HC Deb 02 March 1971 vol 812 cc1410-549

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [1st March]: That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1971, contained in Command Paper No.4392.․[Lord Balniel.];

Which Amendment was, to leave out from the word 'House' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'while paying tribute to the skill, courage and patience of the British servicemen in Northern Ireland, regrets that Her Majesty's Government arc over-stretching our forces by imposing on them additional and unnecessary tasks East of Suez; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to give a more constructive lead in using the collective strength of the Western Alliance to promote measures of East-West détente and disarmament'․[Mr. George Thomson,].

Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.

4.2 p.m.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

There have long been many, both inside and outside Parliament, who have believed that as broad an agreement as possible ought to be obtained between different parts of the political spectrum on matters of defence. For most of the post-war years this has been possible. We have never gone back to the old joint arrangements of the Imperial Committee of Defence. On the other hand, facilities have been provided by the Government of the day to the Opposition for discussions and information about various aspects of defence. I was able to take advantage of those in my time as Leader of the Opposition, and this afternoon I offer those facilities to the present Leader of the Opposition and to his defence spokesman whenever they wish to take advantage of them.

By and large, where there has been agreement between the different sides of the House, it has been welcomed by the Services, welcomed by our allies, and welcomed by people in Britain. But there is no doubt that since 1968 there has been a growing division between the two sides of the House on some defence matters. In part, this has been the result of the decisions of the previous Government on the withdrawal of forces from Singapore, Malaysia and the Gulf, about which I shall speak later. There has also been a wider divergence in what I might term the philosophical approach of the parties to Britain's responsibilities overseas. In their last years, the previous Administration pursued policies which confined the military effort of this country almost entirely to Europe. They recognised that Britain had vast economic and political interests outside Europe. But they argued that, in the maintenance of the stability on which those interests depend, the British Armed Forces either could play no useful part or should play no useful part.

On the other hand, we believe and have argued that circumstances today and circumstances of recent history contradict the approach put forward by the previous Government. We consider it to be contrary to the real facts of the modern world. We believe that an intelligent and realistic analysis of British interests in the world today leads inevitably to the conclusion that there are times and places, specifically, where these interests can best be served by defence arrangements outside Europe. This seems to be the difference in approach of the parties over the past few years.

We reject a narrow regionalism in defence, just as we reject regionalism as such in other fields, because we are convinced that it runs counter to the interests and to the character of Britain.

Sometimes this argument for the almost complete concentration of defence in Europe is based on the so-called need to demonstrate our Europeanism in our application to join the European Economic Community. At others, it is said that the Community, whether it is enlarged or not, and the countries around it, are concerned only with Europe and ought to be concerned only with Europe. There is no contradiction between the views which I have expressed about the wider interests of Britain and the fact that there may be times and places where we should safeguard these through forces. There is no contradiction between that and our desire to find acceptable terms for entry into the European Economic Community.

In the 10 or more years in which I have been closely and deeply involved in European matters, I have never heard the arguments of Europeanism or of regionalism used amongst those whom we wish to join. They recognise that our interests run beyond Europe—indeed, many of them welcome that. France is a country in a similar position to our own, and we have seen the tenacity and skill with which she has maintained her great interests outside Europe. She has found no conflict between that and membership of the Community. This, therefore, is not an argument of substance.

We can safeguard key British interests, often jointly with friends and allies, in other parts of the world at the same time as we fulfil our obligations and maintain our security in Europe. In Europe the foundation of our security is the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance, and in it our role is a major one. Among the European members we alone make a contribution to the strategic nuclear forces, and without that contribution the strategic nuclear forces of N.A.T.O. would be a United States monopoly. This is significant not only for us and for Europe but for the Alliance as a whole. It has helped in working out the arrangements for effectively associating all members of N.A.T.O. with nuclear planning. It has also been of importance in the context of the work which has been done and is being done to try to control and limit the spread and development of nuclear weapons, on which the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson), who spoke yesterday in the debate, placed great emphasis.

In our contribution to N.A.T.O. this country has consistently set an example to our allies. This is something which we ought to recognise and something to which the right hon. Gentleman in his speech yesterday did not entirely give full consideration.

The proportion of our defence effort which goes to the direct support of N.A.T.O. has steadily increased. In the coming financial year we shall be spending about 5½, per cent. of our gross national product on defence and of that about nine-tenths will be devoted to the support of N.A.T.O. in Europe.

The point which I make to the House, to the country and to our allies is bluntly this: our contribution to N.A.T.O., as a proportion of gross national product, is greater than that of any of the other major N.A.T.O. Powers. This, therefore, is something of which we can be proud, but which must at the same time be recognised by our allies; and when there are proposals for developments in N.A.T.O. it is not good enough for them to say to Britain every time, "Of course you must contribute more and more in every possible scheme which comes forward." We must have the right to decide in which way we can best make our contribution. That is what the Government have been doing over the past months.

Moreover, we spend a considerable sum—not far short of £150 million a year—across the exchanges to support British forces abroad committed to N.A.T.O. It is therefore the whole picture which needs to be seen by the House, by the country and by our allies in N.A.T.O.

It has been our view that in making a greater contribution to N.A.T.O. it should be done through more forces and more armaments. We hope that European countries will contribute teeth to the Alliance, which is what we ourselves have decided to do. Our first steps as a Government were to make available the squadrons of Jaguars and a reserve armoured car regiment, as well as maintaining the "Ark Royal" in service. We shall now be contributing to the infrastructure part of the Defence Improvement Programme.

Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman said that it seemed to him that we had been slow to take part in this programme. The reason is, as I have explained, that we were already making a major contribution. We added to it teeth for the Alliance. The infrastructure programme could have been carried on by others who were not in a position to do the same as we had done, but our position in the infrastructure part of the Improvement Programme which has now been announced has been facilitated by the understanding which the Germans have shown in the offset negotiations.

Therefore, we have been able to reach a conclusion that is satisfactory both from the point of view of providing additional teeth to the Alliance and helping to provide infrastructure.

We have welcomed the assurances which the American President has given that under his Administration American troops in Europe will be maintained at their present level, and we accept that continuing United States support is dependent on reciprocal efforts by their European allies. We have shown that we are making our contribution.

So I think this can be summed up by my saying that, despite the fears which have been expressed and the disillusionment which is sometimes said to exist, there is now on both sides of the Atlantic heartening evidence of an increased determination to sustain, convincingly and effectively, the policy of deterrence which the Alliance has pursued during the past 20 years.

If the current negotiations for the enlargement of the European Community succeed, new prospects for European unity will be opened up. We shall then—the members of the Community—increasingly feel the need to develop new methods of working together, not only in foreign policy, where a beginning has already been made by the existing members, but also in defence.

The need for all of us to continue our vigilance and build up our strength will continue. An enlarged European Community and the members of it will have an additional responsibility there. For this reason, as my noble Friend the Minister of State said yesterday, the military expenditure of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact Powers increases steadily by about 6 per cent. a year. My noble Friend gave a detailed account of the comparison between the force strengths and weapon strengths of the Warsaw Pact and the N.A.T.O. Alliance. I thought that the right hon. Member for Dundee, East rather rebuked my noble Friend for giving the House these details, and he condemned the White Paper for what I think he described as a negative approach in setting out the real position and telling the country what the situation is.

The right hon. Gentleman still seemed to think, as some have done before him, that if only we ignore these facts and wish them away somehow a happy state of amity will speedily exist between the two sides of the Iron Curtain. I should have thought that Czechoslovakia would have disabused the right hon. Gentleman of that view. Surely that lesson cannot have been forgotten already? It is right that the full details should be given.

My experience of relations with the Soviet Union has been this. The Russians continue to build up their military might by every means open to them and to make every advance in technological development—in weapons—with which their scientists can help them. That we must accept. It is right to state the position continually to the best of our knowledge.

Where the Soviets consider that their interests are served in a particular field by an agreement they will negotiate hard and long to get it, as they did on the partial test ban treaty which we helped to negotiate and on the non-proliferation agreement during the time of the last Administration. The Soviets, having driven their bargain, have in recent years stuck to it.

Elsewhere in other fields they are constantly probing their opponents' weaknesses, attempting to get through their guard, always on the look-out for means of bringing pressure to bear upon them.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

The Prime Minister is saying that Soviet Russia has negotiated certain agreements which are in its interest. Would it not be in the interests of both Russia and ourselves to go ahead with East-West security arrangements which would reduce troops on both sides? Surely that would be in Russia's material interests and in ours. Therefore, why denigrate attempts to move in that direction?

The Prime Minister

I will deal with this problem in a moment or two, because it is a very important one. I am not denigrating any attempts to negotiate an agreement. What I am pointing out is that at the same time as the Soviet Union is prepared by hard bargaining to secure an agreement in certain spheres where it suits it, in other spheres it will continue to press and probe. Examples of this are there for us all to see. The Soviets do it in the air corridors. They do it in the land corridors. They are playing cat and mouse with the Americans in the Caribbean at this moment. They can at any time use the same tactics to menace or threaten traffic in the Indian Ocean. These are the facts. They cannot be wished away. The experience is there not only in the past, but in recent months. Since I have been Prime Minister and since this Government have been in office we have had to handle the probing by the Soviet Union in these different spheres.

My conclusion, therefore, is that I do not believe that we are witnessing the preparation of a straightforward military coup on a continental scale. We may see further attempts, and I hope successful ones, to get agreement, and then further probing; but—I think that this bears relationship to many speeches which were made yesterday, some by my hon. Friends—I do not foresee a straightforward military attempt to conquer Europe. because I think that the risk of escalation to the ultimate horror of strategic nuclear bombardment is sufficiently high to deter any rational person from deliberately planning a campaign of that kind.

As I argued from the benches opposite in the last defence debate, what always exists is the doubt in the mind of anybody in power as to how the other will react. It is that doubt, even in the situation of approaching parity on nuclear weapons, which is, I believe, the safeguard against escalation to that stage.

No, Soviet policy is more subtle and more realistic. The Russians are conscious of the difficulties which Western democracies face in maintaining substantial military establishments in time of peace and in face of popular demand—natural demand—for improved standards of living, which can express itself freely, be it through the parliamentary system or through all the media of communication.

The Soviets are aware of the political stresses and strains and of the internal dissensions to which the North Atlantic Alliance is sometimes subject. They hear the talk of the possible withdrawal of United States forces from Europe. They may calculate that a stage could eventually be reached at which the sheer disparity of military strength would leave Western Europe with no convincing strategy and no confidence in its ability to sustain a confrontation if one occurred.

They might calculate that in those circumstances anything could happen. Political pressure which could be shrewdly applied and backed by the threat of greatly superior physical force might compel one of the more exposed members of the Alliance to lapse into neutrality. Now the Soviets no doubt hope and plan that if this happens, if one of the members of the Alliance were to go neutral, then a process of disintegration could begin which would lead to the ultimate prize, an extension of the Soviet sphere of influence gradually into countries at present members of the Alliance and, if possible, to the Atlantic. So I would submit to the House that it is this kind of pressure in particular against which we have to safeguard and it is for this reason that we must ensure that the North Atlantic Alliance is a first charge on the growing prosperity of Western Europe.

Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

I am listening very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman's analysis, which is a very interesting one, but would he not agree that it would be far better strategy from our point of view to inculcate into the Russians the same ideas as he believes have been inculcated into the West? Does he not realise that in Russia also there are people who want a better standard of living and that this is the way we should be tackling it, not in a military way?

The Prime Minister

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that there are many in the Soviet Union who want to see an improved standard of living, and I would have thought there were lessons, certainly over the last ten years, that attitudes had begun to change. I would also have thought he could agree that we in this country have gone as far as anybody to encourage that, whatever Government has been in power, by every form of consular agreement, by trade arrangements, by trying to increase trade and by cultural exchanges on a very wide scale. I do not believe anybody could argue that the limitations have come from this country. Where there have been limitations it has been, as every Foreign Secretary knows, on the other side; but we will certainly try to encourage that.

I was asked about progress on East-West relations. In my view it is possible to make progress on East-West relations only if all the time we maintain and provide for our security. The Soviet Union does not negotiate with the weak. It looks instead for other means to attain its ends with those who have no strength of their own. It is from a strong and healthy Western Alliance that we can seek to reduce East-West tensions in Europe. In this field progress undoubtedly has been made. We have welcomed the negotiations which the Federal German Republic has been patiently conducting with the Soviet Union, with Poland and with East Germany. In particular, we have noted the Federal German Chancellor's assurance that the treaties negotiated will not be ratified until the problems of Berlin have been satisfactorily resolved. This, to us, is of the greatest importance as it is to the other Powers concerned with Berlin.

The Federal German Chancellor himself has repeatedly stressed how the Federal Government's Ostpolitik is founded upon the Western Alliance and the unity of the West. We have taken an active part, with the three Western Allies who have been holding discussions with the Russians about the future of Berlin.

Once there is agreement on Berlin—and this is really the test case—and evidence of a genuine readiness by the Warsaw Pact countries to enter into talks which do not involve all give on one side and all take on the other, then we shall be ready to explore with our allies, and with the countries of Eastern Europe, the possibility of convening a conference or conferences on European security. In these circumstances, a conference could lead to more permanent improvement in East-West relations and new areas of possible agreement might emerge from such a conference or conferences.

Undoubtedly, one of the most important of these could be agreement on the reduction of the military forces which are now facing one another across the centre of Europe. Of course, nobody will underestimate the problems involved in doing this. They are very great. There is the imbalance which we discussed yesterday. There are the difficulties of satisfactory inspection; but I do not believe that anybody in this House would question that an agreement on mutual and balanced force reductions would be a very great advance indeed, if this could be achieved while at the same time we were able to maintain the security of the West. So we will work for this because we believe that it is a very great prize, but, as 1 have indicated, I do not believe our military effort can or should be confined to Europe. Our interests go much wider. The trade and investment on which we depend and by which Britain lives can only flourish in stable conditions. That was why when in Opposition we made it plain that where Britain has traditionally borne a responsibility for defence we would be ready to help if the countries of the area wished us to do so. We shall continue support for C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O., and we shall deploy forces in the Indian Ocean area and in Malaysia and Singapore.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, East, expressing the view which is stated in the Opposition Amendment, opposed our policy as far as Singapore and Malaysia are concerned because, he said, it is wrong to risk getting committed to operations of this kind which might involve us in additional forces or which we could not carry through single-handed. He went on to say that our forces in the area would be a deterrent—he granted us that—but he also said that they might become involved before a political decision could be reached. This seemed to me a strange argument in many respects, particularly in view of what his own Administration was planning to do and which it started to carry out.

First of all, this is an age of very rapid communications. British Governments have had long experience in handling forces right across the world before communications became as rapid as they are today. But under the policy of the late Administration it did not provide a deterrent on the spot. What that Administration was going to do was to send our reinforcements from within the general capability if circumstances demanded it. Presumably they intended doing this if trouble arose; so they were not going to have a deterrent to stop trouble arising. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nor will you."] We will indeed, because as the right hon. Gentleman himself granted yesterday, the five-Power arangements between the five Commonwealth countries will provide the deterrent in the area and there can be general agreement about this. It is certainly the view of the other four countries, and, of course, it is possible to reinforce in the way the right hon. Gentle- man described. But I have never understood the logic of having no deterrent there and saying when trouble arises massive forces will be sent out to deal with it. If the right hon. Gentleman's statement about the difficulty of political decision means anything at all, it means, presumably, that if the Government were prepared to have a long wrangle about whether or not they should send a force out, by that time the damage might very well have been done. This seemed to me an untenable argument by the right hon. Gentleman and the party opposite.

I would like to pay tribute to the professional competence with which the operation last year was carried out to show how quickly and successfully troops could be flow out from the United Kingdom and an area could be reinforced. But this only emphasises the importance of the policy we are pursuing to have the deterrent there first and then, if the deterrent fails, to be ready to deal further with the area. I feel it was a pity that the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not take the final, logical step of leaving a modest permanent force behind and so help to prevent the very contingencies they themselves feared would arise, which the right hon. Gentleman emphasised yesterday.

Mr. George Thomson (Dundee, East)

The difficulty in South-East Asia is that the real danger is the danger of racial troubles and if we have forces on the spot there is a real risk of being sucked into a second Northern Ireland or a second Vietnam. That is the objection. But if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister is arguing that we must have forces on the spot to act as a deterrent, why did he announce yesterday that he did not intend to leave any deterrent force in the Persian Gulf?

The Prime Minister

I would not have said Vietnam is a racial conflict, but we are well aware of the difficulties in South-East Asia and in all the time that the British Forces have been there in the past they have not become involved in racial disturbances. There must be a very clear position about racial problems, as has already been announced. As compared with the dangers which threaten that area from the outside, I must disagree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that the main danger is racial disturbances. I do not accept that as being the main danger to the stability of the area.

Mr. George Thomson

Then will the Prime Minister say what is the main danger? Who is the enemy that British forces are supposed to deter in Singapore and Malaysia?

The Prime Minister

I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, with his Ministerial experience, would be aware of the threats to Malaysia from the forces outside in Southern Thailand and north of the Malaysian border. These are well known to anyone who has studied the problems. If the right hon. Gentleman had been through the area he could have discussed the problems with the people on the spot.

Our Commonwealth partners in South-East Asia have been hard-headed about these matters, and they are developing their own defence capability. Malaysia and Singapore are both showing their determination to develop increasing self-reliance on their own forces, and they have received support from Australia and New Zealand.

It is now quite clear to the Opposition, I hope, that we shall not have anything like the enormous complex of facilities which Britain had there in the past. We are, as I constantly reiterated in Opposition, one part of a five-Power force and arrangement. Our requirements will be the minimum compatible with efficiency, and we shall share support and logistic arrangements with Australia and New Zealand. This is the kind of Commonwealth co-operation in defence which I believe to be valuable, and to be in tune with what is required in that area, but which apparently hon. Members opposite had not considered or were not prepared to support.

The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday that in carrying out this rôle the Services felt that they were being overstretched and unsupported. Nothing could be further from the truth. As I found when I visited the forces in Singapore during the recent Commonwealth Conference, they do not have that feeling in the least. The Services welcome the fact that they will continue there as a presence for a deliberate purpose. What is more, the fact that there are Her Majesty's Forces outside Europe gives an added interest to recruiting to young people in this country. I was very interested in what the right hon. Gentleman said about the ways of increasing interest in the forces, but there is no doubt that the thought of a life confined to commuting between Aldershot and Western Europe is not one which has the interest of service in other parts right across the world.

Each time I have visited Singapore and Malaysia I have been impressed by the enormous opportunities which are open there to British enterprise, whether commercial, financial or cultural. As development goes ahead in those countries, and in Indonesia in particular, so the opportunities for Britain will become greater. But there has been no doubt—and this is connected with our defence policy in South-East Asia—that we have suffered a handicap there in the past few years. I do not believe that the last Government ever realised the extent to which they created that handicap by their sudden announcement of complete withdrawal. There is no doubt that it gave the impression that we were no longer concerned, not only with military matters but with trade, investment and commerce in the area.

Another consequence of the policy we have followed is that now they recognise that we have a continuing interest there, though our presence is modest, and that we shall continue an interest in trade and investment. Anyone visiting Malaysia and Singapore today will see how that process is already under way.

Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)

The Prime Minister mentions trade. Is not Japan making the greatest inroad in economic affairs in Malaysia? How many troops has Japan got there to safeguard those economic interests?

The Prime Minister

That is an argument I have constantly heard before. The hon. Gentleman is experienced in military matters and has very often stood with distinction for his own beliefs in the House. How is it that the Japanese can trade in Malaysia and Singapore? It is only because there is stability there as a result of a British presence. How much trade would the Japanese have in that area if there were instability, insurrection and conflict? None at all. If it is a fact that with stability in the area the Japanese are making inroads into British trade, the answer lies with British industrialists and traders to hold their own markets. The stability is there, and it is up to us to seize the opportunity in the same way as the Japanese or Germans do.

I want now to speak about the other matter which was raised by the hon. Gentleman a moment ago, namely, the position in the Gulf. My right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary announced yesterday our proposals which have been put to the countries in the Gulf for dealing with the matter. I have been in the area a number of times in the past 10 years. I believe that the last Government's decision for total withdrawal, regardless of the circumstances, was a most damaging mistake, and I said so at the time. It upset the balance of power in the area. It created confusion and uncertainty, and the after-effects are still evident.

The disputes in the area, only one of which has been resolved—that of Bahrein—were not problems under either Government until the last Administration's announcement that they would withdraw completely. But those matters, having come into the public domain, now exist as disputes. We are glad that the dispute between Iran and Bahrein has been resolved. The other disputes still exist, and look like being problems for some time.

We criticised the then Government's decision when we were in Opposition and pledged to consult our friends in the area to see what form a continuing British interest in their stability should take. When I toured the Gulf countries and other countries concerned with policy in that area at Easter, 1969, I told them that when we came to power we would arrange to discuss with them the form in which we could best help them maintain their stability. That is precisely what we have done. The nature of the continuing interest we propose after discussions with them was announced by my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary yesterday.

The right hon. Member for Dundee, East criticised us yesterday for taking eight months to consult the countries in the Gulf and work out our proposals with them. Fifteen countries were involved in the consultations. To criticise the Government for taking eight months to consult them shows either how little experience the right hon. Gentleman has of such matters or the paucity of the argument he can raise against what the Government have been doing.

