her Majesty's Government's aim to try to provide such forces in the right numbers, and I am certain that we shall be able to do it.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Brian Harrison (Maldon)
I find myself largely in agreement with many of the things that the Minister has said. For my part, I regard the run-down in our forces as having started with the 1956–57 White Paper. Our national defence policy has staggered disastrously from then on. We have not had a really constructive Minister of Defence since Lord Head was at the Ministry, and he refused to carry on when Mr. Macmillan formed his Administration.
However, my criticism of the present Government is that although the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence started very encouragingly, and looked as though he would think out a defence policy, events since then have overtaken him. We have seen more and more liquidation of the various parts of our defence policy, according to what ever way the wind blew at any particular moment. Every time he seems to have been overtaken by events.
We had the deplorable sight of the Minister going round the Gulf and giving undertakings that in no circumstances would we leave there, and then, a few days or weeks later, going round and undoing the undertakings previously given. Over the last 12 years our defence policy has not really been a policy; it has been a great piece of "ad hocery" and nothing more.
938 There have been two number games going on. First, we had the number game of the strength of the Armed Forces. Some of the figures were given by the Minister of Defence for Administration. We started off with the Hull Committee's estimate of what was required in a balanced Army. There was the figure of something over 200,000 persons required. I say "persons" advisedly, because it was always disputed who those persons were to be, whether they were all to be from the United Kingdom or whether there were to be included other people. Then there was the reduction to 182,000 with out any reduction in commitments. A number of us at that time said that even that figure was unlikely to be reached with volunteers, because the figure represented a bigger proportion of the country's male population than had ever all at once been in the Armed Forces at any previous time, particularly in times of economic depression.
It is Lord Wigg, who used to spend so many hours here arguing these things, who has now been proved to be practically the only person to be correct in predicting what would happen.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
I remember the sheets of paper which Lord Wigg used to produce, and his estimate was 120,000. In fact, we got 172,000, plus up to 20,000 Gurkhas. Therefore, we did not achieve our target with United Kingdom personnel alone, but with the assistance of the Gurkhas we did.
§ Mr. Harrison
I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention, because I think that that figure of 120,000 will now be proved to be the correct one.
We got a figure of just over 165,000 and that was arrived at by statisticians, but not by any basic method of working out the balance required. Today, we have got down to an even lower figure as the one we are likely to get.
Then there has been the other numbers game. That has been about the numbers of the various commitments. Hon. and right hon. Members will no doubt remember the commitments which we gave in 1954, and that we would have a certain number of troops—55,000, I think it was—on the Continent of Europe. I am interested to know whether that figure has ever been realised. I think that it is 939 quite true that we never have realised it or carried out that undertaking which we gave. Similarly, today we have, I understand, a commitment to the withdrawal of a further brigade from Europe and so, again, we shall be unable to carry out a commitment which we have to N.A.T.O.
Again, there were commitments and undertakings which we gave in the Far East. We said we would keep balanced forces there. Those have not been sup plied. We have had undertakings, promises, which were given personally by the Prime Minister to the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. All these have been gone back on when a crisis came. Now we are aiming at a still smaller Army, apparently, because the Minister said that we are not likely even to achieve the figure which we want and are likely to be about 20,000 below the number which was required.
I referred a moment ago to Lord Wigg. He made a speech at the County of London Yeomanry dinner, in November, and part of that speech got a lot of publicity. That was the part about the unpreparedness of N.A.T.O. for an emergency. But there were other comments of his which ought to be repeated so that attention can be drawn to them. One has just been confirmed, that is, that our Regular Army will be at about 120,000, the way it is going at the moment. Further, he said that we have no nuclear capacity, and because we are relying on a nuclear shield given by somebody else we must bring our Army up to a considerably higher number if it is to carry out any form of rô le in giving us a certain amount of security.
Thirdly, he mentioned the fact that if we are to take on Commonwealth commitments we have got to have adequate forces to carry them out. If we are to have a small mobile force of any sort to carry on the rô le, economies are a pipe dream, because the smaller, better equipped, more efficient, more transportable the force the more expensive, nearly always, is it to get the required results.
Our present risks have been high lighted by the recent Czechoslovak crisis and the pressures which have come from inside the United States since we have withdrawn from the Far East, and if we 940 in this country are not prepared to shoulder a reasonable burden of defence we shall find ourselves without any defence, and then N.A.T.O. is an empty and a hollow sham. We cannot afford to have a home base which can easily be threatened. There is, currently, no guarantee that we can defend these islands of ours, and the withdrawal of troops to these islands will not help to increase the strength of their defence for the simple reason that if we can keep limited wars, limited troubles, away from our own coasts we thus have a good defence of the homeland and of our base.
It is most important that we under stand that we must have adequate forces if we are to remain a trading nation. The present peace which we have in the world, the present freedom for trade, is largely based on a condition which has been created in the world by American and British strength. These two nations have kept all over the world the opportunity for trade. Unless we are prepared to make a contribution we may find the illusion of defence cuts being paid for heavily by a loss of trade and access in other directions.
Mr. J. T. Price
How does the hon. Gentleman maintain the thesis that one cannot successfully trade in the world without a military presence? I am not a pacifist. I am in favour of having a reasonable means of defence for this country. That has always been my view. How would he explain the situation in the Persian Gulf, which I have visited, where the Americans are present in a commercial sense on a large scale with the Gulf Oil Company, in which we are in partnership with them, and in other enterprises, and have no military presence but seem to be trading success fully while we, with some presence, are also trading successfully to some extent?
§ Mr. Harrison
That observation is not in the least incompatible with what I was saying, which was that an American and British presence throughout the world had been largely responsible for keeping many sea lanes open. They have inter-reacted on each other to achieve that end.
Whether or not we like it, we have certain Commonwealth commitments as a result of undertakings given by us. If we are to keep our forces in a state of 941 readiness to enable us to make a contribution, we must rethink this whole matter. Our forces must naturally be run down to a certain extent, but my criticism of the Government is that they have run them down without providing a substitute.
I would like to see an imaginative proposal which would enable British troops to serve with Australian, New Zealand and other units, not necessarily in command. We are no longer in a position to maintain our former line of communication, but that is no reason why British forces should not serve under and with other Commonwealth forces, each supplementing the other. After all, we have had a Deputy Chief of General Staff who was Australians senior officer—I must not be too specific—who certainly until recently held a Rhodesian passport, and a New Zealander who was Chief of Air Staff. I see no reason, therefore, why we should not integrate our units and so take up part of the slack which has been caused by the run-down in our reserves.
I would like to think that we may have confidence that those responsible in the Ministry of Defence, and particularly the Minister, are thinking a little ahead of events so that instead of having to face the next cut by slashing about and breaking undertakings, the right hon. Gentleman is thinking more deeply—as he appeared to do at the beginning of his term of office at the Ministry of Defence—to work out an overall plan for our limited resources and how to use them most effectively.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) (Stirling and Falkirk E'urghs
Unlike the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Brian Harrison), I wish to speak on a more limited topic; namely, the proposal to disband the Argylls. This matter is of considerable interest in Scotland because while the Scots are not a military people, they have always produced good fighting men. The Argylls have been a regiment of which we in Scotland have been extremely proud, as we have been of all the Scottish regiments.
Recently the Argylls have been strongly in the news, partly because of their gallant, efficient and soldierly conduct and partly because of their striking Commanding Officer at that time. The pro- 942 posal to disband them has, therefore, caused much concern, emotional and other, in Scotland. Much more interest has been caused than one might normally have expected from an operation of this kind.
Those who are disturbed by the proposal to disband the Argylls include many Scots who vote Labour. This is, therefore, not a matter affecting a section of the Scottish people. It is an issue which concerns people of not just one political persuasion but of all three—although nowadays I should say of all four parties—in Scotland.
The situation has been somewhat aggravated by the award given to Colonel Mitchell, the regiment's Commanding Officer. It is a shame that he did not get the D.S.O. Considerable resentment has been expressed by the Scottish people because he was given a very minor award. I appreciate that this is a matter for the Army and that no politician should intervene. Without wishing to do so, I must make it clear that this has caused a good deal of anger among the Scottish people.
Other issues have bene raised, including the fact that Colonel Mitchell was not promoted. There is nothing in this. Like many others, I realise that a soldier must expect to be moved not only upwards but also horizontally, so to speak. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked about him having been driven from the Army. That is nonsense. It never was likely to be true and has proved not to be true. However, the failure to give Colonel Mitchell what seems to me and many other Scots to be the distinction which he deserves, and instead to have given him a minor award, has done much to strengthen the feeling which exists about the disbandment of the Argylls in Scotland.
The decision to disband this regiment is, as has been pointed out, only one stage in a very much longer process of disbandment and amalgamation. There is no reason to argue that this process should stop simply because it has reached the Argylls. However, Scottish regiments have already been considerably affected, remembering that Scotland is not a big country and does not have a large number of regiments. There has been the amalgamation of the Cameron High landers with the Seaforth Highlanders, 943 and that has meant a reduction of one regiment in Scotland. Then there has been the amalgamation of the H.L.I, with the Royal Scots Fusilliers. Both of those amalgamations occurred when the Conservatives were in power.
Among the amalgamations which are being achieved under Labour administration occurs an interesting parallel to the disbandment of the Argylls which many Scots will recall. One English regiment, the Gloucesters, are about to be amalgamated. Hon. Members will remember the way in which the whole nation was saluting the Gloucesters not long ago, as we were recently saluting the Argylls. It was not simply the Gloucesters as a regiment that had done extremely well but also the regiment's Commanding Officer, who was made very much a public hero at the time. Nevertheless, the Gloucesters are being amalgamated with the Hampshires, although there is no similar public outcry.
One wonders whether the outcry in Scotland is rational. Many people undoubtedly base their view on sincere and strongly-felt sentiment, but it is not a rational movement, and on this issue the Opposition have not been taking a rational or justifiable attitude.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)
Has the hon. Gentleman found that in Scotland support for the petition has been coming from many people who feel very deeply about the question of our defences as a whole and the Armed Forces, persons who have not only no connection with the Argylls, but no connection with the Army, who regard it as a petition which represents a deep feeling of concern about the way in which our Forces as a whole are being run down?
§ Mr. MacPherson
I do not disagree with that. I did not specifically indicate that as one element. I intended to refer to the petition later.
This does not validate the kind of criticism which has been made of the Government. The rundown of the forces is not being done casually and for no reason. The Government have been giving their reasons for it, our reasons, the country's reasons, and it is no use simply saying," I shall sign a petition 944 because I am against the rundown of the forces ". That is not a rational position to take. The Opposition have not been taking a rational position. They have said on several occasions that we have now reached the stage in these amalgamations and disbandments, when we must stop. They have said that there should be no further cuts, not in British regiments but in Scottish regiments. Why? If there is to be a rundown, whether it is agreed or not, why arbitrarily choose a particular point and say that it must stop there? Why should it be said that English regiments may be disbanded and amalgamated, but that there should not be further amalgamations and disbandments of Scottish regiments?
Undoubtedly, many hon. Members opposite and their supporters in the country have chosen this point because there happens to be much sympathy for the Argylls, and they can, therefore, combine their party political point of view with a good deal of sentiment in Scotland about a very distinguished and glorious regiment. But a disbandment itself is only one of two possibilities, three if we include that suggested today—suspended animation, disbandment, amalgamation.
The position does not seem to be fully understood by the Scottish general public. Nor is its understanding helped or assisted by hon. Members opposite who criticise the Government. The decision to reduce the brigade by the junior member was a decision by the Army Board which passed to the Council of Colonels of the High land Regiments the question whether the reduction should be made by disbandment or amalgamation. The Council of Colonels recommended disbandment. One wonders why, for no reason has been given.
In our political system we have many situations in which decisions are recommended, and in practice made, as in a case like this, by a body which is not expected to give reasons. In view of the current criticism of non-participation and the enthusiasm for participation and explanation, to which the Government have given some kind of modified blessing, I do not know how long this will last; but it is an unhappy situation that no reason should have beeen given to the Scottish public for the decision to advise disbandment instead of amalgamation.
945 Another thing which is not fully under stood is that it is still possible for the colonels to change their minds. If they met again and said that they wanted to think a second time, the Government have already said that they would accept a recommendation for amalgamation instead of disbandment. I do not know why they should not do so. The Government should ask the Council of Colonels to meet again and reconsider, asking them also, if they still decide that the regiment should be disbanded, to give their reasons which the Secretary of State could then make public.
There is a great deal of disquiet, but much of it is because there are unknown factors in the situation and much could be allayed if those factors were known. In a newspaper recently, the Chief of the General Staff is reported to have said that he felt sad that the Highland colonels should have chosen disbandment rather than amalgamation; and disbandment is, therefore, not necessarily the soldiers' point of view. It is the point of view of one small group of people who represent the Highland regiments. It is not necessarily the point of view of the Scottish people that the Argylls should be disbanded rather than amalgamated. If it were put to them, I have no doubt that they would favour amalgamation rather than disbandment.
A third choice would have been suspended animation—but that is just disbandment under another name. Suspended animation would mean that the regiment was, in fact, disbanded and only its material possessions would remain. It is not an effective third choice, although the phrase remains.
There is such strong feeling in Scot land that my right hon. Friend should take up this question again. If the Government do not want to go over the heads of the colonels, one can understand that, but one may also say that there are occasions when there ought to be a departure from practice, and this could be such an occasion. The Government should consider asking the colonels to meet again to consider this matter in the light of Scottish opinion, asking them, if they decide that they are still in favour of disbandment, to give their reasons so that the Scottish public may be made aware of them.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
In the course of his researches, has my hon. Friend found that the campaign for the Argylls has been carried on from Stirling Castle, and has he discovered any reason why that should be so? Presumably Stirling Castle is Government property.
§ Mr. MacPherson
I notice that some meetings have taken place in Stirling Castle, and I have assumed that those taking part were wise enough and sensible enough to make sure that they were acting within the rules. I do not suspect them of breaking any rules. The castle is an attractive and picturesque setting, and I have no doubt that it would attract the organisers of the petition as being the depot of the Argylls. I have not discovered whether there was anything wrong about that, and I did not try to discover it. I assumed that they were acting with in the rules.
As to the Argylls being chosen, the Opposition in an earlier debate poured scorn on the notion that seniority should be the guide; on the idea that a junior regiment should be chosen because it is junior. The right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) has spoken of this idea in words that I forget but which were quite unjustified. The ordinary back bencher must surely have thought it a sensible rule to use. Amongst the Scottish regiments, one cannot pick and choose on merit. One must have some kind of automatic criterion such as this.
