§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1968, contained in Command Paper No. 3701.When the Government took office—
§ Mr. Eric Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
On a point of order. I am sorry to intervene, but it is a very important point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is an Amendment on the Order Paper—'leave out from 'House' to end and add 'warmly welcomes the Government decision to end the major United Kingdom military commitments east of Suez by 1971 and the consequential reductions in service manpower and facilities; deplores the increase in the numbers and cost of British forces assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which must prejudice a decision on Great Britain's future participation in the alliance after 1969; regrets the failure to make significant cuts in military research and development; and calls upon the Government to announce its willingness to initiate the phasing out of the British Army of the Rhine as a contribution to mutual force reductions and a European political settlement, and to reduce defence expenditure overall to not more than the average being spent by comparable West European countries by 1971, by ending expenditure on the nuclear deterrent and by making drastic cuts in defence research'.—and I would like to know whether the Chair has agreed to call it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
Mr. Speaker has authorised me to say that he has not selected the Amendment.
§ Mr. Healey
When the Government took office, four years ago, they set themselves a basic aim—to bring our defence expenditure down to a level consistent with our economic capabilities. They planned to achieve this aim, partly by 1003 getting better value for money and partly by reducing our commitments so as to permit whatever reduction in arms and men was required in addition to achieve the necessary savings.
As Secretary of State for Defence, I had a further aim—to reduce the dangerous degree of "overstretch" which had been created in the forces by the previous Government's readiness to accept commitments in excess of our military capability. At that time manning levels in most of the Service units required for these widely scattered tasks were far short of their establishment.
The White Paper we are debating today shows that within the next five years we shall have achieved all these objectives. We shall, in consequence, have made a historic change in Britain's military rôle in the world—a change which I know is still controversial on both sides of the House. A change of this magnitude in our foreign and defence policy is bound to arouse anxieties.
But at the end of the day the Government's decisions will be judged in large part by the answer to two questions: will the long-term stability of the areas from which we are withdrawing our forces be greater or less than if we had left them there? And, the acid test: when the rundown is complete shall we be able to afford the forces which remain and will they be capable of carrying out their tasks in support of the nation's foreign policy without undue strain?
It is on these questions that I want to concentrate this afternoon. Let me deal, first, with the financial consequences of the decisions we took last January. Their main aim was to produce substantial savings in defence expenditure as a whole and in the foreign exchange cost of defence.
I notice that the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), no doubt recalling his own experience as Chancellor of the Exchequer, told a B.B.C. interviewer the other day that he had never known economies in fact to be realised. That was true enough when he was in office. But the plain fact is that over the last four years the Ministry of Defence has met every target of financial saving set it by the Government, although the target for saving has frequently been increased at very short notice.
1004 As a result, during our first five years in office, the Government will have spent £1,200 million less on defence than the Treasury, under the right hon. Member, envisaged spending when it got Mr. Thorneycroft's long-term costings in 1964. Against this background of solid achievement, Parliament can be satisfied that during the next five years the savings on Conservative plans will reach their target of £3,000 million.
When our withdrawal is complete, in about 3½ year's time, our defence expenditure will be running at more than £250 million a year below the current level. Assuming that our G.N.P. continues to grow about 3 per cent, a year as it is now, we shall be spending about 5 per cent. of our G.N.P. on defence. The previous Government announced their plans to spend 7 per cent. of our G.N.P. —nearly half as much again.
§ Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether his figures take account of the fact that we have set up economic aid, that we are now to give a further £75 million to Malaysia as a result of our withdrawal, and we are handing over assets built up with the taxpayers' money? In addition, does it take into account the fact that we have incurred debts to the United States and others for the purchase of foreign aircraft, as we have never done before?
§ Mr. Healey
My figures, of course, take account of all the relevant facts, and represent a record of solid achievement which was never sought, never mind achieved, by the previous Government.
Some of my hon. Friends are asking me to make sure that by 1971 we shall not be spending more than the average spent in comparable West European countries. On N.A.T.O. definitions of defence expenditure, we have already got down to an expenditure of £43 per head of population—midway between France, which is spending £6 per head more, and Germany which, including £4 per head on Berlin, is spending £5 per head less. We shall be down to the present German level of £38 per head ourselves in 1972–73.
In spite of the fact that devaluation has increased the foreign exchange cost of defence, our local defence expenditure outside Germany will be cut by a 1005 third by 1970–71, and by a further third in 1972–73.
§ Mr. Healey
I will give way regularly, but I must be allowed to make my speech my own way, or there may not be an opportunity for my hon. Friend to make a speech at all.
The key to these massive reductions, from which the taxpayer and the economy as a whole will benefit so greatly, is the concentration of our defence policy in Europe, made possible by a substantial cut in our military commitments in other parts of the world.
We must do all we can during the period before we complete our withdrawal from South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf to help the countries in the areas concerned to develop an alternative basis for stability. Here, the White Paper is able to report a degree of progress which, political life being what it is, seems to have provoked chagrin rather than congratulations among Members opposite, who predicted catastrophe as a result of the January decisions.
In the Far East our obligations to S.E.A.T.O. have been drastically revised already. After 1971 we shall make no force declarations to S.E.A.T.O. contingency plans. As I have already reported to the House, the Kuala Lumpur conference, at which the Commonwealth Secretary and I met Ministers from the four Commonwealth Governments concerned with our withdrawal from Malaysia and Singapore, was most encouraging.
As important as the political progress made in Kuala Lumpur towards an alternative basis for peace and security in South-East Asia are the plans being made by the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore to meet the economic problems posed by our withdrawal—plans to whose success, I am glad to say, aid from Britain will make an important contribution. Both countries remain enviably strong in their financial and economic posture.
One example of the very rapid progress in adjusting to our withdrawal is the fact that by the end of this year the naval dockyard will already be working for the Singapore Government as a civilian con- 1006 cern under management by the British firm, Swan Hunter.
There has been steady progress in the Gulf as well. We have reached agreement with the Kuwaiti Government for the future termination of our defence obligations to Kuwait. The other Gulf States to which we have responsibilities have already begun to organise arrangements for their future co-operation when they emerge into unqualified independence.
A second successful meeting of the States concerned was held a few weeks ago, in Abu Dhabi. While I believe that it would be wrong for us to bring any pressure to bear on them to decide the direction in which they move, I imagine that the whole House will welcome the progress in their negotiations. The House will have seen a report in theFinancial Times, that the first President of the Temporary Federal Council has expressed confidence that the Federation will be able to fill the defence gap left by Britain's departure.
Meanwhile, a detailed programme for the withdrawal from Malaysia and Singapore has already been drawn up and communicated to those concerned. Since the physical problems of withdrawing from the Gulf are so much simpler, we shall not finalise our programme of withdrawals there until the evolution of new political arrangements has proceeded further.
As I have explained, on several occasions during the last 12 months, total withdrawal from our bases in the Persian Gulf and Malaysia-Singapore is a necessary condition for the reduction in Service and civilian manpower, on which our economic savings critically depend.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration will be dealing in more detail this evening with some of the practical problems involved in the reductions. I would like to concentrate on their implications for our defence policy as a whole.
As a result of the accelerated withdrawal from east of Suez, we shall now achieve our target savings of 75,000 United Kingdom personnel and 80,000 civilian personnel in 1973–74, with a further 1,000 or so in the following year. Taken with the reduction in the Gurkhas, this means that the manpower working in 1007 or for the forces will be cut by something under a quarter of the current levels and something over a quarter of the manpower levels obtaining in 1964; although the reduction in United Kingdom uniformed manpower will be only just under a fifth of the 423,000 in the Services in April, 1964.
But because we are cutting our commitments more drastically still when the rundown is complete, the Services will be better able to sustain their commitments than they are today, and with less strain on the men and women in individual units. Provided that we can overcome the present sag in recruiting, of which I shall speak in a moment, for the first time in about 15 years we shall finally have solved the problem of over-stretch.
Let me now give the House some figures on how the contraction of our forces is improving their manning levels. In April, 1964, the Army was 5.1 per cent. below strength; in April, this year, it was only 2.8 per cent. below strength. Within the Army the infantry was 7.3 per cent. under strength in June, 1964, and it was only 2.9 per cent. under strength in June this year. I remind the House that, in 1964, 13 battalions of the Army had only two companies. Now every battalion in the Army has three companies. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) is sniggering. If he had been present in the House in 1964 and earlier years, he would remember how earnestly some of his hon. Friends urged the then Government to do something about this problem of overstretch, which meant that the country was failing to fulfil its obligations to our allies in Germany and was subjecting Servicemen and women in units to a quite intolerable strain.
The shortfall in the Royal Air Force has been reduced in the four years following April, 1964, from 4 per cent. to 21 per cent.
The shortfall today in the Royal Navy is overall broadly comparable with the positions in the Army and the R.A.F., and the paying off of "Victorious" has helped to improve the manning levels of ratings. While the position in the Fleet Air Arm is expected to improve in 1970 when the next carrier pays off, there will be a continued shortfall in the rest of the Royal Navy, because of the commitments 1008 associated with withdrawal from South-East Asia and the Persian Gulf and the continuation of the Beira patrol.
This shortfall should be corrected in 1972 when the remaining carriers phase out. The important thing if we want to achieve efficiency, and I think that every hon. Member who has served in the forces or in the Ministry of Defence will recognise this, is not to have units and equipment for which we are not able to provide the men. It is just as important to bring units and equipment into balance with men as to bring commitments into balance with one's total military capability.
The figures I have just given the House on manning levels relate to other ranks. The picture, taking officers alone is still better—indeed, the Air Force and Army are now slightly over-strength in officers. Re-engagement in the Services has remained generally steady over the last 12 months and this reflects the high morale of the forces themselves and the confidence of the men and women actually serving in the Army, Navy and Air Force that they can look forward to a worthwhile career.
But there is a cloud on the horizon. Recruitment has fallen heavily during the last 12 months. In 1967–68 it was only 33,000 male other ranks as against the steady level of 35,000 we shall require when the rundown is complete if we are to have the right balance of ages and trades inside the forces. The figures in the current year are so far even less encouraging. Recruitment of officers, however, has held up comparatively well, although there are some areas for concern.
To some extent, the disappointing recruiting figures during the last 12 months reflect certain long-term factors which no Government can control—the fall in the birthrate after 1947, the tendency for boys to stay longer at school and to marry younger, and the growing competition from industry. My right hon. Friend will deal with some of the measures the Government will take to deal with these problems in his speech this evening. But there is no doubt that the main reason for the fall off in recruiting is the general image of the Services among the civilian population.
With great respect to those hon. Members who sincerely hold the opposite 1009 view, this cannot be attributed to the changes in the regimental system of the infantry which have been introduced over the last two years or, indeed, the last 10 years. In the first place, the decline is general, affecting the Navy and Air Force as much as the Army. In the second place, 80 per cent. of the men who call at a recruiting office to join the Army express no preference even as between the infantry and the gunners or any other arm, still less as between one regiment of the infantry and another; and there is no evidence that recruiting has dropped in any area particularly identified with a regiment which has been disbanded, which is revelant to last week's debate.
For this reason, the strength against establishment of a particular regiment in the infantry bears no necessary relationship with its popularity among recruits, but rather with the priority it has been accorded within the Army for uncommitted recruits, who, as I have said, comprise the vast majority.
§ Mr. George Younger (Ayr)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not attempting to deny that there has been a slump in recruiting in Lanarkshire since he axed the Cameronians? Can he give us figures?
§ Mr. Healey
I cannot give those figures but it may help the hon. Gentleman, who said the other day that the trouble with the Army was the end of the regimental system as it had existed in the past, if I read the words of a very distinguished serving regimental officer who said:It is folly to live the lie that the present organisation of infantry is good enough for the wars of tomorrow or that it is attracting sufficient recruits of the required calibre.He added:It is imperative that we should do some hard thinking and drive through a programme of reorganisation as brutal and dynamic as the times in which we live.That article was written, as the hon. Gentleman will recall, just after the new divisional organisation of the infantry was introduced, and it was written by Colonel Colin Mitchell.
§ Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not saying that a vital factor in the success of a unit in getting recruits is not the energy and efficiency of its regimental recruiting teams and its officers in seeking 1010 to produce the right climate to attract them.
§ Mr. Healey
That is an important factor, but, as I have pointed out, although I attach great importance to the many aspects of the regimental tradition and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, we intend to maintain many features of the regimental system in the new divisions of infantry, it is not possible to argue—and I have given the reasons which the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to dispute later—that it is the key to the slump in recruiting, which is general and affects not only all arms of the Army, but the Air Force and Navy.
I think there is no doubt that one major reason for the worrying fall in recruiting over the last 12 months or so is the impression current among large sections of the civilian population that there is no future for the Services. The fact that this is a totally false impression is best demonstrated by the high rate of re-engagement among those actually in the Services who know the problem best.
I do 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; but I am afraid that the significance of these changes has been grossly exaggerated and distorted by some sections of the Press and television. I only hope that no hon. or right hon. Member has involuntarily given colour to these false impressions by exaggerating in the heat of party passion the real significance of what has happened.
I know that I can rely on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet as the new spokesman of the Opposition on defence to temper party polemic with patriotism, as he has already done in his statements on the national economy.
The fact is that when the rundown of our forces is complete, Britain's overall defence effort will be second to that of no other West European Power in capability and quality—not to speak of the exceptional background of recent fighting experience gained by our all professional Services in so many parts of the world. Let me give some details.
§ Mr. Healey
First, the Royal Navy, to please the hon. and gallant Gentleman. From September next year the third of our four Polaris submarines will become operational and we shall be the only European nuclear Power which is committing this awesome capability exclusively to the service of the alliance. By the time the carriers phase out there will be seven nuclear fleet submarines in service, and others building, to provide our main capability for dealing with enemy surface ships or submarines.
We will be the only European Navy to operate these powerful warships in significant numbers. The total Leander force in the fleet will number 26 hulls. The designs of the new frigate and of the Sea Dart destroyers are now at an advanced stage. In the 1970s these and a further development of the new frigate will join the fleet in increasing numbers and greatly strengthen the capability of our general purpose force.
A contribution which I know the alliance will value particularly is the amphibious force of two commando ships, two assault ships and the associated Royal Marine Commandos which are being earmarked for assignment to SACEUR this year. As is fitting for an island Power, we shall have by far the strongest West European navy. I think that hon. Members, particularly hon. Members opposite, should be proud of this fact and not pretend that the reductions that the Government have made in defence expenditure have destroyed the Royal Navy, as they have so often pretended and sometimes said.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
We think that these surface warships will be indefensible against Russian surface-to-surface missiles, unless we have fixed-wing aircraft to protect them.
§ Mr. Healey
That is totally untrue. Concerning attack by Soviet missile-firing patrol boats, the Komar type—
§ Mr. Healey
If it is a question of attack by destroyers, we have both the nuclear fleet submarines and a large variety, to which I shall be coming, of land-based aircraft with stand off weapons. On top of that, we shall have helicopter-borne air to surface weapons which will be carried on every ship in 1012 the fleet above frigate size which will be protected from attack by surface-to-air missiles. There is no doubt—and this can easily be confirmed by the hon. Gentleman—that this will give our surface fleet a power of protection against any known missiles fired by a Soviet patrol boat.
When the rundown is complete we shall have a regular Army, superbly trained and equipped, of over 166,000— that is 152,000 adult males. This is without counting the remaining Gurkhas who would be serving in Hong Kong. We plan to keep 46 infantry battalions, 27 artillery regiments and 18 regiments in the Royal Armoured Corps. The British Army of the Rhine, with its six brigades —one of them stationed in the United Kingdom—will remain second to none in its professionalism and equipment. Our light air defence units will be equipped with Rapier, a new low-level air defence system. Our armoured units will be fully equipped with Chieftain, the best main battle tank in the world, and with the Swing Fire anti-tank guided weapons.
Together with our infantry mounted in armoured personnel carriers and supported with self-propelled artillery—the Abbott is superior in range, mobility, and rate of fire to any other field gun—we shall have a flexible hard hitting force with no superior on the Continent.
I wish that the right hon. Member for Barnet would listen to these facts, because he was obviously unaware of them when he made some speeches recently.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
I was just trying to make sure that all the weapons to which the right hon. Gentleman is referring were developed by the previous Conservative Government.
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong about that. Rapier, for example, was largely developed and produced by this Government. I am not claiming that every weapon in the Services today was produced by this Government. The vast majority were ordered by the previous Conservative Government. I am trying to get the right hon. Gentleman and, even more, his hon. Friends, to accept that the Services today are second to none in Europe and that they offer a career to men of ability and dedication second to none offered by any profession in Britain. 1013 If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would stop knocking the Services which they themselves have helped to arm, a great deal of the difficulty we have in recruiting would disappear.
At home in Britain, we shall have a mobile force made up of three Divisions and of 16 Parachute Brigades, less one battalion, forming a task force which can be deployed anywhere in the N.A.T.O. area from the North Cape to the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Royal Air Force will be comparable in size and quality to the air forces of France or Germany. As the Canberras phase out, Strike Command Vulcans will take over the tactical strike rôle, supported by several squadrons of Buccaneers. The Phantom enters operational service next year for close support of our ground forces, together with the first operational V/STOL aircraft in the world—the all-British Harrier. Nimrods, Phantoms and Buccaneers will also provide support for the Navy at sea. I would like to draw special attention to the enormous improvement we have made in the helicopter capability of all three Services since 1964.
The major problem remaining for the R.A.F. is to introduce a new combat aircraft for service in the middle or late 1970s when V-bombers and Bucaneers are no longer adequate for the task. The Government are determined, if possible, to produce such an aircraft in collaboration with partners in Western Europe. This would be very much cheaper than producing an aircraft on our own and technologically preferable to collaboration with the U.S. or, still more, to a purchase from the U.S. The House will have noted, I hope with approval, that last week we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Germany, Italy and Holland to explore the possibilities of collaborating on such an aircraft. The first stage will be the preparation of studies on the most cost-effective mix of performance characteristics to meet the requirements of the participating countries at a price they can afford. This phase, in which British industry will be playing a major rôle, should be completed by the end of this year. I hope that we shall then be able to proceed in agreement on a project study.
Broadly speaking—and I have sketched only the salient features of our forces in 1014 the 1970s—all this adds up to a formidable capability, and I do wish that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not continually denigrate it. As we made clear in January, we shall be able to draw on this capability for operations outside Europe if the Government of the day finds it is in our interest or duty to do so, where necessary after normal consultation with our N.A.T.O. allies. What, in fact, we might decide to make available overseas would be determined by the nature of the operation and the circumstances at the time. But that the capability is a reality we intend to demonstrate in the proposed five-Power Commonwealth exercise in the Far East in 1970. We have given some examples in the White Paper of what such forces could include.
In any case, we shall maintain our permanent garrison in Hong Kong— slightly strengthened to take account of the reinforcement time from Britain—and we shall continue to send units of all three Services for regular training overseas. For example, in two months' time we shall be sending a battalion to train in Ghana and receiving a Ghanaian battalion for simultaneous training in the United Kingdom.
But the essence of our new defence posture is that our forces will be concentrated in Europe with the security of Europe by land, sea and air as their primary rôle. The substantial increases in the availability of our forces to N.A.T.O., which we announced in Brussels and in the White Paper, are the first fruit of this new concentration in Europe.
The increases we have offered in our commitment to N.A.T.O. were carefully designed, after consultation with our allies, to fill gaps in the capability of the alliance which have long been recognised to exist—in particular, its shortage of mobile reserves. The particular value of the Mobile Task Force and the amphibious force is that they would enable us to help in reinforcing countries anywhere from the Arctic Circle to the Near East in an emergency.
Rapid reinforcement by allied troops would be particularly important on the flanks, since an enemy might otherwise gamble that the political solidarity of the Western Alliance might not hold firm. The increases in British naval and air 1015 strength in the Mediterranean have been especially welcomed by our allies, who have been watching the increased activity of the Soviet Navy and Air Force in this area with some concern.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
The right hon. Gentleman is laying great emphasis on our strength in Europe. Does he not admit that during the next 10 years the threat in the Far East from China, which is growing far more menacing, is far greater than any threat in Europe or the Middle East? Would not he agree that we have a duty to protect Commonwealth citizens in India, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in Malaysia and Singapore?
§ Mr. Healey
With respect, that sort of question has been asked many times, but it reflects a failure to have read the newspapers during the last week or two.
The right hon. Member for Barnet asked me some questions the other day about some remarks in Mr. McNamara's annual statement this year, claiming, in effect, that there is now a rough balance in conventional forces between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Powers. He thought it called into question the whole of the present N.A.T.O. strategy, and it may be convenient if I expand a little on the answers I then gave.
Only a few years ago—I daresay the right hon. Gentleman will recall this— N.A.T.O. tended to calculate the relative capabilities of N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Powers by totting up the number of divisions on each side. It took years of argument, largely by representatives of the British Government of the day, to convince the alliance that since the effective fighting power of a Warsaw Pact division was substantially lower than that of a N.A.T.O. division, a divisional count very much exaggerated the superiority of the Warsaw Powers.
In our view, and that of N.A.T.O. as a whole, the deductions encouraged by Mr. McNamara's statement this year fall into the opposite error, although it is only fair to add that Mr. McNamara admitted thatmanpower comparisons alone are not conclusive measures of military strength".In fact, a count of manpower alone is as misleading as a count of divisions, 1016 since it ignores such factors as the teeth to tail ratio, fighting capabilities and effectiveness, deployment, logistic support and lines of communication, reinforcement capability, and relative states of training of weapon and counter-weapon effectiveness and of mobility.
To take just one major factor at random—and I mentioned this to the right hon. Gentleman last week—the Warsaw Powers have a two-to-one superiority in tanks over the immediately confronting N.A.T.O. force in Central Europe. In 15 days they could increase this superiority to three-to-one, and, given 30 days, to almost four-to-one.
The most important disadvantage of simply counting heads, however, is that it ignores the advantage which the enemy could hope to gain in a surprise attack by a rapid concentration of force. All the exercises carried out with British participation by N.A.T.O.'s Northern Army Group suggest that by exploiting the initiative the Warsaw Powers could expect to make very rapid advances into N.A.T.O. territory. That is why N.A.T.O. has always assumed that a massive attack by the Warsaw Powers would involve the use of nuclear weapons at an early stage; and that the alliance must be able to make up in nuclear deterrence what it lacks in conventional defence.
The alliance is now engaged in a more detailed study of some of the points raised by Mr. McNamara. If I may express a personal view, I believe that a true measure of relative capabilities will be somewhere in the middle between a crude count of divisions and a crude count of heads.
Of course the alliance should do everything possible with the forces available to it to prolong the period of conventional resistance should aggression take place, and, partly as a result of British urging, it has recently accepted this objective. But the idea that a purely conventional strategy would be politically or economically acceptable to the alliance as a whole is contrary to all the evidence. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Russians would accept it. They have always said that if there were war in Europe it would involve the use of nuclear weapons and of chemical and biological weapons as well. That, incidentally, is why Porton exists, to provide us with defence against such weapons.
1017 So when the alliance talks today of maximising its conventional capability it does not mean planning for prolonged and largescale conventional war in case of large-scale attack. It means prolonging conventional resistance by days or even hours. Let me add another point. It would be quite dishonest for any British Government to propose a wholly conventional strategy for N.A.T.O. unless they had first reintroduced conscription—a point which, I am glad to say, was made clear in theSunday Telegraph last week. However much some hon. Members, like the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) may want a purely conventional strategy, the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) rejects it. Instead, he has reverted to a purely nuclear strategy of what he calls "a trip wire which trips". Perhaps the right hon. Member for Barnet can mediate between them, because a sensible strategy lies somewhere in the middle.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
A trip wire which trips corresponds with what the right hon. Gentleman was talking about, a trip wire which will gain hours, perhaps days or a week.