There is one other important aspect of the matter. As we constantly made clear in Opposition, when we supported the Government's approach, we strongly support the project for a union between certain of the Gulf States. The then Government supported it, but when 1 went around the Gulf I found that they were supporting it in theory but doing absolutely nothing to help bring it about in practice. This was not through misadventure, that was a deliberate policy to leave the Gulf States to form their union if they could in their own way. I constantly felt that the problems of forming any sort of union or federation are quite difficult enough for any group of countries, let alone those which have had no experience of this kind. Therefore, help should have been given by the Government of the day. The Labour Government spent all their time preparing for the military withdrawal and providing the Rulers with an explanation of why this was taking place, but they gave them no help in forming the union or making the sort of proposals to them which we have now been able to make.

In those circumstances, it is not surprising that the union has not made greater headway than it has, and that in some ways the project has languished. We are determined to do all we can to held the project forward. Of course, we recognise that it cannot be imposed on the Rulers. They must reach their decisions freely, taking into account what seems to them to be in their best own interests. But there is a rôle here for British diplomacy. We consider that we still have a responsibility in this matter. and it is one that we shall not shirk.

Mr. George Thomson

I apologise for interrupting again, but the right hon. Gentleman is not being fair and accurate in saying that we refused to give help for the formation of this union. Over a number of years, we gave maximum support and encouragement for the formation of the union. I myself, as a Minister of the Crown, went out to the Gulf with an offer of £2 million to the Emirates to help them co-operate together in various forms of development work that would help them to establish a viable federation.

The Prime Minister

No assistance was given to them in the actual procedure of forming the union and no proposals were made to them of the kind which we announced yesterday to help them with their own defence. We have committed ourselves to this offer.

Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)


The Prime Minister

I cannot give way again. I have already given way many times. We intend to give the Emirates every support that we can in forming a union. We have shown them that we will help with continuing training and a presence as far as that is acceptable to them. We believe that the best hope for stability in the area is a union of the kind now being discussed, helped and encouraged by continuing British efforts on the lines described yesterday.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) yesterday asked a question which was not clearly answered at the time and which I think should be answered now. In essence it was this: if the union of Emirates is not formed and the other things hoped for in yesterday's statement do not occur, will the British withdrawal none the less occur at the end of 1971, or is the British withdrawal contingent on progress with the union? It was a straight question and really was not answered. I think that we should know the answer.

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary answered that question clearly. Perhaps 1 might explain to the former Foreign Secretary by saying that this is a proposal to the Rulers and to those countries interested in a union as to what we can do to help them form a union. This is a matter for discussion with them. If necessary, my right hon. Friend himself or another of my right hon. Friends can visit the area in order to carry it further. But until we know what the decision is we are not, as my right hon. Friend said quite clearly, going to answer hypothetical questions as to what will happen. I would have thought that a former Foreign Secretary would have accepted that this is the right way to carry on diplomacy in as complicated and difficult a situation as this.

I want now to turn to the broader issue, which is the question of United Nations peace-keeping forces. We have endeavoured to support the United Nations in this, but for too long a United Nations force has been needed in Cyprus. We wish to see a settlement there and an end to the need for a peace-keeping operation. A more determined effort is now required to resolve the differences which took the force there seven years ago, for one reason, namely, that there are other possibilities of peace-keeping forces being required in other parts of the world. I do not believe that we shall be able to persuade other countries constantly to support the United Nations in peace-keeping endeavours if they find that a peace-keeping force is not a means to resolve a situation and to give time for diplomacy to work, but is merely a permanent commitment which seems to be unending. This is our view about the force in Cyprus, but in the meantime we are maintaining our contingent there.

In the four-Power talks in New York, we have been discussing ways in which the international community could help to guarantee and sustain a political settlement between the parties to the Arab-Israel dispute. This is one of the possibilities I have just mentioned. If there is progress towards such a settlement, we shall be prepared to ctonsider participating in a United Nations peacekeeping operation in that area, provided, of course, that there is agreement by all the parties concerned.

We were asked yesterday about disarmament. At Geneva, we will continue to work for agreement on measures of arms control and disarmament. It is true that progress has been slow, but we were encouraged by the non-proliferation treaty entering into force last year, and only a few weeks ago there was the signature of the Seabed Arms Control Treaty. Action has been taken already to keep outer space free of nuclear weapons, and this most recent measure will ban weapons of mass destruction from the seabed. All this is only the beginning, and in this I agree with the right hon. Member for Dundee, East. There is still no agreement on a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty, and we have yet to agree on measures to deal more effectively with the weapons of biological and chemical warfare. The S.A.L.T. talks are going on, of which we are kept fully informed and to which we make our contributions of thought and ideas. But the rule by which we have to judge all these things is the extent to which they provide additional security for the area concerned. For this reason, I think that the negotiation of new agreements will always be painstaking and slow. But we shall persist in our efforts.

Finally, I wish to say something about the Armed Services. They have been through a period of intense change which has been discussed in detail on the Service Estimates. To some extent, it has been right and inevitable because, in a period of rapidly changing technologies, it would have been a sign of danger if our Armed Services had attempted to remain static. Changes of structure have been necessary as well as changes of equipment. They have been accepted as necessary by those concerned with ensuring that we have a modern and effective system of defence.

But I know that there has also been a widespread feeling in the Services that some changes have not been necessary and could have been avoided by greater foresight, and that sometimes the Services have not been fairly treated. Sometimes they have felt that their efficiency and well-being have been placed at the mercy of domestic considerations—sometimes political—from which they should have been protected.

Certainly it is the Government's firm intention that the Services should now benefit from a period during which they can have a reasonable assurance about the policies which they will be asked to pursue and the resources which will be available to them. The White Paper shows the real character and purpose of the work which our Services do today, and tribute has many times been paid to the fairness and persistence with which the Army has carried out an almost impossible task in Northern Ireland. We ought to remind ourselves perhaps of what the purpose of that task has been. The simplest way of doing this is to ask ourselves how much bloodshed and how much destruction would have taken place by now in Northern Ireland had it not been for the presence of British troops.

Many people in Northern Ireland will, I think, gladly say, whether they be Catholic or Protestant, that they owe the fact that they and their families are alive today and going about their business to the presence of the British Forces in Northern Ireland and the way in which they have carried out their task.

The White Paper also emphasises what has often been mentioned, the three major relief operations which the Services have conducted in the last few months—in Jordan in September; in East Pakistan in November, and in Malaysia in January. On each occasion, the Services reacted with immense speed and efficiency, and during my visits to Pakistan and to Malaysia on the way to the Commonwealth Conference, as well as at the Conference itself, I heard from the Heads of Government of the countries concerned, and from many others, warm thanks and much praise for the work of the British forces in these operations. I also talked to British Servicemen who had taken part in them.

These achievements have been vividly reported, but all too often they fade from memory very quickly. But allowing for the immense services which the Armed Forces provide in this respect, it is not of course their primary task. Their primary task is to maintain the security of this country and the stability of the area in which they are serving.

There is an important part for Parliament and the Government to play in assuring the Services that we recognise what they are doing and are proud of what they are achieving. To the young men of this country the Services undoubtedly offer a career which is responsible, rewarding and among the most honourable and worth while anyone can undertake. What I want to emphasise is that we as a Government, and I believe the whole House, recognise our Armed Forces for what they are, the foundation of the security of this nation.

The Opposition Amendment suggests that our Forces are over-stretched and that we are neglecting our rôle in Europe. On the contrary, full and proper use is now, once again, being made of the potential of our Armed Forces and the defence facilities we have at our disposal. I know that the Services welcome our policies and that they are an encouragement to them.

In Europe we are increasing our contribution and, from a stronger alliance which we hope to build, we want to see progress and we shall work for progress in East-West relations. Elsewhere we are reversing policy decisions which we believe were taken hastily, mistakenly and which I have often felt Her Majesty's Opposition would like to reverse after a period of time and upon reflection, after seeing what were the consequences of those policies.

Some of these policies have not been reversed because they had changed the situation which could not be restored to what it was. But we are reversing other policies. We have done so in the Far East according to what our friends there want. We are changing policies in the Gulf in the way in which our friends there believe can best help them to maintain stability.

What this country has once again got is a realistic and responsible defence policy.

4.51 p.m.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)

The House has listened to a speech from the Prime Minister which would have us forget those past debates in which, from these benches, the then Opposition launched some of the most virulent attacks on the honour and patriotism of those of us who were either in Government or on the Government benches. The Prime Minister, because it is in his interests to do so, wishes to forget all that was said over that six-year period, but today he will not be allowed to forget that.

He has cynically broken pledge after pledge in the defence area and if there were any reason for us to doubt this, the assembled mass of his own backbenchers, who listened with ever-increasing gloom as he wriggled on the issue of the Gulf, is certainly confirmation of our beliefs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] He did not mention that there was an Amendment in the names of many of his hon. Friends strongly criticising the whole basis of his Gulf policy.

One of the most precious rights of this House of Commons is the right to exercise democratic political and financial control over the defence affairs of this country. Our House of Commons throughout its history has fought zealously to retain and preserve this right. It is therefore a lamentable situation when the Secretary of State for Defence sits in another place and cannot even come to listen to this debate for more than ten minutes at a time.

The Prime Minister dismisses that. The noble Lord is not answerable to this House of Commons. He holds his high office without any democratic mandate from a constituency, and the Prime Minister should explain this situation. It makes a mockery of the general concept of democratic, political control of the military. Previous Tory Administrations have had the Defence Secretary and also the Foreign Secretary in another place. We are beginning to wonder whether the Chancellor will not find refuge in another place, too, in order to avoid the embarrassment of accepting the scrutiny and real criticism that occurs in this House.

To give him credit, the Secretary of State took office with a lot of good will from both sides of the House but he will have to do a great deal better than he has so far done in the defence debate. The tone of that speech in another place was reminiscent of attitudes that many of us hoped had long since left us in the 1950s, let alone the 1960s. The vocabulary of sensible politicians should no longer include the sort of words used by the Secretary of State. He said that he did not wish to rattle sabres but anyone reading his speech must feel that his emphasis on the offensive military threat posed by the Russians could at least have been put in perspective if he had discussed the whole question of détente, the possibility of negotiation and of mutual force reductions in Europe.

The Prime Minister made much of the statement that we should not resent the facts about Russian forces and Warsaw Pact forces being presented to the House. I agree with that. What we do resent is that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State have been less than fair to the House in the comparison of those forces. They were not facts. The full details were not given, and they should be given. The Minister of State talked of N.A.T.O. force levels in the central region and said that there were more than 60 Warsaw Pact divisions confronting 23 divisions or their equivalent on the N.A.T.O. side.