Another reason given for not selecting the Argylls as a unit to be disbanded has been their recruiting record. From my own Front Bench have been quoted the comparative records of three units over three months, but it was suggested from the Opposition that the three months chosen were bad months, and that perhaps some other period would have been better. But this would apply to any three months, or six months, or 12 months; some would be bad, some good. I do not doubt that the recruiting record of the Argylls is very good—any regiment that has been in the position of the Argylls and done as they would have been a great recruiting attraction—but this is not a reason for making a decision on that basis just now. Two or three years hence the Gordons or the Queen's Own Highlanders may find themselves in a similar kind of difficult 947 fighting situation as the Argylls, and I have no doubt that in such a situation they would acquit themselves just as well. They, in their turn, would then become a centre for recruiting. To me, therefore, that does not seem to be nearly as strong an argument as the critics are inclined to make out.
A further point is the so-called pledge made by the Opposition that if they are returned to power before the Argylls are disbanded they will—and I must read the phrase because it is difficult to remember—… seek to find a way of retaining an appropriate place for this regiment.Politicians are notorious for using ambiguous language, but could any statement be more pitiful than that?
The petition has been organised largely in my constituency, and appears to have been signed by rather more than 1 million people. Of the two main groups who have signed it, the first appears to me to be the large body of people who are strongly affected by the achievements of the Argylls and feel, as I do myself, that the regiment deserves great praise and encouragement. That view cuts across all parties: we have a lot of Labour people with that feeling, and who have, therefore, signed the petition. The second group consists of those who believe that whatever a Labour Government do is wrong, and that a petition is a jolly good thing to use as a stick with which to beat the Government. Some people will have signed for other reasons, but I think that those are the two main groups.
The second group it was that started things off. The petition was begun, I believe, by a group of Tory politicians and ex-officers of the Argylls. Incidentally, I do not know why, in all the accounts I have seen and in all the newspapers I have read, I have never found any reference to ex-privates or ex-n.c.o.s taking part in the organising of the petition. All the top directing seems to be done by ex-officers. But the politicians and the ex-officers were able to get a lot of help from the Scottish Conservative Party Central Office and from Scottish Conservative constituency parties. They also roped in a public relations firm, and the events of the last few days 948 have, no doubt, shown the value of that move.
Even with these unfortunate characteristics of the organisation of the petition—
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear that he is not suggesting that ex-privates and ex-n.c.o.s do not support the petition wholeheartedly.
§ Mr. MacPherson
No, I was making quite a different point. I have no doubt that far more ex-privates and ex-n.c.o.s have signed the petition than have ex-officers. I pointed out that the people who direct the campaign do not appear to include—judging from the photo graphs and the lists of names that I see in my local newspapers and other news papers—any ex-privates or ex-n.c.o.s. That was my point, and I think that it matters.
I understand that the petition will be delivered to Parliament tomorrow, and that will be the end of it, except that the Committee on Public Petitions examines the signatures, though not with that degree of care with which they were formerly looked over in such cases. The Committee will no doubt turn down a number of signatures—
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
I am not quite clear about it, but has the hon. Gentleman signed the petition himself?
§ Mr. MacPherson
The answer is, "No". I would perhaps have signed the petition had it been organised simply on the basis of the first group of signatories I mentioned—those who wished to express their pride and admiration for the Argylls—but a petition which has mingled up in it Conservative Members of Parliament, the Conservative Central Office, and so on, is not the kind of thing I want to touch, in spite of my sympathy with so many of the people who have signed it.
Incidentally, I notice that one news paper says that among the signatories were three Russians from Omsk. I do not know whether Omsk will prove to be a suitable address to the Committee on Public Petitions, but I suspect that it will not.
But even if the Committee discards 100,000, or a quarter of a million—or 949 even hall a million—signatures, there will still remain a very considerable expression of opinion from the Scottish public. Despite the fact that petitions are not now, Parliamentarywise, what they were, but are rather more like publicity stunts, and despite all the deficiencies and suspicions, there is involved here a considerable expression of Scottish opinion. It is not by any means opinion based on one small group of Scotsmen. That being so, I ask my right hon. Friend to look at the matter again in the light of my suggestions.
§ 6.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I will not follow the line taken by the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm Macpherson). As a Scotsman, he will agree that for a Welshman to do so would be to imperil that Welshman's own future.
So far in this debate we have had realised some of the worst fears expressed in earlier debates, that this would be come virtually a party issue, with hon. Members arguing who has done most; who has run down more things than others. If a debate like this proves any thing, it is the need for a Select Committee on such matters as defence, where we could have intelligent appreciation of our defence needs rather than attempts to score party points. Irrespective of party affiliation, defence is of vital importance to us all. Views on defence very often cut across party lines, and I do not believe that a debate on a censure Motion, particularly at this time, is the right procedure.
It has been rightly said that the run down of our forces began as far back as 1956–57, and that since then there has been a steady progression of rundown. Three points seem to me to arise. First, is it right that this rundown should be taking place? Secondly, has it taken place in the right sphere? Thirdly, are we in a position today to meet our defence commitments?
On the first point, it seems inevitable that this progress should have taken place. We had great commitments as an imperial Power. As our power declined and our imperial rô le changed, as the situation evolved, it was inevitable that we should cut down on commitments, and this we did. We would have done it whichever Government were in power.
950 The timing might have been different, but the process was inevitable. I do not follow the argument that, because we have had a commitment, it should be a commitment for ever. We entered into commitments as a great imperial Power and it is ridiculous to suggest that we should cling to those commitments when our power for fulfilling them has gone—
§ Mr. Ramsden
When the hon. and learned Gentleman starts from the reductions at the time of 1956–57, and relates them to commitments, he is not being quite fair. The reductions in numbers from 1956–57 onwards were associated with the decision to have only regular forces, and to discard National Service. If he is making an important point in this connection, he should take that into account.
§ Mr. Hooson
I agree that this was partly so—I do not want to take too much time going over the history—but it was also inevitable that we should cut down on commitments. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is at least right on this point—alone on the Opposition benches, it appears—that we have no rô le east of Suez that we can sustain in the 1970s—
§ Mr. Healey
The point that the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Rams den) was trying to make was in reference, I think, to the commitment that a Conservative Government expected to main tain a number of forces in Germany which they never came near to fulfilling.
§ Mr. Hooson
I think that that was partly his point, to be fair.
This run-down was inevitable and we must accept that it was bound up with our history. No military Power has ever, in history, been able to sustain this kind of rô le continually. A change happens in its status and this has happened to us. and we may as well face it.
The second question is whether the run-down has been in the right places. Broadly speaking, I think that it has. I am much more impressed by this Government's arguments on defence than by those of the Opposition. I agree with the Opposition vis-a-vis the Government, on many issues, but on defence I am much more impressed—although I have been a considerable critic of the Secretary of State on timing, and so on—by what the 951 Government have done, than by what the Opposition did when in power.
To take a present example, it would have been impossible for us to reach any political agreement in the Gulf if we had sustained or promised to sustain a military presence. One disadvantage of any country with forces in many parts of the world is that, very often, the very presence of those forces inhibits the political settlement of the problems in the area. This applies to what we did in the Gulf until we made a firm decision to withdraw. A political arrangement there then became a practical possibility.
I still think that the relinquishment by the Government has been too slow. I agree with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) on this matter. Nevertheless, generally, progress has been in the right direction and I cannot agree with the criticisms from the Opposition. They always seem to want the best of both worlds. They suggest, on the one hand, that they will reduce taxation, but they will never, on the other, say how much more they are prepared to spend on the forces, when everyone knows that, unless we reduce our commitments, we should have to spend a good deal more money which we are not in a position to do.
We come in the end to this—whether or not we can support Armed Forces of a certain kind depends in the long run on the economic state of the country, and this country cannot sustain the kind of forces necessary to maintain the commitments which the Opposition have argued that we should have maintained—
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Is it not fortunate, therefore, that there is very little likelihood of a Liberal Government having to support our trade and shipping overseas, which is essential for our economic future, without the necessary forces to do so?
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is fooling himself if he thinks that, by sitting on those benches, and sup porting the Conservative Party, he is supporting a party which has anything to be proud of on defence. He is greatly interesed in the Navy. Between 1951 and 1964, not a single carrier was built in this country. When the hon. Member for Woolwich, East, resigned on the basis 952 that, if we were maintaining commitments, we should have to provide the forces to sustain them, he was also resigning against a background of 13 years of Conservative rule, during which not a single carrier had been provided—
§ Mr. Hooson
I want to come on to the third question, and this is where I seriously disagree with the Government. That is, do we have the forces today to meet our basic commitments to NATO. and for the defence of this country? I agree with the Government that it was necessary to revise our reserve forces and their rôle and to consider how they should best be organised. I entirely agree that the B.A.O.R. reserves are now better organised. I think that the Territorial Army was an insufficient reserve for B.A.O.R. and that it was necessary to revise our whole concept of the reserve forces.
But where I disagree with the Government is that I think that it was a great mistake to run down the Territorial Army as they did. There is a tremendous pool of people anxious to volunteer for this kind of service and it is essential for the country to have a home defence force, not for service abroad, not to fulfil a reserve rôle for our forces allocated to Germany, but to provide a defence force at home.
I do not care if they were not equipped as well as our front-line forces—that would not worry me—but it is vitally important for a country like ours to have a home defence force. We are fooling ourselves if we think that we can anticipate the likely course of a future war. A nuclear war is highly unlikely. The speed with which the Russians mobilised and delivered their forces into Czechoslovakia surprised everyone. We must face the fact that this country itself is vulnerable to attack. We do not know what contingencies our people would be called upon to face. In these circumstances, to let the Territorial Army run down was a great mistake.
There is an overwhelming case in Britain, now more than ever before, for a first-class Navy and an adequate Territorial Army. A home force, territorially based, is an important safeguard. During 953 the defence debate last year, when I said that the Territorial Army was not only a safeguard against attack from outside, but was also a constitutional safeguard, there was much laughter from the Conservative benches. But I repeat it. It is a great safeguard for our constitution as well. There are people, territorially based and not part of the regular Army, who have a training in arms. It is, in the end, a safeguard against a military takeover in any country, and, although it is highly unlikely that any such takeover could ever happen in this country, it is still within the bounds of possibility. This is another reason why we should have home forces territorially based.
On the issue between the Opposition Front Bench and the Government Front Bench today, which is remote from a detached consideration of the adequacy or otherwise of our reserve forces, I have been much more convinced by the Government case than by the Opposition case.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
I am sorry that the support offered by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) for the Government petered out before the end of his speech, especially as I thought that the last point he made about the vulnerability of Britain to invasion is hard to sustain in the light of changes in defence technology. I assure him that the conception of an armed invasion of Britain looks very foolish in the light of the capacity of nations, and of N.A.T.O. in particular, to intercept fleets of troop-carrying planes. I am talking of conventional attack. If he studied the threat of an invasion to this country from this angle, he would find it less alarming than he made out.
As for the rest of the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, I was glad that he was supporting the Government, because I am in the happy position tonight of being able to offer the Government my wholehearted support. I see my area Whip on the Front Bench to celebrate the occasion.
We have now achieved the right defence policy with, broadly speaking, the right defence structure. The stages by which we reached this happy outcome could be argued about. I have seen it suggested that we have been witnessing over the years the unfolding of a gigantic, 954 consistent master plan for changing our defences. Others of us remember incidents on the route which lead us to take a different view of the journey.
Nevertheless, here we are at last with, in my view, a defence policy which is realistic and which, for the first time in 20 years, approximates to a balance between our commitments, on the one side, and our resources, on the other. How badly we have needed that in recent years. My only reason for looking back on the journey which has led us here is to make the unhappy point that in the course of this the Opposition, now very enthusiastic about an east of Suez rô le, are still under the spell of the old speeches of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. So persuasive were my right hon. Friends and so gullible were the Opposition that they now regurgitate in the House, less eloquently, quotations from the old imperialist orations which I used to hear from my right hon. Friends.
It is this that undermines the Motion, because there is an obvious contradiction and inconsistency between attacking the Government for failing to react to the changed situation in Europe and, at the same time, maintaining that Britain should keep a military presence in the Persian Gulf, in South-East Asia and, so we are now told, in the South Atlantic.
As my right hon. Friend explained, we are now making a greater contribution to N.A.T.O. than before. We are able to do this increasingly, simply because of the realistic policy of withdrawing our presence from South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf. This is why it has become possible to react, as the Government have reacted, promptly and effectively to the new threats in Europe. The policy which the Opposition are advocating—of going back east of Suez, of reintroducing a presence of some kind in the South Atlantic—would inevitably weaken what we can do to react to the new threats in Europe.
§ Mr. Mayhew
We shall look forward to hearing from the right hon. Gentleman how he reconciles the two concepts.
With a given number of reserves at whatever level, and with a defence budget at whatever height, to the extent that this is spread over the world—to the ex tent that it is spread to South-East Asia 955 and the Persian Gulf—inevitably the impact which can be made on events in Europe is relatively weakened. We look forward to hearing from the right hon. Gentleman an explanation of these apparently conflicting views.
We are told—there is much truth in it, I believe—that if, which heaven for bid, the Opposition ever returned to power they would not re-establish them selves in South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf. It is my belief that, having won the election, they would start a great defence review, and that the overseas Departments, briefed by the Chiefs of Staff, would lay down their minimum defence budget, and then the Home Departments, supported by the Treasury, would lay down their minimum defence budget, and a vast gap would be disclosed in the traditional way between the two defence budgets.
Then the Opposition would start looking at the facts of life. Undoubtedly, a Conservative Minister would then have to go round the world, as Labour Ministers have been round. Some Conservative Minister would have to go to Australia, to Singapore, to Malaya, to the Persian Gulf, and say," We are sorry. We promised you, but"—I suppose they would say—"the balance of payments problem bequeathed to us by the pre ceding Government was even worse than we expected", or words to that effect. This is what would happen. Right hon. Members opposite are only making politics with their talk of returning east of Suez. Faced with the facts, faced with the Chief? of Staff's appreciation of the expenditure involved and of the number of ships, troops and aircraft involved in going back, the Tories would do exactly as my right hon. Friends have done.
It may be right that the Opposition, if returned, will not go back there. I judge that they will not go back. One of the troubles is that by stating that they intend to go back there they are unsettling one of the policies being pursued by the Government now in the Persian Gulf and in South-East Asia. Since the Government's decision, announced in January of this year, to leave these places, contrary to everything that those who supported the east of Suez rôle said, so far from causing chaos, unsettlement and a 956 vacuum in those countries, at long last the statement by the Government that they were proposing to leave in 1971 has, as those of us who were east of Suez critics predicted, resulted in the countries out there looking realistically at their problems for the first time for decades and beginning to co-operate with each other.
There was an admirable article in this week's Sunday Times explaining the impact in the Gulf of the Government's decision to withdraw and pointing out something which was forecast on these benches. The fact that we are to with draw has at last encouraged all the Rulers of the Sheikdoms in the Gulf to face reality a little, to sink their quarrels and, indeed, to talk about federation, something which we have all been unsuccessfully pressing them to do for many years.
Meantime, every speech made by the Leader of the Opposition and by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the new shadow Secretary of State for Defence, whom we all welcome to his post, in which they say that in 1970 or 1971, whenever it is that they hope to win power, they will go back on what Her Majesty's Government are now doing, will cause chaos, unsettlement and friction in those areas which are now going ahead well.