§ Mr. Healey
If the right hon. Gentleman has ever talked to a poacher, he will know that the function of a trip wire is not to trip, but to kill.
Some of my hon. Friends have put down an Amendment which attacks the Government from the opposite side. They say that we should not be making any increase in our contribution to N.A.T.O. at all, and appear to suggest that we should consider leaving the alliance in 1969. The alliance does not lapse in 1969 as they appear to imagine. On the contrary, it is of indefinite duration, but after 24th August, 1969 any member can give a year's notice of its intention to withdraw. I am glad to say there is no sign that any member intends to do so.
If I may say so to my hon. Friends, I could not help feeling that such an Amendment, put down at this moment of tension in Eastern Europe, shows a felicity of timing and relevance of content which can be compared only with that of recent speeches on the nation's economy by the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Healey
The Amendment asks us to say that we are ready to start phasing out the British Army of the Rhine as a contribution to mutual force reductions. We are certainly prepared to do this as part of a firm programme of reciprocal withdrawals. Indeed, one of the main themes of the Government's foreign policy over the last four years— and it was one of Mr. Eden's when he was Prime Minister—has been the case for maintaining security in Europe at a lower level of expenditure through the reduction of arms and forces on both sides of the dividing line.
I myself have been pressing for this ever since 1956. The Government have taken the initiative in N.A.T.O. to get a series of studies started on various ways of achieving arms control and disarmament in Europe through mutual reductions balanced both in scope and timing. Only a few weeks ago, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and his colleagues in the N.A.T.O. Council meeting at Reykjavik issued an appeal to the Warsaw Powers to join them in this work.
But my hon. Friends must face the fact that there is no chance of achieving reciprocal withdrawals if there are massive unilateral withdrawals on the Western side alone. On the contrary, it is only if the Soviet Government are certain that there is no hope of achieving a comprehensive military superiority over the West in Europe that they may be prepared to settle for a balance at a lower level of forces on both sides. In the nuclear field, it looks as if the Soviet Government may be reaching this conclusion. I believe that all of us, on both sides of the House, must have welcomed the recent contacts between the Soviet and American Governments on the possibility of reducing both their offensive and defensive nuclear weapons.
Incidentally, this bears witness to the wisdom of the N.A.T.O. Defence Ministers, in May, when they decided that there was no point in Western Europe attempting to develop an anti-ballistic missile system, since such a system could be neutralised for a tiny fraction of the cost of building it. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition, who reserved 1019 his position on this in the last debate, is at last content with this decision, and if not, that he will tell us why.
But while there may be signs that the Soviet Government are coming to recognise the senselessness of continuing the nuclear arms race with the United States, hon. Members must have been watching with the greatest anxiety in recent weeks the tensions that have arisen in Eastern Europe.
The House will probably understand if, in the very delicate situations now obtaining, I resist the temptation to spell out the arguments and underline the lessons. I shall confine myself to repeating what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said last week—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. which ensures that neither we nor they are so subjected.
Indeed, we can comfort ourselves that the situation between East and West in Europe today is comparatively stable; it has been so for nearly 20 years. But it has been so because, by binding North America and Western Europe together in a military alliance, N.A.T.O. has removed from Russia any temptation to use force across the Iron Curtain. To argue that because the situation is stable we do not now need N.A.T.O. is like saying that we can destroy the dam because we have not had a flood since it was built. I remember reading of the village mayor who did that—and they found his body 25 miles down the valley.
We can all speculate on whether, in the long run, current political developments in Eastern Europe will make Russia more or less ready to reach agreement with the West on the reciprocal reduction of forces. There are arguments both ways. But what is certain is that of such negotiations are ever to be successful, the process of mutual reduction must start from a stable balance of forces between the two sides. Thas is why, in helping to remedy some of the gaps in N.A.T.O.'s existing defences, the British Government are helping to create the conditions without which there would be little hope of successful negotiations on reciprocal reductions.
1020 In any case, if we look into the next decade—does the right hon. Gentleman wish to make a point?
§ Mr. Orme
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of the immediate situation in Europe, may I ask him whether his attention has been drawn to a statement made by the majority leader of the Democratic Party— Senator Mansfield—who has called for reductions in American forces in Europe and for a reappraisal of the present situation? We are asking for a reappraisal of the situation, in constructive terms.
§ Mr. Healey
Of course—I do not blame my hon. Friend for asking for this—the Government are continually carrying out such a reappraisal. But if he read Senator Mansfield's speech in detail he will know that the main argument used by the Senator for the withdrawal of American forces was that Europe was not pulling its weight. The fact that Britain is now pulling her weight in Europe is doing more than anything else to fortify those who oppose irrational and ill-thought-out reductions of American troops in Europe, which may upset the stability of the Alliance.
But I say to my hon. Friend that if we look into the next decade we must recognise that the American people may not be prepared indefinitely to maintain their physical contribution to the defence of Western Europe at its present level. No less than America, Europe is now a rich and powerful continent. America is carrying burdens outside Europe which none of her European allies shares. Although I cannot now foresee a situation in which the American Alliance will be unnecessary, Europe in the 1970s will inevitably have to be more self-reliant in defence.
I ask my hon. Friend this question seriously: if the time comes when American forces are reduced, does he want Western Germany to be the only important military Power among the European members of N.A.T.O.? Does he really believe that our own security or peace in Europe would be better protected in such a situation? I assure him that very few people in Europe take 1021 that view—and very few people in Germany.
In addition to its direct physical contribution to our security, N.A.T.O. has provided an international framework into which Germany can contribute to her own defence without creating fears among her neighbours. But that framework retains its meaning only so long as there is an integrated international force into which the German contribution can be fitted without risk of dominating the whole. To withdraw all British troops from Germany, as some of my hon. Friends suggest, without any guarantee that there would be corresponding reductions among the Warsaw Pact Powers and without adjusting the framework of the Western Alliance so as to avoid its domination by a single Power would be an act of unimaginable folly.
No—the true direction in which we should be moving is a different one. Whether or not the American presence in Western Europe is reduced, Britain must be prepared to carry her fair share of any burden of defence which falls on Western Europe. What happens in this continent over the next 10 or 20 years will determine what happens to us in Britain not only militarily, but politically and economically. If we want our fair share of influence in the region where influence matters to us most, we must be prepared to carry our fair share of the military burden, too.
§ Mr. Healey
I cannot give way.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Barnet will tell us where his party stands on this issue. What exactly is his position? Does he believe that we have been right to reduce defence expenditure but that we have got our political priorities wrong? Does he believe, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire believes, that we should ask N.A.T.O. to allow us to withdraw forces from Western Europe for use east of Suez—as he said in a speech the other day—and to stay east of Suez for another 15 years? If he believes that he will be in deep conflict with his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, the last Conservative Party spokesman on defence, but I suppose that that 1022 will not worry him too much; he is used to it.
Or does he believe, on the contrary, that we are spending far too little on defence—that is what he appeared to say at other times—and that we should make not only a major contribution to the defence of Europe but also build up our bases in the Persian Gulf and in the Far East again? I gather that he and his right hon. Friends have formally promised to do so—although they add a lot of conditions, if one reads them carefully. They will do so if they get into power, sometime in the 1970s, and if they are still wanted, and if it is still possible. The small print has not gone unnoticed east of Suez.
But in that case—if that is his policy —where will the money come from? He has promised to cut Government expenditure as a whole. Even if he does no more than restore the cuts which we have made in his own programme, where would he find the £3,000 million that this would require over the next five years? I welcome the pointed questions that the Liberal Party has put to him on that point. If he has a ready answer on these questions I hope that he will share it with the House this afternoon.
A hundred flowers may still be blossoming on the benches opposite, but the Government have made their choice. The policy outlined in the White Paper which we are debating today will concentrate our defence capability in the area which matters most—Europe—the area where current events have shown all too clearly that peace and stability still depend on setting limits to the temptations created by military power. The Services that we shall have in the 1970s will provide the country with a vital instrument of security and influence.
They will provide the men and women in them with rewarding careers at a level of professional skill unsurpassed in our society and they will do all this at a cost which the nation can afford. I ask the House to approve the White Paper.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
The Secretary of State has made a formidable speech—certainly in size—in the course of which he managed to offend practically everyone in the House—but he has a felicity for that. But he did not make 1023 much reference to the White Paper. This is not altogether surprising, because it is a very flimsy document. We do not know why the White Paper was necessary, if this is all that the Government have to say. It has become a habit of the Government to produce many White Papers, usually at the very last moment in the Parliamentary Session.
Our objection to the White Paper is not so much its substance as that it is a further, if marginal, addition to a process of which we thoroughly disapprove. We believe that the Government's policy and actions to date have reduced the capability of our defence forces below what the nation should expect. This is the simple difference between the two sides. If the Secretary of State says that that means that we on this side want to spend more money on defence, I am quite prepared to accept his challenge, because we say quite clearly that what the country needs for its security must be found. We do not accept, as I will make clear later, some of the absurd figures bandied around, with the worst of special pleading from the benches opposite, about what is necessary in terms of money to carry out certain policies. We cherish the security of our country and we believe that it must be protected.
We have had a whole series of White Papers, six in less than four years and four in the last 18 months, and we have no assurance whatever that this will be the final stage. This is one of our complaints against the right hon. Gentleman. Time and time again we have been told that the Government had reached finality or a plateau, or whatever it is called. Each time this is succeeded by further changes and cuts. There can be no doubt at all that this has had a very serious effect upon Service morale and upon recruiting.
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to imply, as he did this afternoon, that anyone who criticises the present state of the Forces, or his own policies, is being unpatriotic and is damaging recruiting. This is absolute nonsense. It is our job, as the Opposition, to offer criticism. If the Secretary of State doubts the effect on the Services of 1024 all these changes, may I quote this sentence:I think the Services can rightly be very upset at the continuous series of defence reviews which the Government has been forced by economic circumstances, and, it may be, by economic mistakes too, to carry out in the last three years.The Secretary of State will recognise his own words. I agree with him entirely.
There can be no doubt that the complete collapse of confidence in the Secretary of State himself is one of the reasons for the low morale in the Forces and for the low recruiting. I think this is one of the reasons why, rather to my surprise, the other day we saw the Chief of the General Staff appearing on television dealing with these matters, which I think is an innovation, and, frankly, an undesirable innovation. I believe that these things should be left to Ministers to deal with in television interviews with journalists and television statements. The fact is that the Secretary of State has lost the confidence of the Services and, I believe, of the country.
We have debated this many times before. I will not rehearse the whole list of all the things that the right hon. Gentleman has said and the many times he has contradicted himself in the past few months. It is too easy a game to repeat those quotations. They are all known. In any case, it has no effect on the Secretary of State. He shows no remorse or regret when he has been proved to be talking nonsense. Every time he has been proved to have changed his mind completely, he treats it as further proof of his magnificent versatility. That may be true in political terms, but certainly not in terms of the leader of our Services.
We believe that the fundamental error of the Government has been to base their defence planning on a fixed financial ceiling and on that alone. This is our fundamental objection to the Government's policy. We have seen this process developing very clearly over the last few years. First, a financial target is fixed; then it is changed. First comes a financial target, on which is based the number of men and women in the Services. On that is based, we suppose, but we are not often told, the number of units, for example, in the Air Force, and on that as a final deduction is based what our Forces 1025 can do to meet the country's commitments. This, we believe, is entirely the wrong way to go about it.
Further evidence of this is clearly to be seen in the White Paper, which states on page 2 that the Government are stillproducing a more detailed programme for reshaping the organisation and equipment of the forces up to 1972–73 so as to meet the targets for financial and manpower reductions".In other words, the Government have accepted and intend to stick to their targets for financial and manpower reductions and they will fit Britain's fighting abilities and defence capacity to these and not to the nation's needs. This is our main criticism.
Of course, it is not all entirely black and white, as everyone knows. One cannot say that this is all that we can afford in the way of defence, regardless of the risk that the country is carrying. On the other hand, I accept that we cannot say that we will provide the Services with all that they can possibly ask for, regardless of expense. Somewhere between the two, a balance must be struck. It will involve risk. No defence policy for this country can possibly be a safe one. There will always be risks, but these must be determined not by the staffs, who are not politically responsible in the broad sense, but by the Government themselves, who should be striking a balance, whereas this Government are concentrating solely on financial targets and reductions in expenditure on the Forces.
The Government are certain in their own mind about the money which they intend to spend. They are not certain about the Forces which they intend to produce with this money, and they cannot be certain about the tasks that will have to be carried out by those Forces. They are clearly still working out the size and shape of the Forces. They will not tell us anything about the future strength of the Royal Air Force in terms either of numbers of aircraft or of units. They cannot tell us in practice how recruiting will go and, therefore, they cannot tell us in practice how far they will match up even to their own targets for the size of the Forces as a whole.
My other criticism of the Government is that they are over-certain about Britain's commitments and they are leaving us no margin to cope with the unex- 1026 pected. There are too many examples of this. It was quoted in the television broadcast the other day that out of 66 incidents since the war in which British Forces have been engaged, only six were foreseen and planned for in advance. It is always the unexpected and unpredictable that comes upon our defence forces. They must be prepared and qualified to deal with sudden and surprising emergencies.
The Government are totally underestimating the danger east of Suez to the broad long-term interest of this country. I know that what is called the domino theory is regarded as unfashionable, but I still hold to it. I believe that an expansion of Communist force across South-East Asia could go very fast indeed if the general Western position were to crumble. I believe that there is more real danger to the interests of British people in that part of the world and in that possibility than in the far more remote possibility of an all-out war in Western Europe.
I saw an article in theGuardian a day or two ago with which I do not wholly agree, but I certainly agree with what it said about east of Suez:When Britain gets over its current self-misery, it will no longer want to wash its hands entirely of others' troubles.That is a fairly profound statement that this country has interests in the troubles and potential troubles of friends and allies east of Suez. Our ability to contribute to that has been sadly undermined by the present Government.
I believe that the Government are far too confident that they can predict the parameters of danger in Western Europe. They are basing themselves entirely, as the Secretary of State made clear today, on the assumption that a major war would go nuclear within a few hours or days. That might, perhaps, be true, but it is a very big assumption to make. It is one which is being increasingly called into question.
§ Mr. Healey
There are, of course, many views on this question, and other views are expressed in this House, but the right hon. Gentleman must accept that the views on which we base our predictions and policy in Europe are shared with our allies in N.A.T.O. [Interruption.] Yes, they are, with respect to the hon. Member for Hendon, 1027 North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing). I know the facts. He does not, although he took a very different view of the situation when he was Under-Secretary in one of the Defence Departments and we committed ourselves to a far more nuclear strategy than we have today.
In any event, it is no good Britain having a strategy for N.A.T.O. which is shared by none of her allies. It is essential that we work out the common strategy together, and we believe that the strategy which N.A.T.O. as a whole has is the right one.
I thought that the British Government had considerable influence on the strategy of the Alliance as a whole. We are concerned today with the view taken by the British Government. I do not think that it is generally known in this country the extent to which the Government are posing their defence plans on the assumption of a very short war indeed before it escalates to a nuclear level. The Secretary of State rightly referred to Mr. McNamara's speech, but he dismissed it a little too easily. After all, Mr. McNamara must have been in a position to know all the facts to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. His judgment may differ from that of the Secretary of State, but I am not sure that I accept that it is an inferior judgment. It is all very well to talk about a certain level of forces and other factors, availability of transport and mobilisation, but all this was known to Mr. McNamara. No doubt, it is right that, for example, the tank forces of the Warsaw Pact are greater than ours. But what about aircraft? I gather that Mr. McNamara considers that in aircraft the forces of N.A.T.O. are noticeably stronger than the forces of the Warsaw Pact. Let us have the position entirely clear. We cannot have a coherent picture of Britain's defence requirements until we are sure exactly what the military assessment is.
I accept from the right hon. Gentleman that to plan for the fighting of a conventional warà l'outrance in a four or five years' conflict between Eastern and Western Europe is not a feasible way to proceed. But between that and planning only for two or three days of conventional fighting before going nuclear 1028 there is a wide gap. All I say is that the Government should not be too certain in their assessment of what will happen, and they should not be too ready to assume that, if a war continues for only a few days, the nuclear weapon is bound to come into play.
§ Mr. Healey
I sympathise with much of what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I must remind him, lest he has forgotten, that when his party was in power and he was Chancellor of the Exchequer he and his right hon. Friends were planning on a very much shorter period of conventional fighting than we have now persuaded N.A.T.O. to accept.
§ Mr. Maudling
I thought that on a previous occasion the right hon. Gentleman was taking credit for having substantially reduced the need for strategic stockpiling in Western Europe on the prognostication of a shorter war, and I understood that he had in fact been cutting it down.
§ Mr. Healey
With respect—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This is an interesting point, and I must correct the right hon. Gentleman. The assumptions regarding stockpiles were previously made on the basis of a very prolonged tactical atomic war, and that is a prospect which nobody now believes to be realistic.
§ Mr. Maudling
I shall not tempt the Secretary of State again. Perhaps the Minister who is to wind up will tell us exactly what assumption is being made by the Government about the duration of a possible conventional war in Western Europe and what provision is made by way of stockpiling for that eventuality.
I was putting that forward as one example of the uncertainties which remain. The second, to which the right hon. Gentleman himself referred, is the developments in Eastern Europe. He rightly said that he had to walk delicately in this delicate situation. Speaking for the Opposition, perhaps I may say a little more. I accept that it is a formidable development. No one can be sure what its outcome will be. Whichever way it goes—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman here—the lesson for us is to strengthen N.A.T.O. and not allow N.A.T.O. to be divided.
Perhaps the Soviet Union will impose its will on the Czech people. If that 1029 were to happen, this House would entirely deplore it. Perhaps it will happen. If it does go that way, the tension between East and West in Europe will be heightened and the possibilities ofdetente of any kind will be made more remote. This must be taken into account in all our defence planning. If, on the other hand, the Czechs should move away from the Soviet Union and if the Warsaw Pact should crumble, as some people suggest, that would not necessarily be a gain from our point of view. A Europe which is divided into two camps has disadvantages but it has certain advantages from the point of view of maintaining security. A Europe divided into more and more armed nation States might well produce new and serious dangers of a kind which none of us would welcome.
Therefore, whichever way this sad and sorry affair goes, the lesson for us is once again to appreciate the great scale of the uncertainties which face us and the need to maintain the strength of our alliance in N.A.T.O.
§ Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)
Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify his attitude and that of his party to the Warsaw Pact? Do we understand that he is in favour of the continued existence of the Warsaw Pact and would view its breakup with alarm?
§ Mr. Maudling
I do not have to be for or against the Warsaw Pact. We have no responsibility in this country for it. All I am saying is that, if it should crumble and Europe went back to a system of nation States individually armed and individually operating, the dangers of war might thereby become more serious. That is plain in any analysis of the situation.
No, east of Suez. Here, we charge the Government with having broken their pledges and changed their attitude, letting down our allies and neglecting the fundamental needs of Britain's defence. The number of pledges broken still cannot be counted. I have previously asked the Prime Minister for a list of the undertakings broken, but I have never yet received it. Perhaps he is still counting them. There are many in the Gulf and the Far East.
British interests in this area are large indeed, particularly our interests in the Gulf, for example, which are staggering 1030 in scale when one considers both the capital investment involved and the current income which we draw from the area. The danger there is the one which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) called some time ago the danger of a power vacuum. The withdrawal of British forces is bringing a new danger of conflict and confusion in the area which, if it were to come to a head, could do great damage not only to British interests but the interests of the whole Western world.
By withdrawing from East of Suez we are recreating the danger of American isolation. I believe that the Americans have always looked to this country for support East of Suez not so much for the relatively marginal addition to the armed forces involved by our presence there but for the political support which they received from our presence East of Suez alongside them. Our withdrawal there, coupled with some developments in Western Europe, may well drive America back into a new isolationism which in the long run will be a fundamental danger to Western Europe and the Western world. I cannot believe that the Government have properly seen the consequences of their policy in this respect.
The Government say that what we on this side plan to do will cost hundreds or thousands of millions of pounds. I do not accept that for a moment. Our position has been made perfectly clear. We have said to our friends there that, if we are returned to power at the next election, we shall halt the process of withdrawal from the Gulf and the Far East so long as this is possible. The Secretary of State twitted us for what he called this condition. But, surely, it is an honest and sensible undertaking to give. It is possible that by then the forces would have been so reduced by the present Government that it would no longer be possible to carry it out. But so long as it is possible, so long as our friends and allies want our presence, we shall redeem the pledges which this Government have broken.
I do not accept the calculations made from time to time of the cost involved. I understand that a new calculation is coming from the Liberal benches, but I have not seen it yet. There are so many other factors. For example, as my hon. 1031 Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) said, the cost of aid given in exchange for military expenditure will not appear on the Defence Votes but it is just as much a charge on the British economy and the British taxpayer. The Government spurned at the time, with some rather rude remarks, the offers of financial help from our friends in the area who wished us to remain.
Nor do I believe that there is any need for the sort of apparatus of defence which the Minister in a previous debate argued we should need to retain any position east of Suez. We do not need all the vast apparatus of new aircraft carriers. [Interruption.] I want to deal with the question of aircraft carriers because it is the right hon. Gentleman's argument that without aircraft carriers we cannot do anything useful East of Suez.
§ Mr. Maudling
No. It was the right hon. Gentleman's argument. He said that without aircraft carriers we cannot usefully remain there. How, then, do the Government propose to have a general capability east of Suez without any aircraft carriers? They cannot have it both ways. We on this side say that the Government are putting up a purely spurious argument when they pretend to retain some capability east of Suez. We do not see how they will have the bases. We do not see how Gan and Masirah can really work in such circumstances. We wonder about their assessment of the future position regarding Simonstown. We wonder about the training and acclimatisation of British forces. We wonder about the problem of bringing heavy equipment out in time. We very much doubt whether the Government will on their plans have any capability east of Suez within a few years. So long as they go on pretending that it is possible, they are deluding themselves, the country and our allies as well.
I want to come now fairly briefly to some remarks on each of the three Services, beginning with the Royal Navy. The Secretary of State one again chided us for expressing doubts about the equipment of the Royal Navy, but we are 1032 entitled to express those doubts. Of course, much of its equipment is superb, and the quality and skill of the men is second to none, but the right hon. Gentleman went a little too lightly over the question of surface-to-surface missiles. We want to know in much greater detail how the Fleet could be protected against a surface-to-surface missile coming from a Russian—I think that it is Kresta type —missile destroyer. Can protection be really provided to the Fleet at any distance from the home base without fixed wing aircraft accompanying it? The Government argue that it can, but we doubt this very much. Perhaps it can in theory, but in practice how can immediate support be made available to a fleet operating at sea several hundreds of miles from the home base, without an enormous number of aircraft to provide continuous cover? Reports we have seen of the recent "Polar Express" exercise in Norway underline this question very much.
The right hon. Gentleman said that new equipment for the Royal Navy will place our surface ships at the forefront of the technological advance. I am afraid that in this case they might be in the forefront of the Russian technological advance. I do not believe that they would necessarily have adequate protection. Are the Government adamant that there is no case for the economic hard top carrier providing, as an analogy, a landing strip as against a fully equipped airfield? Are they convinced that nothing be done elsewhere on a modest scale of expenditure to ensure operating cover for our fleet units?