It is this sort of talk that leads leader writers in newspapers to talk of a 3-1 ratio. Everyone knows that N.A.T.O. divisions are much larger than Warsaw Pact divisions. It has been said in a number of places, for instance by the former Under-Secretary in the United States Defence Department, that the typical British division is almost twice the size of a Warsaw Pact division and that a U.S. division is nearly three times the size of a Warsaw Pact division. On 2nd February, 1968, the then Secretary of State for Defence, McNamara said in his major statement: In all regions except Norway, the N.A.T.O. Pact forces are about equal in manpower. N.A.T.O. has about 900,000 troops deployed in all regions in continental Europe compared to 960,000 troops for the Warsaw Pact. He went on to say that manpower comparisons alone are not conclusive measures of military strength, with which I agree. There is the problem of "teeth to tail ratio" being more in favour of Warsaw Pact countries. It does, however, give a reasonable, relative measure by which to compare force capabilities. In the case of the air forces, mentioned by the Secretary of State, McNamara said at that time: … our relative capability is far greater than a simple comparison of numbers would indicate. By almost every measure—range, payload, ordnance effectiveness, loiter time, crew training—N.A.T.O. (especially U.S.) air forces are better than the Pact's for non-nuclear war…

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

The hon. Gentleman might perhaps turn to the military balance figures published by the Institute of Strategic Studies. He will see there that the combat and direct support troops available to N.A.T.O amount to 580,000 and to the Warsaw Pact countries 900,000 in the northern and central fronts. The report then adds that the Soviet forces could be doubled in four weeks, something which does not apply to N.A.T.O.

Dr. Owen

The question of reserves is one upon which McNamara has laid stress. The hon. Gentleman has quoted figures with which I am familiar. I have looked at the military balance quoted by him of N.A.T.O. versus the Warsaw Pact. In such a comparison it is necessary to include the southern flank as well as the northern and central flanks. On that comparison, in 1970–71 N.A.T.O. forces were shown to be 1,105,000, as against Warsaw Pact forces of 1,270,000. If we include France, which is reasonable, there is an additional 40,000 troops. Of course the number is difficult to compare and we on this side have always laid great stress on strengthening our force levels in Europe.

I would like to mention maritime forces to which the Prime Minister particularly seemed to attach great force. To hear the Secretary of State and his Ministerial colleagues one would think that the Russians had a superiority in this area. In the most recent study an attempt was made to improve on the ordinary comparisons of tonnage and to use a measure of standardised cost which consequently took account of such factors as the greater degree of sophistication in smaller vessels, the higher cost per ton of nuclear-powered submarines, the high proportion of old vessels in the U.S. Fleet and so on.

The principle behind the measurement system was expressed in this way: As a general rule it seems reasonable to assume that increased expenditure does buy an increase in performance or capability which, in a rough and ready way, has some relationship to the increase in the money spent. It was on this system of measurement that the N.A.T.O. fleet came out as over twice as large as the Warsaw Pact fleet. If it had been possible to include the value of the bases in the comparison, which would have been logical, the superiority would have been greater, and greater still if planes on aircraft carriers had been included. The facts have not been fairly presented to the House.

The Government claim, and the Prime Minister made great play of the figures, to have strengthened N.A.T.O. by their recent changes. This, as I well know, only invokes laughter in the Pentagon and in Washington. We all welcome the European Defence Improvement Programme and the Government's financial contributions, but, as I intend to show, their forces contribution to N.A.T.O. has been rather less than it was when we left office.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Antony Lambton)

Before the hon. Member leaves the subject of comparisons, will he please compare the armoured strength of the Warsaw Pact and the West?

Dr. Owen

There again one has to take into account not just tank numbers but tank effectiveness, which it is difficult to do. Many people think that, for instance, the Chieftain tank is far more proficient than many of the tanks it faces. I am not saying that across the whole range one cannot pick out areas where there is superiority. I am not trying to hide the facts.

I should like to discuss this so-called increased N.A.T.O. contribution, and the teeth which the Prime Minister spent a great deal of his time talking about. Let us examine the teeth. The Government have made much of the fact that they are putting six surface ships and a submarine out into the Far East, and this may I understand be on a continuous deployment basis. These are very different proposals from those we put, which were for a continuing presence on an alternating basis. This in no way is offset by the running on of H.M.S. "Ark Royal", which at best I assume will be available on average for less than two-thirds of the year and whose Phantom aircraft were already assigned to N.A.T.O. under the previous Government's proposals.

Let us look at the Army. The Government are putting one battalion group into the Far East, plus an air platoon and one artillery battery. This is certainly not offset by expanding T.A.V.R. to increase the reserve contribution to N.A.T.O.

Let us look at the Royal Air Force. The Nimrod and Whirlwind helicopters going to the Far East will be sorely missed by N.A.T.O.—particularly the Nimrods—and although the change in ratio of the Jaguar aircraft going into close support in N.A.T.O. will help, there is no increase in numbers, and the Phantom aircraft numbers will be less. Some being afloat on H.M.S. "Ark Royal" and not available should they be required in the event of an emergency in the central area. As one would expect with no extra money and with increased commitments, the N.A.T.O. contribution will be actually smaller, and it is humbug for the Government to try to pretend otherwise.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Lambton) for interrupting me, because it gives me an opportunity to quote some of his words of 1961 from a pamphlet entitled "Inadequacy: The State of our Conventional Forces"—I hope that I am not doing him an injustice in ascribing the authorship to him. At that time—and we believe that the situation could build up again—which is one of our fundamental criticisms of the Government—the then Tory Government had been slowly decreasing the force levels committed to Europe. From 1957, force levels of 77,000 were cut by 1961 to 45,000, and many of the units were below establishment, as he himself wrote. The hon. Member questioned Britain's over-commitment throughout the world and said: Indeed …the more one looks at the question, the more one comes up against the fact that the Government… —his Government— …has to face a very unpopular decision or risk continuing a policy which has very great dangers, both to the country and to the maintenance of those overseas bases which we yet retain. In other words, that we must have some form of conscription or risk the inescapable logic of the Labour Party's contention that we must cut our commitments. It is a tribute to the Labour Government that they increased the contribution to the Rhine Army and army units assigned to N.A.T.O. by 3,400 from 1964, and increased the strength of B.A.O.R. infantry battalions by up to 6 per cent. and, when we were able to come out from east of Suez completely we would have been able to make a more significant contribution.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite, who must privately be as annoyed as we are that the Secretary of State is not here to answer our questions, might care to think about this vocal gem which the Secretary of State produced recently in another place. He was forced to try to rebut criticisms of some of his policies, and in one particular field which has been so prevalent in recent months, the noble Lord said: My Lords, some people have dismissed our policy as a policy of general exhortations and pious hopes. But it is not; it is a policy of close attention to detail."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 24th February, 1971; Vol. 315, c. 1073.] So, after those halcyon years of Opposition when irresponsible pledge after irresponsible pledge was issued by the spokesmen appointed by the present Prime Minister, many of whom hold high office in his Government, all we are offered is a policy of close attention to detail.

The Minister of State for Defence (Lord Balniel)

The hon. Gentleman knows that he is taking those words completely out of context. The words "exhortations and pious hopes" were referring to an article which related to recruiting. Recruiting in 1968–69 amounted to 28,000. This year there will be 39,000. Is that really "pious hope and exhortation?"

Dr. Owen

I said "In one particular field"—

Lord Balniel

It is a total distortion.

Hon. Members


Dr. Owen

I said, in one particular field that has been so prevalent in recent months". Does the Minister deny that one of the major sources of criticism from the Press and informed military correspondents has been about recruiting? I did not say I was speaking about his whole policies—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ridiculous."] It is perfectly fair. So the Secretary of State reserves his general exhortations for his right hon. and hon. Friends who are becoming increasingly restless as broken pledge after broken pledge is tossed into the wastepaper basket.

I will let the Prime Minister know about these broken pledges. He seems to have thought that he could make an anodyne speech to the House and we should forget everything that had been said prior to his gracing us with his presence. Perhaps it was too embarrassing for the Government to have as a defence spokesman someone who had been making these speeches. So we have the Secretary of State, no politician, making statements in another place where we cannot even listen to them.

For instance, we hear no more about prolonging the carrier life of H.M.S. "Eagle" and H.M.S. "Hermes". Nowhere do the Conservative Government say they will prolong the life of existing carriers. We hear no more about the folly of accepting fixed defence budgets for the years ahead—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ark Royal."] It is ridiculous to hold on to one aircraft carrier which would be available for such a short period of time.

Lord Balniel

The hon. Gentleman, in his one brief moment of glory, was responsible for the Navy. During that period of time £30 million was spent on H.M.S. "Ark Royal". It was then decided to scrap it. Why?

Dr. Owen

The right hon. Gentleman should try to get his facts right. First, the decision to retain H.M.S. "Ark Royal" was made before I joined the Government. Secondly, he should try to envisage that the unanimous advice which we were tendered at the time by the Service chiefs—

Lord Balniel

Who was responsible for the policy? The Service chiefs?

Dr. Owen

Nobody is blaming the Service chiefs. I am saying that those hon. Members on the Opposition benches spent all their time saying that the Government should protect Service lives. So they should. So they should take notice of any threat to Service lives. There was the question of covering the withdrawal from east of Suez. It was felt, rightly, or wrongly, that there might have been circumstances in which that withdrawal could have been dangerous. It was believed at that time, and upheld by the Secretary of State, that to protect Service lives it was right to provide aircraft cover, not just the cover from H.M.S. "Eagle" and H.M.S. "Hermes" but sophisticated aircraft cover from phantom aircraft. Should we have ignored that advice? Hon. Gentlemen opposite would have a reasonable case if there were a role for "Ark Royal" for only two or three years, but to commit themselves to a whole new refit for the "Ark Royal" in 1974–75 when they have insufficient service manpower and when they know that in that period there will have to be a substantial refit—

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Kirk)

The hon. Gentleman must get his facts right. There will be two short refit periods of the "Ark Royal", but for nowhere near as long as he has suggested.

Dr. Owen

We shall be interested to know the time scale and the cost. But it was always thought to be an interim refit every two years for an aircraft carrier, with a large refit every four or five years. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are happy to run an aircraft carrier as complex as that until the end of the 1970s, they will have to spend more money on refits than they at present envisage.

Let us deal with defence expenditure, which is a matter very close to the hearts of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The present Home Secretary said in the defence debate of 1967: …our principle would be that any money needed to maintain the security of this country must be a prior charge on the Budget".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1967, Vol.751, c. 1098.] In the same debate the then Opposition defence spokesman pointed to …the stupidity of picking on a figure for defence expenditure four years ahead as the Government did in 1964. The present Home Secretary said again on 25th July, 1968: We believe that the fundamental error of the Government has been to base their defence planning on a fixed financial ceiling …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1968; Vol.769, c. 1024.] The present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said We do not pretend to think that we can have adequate defence on the cheap. We are prepared to pay the price to secure our interests and fulfil our commitments."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1969; Vol.779, c. 249.] Both were then in Opposition. What is the reality? The Secretary of State in giving a lecture in October last year talked of 'Increasing complexity'—of equipment—'growing cost within a rigidly controlled defence budget, more and more sophistication and an escalation of prices. And all this at a time when the Government are trying to reduce public expediture and take less money from the pockets of the people of this country '. The final culmination came in Cmnd. 4578, on page 16 The figures for the defence budget were explained in the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970 (Cmnd. 4521). This settled firmly the expenditure on the defence programme over the next four financial years. One more cynical pledge which has been completely broken. We hear no more about the pledge to restore the Hunter-Killer submarine build rate which was given in 1970. We are not ferreting back into 1964 or even 1965.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)

The hon. Member is going back to 1961.