§ Mr. Dalyell
My hon. Friend will have heard the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) talk about Malta, the South Atlantic, and bringing up the strength of the Rhine Army. Has my hon. Friend made a cost calculation of the programme put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman? Does my hon. Friend agree that it must come to an annual defence budget of at least £4,000 million?
§ Mr. Mayhew
The estimates on this vary. I think that that is the largest estimate I have heard. The Government has costed it at £600 million. I would cost it at a little under that—about £300 or £400 million—being a moderate calculator. It is true that it would add vastly to the defence budget, though how vastly would depend on what was done. Here a great cloud is left. No one knows exactly what the Conservatives would do. All we know for sure is that there will be a physical presence on the mainland of Asia and of the Middle East, and some thing or other in the South Atlantic.
957 None of us knows what the South Atlantic commitment is to which the shadow Defence Minister has committed his party. He quoted with approval the Portuguese Foreign Minister. What does the Portuguese Foreign Minister want us to do?—to go to help him in Angola. Before he commits the Opposition to these wild and extravagant commitments, which the majority of British people would unquestionably reject, the right hon. and learned Gentlemen should become a little more sophisticated. All we know for certain from the speeches of his right hon. Friends is that there will be a physical presence on the Persian Gulf and in South-East Asia.
It may be said that, according to the way the Opposition put it, it will not cost much. But they are saying that they are willing to co-operate in military operations on the mainland of Asia and the Persian Gulf outside the United Nations. If they do not mean that, they do not mean anything. How much will that liability or commitment cost? They say, "It is all right. We shall not fight very hard. It will be only a limited British commitment. We shall not spend any money on it, or not much, and we shall not use many men. We shall not have any expensive new aircraft. We shall not have any carriers. We shall make do with some sort of Heath Robin son contraption, involving Harriers ".
They will try to do it on the cheap. They will be there physically, our troops will be there, they will accept their commitments, but they will not spend enough money to do the job properly. And, if the going gets hot, they will come out. They will leave their friends in the lurch. There is no alternative.
That sort of paper peacekeeping is the worst and most criminal policy of all. To be frank, it is what my right hon. Friends were doing until a year ago. They were doing it, and now the Opposition are making just the same mistake. They will have enough commitments and enough troops there to get involved, enough commitment to make enemies, enough commitment to create tension, even to provide aggression, but never enough to master the situation, to deter aggression, or to defeat aggression if it takes place. It is the worst of all worlds, and complete nonsense.
§ Mr. Mayhew
All that makes so much more difficult the urgent and immediate task of strengthening our contribution in Europe.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked about the threat to N.A.T.O.'s flank. Again, the Opposition have got it all wrong. The threat to N.A.T.O.'s flank is not coming in the Persian Gulf It does not come even in Greece or Turkey, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested. It is doubtful that the main threat to N.A.T.O. and its southern flank arises from the Warsaw Pact declaration.
In my view, by far the most dangerous threat to N.A.T.O.'s southern flank comes from the increasing power of the Soviet Union in the Arab world. Nobody who studies how the Soviet Union's influence has grown, and who considers for a moment how it could lead to Soviet bases not only in the U.A.R. but in Algeria, can fail to realise that. Against that sort of threat to N.A.T.O.'s flank, all the talk about the Persian Gulf is totally irrelevant.
If the Opposition insist on commitments outside the N.A.T.O. area, they must look much more carefully to making a proper contribution towards Middle East settlement between the Arabs and the Israelis than towards affairs in the Persian Gulf and South-East Asia. In fact, with the exception of the Syrians, about whom no rational prediction can be made, the Arabs are deeply reluctant to be dependent on the Soviet Union. Hon. Members may be sceptical, but I assure them that that is so. However, if they are reluctant to be dependent on the Soviet Union, the Arabs have one passion far stronger than anything of that kind, namely, their passion to see Israel withdraw from the conquered territories under the terms of the United Nations resolution. So deep is that passion that they will go anywhere and ally themselves with anyone who, rightly or wrongly, they feel may help them towards that objective.
In that situation, the Arabs look about the world. On one side, they see the Soviet Union, in which, admittedly, they have been disappointed before. On the other side, they see the United States, with an attitude towards this problem which was correctly described by Governor Scranton recently as one-sided, and 959 they see, also, presidential election campaigns the traditional feature of which is assertions of one-sided support for Israel in the struggle, a feature which led on this occasion, in the United States, to, in my view, very rash promises to escalate the arms race in the Middle East by sending Phantom jets to Israel.
If we are to talk seriously—I hope that the new American Administration will think about this—about N.A.T.O.'s southern flank and the Soviet threat to the free world, we must look at the situation in the Middle East. Let us consider our policy towards Israel and the Arabs. I believe this to be the most crucial area for decision confronting the incoming United States President.
Recently, at the meeting of the N.A.T.O. Council, the Soviet Union was called upon to obey United Nations principles in Eastern Europe. It would be more realistic if the N.A.T.O. Council had called on Israel to follow United Nations principles in the Middle East. N.A.T.O.'s interest in a settlement is enormous, not only because of the danger of escalation, not only because of the undermining of N.A.T.O.'s security, but also—this is not often realised—because, if there is no settlement in the Middle East, Israel will not sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty; and, if Israel does not sign, there will be no Non-Proliferation Treaty. It will not work. From every point of view, N.A.T.O.'s interest lies in reaching a settlement.
Is there anything further which N.A.T.O. and we can do to make the chance of a settlement more likely, be sides doing what we can in diplomacy and using our influence with the United States? I believe that there is. If one looks at the growing crisis in the Middle East clinically and without emotion, simply considering how one can unjam the log-jam, one is drawn to the conclusion that the aim to go for is some how to persuade the Israelis to withdraw under the Security Council resolution. If they do withdraw, the Arab Governments will still find it extremely difficult to meet their part of the settlement, to control the Al Fatah and other Palestine organisations. But, if the Israelis do not withdraw, no settlement is conceivably possible.
960 Therefore, we have to ask ourselves whether there is anything we can do more than we are doing now to persuade the Israelis to withdraw. What is stopping them?—partly the historical and religious associations with Old Jerusalem, but mainly, I am sure, because they do not believe that they will ever have security on their old frontiers. That is the key.
The short-term temptations for the Israelis now to dig in on their new frontiers are great. These new frontiers are strategically far stronger. Now, the Israelis dominate the Middle East militarily. They can say that, by their policy of reprisals, they can keep the Arabs quiet. They are giving themselves time to make nuclear weapons.
The temptation in the short term to dig in and stand fast is strong and growing in Israel. I regret to say that opinion on this matter is hardening in Israel. But, in the longer term, that temptation will be tragically suicidal. Nuclear weapons will no more protect the Israelis against the sort of military operations which can be mounted against them than they can be effective in Vietnam to bring about a solution there. In the longer term, reprisals will, without doubt, be counter productive. Their colonial problem will become worse and worse. Inevitably, as the years go by, the Arabs will simply grow angrier and stronger as the technological, military and diplomatic balance moves in their favour, till, in the 1970s, we have a new and worse war than ever before in which Israel will be likely to be destroyed as a State.
Can anything be done to increase the prospects of a settlement? The security we now offer the Israelis for withdrawing is as follows. They can get a treaty, but they ask," What is the use of a treaty? Anyone can tear it up, or a Government can be overthrown." They can unquestionably get demilitarised zones and United Nations forces, but they say," What is the good to us? We had the United Nations before and it did not work. It does not shoot. It is not a military Power." Third, they can probably get some kind of Soviet-American underwriting of the guarantee, but they ask "What use is that? Who can expect them to act together or to act quickly, or are we likely to get one acting without the other?"
961 All these things seem to the Israelis not to make sense. I think that the Israelis are wrong in this. I do not think that the Arabs would attack if the Israelis accepted withdrawal under the Security Council resolution. I am only saying what they believe, which we must take into account.
Obviously, N.A.T.O. and W.E.U. can not do anything. Their underwriting the settlement would cause much resistance among the Russians and Arabs, and there is the problem of vetos. But is it impossible that the Western European countries, acting outside N.A.T.O. and W.E.U. acting ad hoc, might agree to underwrite the settlement in such a way as to give Israel the security she must have? I should like the Government to consider that question seriously. The difficulties speak for themselves. The underwriting would have to guarantee the Arabs as well as the Israelis. It would have to be in addition to the treaty, in addition to the United Nations, and in addition to the Soviet-American guarantees.
§ Mr. Goodhart
The hon. Gentleman is saying that we should give guarantees to the Israelis. But we have given guarantees to the sheikhs in the Persian Gulf, agreements which we have now broken, with his approval. Why should we not break the guarantees to the Israelis?
§ Mr. Mayhew
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could have waited until I had drawn a comparison between commitments to defend on the mainland of Asia and the mainland of the Middle East from the point of view of military feasibility, political need, Britain's moral and legal commitments and the urgent need for peace keeping. On all those counts I am saying that what I suggest is practicable and necessary in comparison.
If the Opposition want, as I do, Britain to take the lead, to make an act of peace keeping and to accept urgent responsibilities which are in her interests, let them look nearer our doorstep at a problem which is very urgent and is getting worse. Although I see all the difficulties of what I am suggesting, no other alternatives seem possible. What will work better? Let the Government consider this seriously. I believe that the only ray of hope in the Middle East is to give the Israelis sufficient security to withdraw.
962 On the whole, I congratulate the Government on the defence policy they have now adopted, and my right hon. Friend on the speech with which he introduced the Government's case. I find the Motion deplorable, partly because it is so partisan. It is not necessary to divide the House on a three-line Whip on such matters, because we agree on too much in defence, and there is such a contradiction between the conception of a European defence, which the Opposition are demanding, and the squandering of our resources all over the world, which is another part of their policy. Because the Motion is partisan, and because the Government are now on the right lines, I hope that all my right hon. and hon Friends will support them tonight.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Colonel Sir Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
The views of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) on the Arab-Israeli dispute were interesting and con structive, and I agree with them to a large extent. But the first two-thirds or so of his speech were remarkably illogical. He seemed completely to have lost sight of the fact that there is nothing inconsistent in this country's playing the most efficient rô le it can afford in protecting its vital interests wherever they may be threatened. I do not draw an artificial line on the map and say that that is the end of N.A.T.O.'s flank. It is ridiculous to draw a false distinction between the rô le we can play in trying to bring about stability in the Arab-Israeli dispute and what happens in the Persian Gulf, saying that that does not matter. That is incomprehensible. I should like to debate the question with the hon. Gentleman at length. Perhaps we shall have another opportunity.
Instead, I shall concentrate on our vital interests at home. My object is to probe the real reason for the Government's decision virtually to disband TAVR III, or the Territorials, as it is easier to call them. We have not been told the real reason, and we have a right to be told. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said on 17th January:First, we have looked at defence for a major longer-term contribution towards the reductions in expenditure which we need."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th January, 1968-Vol. 756, c. 1797.]"First, we have looked at defence"! There were cheers from the Left Wing.
963 The Government had looked at defence not last but first, whereas we on this side of the House have always maintained that the first charge on the tax payers' pockets must be the proper defence of the country.
It was not until May that we were told that in the Government's opinion the Territorials were once more an unnecessary extravagance. It was left to the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army to tell us this. He said:… the chances of a nuclear attack on this country have decreased over the years—they have not disappeared,"—Fancy that!but they have decreased—and … the risk is now sufficiently small for the Government to be able to make substantial reductions in expenditure on home defence …—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th May, 1968; Vol. 764, c. 1243.] Out of all the conflicting statements in the Government's attempts to explain their reasons for mutilating and virtually abolishing the Territorials, three have stood out: first, assumptions about the nature of a future war and the breathing space for preparation if it threatened; second, the need for economy; third, the alleged lack of enthusiasm among Territorials, coupled with the admitted failure of the volunteers, other than those in the teeth arms, to attract enough men.
A fourth reason has been given. I have analysed the reasons pretty care fully, and I have not taken that one seriously. It was given when the announcement was made on 28th November of the decision to disband the Territorials. The Minister of Defence for Administration, who made the statement, said that the Government wanted… to employ the assets of TAVR III to make good the manning shortfall in TAVR II."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th November, 1968; Vol. 774, c. 740.]Since his own estimate, which he made public, was that he did not expect more than about 3,000, or at the most, 5,000, of the Territorials to join the volunteers, and since the manning shortfall amounts to almost 20,000 on establishment, which the Government say they would like to achieve, the gap is so ridiculously large that we cannot take that point seriously.
We were told in the 1965 Defence White Paper that a land campaign in 964 Europe would not last for many days, and probably would last only for hours. In other words, it would go nuclear very quickly. Last July we were told that N.A.T.O. was placing a greater emphasis on maximising the conventional capability of N.A.T.O. forces. But whether a future war may be nuclear or conventional is entirely irrelevant when one is thinking about the Territorial Army, because it is essential in either case for home defence, to aid the civil power and as a framework for expansion. Those are the views that most of us on this side of the House hold, but the Government apparently take the view that war, nuclear or conventional, is a remote contingency. Witness, for example, the Secretary of State, who told the House in July that… we can comfort ourselves that the situation between East and West in Europe today is comparatively stable; … "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1968; Vol. 769: c. 1019.]When he said that, the House must have assumed that he did not then know that the invasion of Czechoslovakia could be expected at any time and that the whole of Europe was to be shortly plunged into anxiety and doubt. But, believe it or not, the right hon. Gentleman did know. He told me so on 13th November, when he saidThe posibility of Soviet military intervention in Czechoslovakia has been apparent to the West since February this year. The physical possibility has been apparent since July."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 388.]
§ Mr. Healey
Perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to correct him. As he well knows, when I spoke in July, I was following a suggestion from his erstwhile leader, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) that we should reduce force in N.A.T.O. to help in the Far East, whereas, earlier this year, I was talking about the military situation as between East and West, which was not affected, as I shall seek to show, by the Soviet action in Czechoslovakia in August.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I look forward to hearing the right hon. Gentleman make that argument. It seems that it will be very wriggly indeed. I hope that he will tell us in plain words whether he is still 965 "comforted" by the "comparatively stable" situation in Europe. So much for the Government view that the danger of war has so far decreased that the Territorials, the Civil Defence and the A.F.S. can freely be disbanded. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman is also comforted by inside knowledge that, if the unexpected were to happen, as it usually does, it will not take us by surprise. In the 1967 Defence White Paper, we were told that we should probably receive ample warning of Soviet attack in Europe.
The Home Secretary was even more explicit when announcing the disbanding of the Civil Defence. He said:Cuba blew up very quickly. It is possible to form a judgment that future crises are likely to be longer in developing than that was."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1800.]Despite knowing since February that the invasion of Czechoslovakia was a distinct possibility and since July that it was virtually certain, that invasion also blew up quickly—quickly enough for the Prime Minister to tell the House that he suffered "a profound sense of shock". The harsh facts of this "comfortable" situation in Europe are well known to us all but they are worth restating in simple terms.