§ Mr. Maudling
Helicopters could not be the answer to modern surface-to-surface missiles. I hope that the Minister will be able to satisfy us a little more on this side of the House on our very genuine anxieties about the Fleet's ability to stand up to attack of this kind.
We have been told about the manpower cuts in the Royal Air Force. They seem to be greater in proportion than those in the Army or Navy and are very severe. We cannot estimate the effects in fighting terms because we cannot elicit from the Government any information about the number of aircraft or even the number of 1033 units. We are told the number of units in the Army and the Royal Navy but not in the Air Force, and this makes it very difficult for us to estimate what the fighting strength of the Royal Air Force will be.
One thing that gives me considerable concern about its equipment is the business of the Buccaneers. I seem to remember as Minister of Supply 12 years ago trying to persuade the Royal Air Force to use the Buccaneer, and they were convinced then that it was not good enough for them.
§ Mr. Maudling
It is not all that different. In 12 years it may have changed a bit, but its main capability, radar, performance and so on have not changed all that much. It is hard to see how an aircraft that was fundamentally unsatisfactory to the Royal Air Force 12 years ago can be really satisfactory in this day and age.
We accept what the Secretary of State said about the excellence of the equipment of the modern British Army. We can probably all agree that both Governments contributed to building up this excellent equipment, but we are very worried about the air cover available to the British Army of the Rhine. Without more details it is hard to be more definite about this, but we should like an assurance from the Minister on this very important point.
Our main concerns about the Army are over recruiting and the reserves. I have talked at some length about the Government's policy East of Suez—
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
On the question of aircraft, can the right hon. Gentleman describe technologically how the Navy could have any more up-to-date aircraft than were being designed when the Opposition left office, in modern production terms?
§ Mr. Maudling
Many more modern aircraft would be available early if many had not been cancelled by the present Government.
We are concerned about the total inadequacy of Britain's reserves. This brings me back to my earlier point about the uncertainty of our commitments, the inability to foresee exactly the sort of 1034 war we may be called upon to fight. Against that background, our reserves in this country are very small compared with almost any continental country's, and they are shrinking. Figures given on 24th June showed the continued shrinkage in the Territorial Army Reserve. The figures for recruiting given on the same day were really deplorable in terms of individual Services and the Services as a whole. If the trend continues the whole of the Government's defence policy will be undermined. I cannot stress too strongly that the country's future security depends on our having a viable reserve backing our forces.
The Government seemed to give some hints in the White Paper that they are changing their hitherto rigid mind about the question of Territorial Army Voluntary Reserve III. I hope that they will say something really useful about it. They will not get the recruits and the reserves unless on both pay and pensions they are more forthcoming than they have been up to now. I do not see the justification for departing from the Grigg formula and putting Forces' pay before the Prices and Incomes Board, because the Forces are in the peculiar position of being unable to take industrial action. They cannot force through their pay claims by threats of strike. They cannot in any circumstances be pace-setters in the incomes race. Because they do not have that power they have the right to expect that their pay should be brought up regularly to the advances made by other people in the industrial scene in this country. This was our reason for the Grigg formula, and it is the right one. I cannot see why any consideration of incomes policy should lead to a departure from what has been from the point of view of the Services the guarantee of justice and fair dealing for many years.
On pensions I need say little more than that we had a debate a little while ago and the reply from the Financial Secretary disappointed us, as it disappointed the Armed Forces and the pensioners. The Government must move on this, and soon, if they hope to do something to restore morale in our fighting services.
To sum up briefly, we believe that the Government have undermined the morale of the forces by their constant chopping and changing; that they have based their figures solely on a rigid 1035 financial ceiling, irrespective of the country's defence requirements; that they have totally miscalculated Britain's interest, obligations and duties east of Suez; and that the reserve structure they contemplate is totally inadequate to Britain's real needs. For all those reasons we intend to divide the House against the Motion.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Are we to understand from the speech of the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) that if a political calamity struck this country and a Tory Government were returned to power their defence policy would provide for the acceptance of complete responsibility for defence east of Suez? That question must be answered by the Tory Opposition.
Of course, there was apprehension about the withdrawal of British forces from east of Suez. Having read authorised reports about the situation there, about guerilla activity in Java, the attempt of Indonesian forces to contain the guerillas, and the possibility of another conflict between the guerillas and the Malaysian forces, I confess to some apprehension about how the situation will emerge.
But a decision has been reached. It is afait accompli. The forces are to be withdrawn, and there can be no question of either a Tory or a Labour Government turning back the clock.
If responsibility for defence east of Suez is essential, it must be vested to a large extent in the signatories to the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact—the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand— presumably with aid rendered by Indonesia and Malaysia. There can be no question of Britain accepting full responsibility for defence in that area.
When my right hon. Friend challenged the right hon. Gentleman opposite to come clean, it was interesting to have his response. Now we know where we are. Regardless of the expense—[aInterruption.a] Obviously, some expense must be entailed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Some."]— by accepting full responsibility for defence in that area.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Not at this stage. I am only just getting warmed up. I may give way a little later. I will not give way at the moment even for the Chairman of the 1922 Committee. May I be allowed to develop my argument. I have not a great bundle of notes, like right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Only a few ideas that I am anxious to develop, in spite of any interruptions. That is the end of that.
I want an answer to the question: Does it mean that the policy is to be reversed? If so, the Tory Opposition must state explicitly and with the utmost clarity what expense will be entailed and whether the country can afford it.
It is obvious what my right hon. Friend's policy or the Government's policy is. [HON. MEMBERS: "Scuttle."] All right, one can use what language one likes. I prefer another expression. We have abandoned to a substantial extent our responsibility east of Suez. We have not scuttled. There is no question of scuttling. There is nothing sinister or criminal about it. We have to recognise the facts of life—I shall be coming to them very shortly—because, if the debate is to be of any value—I hope I can say this with my characteristic modesty —it has to be constructive. It is all right to indulge in bits and pieces— whether we have the requisite number of aircraft, whether we have missiles available, and so on. We have to decide whether we want defence, and if so, what is to be the nature of that defence. In particular, we have to consider what our objective is.
I understand that the late lamented Duke of Wellington had attributed to him a saying to the effect that the real business of war was wondering what was on the other side of the hill. If he ever made a statement of that kind, it was a very pregnant utterance, because we have to consider our objective and what we are aiming at.
I want to ask a question that has been asked on several occasions in our innumerable defence debates. It has also been referred to in innumerable White Papers by innumerable 1037 Defence Ministers over the years. What is our purpose in Europe? According to my right hon. Friend and according to N.A.T.O., the alliance in Europe, it is to contain the aggressors. Who are the potential aggressors?—the Soviet Union.
But it is now clear—it is admitted on both sides of the House by principal spokesmen—that if there was a conventional war, it would develop into a nuclear war. There is no escape from it. Indeed, it has been referred to on several occasions in White Papers presented by Conservative Governments— nuclear retaliation.
Let us consider what the situation is in Europe. My right hon. Friend mentioned that our forces in Europe were formidable. He said they were second to none in Europe. Of course, it depends on the comparison. Our forces in Europe are stronger, better-equipped and better trained than any of the other forces associated with N.A.T.O. That is perfectly true. But what are the facts about N.A.T.O?
We are supposed to have 52,000 troops on the ground in Germany. I doubt whether that is the correct figure. Perhaps we may be told at the end of the debate what the accurate figure is. I suggest that it is fewer than 50,000. Moreover, when we speak of 50,000 or 52,000 troops, what do we mean? We mean combatant troops, of course. The actual number of combatant troops available in N.A.T.O. in our contribution can be no more than about 35,000. They are spread over two divisions, and two divisions represent six brigades, and whether they are up to full strength I am unable to say. I doubt whether any of the battalions associated with N.A.T.O. are up to full strength.
But what about the other contributions from N.A.T.O. countries? Let us take them in turn. France does not accept the N.A.T.O. command. That must be made clear. Five of her divisions are "assigned" to N.A.T.O. They are in Germany, not under N.A.T.O. command but "assigned" to Germany if war should occur. The Netherlands has two divisions not up to strength, a negligible quantity. Denmark has a negligible quantity. Italy has no troops in N.A.T.O.; eight divisions are "assigned" to N.A.T.O.
1038 Then let us take the United States of America. Here we expect a formidable representation. What do we have? I am not complaining about the United States and its contribution to Europe. It has four divisions, one of which is mechanised, and one armoured brigade. Whether those units are up to full strength, I am unable to say.
What about the rest? Germany has ten divisions. In all, taking the whole of the N.A.T.O. countries, excluding Greece and Turkey, because I do not regard them as being in a practical sense associated with N.A.T.O.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Certainly Greece could hardly be regarded as being in a practical sense associated with N.A.T.O. However, whether that be so or not, as regards the others it is not more than 20 divisions.
Let us now look at East Germany. What about her formidable forces—20 divisions, and ten tank divisions in those 20? What about the Soviet Union? She has 140 divisions with 24 divisions in Europe, and, according to the Institute of Strategic Studies—no doubt it has investigated this matter in the most practical fashion—the Soviet Union forces could build up within a month to 70 divisions in Europe.
Let us look at the situation.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Suppose a conflict occurred. It could occur in this or that way. Suppose it occurred and there was a confrontation—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am developing my argument and do not want it to be interrupted. I shall lose the thread and hon. Members will not have the benefit of it. Already I have almost lost the thread, but it will come back.
I am putting the point of a possible confrontation in the future—this is essential to the argument—from whatever cause it may arise. It may last a couple of hours, two days, perhaps a week or two weeks, and eventually tactical nuclear weapons are used and ultimately we are engaged in a nuclear war.
I am not going to argue about the merits or demerits of a possible solution of that kind. I ask myself the question, 1039 and I venture to ask hon. Members on both sides of the House the same question: are we going to solve this problem by increasing our forces, making an increased contribution in men and equipment, and asking the Alliance to act similarly and the United States to remain in Europe for many years to come? Are we going to solve the problem in that fashion? Or to negotiate with the Warsaw Pact in the hope that it will reduce its forces and we axe proportionately?
§ Mr. Shinwell
No. I will not give way and that is the end of that.
This problem cannot be solved, indeed, there cannot be an approach to a solution, except by diplomatic means. I am going to make a proposition to the House because of what I have just said. What is the cause of the festering sore which exists in Europe and has existed since the last war? There are two causes. One, the reluctance of the Federal Government of Germany to make a firm and unequivocal declaration that she will renounce any claim to the lost territories. That is the first proposition. The second is that West Germany should recognise the facts of life and recognise East Germany. It exists, whether we like it or not.
If that problem could be solved, if, first of all, it was understood in Europe that there was no danger of war arising out of the ambitions and aspirations of Governments in West Germany, and secondly, that there existed an approach —I will rate it no higher than that—to unification in Germany, if that proposition could be consummated, we should then be able to talk in practical fashion about disarmament and disengagement in Europe, but there is no use at all expecting any change in the situation merely by increasing forces on one side or the other, and this has got to be understood.
The trouble in Europe is the fault of statesmanship, the fault of the diplomats, and the intransigence of elements in West Germany. I do not deny for a single moment the ambitions of Soviet Russia. Incidentally, let us just look at what has happened in the Mediterranean—our parish; as it has been, almost, for centuries—our parish: now with a superabundance of Soviet naval vessels with 1040 an infinite variety of missiles potentially of devastating character. This is what we are facing now. I want to say to hon. Members, and it has got to be said with the utmost emphasis and deliberation, that the problem cannot be solved except by diplomatic means, and we must address ourselves to that.
I do not want to suggest that our troops are not well-trained, are not well-equipped, are not a formidable force, but—and I regret to have to say this, and nobody could possibly regret it more than myself because of my past association with the defence Forces of this country, which was perhaps the happiest time I had in my political life, working alongside the most friendly characters I ever met—but if trouble occurred, our troops might be liquidated in a couple of weeks. I do not want to see that happen.
My right hon. Friend, when he talked about savings and reduced expenditure— I was delighted to hear it—made what was almost a boast—he will forgive me for using that expression, but so it appeared to me to be—because he talked about the succession of Polaris submarines capable of devastation if ever they were used, but regardless of retaliation. That is not the way to solve the problem. I have taken part in every one of the defence debates we have had in this House since the last war; I have taken part in them from the back benches, sometimes from the Front Bench, but more often than not from the back benches; and over and over again we have discussed what I regard as the trivialities associated with defence without regard to the goal we are seeking.
Finally I want to say this to my right hon. Friend. The number of troops, which he said, may not matter a great deal, that may not be fundamental in a matter of this sort because, after all, if we have fewer troops they may be better trained than large bodies of troops, and therefore their capability is more pronounced. I accept that, but those of us who are concerned about defence are getting a bit worried about the number of ground troops at the Government's disposal. There seems to be a reluctance to link up with the Services. This has nothing to do with lowered morale. It is possibly because there is more affluence in the country, strange as it may seem, than 1041 in the past, and young men are not disposed to join the Services. I do not blame them altogether for that, but that enhances the need for reserve forces of some kind or another, and I think there should be.
I repeat what I have said on many occasions in these debates. There is a difference of opinion among my hon. Friends on this subject of defence. There are some of them who want to abolish defence altogether; some want to reduce it to negligible proportions, so that it is of no value at all. I believe that, because of the failure of the diplomats and the statesmen, we have got to have defence. It is the only means of security. It appears to be our only means of security. What else is there for us?
We have got to make our contribution to defence in one form or another, but if so it must be effective and efficient, well-trained and well-equipped, even if it costs money, and it is bound to cost money. I can understand the desire and the idealism of many of my hon. Friends who want to cut down expenditure in the hope that the savings can be used for more housing, better roads, more hospitals, and the like. I do not believe that that is the only approach to the solution of our social problems. Money must be found in a direct or an indirect fashion from the people of this country, but unless we can solve the problem in the manner I have ventured to indicate —and I should like to have an answer to that before the end of the debate—then we have got to have a measure of defence.
Therefore, I am going to vote for the Government tonight and not vote in the sense of the Amendment, because much as I dislike N.A.T.O., much as I feel that N.A.T.O. is not fully qualified to face up to the capabilities of a potential aggressor, we have got to rely on something, and N.A.T.O. is for the moment our only hope.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
Much of the argument in that very vigorously delivered speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) seemed to me, and I think to the House, to point to the opposite conclusion to that to which it came. It would have seemed that it should lead the right hon. Gentleman literally into another lobby. Much of what he said, too if he 1042 will not mind my saying so, was perhaps more pertinent to a foreign affairs debate.
But I wish to take the right hon. Gentleman up on the argument with which he began, namely, that a subsequent Conservative Government could not, and I think he suggested should not, return to the Far and Middle East. That was a remarkable proposition coming from a right hon. Gentleman who has seen so many changes in his very long and variegated political life. But surely he must accept that if a Government does something which, in the Opposition's view, is dangerously wrong and damaging to the interests of this country, that Opposition, when they obtain the support of their fellow countrymen, not only can, but, if it is physically possible, must reverse that policy. Surely the right hon. Gentleman has seen that happen again and again over steel nationalisation and a score of issues.
Therefore, when it is clear that there will be a Conservative Government long before the withdrawal from the Far and Middle East has been completed, surely those who differ profoundly from the Government on this issue are entitled to say, and must say, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said so well, that this is a policy harmful to this country which we shall reverse at the earliest possible moment. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Easington will realise that this is the only possible attitude for an Opposition to adopt.
I come to the statement. It is a miserable document, evoking the sour smell of withdrawal, defeat, abandoned allies, the last parades of disbanded units— another stage on the long retreat from greatness for which the Government have been responsible. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet said, this is the fourth Defence Review in 18 months. Does not the Minister of Defence for Administration understand the effect on forces of being subjected, four times in 18 months, to the disruption of a review, with cuts added each time. Every time they are told the cuts will be the last. Every time another series of cuts is proposed until it is clear in every barrack room and on every mess deck that there is nothing that the Secretary of State for Defence will not 1043 surrender if his colleagues push him hard enough—except, of course, the seals of office.
If the Minister wants an explanation of the falling off in recruiting to which he devoted a considerable part of his speech, he has not far to look. The right hon. Gentleman himself said that the greatest danger to recruiting is the creation in the minds of people in civil life of the idea that there is not a good career or good life to be had in the forces. Is it altogether surprising that forces which have undergone this process four times in 18 months should be creating the impression in the minds of young men that this might not be as good a career as it was?
Surely it is not for the Minister just to bemoan the fact that he has presided over a dangerous falling off in recruitment. It is for him to recognise the cause so that he can remedy it. It is for him to make clear that it would be nonsense to say that there was a good career to be had in the forces, if he goes on stage by stage, whenever financial crises caused by the incompetence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer hit this country, to take a further hack at the Defence Forces. It is this which is undermining the enthusiasm for recruiting, the desire to serve and the eagerness of young men to join the Armed Forces.
In the course of his very smug and complacent speech, the Secretary of State —and I am sorry that he is no longer present—showed not a flicker of recognition of the real reason for the falling off in recruiting.
I was disappointed very much that the right hon. Gentleman and the White Paper did nothing to meet the hopes which the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) raised in the January debate about our power to come to the help of our allies in the Far and Middle East after the withdrawal under the Government's plans from our bases there. Let me recall what the right hon. Member for Belper, who was then Foreign Secretary and who wound up for the Government said:The point arose when the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) was speaking. He raised a question in which he is deeply interested, as I am. He 1044 raised the question of Australia and New Zealand, who have come to our help twice in my lifetime, and come a long way to do it, and suffered a lot of casualties. We will have, as they had, a general capability. The fact that it is based here, and not based over there, will not make it any the less available should we, as they did, judge it right to go to their help." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1968; Vol. 756, c. 2078.]How can one reconcile the hopes which were then raised in my mind and perhaps in the minds of many people in Australia and New Zealand with the shabby words in paragraph 69 of the Statement on Defence:Thus, although the Government has decided to retain no special capability for major operations overseas …I ask the Minister of Defence for Administration why the Government have gone back on what the right hon. Member for Belper said—and he would not have said it if he did not sincerely mean and feel it; the right hon. Gentleman may have many faults, but he does not lack sincerity—and why there is to be no special capability for this special operation overseas.
It is useless to suggest, as the White Paper suggests, that a general capability based on Europe can effectively enable us to intervene to help our friends. Would the Minister of Defence for Administration tell me how long after the withdrawal from our bases in the Far East it would take the Government from Day 1 to get to the assistance of Australia and New Zealand a force roughly equivalent to the forces there now?
§ The Minister of Defence for Administration (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
We have not any forces in Australia and New Zealand at the moment, so it would take a bit longer. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted one passage from the White Paper. It is said in paragraph 11 on page 24 that it was agreed and stated in the communiqué issued in Kuala Lumpur thatThere should be a majorreinforcementexercise in 1970…".I suggest that that will show exactly what our capability is.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Does the right hon. Gentleman propose to wait until 1970 to discover what the capability 1045 which the right hon. Member for Belper promised last January will be? Is that intended as a serious answer—that the right hon. Gentleman does not know, will not know next year and will not know until 1970 what the answer will be?
§ Mr. Reynolds
I said that that would show the right hon. Gentleman what the capability is. I am aware of it.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
If the right hon. Gentleman knows the answer now, although apparently hon. Members, in their responsibilities, will be kept in ignorance on this matter for two years, perhaps he will tell the House what it is? If he does not know it, as I suspect, his intervention was pointless and, in accordance with his justifiablesotto voce comment, "I give up". It would have been better if he had given up to begin with. What the right hon. Gentleman thinks is funny is regarded by many of us, and not only hon. Members on our side of the House, as a matter of great seriousness.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said that we have treaty obligations to various countries of the Far East. I have strong feelings about them. I have even stronger feelings about our moral obligations to our Commonwealth friends in that part of the world. The right hon. Gentleman knew that he was being rather silly when he referred to having no troops in Australia and New Zealand. No doubt even the right hon. Gentleman knows that the main defence position at the moment for Australia and New Zealand is in Malaysia, which is why the Australians themselves have troops there.
The question I repeat to him is this. To get back to the Far East anything like the force that is now there after we have withdrawn from these bases, how long will it take? How will he do it? How will he get the heavy equipment there? How long will the whole operation take? Is he even sure that he will have refuelling facilities at Simonstown after his colleagues' treatment of the South African Government? The right hon. Gentleman cannot write off as if it did not matter a thing which, to his credit, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper assumed would matter a great deal.
1046 While I am speaking of the Far East I would say how strongly I protest at the decision more than to halve the existing strength of the Brigade of Gurkhas. These are splendid troops. They are the result of a long tradition, the result of a long-standing agreement between Nepal and this country. The proposition is to run them down to some 6,000. How many battalions will that be, and what possibility will there be of increasing that number once this at present powerful force is run down to that size?
Why is this being done? We were told by the Secretary of State that it was being done for reasons of finance. What saving does the right hon. Gentleman think will be obtained in the next year or two? Presumably the next year or two are what matters if the right hon. Gentleman believes that the financial policies of the Government will restore our economy. Will there be any saving at all in the next year or two when cancellation charges have been paid, when redundancy payments and pensions have been paid and when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) so effectively intervened to point out, we have over a five-year period paid £50 million to Singapore and £25 million to Malaysia to compensate them for the financial effects on their economy of the withdrawal of our forces. If this is to be done for financial reasons and not to placate hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, let us have the figure. Let us hear what the savings will be not in the seventies but in the next year or two. If the right hon. Gentleman has confidence in his Government's financial policies, it is the next year or two that will be decisively important for our economy.
I do not share the enthusiasm of the right hon. Gentleman for pulling out of the Far East and putting all that we have into Europe. Of course we must play our part in Europe. We must play a part, as the British Army of the Rhine, magnificently equipped, does in Europe. Let me quote some words to the Minister of Defence for Administration:and we believe that, if by making a marginal increase in our defence expenditure we can help to preserve world peace, to prevent the clash of rival ideologies, the clash of great Powers in certain parts of the world, it is worth making this expenditure. We have taken a long, cold look at this. We have 1047 spent 16 months in doing it, and we have come to the conclusion that there is a worthwhile job which we can do outside Europe in the seventies with our military forces, and that we intend to do".The Minister of Defence for Administration will recognise the accents of his right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Defence on the television just over two years ago, I accept that view, and I think most of our friends in Europe accept the view that this country, with its special knowledge of the Far East and the Middle East, with its special contacts there, its training and experience, can play a great part not only for itself, not only for its friends in the Far East and the Middle East, but for its friends in Europe in a rôle for which we have a specialised capacity. I believe that our friends in Europe understand this. They do not take the narrow view that the only front on which Communism has to be contained lies, as the right hon. Gentleman says, between the Arctic sea and the Eastern Mediterranean. Most people who have thought about this know that this front is world-wide.
I make one final protest against the way in which these economies, if they have to be achieved, are being achieved. The Secretary of State has adopted the approach of a dentist. He is taking out the teeth and leaving the tail. It is the fighting units that are to go, the aircraft carriers, the battalions, the fighter bomber aircraft. And I must declare an interest— I had the honour to serve in that regiment—the decision to disband the Second Battalion of the Scots Guards is one of the most unhappy of all the decisions. As a Motion on the Order Paper says, I do not believe, in the dangerous world of today, that it is either wise or sensible to disband these and other units which are the result of the work, devotion and skill of those who built them up and those who recruited for them over the years. This is a disastrous and unhappy decision which the Government one day may have the good sense to regret.