Dr. Owen

We went back to 1961 for the deliberate reason that we are looking at commitments. This is one of our most serious objections to the policy of this Government. Those who held responsibility for defence forces in this country deeply resented the attack on our patriotism which was launched upon us by the then Opposition defence spokesman. We are entitled to ask what has happened to all their pledges to repair breaches which allegedly had been torn in the defences of this country. The pledge to rebuild the honour of our country which has been cast down. It is a sick joke. There was no breach and there was no casting down of honour.

The present Government inherited from us the best paid, best trained, and best equipped defence forces in Europe and in many areas forces which were superior to the United States forces in quality. The present Government have done nothing about these pledges. They do not need to be fulfilled and they know it. They had committed themselves to restore the force levels that we reduced in the Far East and planned to reduce. All they have done is to come up with this miserable package which is dangerous in form and marginal in content.

Sir Frederic Bennett (Torquay)

I am sure the hon. Gentleman would like to be fair. He has called this a miserable farce. May I recall to the hon. Gentleman the words of the Leader of the Opposition in a speech in the United States. He said: It is a hundred times easier for Britain to remain there"— east of Suez— even with a token force than for us to seek to enter when trouble occurs". Does the hon. Gentleman rebut that or does he accept it?

Dr. Owen

The hon. Gentleman is aware of the fact that devaluation meant a change of policy. Nobody has tried to deny what the Labour Government had to do—

Mr. Churchill (Stretford)

They welshed.

Dr. Owen

The hon. Gentleman, when he has been in the House a little longer, will hear a lot more about pledges which have been broken by his right hon. Friends. As a Welshman, may I say that I resent the use of that word. The facts are that they have had the opportunity.

In the Gulf they are accepting our run down timetable almost in its entirety. There is not a person in the Ministry of Defence who does not openly admit that the present Government have taken over all the policies of retrenchment, withdrawal and reduction which they so attacked when they were in Opposition.

Realism came to British defence and foreign policy over the decisions following devaluation. For the last two and a half years of the Labour Government these policies were pursued courageously against virulent and, as we now see it, totally synthetic opposition.

What do we now have in this White Paper? A rather nauseatingly-written political introduction headed "Policy". This is intended as a general exhortation to try to pretend to their own back benchers that they are to spend more money, expand force manpower and accept new commitments. They are not doing anything of the sort.

This type of posturing—the policy which has been built up by the Tory Party in this country as some kind of principle—should be recognised for what it is: a mixture of deceit and humbug. However, the serious objection to the policy is that it is a prescription for overstretch. It does not honestly face the real facts that the Cabinet have already decided that there will not be any substantial increase in financial resources for defence over the next five years. It does not honestly face the fact that the voluntary manpower pool is not sufficient to give credible support in terms of increasing force levels to support open-ended commitments in the Far East. Behind this policy statement there are attitudes which could, if unchecked now, eventually lead to this country once again returning to the situation in 1963.

Mr. Churchill

It was surely the hon. Gentleman's own Administration which had an open-ended commitment in the Far East under the Anglo-Malaysian defence agreement and was providing no deterrent capability on the spot and was relying merely on reinforcement from this country.

Dr. Owen

The hon. Gentleman, of all people, should be aware of the fact that one of his own relatives came to this House and negotiated the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. This was inherited by us. The hon. Gentleman must do his homework.

Mr. Churchill


Dr. Owen

I am not giving way again to the hon. Gentleman. I am saying that these policies, if unchecked, could eventually lead to the state in which this country found itself in 1963 when we inherited from the Tory Government in 1964 a serious state of affairs. We inherited a strategy which was still largely based on massive nuclear retaliation. We inherited forces extending all round the world, overstretched, ill-equipped. Even spending just under 7 per cent. of the gross national product on defence as the Tory Government then did, we could not meet all the financial requirements dictated by these commitments.

So we are left with the Secretary of State boasting in another place that this year's White Paper is 30 pages shorter and 7½p less than the 1970 White Paper—altogether, he claims, a good example of Conservative cost-effectiveness. What drivel. This House wants more information, not less about defence policy and wants it in this House—not in a totally undemocratic assembly, composed of a cross between hereditary peers and Prime Ministerial appointees.

The White Paper says very little about the all-important strategic arms limitation talks which are now taking place. I understand the problems involved. In my view, it has been a major omission from recent defence debates how little serious discussion Parliament gives to this whole area of nuclear disarmament. It is no good us leaving it entirely to the two super powers to argue about the major issues. It is particularly important for Britain, which is one of the few countries that possesses enough nuclear know-how to argue with its ally, the United States, that our voice should be heard, and that that voice should not always be confined behind closed doors. I realise the problems of defence Ministers. The fact is that in the past in regard to the S.A.L.T. real mistakes have been made. The real tragedy is the way in which first the Johnson Administration, then the Nixon Administration prevaricated over proposing a M.I.R.V. testing moratorium. This was the one really effective immediate initiative open to the United States Administration in a serious attempt to halt the arms race.

By the time that the S.A.L.T. actually began, the United States had almost completed its M.I.R.V. testing programme, and so the one opportunity for taking a major step to halt the quantum leap that M.I.R.V. deployment involves was lost. It is now unlikely that the Russians will agree to an immediate ban on M.I.R.V. testing, knowing, as they do, that the Americans could easily circumvent such a ban by fitting M.I.R.V.s without further testing and with a fair measure of confidence in their existing technology. History will show the reluctance to push a M.I.R.V. moratorium to have been a massive error of judgment.

Admittedly, all weapon moratoriums have their dangers, but, even with the Russians' persistent refusal, to consider on-site testing, there were reasonable grounds for believing that modern detection devices would have been able to pick up the testing of M.I.R.V., and even, if necessary, banning the testing of M.I.R.V.s and decoy testing. It is because of the imbalance of M.I.R.V. technology, with the United States having a clear lead, that initially S.A.L.T. is likely to prove disappointing. However, the long-term prospects for talks continuing over the next four or five years could involve major changes in current nuclear policy. At this stage, the Russians will probably be unwilling to accept a freeze on the existing level of missiles and aircraft unless this is accompanied by a total M.I.R.V. ban or by including M.I.R.V.s in the total number of missiles counted. They know that they have fewer missiles than the United States and that the United States is possibly developing a new generation of bombers. They also know that they are behind in applying M.I.R.V. technology, and so a freeze would be likely to ensure a widening of the missile gap for some years to come.

The other issue for the S.A.L.T.—and it is important in terms of the massive drain on financial resources in the two countries—is whether there can be any agreement on reducing or banning A.B.M. deployment. The Soviet Union already has deployed round Moscow the Golosh system, and the United States has become committed to putting the safeguard system round their Minuteman sites and probably round Washington. This problem of A.B.M. deployment must be taken seriously, and when the Prime Minister says that he is being kept informed about the S.A.L.T. and is taking an active interest in them, I hope that he is putting in a specific British input to the United States.

The United States recently has become very concerned about the Russian SS9 missiles which have three warheads and which, though not at present independently controlled, are able to land in a pattern which could effectively knock out a Minuteman site, even when hardened by the addition of extensive reinforced concrete round the launching base. The facts are well known in the United States, but they are rarely discussed here. The main American concern is that this could provide the Russians with a first-strike weapon system and it was this concern which formed the major argument for deploying an A.B.M. system.

It seems extraordinary that Congress could decide actually to slow down the conversion rate of Polaris submarines to be fitted with Poseidon, which is a system with a proven second-strike capability, and at the same time accept, after tremendous opposition in the United States, the case for an A.B.M. system which would at best, if proved technically successful, confer a limited second-strike capability on the vulnerable Minuteman sites. It would, however, be achieved at a tremendous financial cost. Let us hope that a total ban on A.B.M. deployment is being actively discussed and pushed by Her Majesty's Government.

It is clear, therefore, that the 1970s will present a completely new dimension of increase in nuclear weapons if the S.A.L.T. fail, and it is against this background that we in this country must discuss the comparatively insignificant strategic forces of Britain and France. It is particularly gratifying to hear that the present Government have not made any attempt to link entry into the Common Market with discussions with the French on nuclear matters. The complete absence of any move by this Government or the French is to be welcomed. Many of us on this side of the House, though strongly committed Europeans—and 1 make no secret of my views on the subject—and hoping that the Common Market talks are successful, would strongly condemn any linking of nuclear weapons with the Common Market negotiations. At one time, it seemed as though the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister in his Godkin lecture, was proposing such a link. It is good to know that the E.E.C. negotiations are not straying into the possibility of committing this error. It is a quite separate problem and should be discussed in the environment of the N.A.T.O. Alliance.

Europe has a real interest in the outcome of the S.A.L.T., especially as they relate to the large number of existing Soviet medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles which are targeted on Europe. We in this country have made it clear to the United States that we would be deeply concerned if the Americans were to propose any unilateral reduction in the 7,000 nuclear weapons at present in Europe. These weapons are considered to be now an indispensable element in N.A.T.O.'s deterrent against attack, and any future reduction, which hon. Members on this side of the House will welcome, would have to be accompanied by equivalent reductions of the Soviet medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles.

A.B.M. deployment is also of concern to the British and the French because the effectiveness of their existing strategic forces could be weakened by widespread A.B.M. deployment. My message to the Government is that this is an area of vital interest to Europe and to this country. I hope that they will not feel that they must necessarily endorse American initiatives because of some feeling of nuclear inferiority. There is no need for pessimism. The S.A.L.T. could still represent a major break-through in halting the arms race.

The greatest contribution that we could make to intelligent discussion of these crucial issues is to challenge technically, as an understanding but nevertheless independent critic, the assumption on which American policies are based within the Alliance.

I do not wish to embark on too long a discussion of maritime strategy, for much of the ground will have to be covered tomorrow when we come to debate the Government's deplorable decision to sell arms to South Africa. However, one cannot look at the White Paper without criticising the whole concept of the supposed military threat of Russian naval forces in the Indian Ocean.