Soviet troops, with established supply lines, are in East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland and the west of Russia as well as in Czechoslovakia. Yugoslavia and Rumania are wondering uneasily whether they are next on the Kremlin list. The Soviet defence budget this year is again a record. Powerful Soviet naval forces are backing Soviet subversion throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. To talk of conditions being comparatively stable and to rely on ample warning of danger arising is wishful thinking of the most dangerous kind.
This is not borne out by the views of the Foreign Secretary and other representatives in N.A.T.O. The N.A.T.O. Council, in its Brussels communiqué, said:The use of force and the stationing in Czechoslovakia of Soviet forces not hitherto deployed there have aroused grave uncertainty about the situation and about the calculations and intentions of the U.S.S.R.It was agreed that the N.A.T.O. allies were… obliged to re-assess the state of their defences.966 The sabotage of our ports, of N.A.T.O. air bases in this country, of key positions that would damage our war effort, would concern not only Britain but the whole of N.A.T.O. I hope, therefore, that when the Government complete their reassessment yet again of our defences better provision will be made for home defence and that it will be regarded as a significant and essential objective.
I ask the Secretary of State to deny, if he can, that the decision taken virtually to abolish the Territorials is inconsistent both with N.A.T.O. policy and with the professional military advice he has been given. I ask him to deny that specific ally. I shall be interested to hear what he has to say.
So much for any military ground for taking this decision to disband the Territorial Army. In fact, there are no such grounds. The Government have had to invent comfortable assumptions to fit their own preconceived ideas and I find this a shocking thing.
Now I turn to the second ground we have been given for disbanding the Territorial Army—the economy that is sup posed to result from abolition. I can not find any economy at all. The figures we have been given are contradictory, misleading, confusing, and, I think, phoney. The short point is that a volunteer—and this cannot be gainsaid—is a much more expensive man than a Territorial—cook the books how one likes. We all know the reasons for this decision. One can leave out the cost of regular permanent staff, Army or civilian or part time; one can assume recruitment of the volunteers to only 80 per cent. instead of 100 per cent. of establishment; one can forget the cost of maintaining 87 T cadres and keeping 100 or so more drill halls. The answer is still the same. The volunteer is still more expensive than the Territorial, although the figures given to the House would lead to a different conclusion.
§ Mr. Reynolds indicated dissent.
§ Sir T. Beamish
The right hon. Gentleman must either do his arithmetic again or explain himself more clearly. He was cheered loudly by the left wing of the Labour Party because he gave the impression that economies would result from disbanding the Territorials, and it is not true.
§ Mr. Reynolds
Of course, the individual volunteer costs considerably more to train, equip and pay than the individual Territorial. But the total cost of the volunteers as compared with the total cost of the Territorial Army gives a saving of about £17½ million to £18 million and gives much better forces.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman arrives at that conclusion. It makes me all the more con fused by his figures. He wants to raise the volunteers from 35,000 to 54,000 or so, and he knows that every one of them, whether from the Territorials or any where else, costs more than a Territorial soldier cost last year.
§ Mr. Reynolds indicated assent.
§ Sir T. Beamish
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman agrees.
The Government's third reason for disbanding the Territorials I shall dismiss equally briefly. The failure of the volunteers to get anywhere near their overall recruiting target has been very disappointing. All of us who care hope that they will fare much better from now on. But why last March did the Under-Secretary of State for the Army deliberately mislead the House? I say "deliberately" because it must have been deliberate. He said:The Volunteers have made good progress since they came into existence last year.The facts were that, between July, 1967, and the date of that statement, the volunteers had decreased in number every single month—a total fall of 1,400. That is what the hon. Gentleman called "good progress". The figures went on decreasing after that.
What cannot be denied, however, is the tenacity and enthusiasm of the Territorials, which the hon. Gentleman called in question. On the same occasion, he referred in a derogatory way to the Territorials when he said:A recruiting limit of 23,000 was set, though in the event numbers have reached only 15,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 483.]That was also misleading because the Territorials have increased their strength in almost every single month from the time of reorganisation in April, 1967, until the announcement of disbandment was made last January. We thus see 968 the Territorials run down on the pretence of doing badly and we are told that the volunteers are doing wonder fully whereas they are losing recruits every month. The hon. Gentleman had no right to mislead us, and he owes the House an apology.
There has been no lack of enthusiasm among Territorials. Quite the reverse. It is untrue and unworthy to suggest that there has. They have hung on in adversity, fighting and hoping for survival. Nearly every unit has gone to camp this year and the men have undergone training at their own expense. They have had little enough praise and, so far as I know, not a word of thanks.
It all boils down to this. The Government's three main reasons for disbanding the Territorial Army do not bear examination for one moment.
First, there is no military reason for it. The decision flies in the fact of the best military advice at home and from our allies. Britain alone is in step on this matter.
Secondly, there is no economic reason for it. There is no saving. We have just had confirmation that disbanding the Territorial Army will not save a penny.
Thirdly, to suggest that the Territorials were running down through lack of enthusiasm is untrue. The truth is that their spirit and morale is as strong as ever.
What, then, is the Government's reason for disbanding the Territorials? I am glad to see the Secretary of State in his place. I believe that it is the Secretary of State's personal indifference, even antipathy, to the Territorials—an indifference and antipathy which is reflected in the views of the Prime Minister and more than half the Cabinet. The Secretary of State must be judged by his actions and by his words. He appears to feel neither remorse nor shame at what has happened. He does not look like a man narrowly defeated after a hard fight. He is a strong and decisive man. I would back him almost anywhere to hold his own in a matter like this, supported, as he has been, by unanswerable military and political arguments.
Were those arguments forcefully deployed? I very much doubt it. I have always regarded the Secretary of State as running with the powerful left wing of his party and, to some extent, with the 969 pacifists;. He has consistently acceded to left wing demands—
§ Sir T. Beamish
It is interesting to hear the right hon. Gentleman laugh. He has consistently acceded to left wing demands while giving an impression of resisting them. He has been very clever indeed. He inflicts one grievous blow after another on our armed forces, now on the Territorials, but he does not resign. It is high time that he did.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
Having listened to the first two speakers in the debate, there seemed to be an argument going on about who cut down the forces the more. I do not think it matters what size the forces are, provided they are adequate for the task they have to perform. Therefore, although I propose to go through some of the previous debates on defence, I do not propose to criticise where cuts have been made. I believe that cuts were necessary.
I could not follow the argument of my right hon. Friend when he spoke about the Opposition bringing the Air Force reserves down to 85,000. That would have been pertinent if 85,000 was not adequate. What number they are brought down from does not matter as long as the number left is what is required.
I am more interested in the military thinking that has gone into Statements on Defence over the last four years. It will be necessary to refer briefly to each one, because I can at last see a glimmer of light coming through. I would refer to the five Statements as instalments in "Pilgrim's Progress". I am not unhopeful at last that the Minister might reach the eternal city and arrive at the stage where, for four long years, mine has been a lone voice.
First, I will refer to the Statement on Defence in 1965. I sympathise with my right hon. Friend because he has been carrying out basically a Tory policy on defence in Europe. The nuclear strike was the Tory policy. At least my right hon. Friend has been logical in carrying out that policy. If a nuclear strike is intended from the word go there is no necessity for large reserves to call up.
970 This is where I think the Opposition were wrong if they intended to do that.
In 1965 my right hon. Friend started off by saying that the defence of Europe depended on a nuclear strike and, there fore, there were no resources to be tied up against risk of a prolonged war. That is a reasonable argument if the use of a nuclear strike is intended.
In 1965 it was apparently necessary to keep our forces in the Far East. We were told that it would be irresponsible to abandon those bases. Over the past four years my main shout has been that our main defence was in Europe; if we were short of forces or could not afford other forces it was more important that we defended Europe than the Far East. To that extent I have asked for our forces to be withdrawn from the Far East.
Another point I have consistently made is that when the crunch came, N.A.T.O. would not depend upon the nuclear deter rent. It would be required to provide conventional forces, we were told, to hold the field for hours while the nuclear weapons came into play. The hours got to days and possibly to months. How ever, with no reserves we might as well not have conventional forces, because that will commit us ultimately to using the nuclear strike.
In 1965 we were completely committed to the nuclear strike. Apparently there was no need for any conventional reserves, but it was necessary to stay in the Far East.
In 1966 we were still committed to the nuclear strike. When arguments were put forward that if we built up our conventional forces that would assist, we were told that a build-up of conventional forces would be equalled by a build-up of the Warsaw Pact forces and to that extent they would neutralise one another.
Does that apply to these other forces we are to put into N.A.T.O.? If that argument is true, there is no point in keeping these other forces in N.A.T.O. If they are of assistance now, they were wrong in 1966 in saying they would be of no use.
The Statement on Defence in 1966 went even further. We took pride in saying that we urged on the Alliance to abandon the military preparations 971 which assume war could last for several months. We took credit for urging on the Alliance that a war in Europe could not last several months.
We were also saying that it was necessary for our forces to be in the Far East to reduce the danger; that no country with any sense of international responsibility would surrender these positions unless satisfied that others would assume the rôle. Have others assumed the rôle? Have others taken over our responsibilities in the Far East? Are we acting irresponsibly? Or was this just another bit of bad thinking on the part of our military planners?
In 1967 we were told that there was little danger of aggression in Europe; that N.A.T.O. can take a more confident view of Soviet intentions than in 1949 or 1956; and that political indications are likely to give some warning of potential aggression. I will deal with what General Lemnitzer had to say in October this year about the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
We reaffirmed the necessity to keep our forces in the Far East.
Coming to February 1968, my lone voice did not seem to be quite so alone. We were told that Britain's defence effort will in future be concentrated mainly in Europe and the North Atlantic area and that adjustments should be made, particularly in the Air Forces, with the object of extending the conventional phase of hostilities should war break out. This would give more time in which any decision to use nuclear weapons could be taken.
We come back again to the Far East, from where I have been urging that we should withdraw over the last four years. The Defence Paper stated:We shall accelerate the withdrawal of our forces from Malaysia, Singapore and the Persian Gulf.If I am correct, I see a glimmer of hope for the future.
We had another Defence White Paper in July of this year—rather unfortunate timing, because it was just before the invasion of Czechoslovakia. It stated:N.A.T.O. defence planning must pay special attention to possible situations below the level which would provoke a strategic nuclear response. With active encouragement from Britain972 —we were encouraging in the other direction two years earlier—the alliance has recently been concentrating on such situations.In two years we have ceased to urge that there can be no prolonged conventional war and have moved to the other extreme of looking at the possibilities of a conventional war taking place in Europe. We have come full circle. We have arrived at a situation in which we are told that there is a possibility of conventional forces having to be used.
How does the invasion of Czechoslovakia alter the situation? May I quote from what was said by the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe when he was in Washington:The invasion came as a complete tactical surprise.If that is true, after all that we had read in the newspapers for months previously, and when the people of this country were expecting such a possibility, what right have we to say that in any future possible conflict we should have time to build up any forces at all in Europe?
§ Mr. Crawshaw
Presumably the argument being advanced, then, is that we should never be able to get them in Europe.
If Yugoslavia were next on the list to be invaded, and if Yugoslavia held out and there was guerrilla warfare but the Russians were gradually taking over the Adriatic, would that not be a time at which the Reserve forces might be required to support our main forces in Europe?
Let us face the fact—and I do not know whether the country appreciates it: there are no Reserve forces upon which we could build another army in Europe or anywhere else. The whole of our reserves are committed to plug the gaps in the regular forces. For the first time in the history of this country we shall be incapable of raising a second army if that is required. It would not matter if we had 12 months' warning—we could not do it. Anybody who has had military experience knows that it would take four to six months before we could put into the field our partly-trained territorial troops. If we do not even have the 973 nucleus of those troops, we can estimate that it would take between 12 to 18 months to put troops into the field.
The argument has also been that there was no point in having these reserve forces because the equipment was so dear that we could not afford it. If we have not the equipment, obviously there is no point in having the men. Even if we had 18 months' warning of a possible conflict in Europe, should we have the equipment to give our reserves, if we had any reserves? Equipment goes hand-in-glove with having the reserves. It is no use having the men if we have not the equipment to put them into the field. It is not, therefore, just a matter of whether we could call out the Territorials tomorrow; it is also a question whether we plan to have the equipment for them in 18 months' time.
But there is at last a glimmer of hope. As we have heard, we are to have a nucleus of 100 units of eight men—another battle of Thermopylae in the offing. Are the Government being serious about this? One of the reasons for suggesting that we have that formation is rapid expansion in time of emergency. What an expansion—100 units of eight men! On what will they expand? At that rate, they could not raise a football team in six months.
All this makes me wonder whether my right hon. Friends are genuine when they produce these Papers and whether the Defence Papers represent what they believe and what their military advisers believe—or whether they are trying to placate my hon. Friends. There are such things as package deals. One of the first things at which the Government looked was how they could cut down our defences. I have always taken pride in thinking that one of the first things we ensure is defence and that that is some thing for which the country unfortunately has to pay. I have said more than once in the House that when the time comes and our defence forces are not to be found, people will want to know where they are and what the Government have been doing while in office.
It is no good telling people that defence forces are not required. They are required. It astounds me that over a period of four years the thinking of any Government could have changed from one extreme to the other. First they said that there 974 was no need at all for any conventional forces and that any war would be fought over a matter of hours. The American Defence Report, issued in October—and the Government ought to pay regard to it—states:A satisfactory conventional capability is feasible at planned or moderately increased budget level provided existing forces are used effectively.It is not that the Western Powers have not the men or the money available. Overall we are spending more on our forces than the Warsaw Pact countries are spending on their forces. It is simply that our forces are not arranged properly to meet their commitments.
I ask my hon. Friends very seriously to consider the situation of the Reserve forces. There is no other country in Europe which has no reserve forces. We are the only member of the Western Alliance which does not have conscription or national service. Surely we are not asking too much in saying that those people who are willing to train as volunteers to serve their country should be given the opportunity to do so.
Having regard to the criticisms which I have made of their policies, hon. Members opposite would be surprised if I went into the Lobby with them tonight. Some of my hon. Friends will be surprised if I go into the Lobby with them tonight. I intend to surprise neither side.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) was, I am sure, not at all surprised when the Secretary of State took to his heels in the middle of his speech because the hon. Member produced an unanswerable indictment of the Administration's present defence policy. He makes admirable speeches on defence and, as we know from the past, he has the courage to back his opinions in the defence lobbies.
I want to look at the recruiting figures over the last few months. On any judgment they must be reckoned to be calamitous. There might be some improvement in these figures if we adopt a three-year recruitment period. This was one statement of the Minister of Defence for Administration which I welcomed. I am glad that the Government are to consider this matter again.