It is the fighting units that go. What do the Government do about the tail? In the January debate I ventured to remind them that the British Army of the Rhine had an army headquarters, corps headquarters, three divisional headquarters and five or six brigade headquarters to command 50,000 men. And 1048 this in an age when headquarters do not consist of just a few staff officers and a clerk or two but are large formations with transport, signals, supporting arms and units. Why is it that these no doubt admirable and important headquarters are preserved and it is the fighting units that go?
Why is the much-diminished Navy of today thought to require virtually the same number of major dockyards as was required by the great Navy with which we went into the war in 1939? If there are to be economies and reductions— and no one in this House would believe me as an ex-Treasury Minister if I said that I did not believe that there are often many economies to be achieved on defence—surely it is better sense to make economies in services and activities which, however useful they may be, are not directly part of the fighting capacity of the country, rather than to destroy units which it may take years to restore and which are part of our very slender operational forces in the dangerous world of today.
The Government very much misjudge the world today, and they also very much misjudge the mood of the people. Much of the frustration in the country is not unconnected with a feeling of impatience at the increasing weakness of this country, the fact that Britain can only make representations, and that it seems to cynical foreigners that much of the power and strength have departed from us.
It is the first duty of a Government to provide for the defence of the realm. I know it is infinitely difficult, because there is no precise figure which one can say must be achieved and, if one falls below it, one is wrong. It is a matter of infinitely difficult judgment. But I believe that public opinion is anxious about our weakness. It is instinctively felt, as the Secretary of State admitted earlier this year, that we are taking risks in a world in which risks are of particular sharpness. I believe that the Government are, for the sake of immediately paltry savings, if any, and perhaps by taking steps which involve increased expenditures, and by their air of constant interference and fiddling with our forces, taking action which cannot but undermine their attractiveness and morale. They are making a grave mistake.
1049 Turning once again to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington, I am sure that this is a mistake which the next Conservative Government, when it comes—and it will come speedily— will make haste to reverse.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)
I have listened with great interest to the speeches from both Front Benches. Most of the arguments were concerned with the Government's decision to end the bulk of our commitments to maintain forces east of Suez. I want to say from the outset that I welcome the decision. My only regret is that it was not taken much earlier.
A number of my hon. Friends and I have argued for these cuts over many years. Many of our economic problems could have been alleviated had the cuts been made when they were first advocated from this side of the House. However, belated as the decision is, I believe that it is the right one and deserves the full support of the House.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are living in an age which is fast passing. In fact, I believe that it is long past. It is all very well to pretend that Britain's commitments east of Suez and elsewhere are proof of our world power position—Britain's great power status as the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Car-penter) suggested in the early part of his speech. But our commitments east of Suez have meant, firstly, dependence on the United States of America as the senior partner in the alliance system and, therefore, a subservient foreign policy; and, secondly, an enormous economic burden which has been a basic cause of the troubles and difficulties that we have experienced over a number of years.
It is only right that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite should have the honesty to say that the maintenance of forces east of Suez or their return at some later stage would impose a crippling blow on this country's economy. They have the duty to explain how they would pay for this policy. It would involve a vastly increased public expenditure abroad and, at a time when they are only too happy to talk of cuts in public expediture at home, they must face up to the fact that the policy which they advocate today would place a crushing burden on the living standards of our people. Right hon. and 1050 hon. Gentlemen opposite should make their position very clear and tell the country how they would propose to pay for the maintenance of these commitments.
While I praise my right hon. Friend for the decision to withdraw from east of Suez, I deplore the counterpart which is to make a larger military contribution to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is totally mistaken. It will not be a contribution to adétente or to world peace, and it will continue to impose a considerable burden on the British economy which we shall live to regret.
I know that it may be argued that those of us who have pressed for withdrawal from east of Suez should be satisfied with the progress that has been made. I have said already that I rejoice in the fact that agreement has been reached that the commitments east of Suez are not worth a candle. But I remember the time when some of my right hon. and hon. Friends were not as convinced as they are today about the wisdom of this course of action. I look forward to the time when it is recognised that what some of us are saying today about our commitments in Europe is just as correct as what we said yesterday about our commitments east of Suez.
I recognise that the foreign policy pursued by both major parties in the country is based upon an acceptance of N.A.T.O. and the sister alliances, and this has involved what might be regarded as a division of labour between the United States of America, ourselves and other Powers to maintain thestatus quo in large parts of the world.
In a previous debate on 28th February of last year, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence said:…our aim is to produce a situation in which the local Powers can reach agreement on a framework of stability for themselves without the presence of external forces."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 396.]The same philosophy is expressed in the White Paper. It was expressed by my right hon. Friend today, just as it was expressed by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir A. Douglas-Home) when the matter was discussed last Thursday, and it was expressed again today by the right hon. 1051 Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) when he talked about stability. The principle remains the same, that of stability for the existing social system throughout the world, and I want to challenge this very concept.
If the increased contribution by Britain to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is to enable the United States of America to lessen its European commitments and concentrate elsewhere, I believe that our policy is wrong, and I wish to assail the principle of the alliance systems. As the right hon. Member for Barnet said following an intervention of mine today, it is a principle which involves an attitude among right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite which is tantamount to acceptance of the Warsaw Pact.
I do not believe that the alliance systems constitute a factor for world peace. Many of the crises of the post-war era have occurred when economic, social and political changes in a small country have threatened to lead to that country shaking off the political domination of one of the major alliances—in other words, leading to the country concerned leaving one of the great camps. It was so in the case of Hungary. It was so in the case of Cuba. It is so in the case of Vietnam, and it is certainly so today in the case of Czechoslovakia.
In my view, my right hon. Friend was quite wrong when he said that it was very lax of us to introduce into this debate the question of getting rid of N.A.T.O., at a time when the Czech crisis is in full swing. I believe that the Czech assertion of independence is regarded as dangerous by the East European Powers precisely because of and in proportion to the strength of N.A.T.O. The danger of United States domination leading to a United States takeover of Czechoslovakia is the principal argument being used against the liberalisers of Czechoslovakia.
It is time to recognise that the division of the world into alliances and the attempt of those alliances to veto social and political change is not only an affront to the principles of national self-determination but a major threat to world peace.
Writing inThe Christian Science Monitor this week and discussing recent 1052 changes of American foreign policy, including Dean Rusk's attitude, Mr. Joseph C. Harsch has this to say:In the new American foreign policy there is going to be a new respect for the 'spheres of influence' of the Soviet Union. The converse is of course valid. Washington will expect from Moscow an equal respect for the American 'sphere of influence'. This applies to Cuba. The return Washington will expect for keeping strictly aloof from whatever happens between the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia will be a decisive, if gradual, Soviet disengagement from Cuba.What a disgrace this state of affairs is. What right have the groups which dominate these great powers to seek to bully small powers and prevent them from exercising the right to determine their own affairs often democratically expressed by their own people?
In my opinion, the aim of British foreign policy should be to wind up the alliances and not to strengthen and prolong them. We should recognise that the days when Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin could carve out spheres of influence between them are gone. The younger generation throughout the world will not accept it. We should recognise that we have now reached the end of the postwar era, which was characterised by the division of the world into rival blocs, one led by the United States and the other by the Soviet Union, when there was a rivalry known as the cold war, with enormous pressures placed on every independent country to go into one sphere of influence or the other. The dominance of the United States and Russia is being rapidly undermined despite their enormous military power, despite the web of alliances, despite frantic pleas that these alliances are still indispensable.
The signs of this break-up began perhaps in the 1940s with the break-away of Yugoslavia, but it developed more in the 1950s with the assertion of Chinese independence of Russia and of the assertion of independence of the United States by Gaullist France. It cannot be denied that social, political and economic changes will go on just as long as poverty exists in so many parts of the world. Political revolution will therefore proceed representing a constant challenge to thestatus quo sought by the dominant world powers.
We should recognise the right of small countries to self-determination and social 1053 change. It is totally wrong that we should denounce whatever changes take place in South-East Asia or elsewhere as aggression because it is not true to say that these changes are caused as a result of subversion organised from outside. They arise from the awakening of the people of these countries and their desire for better living standards, freedom and all the other things which we desire for ourselves.
§ Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)
I applaud my hon. Friend's desire to allow us all self-determination, but does not he accept that this is primarily our own concern in the sense that events in Czechoslovakia indicate more than ever the need for a Western Alliance to ensure that we are not subjected to the same sort of pressures that she is being subjected to?
§ Mr. Newens
Clearly my hon. Friend has not followed my argument. I think that the converse is true and that, if the N.A.T.O. Alliance were as solid as it was in the early 1950s, the liability and possibility that Russia might intervene with force as it did in Hungary would be that much greater.
§ Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Is the drift of the hon. Gentleman's argument that the threat by Russia to the Czechoslovakian Government is similar to a threat by the United States Government to the Labour Government of Great Britain?
§ Mr. Newens
I would not suggest that for a moment, but it is not as bad as the threat by the United States Government to self-determination in Vietnam. Perhaps that enlightens the hon. and gallant Gentleman on this point. But I deplore the attitude of Russia in this case. It is totally wrong and I am wholeheartedly in favour of the Czechs being allowed, like any other small country—whether it be Vietnam or the Dominican Republic—to determine their own affairs irrespective of outside bullying.
The argument has been put that in weakening alliances we will encourage aggression on the other side. In my opinion, this is not so. The encouragement given by weakening N.A.T.O. would be to the more independently minded people on the other side, because the menace of the other side always constitutes the best argument for increasing armaments. The converse is equally true.
1054 In my view—and I am no admirer of Gaullist France in many respects—President de Gaulle's independence in foreign policy has done more to encourage the independence shown in the Warsaw Pact countries than British loyalty to N.A.T.O. The argument that Britain needs to be inside N.A.T.O. in order to influence it for peace is totally unacceptable. We have heard that argument on many occasions but I do not believe that the value of influence on the inside has been proved in relation to Nigeria, Vietnam, Greece and other nations. Our influence outside the alliance would have much greater weight.
When my right hon. Friend talks about the attitude of West Germany, let him not neglect the fact that the attitude of the German youth is different in many respects from that of the older generation. It would be quite wrong to assume that there is something congenitally militaristic about the Germans because we might find that when the younger generation of Germans comes of age Germany will adopt a very different attitude. There is already the promise of that happening.
Therefore, this is time for this country to make a basic change of policy which will not be provided by the strengthening of N.A.T.O. I would prefer to see both the Warsaw Pact and N.A.T.O. wound up by agreement. I would prefer to see mutual force reductions and a political settlement in Europe. I would prefer to see us take Mr. Kosygin at his word as he expressed himself in this country in 1967 and see whether we cannot run down these two alliances and eventually wind them up completely.
Speaking for myself, I would be happy to see us taking steps unilaterally to withdraw from N.A.T.O. if such agreement cannot be achieved. But I am not one of those referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) who are not in favour of any army at all. I believe that we should have a strong conventional army but that should not involve an army that would enable us to have troops stationed in many different countries.
There is therefore room for further reduction. I am in favour of using the research which has been undertaken, wherever possible, for peaceful industrial purposes. There is the Explosives Research and Development Establishment 1055 in my constituency, which I have visited. It has done a great deal of useful work which could be applied to peaceful industry. Similarly I am in favour of planning to provide alternative work for those affected by the closure of military establishments.
Having said that, I still believe it to be vital for economic reasons that we should further reduce military expenditure, at least to the level of comparable West European countries. I would not say that that is the ultimate level, either. I regret very much that we still have the Polaris submarines. It is totally wrong, and there is considerable room for us to make further economies in expenditure on armaments without in any way undermining our real strength.
I do not argue these views merely for economic reasons. We should also cut military expenditure as part of a basic policy in order to make our maximum contribution to human welfare, not only here but throughout the world. I welcome the withdrawal from east of Suez in this light, as well as for the economic relief it gives at home. It will enable people in the area to settle their own problems.
At a time when two-thirds of the world's population does not have enough of the right food, when the highly-developed countries spend the equivalent of the total gross national product of the developing areas on arms, at a time when the population of the world is doubling at intervals of 35 years, it seems to me that this vast expenditure on armaments is crass folly.
In 1962 the United Nations published its "Economic and Social Consequences of Disarmament". Page 3 said:… the world is spending roughly 120 billion dollars annually on military account at the present time. This figure is equivalent to about 8 per cent. to 9 per cent. of the world's annual output of all goods and services; it is at least two-thirds of—and according to some estimates may be of the same order of magnitude as—the entirely national income of all the under-developed countries.The total expenditure on armaments has increased since then. We live in a revolutionary age where changes take place very rapidly. We can no longer afford to hang on to the sort of policies which are nostalgically preached, even now, from 1056 the other side of the House. They are obsolete and out of date.
In the latter stage of another post-war era—the Napoleonic war—a famous British Foreign Secretary, George Canning, spoke of calling the new world into existence to redress the balance of the old, when he recognised the new revolutionary régimes of Latin America in his day.
Today the third world is coming into existence to redress the balance of the old and the new world together—the balance as constituted by the United States and the U.S.S.R. The British commitment to conservative forces of the world is totally wrong. We should be marching on the side of the peoples of the world, and on this issue Tory criticism does not worry me at all. When I see the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) shake his head, as though in self-disgust, I feel encouraged that I have managed to incur his displeasure on this issue. It seems to me that the policy put forward by the party opposite will lead to very great dangers for the human race. What we have to do is to pursue the policies which we have now embarked upon, of withdrawing from our overseas military commitments.
In this respect the White Paper goes some way and I welcome that. At the same time, I deplore the fact that while we are doing that in one part of the world, we are stepping up commitments elsewhere. In all humility I very much regret that the Amendment was not called, because it would have given some of us on this side of the House the opportunity of expressing a point of view in which we really believe, whereas we are faced with voting for or against this White Paper, and it is very difficult for us to make up our minds.
Part of it represents an advance, while we consider that the other part is in need of change. It would have been much better had we had the opportunity of voting on the Amendment. I hope that I have made my point of view clear; it is one about which I and other hon. Members on this side of the House feel very strongly. We believe that reductions in arms expenditure have not yet gone far enough, and we shall continue to struggle, argue and campaign for further reductions not only in the interest of the people 1057 of this country, but in the interests of world peace and of all those things for which all hon. Members claim to stand.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
If I may initially bring the House back to the Supplementary Statement, the Blue Paper before us adds very little indeed by way of detail to the acceleration announced in January of the major reductions in our armed forces which were promulgated a year ago in, I think it was, the Red Paper, the Supplementary Statement of 1967.
Not only do we have very little additional detail as to those sharp and rapid reductions but we are certainly given no explanation or justification of them. It is less than four years since the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State entered upon his office with the determination, perhaps for the first time, to think through, from first principles, the requirements of Britain's defence and to reconstruct her defence policy and defence forces upon a rational basis.
Today he must look back with some bitterness on his initial hopes and expectations, when he surveys the result—a budgetary figure for 1973, converted into terms of crude manpower totals for the three Services, unsupported as yet, as this Supplementary Statement admits, by any conception that can be presented to the House of the nature of the forces which those manpower totals represent, or the reasons for the size and composition selected. Between this result and his early beginning there lies a desert of continual, sudden changes of plan and policy so frequent as to be described not as vacillations but almost as vibrations, changes of plan which he himself has candidly admitted to have been the cause of loss of morale and loss of confidence on the part of the Services and which he himself today said were at the root of our recruiting difficulties.
Another product of the Government's obsession—which they impose on the right hon. Gentleman—with a budgetary figure at a distance of years ahead has already been mentioned in the debate. The House knows, I think, that I regard this country's withdrawal from the Continent of Asia as inevitable in the course of things. Indeed, I know that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends feel that 1058 at times I have been tempted to express that belief perhaps prematurely, perhaps too clearly. But nothing can condone the way in which our relations with our friends and allies have been conducted in these last two or three years and the devastation which has resulted from this preoccupation of the Government with a distant budgetary total: treaties denounced before we had begun to renegotiate them, dates specified years— three, five, sometimes eight years—ahead for total withdrawal in circumstances which could not possibly be foreseen, and all this in order to provide a paper justification for a predetermined figure which had been forced upon the right hon. Gentleman.
There is a wicked little word early on in this Statement. After mentioning the withdrawal and the new date of the withdrawal, paragraph 2 goes on:The total number of men now in the forces would consequently be reduced by some 20 per cent…There is no "consequently" about it. The reduction of our forces by 20 per cent., or 10 per cent., or 50 per cent., does not follow "consequently", as the Government pretend, from their actions or their announcements of these last 12 months.
The forces which a nation such as ours requires are not a totting up of garrisons in different parts of the world. They are not to be deduced by poring over the terms of treaties and compiling a list of items entered against each commitment. If the United States only five years ago had worked on these principles, what would it have put in for its commitment to Vietnam? Fifty military advisers perhaps; and now it has half a million men there. Why, not even from our central commitment, from our essential treaty, our membership of the North Atlantic Alliance, could we deduce what ought to be the size and nature of the forces of this country.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) reminded the House—I do not think there is any danger of any hon. Member forgetting it—of what might be portended by the events now unrolling in Czechoslovakia, the unforeseeable combinations and recombinations and shifts in the political pattern of Europe which might, when we look back, be seen to have flowed from the 1059 events of these weeks. But does anyone suppose that, whatever that refashioning of the political pattern and alliances may be, Britain's basic, inherent, fundamental commitment to the security and defence of Western Europe could thereby be altered?
The forces of a country such as ours in time of peace must be those from which we can have a reasonable assurance of raising what we should need in war. From them we must be able to build up, both before the war and as the war proceeds, whatever would be necessary for us to fight to survive, and to fight to win, in that type of emergency which offered the greatest danger to our existence.
I used the words, "as war proceeds". There, of course, lies one of the great debates of defence policy—in this country and, I suppose, in all countries. For 20 years, most of the major nations have, at any rate officially, been benumbed by what I have called the "nuclear hypothesis", the professed belief that either war on a major scale would not come at all, or, if it came, it would almost instantaneously be terminated again by the holocaust of the nuclear exchange.
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, as, I am sure, do many in the House, that the rational doubts, the common sense doubts, about the ten-ability of this whole notion which have long been held in many quarters are now coming to expression. It might be said that common sense, like spring, is "bustin' out all over". The right hon. Gentleman was less than happy this afternoon in his response to the challenge put to him by my right hon. Friend, who pointed out that the latest official statement of the American Administration, our principal Ally, to Congress was based upon the proposition that "the threat of an incredible action is not an effective deterrent".
The right hon. Gentleman talks about an interval not of two days, but perhaps of five days, a few more days, a few more hours, before the statesmen of the various countries would take the resolve to commit mutual suicide. Does he believe that that decision would be more likely to be taken after five days than after two? If he believes that, he believes 1060 what an increasing number of people in all countries can no longer believe. In short, we dare not in all reason neglect that danger which is the greatest with which we can be faced, namely, of having to fight a major war for our survival and having to fight it through without recourse to suicide.
There are two great factors which connect the forces of a country in peace with the forces which it would need to have before war, at the outbreak of war and as war proceeds. One is the strength of its standing forces and the other the strength of its reserves. Obviously, these are complementary, since, within limits, the larger the reserves, the smaller need the standing forces be.
I recognise that the relationship of these two factors is different for the three Services. The ratio of the material to the human in the Navy and the Air Force is different from what it is in the Army; and where the material factor is greater, rate and capacity of production play a greater part in the all-important equation. But the central fact is that we need to have, by way of reserve, whether reserve of capacity, reserve of trained manpower, or reserve of cadres, the means of raising our standing forces to the level which we believe to be the minimum necessary if and when we were faced with the supreme emergency.
Of all the blunders which this Government have committed, the one for which I believe they will least be forgiven is the destruction of the citizen volunteer reserve of this country. The right hon. Gentleman is fond of talking about cost-effectiveness. The Government have thereby sought to destroy the best value for money in terms of defence which this country could possibly have. For what it is worth, I welcome the evidence that, even upon this Government, the necessity of thinking again about the complete destruction of the general-purpose volunteer reserve has been forced. I take some personal pride in remembering that it fell to me to give the undertaking, on behalf of the Conservative Party, that we will restore or will recreate a genuine citizen volunteer reserve in this country.
However, it is, above all, the standing forces which supply the means of providing the forces that would be necessary 1061 in war. The resources of training, of knowledge, of philosophy, the cadres upon which larger forces would be raised, are what the standing forces are there to provide
We have been told that these standing forces, taken as a whole, are to be cut, over a period of five to six years, by no less than a quarter. That is what we are debating—that announcement— in the previous year's White Paper, as accelerated by this White Paper.
In the Royal Air Force, in terms of manpower, the reduction is to be no less than 36 per cent. in six years. That is a terrific and utterly unexplained and unjustified reduction in the Royal Air Force, one to which no third dimension has been given by any indication of the nature and functions of the sort of air forces to which that reduced strength would correspond.
Nevertheless, interest has rightly tended to centre upon the reduction of the Army. When public interest has been attracted by the amalgamation or disbandment of battalions, when emotion has been raised by the disbandment of a celebrated regiment, I do not think this is mere sentimentality, the public eye being caught by something superficial. On the contrary—this has already been suggested—I believe that there is here a deep instinct on the part of the people about the central importance of the regular Army. If we should ever need to produce the forces requisite for a war for our existence, above all it would be the Army which would need to expand again as we have known it expand in two wars in our own lifetime. The Army is the embryo of the nation in arms. The Army is the essential symbol of the will of the people to fight. That is why, rightly, the nation has felt that the unexplained and unjustified reduction of the fighting units of the Army by one quarter was a blow to the safety and to the future of this country.
The right hon. Gentlaman can get up and say: "Very well. I have proposed 46 battalions—at the moment, that is; I may come back a year or two later, as usual and reduce it again. However at the moment I am contemplating an army of 46 battalions in 1973. How many battalions do the Opposition think we should have?" The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), in a debate 1062 a year ago when I prophesied that one day we would mourn the lost battalions, said that this was not the first of the reductions in size which the British Army had undergone.
Those are easy interjections, easy questions to pose. But they miss the essence of the matter. Of course, no one can say that this or that intended strength at the outbreak of war, this or that size of reserve, rate of expansion, size of regular forces, no less and no more, is obviously and demonstrably right. All these are matters of judgment, to be responsibly exercised by a Government. There can be no absolute proof or disproof. But because we cannot give a precise answer, because we cannot give an answer which can be mathematically and logically demonstrated, that does not mean that with levity we can dispense with argument altogether and just say: "These are our figures. Pick your own." Until the right hon. Gentleman is able to show the House and the country what strength of forces he has envisaged as being necessary to the defence of this country in time of war—not now, but 10, 20 or 30 years ahead—and from what reserves and from what standing forces to be maintained in peace he envisages that that wartime strength could be produced, he has not started to do his duty. The right hon. Gentleman knows that he has not done his duty; for he knows with what intentions, expectations and ambitions he set out less than four years ago, and he knows that he has failed.
Sooner or later the questions that I have posed must be answered. I hope that when we have the opportunity to answer them it will not be too late.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Howarth (Bolton, East)
It is not often that we have the privilege of listening to three very different speeches in a run as we have had at this time. It was interesting to note that while the Opposition Front Bench were not noticeably enthusiastic about many of the ideas put forward by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), he appeared to command a much greater audience on the Opposition benches than was present when the official spokesman for the Opposition was opening their case— [Interruption.] We can see the Opposition benches better than hon. Gentlemen 1063 sitting opposite. The right hon. Gentleman has the ability of drawing in—I do not know whom they represent in the Tory Party—a large audience to hear his views. Once again, we had the use of extravagant language, which was as unfortunate in this subject as the choice of language that the right hon. Gentleman has used in other subjects, which cause his removal from the Opposition Front Bench to the back benches and which many of us hope will eventually take him out through the door as well.