No one who has served in the Ministry of Defence will deny that this Ministry is not usually short of military threats. In fact, they abound in every corner. One can barely hold a meeting without being confronted by some new threat. The job of Ministers is usually to inject a degree of realism into the assessment of potential military threats. I find it all the more inexplicable and extraordinary, therefore, that this Government should have found it necessary to find a military threat all on their own. It is a very remarkable achievement. For the last four years, the Ministry of Defence has quite rightly watched the growth of the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean very carefully. Never at any time was the threat judged to be anything other than primarily political; yet, suddenly, having taken office on the afternoon of 19th June, by Monday. 22nd June, the Foreign Secretary decided to change the assessment of the political threat in the Indian Ocean to a major military threat. The topic turned into a discussion of protecting our sea lanes and returning to concepts of future naval war that were slowly being abandoned in the 1950s, let alone the 1960s.

Not unnaturally, the Ministry of Defence is already beginning to revise its previous judgments. It would hardly be in the nature of the Ministry to turn down a threat offered to it on a plate by no less a person than its own Prime Minister. The difficulty of obtaining a sensible dialogue on the possibility of limiting war at sea is that each side of the argument tends to overstate dramatically its case. For example, it is inconceivable that the super Powers will ever again face the same type of prolonged maritime warfare, going on over many years, as they did in the last two world wars. However, it is a realistic planning assumption that an initial maritime incident could be contained using conventional weapons over many more days than are likely to be possible with an initial land-based incident. At sea, with no rigid boundaries, the probability is of a slower escalation with more time for second thoughts, and, in consequence, a higher nuclear threshold.

To that extent, limited war at sea is credible. The proponents of extended war at sea, however, talk of the need for the worldwide protection of sea lanes and constantly reiterate import figures and merchant ship numbers to show the vulnerability of various nations to interference with their seaborne overseas trade. These arguments are very hard to sustain, and my experience is that the more sophisticated naval officers are themselves unconvinced that this is a sensible strategy on which to base their future policy. It becomes particularly irrelevant when one considers how strongly the then Opposition used those same arguments as a reason for not withdrawing from the Persian Gulf. Yet now the Government have accepted the logic of the argument that this was not a major factor and it was more important to ensure peaceful relations with the States surrounding the Gulf.

The only case for accepting that a military threat exists in the Indian Ocean was the view that there might be interference with Western tankers sailing from the Gulf. The Government are obsessed with the Cape. If there really is a military threat, why are the Government leaving the Gulf? They must know that of all the assessments for withdrawal the one case strongly contested by the Americans was withdrawal from the Gulf far more than from the Far East. It is the Gulf area which is the most likely place for any interference with Western shipping—the Gulf and its surrounding areas to the Indian Ocean.

Can anyone seriously believe that the Western Alliance, if confronted with a persistent threat over a period of a few days of the Russians interfering with our merchant fleet, would take—[Interruption.] The Minister of State must not make such offensive remarks. Why should we choose the Cape, far away from our shores? Why not choose an area of the sea, if we wish to risk escalation against the Russians, nearer home?

Dr. Miller

Does my hon. Friend agree that since British ships going into the Indian Ocean form only about 8 per cent. of the total amount of shipping, it seems ridiculous that Britain should take unilateral action to protect the sea lanes, and is she not acting against her own interests by the decision to sell arms to South Africa?

Dr. Owen

If we accept, as my hon. Friend does, that the major threat is political, the most assinine way to go about defending it is to alienate practically all the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. If we think that there is a threat of military action we should not withdraw from the Gulf.

The Prime Minister would like us to believe that he has not changed his mind about the Gulf. The right hon. Gentleman finds it impossible to admit to the House that he has changed his mind. But if we look through the quotations which have been given before, the Prime Minister was firmly committed. In 1968 the right hon. Gentleman said: and so, when the time comes—and on the Prime Minister's time schedule the opportunity will be open to us—we shall ignore the time phasing laid down by the Prime Minister and his Government for the Far East and the Middle East. We shall support our country's friends and allies and we shall restore the good name of Britain."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January 1968; Vol.756, c. 1971.] Again, in March, 1968, the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] You have not done this—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Order. The Chair has been tolerant. I have been saddled with a number of strange requests. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will keep to the conventions of the House.

Dr. Owen

I shall accept the Ruling of the Chair.

The House will be interested to hear what the then Leader of the Opposition—now the Prime Minister—said. The right hon. Gentleman has never denied that on 31st March he told his friends in the Gulf that he had come to the area to discuss with them whether they wanted us to stay, and that, if they did, we would stay. Did they not want us to stay? Is this the reason for the change in the right hon. Gentleman's policy? We now gather that they want us to leave. We always said that they wanted us to leave.

The right hon. Gentleman makes great claim that his policies are different. Has the right hon. Gentleman looked at the White Paper published by the Labour Government in 1969? In that we said, the Trucial Oman Scouts…will be incorporated in a federal force to defend the Union of Arab Emirates…we have made available the services of Major-General Sir John Willoughby and a team of experts to advise them on their defence forces. British officers will continue to assist in the development of other local forces in the Gulf and of the armed forces of the Sultan of Muscat. It is absolutely preposterous of the Prime Minister to pretend that we did not help to bring about the Union of Arab Emirates. The key issue in getting the nine Trucial States to join together was Bahrain. The other eight refused to join with Bahrain when its status was unresolved. That diplomatic initiative was proposed by this Government and carried out by the U.N.

There is nothing in the five points contained in the Foreign Secretary's statement on the Persian Gulf which we could not and would not have applied had we remained in government. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we said practically all of this. We said that we would have regular visits by ships of the Royal Navy. We always envisaged training exercises continuing, if they wished them and would make available space. The fact is that there is no difference in policy. The right hon. Gentleman has however not been able to come to the House and tell us so.

On Far Eastern policy, at one time the right hon. Gentleman was talking of £100 million plus or minus £10 million. This has come down to £5 million or £10 million—[Interruption.] It is not a distortion. In "Man in the News" on 16th January, 1970, an I.T.V. programme, the then Leader of the Opposition said: I am not going to tie myself down to 10 plus or minus £100 million, but it is a modest insurance premium. That modest insurance premium is now £5 million to £10 million. That is where the nub lies. One of our anxieties is that, if we are to have that on the ground commitment, we should be attempting to ensure that we can match it should the eventuality arise.

One thing which puzzles us about the right hon. Gentleman is the purpose of this force in the Far East. We are not so much concerned about manpower or even cost. The real question is: how do the Government envisage such a force being used? It was on this area that the Government, when in Opposition, in fact revealed their thoughts. On 8th January last year the then Leader of the Opposition said in Singapore: The main purpose of the forces must be to prevent the stability being interfered with from outside. On 9th January Reuter reported reliable sources as saying that under a Conservative Government British troops could be counted on to help fight even internal rebellions.

The Prime Minister

That report was never substantiated and was not true.

Dr. Owen

It seems surprising that the right hon. Gentleman never denied it.

The Prime Minister

I denied it at the time, and said so in Singapore.

Hon. Members


Dr. Owen

If the Prime Minister says that he did not say it, I accept it and withdraw.

However, I draw attention to a statement made by the present Foreign Secretary in Kuala Lumpur in March 1970: The Conservative-party would like Britain, Australia and New Zealand to contribute troops to a Commonwealth Counter-insurgency force in South-East Asia. Did the right hon. Gentleman say that? If so he is committing Britain to a counter-insurgency force, which is the real reason why we need troops on the ground.

The Prime Minister has admitted that any use of force in this area could escalate into a North Vietnam situation. The right hon. Gentleman said that that risk applied just as much to the Labour Government's proposals as to his. That is inescapable. The fundamental criticism is that a token and inadequate force can easily be drawn into a confrontation in this area. This is one of our major causes of anxiety. If the threat is of direct aggression, as it was in Indonesia, it is possible to use the general capability that we planned to reinforce the area and to come in from outside, particularly as far as the Navy is concerned.

Mr. Churchill

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dr. Owen

I certainly will not. The Navy, over the years, has been increasingly using and relying on afloat support. The Americans have given up the concept of fixed bases because they, like the Prime Minister, know that that sort of commitment leads, as it led in Vietnam, from a small training force gradually and imperceptibly into a larger commitment.

The Prime Minister should also remember that at the height of the Malayan war, which went on through the late 1940s and early 1950s, over 70,000 British personnel were involved. At the height of the Indonesian confrontation, 50,000 men were involved. This is our major criticism of the Government.

The Prime Minister

I did not say that I thought that this was likely to run the risk of becoming a Vietnam. My belief is exactly the opposite. I believe that such political decisions must always rest with the Cabinet of the day. I specifically said that British Governments have had to handle this kind of situation over a long period. The risk does not come from using an existing facility in Singapore instead of afloat support. The risk does not come from having forces on the ground as a deterrent. That reduces the risk. In any case, the Labour Government were prepared to send out vast forces provided the risk was worth taking. It is therefore no argument that having a force on the ground increases the risk. It reduces the risk, because, as the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) said yesterday, it is a deterrent.

Dr. Owen

The question can be posed in circumstances which we have had to face. In 1969 in Malaysia, there were severe racial riots. We were, or could be thought to have been, under A.M.D.A., bound to intervene. Would a British Government—[Interruption.] It is a different sort of interpretation. One can argue that we did not, but certainly there would have been a point at which we could have. But if we had troops actually there, as we did at that time—not many in Malaysia, mainly in Singapore—there is the danger of actually being involved on a day-to-day basis, first protecting our bases and then escalating to further protection, then being asked in by the government, and finding it difficult to refuse. These things have happened in the past and there is a grave danger that they will happen in the future. The inadequacy of the force undermines to a certain extent any deterrent effect.

When we were talking in terms of our presence in the Far East, as the right hon. Gentleman keeps reminding us, it was a fairly formidable presence—

Sir F. Bennett


Dr. Owen

One has only to look at the token force in terms of numbers. The force which still exists out there and the force which was planned to be there just for the last stages of the withdrawal was over 9,000.

So what I am saying is that the major belief always has been that we should try to have, if we have commitments, sufficient forces to back them up on the ground. If we have not sufficient forces to do so, they could be made available when we want and how we want as a direct decision, and to that extent, we believed that a general capability of reinforcement was essential.

Although I am a strong European, I do not take the view that we can completely abdicate our responsibilities in and around the world, but our prime responsibility is in Europe and the Tories have a record of getting over-committed, overstretched, pulling out and leaving inadequate forces in Europe and getting stretched worldwide. This is the major criticism.

Thus, at the end of this debate, I would ask my hon. Friends to vote not only for our Amendment but against the whole of this White Paper. It represents so much of what we on this side dislike about the present Government. It is arrogant in tone and in places it is full of humbug. At times it uses offensive language, it is dangerous in the long term because of over-commitments in the Far East, and, above all, it represents a whole series of broken pledges from this Government, and from a Prime Minister who boasted of himself as a man of principle. For this reason, we will ask the House to reject it.

5.43 p.m.

Mr. R. Bonner Pink (Portsmouth, South)

I should like first of all to congratulate the Prime Minister on his clear exposition of the present position and his comprehensive review. I regret that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) did not make an equally useful and valuable contribution. Instead, he devoted so much of his time to making a partisan speech and had to repeat the red herring introduced yesterday, that the Secretary of State does not sit in this House. I will not follow the hon. Gentleman, because I am not clear what he was trying to prove, apart from making petty party political points.