975 It is more convenient if we can get people to sign on for six years. I can remember when I was asked to sign on for seven years with the colours in the middle of a war 25 years ago. I did so. But even then, with a war on, it seemed to me a very long time. I was 18 years of age. At 18, six years, or seven years as it was then, seems a lifetime. Since then, young men have grown even more nomadic and more mobile in their habits. They chop and change even more quickly than we used to do in the old days. I suspect that a three-year recruitment period will fit the bill far better than six years, although I can see all the arguments in favour of six years, and I appreciate that probably that was the correct assessment some years ago and that many experts still believe it is the right period. But if the numbers continue at their present level, as the Labour Party's former expert on recruiting arithmetic pointed out not long ago, we shall have, not 160,000 men in the Army, but 120,000 men, and I do not believe that that is acceptable even for the present Government.
Most of the argument has turned on recruiting for other ranks. I expect that we shall soon be even more concerned about the state of officer recruitment. A shortage of suitable candidates for com missions takes longer to develop than a shortage of recruits for the ranks. But once it has developed it is more serious and takes longer to correct. Statistics which are emerging about the proportion of candidates rejected by the Regular Commission Board and some disquieting signs about entry to Sandhurst, and particularly the academic level of some of the candidates accepted there, give us considerable cause for concern.
Something could be done to improve this potentially dangerous situation if the Government were to make up their minds about the reorganisation of officer training in the three Services. We have had a lot of reports, many of which have been scrapped, and now there are reorganisation schemes which, it appears, are held up only for want of Ministerial decisions. Surely this is a matter of vital concern to young men, and we should give it the highest priority.
More far-reaching than that is the fact that the career structure in the Army, in 976 particular, was a major casualty of the decision to destroy the Territorial Army. Over the last two or three years Ministers have recognised that the career structure in the Army has been shattered and they have said that something would soon be done about it. But nothing has been done. Until a viable career structure is introduced for regular officers, we cannot look forward to a satisfactory recruiting situation.
Above and beyond the questions of pay, conditions, training and a career structure comes the question of the rô le of the Armed Forces and its importance in attracting officers. I think that many officers believed the statements in the Defence Review that the major threat to peace and British interests lay out side Europe and they looked forward to a career part of which would be spent in the Far East or Middle East. Now that is no longer the case. It would seem that in future regular soldiers will shuttle almost indefinitely between the plains of Germany, where it seems they will be deprived even of the intellectual stimulation of a visit by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), and Salisbury Plain. If a young man wants to hear a shot fired in anger, he is more likely to hear it if he becomes a jeweller's assistant or a sub-postmaster than an officer in the forces in Europe. It is this destruction of a rô le which will play a major part in the fall-off in officer recruitment which we are beginning to see.
The main burden of this debate should fall on the Government's calamitous decision about the reserves. It is plainly against the policy of N.A.T.O. Mr. McNamara, in his farewell trip to Europe as Secretary of Defence of the American Defence Department and in his farewell statement to the American Congress, underlined that an expansion of the mobilisation base of the N.A.T.O. countries should be our highest priority. This was before the invasion of Czechoslovakia. Since then, there has been a meeting of the North Atlantic Council, in November, 1968.
The final communiqué, signed in the affirmative by the British Government, said:The quality of Reserve Forces will also be improved and their ability to mobilise rapidly will be increased.977 Everything that the Government have done in the last few months has gone flatly against that declaration of policy.
In opening this debate, the Minister of Defence for Administration said that in the old days, colonels of Territorial units came to him complaining that they did not have proper equipment but that that does not happen now. That is true, but the commanding officers of Territorial units still come to see their Members of Parliament. Certainly, mine have been to see me, not complaining about holes in their boots or that they did not have the latest type of rifles, but complaining that they were faced with total disbandment.
It is not only commanding officers of those units who are concerned. One need only remember the letter signed by all six of the field-marshals when the Government launched on their policy of destroying: he Territorial Army three years ago. They pointed out that by destroying the Territorial Army, the Government were destroying the only protection which the country had against the unexpected.
It may be true, as the Minister of Defence for Administration said, that more per man is being spent on equipment in the reserve forces than was the case prior to 1964 but if the numbers of those reserve forces have been cut to the bone and beyond, it is a figure which does not mean very much.
What we have seen is not the cutting of the Territorial Army, because that implies something keen, clean and swift. In the last three years, we have seen rather the maiming of this force and an attempt to stifle the volunteer spirit.
One has only to look at the figures given for the disposal of Territorial drill halls to find that of the 1,250 which existed in 1964, almost two-thirds have either been disposed of or are to be disposed of. A number have been transferred to other Government Departments. One wonders whether some are being used for the storage of 4d. letters.
There is argument about what we on this side will do in defence when we come back to office. Certainly, we have said that if there is still a wish for our presence in the Far East, we will look at this with our allies and see what we can do to maintain a British presence there. If, again, when we have returned to office, 978 the position in the Persian Gulf is such that the maintenance or return of a small British force should be thought by the inhabitants of the area to be of benefit in keeping the peace, we will be prepared to put those forces there.
What I have said about those two places is, of course, conditional on the wishes of the local inhabitants and that we should be in no doubt of what those wishes are, but they are not wholly within our command. The reserve forces, how ever, are a matter which is wholly within our command. I am glad that the Opposition have given unequivocal pledges that on their return to office, they will restore a volunteer Force, a citizen army, not exactly of the old pattern, but one which can provide the adequate reserves which the country and N.A.T.O. deserve.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
I have a simple belief that regardless of party balance in speakers, those who have sat through a whole debate on defence should at least have an opportunity to speak. I will, therefore, be brief, even if this leads me to cut what I had intended to say.
The gravamen of the charge seems to be that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence was abandoning a vital number of strategic positions. Here we have to look at cost. My first point, therefore, is a simple question to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army when he replies to the debate: what does the Defence Department reckon to be the costs of a South Atlantic force?
This is not the first time that this proposition has been raised. The Leader of the Opposition first floated the idea of a South Atlantic force in the major defence debate last Session. My impression at that time was that it would cost something like £200 million a year on the defence Estimates. I therefore ask the direct question whether that is a likely figure and, secondly, what kind of calculation the Department have made of the Opposition's wishes to retain the Malta base.
I would simply comment that if we are to get involved in the Mediterranean at all, surely we must do it with air cover and with adequate naval forces, because we cannot go halfway in this kind of 979 commitment. If one has a half-commitment, it is worse than having no commitment at all.
I would also like to know from my hon. Friend the current calculation of cost of the Opposition's wishes to do what they would wish to do in the Far East and the Middle East. I understood the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) to say that in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, whatever else had been proved, it had been shown that the Russians could strike far more suddenly than anyone in N.A.T.O. had anticipated. I would wish to know precisely what deduction is to be drawn from this.
Is the deduction that there should be a build-up of Rhine Army? If so, to what strength? This also raises the question of precisely what the Opposition mean by bringing up the forces to full strength. This was repeatedly referred to during the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham. Certain inquiry is needed. The calculation of those who know better than I do is that to bring up the Army and the other forces to full strength would cost at least another £800 million. I would like these figures confirmed or denied.
There is another point arising from the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hexham, and that is about TSR2. The argument was that my right hon. Friends have been guilty, among other things, of the criminal and wilful destruction of the prototype. Again, for the sake of saving time, I will put the point in the form of a question. Is it true, as has been argued by Lord Bowden, that the TSR2, though it might have flown in prototype, could never have become an operational plane because it would have suffered from precisely the same kind of metal fatigue which has dogged the F.111 and that the requirements of certain parts of the fulcrum in the TSR 2 would require metals which have not so far been invented? They were of titanium nature, which would resist strains. Is this factual? If the Opposition is to bring up the TSR 2 I think it is about time certain facts are made clear.
As to the Argyle and Sutherland High landers, I content myself with saying that the Select Committee on Petitions will 980 examine the signatures, and all that needed to be said on that subject has been said much better by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson).
I have a question to put arising out of the speech by the Minister of Defence for Administration. He referred to his own visit to the Far East. What is hap pening to the facilities at Terendak? Are they, as reported in the Press, going to waste, or is some constructive purpose being found for them?
I have another question arising out of Lord Winterbottom's speech in the House of Lords. Is it true that there are serious deficiencies in the professional corps?
Because I am carrying out my promise to be brief I quickly draw your attention to another problem, and that is that if the forces are run down, as I think they should be, what is being done to protect career expectations? Even those who have been anti-east of Suez and many other things, and have been criticised by Members of the Opposition for taking this position, even people like myself who are serious about defence if nothing else, are very concerned about what happens to career expectations. If we do run down the Forces beyond a certain point, I ask whether in future we do not need some different concept of the kind of forces we need, when it really does be come a matter of defending Britain rather than interfering abroad. The old style forces would have been perhaps very good for interfering, for instance, in the Nigerian civil war, but since no longer is there any kind of question of interfering in that kind of war I think one should define in terms the different rô le of the Forces.
This leads me to ask a question about "Opmac". Six Members of Parliament, three Conservative and three Labour, of whom I was one, visited the "Opmac" operations in Scotland with General Sir Derek Lang, on a most successful two-day visit. I welcomed the announcement in a Parliamentary Answer to me that 30 new projects are conceived for next year. The Under-Secretary of State can take great credit for this decision. I wonder if he would tell me two things. Is any consideration being given to taking this kind of operation out of the Defence 981 Vote? The second question is, is there any way in which some additional finance can be provided for "Opmac" operations? As General Lang has rightly put it and as others have put it, in a sense desirable civilian projects are hindered for the lack of comparatively modest sums of finance which could come from civilian Votes. If this operation is to be continued, surely there is an argument for providing some funds not directly related to the Defence Vote. I am thinking in thousands of pounds, not hundreds of thousands or millions.
Again in shorthand, how is the Government's good scheme going for the link between the forces and industry? If there is time in the wind up speech I hope that the Minister will say something about the arrangement with the C.B.I. and T.U.C. whereby potential officers who enter the forces can keep in touch with certain industrial firms. I should like to know how this is working out.
I look forward to the Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology going into the defence research establishments. It will not have escaped my hon. Friend's notice that the Zuckerman Committee presented a Report to the effect that there must be a drastic reorganisation of the defence research establishments which, in the view of some of us, are out of all proportion to our military capability. For example, while Canada spends about £30 million a year on military technological research, last year we spent £260 million, excluding nuclear and whole sectors of the aircraft industry such as the B.A.C. at Warton. This seems to be out of all proportion to our current requirements.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), in his burning desire to reduce the size of our forces and overseas commitments to what I suppose he would call a "fortress England", almost by accident stumbled on an essential truth about recruiting. He asked what would be the future career structure of the Armed Forces on the completion of the withdrawal from the Far East and Middle East.
982 I would not have thought that there would be a long queue to join the Army to serve between Salisbury Plain and the Rhine Army. Nor would I have thought that there would be a long queue to join the Royal Air Force to fly between England and Germany, which can be done by modern aircraft in almost a matter of minutes. All the old adventurous spirit which stimulated recruiting, particularly for fire brigade operations which are now frowned upon, will go.
§ Mr. Dalyell
That is why I referred to "Opmac" and the importance of that type of operation at home and abroad.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
That is quite a different sort of operation. One does not join the Army to undertake that sort of task.
It is nice for hon. Members who have been in the House for some time to see right hon. and hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite, and particularly the Minister of Defence, back in the fold with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), who, I regret, is not in his place. It was only about 18 months ago that that hon. Gentleman was anxious to reduce our defence commitments to what his colleagues in the Administration thought then, I believe rightly, was below the safety line. Hence his resignation. But other forces have been at work, so to speak, the Government have returned to his fold and every body is happy, having reduced the commitments to the size of our economic facility to discharge them.
The hon. Member for West Lothian went on to make the strange suggestion that one way of solving the Middle East dispute between Arab and Israeli, which must cause everyone great anxiety, would be for N.A.T.O. to underwrite some sort of frontier settlement, with Britain, as a member of N.A.T.O., taking part in the underwriting process. But what with? The hon. Gentleman advocates that we should play no part outside Europe. There are no forces with which we could underwrite any settlement of those frontiers. If any hon. Member would like to go through the list of N.A.T.O. countries and speculate which of them would care to undertake that sort of operation, he might be interested to see the answer.
983 With the exception of the speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), I felt, listening to the remarks of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that I had been in the dress circle watching an historical play in which the dialogue and characters bore little relation to modern times. In an historical play there is not meant to be any connection with modern times, but in a debate of this kind there should be, because fundamentally we are debating the basic security of the State.
When it was said that hon. Members opposite reacted promptly and effectively to the growing crisis, I began to wonder whether I was living in a dream world. To listen to the speeches from the Government Front Bench and hon. Members opposite, one would have thought that the rape of Czechoslovakia had never taken place, that we were back six or seven years ago when the theory was that a great detente was going on between the N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact Powers and that nothing much would happen, that nobody was in very serious danger.
They do not seem to understand the writing on the wall. They do not seem to understand the significance of the rape of Czechoslovakia. They are like a motorist driving down the Cromwell Road when all the traffic lights are red and, in spite of all warnings, wondering, when he gets to the end, why he has a head-on collision. I have never seen such a collection of Ministers and back benchers doing the ostrich act so effectively.
Hon. Members opposite talk about N.A.T.O. as though it were only North-West Europe, all the B.A.O.R., but that is a very limited view of geography in terms of modern requirements or modern strategy. It is no good talking about N.A.T.O.'s northern flank, or even its centre, if other parts of its anatomy, so to speak, are weak. Greece, Turkey and Italy are all N.A.T.O. and Mediterranean Powers. They cannot help it, for that is their geographical position.
A very large proportion of the oil which comes here and to other N.A.T.O. Powers is derived from the Persian Gulf. That is also an economic fact. It is also an indisputable fact that the Suez Canal is closed and not likely to be open for 984 a long time. Therefore, it is again an inescapable fact that if the Suez Canal is closed, the oil has to go round the Cape. That may not matter very much, but unless the world is a much safer place today than it was three or four years ago—and he would be a brave man who would claim that—anyone with an elementary knowledge of geography or of naval strategy can hardly fail to see that in times of stress and strain Simonstown may have a vital importance.
This was the whole argument in favour of having not a British but a N.A.T.O. South Atlantic force of some kind. There are times when geography should take precedence over prejudice, and the Government's attitude over the Simonstown base makes this one of those times.
We read with interest—and it was quoted again today—that the Foreign Secretary took a very tough line at the recent N.A.T.O. meeting in Brussels over the Russian act in Czechoslovakia. I wonder whether he understood the implication of what he was saying. His American counterpart very rightly mentioned that Yugoslavia would be an area where, if similar events occurred, N.A.T.O. could not sit down and be completely unmoved. Have the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence hoisted in the implications of that?
The Soviet Union has a very heavy preponderance of nuclear weapons and conventional arms. I do not suggest that N.A.T.O. could ever or should ever have a permanent Army on the ground, so to speak, in Europe, anywhere approximating to that of the Soviet Union. It would be quite unwise and foolish for anyone in his senses to argue that. None the less, I am not very happy about the theory that the whole thing hangs on the nuclear deterrent and that we can forget about the conventional arms. If we push that theory too far, we are in the unenviable position that if a coup occurs, be it in Berlin or else where, we have either to accept it, or press the button. It is not a position that I should at all like to be in.