The two contributions which were most in contrast were those by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), and my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). I could not help thinking that they were good party conference stuff, but I thought that they would both have received rousing cheers from large sections of the conference. On the one hand, the right hon. Gentleman gave us what could only be described as the pre-war Tory view of imperial defence, as though he had seen and learned nothing in the last 30 years. It was rather in contrast to what his party's spokesman was saying. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to assume that he had a firm assurance that if the Opposition were eventually returned to power they would take us back into the Far and Middle East, but if one listens carefully to what the Front Bench spokesmen opposite say—and once again it came out today—one realises that they so qualify their statements on the Far and Middle East that they mean nothing at all, and it is quite unlikely that even if we had the misfortune of a Tory Government in future they would go back with a military presence into the Far and Middle East.
My hon. Friend makes the error which so many silly-minded radicals do. He sees the world not as it really is, but as he wishes it was, and from this he makes a number of serious errors. I think that the timing of the Amendment is particularly unfortunate. At a time when the pressure being put on Europe by the major military Power in Europe, the Soviet Union, is so naked and clear to everyone, to suggest that this is the time to wind up alliances, for each to make his separate way in the world, 1064 seems ridiculous and fantastic. One wonders whether my hon. Friend, like the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, has learned nothing from the last 30 years.
I noticed with interest that my hon. Friend quoted with approval the example of France and her breakaway from the Western Alliance. One could set against that her rôle in the Middle East, which I do not think has been constructive—nor for that matter has that of the Soviet Union. Here is an example of the world suffering from the problems which arise from things as they are, not as my hon. Friend sincerely wishes they were, and this has to be faced. To think that we would gain in some way in security by renouncing all our alliances and going on our own along, what he called, with the people—whatever that means—is remarkable. If we were all individual units in the world, the advantage would be with the supreme power. When the arguments came, as they inevitably do between nations, that power would be able to use its military power, or the threat of its military power to impose its will on other nations, as the Soviet Union is doing to try to impose her will on Czechoslovakia.
§ Mr. Howarth
I give that to my hon. Friend. That is another example, but to suggest that this is the time when we can make our own way in the world is flying in the face of all that has happened within the recollection of my hon. Friend and myself.
I should like to make a short contribution to the debate on the Supplementary Statement. I want to emphasise that, because it was missed in the speech of the Leader of the Oppositon. It is a Supplementary Statement which has to be read with the Defence Statement issued earlier in the year, because it has much more detail and fills in many of the gaps about which we hear complaints from hon. Gentlemen opposite.
It is only a Supplementary Statement, and I think that many hon. Members were possibly expecting too much, but I think that it now takes us into a quite clear defence posture, and one which I welcome warmly. I have long urged that we should withdraw from the quite unrealistic commitment in the Far and 1065 Middle East, and that we should concentrate our effort in the European and Mediterranean theatres.
I believe that this debate is one of a continuing series which can only be described as historic, historic because they represent the final chapters of the winding-up of a world rôle which we once inevitably possessed as a great Empire power, but which has now passed us by. Therefore, especially as I happen to be a keen advocate of our entry into the European Economic Community, I believe that the strengthening of our role in Europe is to be welcomed. It makes political, economic and strategic sense.
I welcome this policy also because, contrary to what we have heard from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and others, I believe that within ten years, if not five, the United States will have withdrawn her military presence from Western Europe and will expect us to take care of ourselves in this part of the world, and quite reasonably so. Why should we expect the United States to carry such a heavy burden in the possible defence of Western Europe? This is a hang-over from the days of the Second World War, and I am sure that as time goes on voices will increasingly be raised in the United States in favour of an eventual complete withdrawal from Western Europe.
The policies outlined in this Supplementary Statement have my support, and, I believe, wide support throughout the country. I say that because, politically, I believe that to show that we have given up these grandiose aspirations to a world rôle must convince the other European nations that we are serious when we talk about entering the European Economic Community. It must help to create the right kind of climate which will assist us with our entry. Secondly, it contributes to the attempts which are being made to re-establish our economic strength based on our new position in the world, and of course lessens the burden upon our economy by reducing a defence expenditure which was quite out of proportion to what was reasonable.
I must again take issue with my hon. Friends, who, in their Amendment, attempt to suggest that our spending on defence is in some way beyond what is 1066 reasonable. I noted with interest my right hon. Friend's claim that we come somewhere between the spending of France—who, by the way, was applauded by my hon. Friend the Member for Epping in the course of his speech— which spends a greater perecentage of her g.n.p. than we do, and that of Western Germany.
What we have not heard so far, and what I believe is relevant to the debate where the whole idea of N.A.T.O. is being brought into question, is the spending of the Soviet Union on arms. Here is a major world power who, in the last two years, has increased her defence spending very dramatically, and in such a way that the strength of her forces now must be considerably beyond that which existed even when we heard the figures given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell).
In Europe there is now a great imbalance in military forces between Eastern Europe and Western Europe. This has great dangers. We have also seen how Russia is using and has used her increased military power to attempt to interfere in the affairs of other countries. The current example is Czechoslovakia. We must not forget her rôle in the Middle East, and the supplies that she has continued—at, if anything, a higher rate—to give to the Arab countries of the Middle East, thereby contributing significantly to the existing dangers in that part of the world.
This is not the time to talk of reducing our defence effort to quite unrealistic levels. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Epping did not choose to comment upon the mischievous rôle of the major military power in Europe. I draw the quite opposite conclusion—that it makes all the more relevant our defence arrangements in Western Europe, because if we demand the right of independence for Czechoslovakia how much more do we demand the same right for ourselves if we have to insist on policies which at some future stage may be challenged by the main military power in Europe—the Soviet Union?
I believe from what we see now that our effort in Europe needs to be strengthened, for the political and strategic reasons that I have tried to outline, and that on that basis our withdrawal 1067 from the Far East and Middle East makes sense and is therefore worthy of support, certainly by hon. Members on this side of the House. I hope that we shall have a full vote in the Lobby this evening, illustrating the difference between the policies outlined by the spokesman for the Opposition and the many variants that we have heard on it from the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. What at hotch-potch of ideas we heard from across the Floor of the House. It behoves all my hon. Friends to express themselves clearly in support of the Government on this occasion.
While my right hon. Friend was explaining our decisions to recast our defence rôle there were the usual scoffs from the Opposition benches. Once again I detected—possibly from a minority on the benches opposite—the old Tory arrogance, the belief that in some way the world cannot get along without us—certainly without our military presence. It was pleasing to hear the right hon. Gentleman challenge the views of many of his hon. Friends on that point. We expected the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames to take us back to the days before Indian independence by the time he had finished. His was a speech quite remarkable for 1968, in view of the claims of the Opposition that they have modernised themselves and that their ideas are now in tune with the second half of the 20th century.
I want to make a few observations on the equipment of our forces. I do this because, as his second question, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked whether we had the forces to match our new commitments, and whether those forces would be given the equipment they would need to enable them to carry out efficiently and adequately those commitments.
I want first to consider the rôle of the Navy. Once again, I express my concern about the decision to base our surface missile-carrying capability purely on helicopters. I have expressed my concern about this on innumerable occasions at Question Time. I have had the opportunity to see the equipment in the process of building—the Sea King heli- 1068 copters. I have had the privilege of seeing most of the equipment that will be going into them and the missiles that they will be carrying.
There is no doubt that this is a formidable weapons system. I am sure that in many circumstances it will be very effective. It has the great advantage of speed over the patrol boats and larger missile-carrying vessels in the Soviet fleet operating in the Mediterranean. Although I received assurance at Question Time only last week I am particularly concerned as to what will happen in bad weather, and at night. Will these Sea King helicopters, comprehensively equipped as they will be, be able to operate in bad weather—certainly in the sort of weather in which we know surface vessels can still operate throughout the world?
I shall follow with interest the development of this weapons system and I shall continue with my inquiries. I hope eventually to be assured that with this system we have a missile that will be a match for, if not better than, anything that any potential enemy can put into the waters either around these shores or in the Mediterranean.
§ Mr. Howarth
The hon. Member is quite right. I am looking at the earlier statement on the Defence Estimates. As I understand it, our present helicopters are smaller than the Sea King. [Interruption.] My right hon. Friend whispers to me in a loud voice that they use the same missile. Perhaps my right hon. Friend who is winding up will comment on the matter. I assume that the smaller helicopters do not have the capability to operate down to the weather conditions in which the Sea King helicopters can operate, nor, I suspect, do they have the ability to operate at night.
I shall continue to express my doubts. I would have thought that the development of a ship missile system would have been a useful insurance. I nearly said 1069 that it would be a not very expensive one, but that is probably asking too much. I should have thought that it was one we could afford at the expense of something else. I cannot suggest what that something else could be, but I should like to hear further about this and I hope that my right hon. Friend will comment upon it at the end of the debate.
As for the Royal Air Force, my concern is at the small order of Harriers. It seems that a very impressive force of Phantoms is coming into operation at present which, as I understand it, will complement the Harriers. Yet there is this great imbalance between numbers, as far as they are known, and one would have hoped that, even at the expense of the Buccaneer order, it might have been possible to increase the number of Harriers so as to have a more balanced force. I should like to hear the views of my right hon. Friend on the extent to which this imbalance will affect the capability of those aircraft to operate together.
In previous debates I have urged the need for speedy decisions on the advanced combat aircraft. I know that efforts are being made to achieve genuine international collaboration on this project. I am also aware—because of my knowledge of the civil side of aviation—of the great difficulties involved in trying to achieve international collaboration on such a complex project.
I wish my right hon. Friend well in his efforts. I know that he has put a great deal of work into this. I hope that he will not be disappointed or let down, as he was in the—dare I mention it— Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft of yesteryear. One hopes that when we discuss the next Defence White Paper, it will contain clear indications of what the major re-equipment for the Royal Air Force will be in the mid-1970s onwards in the shape of a strike reconnaissance aircraft.
My final point concerning the Royal Air Force is the question of heavy transport aircraft. My right hon. Friend will be aware that certainly the Americans and the Russians have developed, and are developing, very heavy aircraft for transporting heavy military equipment. If we are to be able to give assistance, as I hope we will always be prepared to do, to New 1070 Zealand, Australia and Canada at relatively short notice, clearly we will need the capability of lifting heavy military equipment. While we have in the VC10, the Belfast and the Hercules modern and first-class aircraft, they do not possess the capabilities of the largest aircraft which the two super-Powers are bringing into service or are developing.
In connection with the Army, I wish to comment simply on the rôle of helicopters. I am aware of the Anglo-French agreement on the three helicopters, some of which are for the Army and which, from what I have seen of the presentation given by the companies over here, will certainly be first-class equipment for the Army. Unfortunately, however, as we know, the Chinook helicopter was lost in one of the defence reviews and, seemingly, we will not for many years possess a heavy-lift capability in helicopters.
Once again, I understand that it is necessary or desirable that we should have equipment which is capable of lifting some of the heaviest pieces of Army equipment on the battlefield for repair or recovery. One hopes that in the next Defence Statement, which, I trust, we will be discussing next March, this omission also will be remedied. This is a target among others which my right hon. Friend should set himself.
There have been many harsh words about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I believe it is true to say that he has held his office longer than most of his predecessors. He has a reputation in the Forces which is first class. It is recognised that he has worked in very difficult circumstances which were not of his own making. Despite this, he has genuinely tried hard to give the Forces the equipment which they needed to make the arrangements which were in the best interests of the defence of this country and its allies and to give those serving in the Forces as good as deal as possible.
For that, my right hon. Friend deserves credit. I certainly believe that the vast majority of people would reject the sort of charges which are made against him by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. His record is a good one. When the times comes for the history of this period to be written, I believe that the historians will take a much kinder view of his rôle and his achievements for the 1071 Forces than has been that of the Opposition.
I once again urge my hon. Friends, whom I seem to have driven from the Chamber, who are signatories to the Amendment to settle at least for part of the piece of cake and to come with us into the Lobby this evening.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Hamilton (Salisbury)
I am grateful to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, and that you should still defend the rights of back benchers. I was here this morning at 10.15 and was about to speak on this self-same subject when through the door came the Patronage Secretary, together with the Leader of the House. I was on my feet but was bludgeoned into silence because the closure was applied. That action this morning by the Patronage Secretary means that my subject has been transferred far more appropriately to this defence debate. I shall not, however, speak for longer than is necessary, because I know of the reaction among others who wish to speak when one talks too long.
The White Paper states that the Armed Forces offer a stimulating, worth while and enduring career, and certainly that is true, but on occasions things go wrong. Just over a week ago, to an empty Chamber, I told the strange story of an Army officer. Today I wish to lift the veil on the fuller implications of that story. I do so with my apologies to the Minister of Defence for Administration, who was present also on that occasion. I will quickly skim through the bare bones of the story and then move on to its implications. I assure my hon. Friends that this is no hole-in-the-corner constituency story but has far-ranging implications.
At the beginning of last year the Army published some excellent new redundancy terms. Among the officers who were tempted to apply for retirement from the Army under those terms was a certain Major Blundell. He made application in the spring of last year and by the autumn it was agreed that he should leave the Army at the end of March, 1968.
At the same time, he thought about his future and he decided to apply for a career in the Diplomatic Service. He was an able and gifted officer. He is happily married with four young children. On 1072 1st May, last year, he applied for a career in the Diplomatic Service. Once again, by the autumn he learned that his application had been successful. He succeeded in going through the tests and competitions and he learned that a post in the Diplomatic Service would be offered to him subject to age, health and other matters being satisfactory. Thus his future appeared assured. He was to leave the Army on 31st March this year and move into the Diplomatic Service on 1st April. I stress that point in passing. There was no question of a civilian going into the Foreign Office. Here was a solider who, on the stroke of midnight, was to be changed from a soldier into a diplomatist."Le roi est mort: vive le roi": the principle is the same.
When all seemed set fair, suddenly the first blow fell. This officer went to the Foreign Office in January, 1968, and was told, "We are sorry but we cannot now accept you after all. We find that 17 years ago you were taken prisoner by the Chinese Communists in Korea. Radcliffe is Radcliffe, and because you were taken prisoner with the Gloucester, Radcliffe recommended that anybody who has been held by the Communists for any length of time must be debarred." It was a very bitter blow.
When he walked out of the building that day in January, he realised that he had wasted a very long time indeed, from the spring of last year right through to this year. He was almost at the point of leaving the Army in a matter of weeks rather than of months and instead of having a nice career awaiting him and a home to go to, he had neither.
What did Major Blundell do in such circumstances? He did exactly what any one of us here would have done. He went to his commandnig officer and said, "I am in trouble. I must apply for another few months in the Army to give me time to reorientate myself in the light of this last-minute decision by the Foreign Office". His commanding officer agreed, and brigade headquarters said, "Certainly, yes". The matter was forwarded to the Ministry of Defence. One would have hoped that all would go well.
I am anxious to keep this recital of the facts to the absolute minimum, but it is an extraordinary story. On the day when he went to the Foreign Office and learned the bad news, the Foreign Office 1073 said to him, "Is there any other way in which we can help you?". This reply was "I do not want to be in the Home Civil Service, which has never interested me. I have always soldiered overseas. But if you can help me to get a temporary post with the High Commission in Australia, that would be most helpful ".
The first I knew of this case was almost at the end of March—22nd March—when into my office in Salisbury walked Major Blundell. He had only one week left in the Army to go. He had had no extension but was waiting anxiously. Moreover, he had heard nothing about Australia. He wanted to know whether I could help him. I took the matter up with the Foreign Secretary to see whether he could help as it was his Department which had rejected the man. I wanted to know whether he could help regarding a post in Australia. The whole matter then moved away from the Ministry of Defence and away from the Foreign Office to the Commonwealth Office. This was something of an irrelevance, but that is how things work in the Government machine.
Because of time, I shall not take the House through the appalling rigmarole which I had in dealing with the Government in this matter. The Commonwealth Office informed me five weeks later that Major Blundell's service in the Army had been extended at least until July. It was wrong. I wrote back and told the Commonwealth Office that his service expired on the original date, 31st March. So it went on. The last blow which befell this officer was that one fine day a bailiff called at his married quarter and served a summons on him instructing him to appear—as appear he did—on 26th June at Andover court in order that the Minister of Defence might acquire possession of the married quarter which had been his home.
This was an astonishing state of affairs. Most hon. Members present tonight have been in the Army and they will know that it was by no means the sort of practice which one would expect from the Army.
I told the story in the Adjournment debate a week ago. To use his own words at the opening of his reply, the Minister hid "little comfort to offer". That phrase fairly summed up his reply. The only concession he made was to describe the service of the summons and the humiliating appearance in court as 1074… this unnecessary personal inconvenience". —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1968; Vol. 768. c. 1834.]If this case were less serious, I should award that euphemism the prize for this Parliamentary Session.
I come now to the graver issue which underlies this astonishing story. In my Adjournment debate, I asked for an inquiry. This was brushed aside—"I see no possibility of there being an inquiry ". I was that night reminded of another army officer who was wronged by his Minister of Defence, and in his case it took no less than 12 years to have his treatment reviewed. That was another major, not Major Alan Blundell but a certain Major Alfred Dreyfus.
I have given the Government every possible chance in the matter. I wrote to Lord Shepherd of the Commonwealth Office in May saying that I considered it a very serious case indeed, but Lord Shepherd was busy with the affairs of Nigeria at the time. No discredit to him for that, but at no time do the Government appear to have appreciated the implications of the case. Ministers in all Governments are overworked, and they did not have time to appreciate what was going on. They were happy to leave Thursday's Adjournment debate to the Commonwealth Office, a Department which had hardly the remotest connection with the case itself. They were happy to leave it to a junior Minister. I do not criticise the hon. Gentleman, and I think it fair to say that he was probably not aware of the true nature of the material which he was handling. I called at his office six days beforehand to give him an idea of the points which I should raise in the debate, but still the Government were not alerted. This was just some passing constituency problem, the small change of day-to-day administration.
If only the Government had handled the matter correctly, reasonably, decently and humanly, I think I should have been prepared to let the matter rest. If they had not denied simple justice to this man, that might have been that. I have been reluctant to take matters further— not to have the Government's face, for I have no concern about that, but because of other reasons. However, since Major Blundell and his family have left England for good before the House can reassemble, I feel that I must speak now or not at all.
1075 What has happened? The Minister of Defence has been caught red-handed by a rare, and probably unique, set of cirsumstances. It is probably the first time since Lord Radcliffe reported in 1962 that a serving officer who has been a prisoner of war in Communist hands and who subsequently has been consistently in positively vetted posts has had a wish and has also had the ability to qualify for an established post in the Diplomatic Service.
There are plenty of serving officers in the three Services. There are plenty of serving officers who hold positively vetted posts. There are plenty of serving officers who have been in Communist hands. There are plenty of serving officers who may seek to join the Diplomatic Service. There are plenty of serving officers who are sufficiently able to obtain a position.
What distinguishes Major Blundell is that he qualifies in all five respects. A pentathlon is an athletic contest of five events. Unfortunately for the Minister of Defence—I wish he would return to the Chamber—it happened that Major Blundell wasVictor Ludorum, and therefore the Diplomatic Service had no choice at the end of the game but to snatch from him the trophy which he had won. The conclusion was reached, as Lord Shepherd wrote to me in May,in view of the Radcliffe Committee's recommendations against the employment of men who have been held captive or interned in Communist hands in posts dealing with sensitive materialIt must have been a difficult choice for the Foreign Secretary: either he could choose to breach the most solemn security procedures of all by admitting Major Blundell or he could lay wide open the flank of his colleague the Minister of Defence. I consider that what he did was right, painful as it is for me to say it and painful as it is to the interests of my constituent. The irony of the situation is that the Minister of Defence has been exposed by none other than the Foreign Secretary himself. It is indeed an astonishing case.
After that decision had been made, I sensed a slight tremor of apprehension. From that time onwards, this officer clearly constituted a grave potential embarrassment to the Minister of Defence, and in an attempt to cover his tracks he 1076 acted with less than his usual adroitness. He refused to grant even a week's extension to the officer's Army service to give him time to replan his life in the light of the last-minute Foreign Office rejection. The right hon. Gentleman acted quickly, and he ignored the normal practices of the House in pausing to consider representations made by a man's Member of Parliament. He ignored the pleas of the man's senior serving officers and acted "contrary to the expectations "of Lord Shepherd at the Commonwealth Office, who had" assumed that all was well".
The right hon. Gentleman equally acted without the knowledge of the Foreign Office, which would doubtless have liked to help this man, whom it found itself bound to reject, in supporting his plea for his extension of his Army service. It was not clear, as the junior Minister said last Thursday night, to the Diplomatic Service that the Ministry of Defence had intended to turn down the application for an extension, giving that almost unbelievable eviction order. 1 spoke of a short appearance in court. Has any hon. Member ever heard of an officer holding Her Majesty's Commission being served with an eviction order to leave his married quarters like that? In my experience, it is unique. This is all very odd.
No doubt, explanations will now be advanced. I am perfectly content that the House should assess them for what they are. In any case, these incidents are now past history and incidental to my main theme. All I can say is that they served to alert me to the fact that the case had a most unusual flavour about it.
The most disturbing fact to emerge from this welter of detail is that, more than six years after Lord Radcliffe reported, positively vetted posts in the fighting Services continue to be held by those who have been captive in Communist hands. This situation obtains in direct defiance of the recommendations of Lord Radcliffe. There is nothing unique about Major Blundell's situation except that he was so successful.
There are others in the Armed Services who have been in positively vetted posts, and are in them today, who have been in Communist hands. I do not know how long the list is. I assume that it includes members of all three fighting Services. I 1077 know that it includes ranks higher than that of major. I give no names, for there would be no point. The Minister has his records, and knows that this is true.
We are clearly concerned with a breach of security by the Secretary of State. This is a very grave matter. I believe that the men to whom I refer are of the highest integrity and patriotism. Some were captured with colleagues who remained with them throughout their captivity, and, therefore, there is no question of their having been brainwashed or anything like that. This applies to Major Blundell, who was with the Gloucesters.
I have said that I pondered before raising the issue tonight because doing so may well mean that those men will be sent to other posts. But what is right must surely be implemented. I believe that their sole concern is that they should be able to serve their country in whatever capacity, and if there must be changes and postings, then that must happen. Truth will out, and I think that that is their attitude.
I hesitate on other grounds, because 1 would not wish to give the impression to our friends overseas that our security system in general is lax. I am concerned tonight with a specific charge. Lord Radcliffe has been disregarded in a most critical field. Therefore, we are concerned in this defence debate with nothing less than the security of the State.
Major Blundell is a man on whose integrity I would stake my last farthing, but that is not the point. The Foreign Office was right. It knew that once a Government Department is allowed to put its own interpretation on Radcliffe, the whole of our security system collapses. It realised that once Lord Radcliffe's recommendations are allowed to become a subject for debate, all is lost. Either a post is positively vetted or it is not, and that is the essential point. Once the relative sensitivity of Polaris, Porton or a post in a Communist country becomes subject to argument, catastrophe lies ahead. Where discretion and interpretation of the rules by individual Departments is tolerated, therein lies disaster.