I listened most attentively to yesterday's debate, and I am rather surprised that one of the main criticisms was that we were not increasing expenditure. The Opposition seem befuddled with the idea that, by just spending more money, one will get better and stronger Services. That is not necessarily true, especially in defence. At the moment, I see little point in spending more money, as the limiting factor in defence today is not money but manpower. There is no point in spending more money on equipment if the men are not there to use it. What the present Government have done is use the available manpower to the best advantage.

I congratulate the Government on reaching agreement with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore on a military presence in South-East Asia, on their policy for the Gulf, on selling maritime arms to South Africa and on reaching agreement with Nepal on the Gurkhas. All these achievements mean freeing United Kingdom troops so that we can better cover existing commitments with existing manpower.

I also congratulate the Minister on the White Paper, as a factual account of our defences and proposals in the near future. Unfortunately, of course, the White Paper reveals many deficiencies and weaknesses, but it shows a realistic approach by the Services to current problems. It is no longer true to say that the Services are preparing for the next war by training for the last. I am particularly pleased that the Government have confirmed their intention to maintain a presence in South-East Asia and have successfully concluded arrange- ments in the Five-Power Pact for integrated and balanced forces in this area, as this will undoubtedly help stability.

We cannot, of course, stay in any area unless we are wanted, but both Malaysia and Singapore told us last autumn that they wanted us to maintain a presence in that area for at least the next five to ten years, because of the scarcity of their technicians, experienced N.C.O.s and senior officers—a scarcity which only time, of course, can cure. They may need advice and technical help for quite a long time.

The right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) spoke about racial disturbances in South-East Asia, but we were assured by the Malaysians and Singaporeans that they are capable of maintaining internal security now against infiltration, but not aggression, from outside.

It is satisfactory that the Government have reached agreement with Nepal over the strength of the Gurkhas, as those troops are most valuable in Hong Kong and the Far East. But I am concerned about the supply position to Hong Kong following the rundown in Singapore. Can the Minister assure the House that base supplies for an emergency will be available in Singapore or Australia and that Hong Kong will not have to rely on supplies from the United Kingdom? The White Paper covers the supply to Singapore after the rundown, but it does not mention Hong Kong.

Yesterday, much emphasis was placed on the Indian Ocean and the Gulf. There can be no doubt that this is a serious and growing problem, but experience has shown that the Russians have not tried to get into any area where we have a presence, however small, but that, as soon as we leave a strategic area, the Russians move in. There is a good example in Hong Kong. There, we have comparatively small forces of five infantry battalions and one artillery regiment facing two or three divisions in Red China.

No one pretends that, if China wanted to move into Hong Kong, it could not do so but China knows that, if she wants Hong Kong, she can get it but only by fighting for it. This is in contrast with nearby Macao. The Portuguese there made no attempt to defend it. The Chinese have moved in, and, to all intents and purposes, it is now a Chinese possession.

I would welcome an extension of bases in the Indian Ocean, in Mauritius for example, but in addition to and not in place of other bases. It would, however, be unrealistic to think that we could undertake additional bases with our present manpower situation. As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) said yesterday, 75 per cent. of Europe's oil goes around the Cape, so perhaps we could persuade our European friends to take more interest in the Indian Ocean and join us in that direction.

The basic problem in our defences is manpower. We are all glad to know that recruiting has improved. While that is largely due to better pay and conditions, the Government can take credit for clearly indicating to the Services that there is a worth-while long-term career in the forces, and the rate of re-engagement indicates that the Services appreciate this.

Attention is rightly drawn in the White Paper to the effects of raising the school-leaving age. Agreement should, and could. be reached between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Education to enable recruits to join at 15 and still continue their education. This does not seem to need any change of principle because for a considerable time junior officers have attended university full-time, and now we see from the White Paper that City and Guilds Certificates are being awarded to P.Os. and leading ratings. This principle could, I believe, be extended.

I am particularly pleased to see that attention is being paid to the serious problem of the rehabilitation of families from Singapore who are being sent home in advance of their men. Both husbands and wives were worried about how the wives would cope on their own, with finding accommodation, looking after the furnishings, finding schools and the many family problems which arise when wives do not have their husbands with them to help. I am sure that the emphasis which the White Paper gives about the Ministry of Defence realising these problems and taking steps to deal with them will have a great effect on recruiting and re-engagement.

I am concerned over the strength of the Royal Navy because it takes longer to build up this Service than any other. For example, it takes longer to build ships than tanks or aircraft. I am concerned when I see that no more Polaris submarines are on order or projected. Of our existing four, one is undergoing a long refit, and obviously the remaining three can maintain only one, and occasionally two, at sea continuously. We should have a fifth Polaris submarine so that we could always have two, and often three, at sea at once.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) I am pleased to see that the design of the through-deck cruiser has started. I hope the Minister will be able to tell the House when the first ship is expected to be in commission and whether that will occur before the carriers are phased out. I am pleased also to note that a new general purpose frigate is being designed. Is close contact being maintained with the designers of the Amazon class in this connection?

I welcome the statement that Portsmouth Dockyard will be fully employed within the next year and I hope the Minister will assure us that there will be no further rundown in employment in this area. I renew my plea that the Department should place a contract for the building of a ship in Portsmouth Dockyard. It is a great boost to morale to see a ship started at the keel plate, finally to see it slide down the ways as a complete entity. I assure my right hon. Friend that if he places an order he will not regret it. Portsmouth ships are well and quickly built. They are completed on time and at an economic price.

5.53 p.m.

Sir Geoffrey de Freitas (Kettering)

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink) that the Government should consider, in the recruiting of young men, allowing them to continue with their education. It is obvious that all three Services will face great recruiting problems with the raising of the school-leaving age. I hope that during this series of defence debates we shall be told how the various Services intend to tackle this problem.

I did not agree with the hon. Gentleman, however, when he said that it was a red herring for anybody to drag into the debate the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence is in the House of Lords. We have frequently protested against Ministers in charge of huge spending Departments being in another place and we are making a legitimate criticism of the Government by stressing this point on this occasion.

I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister's affirmation that N.A.T.O. is the foundation of our security. I listened to most of yesterday's debate and I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman affirm that, after all the buzz and fuzz. However, before dealing with N.A.T.O. I wish to comment on the Gulf. The Prime Minister taunted the then Labour Government for not giving the Gulf States help in forming a union. I am surprised that a Conservative Prime Minister should criticise the Labour Government, after all the failures of the previous Conservative Government in laying down federations, failures which I regret very much indeed.

There were the failures in the Caribbean, in Malaysia and, above all, the failure of the East African Federation, which never even got off its feet. As a result of the experience of those failed federations, I supported—indeed, I advised—the Labour Government in approaching the Gulf States in a quite different way. That different approach was to offer advice but to do nothing whatever which might appear to be seeking to impose a federation after a pattern conceived in London.

I welcome the emphasis in the White Paper on the importance of N.A.T.O., and I was glad to hear the remarks of the Prime Minister in this context. I want N.A.T.O. to be strong, for two reasons. The first is so that it is in balance with the power of the Warsaw Pact because, under this umbrella of balanced forces, fear can be removed and a climate can be created in which there may be a détente and a reduction of armaments.

The second reason why N.A.T.O. should be strong is that we must be seen to be capable of deterring Russian aggression. Only two and a half years ago Russia, with Warsaw Pact forces, invaded Czechoslovakia. There was fear, not so much in this country but certainly on the Continent of Europe. N.A.T.O. should be strong enough to ensure that such fear is impossible.

Since I want N.A.T.O. to be militarily strong so that we are in balance with the Warsaw Pact, it follows that, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Frank Allaun), I do not wish to reduce the percentage of our gross national product going to N.A.T.O. Instead, I want to encourage our European allies, who are getting their defence on the cheap at present, to raise their contributions to the same percentage of their G.N.P. as we are devoting to N.A.T.O. This applies particularly to France and Germany.

I emphasise again—I am sorry to labour the point but it is the basis of my argument—that I want the strength of N.A.T.O. to balance that of the Warsaw Pact, not just for the sake of balancing it but because it is the only way by which we shall be able to create an atmosphere free from fear and a climate for tente and the reduction of the burden of arms.

Mr. Wilkinson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he is contradicting his hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen)? On the central front in air power there is a superiority of two to one being disposed by the Warsaw Pact. Does he suggest that we increase our air forces to meet that threat?

Sir G. de Freitas

I trust that the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy of listening to all of my argument. I do not want to increase the proportion of the G.N.P. which we devote to defence. I want our allies in Europe, who, as I explained, are now getting their defence on the cheap, to use the same amount of their G.N.P. as we use for N.A.T.O., especially on the central front, so enabling N.A.T.O. to be strong enough to be in balance with the Warsaw Pact. I went on to say that that would enable fear to be removed and a climate to be established in which it might be possible to reduce the burden of arms.

Above all, I want to strengthen N.A.T.O. politically. There is great need of this, because public opinion, and even what should be informed public opinion, is confused as to N.A.T.O.'s rôle and purpose, and I will give a few examples of what I mean.

For some domestic American political reason, the study of pollution has suddenly been thrust on the already overextended N.A.T.O. Secretariat, at a time when the problem of pollution is already being worked on in the Council of Europe, O.E.C.D. and the U.N. European Agency. Furthermore, the two countries which in Europe suffer as much as any from problems of pollution are Switzerland and Sweden. Sweden suffers because of the Baltic. Neither of them is a member of N.A.T.O. The Baltic is an enormous problem. Only a tiny part of its coast is a N.A.T.O. country's coastline. It is nonsense to force on to the agenda the subject of pollution when N.A.T.O. has quite enough to do with its military rôle. It could not possibly have happened if there had been a place where European Members of Parliament and American congressmen could debate whether it was desirable to do this.

Another misunderstanding of the nature of N.A.T.O. was shown on 18th February when The Times defence correspondent wrote that Britain … stands between N.A.T.O. and the Soviet Union. We are the largest European power in N.A.T.O. We cannot possibly be described as being outside it. On any view we are essentially part of it. It is alarming when a very distinguished correspondent can nod like that, even for a moment.

Congressmen and Members of Parliament are often very ignorant about the state of the Alliance and the contributions of their allies. I have found that important United States senators and congressmen appear to have no idea of Britain's defence contribution which, as we have already discussed, is much larger than that of any other ally of the United States.

The Prime Minister referred to the possibility of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Europe. I have found that distinguished United States senators and congressmen do not fully appreciate the consequences which this would have for Europe. Such a withdrawal would not be a spur to greater effort by our continental allies, as they argue. Instead a United States withdrawal would be interpreted by the man in the street on the Continent as a sign that the greatest military Power in the world had decided that the threat was not so great.