I say this deliberately, because there is a point beyond which it is dangerous to thin out the B.A.O.R., and that point has probably been exceeded already. It is dangerous, because it leaves the Germans bearing the major part of the N.A.T.O. physical defence, that that country is in 985 the front line. I should have thought that if anything was calculated to restart or rekindle all the embers of the old German militarism that was one way of doing it, and that is exactly what the Government have done. It is also dangerous, because to thin out too much means that we rely ultimately on the nuclear deterrent, and I must repeat that in that event we either accept the coup or we press the button.
I also think that the argument about the Strategic Reserve can be pressed too far. I am a little suspicious of all this. The theory is that the forces come back from the Far East, saving a great deal of money. That is not true, and in any case the economies will not be affected until 1971, and bear no relation at all to the position today. The theory is that they come back from the Near East and the Far East and we concentrate on building up a really effective N.A.T.O. force—never mind those ships in the Mediterranean.
I do not know where the personnel of this great reserve are to go in England. There are not enough barracks for them, and are not enough married quarters, when they are brought back from the Far East. I suspect that they will be demobilised, otherwise there would not be much saving in bringing back battalions from Singapore, which is in the sterling area. That does not save us very much. We have to pay the ordinary rates of pay according to rank. We are saving marginally on overseas allowance, but that is not much. It is a specious argument, but, in any case, that is not my point.
If we thin out too much in B.A.O.R. and all our Strategic Reserve is in England and a crisis arises in which SACEUR asks for reinforcements to B.A.O.R., I can well see what might happen. There would be headlines in the newspapers announcing that a battalion, if we could spare it, was flying from Tidworth to somewhere in Germany. It would be on the "telly", under the glare of the are lights, and all that. I think that the Government of the day, by reinforcing that way, would be accused by those who do not wish us all that well of escalating the crisis.
I am absolutely certain that, with a Strategic Reserve in England, we could not at one and the same time reinforce B.A.O.R. and conduct any other fire 986 brigade operation at all, because we would not have the bodies to move. Incidentally, I very much doubt whether Transport Command has the aircraft in which to move them. So the idea that, with a Strategic Reserve in England, and everyone back from the Middle and Far East, we should be able to help Singapore or anywhere else in a crisis, as well as reinforce in Germany, is plain "baloney" and the Government know it.
Whatever the Government may say, whatever the Minister of Defence for Administration said earlier, or the Secretary of State says later, no one can so juggle figures as to prove to anyone's satisfaction, let alone confidence, that the reserves are not far lower now than ever before. We are the only N.A.T.O. country with neither National Service nor adequate reserves, and this is very dangerous. No Government except the present one have so destroyed, and taken almost fiendish delight in destroying, the regimental tradition. It is very curious that it is that tradition which has been the envy of almost every continental country. They have tried, in some cases successfully and in others not so success fully, to build their own forces on the British regimental tradition and it is this Government who are destroying that very element.
I repeat, our defences are well below the safety line. The duty of any Government is to ensure the safety of the State. This Government have dismally failed in that duty. In olden days, some hon. Members opposite wrote a book called "Guilty Men", about Munich and the inadequacy of our defences in those days. If our defences, in 1938 and 1939, when the crunch came, were inadequate, if we were naked then, I can only say that we are obscenely naked now.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles (Winchester)
In the Government's words, the recruiting figures continue to be disappointing and below the levels required, and I believe that this is liable to be the Achilles' heel of this Government's defence policy. There are factors which affect recruiting on a far higher plain and in a broader context than just pay, allowances or detailed conditions of service. I pass over the first and foremost one, the cynical change of policy over a British 987 presence east of Suez. For sheer cynicism, the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy in 1967 was an all-time low, when, in announcing that decision, it said:The services will continue to have the indispensable task of safeguarding national security, supporting Britain's overseas policy and keeping the peace.It went on:The Navy, the Army and the Air Force, though reduced in size, will be capable of meeting all the demands which may be made upon them.Whether fairly or not, much of the disillusionment and cynicism which is affecting recruiting adversely is focussed upon the person of the Secretary of State. He started with an excellent reputation in the Ministry. I do not mind admitting that many of my old Service friends used to pull my leg and," You never sent us a chap like that. He has really done his homework ". Ringing in the ears of all Servicemen at that time were the right hon. Gentleman's clarion cries, when seeking office.
In the last defence debate before the 1964 General Election, he expressed these impeccable views:There is no doubt whatever today—and few on either side of the House would dispute this—that we are infinitely more likely over the next 10 or 15 years to need mobile conventional forces for peace-keeping in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, than to require nuclear weapons, tactical or strategic, independent or collective."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1964; Vol. 690, c. 469.]From this position the Secretary of State has eroded the trust and confidence of Servicemen at all levels until now it is not too much to say that he is anathema to almost every one of them. [Interruption.] I hope that I did not hear the Secretary of State utter a five-letter word.
It is argued by these people that either the Secretary of State does not know that the forces have been cut below the prudent limit, in which case he is not fit to hold a job: or, alternatively, that he knows but cannot carry his point in the Cabinet, in which case, equally, he should resign.
I thought that the Secretary of State made himself despicable by intervening gratuitously and announcing his approval of the decision to ban my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) from addressing a conference in B.A.O.R.
988 One of the points that the Government Front Bench has been making about the forces is this business of overstretch and the way in which it affects recruiting. From the Prime Minister's speech in Plymouth in 1964 onwards, there has been this recognition of overstretch. Now the cuts which have been applied to the forces have created overstretch which is greater than ever it has been before.
Part I of the magnum opus—the Defence Review, which came out in February, 1966—gave statistics showing the average employment of destroyers and frigates in the Navy, the numbers of units and men sent overseas on emergency or unaccompanied tours, and emergency moves of operational formations to overseas theatres of the Royal Air Force. This was to give a vivid and striking example of the way in which overstretch affected men of the Services.
These figures were designed to illustrate this point and they were given up to 1965. Last week, when I asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the corresponding figures for this year, the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy replied:I regret that it is not in the public interest to disclose this information."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th December, 1968; Vol. 775, c. 151.]In other words, it was in the national interest to publish them in 1966 when they were politically convenient to the Secretary of State, but it is not now in the national interest to publish the figures. The suspicion must be that the figures show that the overstretch is greater than ever before and that it would be very politically embarrassing to publish them now. It is contempt of the House to refuse to give these figures. I ask the Secretary of State to give them when he winds up, or, if he does not give them, to explain why he will not do so. They were published when it was convenient to him. Why will not he publish them now?
Coming to the individual Services and the way in which their recruiting is affected by the Government's policy, I will leave out the Army, which has been very well covered today by points concerning the Reserves. As to the Navy, the Secretary of State started with a 989 great flourish and said, when he was seeking office:Let us not forget that, if we are to have a really effective military capacity outside Europe, we must provide air cover for it in the form of naval aircraft … whether we build many small carriers or a new form of vessel with V.T.O.L aircraft aboard, we are likely to incur very heavy costs. These commitments, however, are commitments which we cannot avoid and which in my view … we should not seek to avoid in the years to come."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1964; Vol. 690, c. 475.]Those were the Secretary of State's views about aircraft carriers and V.T.O.L. The subsequent decision to phase out carriers is an abdication of Britain's naval capability, and no officer or rating can see it in any other light. This must affect recruiting. The decision was taken 15 years ago that we would not follow the Soviets down the expensive road of developing surface-to-surface missiles because we had carriers. Now we have no carriers, and the Defence Review said that we should develop a small surface-to-surface guided weapon for use against missile-firing ships. Now we have no surface-to-surface missiles other than a pea-shooter thing called PX430, or Sea Wolf.
The Secretary of State—who is again chattering to his hon. Friends instead of listening to the debate—now consistently refuses even to discuss the need for a small unsophisticated aircraft carrier or "flat top" for V.T.O.L. aircraft. We have again and again asked him to say something about it, but he has shrugged the idea off with a wave of the hand. But now I have information that the naval staff are working hard on the design of a ship of about 11,000 tons for this very purpose. If that is so, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us?
I have to cut short my speech to allow the winding-up speech to begin on time but I do not wish to end without this final word. I have condemned the Government for policies which have discouraged recruiting, I should like to condemn them in greater detail and at greater length, but, despite all my criticisms. I express the personal opinion that any young man will still be well advised to join any of the three Services. I say that because I believe that the pendulum will swing. The nation has been in this ridiculous "run-down the forces" mood 990 before in our history. As soon as there is an election—and pray God it will be soon—we shall have a Conservative Government pledged to maintain a presence east of Suez and to maintain adequate forces for the protection of our country.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
We substituted this Motion for the usual Motions on the Orders to renew the Army and Air Force Acts partly to help the House since debates on those Motions tend to be rather narrow—I regret that our efforts were not altogether appreciated by some hon. Members opposite—but in the main we put it down because we thought it right to discuss the growing weakness of our regular and reserve forces in relation to the new situation in Europe. However one analyses what has happened in recent months in Europe—commentators analyse it in their different ways—it is inescapable that the situation there now is much more fluid and far more dangerous that it has been for some years.
The Minister of Defence for Administration—I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment—made a long and rather unbalanced speech in which he hardly referred to the Motion at all. He devoted most of his time to an attack upon the old Territorial Army, as he believed it to have been constituted and organised, and upon me. I shall reply to that later during my speech. We should have had a much better debate, and it would have been more helpful to the House, if the right hon. Gentleman opening for the Government had addressed himself at least a little to what is obviously the main point of the Motion. I assure the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who said that the opening of the debate was scrappy, that, if scrappy it was, that was not the fault of my right hon and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who put our view in an admirable speech.
I understand that the main points in the Motion will be met by the Secretary of State when he replies, and I shall be glad to hear what he says. The House cannot but be struck that, in so far as there has been one consistent assumption under lying the Secretary of State's thinking in his conduct of a series of defence reviews, 991 it has been the assumption that the situation in Europe would continue stable, that the detente existed and was likely to enlarge itself, and that, even if there were to be a change we should have ample political warning of it.
Right hon. Members opposite have not been consistent in their assumptions about the Far East, they have not been consistent in their assumptions about the Gulf, but over Europe hitherto they have been consistent, and I think that I have been fair in the account which I have given of the assumptions upon which they have worked. The House will find them in the 1967 and 1968 Defence White Papers. As recently as our defence debate last July, the Secretary of State devoted quite a long passage of his speech to the possibility of mutual force reductions. We have heard him more than once take credit for leading N.A.T.O. and our N.A.T.O. allies in a reappraisal of N.A.T.O. strategy, based on his assumption that the political intentions of the Soviets were calculable, and, being calculable, should be taken into account by N.A.T.O. in its formulation of strategy. The right hon. Gentleman may still believe that. He may believe that what I think has shown itself to be a weak Government in Russia, and which has been capable of one gross blunder, can still be a predictable factor in our planning. I hope that he will make clear what he thinks.
In the meantime, events in Europe and the Government's attitude cause three points of great concern to those of us on this side of the House. The first is that the Government's predictions about the course of events in Europe, the whole basis of their defence planning over a series of reviews, should have been stood on their head so dramatically and so soon. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lewes (Sir T. Beamish) made this point very well, as did the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw). Secondly, we are concerned that in the light of Czechoslovakia there is no sign that the Government are reconsidering the cuts they have already planned, on different assumptions, in the size, shape and equipment of our forces.
Thirdly, we are concerned that even given the Government's assumptions about the proper necessary force levels 992 for the future defence of the country, on which doubt has recently been cast, recruiting for the regular forces and the reserve is now so disastrously bad that there must be concern as to whether even the reduced order of battle on which the Government are planning can be effectively manned in the future. It is be cause we are concerned about those three things that we propose to press the Motion to a Division.
It is true that the Government have three times during the past year assigned extra forces to N.A.T.O. We welcome this, but the assignment of those forces is not really the point, or the whole story. Here I shall try to answer the argument of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) in the first part of his speech. I regret that I had to miss the second part. The point is that if no change is to be made in the plans progressively to cut our defences worldwide over the next three years it must follow that the potential of all three services to confront dangerous and unforeseen events anywhere, including Europe, is steadily diminishing, and, short of a change of heart by the Government, will go on diminishing.
That point is not met by the decision to assign forces that we may have avail able at a particular time to a particular theatre. If we had greater numbers of forces—I am thinking particularly of amphibious and maritime forces—it would be possible to switch from where there was no threat to where a threat existed or was developing. If we have not got the forces, it follows, as the night follows the day, that we shall be considerably weaker. During the next three years all three services will gradually become a great deal weaker than they have been and than they might have been, particularly the Army, about which most has been said in the debate.
§ Mr. Mayhew
What the right hon. Gentleman said had some logic in it, but my point was a little different. Assuming, as we must, that the Opposition's defence budget is, say, £2,500 million, then to the extent that they retain their presence East of Suez they are bound to weaken their effort in Europe. That is my simple point.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I do not accept either the budgeting of the Secretary of State 993 on behalf of the Opposition or what the right hon. Gentleman said. I should have thought that the maintenance of some presence other than in Europe was perfectly compatible, as it has been in our experience in the past, with the ability to switch forces, wherever needed, to the point of danger. It was always accepted that it was within the competence of the Government to switch forces, if necessary, from B.A.O.R. to the Far East. I see not the slightest reason why the same thing should not apply in reverse.
But, as I say, for all the forces, and in particular for the Army, considerable cuts are planned to take place during the next three years. At present, one can hardly pick up a newspaper without seeing a reference to the disbandment of a distinguished infantry regiment. Last week it was the Durham Light Infantry. To morrow it will be the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, to which the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) and other hon. Members referred. It is interesting to note that it is usually the best recruited regiments which seem to be singled out for this fate.
I do not agree entirely with the analysis by the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. MacPherson) of what lies behind the petition in favour of saving the Argylls.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I do not want to give way to the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn), or I shall be as bad as the right hon. Gentleman was.
I think that ordinary people up and down the country have grasped the truth about the disbandment of these famous regiments, which has perhaps escaped some of those who find themselves nearer the problem. I think they realise that the times do come in our history when there are economising Governments and economising Parliaments for whom it is all too easy to solve their problems, or try to, by making cuts in our defences. They appreciate the lesson of history, which is that these mistakes have very often had to be retrieved precisely by the famous regiments which at the present time are the Government's victims. I think that it is this feeling which animates a great deal of the interest in these lamentable pro- 994 posals in respect of these various regiments.
I do not accept—I said this in a previous debate—the Government's assessment of the number of infantry battalions that we are likely to need in the future. We on this side, when we have the opportunity, will certainly wish to review the conclusions to which the present Government have come. I tried to point out in an earlier debate how dangerous it can be to base one's requirements, particularly those for infantry, on the proposition that they should be tailored exactly to whatever commitments hap pen to be current at the time.