It was for this express reason that in 1962 Lord Radcliffe, Field-Marshal Templer and others were asked to recommend a comprehensive system of security from which no Government of any com- 1078 plexion dare to depart. They drew up a framework of absolute clarity within which there could be no scope for debate, for Governments of either party to twist, turn or shuffle out of their responsibility.
I like to think that my personal relations with the Secretary of State have always been good. Only last week, I was able to thank him in the Chamber for some of his remarks after his visit to Porton. But it sometimes happens that when a Minister is challenged like this, he tends to bolt for cover instead of taking the honourable course. For this reason I must make three very clear references to Radcliffe to ensure that loopholes are not left open.
§ Mr. Edwin Brooks (Bebington)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for interrupting his speech to which the whole House is listening with great sympathy and understanding. But as he himself said at the outset, he is to some extent raising a particular matter for which he was unable to have time this morning. He has now spoken for more than 25 minutes on a matter which does not arise specifically out of the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy which we are purporting to debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. I should draw to the attention of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Michael Hamilton) that he is rather wide of the Defence White Paper and that, in view of the subject, he has gone on for rather a long time, bearing in mind that a large number of other hon. Members wish to speak.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I appreciate your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have spoken as I have because I consider this to be of national importance.
The relevant points in Radcliffe are, first, paragraph 12, headed "Definition", which makes it crystal-clear that what goes for the Armed Services goes equally for the Foreign Office. Radcliffe applies without distinction and beyond argument to both equally.
Paragraph 52 explains the processes known as positive vetting and specifies the posts to which it applies and describes the rigorous process itself. It is specific, Either a man is positively vetted or he is not.
1079 Lastly, I refer the right hon. Gentleman to paragraph 77, which debars a man from security jobs if he has been in Communist hands.
Major Blundell was in a positively vetted post during 1962, the year in which Lord Radcliffe reported. He was transferred to another such post in 1964, and remained in it till 1967.
I hope that the Minister will not, therefore, seek to escape by saying that it was right to take a calculated risk with Major Blundell for so many years. If he were to seek this avenue I equally should be forced to name others in the fighting services, which I am loth to do. As the list of the cases in which the circumstances were exceptional lengthened the House would be bound to ask itself how many exceptions are needed before they cease to be exceptions. "We recommend," Lord Radcliffe wrote, "that no one should be so employed ".
I have no criticism of the Army. It emerges from the case with clean hands. But the Blundell case indicates a situation in which, more than six years after Lord Radcliffe, positively vetted posts in the Armed services continue to be held by people who have been prisoners of war, just as Blake was a prisoner, in Communist hands.
Lord Radcliffe's judgments are harsh, not least to my constituent because his career was damaged. But they must be harsh. Lord Radcliffe is concerned with the security of the State, nothing less. His judgments are harsh, too, to Ministers of Defence, whose careers are also damaged if they wilfully disregard them.
The present Minister of Defence has, I believe, been caught out, and after some rather clumsy covering up—I am sorry that he was not in the Chamber when I described that stage—he has been shown by events to have been negligent in this the most important field of all. It is true, I know, that his Government have shown scant regard for Lord Radcliffe before, but at this time we discover that he himself has disregarded Lord Radcliffe consistently and knowingly throughout his term of office. I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree with me and feel, as I do, that the right hon. Gentleman should take the one honourable course open to him.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, North)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Michael Hamilton) will not expect me to comment on his case.
I have been listening to the debate with some interest. Whether one agrees with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) or not, I think one must agree that he is always likely to make a unique contribution to a debate.
Addressing myself to the rest of the Opposition, I am forced to say—offering them a bit of disinterested advice—that the General Election is a long time away and already their statements on defence policy are beginning to wear a rather tired air ofdéja vu. We have already this afternoon, in spite of everything that has gone before, had emotion-choked voices recording the rôle of the regiments that are no longer with us, and even the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West could not avoid a reference to it.
If we are to flog the subject to death, I would say to my right hon. Friend how grateful I am that he has exercised inspiration in his selectivity among the regiments and preserved the Royal Welch Fusiliers. I notice that the Minister of State is wearing the tie around his neck. I had the honour of serving in the 1st and 4th Battalions. It is a fine regiment. I should have said to the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), had he been here, that one battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers is worth any number of Guards regiments. The story goes that they were offered the chance of becoming Welsh Guards in the First World War but turned it down.
Listening to the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), I was reminded of the old military aphorism that to try to be strong everywhere is to be weak everywhere. This is another fault of which the Opposition tend to be guilty.
But there is one thing that I will say to the right hon. Member for Barnet. There was a welcome honesty in his approach to the problems of east of Suez, in that he was prepared to admit that a return to east of Suez, if it is 1081 possible, and if the right hon. Gentleman ever becomes Minister of Defence, will cost money. This is a welcome change from the last defence debate that we had when the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath), the Leader of the Opposition, was trying to advocate—my right hon. Friend was very gentle to the Opposition in not reminding them of it— that we should hold on to the bases east of Suez in trust and until such time as the French, Germans and Italians join us in patrolling the area and maintaining a European presence there. I was very sceptical of the idea when it was first put over last March, and nothing that has happened since has led me to believe that there is the slightest credence to be placed in this doctrine. As I say, I thought that my right hon. Friend was very generous to the Opposition in not reminding them of the idea put forward by their Leader, which, in my view, was totally without reasonable foundation.
I want to raise two main points on the Supplementary White Paper. The first is a subsidiary point which has not been dealt with in the debate so far, and the second relates to our main N.A.T.O. and European strategy.
First, the subsidiary point that I should like to discuss is the peaceful use of military forces. I believe that this has a useful part to play in the post-imperial rôle which Britain's Armed Forces are now beginning to adopt. I am somewhat disappointed that the Supplementary White Paper does not mention this topic. The Under-Secretary of State for the Army promised me on 12th June that there would be a statement about the attitude of the Defence Department to this new development before the Recess. I suppose there are still 24 hours to go, but the statement has not yet appeared, and I am awaiting it with bated breath. In the absence of the statement, I wish to make one or two comments.
I suppose that from the days when the Roman legions built the Roman roads the civil use of military forces has been an aspect of military life. But I think that, particularly arising from confrontation in Indonesia, there is a realisation that our military forces can make a contribution to police keeping operations which is not necessarily military and which may prevent a policing problem 1082 from becoming a military problem. There is a growing awareness, particularly in a place like Scottish Command, that something along these lines is one of the major contributions that our Armed Forces can make.
One can always draw attention to the sort of thing one means in terms of dramatic tasks undertaken by our Forces. For instance, there was recently the provision of a road and an airstrip in Thailand, we have had troops well boring in Kenya, we have built a civil airfield in the Leeward Isles, and a 550 ft. bridge was built in the Congo. Most of these are jobs for the specialists and engineers. But one wonders whether if any of our battalions ever undertake a police-keeping rôle on behalf of the United Nations a pair of mechanical fitters mending the vehicles of the native population in one of the less developed parts of the world might not do far more good than a whole squadron or platoon of soldiers, armed to teeth, hanging around a strategic point. This is the sort of thing in which hearts and minds can be influenced, and it is the sort of line that I think our troops ought to follow much more closely.
If our battalions are to go overseas it might well be a function for them to carry with them some larger supports in education, medicine and engineering than they normally would in accordance with peacetime establishments. Of course, it is all a question of balance. I can quite understand that the Army does not want to be regarded as a rather superior type of civil engineering contractor. I can quite understand that men who have joined the Army for the reason that a soldier's life is an attractive life would not be prepared to spend their time labouring away, and of course one does not want to find a situation where possibly a riot is not stopped from occurring because a battalion is out gathering in the harvest, but I think that it should be borne in mind that the arrival of an Army unit in a particular area is an accretion of organisational strength and manpower in that area, a sort of reserve which that area has not enjoyed before. If one looks at it from this point of view—and the experience, I think, of Indonesia does strengthen this point—a 1083 contribution can be made for useful tasks which can considerably influence the population which is being policed.
I leave that with my right hon. Friend and turn to the other aspect of the supplementary Defence Paper and that is the N.A.T.O. and European strategy.
As far as I can see, however one looks at the problem of N.A.T.O. and the defence of Western Europe, however one dismembers bits and puts them together, possibly standing them on their heads, the key seems to me that we must organise N.A.T.O. in such a way that the Americans are encouraged to retain their rôle in the defence of Western Europe. I believe that if we as a country could treble our contribution to the defence of Western Europe, if we could improve equipment, by spending money far beyond the level the people of our country would be prepared to spend, and yet if this were so, it seems to me that, to combine that with the withdrawal of the American interest in Western Europe—and here my right hon. Friend was not, in the long-term, wholly encouraging—would mean Western Europe would be a much less secure place than it is at the moment. At any rate, I believe that the inhabitants of Western Europe would feel themselves to be much less secure, because the main military threat, to their minds, must always come from the Russians, and the Americans are really the only nation which can match the Russians in terms of military forces.
§ Mr. Healey
I would not like my hon. Friend to think that I thought a general American withdrawal was desirable or likely. I said the opposite in my speech.
§ Mr. Moyle
I would not take issue on that point at all. I understood my right hon. Friend to say he wished these links strengthened, but I think it is fair to say also that, in looking into the future, this spectacles were not entirely rose coloured.
There are a couple of other points I think we should bear in mind. We are, to a very large extent, at a cross-roads in defence policy. We are concentrating our forces in and around Western Europe, but I think that what we should bear in mind that it is not necessarily the number of British troops which are actually stationed on the Continent, that matters. What 1084 matters in this context I think is that, even as we are deploying forces towards Western Europe, we should try to impress upon our allies that it is the number of British troops who could be brought to bear fairly quickly on a potential battlefield that count. That is, I think, the factor which is important. This may not be an easy process, I agree. But we have a situation where a Rhine Army brigade is already stationed in this country. I have been assured that it could be returned to the Continent in a matter of days.
I often notice that, in assessing the rival defence strategies of the Russians and ourselves, Russian forces in the Urals are often brought into the equation, whereas no allied forces this side of the Channel are, and yet the fact of the matter is that British forces stationed in this country are much nearer to a potenial battlefield than the Russians in Moscow are, and we shall have, once we have withdrawn from the Far East, a very substantial proportion of logistic support, considering the distances over which our forces will be expected to move.
But we do have a fundamental alteration in national strategy. For instance, the Defence White Paper on page 10, paragraph 35, says:By the end of the period"—that is, 1972—the Army will be concentrating mainly on its primary rôle of defending the central region of Allied Command Europe.I think it is fair to say that no British Government and no Defence White Paper produced since the end of the Hundred Years War would have been able to make a comparable statement of that nature.
This emphasises the change in our national strategy which has occurred, and the intervening strategy has been a very successful one, so presumably there are some major reasons for making the alteration. I think it is also fair to say that just because a course of action has not been followed in the past or is a new course, that is no reason for rejecting it, But on the other hand I think we would have expected very material benefits to flow from our new attitude in defence, and I shall look forward to seeing them.
On the question of defence and the concentration on Western Europe I think one may reflect on the possible broader 1085 political lessons which are to be drawn. I was very impressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet saying that our withdrawal from the Far East, in his view, would lead to American isolation. This may well be true, but it also struck me as being a natural corollary that, if one concentrates on Western Europe, this tends to leave the United States alone, and then one does tend in f'act to strengthen the forces of isolation in the United States. It was one of the arguments we have had in applying to join the European Economic Community that some people thought our presence in that Community would stop it from becoming inward-looking, whereas other thought that by our joining the community we would be made inward-looking by the Community. Since the application was made, defence has been really the only field where we have had freedom of manoeuvre to try out a European policy. I think the result has been that in defence we now have a very inward-looking policy and that has been (he effect of the European strategy on our outlook. We have not succeeded—that is why I mentioned the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bexley at the beginning of my speech— in making the Europeans outward-looking.
Of course, defence is a field with its own peculiar arguments. It may well be that in other spheres of activity, such as technology and overseas aid, we may have a very much better effect on Europe. All I can say is that, looking ahead, and judging by the one field where we have had freedom of manoeuvre, the omens are not good for the future, if one draws deductions from our experience. It was because of that that I was particularly anxious to emphasise the contribution which the peaceful use of military forces could make to overseas countries, and one of the reasons why I think it is worth while going on with it in the hope that our Army and our Forces will cease to be quite so inward-looking and will remind this nation that we have responsibilities to the world outside Europe, if we wish to maintain the peace of the world.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
If one point has clearly emerged from the debate it if; that the passionate argu- 1086 ments about the rôle of Britain east of Suez in the 1970s are now of academic interest only. I remember that in my early debates when I was defence spokesman for the Liberal Party, which I am not now, I used to cross swords a great deal with the Secretary of State, and no one was a more passionate or determined advocate of the rôle of Britain east of Suez in the 1970s than the right hon. Gentleman. He put a great deal more passion and conviction into it than did the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) when, speaking in opposition to the Secretary of State, he expressed the view that we might have to renew our obligations east of Suez in the 1970s. Just as the inexorable march of events has made the Secretary of State eat his words, so in time the right hon. Gentleman will have to eat his. However much we might think that we should like to have had a rôle east of Suez, inevitably it comes down to what we can afford and what we can sustain. The great William Pitt once said, and I never tire of quoting this, that the arm of Britain must never be extended further than it can be maintained, and the truth is that we could not maintain or sustain an arm of any strength east of Suez in the 1970s.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Has the hon. and learned Gentleman worked out what percentage of the gross national product is represented by our entire effort east of Suez?
§ Mr. Hooson
Certainly. The foreign exchange costs of maintaining bases east of Suez in the 1970s would be £79 million per annum, which in simpler terms is 4d. per gallon on the tax on petrol. That is just the exchange costs of defence bases without regard to other costs. If what the Conservatives have advocated in defence this year alone, without regard to anything else, were to be accepted, the cost would be £395 million, which is the equivalent of an increase in the standard rate of Income Tax of Is. 5d.
I was about to develop an argument about our position in Europe. I listened with great interest to the speech of the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). I have often disagreed with him, but I thought that this afternoon he made a most valuable contribution to our thinking about Europe. I have 1087 always been a passionate believer in N.A.T.O. It is useless for the so-called Left-wingers to pretend that if only N.A.T.O. had not been there all would have been well in the late 40s and 50s. The truth is that while we had people in Russia pursuing the Stalinist line, the hard line, they would not have been stopped but for something of the nature of N.A.T.O. Between the mid-1940s and the present time Europe became the most secure continent because of N.A.T.O.
At the same time, we are left in a dilemma, because nothing is worse than thestatus quo maintained for longer than is necessary. The right hon. Member for Barnet referred to this when he said that it was arguable that with the Warsaw Pact on one side and N.A.T.O. on the other there was security. But then if one country disengages, such as France or Czechoslovakia, that threatens the whole balance of Europe. This leads to the dangerous temptation for the United States, for example, to want to abandon certain countries as being in the Russian sphere of influence, or for Russia to abandon other countries as being within the American sphere of influence.
We ought to take steps to find some kind ofdétente in Europe. We have to face the fact that there are two strands of thought within Russia as there are within this country. No doubt the Prime Minister of Russia is receiving advice to follow a hard line in Czechoslovakia, just as he is also receiving advice to follow a more liberal and compassionate and understanding line. The more N.A.T.O. is made into a strong military alliance, in a sense the more is strengthened the influence of those in Russia who favour a hard line. Equally, it is likely that if the hard line succeeds in Russia, the inevitable reaction in the West will be to strengthen N.A.T.O. and to make adétente much less likely.
In these circumstances, it is in the interests of the West as well of the Eastern European countries to try to get some kind of security arrangements in Europe. The right hon. Member for Easington was right to say that what was holding us up was the German question; it lies at the foundation of all our troubles. I have a number of German friends working within N.A.T.O. and I say to the West Germans that they have to take great care that they do not hold 1088 their allies in N.A.T.O. to ransom on the issue of the future of Germany. Many of the fears of Russia and the Eastern European countries arise from a fear of Germany rampaging again to recover its "lost territories". The Germans ought to make a constructive contribution towards a settlement of the great problem of Europe and ought to be agreeable to sitting down at a European security conference with East Germany as well as other countries.
I have no doubt about this. I have had some experience as the chairman of a working party of N.A.T.O. parliamentarians who were in favour of carefully exploring the chances of changing the climate in Europe by probing the possibilities of a security conference of this kind. The lukewarm or cool reaction has come in my experience from the United States and West Germany on the one hand and the Soviet Union and her immediate satellites, or those immediately under her influence, on the other. Many other countries, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Britain and the smaller countries of Western Europe, were and are, very much in favour of such a security conference investigation.
I do not agree with those who say that the United Kingdom should unilaterally withdraw from N.A.T.O.; this would not be a useful contribution. But, I can see the great necessity for the Eastern and Western European countries to get together with the United States and Canada and Russia to work out a European security arrangement at some time. I would like Parliamentarians first to explore the climate of opinion, without committing any government, to see what could be developed. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Easington is right to say that there is no solution for the European problem save a diplomatic solution.
When he referred to the possibility of a conflict in Europe, the Secretary of State referred to possibly five days of conventional warfare before the nuclear button was pressed. Others have suggested that it would be two days, or even only a few hours. But what we are talking about is suicide in Europe if there is a conflict, suicide not only for the Western European countries, but for Russia and her satellites. Much of our discussion has a strangely academic 1089 flavour when we consider what a few battalions could do here and there. No doubt they would do their best with the best equipment in the world, but let us acknowledge that the reality of the strategic thinking of the West and the Soviet Union so far is that it is geared to the possibility of escalating a war in Europe into nuclear war in a matter of days if not hours. Therefore, we see the great importance of re-thinking our position in Europe.
I referred earlier to the right hon. Gentleman's passionate advocacy in earlier debates of our rô1e east of Suez. I would now refer to Britain's nuclear rôle. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) came clean at last in the House of Commons about his view of the east of Suez rôle. Although he had come clean once, or hinted at it, in a speech at a Conservative Part)' Conference, this is the first time I have heard him say in the House unequivocally that we have no rôle east of Suez, certainly not in the distant future. Neither from his arguments on Europe nor from arguments from either side of the House can I discern any justification for an independent nuclear rôle for Britain.
If the Labour Party were right in opposition in their sustained arguments against an independent nuclear deterrent for Britain, those arguments are equally valid today. I dare say that my colleagues will agree with me, but my personal view is that, as regards any contribution which can be made to our defence, the country would be far better off if its nuclear deterrent and the submarines and aircraft to carry it were drowned in the Atlantic Ocean.
§ Mr. Hooson
An hon. Gentleman shouts "rubbish". Let him think for a moment. It has not been argued that the nuclear strategy weapon is a weapon of defence; it has been argued that it is a deterrent. In order to be a deterrent it must be able to deter the enemy. The damage that it can conflict on Russia is not comparable with the damage that the enemy can inflict on this country. If we were not in alliance with the United States, which has a tremendous nuclear force which is a deterrent—and there is every 1090 sign that the Soviet Union and the United States now recognise that they have moved in the direction of nuclear stalemate—we would contribute not one iota to the deterrence of the West.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
It is apparent from the hon. Gentleman's speech that the erstwhile spokesman on defence for the Liberal Party has not the foggiest conception of the deterrent.
§ Mr. Hooson
I venture to say that France will not be able to sustain economically the next generation of nuclear weapons and she would be far better off, as would this country, without them. I am astonished that the Secretary of State for Defence in a Labour Government in the fourth year of office still clings tightly to the independent nuclear deterrent. It is in direct contradiction to the promise given by his party when it came into power.
§ Mr. Healey
What the Labour Party promised to do when it came to power in 1964 was to internationalise its nuclear weapons. This we have done. If the hon. Member cannot understand the difference between the rôle of the British Polaris force and the V bombers now inside N.A.T.O., and France's refusal to commit nuclear or other weapons to N.A.TO. I am a little surprised that he was ever the defence spokesman of any party.
§ Mr. Hooson
It is no moral excuse for this country to try to pass the weapons on to N.A.T.O. Whatever the theoretical difference may be between France and Britain in the control of nuclear weapons, in reality I see no distinction whatever. It was understood that the Labour Government intended to abolish Britain's nuclear rôle. It was after the election that the Prime Minister spoke of internationalising nuclear weapons, and the right hon. Gentleman's memory is failing him in this respect. There is no possible justification for Britain maintaining this extremely costly rôle.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West that there is a need in this country for a citizen army. When Russia or any other country which may threaten us fully realises that nuclear war is not "on" because it would be tantamount to mutual suicide between N.A.T.O. and the Eastern European 1091 countries, there might be a danger of conventional attack. We are very thin on the ground to meet such an attack, and I think it was a major mistake, and I said so at the time, for the Government to abolish the Territorial Army. We should have maintained the Territorial Army and maintained it on a regional or, bearing in mind Wales and Scotland, a "national", basis. Certainly we should have a reserve of forces of this kind. All parties should face up to this problem, and there are even arguments in favour of the type of conscription that exists in Switzerland for our home defence.
I spoke of this in a defence debate last year, as, I see, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force recalls. I was laughed at from the Conservative benches when I suggested that we ought to be thinking about a citizens' army. However, I was glad to see an article in theSunday Telegraph of 21st July discussing this very possibility. It is a matter which all parties, including my own, should be considering. We can cut down on our armed forces still more, but, if we do, we shall need an adequate reserve of people trained for a conventional attack.
The point has also been made in a previous debate that not since the days of Cromwell have we had a regular army stationed at home in peacetime. Although there is no immediate danger of it, an army take-over at some time in the future is not completely beyond the bounds of possibility. It could happen with an army permanently stationed only in this country, and it is a great safeguard for any democracy to have a knowledge of arms "spread around ". A territorial army or some similar force of that kind, in the ultimate—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may laugh, but there have been take-overs in countries where one would not have expected them. This is not the justification for a territorial army, but an additional reason for one.
Through its chief spokesman, the right hon. Member for Barnet, the Conservative Party virtually says, "We will have the defence policy and the forces to carry it out that the country needs, regardless of expense." The right hon. Gentleman criticises the Secretary of State and his approach. I could understand that if it were carried to its logical conclusion. 1092 but the Conservative Party propaganda says, further, "If we get back to power, we shall reduce Income Tax by Is. in the £."
This year alone, the Opposition's de fence policy suggestions would cost £395 million per annum, which represents Is. 5d. in the £ on the standard rate of Income Tax. Carrying it further and adverting to the arguments advanced for devoting between 61 and 7 per cent. of our gross national product to defence, the rate would be increased by far more. In fact, 1 per cent. of the gross national product is roughly £340 million. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in the Tory Opposition are arguing in favour of an increase of just over 2 per cent., which results in something in the region of £700 million per annum more. It could not be done if, at the same time the Tory Opposition suggest reducing the rate of Income Tax. If the Tory Opposition say, "We intend to give the country the forces that our defence policy needs", let them come clean and tell the country how much it would cost and what it would represent in taxation.
I think that the Government have come some way towards the point of view that we advocated years ago. In his heart, I am sure that the Secretary of State acknowledges this. He has been coming a fair way towards what we advocated three or four years ago, and it is inevitable that it must be taken further in future. I think that we should consider the Canadian experiment of having an integrated armed force. That is the next step in development in this country. It has not been unsuccessful in Canada, and prejudices are gradually being overcome. I think that we have to move in that direction in the future.
I shall recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote with the Government tonight, not because I agree with all of the Government's policy—I am not very much in agreement with parts of it— but because I am more in agreement with it than I am with the Conservative Opposition's policy, whichever version one accepts, whether it be that of the right hon. Member for Barnet or that of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West or even a marriage of the two. I believe that the Opposition's policy would be disastrous to the country 1093 in general terms, although I have expressed agreement with certain matters put forward by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. What is more, the Conservative Party's defence policy is not even practicable for a country in a situation such as ours.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth):
My right hon. Friends know that there are certain aspects of their defence policy with which I heartily agree and others with which I am not too happy. I am pleased to see that at last we are giving dates for getting out of the Far East. I know that hon. Members opposite think this unwise. I would agree that possibly the greatest danger to peace lies in the Far East. But what they should take into account is whether it is wise to have small forces in an area which are incapable of carrying out the task for which they are sent there. We saw what happened in the last war when we lost Singapore.
Under the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty, as I understand it, we have an obligation to defend Thailand. Many people at the moment are rightly delighted that there is talk of peace in Vietnam. But does anyone who knows the situation out there think that peace in Vietnam will finish conflicts in that part of the world? What has worried me for some considerable time is whether, under our obligations to S.E.A.T.O., we could find ourselves involved in a land war in Asia on the same scale as the Americans have found themselves involved in Vietnam. While I applaud the loyalty of the Opposition in supporting allies in that area, I deprecate their strategy in wanting to place military forces which would be hostages to fortune there.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
But surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman would agree with those who believe that a presence east of Suez should prevent war. We had an example of that in the confrontation with Indonesia.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
There may be something in that argument in relation to Indonesia, but I am talking about the main menace in the Far East—China. The conflict there, if it arose, would be by infiltration into Thailand from the north, which we would be incapable of preventing. Is the hon. and gallant 1094 Gentleman saying that if infiltration took place in Thailand, we should continually have to pour troops in there as the Americans have done in Vietnam? If we are going to intervene, we should be in a position to intervene at the point we choose, and not intervene because we are already committed to a particular part of the earth's surface. To that extent, while I say that getting out of the Far East is the most logical solution, I can foresee the possibility that we may be required at some time in the future to give assistance out there.
Throughout my time in this House I have maintained that the main worry to the defence of this country lies in Europe, that we can lose a battle in the Far East but that it is in this country and in Europe that we can actually be defeated. That is the aspect which worries me about our present policy. The Opposition rightly criticise the fact that we are not providing adequate reserve power. I, too, criticise that. But I ask who it was who tied themselves to a nuclear strike in Europe.
It was the Tory party. My hon. and right hon. Friends in Opposition always attacked the Government then because this meant that it would be a nuclear war from the word "go". This may be a very cheap policy, because it means that one does not need extra reserves and large armies. One just tells an enemy that if it advances into Europe, then one will fire nuclear weapons. That is one argument, but I could never reconcile it with keeping a large army in Europe. Either one's policy was right, in which case one did not need a large army, or one was not depending upon that policy, and was making one's enemy believe that one did not intend to carry out what one had said. When my party came into power what did we find?—that if we wanted conventional forces sufficiently strong to repel ground forces in Europe there was no alternative but conscription, which was given up by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I criticise my party for what it has done, but it has really originated from the policy of the Opposition when in government. Consequently, unless my party is prepared to say that it will increase expenditure on European forces, and raise large reserves to be available for a conventional war, it will have to depend on nuclear deterrents. For the 1095 last three years I have been saying that this is not a realistic policy and when it comes to the crunch neither side will use the nuclear deterrent, because it is not only a deterrent, but a mutual suicide pact. What happens if fighting on a small scale starts in Europe, inadvertently or, as could happen over the next week or so, over Czechoslovakia?
What happens if, because Russia says that West Germany is moving troops up to the Czech frontier, a strike is made? What do we do? Do we immediately use our nuclear deterrent, as has been our policy in the past? Or do we do what is suggested in the White Paper, namely begin to build up conventional forces? All we are told is that we could hold on for 48 hours, perhaps a few weeks. I suggest that this time depends upon the time when one commits one's maximum conventional forces. That is the time when one uses nuclear weapons. The less conventional forces one has, the sooner one will have to use nuclear weapons.
The Government have adopted this policy, and have taken it to its logical conclusion. They have said that they will not stop the war by conventional forces so there is no need to have the reserves to support them. What happens if Government policy changes, if N.A.T.O. changes its strategy? Where will these reserves come from? It is very easy to axe reserves, but more difficult to get them back, and this is the point that I have been making to my right hon. Friends for the past three years.
I ask them to consider very seriously whether we are permanently committed to a nuclear strike in Europe from the word "go", or can we visualise the possibility of a conventional war which might go on for weeks? I know that my right hon. Friends will say that we could not mobilise reserve forces in two or three weeks and get them into Europe. Many of the Territorial Army units, particularly the Parachute Unit, take part in N.A.T.O. exercises at weekends. They fly out on the Friday night, take part in the exercise, and are back at work on Monday. This is the sort of thing that can be done with a citizens' army if it is organised on a proper scale. When I was in Israel last January our coach driver said one night that he would not be with us the following day because he was a major in the Army and would be doing a day's training. 1096 That is how the Israelis organise their Army.
The Government should be honest in this matter. I say this to the Opposition as well, because I think that there is dishonesty on both sides on this. Everybody talks in opposition about requiring the forces, but they know that if they get into government they will not confront the country with a large bill for forces which the Opposition are saying are not necessary. That is what grieves me about our defence debates. It seems to me that both sides try to make party political gain out of each other. There must be some way of avoiding this.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
That could be so. I believe that these matters should be debated outside the public glare, where there is no political kudos in putting forward a particular point, and where everybody puts forward what is best for the country.
Very few of my hon. Friends are here. What grieves me about some of them is the disparaging way in which they speak of our Regular and Reserve Forces, the glee with which they hear that units are to be axed. They might be talking about Russian divisions being axed instead of our own forces. This is wrong. They are entitled to their view, but I do not think that when people have given their services to the country they should be treated as though they have been parasites on the community. It does not do my hon. Friends or Parliament any credit for that sort of talk to be heard here.
I was astounded by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Newens). I was astounded that at a time like this, when the Czech crisis is on, he should start talking about N.A.T.O. being the cause of difficulties that are arising. What does he really think is going through the Russian mind at present about Czechoslovakia? Does he think that it is because of N.A.T.O. that the Russians will or will not act, or whether they are taking into account that 10 years ago over Hungary they lost half the Communist membership throughout the world, as well as prestige, 1097 and that on this occasion they are facing a country which is capable of fighting while it is going down? Does he think that that is what is going through their mind as opposed to thoughts about whether N.A.T.O. will do anything?
I am convinced that Russia has not the slightest doubt about our attitude on the matter. I think that the Government have adopted the right course; perhaps a little more of a pat on the back for Czechoslovakia would not have been out of place, but they are exactly right in keeping out of the bother because we cannot do any good. We could do a lot of harm by intervening. Does he think that the Russians will be influenced by, first, the prestige to be lost if they intervene and, second, the military strength of Czechoslovakia as opposed to what happened in 1957?
§ Mr. Newens
I made my speech and tried to make my points clear then. I think that the Russians are very concerned that Czechoslovakia should not move out of the Russian orbit. That is their overwhelming concern, because we have a world and Europe polarised between the two alliances. I want to see them both wound up.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
My hon. Friend made it quite clear that he was for having strong forces. As far as I know, we are getting out of the Far East, N.A.T.O., the Isle of Man and all the rest. I can only assume that he wants those strong forces because he has an undue obsession with the Welsh and Scottish Nationalist parties. I cannot ask in what strength these forces will be. I would rather ask about the purpose for which they are to be used. That is the more relevant argument.
I wish to touch briefly on two other points. The 1966 Defence Review stated that if we increased our conventional forces in N.A.T.O. the Warsaw Pact countries would do likewise. This was given as the excuse for not increasing those forces. Has that gone by the board? Will such units that are to be earmarked for N.A.T.O. be superfluous because, within a week or two, they will be matched by the Russians? Is that more re-thinking that has gone on?
The second point which astounds me is that the White Paper states: 1098Secondly, it is also recognised that we should receive timely, possibly prolonged, warning of any change in the political situation that might make war in Europe more likely.Of course. But, as I pointed out in a debate three or four months ago, it is at a time of crisis in Europe that we do not want to start shifting troops from this country to Europe or we shall aggravate the situation.
I presume that the Secretary of State is saying in his White Paper that we will get warning of Russian build-up and mobilisation. What have we had in the last few days? Is not this a warning? Have we taken any steps to make sure that we are secure? I am not saying that we should—in fact, I am saying that we should not—but it does not make it sound logical to put in a White Paper that we will get timely warning when we do not know anything about it. Is there any object in a timely warning? For all we know, the Russians may be building up against Czechoslovakia, but they could equally well be building up against Western Germany. I do not feel that is logical.
The T. & A.V.R. Ill is in the melting pot. We are being told that it is to be kept on a care and maintenance basis. I know from experience that these units are losing so many of their permanent staff that they will probably not be able to be kept on a care and maintenance basis. If some decision is not reached in the immediate future, we shall find that these units have ceased to exist. I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to look into this urgent matter.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
The House always listens to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) with great interest on matters of defence. We know of his distinguished record of service and we know that he talks a great deal of sense about the territorial army. All on this side of the House, and I suspect a good many hon. Genlemen opposite, agree with what the hon. Gentleman has said.
I was amused by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) who spoke for the Liberal Party. I have heard many different arguments in favour of retaining forces in the Middle and Far East, but I have never before heard the argument— 1099 I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member has left the Chamber—that one reason why we should not have all the troops returned home is that they might at some future date take over the Government. This is an entirely new argument. I can only say, in the absence of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, that almost any well organised platoon could take over the Liberal Party.
It is right and appropriate that we should debate defence on the last day but one before the House rises for the Summer Recess in the light of a very big question mark, namely, what will happen in Czechoslovakia? This overhangs all our deliberations. The hon. Member for Toxteth has rightly drawn attention to the serious issues involved for us, for N.A.T.O. and for the Warsaw Pact countries, with almost unlimited implications.
Turning to the White Paper, really one need only read the last sentence of paragraph 14. Having read it, I do not think one need read any further. The last sentence of paragraph 14 on page 4, relating to our commitments to S.E.A.T.O., reads:When we have completed the withdrawal, we shall not declare forces to these contingency plans, although we shall remain members of the organisation.In other words, this is complete window-dressing. We are to belong to a club, but pay no subscriptions and abide by none of the rules and obligations. We are to be an ally without assets so far as S.E.A.T.O. is concerned, and if one is an ally without assets, one is not an ally at all.
I do not believe that our capability to help Singapore and Malaysia after 1971 is credible. I do not believe that Ministers have begun to think this out, although my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and others have put some pertinent questions to which I hope we shall receive a reply. I believe that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who concocted these plans in the Ministry of Defence are going on the basis that they hope everything will be all right on the night. I do not believe that there has been any contingency planning at all.
I have grave doubts about the wisdom of our withdrawal from the Persian Gulf. I have said before, and I say it again, 1100 that by far the cheapest form of aid is stability, and by withdrawing prematurely we have gravely endangered stability. Moreover, I dislike the way in which we have carried out a unilateral abrogation of many treaties. We have behaved as though we were a landlord who has told a tenant that he proposes to tear up the lease and to get him to sign a fresh lease transferring all the landlord's liabilities to the tenant. This is not the way to behave, and this is not the way to increase our reputation commercially, militarily, or in any other way. I want a great deal of convincing, far more than anything that we heard from the Secretary of State for Defence today, that the world is so safe and secure, be it in the Middle East, the Far East, or, above all, in Europe, as to warrant the sort of rundown in our Forces, Army, Navy and Air, which this document envisages.
I hope that when the Minister replies he will say a word or two about these alleged savings. I have never been clear about how much money is supposed to be saved by this withdrawal. The crucial point was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames, that it is in the next two years when the savings are necessary, and after that, if the Government's plans come off and the economy is more secure, the economic crisis will be over. But these cuts do not take effect until 1971. The Government are therefore confusing something which is on the doorstep now with something which is some way down the garden path, and they are in the process of leading themselves and many others up the garden path.
During the debate on 5th March the right hon. Gentleman said that every £100 saved in annual expenditure in the Far East would require capital expenditure here of £500, and every £100 saved by bringing back troops from Germany would require capital expenditure of £2,000 in the United Kingdom. I think that that is right, and no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am wrong, but I am quoting from his speech
Those figures do not seem to make very much sense, because of what we are leaving behind. The Government have spent more than £14 million on building accommodation of various sorts at 1101 Bahrein and Sharjah. Equipment, installations, and other assets, valued at more than £30 million are being abandoned in Aden. What the figure is for Singapore is anybody's guess. It is enormous. I do not think that anybody could begin to assess it. It is simply huge. But already —according to the right hon. Gentleman —by 6th March the Government had spent £30 million in this country in building extra accommodation and acquiring married quarters to house the troops that had already been brought back.
I have a shrewd suspicion and a horrible lingering fear that the figure to which our forces will be run down is nothing to do with the minimum requirement for the safety of the country. That idea was dispelled from the very lips of the Minister of Defence some time ago. I suspect that the figure depends principally upon the barrack and married quarters accommodation available in this country. If more troops are brought back and are not to be demobilised and disbanded, and there is no accommodation for them here, the saving is only marginal. It is not a redeployment to help Europe. All that is hooey; it is simply a demobilisation to the level of barrack and married quarters accommodation.
I would have thought, in the light of our commitments in 1970 and 1971 in Europe, the Middle East or the Far East —commitments that the Government say they are quite prepared to fulfil, although we do not know how—that the one arm not to reduce beyond a certain level would be the infantry, because the infantry is at once the most versatile and adaptable arm. The infantry is always called for when first-aid operations have to be carried out, and first-aid operations almost invariably occur at an unexpected time, and not always singly. They often occur in pairs, and in different parts of the world.
Let us suppose that the Government were asked to fulfil two or three unexpected fire brigade operations and, at the same time, there was a request to strengthen B.A.O.R. Where would the reserves come from? How would they be sent to the required areas, and how would they be built up?
Moreover, the cuts in the infantry have been executed in a remarkable way. The Government appear to have forgotten about quality and proceeded solely on 1102 the principle of Buggins' turn, a rule-of-thumb basis. Some of the finest regiments, with the best traditions and outstanding records in war and peace, for discipline and recruitment, have gone. Hardly anybody on the benches opposite seems to mind except, very properly, the hon. Member for Toxteth. This is a terrible thing.
I must declare a personal interest because in the Light Division, the third Battalion of the Green Jackets, is to be eleminated: I do not mind confessing that I have family associations with that regiment for nearly 100 years, and I had the privilege of serving in it for most of the war. I would be less than human if I did not feel this acutely. I understood that the policy has been that the Light Division should contain two large regiments which would be made a success. No one can deny—certainly the right hon. Gentleman will not deny it—that all concerned have done their utmost to make those two large regiments a success, and have succeeded. What has been our reward? There have been further cuts making the cut in the Light Division in general and the Green Jackets in particular proportionately higher than anyone else.
The regimental tradition which is now laughed upon in certain quarters is the envy of friend and foe alike. Throughout British history British troops have been asked to conduct almost impossible operations, often in almost impossible circumstances and in pretty awful places, due to the vacillation, stupidity, change of mind and ineptitude of Governments of all kinds whether it be in respect of Corunna, the Crimea, Gallipoli or Salonika in the First World War, Dunkirk or Burma in the Second World War, or Aden recently. Never mind; time and time again what appeared to be almost certain disaster has been averted and ultimately turned into victory.
I fancy that the element which played the biggest part was not the corps, however able the corps commander might have been, nor the division, no matter how able the divisional commander might have been, but was fundamentally the regiment. I am not in the least impressed with the argument that the elimination of famous regiments with long traditions does not affect recruiting. I simply do not accept it. The Secretary 1103 of State directed our attention to the recruiting figures and said that people do not mind whether they join the infantry, the gunners or the sappers; they merely queue up and say that they want to join the Army.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
Is the right hon. Gentleman certain that the 80 per cent. who do not mind are of the same calibre as those who would have joined had the old regiments still been preserved?
It is, of course, true that the present officers, N.C.O.s and other ranks in the regiments to be disbanded will serve loyally for the rest of their service in other units—of course, they will. The question is, however, whether their sons will volunteer in the same manner. My experience is that people volunteer for the Army because the regiment of their choice is based on a strong territorial link or strong family or other connections.
I do not believe that we can sustain recruitment on the basis of totally ignoring quality, by disbanding a regiment on the basis of Buggins' turn and hoping that everybody will join as before. There is nowhere for them to go further than somewhere like Tidworth or Germany; and in the case of the Air Force there is nowhere left for them to fly to.
Of the old original Light Division, the Duke of Wellington's in the Peninsula campaign, the 43rd, the 52nd and the Rifle Brigade alone remain, and one of those is now to go. This is a terrible thing. When one thinks of the million of £s which the Government are chucking about quite unnecessarily, the thousands of extra civil servants, the Land Commission and all the waste that we have seen taking place, and when that is contrasted with the fact that some of the units in the T. & A.V.R. III from their own enthusiasm, loyalty and sense of purpose are carrying out training at their own expense, I have a feeling that somebody has got the priorities wrong somewhere. That somebody is the Government, and the sooner they go, the better.
§ 9.13 p.m.
§ Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
I should, perhaps, begin by commenting on a speech which was out of the general run of the rest of the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Michael Hamilton) said that in the course of pursuing a constituency inquiry, it had come to his notice that certain officers who had spent a good deal of time as prisoners of war in Communist hands were in employment in the Ministry of Defence in "P.V." posts, contrary to the recommendations of paragraph 78 of the Radcliffe Report.
The Minister of Defence for Administration might well wish to clear this matter up when he replies to the debate. It may be that the rider in the Radcliffe Report concerning special circumstances is relevant, and I have difficulty in believing that anybody who was a prisoner of war should be permanently disqualified from command. There is, however, a contradiction on the face of it and I think that the right hon. Gentleman would wish to refer to it.
The debate has been about the consequences of major decisions taken by the Government some months ago. Since those decisions were taken, the Services have awaited the White Paper and what might be said by the Secretary of State in this debate with some anxiety in order to learn the effect upon their future of the considerable cuts and changes imposed by the Government as a result of the decisions of last January.
What I have to say in criticism of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is that in his approach to the debate and in his interpretation of the White Paper he miscalculated and misjudged badly the significance of this occasion. It has come strongly out of the debate—the point was well made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter)—that the effect of these decisions on the Services themselves and on their morale has been considerable. By "morale" I mean how they see themselves, how they view their career prospects, and, beyond that, whether they sense that they are being given by this Government the proper backing for the country's defence effort 1105 and whether they sense that they have behind them a Government determined to give defence its proper priority in the allocation of expenditure. The Secretary of State's speech and the White Paper should be judged primarily against the standard of how far they have succeeded in giving to the Services that reassurance.
We found our defence effort on having chosen to sustain it by a voluntary system. We have to man the Services. Without that we can do nothing. In order to do it we have to attract recruits. It seems that right hon. and hon. Members opposite are taking a little too lightly the consequences of their decisions for the future of Regular recruiting. They started off with a Regular Army ready made. I was concerned in the early stages of building up the Regular volunteer Services, and I know the weak position in which one finds oneself and how exposed one feels as a responsible Minister when there is overhanging one a worry about what the next month's recruiting figures will show and about whether one can man one's units successfully. One learns from that experience that recruiting is what is known as a "hard sell", and there has to be an effective and convincing story to tell in order to bring the men in. One has to be able to convince potential recruits of the ultimate worthwhileness of the job which they are asked to do.
The present recruiting figures are appalling. I shall not weary the House with a lot of statistics. The last time I went through them they were 25 per cent. down on last year, and I do not think that they have been any better in recent months. To give the House an example independent of statistics of the kind of situation we are in, I was talking to one regiment the other day which told me that where they need, and used to have, an inflow of about 30 recruits a month to sustain two battalions, they now have six.
The Secretary of State said that re-engagement was not too bad. He ought not to preen himself on the satisfactory state of re-engagement, for a Service which depends upon re-engagement to maintain its strength but has not a satisfactory inflow of fresh recruits from civilian life soon lands in trouble through an imbalance of age groups and a promotion block among senior n.c.o.s. We 1106 found this even in the days when recruiting from civilian life was buoyant.
My criticism, therefore, of the right hon. Gentleman's speech and his approach today is that he fails to do convincingly the most important job in terms of the future of the Services, namely, to make clear to them what their rôle is to be, that they are to be given the proper equipment for their job, and that their job is to be one which they can find intelligible in terms of the kind of defence effort which a country of this size and importance needs. It was up to the right hon. Gentleman to make it clear that there will be no more cuts in this country's defences, and that the Services and their needs will be given the requisite priority over other claims on the national resources. This was what the Services anxiously expected that he would do. He should have done it, but he did not.
It is all very well for him to say, as he did, that the Government have succeeded in striking a balance between the claims of defence and the resources we have available. But the House and the Services know very well that the Government have had several previous attempts at striking this balance, and each successive one has been abandoned. Each in turn has involved cuts, disarrangement, redeployment and all the things that operate against satisfactory service morale.
I should like to give an example of what I mean about the White Paper's failure to tell a convincing story. It is the Government's position that the future of the Services and this country's defence effort is henceforward to be concentrated in Europe. Therefore, everybody wants to know what the significance of the European rôle will be. Chapter IV of the White Paper is headed "Europe", and the first thing in the chapter is the headline: "Mutual Force Reductions". This is exactly what the Services do not want to hear. I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman went out of his way, perhaps in deference to the supporters of the Amendment, to discuss the possibility of mutual force reductions in Europe, because everybody knows that the current discussions along these lines in N.A.T.O. are aimed much more at discouraging the other member countries from envisaging the possibility of force reductions until there is a better balance between N.A.T.O. and 1107 the Warsaw Pact, rather than pointing the way to the possibility of an early move by this country. The introduction of this topic into the White Paper and the emphasis given to it by the right hon. Gentleman today were misconceived.
I should now like to make one or two comments about the present position of the individual Services. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) referred to the apparent disparity between the cuts to be imposed on the Royal Air Force and those for the other Services, pointing out that it amounted to 36 per cent. in six years. He said with truth that we have been given no indication of what the future structure and functions of the Air Force are to be, measuring up to those reduced numbers.
The House knows, and anyone informed of the nature of air power will confirm—indeed, the Secretary of State has more than once said it to the House —that one thing generally held to be indispensable to a modern air force is a capacity for long-range, low-level all-weather interdiction and strike. The present position is that with the cancellation of the F111 the Royal Air Force, after the phasing out of the V-bombers in their new rôle, will be deprived of that capability.
The Secretary of State told us today that there was a possibility of the production of a suitable aircraft some time in the mid-70s through the operation of the European consortium. I hope that that matures. I am sure he will agree that it is of the utmost importance that an early decision should be taken and an early announcement made. Failing that, and in the meantime, it is surely the job of the Government to reassure the Royal Air Force by showing it either that this capability will be provided for it in the future or that in the rôle which the Government envisage for it it can be dispensed with. The Royal Air Force cannot be left unknowing, or morale is bound to suffer.
Not many speakers in the debate, as it has happened, have dealt in detail with the future of the Royal Navy, but the Government have in their latest plans assigned to it an Atlantic rôle. This is nothing new for the Royal Navy; it is certainly no stranger to such a rôle. But 1108 apparently it will be asked to discharge it in the face of a reduction in the construction programme of nuclear submarines, which the Secretary of State not long ago described as the main striking power of the Royal Navy, and against a threat from surface ships armed with missiles with a 350-mile range—which the Navy will have to confront with what?