The right hon. Gentleman twitted me and said that the Conservative Government budgeted for the number of infantry battalions that we maintained on precisely this basis. When I told him that, on the contrary, we had maintained eight infantry battalions, unbrigaded and uncommitted, extra to any commitments, he said that that must have been the strategic reserve. The right hon. Gentleman was wrong about that, as he was wrong in a great deal that he said earlier this afternoon about the Territorial Army. If he looks it up, he will see that, apart from the strategic reserve, the War Office maintained eight major units—some of them gunners—in the War Office reserve, all of which were needed at the time when our forces were at a stretch in about 1964. If he and other Ministers are bent on taking risks with the level of our forces, at least they should be familiar with recent experience.
These planned reductions are to continue, and that is all the more alarming because the present recruiting figures are so bad, especially for the Army. We understand that to keep the Army at a level contemplated by the Government the need is to recruit 16,500 men a year or thereabouts. This year it is going to be about 11,000. It was described in another place as disastrous and there is hardly another word for it. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) called it calamitous. It justifies both expressions.
The Government are quite frank about the position but they seem to be totally and unwarrantably complacent about it. There is no sign that they are prepared to take any action to put it right. There are two reasons why recruiting is bad.
995 The first is that the pay is inadequate and the other that the prospects are inadequate.
Since 1st April, when the Grigg formula for service pay and conditions was finally and definitely overthrown, Servicemen have been kept on rates of pay at least 5 per cent. lower than their civilian counterparts were getting as long ago as 1st April. The earnings in civil life have gone up by 5 or 6 per cent. since then. The Services do not know under the present formula whether they will be made up to what is their due and they certainly do not know when. This is the first thing that the Government should put right. What the right hon. Gentleman said today about the Prices and Incomes Board was far too indefinite.
Then, on prospects, it is not enough for the Government to make speeches and display posters saying that the Services will continue to provide a worth while career. Of course, they will. Every one knows that and that even this Government will not last for ever. That is not the point. The point might come home to the House if it considers the position of a young man contemplating making the Services a career. At the point when he has to make up his mind whether to join, he will probably en counter a certain amount of dissuasion from his family and of chaff from his friends. If he is to take the plunge, he has to have something to put against this. All he can have is the conviction, which he needs but which he may not express audibly, that defence is serious business and the nation's business and that the Government take it seriously and will not sell him out or devalue his efforts.
That is the climate of opinion behind the Services which the Government by their succession of cuts have failed to create. It is exactly the climate of opinion discouraged by a large body of their supporters who are not here tonight but are elsewhere, no doubt plotting the downfall of the Government on Wednesday, and who go around the country appearing on platforms and television saying that the cuts already made are inadequate and asking all the time for more and more.
If the Government are to get recruits, these two things have to be put right.
996 They have to take action to bring up the pay and allowances to a position at least comparable with outside rates, and they have to change the climate of opinion so that people contemplating a Service career will have the genuine conviction that it is worth while and that they have the Government behind them.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is absolute lunacy to run down the Corps of Gurkhas at the moment when there is no problem of recruiting and they are, on the whole, very reasonable troops to maintain?
§ Mr. Ramsden
While the Government have commitments which the Gurkhas can assist them to carry out, we all wish to see sufficient Gurkhas maintained to do that, for the reasons given by my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Ramsden
I will not give way again, because I want to finish by halfpast nine.
The recruiting figures cannot be allowed to go on in the present way. I hope that we shall hear some definite proposals from the right hon. Gentleman tonight for doing something to improve them.
I come now to the reserves. If recruiting for the regular forces is bad, recruiting prospects for the voluntary reserves at the moment are equally bleak. The position about regular reserves, I think the Government will agree, is not too bad, but regular reservists are used to bring up existing formations in the services to war strength and are not available to man up any additional formations which may be needed in time of war. This is broadly true.
I should remind the House that the Government cannot—I will not say fight a war, because that is an unfashionable concept these days—even put the Rhine Army or any of the rest of the forces in a proper posture of defence preparatory to war without calling on the voluntary reserves. This has been the position for about ten years—since the ending of National Service. I say now to the Minister of Defence for Administration that during every one of those 10 years during which that has been the position 997 there has been in existence a workable plan for balancing the Rhine Army for war with the assistance of the voluntary reserves. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon denied this and implied that those of us who were responsible at that time had failed in our duty by not having a workable plan so to reinforce the Rhine Army. The right hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. If he persists in saying this, I shall, as is my right, send for the papers and seek to convince him of his error. This plan existed in the days of the old Territorial Army, and the right hon. Gentleman is not justified in making the assertions which he did this afternoon.
We handed over to the present Administration 115,000 or so voluntary reservists. The right hon. Gentleman said 120.000. Give or take 5,000, we handed over about 115,000. Of these, about 50.000 were for the reinforcement of the Rhine Army. They were available, in accordance with the plan, and the equipment was available for them. If it had not been available it could not have been made and constructed in time for the Government to issue it to the TAVR II. The part of the Territorial Army committed to that task amounted to about two divisions. The units to which the right hon. Gentleman referred would not have had to be made up to strength by the use of ex-National Service Reservists. These would have been used for reinforcing the remainder of the Territorial Army for home defence. The two divisions would have supplied the elements now found by TAVR II. They would have gone to reinforce the Rhine Army. The remainder, in very considerable numbers, would have been available either for home defence or as quite well trained men in the basic skills of gunnery, infantry or tank warfare to give second line reinforcement to the Regular battalions.
As we handed it over, the Territorial Army had a rôle in support of B.A.O.R. and a rôle in reinforcement of the regular Army which hon. Members opposite must now wish they had the men to fill. We handed them 115,000 volunteers. What have they now? They have not 50,000. They have not even 40,000. Gut of 54,000 or so they need, on 31st October they had 35,887; and over and above that, 1,000 "ever-readies." As a result, I expect that the 998 House will shortly be asked by hon. Members opposite to approve legislation for the retention of a further 15,000 National Service men who by this time are getting fairly old and who have been away from all basic military training for a considerable time.
As well as these deficiencies for reinforcement of the Rhine Army, the Government have nothing for home defence. However, this afternoon—it was the first time I had heard them advance this argument—they claimed that they had something for a home defence rôle and that it consisted of regular soldiers, sailors and airmen. May we know a little about this curious concept? If all the regular sailors, soldiers and airmen are not to be committed on the outbreak of hostilities to tasks other than home defence, it seems curious that the Government are maintaining them for a home defence rôle. They must be vastly more expensive to maintain in that rôle than were the volunteers we had. If the rôle exists, and if the Government admit that there is a home defence rôle, it needs a great deal more explanation before we can accept that it is reasonable for them to be maintaining Regular Service men to fill it.
In the statement which they made last week about the last reorganisation of TAVR III, the Government at last admitted that the reserves have a rôle as a framework for a possible expansion. I found it difficult to believe my ears when I heard that admission because I remembered how they laughed to scorn our suggestion in 1965 that such a rôle existed. Now that they have admitted it, we should like to know from the Secretary of State what they think this expansion is for and why they think it necessary now when they did not consider it necessary three or four years ago. We should like answers to those questions.
In so far as the latest announcement follows the advice which we have given the Government to widen the geographical base of TAVR II by spreading the number of drill halls and there fore the recruiting areas, we welcome it. But it is extremely important that if the reserves are to be built up as we wish to see in future, sufficient drill halls should be maintained. We think that it will be necessary to maintain as active units 999 more than just the cadres which have been proposed by the Government. These units will have to have a base. Therefore it may be important to retain not just the 150 drill halls being talked about but a number of others which are under sentence of disposal. The Government should call a halt to this mad rush in getting rid of drill halls and should ask the Lands Branch of the Defence Department to go a bit slower, which they have not found too difficult to do over the disposal of Government property in the past.
May I sum up our case and restate why we propose to divide the House? The Foreign Secretary is reported in The Times of 16th November as having told N.A.T.O. at the Ministerial Conference about Czechoslovakia that if there were further acts of this sort N.A.T.O. could not remain indifferent or inactive. We should like the Secretary of State's comment on these words from the defence point of view. There is no need to be alarmist or even to go as far as the Foreign Secretary went to be aware that possible developments in Europe seem now to be much less predictable and much more dangerous. One cannot escape the conclusion that the Government have under-estimated not only the likelihood of danger from the direction of Europe but the variety of guises in which that danger could come.
It is against this background that we have no confidence in the competence or will of the Government to provide us with the regular forces and reserve forces which we require. In that conviction, we shall divide the House.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
This has been a wide-ranging debate. Many interesting points have been raised. Many of them were dealt with in the quite brilliant speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration.
I was particularly interested in and impressed by the serious and helpful contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson) concerning the Argylls. I will consider his suggestion very carefully. I have had the oppor- 1000 tunity during the last week or two to meet two battalions, one due for disbandment and one already merged. It is extraordinary the sense in which members of the battalion feel that its traditions can be carried on provided that a merger with a battalion with a similar background can be arranged. I very much hope that the unfortunate necessity, which the previous Conservative Administration encountered on many occasions, to eliminate one battalion from the order of battle, can have some of the pain taken out of it by the sort of suggestion which my hon. Friend made.
I congratulate the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) on joining the club of defence spokesmen. It is a club which seems a great deal easier to join in his party than in ours. I hope that he stays a little longer in his job than his predecessors. All of us would agree that we should like to see him for at least three years as defence spokesman of the Opposition.
I welcome very much the tone in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman opened the debate, although I do not accept his criticisms of the Government's policy. However, I was particularly glad that he put the Opposition four square behind the N.A.T.O. strategy as it exists, largely as a result of the arguments which have been put forward by myself and other Ministers during the last four years. If we agree on what the strategy should be, we can have a much more meaningful discussion of whether the Government are doing the right thing to fulfil it. That, as I understand it, was what the major argument was about today.
I know that there is still strong feeling on both sides of the House on many aspects of Government policy in detail, but I hope that we never forget that when we debate defence we are dealing not only with life and death matters: we are dealing also with the tides of human history.
In commenting on a Motion which mixes the large and small issues together, I want to start by dealing with the big issues which were raised by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. First, I would like to say a word about the implications of the Czechoslovakia crisis. I cannot do better than start by quoting 1001 what I said in the House in July, a passage which was grossly misrepresented and taken out of context by one or two speakers in the debate.
I referred to the fact that hon. Members had been watching with the greatest anxiety in recent weeks the tensions which had arisen in Eastern Europe and I repeated what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary had just said in an earlier debate, that we should not want ourselves or any of our allies to be subject to that sort of tension.It is only the existence of N.A.T.O."—I said—which ensures that neither we nor they are so subjected. Indeed, we can comfort our selves that the situation between East and West in Europe today is comparatively stable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 25th July, 1968; Vol. 769, c. 1019.]I pointed very much the contrast between the growing tension inside Eastern Europe and the fact that we had a fairly stable situation between East and West. This indeed proved to be the case even when the tensions inside Eastern Europe exploded into an act of military aggression by the Soviet Union on one of her allies.
The invasion of Czechoslovakia did not pose a direct threat to the West. It was essentially a typical episode in the decay of an empire. What the Russians were doing in Czechoslovakia was suppressing a movement for colonial freedom. There was no more reason to think that because they used force to maintain the imperialist status quo inside Eastern Europe they would use it to attack the West than there was to believe that, because Britain and France used similar measures to maintain what they saw as the imperial status quo in Suez in 1956, that meant that they were contemplating an attack on Albania. It is important to keep this distinction in mind.
Eighty per cent. of the Soviet forces which entered Czechoslovakia in August have now withdrawn. There are not much more than 50,000 Soviet soldiers left in Czechoslovakia. The Russians probably consider from the military point of view that any gross addition in their military capability through the presence of those 50,000 men is more than offset by the assumed unreliability of the 11 Czech divisions which they previously considered as part of the Warsaw Pact.
§ Mr. Healey
No, I must go on.
Disengagement from empire, as we all know, is always difficult and painful, especially when it is reluctant.
§ Mr. Healey
The hon. Member spoke at length in the earlier debate. The right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) ran slightly into my time. I was asked a large number of questions and I must ask the House to give me an opportunity of deploying my case and answering the questions which were asked me.
Disengagement from empire is always difficult and painful, particularly when it is reluctant. We must, I think, expect a series of conflicts like the one we have just seen in Czechoslovakia, like the one we saw in Hungary and earlier still in East Berlin, until the Russians finally learn, as we have done, that one cannot sit on bayonets. It is possible that some future conflicts inside the Soviet bloc will pose a more direct and urgent threat to military stability between the East and West of Europe than the Czech invasion did. I think that we all feel that the doctrine announced by Mr. Brezhnev was a very dangerous one. There is no doubt that the process of disengagement from empire in Eastern Europe can produce changes for worse as well as for better in the policy and central leader ship of the Soviet Union.
It is worth while hon. Members on both sides of the House remembering that the last time a great empire decayed in Central and Eastern Europe it resulted in the First World War. This is the sort of problem which we are liable to face in the future and N.A.T.O. must, as I said in July, maintain its strength and solidarity so as to remove any possible temptation to test the integrity of the West. We must preserve the immunity which we enjoyed last August.
When I met with my colleagues in Brussels, a few weeks ago, we considered the implications of the Czech affair for our posture and our military position. We recognised that we had received full political warning of Soviet intentions. I referred to the possibility in my speech 1003 in July. We also, of course, had strategic warning of the move of Soviet troops. We, as it were, watched them being deployed around the frontiers of Czechoslovakia.
With all respect to an old friend in another place, we did not feel it necessary at that time to call a N.A.T.O. general alert. We were satisfied to maintain a state of vigilance. But, of course, once the Soviet forces were deployed all around Czechoslovakia, it was possible for them to maintain total tactical surprise and this confirmed the importance which N.A.T.O. has always given to forces on the spot near the Iron Curtain as a deterrent to attack.
The basic result of the Czech affair was not that it led to a big increase in total capability of N.A.T.O. I do not think that any of us felt it was necessary or required. What it did was to stop a big decrease which might have followed if some countries planning to reduce their N.A.T.O. contributions had carried through these planned reductions. In fact, all the members of N.A.T.O. in Brussels offered improvements in their planned contributions for next year, but not very many of them did what we did, and that was to offer an actual improvement on the present contribution this year.
The Government have played a leading rôle in the political discussions which led to these decisions and, during the present year, Britain has made far bigger improvements in her physical contribution to N.A.T.O. than any other member of the Alliance. We were able to do this only because we had decided earlier in the year to end our permanent presence in the Gulf and South-East Asia. I have told the House on several occasions, or my right hon. Friend has, of the precise improvements we have made, but it is worth recalling them when we reflect on the Motion moved by hon. Members opposite.
First of all, we concentrated on improvements entirely in areas SACEUR had already identified as desirable and the allies wanted. Our assigned M-day forces in Germany are up by 3,000 since the end of confrontation because we have up-manned units which were run down by the previous Conservative Govern- 1004 ment and which had to be kept run down by ourselves during the confrontation. As a result, B.A.O.R. as a whole is now 53,000 as against touching on 50,000 men in 1964.