We are told that the Navy will be supported by helicopters armed with a wire-guided missile with a range of some thousands of yards. The hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) raised some pertinent queries about the capability of the helicopter in this rôle. The Navy will be supported in addition, as the Secretary of State told us, by fixed wing aircraft operating from land bases. The most that one can say about this idea is that it is a novel one and has yet to be proved as an effective aid to sea power by the experience of war.
The right hon. Gentleman may have seen an article inThe Spectator last week describing an exercise recently held in the North Atlantic. It may not have been accurate in every detail, but such articles reflect what the Services are at present thinking and feeling and what they are telling defence correspondents. Again, the picture painted by that article is not one of clear understanding and a satisfactory state of morale.
§ Mr. Healey
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the writer of the article wrote one in a totally different sense inNavy News a few weeks ago about the same exercise? On the question of the support of ships by land-based aircraft being a new rôle, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that every other navy in Europe, including the Soviet Navy, is supported solely by aircraft from land bases?
§ Mr. Ramsden
That does not really clear up the point that I made, that ships of our Navy in their Atlantic rôle are considerably outranged by other ships with a missile capability that they do not begin to match.
With regard to the Army, the main interest, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West said, has centred on the Government's decision to dispense with 14 battalions of infantry. That is a considerable reduction in the 1109 fighting potential of the British Army, and I estimate it to be equivalent to about two brigade groups able to be deployed, if not more. The Government have made no effort to justify to us in detail a cut of this size except in the vaguest possible terms by talk of the extent to which they have been able to reduce commitments.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, whose flow of eloquence I cannot emulate but by whose logic I am certainly convinced, said that it is right to assert—I agree with him—that one cannot deduce the proper strength of the Armed Forces for a country of this size and importance purely from a consideration of the commitments that they may or may not have to take on at any given time.
I think that the experience of hon. Members who have followed this will endorse the fact that in no case is this more true than in that of the infantry. We never have enough infantry battalions, and the commitments, as one of my hon. Friends pointed out earlier, are no safeguard of the number of occasions on which troops may have to be used. We know from experience that defence commitments are an exceedingly unreliable guide—that the calls on the Army cannot be guaranteed to correspond to them.
The Government have made no attempt to explain to us why the reduction of 14 battalions was the right number or how it was determined, and I hope they will do so later. I think that the Undersecretary of State for the Army gave the game away in the debate we had the other night on the Scottish regiments. He was dealing with the method chosen of effecting the reduction and he explained to us that there were 14 infantry brigades and that, therefore, the fairest method of effecting the reduction was to take a battalion from each. I am very much afraid that in fact the number of infantry battalions selected to be reduced depended upon the number of brigades and the obligations the Government felt under to establish an appearance of fairness.
My hon. Friends have criticised the method of selection of infantry battalions for disbandment or amalgamation and I certainly endorse that, because I believe that there has been no true policy of selection and that the Government have 1110 been driven to implement the policy of equal misery for all. I think that is true because they were driven from the original timetable which they had planned for bring the reductions into effect. If they had done the original six and then implemented the new divisional structure they would have had time to spare and the possibility of some choice in bringing about further reductions. They would have been able to make more selection and not have been driven to trench on the smaller brigades.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) —and here I, too, must declare an interest—that one of the most deplorable consequences of this decision is the reduction of the Rifle Regiments from three to two, the Greenjackets. I think that the Army of the future will be poorer for having only two Rifle Regiments, and I say that because of their contribution to the profession of arms which has not only been distinguished but distinctive, with their own particular approach to soldiering, and with the large number of officers they have been able to produce who have made their mark successfully in all quarters of the Army. It is certainly a decision which I would wish to see looked at again.
I conclude with a word about the Reserves. We debated the Reserves not very long ago, and when I had moved the Motion the Minister of Defence for the Army said he did not understand a number of the points which I had made. They were not very abstruse ones, and evidently somebody in the Department understood them because they are in fact answered in the White Paper, in a way in which they might well have been answered during that debate. We made the point that T. & A.V.R. I and II looked like being unable to provide the numbers required by the Government's Reserves policy; we thought they did not look as though they were going to get the men. This is confirmed by the White Paper, and we now see the Government have to consider retaining National Service men for Reserve liability to make sure of getting the specialists which this much boasted reserve of specialists, T. & A.V.R. I and II, was originally designed to provide. The right hon. Gentleman says in his White Paper that he is thinking of extending the 1111 National Service men's liability. He does not want to do so, but he may have to do so if he does not get the men.
We also believe that it would be most unwise to dispense with T. & A.V.R.II1 and I am glad that this is now conceded, but I ask the Secretary of State whether if he wants to keep these units in being —and I agree with that decision—it is fair to keep them in being by allowing them to pay for their own training, to maintain themselves in being at their own expense, while the Government decide what the right policy is.
To sum up; what we should have had from the Secretary of State tonight in the interests of the future of the Services and in the interests of their morale and to make sure that we shall be successful in ensuring the flow of recruits which the manning of the Services needs was a clear indication of what their future rôle will be when in the 1970s these cuts have been implemented, what shape the Army will have to discharge this rôle, and, even more, an indication of the Government's determination here and now to call a halt to this succession of reductions in our defence effort to convince the Services that they will get and defence will get the resources which they need. We have not had that from the Secretary of State.
In view of the Government's record, the word of the Secretary of State is the only thing which could restore the necessary degree of confidence. I do not believe that the word of the present Secretary of State could any longer do that. I believe that he has outlived his credibility, that he has misjudged the position and misjudged the debt which he owes to the Forces in believing that it is his duty to remain in his office. He should make way for somebody, if there is such a one on the Government benches, whose credit is still relatively unimpaired.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ The Minister of Defence for Administration (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
Before dealing with some of the issues raised by other hon. Members, I should like to clear up one matter to which the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) drew attention. It is deliberately pointed out on page 18 of the White Paper that the Government do not wish to renew the 1112 National Service Act if we can find other means, and I want to make that perfectly clear. Our aim is to try to avoid renewing the National Service Act. Neither does it say that we shall retain the T. & A.V.R. III units. It says that some expansion of the T. & A.V.R. I and 11 may be desirable and can be afforded and therefore we want to keep the T. & A.V.R. III units in operation on their present admittedly restricted basis while considering that aspect of the matter.
I remind hon. Members that this is not a new statement of policy but is a follow-up of the White Paper of earlier this year to spell out a number of the details arising from the statement of 16th January. I am glad that the debate concentrated on these policies and their implications; and that we did not have a repeat of our debate of a few days ago about the infantry battalions and particularly about the cut in the Scottish infantry battalions. Although one or two hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Harrogate mentioned them, I do not want to reply to those points this evening, because they were adequately dealt with in that half-day Supply debate. I am glad that we did not carry on where we left off in that debate with regard to one regiment that was being discussed. I hope that matter and the allegations, that have been flung about in the House and outside, can now be brought to an end for the sake of the regiment itself: the individual who commands it; and the other people who were responsible at a higher level in Aden for carrying out so well the policy of Her Majesty's Government in getting out of that colony in a stable and orderly manner.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) said that he accepted the doctrine of his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that it was not possible to work out the size of the Army by taking the commitments, and determining how many infantry battalions were needed to meet those commitments. I was surprised to hear this from someone who spent a period as Secretary of State for War, as Minister of Defence for the Army and as Under-Secretary of State for War. I was also surprised to hear it from someone who had a period of office in the Treasury, which keeps tight control on the size of the Army. When 1113 the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for War, and his right hon. Friend was in the Treasury, the number of infantry battalions was worked out by taking the commitments and deciding how many infantry battalions would be needed to meet those commitments, with one overriding factor. They decided to abolish conscription, and then worked out that they could expect to get only 180,000 men by voluntary recruitment, and that was the ceiling to which they worked, irrespective of the commitment.
I cannot accept being told that the things which were done during the period when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power are now completely wrong. We have changed many things, but other things are right and hon. Gentleman should not denigrate what they did during that period in order to find a good reason for attacking the Government.
§ Mr. Ramsden
Had we geared the number of infantry battalions purely to the commitments we had, we would have had eight fewer than we maintained.
§ Mr. Reynolds
Those are the battalions which I was about to mention and which are in the Strategic Reserve. The provision we are working on now is basically the same. We are providing battalions to meet the commitments, plus the Strategic Reserve, in the same arithmetical way as was worked out by hon. Gentlemen opposite.
I am primarily responsible, under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, for finding many of the ways and means of saving the £250 million he mentioned by which we intend to reduce defence expenditure in 3½ years' time. As the White Paper points out and as hon. Gentlemen are well aware, this means a fairly substantial rundown both in personnel and on the logistic side of all three Services. This is not a new process: it has started in the last six or 12 months since the end of confrontation in Indonesia and the decision of Her Majesty's Government to withdraw from East of Suez. It is a process which has been going on virtually for the last 20 years. There has been a steady reduction in the number of ships and naval establishments ashore. The abolition of National Service brought about a big reduction in the size of the Army, and one only has to fly over the United King- 1114 dom to see the large number of abandoned aerodromes. For example, in 1957 the Royal Air Force had about 228,000 men; by 1964 the number was down to about 140,000; by 1967 to 124,000 and it is now planned by 1977 to go down to 84,000. This reduction has been continuous over a period of 20 years and it is a reduction the major part of which took place when right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) asked why the Army reductions were all in combat forces, infantry battalions and armoured units. These are the forces at the sharp end, in organised battalions or regiments. There will be reductions there and so there is a reduction in the number of battalions. Names disappear, and this causes heartburning among hon. Members and also among those concerned with the decisions, and the same applies to the cavalry and other regiments.
One does not specify reductions in other parts of the Army, because they stem from the fact that, if we have X battalions, we need a certain amount of supporting arms and services. If we have X battalions minus a number of teeth armed units we need fewer supporting units. As most of those are not specially named or numbered squadrons, they are not specified in the White Paper, but there are reductions on the logistics side as well.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Does it follow from that that it is now proposed to reduce the size and number of headquarter establishments in Germany?
§ Mr. Reynolds
That is being looked at all the time. But the teeth units in Germany are not being reduced. We are keeping B.A.O.R. with the same number of divisions and brigades, though one brigade has come back to the United Kingdom, and they have still to be operational. We cannot make massive reductions because it is a force which has to be in an operational state.
Reductions are being looked at continually in these headquarters and we have recently announced a big reorganisation in the command structure in all three Services in the United Kingdom. The professional membership of the three 1115 Service Boards and the departments responsible and managed by the professional members have been designed to secure reductions in staff numbers on the support side of all three Services. This is being done at the same time as the reductions in the teeth armed units.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that what we are complaining about is not abandoned airfields, but abandoned moral commitments to our allies east of Suez?
§ Mr. Reynolds
If that is the type of interjection coming from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, I shall have to think twice in future about giving way.
We have announced in the White Paper and given some details of the rundown on the personnel side during the period that we are now discussing. In the case of the Royal Navy, there will not be any redundancy until the fixed-wing aircraft and the carriers begin to fade out. In the case of the Army, there were 1,000 redundancies in 1967–68, and there will be about 1,750 in 1968–69. In the case of the R.A.F., there were 950 redundancies in 1967–68, and there will be about 1,600 during 1968–69.
The vast majority of those who became redundant were volunteers. Only 240 enforced redundancies had to be imposed in the R.A.F., and a smaller number in the Army. We must get redundancy into perspective, because the figures of redundancies have to be set against the fact that some 44,000 people leave the Services each year either on pension, or the termination of engagement, or for health or other reasons. Redundancies form a small proportion of the total number leaving the Services each year.
The point must also be made that, despite the redundancies and the rundown in the Forces, we still need some 35,000 recruits every year. We are convinced that we can offer a good career in the three Services to those people who like that sort of life and who measure up to the standards demanded of them. I will ask for the support of the whole House in trying to get this point over in the country.
One of the most important factors governing whether people come into the 1116 Services is the rate of pay, and in that connection, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) asked why we had given up the Grigg system. The decision was announced some 12 months ago. We had decided to refer the matter to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. It was partly due to the criticisms of the Grigg system made in the Prices and Incomes Board's report of some two years ago.
The Grigg system has now been in operation for ten years. It has served the Services well. But, after 10 years, one needs to look at such a system and make sure that it is working properly.
We are hoping, as was announced a few months ago by my right hon. Friend, that the Board will complete its full report on Service pay and conditions within what was then a period of 12 months. We shall then be able to give Governmental consideration to it and try to make sure that we have this aspect of Service life right and to be in a position where it will operate properly—perhaps, like the Grigg Report, for 10 years or more.
The right hon. Member for Harrogate talked of the difficulties of age and rank structure. One of the problems of the Royal Air Force is a consequence of the cancellation of the Thor programme. When that programme was cancelled, it left behind a large number of R.A.F. technicians with no provisions for redundancy. The then Government simply dealt with the problem by not recruiting. As a result, we have large numbers of warrant officers, flight sergeants and corporals but no men at the bottom of the scale in these trades. We are making use of the redundancy scheme to try to get the rank and trade structure right in every part of the Services.
At the same time, we have run down our logistic facilities. I hope to be in a position within the next eight or nine months to give further information about closures of aerodromes and other military establishments of all kinds. We have to look at this from both the operational and the costs points of view, at the same time consulting other Ministries concerned with the effects on regional economies and planning. These matters naturally take considerable time but I hope in the not too distant future to be able to say more.
1117 The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames asked about air support for our forces in Germany. The Second Tactical Air Force, together with the air forces in the United Kingdom, provides air support not only for B.A.O.R. but is integrated in the general N.A.T.O. air force for Central Europe. In the period we are discussing, we shall have the Buccaneer II, which will be fully adequate for its reconnaissance and strike rôle until the mid-1970s. It will certainly be much better than the Canberra but, unlike the F111, it will become increasingly less adequate after the mid-1970s. As my right hon. Friend has said, we are in discussion with other European countries in trying to get agreement on the joint production of an aircraft which will take over the Buccaneer's rôle in the mid-1970s.
For direct ground support for our forces in Germany, we shall have the Phantom and the Harrier during the period we are discussing. We are convinced that the Second Tactical Air Force will continue, as in the past, to be able to play its part adequately in supporting our own and other ground forces in Germany and in the Central European area.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) listed the numbers of divisions available on each side of the Iron Curtain with a fair amount of freedom. I have not bothered to check his arithmetic but it is probably not all that far out. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not check it?"] It really does not matter from the point of view of my argument any more than it matters in terms of accuracy of one or two divisions either way.
My right hon. Friend made the point, which I fully accept, that this problem can, in the end, only be dealt with by diplomatic action of some kind or other. At the same time, he answered a number of the arguments made by the right hon. Member for Barnet and even more so by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West who, in giving a rough idea of the total forces arrayed in Central Europe, made clear the provision we would have to make if we wanted to follow his ideas of being able to fight a great, long conventional war. The right hon. Member for Barnet said that he thought that a four-year battle was too 1118 long, but a four-day battle too short. He was careful not to say where he would draw the line.
§ Mr. Reynolds
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West argued that we should be able to keep things going long enough to bring a citizen army into the field. It would take at least 18 months and probably longer to manufacture the equipment for such an army, and when he was at the Treasury, he was one of those who made sure that such equipment was not included in the long-term costings we inherited in 1964.
I come to the point made by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames and others, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth), that of defence against fast patrol boats and missile protection of the fleet in home and North Atlantic waters. It has not for many years depended on aircraft carriers. It depends primarily, and has done for many years, on land-based aircraft, both of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Royal Air Force. The whole argument for carriers was to have one east of Suez. If carriers were thought to be so important, I wish that they had not been talked about so much in the four years before 1964, but that the then Government had got on with the job of getting them built.
But the Treasury then was not prepared to provide the money for that type of project. We will have protection against missile-carrying patrol boats through the long-range R.A.F. strike capacity and nuclear fleet submarines. I find it a little difficult—[HON. MEMBERS: "Faster."]—I find it a little difficult to speak at my normal speed and at the same time deal with the shouting of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have not been here at all during the day except to listen to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West who appeared to hold quite a fascination for them. They then went off for dinner and re turned here to start making a noise. I have only thre minutes in which to try to finish my speech.
We shall have, in addition to the R.A.F. long-range strike capacity and the nuclear submarines, the helicopters 1119 referred to on both sides of the House armed with at present the A.S.-12 missile which has a hitting power of a 6-inch shell. We are developing a new missile with greater capability, so that the missile and the new helicopters make a complete system, with both day and night and all-weather capabilities. We shall be able to deploy forces east of Suez from our general capability, and this is mentioned in paragraphs 70 and 71 of the White Paper. It will mean that there will be a time element in getting heavy equipment out there, which hon. Members can work out for themselves. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Quintal Hogg (St. Marylebone)
On a point of order. If the right hon. Gentleman would gabble less and speak more distinctly, as if he meant what he said, he would command more attention.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows better than anyone that that is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Reynolds
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been in the Chamber for about three minutes this afternoon, and is now trying to take time from me. I agreed to take 20 minutes in the debate to allow as many other hon. Members as possible to speak. The main thing that we have been discussing here is the decisions announced by the
|Division No. 289.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Coleman, Donald|
|Albu, Austen||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Concannon, J. D.|
|Alldritt, Walter||Boston, Terence||Conlan, Bernard|
|Allen, Scholefield||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Anderson, Donald||Boyden, James||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Archer, Peter||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Cronin, John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bradley, Tom||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Brooks, Edwin||Cullen, Mrs. Alice|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dalyell, Tam|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Darling, Rt. Hn. George|
|Barnes, Michael||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)|
|Barnett, Joel||Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)|
|Baxter, William||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)|
|Bence, Cyril||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey|
|Bessell, Peter||Carmichael, Neil||Delargy, Hugh|
|Binns, John||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Dell, Edmund|
|Bishop, E. S.||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Dempsey, James|
|Blackburn, F.||Coe, Denis||Dewar Donald|
§ Government many months ago to withdraw from east of Suez and the Gulf by the end of 1971.
§ My right hon. Friend was criticised for not having said this two years ago by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) and other hon. Gentlemen opposite. I can only say that at that particular time we were fighting successfully to deal with confrontation in Malaysia and it was hardly the time to talk of walking out. We successfully brought that confrontation to a conclusion, and I believe this to be the right time to say to our friends that we should now go back home, because the days of a European Power undertaking by itself an international police force throughout the world have long since gone. We are providing economic assistance to these countries. By 1971 I hope that we shall be in a position— and there are encouraging signs at present, that the countries of Singapore and Malaysia will have their economies right, and other countries in the area will have got proper defence facilities— to withdraw our troops and so come out of that part of the world, leaving a very good legacy and a lot of good will behind us.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) must contain himself.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 284, Noes, 242.
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Dobson, Ray||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Doig, Peter||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pentland, Norman|
|Dunn, James A.||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Dunwoody, Or. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Eadie, Alex||Judd, Frank||Probert, Arthur|
|Edelman, Maurice||Kelley, Richard||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Kenyon, Clifford||Rankin, John|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Ellis, John||Lawson, George||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|English, Michael||Leadbitter, Ted||Richard, Ivor|
|Ennals, David||Ledger, Ron||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Ensor, David||Lestor, Miss Joan||Roberts, Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Robinson, Rt.Hn.Kenneth (St.P'c'as)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lipton, Marcus||Roebuck, Roy|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lomas, Kenneth||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Loughlin, Charles||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Foley, Maurice||Luard, Evan||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Ford, Ben||Lubbock, Eric||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Forrester, John||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Fowler, Gerry||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Freeson, Reginald||McBride, Neil||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Gardner, Tony||McCann, John||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Garrett, W. E.||MacColl, James||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Ginsburg, David||MacDermot, Niall||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Macdonald, A. H.||Slater, Joseph|
|Gourlay, Harry||McGuire, Michael||Small, William|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Snow, Julian|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mackie, John||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mackintosh, John P.||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Maclennan, Robert||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Summerskill, Hn Dr. Shirley|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||McNamara, J. Kevin||Swingler, Stephen|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Taverne, Dick|
|Hamling, William||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hannan, William||Mallalieu, J. P. W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Harper, Joseph||Marks, Kenneth||Thornton, Ernest|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Marquand, David||Tilney, John|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mayhew, Christopher||Tomney, Frank|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Tuck, Raphael|
|Hattersley, Roy||Millan, Bruce||Urwin, T. W.|
|Hazell, Bert||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Henig, Stanley||Molloy, William||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Moonman, Eric||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Hooley, Frank||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Weitzman, David|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Moyle, Roland||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Mulley, Rt. Hr. Frederick||Whitaker, Ben|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Murray, Albert||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Neal, Harold||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Howie, W.||Oakes, Gordon||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hoy, James||Ogden, Eric||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Huckfield, Leslie||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Oram, Albert E.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Orbach, Maurice||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Oswald, Thomas||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hunter, Adam||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hynd, John||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Winnick, David|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Paget, R. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Palmer, Arthur||Woof, Robert|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Yates, Victor|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Park, Trevor|
|Jeger, Georgo (Goole)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)||Pavitt, Laurence||Mr. Charles Grey and|
|Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Balniel, Lord||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)|
|Astor, John||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Berry, Hn. Anthony|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Batsford, Brian||Biffen, John|
|Awdry, Daniel||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Biggs-Davison, John|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Bell, Ronald||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.w.)||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Blaker, Peter||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Peel, John|
|Body, Richard||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Percival, Ian|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hawkins, Paul||Peyton, John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hay, John||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Heald, Rt. Hn, Sir Lionel||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Braine, Bernard||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Pounder, Rafton|
|Brewis, John||Heseltine, Michael||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Higgins, Terence L.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Hiley, Joseph||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hill, J. E. B.||Pym, Francis|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Bryan, Paul||Holland, Philip||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hordern, Peter||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Hornby, Richard||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Howell, David (Guildford)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Burden, F. A.||Hunt, John||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Iremonger, T. L.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Carlisle, Mark||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Royle, Anthony|
|Clark, Herry||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Clegg, Walter||Kaberry, Sir Donald||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Cooke, Robert||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Scott, Nicholas|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Kershaw, Anthony||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kimball, Marcus||Sharples, Richard|
|Costain, A. P.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kitson, Timothy||Silvester, Frederick|
|Crouch, David||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Crowder, F. P.||Lambton, Viscount||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lane, David||Speed, Keith|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Stainton, Keith|
|Dance, James||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Stodart, Anthony|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stoddart-Scott, Col- Sir M. (Ripon)|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Longden, Gilbert||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Loveys, W. H.||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Doughty, Charles||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||MacArthur, Ian||Teeling, Sir William|
|Drayson, G.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Temple, John M.|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Eden, Sir John||McMaster, Stanley||Tilney, John|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maddan, Martin||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Emery, Peter||Maginnis, John E.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Marten, Neil||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maude, Angus||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Farr, John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Waddington, David|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mawby, Ray||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wall, Patrick|
|Foster, Sir John||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Walters, Dennis|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Miscampbell, Norman||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Webster, David|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Monro, Hector||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Montgomery, Fergus||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Goodhart, Philip||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Goodhew, Victor||Murton, Oscar||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Gower, Raymond||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Grant, Anthony||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Worsley, Marcus|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wright, Esmond|
|Grieve, Percy||Nott, John||Wylie, N. R.|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Onslow, Cranley||Younger, Hn. George|
|Gurden, Harold||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Mr. Jasper More.|
§ That this House approves the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy, 1968, contained in Command Paper No. 3701.