We have withdrawn one of our brigades from B.A.O.R.—one of our B.A.O.R. brigades from Germany—to save foreign exchange, but, even so, the total number of British forces in Germany today is only 1,000 less than it was in 1964. Certainly, I think that not the least successful exercise was the return of Six Brigade to B.A.O.R. in September and October.
We have, in addition—if we are talking of assigned forces—put an additional squadron of Harriers into N.A.T.O.; and this is the only V/STOL aircraft in the world. Several hon. Members have raised this question. As a V/STOL air craft, the Harrier is first-rate and an extremely valued addition to N.A.T.O.'s forces on land in Europe. However, to fly in the VTOL mode—that is, using direct vertical lift from a small ship—its very limited range payload does not make it worth the money. If we could up-rate the Harrier it is possible that the situation might develop in which it might be worth while putting it on ships, but that is not the situation at the moment.
On top of this, there has been a big increase in our forces assigned to N.A.T.O. We have earmarked for assignment on M-day, wherever needed, the Third Division, 16 Parachute Brigade, and the S.A.S. Regiment to support 38 Group. We have also earmarked some badly needed signallers for ACE Mobile Force.
In the Mediterranean we have now agreed to keep a large ship permanently there with two frigates and to add a guided missile destroyer in 1970. We have put in Shackleton aircraft, shortly to be replaced by Nimrods for maritime reconnaissance and, as a result, we will have not only the power to survey what is happening in the Mediterranean area but also a very powerful amphibious force there with an embarked commando. However, the naval force will rely, like the Soviet and American forces in the Mediterranean, on afloat support. We think that this is a very much wiser policy than to rebuild the facilities in Malta.
§ Mr. Healey
On the reserves, which have figured largely in hon. Members' speeches;, we now have plans to increase the total number of full-time regular forces available to N.A.T.O., which would mean as many as 73,000 in case of war, by 65,000 reserves in part units, mainly logistic, from TAVR 2, and, in part, individuals to bring the units up from peace to war establishment.
As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, these reserves are infinitely better trained and equipped than was the case in 1964. There has been a big increase in the number of days' training given to the reserves in the United Kingdom. We now do four times as much training abroad with our reserves than we did in 1964, and their equipment is infinitely better.
The right hon. Member for Harrogate will know that the armoured recce regiments, which he made available in the reserves, were equipped with Landrovers. We have now equipped our armoured reconnaissance units with Ferrets and Saladins like the equivalent reconnaissance units of the regular Army side by side with which they will serve.
It should be remembered that N.A.T.O. has no interest in reserves which are with out training and equipment, particularly on the day on which war breaks out. There will not be time in another war to train and equip forces once it has started. N.A.T.O. also has no interest in home defence as hon. Gentlemen opposite define it. If home defence were ever needed in the United Kingdom we would already have gone nuclear. We would be faced with an entirely new dimension of problem. [Interruption.] This is the assumption on which the whole of N.A.T.O. bases its plans.
The fact is that only two European countries maintain a voluntary reserve for home defence, and they are Norway and Denmark. [Interruption.] I am talking about N.A.T.O. countries. Other countries maintain a gendarmerie, either for protecting their frontiers in case of war or for peace-time tasks in their countries, such as we have seen in action in some countries in recent months. How ever, a home defence force of the type 1006 mentioned by hon. Gentlemen opposite does not figure in the inventory of any N.A.T.O. country except Norway and Denmark.
§ Mr. Ramsden
By "home defence" we mean many other things. We mean, for example, N.A.T.O.'s vital areas and installations. Has N.A.T.O. no interest in that aspect?
§ Mr. Healey
We have made provision in other ways for the protection of vital points, but that is another question.
In addition to all these improvements in our physical contribution to N.A.T.O, we did something which has not been mentioned in this debate: we took the lead towards establishing a European identity inside N.A.T.O., an identity among the European Allies which I have long believed to be necessary. We are particularly concerned in this new European grouping to help the new American Administration to resist the pressures which may be brought to bear on them for a dangerous reduction in the American commitment to N.A.T.O.
We also believe that the European members of the alliance should be enabled to play a constructive rôle as a group in any talks between America and Russia about the limitation of offensive and defensive nuclear weapons, because Europe is particularly concerned with anything that may happen to the 7,000 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in Western Europe and the 700 Soviet medium-range missiles targeted against Western Europe.
This is the British reaction to the crisis mentioned in the Opposition Motion. It is universally praised by our Allies and it has been attacked only by the Soviet Union. Against this background, the Opposition Motion is not just bizarre; it is a Motion of stupefying ineptitude, because, after three major additions to our contribution to N.A.T.O., after leading the European N.A.T.O. reaction to Czechoslovakia, after being singled out by Russia for criticism, we find the Opposition joining not our Allies in praising us, but the Soviet Union in attacking us.
They are attacking us for not doing more, but in the same breath as they attack us for not doing more they pledge themselves to destroy the basis on which our increases have been offered. We have 1007 been able to make these increases be cause we are leaving our positions east of Suez. The Opposition say that they will stay indefinitely in the Far East and the Gulf. They will maintain all existing commitments. Those hon. Members opposite who served in the Ministry of Defence know that that policy means going back to units in B.A.O.R. being permanently undermanned and over stretched. A return to the old reserve system, which seems to be proposed by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, means smaller reserves less well trained and less well equipped.
Some hon. Members opposite argue that this can be done within existing costs and, incidentally, the other day The Times argued this. They said that we ought to be prepared to cut the regular forces available on M-day to deal with a threat which is predictable so as to provide defence against an undefined and unpredictable threat to home defence in the United Kingdom. I do not think that any of our allies would welcome this and certainly to take such a decision would be profoundly dispiriting to all who serve in our regular forces.
However, I will pay this tribute to the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham—he recognised that his policy would cost us more and he said that he was prepared to pay it. One thing he did not tell us was how much more it would cost. I do not blame him, because I know that he is new to this business, but I can help him, using not my figures, but the figures I found in my Ministry as a prediction of the cost of Conservative policy as supported by right hon. Gentle men opposite and introduced by them when in office in 1964, figures which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is free to inspect in my Ministry any time he wishes to do so.
The Opposition are pledged in the Motion to stop the rundown of our Forces, to stop the withdrawal from east of Suez, to build up in Malta, to build up in the South Atlantic, to continue the carrier force, to restore the old Territorial Army, to stop the cuts in the Gurkhas and to stop the cuts in the Argylls. We know the cost of this, because right hon. Gentlemen opposite worked it out. The cost is £3,000 million extra over the next five years. Any Privy Councillor on the 1008 benches opposite is free to inspect the figures drawn up when right hon. Gentle men opposite were in power. That is £600 million a year on average.
I pay tribute to the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham. He was prepared to pay this money, but are his right hon. Friends? They pledged themselves at the same time to cut Government expenditure, to cut taxes and to increase help to the local authorities. Where is all the money coming from? Well, we have had it suggested by the Leader of the Opposition that they would cut the housing subsidy; that they would increase food prices by cutting farm subsidies; and that they would cut factory aid. But even if they did all this it would not come near to paying the cost even of the increases in defence expenditure for which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen Opposite will soon troop into the Division Lobbies tonight.
The Opposition are really not serious about what they say. In part, they are opposing for the sake of opposing, and in part, as usual, they are prepared to exploit any Government measure which is unpopular with any group of voters by promising to reverse it if and when they ever get back into power. I can tell them that in defence their attitude is a seedy and transparent swindle which takes in nobody. It does not take in the Australians outside Britain, and it does not take in the Territorial Army Council inside Britain.
The leader of the Opposition was asked yesterday, on the B.B.C.: how is it that when the Government have deliberately incurred unpopularity for the sake of doing what is needed to save the nation, the loss of the popularity of the Government is not paralleled by a positive in crease in the popularity of the Opposition? The answer to that question is not the personality of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath). The answer is the dishonesty of the whole of the Opposition Front Bench, which is prepared to sacrifice honesty for the sake of immediate party political gain. It is prepared to offer anything, and is not prepared to pay for any promise it makes.
The party opposite was characterised by cowardice when in office, and is being characterised by hypocrisy in opposition. The Opposition Motion put forward for the approval of the House now is an 1009 amalgam of humbug and hypocrisy, and I ask the House to reject it with the contempt it deserves.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
Now that the Secretary of State has got that tirade off his mind, will he say one word about recruiting, with which the whole debate is concerned?
§ Mr. Healey
My right hon. Friend dealt in detail with recruiting earlier in the debate. Officer recruitment in all three Services is adequate. Other rank recruitment is adequate in the Royal Air Force. We have serious problems
§ amongst other ranks in the Navy and in the Army. I hope that the the party opposite will join us in repairing this damage and not, as always, by crying "stinking fish", foul their own and the nation's nest.
§ Question put,
§ That this House regrets that Her Majesty's Government have announced no plans to arrest the run-down of Her Majesty's forces or of the Reserves, particularly in view of the changed situation in Europe and of the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation communiqué in Brussels.
§ The House divided: Ayes 238, Noes 317.1013
|Division No. 37.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Drayson, G. B.||Jopling, Michael|
|Allason, James (Hemal Hempstead)||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Astor, John||Eden, Sir John||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Awdry, Daniel||Emery, Peter||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Errington, Sir Eric||Kimball, Marcus|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Eyre, Reginald||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Farr, John||Kitson, Timothy|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fisher, Nigel||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Batsford, Brian||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles'||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Fortescue, Tim||Lane, David|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Foster, Sir John||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. A Fhm)||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford &. Stone)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Biffen, John||Gibson-Watt, David||Lloyd,Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'dfield)|
|Biggs-Davison,John||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Glover, Sir Douglas||Longden, Gilbert|
|Blaker, Peter||Glyn, Sir Richard||Loveys, W. H.|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Body, Richard||Goodhart, Philip||MacArthur, Ian|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Goodhew, Victor||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Gower, Raymond||Macleod, Rt. Hn, lain|
|Braine, Bernard||Grant, Anthony||McMaster, Stanley|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWalter||Gresham Cooke, R.||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Grieve, Percy||McNair-Wilson. Patrick|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Maddan, Martin|
|Bryan, Paul||Garden, Harold||Maginnis, John E.|
|Buchanan-Smith,Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Marten, Neil|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Maude, Angus|
|Burden, F. A.||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, w.)||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Mawby, Ray|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hastings, Stephen||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Channon, H, P. G.||Hawkins, Paul||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hay, John||Monro, Heotor|
|Clark, Henry||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Cooke, Robert||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Heseltine, Michael||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Cordle, John||Higgins, Terence L.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hilley, Joseph||Murton, Oscar|
|Costain, A. P.||Hill, J. E. B.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Neave, Airey|
|Crouch, David||Holland, Philip||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hordern, Peter||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Hornby, Richard||Nott, John|
|Currie, G. B, H.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hunt, John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Dance, James||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Iremonger, T. L.||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Doughty, Charles||Jones, Artthur (Northants, S.)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec|
|Peel, John||Scott, Nicholas||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Percival, Ian||Scott-Hopkins, James||Waddington, David|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Sharples, Richard||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Pounder, Rafton||Silvester, Frederick||Walters, Dennis|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Sinclair, Sir George||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Webster, David|
|Prior, J. M. L.||Speed, Keith||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Pym, Francis||Stainton, Keith||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Stodart, Anthony||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tapsell, Peter||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Taylor,Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Teeling, Sir William||Wright, Esmond|
|Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Temple, John M.||Wylie, N. R.|
|Robson Brown, Sir William||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Younger, Hn. George|
|Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Tilney, John|
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Royle, Anthony||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Russell, Sir Ronald||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Abse, Leo||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hannan, William|
|Albu, Austen||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Harper, Joseph|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Davies, S. 0. (Merthyr)||Haseldine, Norman|
|Allen, Scholefield||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Hattersley, Roy|
|Anderson, Donald||Delargy, Hugh||Hazell, Bert|
|Archer, Peter||Dell, Edmund||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Ashley, Jack||Dempsey, James||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Dewar, Donald||Henig, Stanley|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Dickens, James||Hilton, W. S.|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Dobson, Ray||Hobden, Dennis|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Doig, Peter||Hooley, Frank|
|Barnes, Michael||Driberg, Tom||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Barnett, Joel||Dunn, James A.||Horner, John|
|Baxter, William||Dunnett, Jack||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Beaney, Alan||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Bence, Cyril||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Eadie, Alex||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Edelman, Maurice||Howie, W.|
|Binns, John||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Bishop, E. S.||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ellis, John||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||English, Michael||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Booth, Albert||Ennals, David||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Boston, Terence||Ensor, David||Hunter, Adam|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Hynd, John|
|Boyden, James||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Faulds, Andrew||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Bradley, Tom||Fernyhough, E.||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Finch, Harold||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Brooks, Edwin||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fletcher,Rt.Hn.Sir Eric (Islington,E.)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Brown,Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Foley, Maurice||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Buchan, Norman||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn (W.Ham,S.)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Ford, Ben||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Forrester, John||Judd, Frank|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fowler, Gerry||Kelley, Richard|
|Cant, R. B.||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Carmichael, Neil||Freeson, Reginald||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Gardner, Tony||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Chapman, Donald||Garrett, W. E.||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Coe, Denis||Ginsburg, David||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Coleman, Donald||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Cronin, John||Gregory, Arnold||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Grey, Charles (Durham)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Davidson,James (Aberdeenshire,W.)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hamling, William||Lubbock, Eric|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Small, William|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Snow, Julian|
|McBride, Neil||Padley, Walter||Spriggs, Leslie|
|McCann, John||Paget, R. T.||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|MacColl, James||Palmer, Arthur||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire,W.)|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|McGuire, Michael||Pardoe, John||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Park, Trevor||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Mackie, John||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Taverne, Dick|
|Maclennan, Robert||Pavitt, Laurence||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|McMillan, Tim (Glasgow, C.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Thornton, Ernest|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Pentland, Norman||Tinn, James|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Tomney, Frank|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Urwin, T. W.|
|Manuel, Archie||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mapp, Charles||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Price, William (Rugby)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Marquand, David||Probert, Arthur||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Wallace, George|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Randall, Harry||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Maxwell, Robert||Rankin, John||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Rees, Merlyn||Weitzman, David|
|Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.||Wellbeloved, James|
|Mendelson, John||Richard, Ivor||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Millan, Bruce||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Whitlock, William|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Molloy, William||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth (St.P'c'as)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Moonman, Eric||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Roebuck, Roy||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Rose, Paul||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Moyle, Roland||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Ryan, John||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Murray, Albert||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Newens, Stan||Sheldon, Robert||Winnick, David|
|Oakes, Gordon||Short, Rt.Hn.Edward (N'c't'le-u-Tyne)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Ogden, Eric||Short, Mrs. René e (W'hampton,N.E.)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|O'Malley, Brian||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Woof, Robert|
|Oram, Albert E.||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Orbach, Maurice||Silverman, Julius||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Orme, Stanley||Skeffington, Arthur||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Oswald, Thomas||Slater, Joseph||Mr. Alan Fitch.|