Incidentally, our Continental allies will be encouraged by what was said yesterday and today about the Government's conversion on the Gulf. Many continental Members of Parliament thought that Government policy would weaken our European contribution in order to build up east of Suez. I have been reminded politely by Continental Members of Parliament that by the Treaty of 1954 we bound ourselves to maintain our forces in Europe at a certain level, and it seemed clear to them that if the Government turned away towards east of Suez it could be only at the cost of our contribution to N.A.T.O. in Europe. They will be much relieved by what was said yesterday.

Again, the Americans did not seem to realise the difficult problems raised by the fact that Greece is in our Alliance. Not all hon. Members opposite share my belief on this, but unfortunately the existence of Greece in our Alliance undermines a great deal of what N.A.T.O. originally stood for.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There are military arguments that Greece, because of its geographical position, is of overwhelming importance to N.A.T.O. We have to balance one argument against another. That is why opportunities for discussion on these matters should be much more frequent among the parliamentary members of our Alliance. Many distinguished and important American senators and congressmen do not appreciate that many members of N.A.T.O. are concerned about Greece.

On the other hand, Europeans who are concerned with supporting N.A.T.O. in their respective countries do not realise that North America has a right to involve itself in European defence because, after all, twice in this century young men from Seattle and Vancouver have died in battle in Western Europe, as have young men from Vladivostok. If the Soviet Union is concerned in European defence, so is North America.

I am convinced that many of the misunderstandings and misconceptions could be made much less likely if there were a forum for debating problems of the Alliance. I am asking for an official consultative assembly of N.A.T.O. on the lines of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe. Since 1955 we have had an unofficial annual meeting of Members of Parliament and congressmen from the N.A.T.O. countries. Gradually, because it has no Dower and no money and is an unofficial body, our Governments have become reconciled to it. "Reconciled" is the strongest word which I can use. Even the British Government at the time—I remember it well because I was deeply involved in 1955—fought desperately against its establishment. The Government are now reconciled to it.

I regret that successive British Governments have been against turning this into an official assembly. I should like to tell the House of something which M. Spaak said in 1959. Why do I quote him? M. Spaak has been Prime Minister of his country, Foreign Secretary, President of the Consultative Assembly of the Council of Europe, and Secretary-General of N.A.T.O. When he was Secretary-General of N.A.T.O. he said that he was in favour of parliamentary supervision of N.A.T.O., and he went on to emphasise that he meant "international" parliamentary supervision and not "national" parliamentary supervision, such as we all have. He said that in 1959. He told us that his experience as a civil servant at N.A.T.O. had confirmed his political experience that For an administrative service the fear of a parliament is the beginning of wisdom. The unofficial N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Assembly has met every year since 1955. The quality of its members is high. The British and American people have always been of a high standard. I will mention only people who have led their parties. When he was a Senator, we had President Johnson. We had Mr. Gaitskell. We had the present Leader of the Opposition. But because it is unofficial the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Assembly suffers from lack of resources to get the best out of its debates and meetings.

What should be done? It should be made official. There are problems in doing so because of France's lack of interest in N.A.T.O. But the other countries should go ahead on their own, as they have done in N.A.T.O. in the Defence Planning Committee, which is made up of the representatives of the members of the North Atlantic Council who take part in N.A.T.O.'s integrated defence, that is to say, all the countries except France. They might also have to exclude Greece because Greece is no longer a member of the North Atlantic Assembly because she has no Parliament from which to draw delegates.

At first sight there is one very good argument against making this Assembly official. It is that it would create yet another parliamentary assembly while we find, because of the traditional, ritualistic, self-intoxicating dances in our Whips' Offices on both sides of the House, whichever Government is in power, difficulty in maintaining our parliamentary representation at the Assemblies we already attend. That is a good argument against it, but it is less good if we contemplate the amalgamation of the Assembly of the Western European Union with the N.A.T.O. Parliamentary Assembly. Both Assemblies are concerned with defence and both are concerned with the same problems. One deals with Members of Parliament from seven countries and the other deals with Members from 14 countries. We could achieve a great deal by combining these. I hope that the Government will study this suggestion.

What is the Government's attitude to the North Atlantic Assembly? In the defence debate two years ago the then Secretary of State said this: Her Majesty's Government fully support the view that the conference should be given official standing in N.A.T.O. Unfortunately, we have not yet persuaded all our colleagues in the N.A.T.O. Council to agree."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1969; Vol.779, c. 542.] What has happened since then? Has there been an advance? Has there been a retreat? Are we standing still? We do not have to get all our colleagues to agree. We did not get all our colleagues to agree to set up the Defence Planning Committee; we left out France. We can leave out France again. I remind the House of what Mr. Spaak said when he was Secretary-General of N.A.T.O.: For an administrative service the fear of a parliament is the beginning of wisdom. Such a Parliament would not only be splendid in itself; it would also give us an opportunity to explain to our allies what we do in defence. We accept that in a democracy we need parliamentary criticism. Cannot we go one stage further and say that in international alliance we need the criticism of an international parliamentary assembly? We know that war is too important to be left to the generals. Once again I argue that international defence is too important to be left to Ministers.

I end with a few sentences on Northern Ireland. In my constituency there are, according to the Registrar-General's report, more men and women from Ulster than in any other constituency in Britain. This may seem strange because, after all, my constituency is right in the heart of rural England, but the men have come there from Northern Ireland to work in the British Steel Corporation's plant at Corby. I agree with what has been said in praise of our Servicemen, and I am sure that my constituents from Northern Ireland, bath Protestant and Catholic, will particularly like the words in the Amendment which pay tribute to the skill, courage and patience of the British servicemen in Northern Ireland.

6.2 p.m.

Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

I am pleased to be able to follow the right hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas); because I agree with so much of what he said. At the 1970 Conservation Europe Conference in Strasbourg we raised the question of N.A.T.O.'s considering the matter of pollution. The Conference took note of it and I hope that it will not be proceeded with.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on all the work he has done in N.A.T.O. and other good European projects. He has been an outstanding example of someone who can be completely impartial and non-political, particularly in his job as Chairman of the Council of Europe. We thank him for all that he has done to help to unite Europe.

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman about Greece. I should like Greece to remain in N.A.T.O., because I think that it is necessary to protect the flank of Europe.

The right hon. Gentleman's idea as regards N.A.T.O. might be better met if W.E.U. were to be abolished, because W.E.U. is not now very active. If this suggestion were followed, many more countries would be brought in. As France returned to W.E.U., it might be possible that she would join in the suggestion in regard to N.A.T.O. It would be very helpful if she did, because we know her present views.

I always get very distressed when I attend defence debates. Year after year we discuss things, and it is rather like a game of snap: each side of the House trying to out do the other. It is so important that we have one policy on defence. If what the right hon. Gentleman has suggested were to come about, we would have to have one policy, because we could not attend his proposed organisation, as I presume we would, without an agreed policy in Britain. Events in the past month have shown that peace is a continuation of war by other means, and I do not think that we are facing up to this.

What disturbed me about yesterday's debate—and I read the article in The Times this morning by the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey)—and also from being a delegate to W.E.U. is that we have not got a policy which is common to both sides of the House.

I may be very unpopular for saying this, but I want there to be an all-party committee which could meet the chiefs of the Services and get down to deciding a common policy. Having listened to defence debates for 15 years, I believe that we are getting nowhere, and I do not believe that this is for the benefit of the British people. It also makes things very difficult in regard to recruiting for example. To give examples, we are agreed on the strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We are agreed on the question of maintenance and improvement of our military contribution to N.A.T.O.; we are agreed that this should remain our first priority. We are agreed on the policy in Ulster and we are agreed about W.E.U.

In regard to the Far East, it is just a difference of emphasis. The Labour Government mounted a major exercise to prove that they could send troops out there. I have had some experience of working with the military in the Far East. It is far better to have a base there with troops on it, because they have to get acclimatised. In Christmas 1945 there were, regrettably, a great many men on a hospital ship suffering from complete nervous breakdowns arising from having been brought out there so quickly and having been plunged into—it was no longer fighting; in those days it was only trying to keep the peace, in Java. One nursing sister had an epileptic fit, she had gone through all her training, but going out to that complete change of climate brought on that unfortunate attack.

It would be a great help with recruiting if the Services knew that both parties were agreed. It is very disturbing for members of the Services not to know for sure from one year to another what the policy is to be. It is not just a question of the change of Government. They do not know from one year to another how the Service they are in will be affected. This affects civilians, too, because the Services employs many civilians.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) will know how disturbing it is to dockyard towns not to know the policy of the Government from one year to the next. The White Paper says that Devonport has not signed the productivity agreement. It has now signed it, but it could not be blamed for being rather cautious about the productivity agreement in view of what happened in regard to H.M.S. "Ark Royal". In those days men went in and out day after day not knowing whether when they came out in the evening their jobs would have been terminated.

I hope that those hon. Members who have spoken about recruiting and the views of young people will back me up, because recruits are definitely worried about the changes. Young people fail completely to understand why there should be any difference between the parties about the protection of their lives and their country. It militates against their either taking much interest in defence or in joining the Services if people think that both sides are playing politics and are not serious on defence or even on disarmament.

I am as much interested in disarmament as I am in defence. This is not a contradiction in one who represents a Service area, because one will always need a force for keeping the peace, in the same way as we have the police.

I hope that all those who are interested in disarmament will realise that there is the European Security Conference. The Warsaw Pact countries have not shown any real desire, despite the repeated invitations by N.A.T.O. countries, to get round the conference table. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite will try to further this work of getting the two sides together.

We must be realistic. The expansion of the Russian Fleet, which is now the major maritime force, is a threat to our naval force and our seaborne trade in the West and in all the seas in the world. In 1939 the Germans had 73 submarines. Now Russia appears to have 400 of which one-quarter are said to be nuclear powered. We remember how very nearly we were beaten in the early days of the last war by the German fleet. This is the kind of point that worries me. I have a feeling that if we keep all our troops in the N.A.T.O. and do not protect our seas it could mean another "Maginot Line" and that they might get caught in Europe with submarines all round our shores—I believe this is a realistic attitude—and I am thinking of our shores, not the shores of South Africa. We could be in an extremely vulnerable position. Therefore, the policies of this country—and I must say that if we are asking for an all-party committee—should not change with Governments but should change only with changing military circumstances.

I wish to stress this for two particular reasons. If we are to carry out our commitments it is essential to have more recruits. How is that possible when there is so much uncertainty about the future? It has to be remembered that the Communist-led unofficial dock strike in 1967 which led, unfortunately, to the financial crisis of 1968 resulted in the Cabinet being pressed by Left-wing members, because of cuts in the social services, to increase the pace of withdrawal from east of Suez. I do not want this type of pressure to be put on any Government in future.

We have also to realise the amount of money being spent by Warsaw Pact countries which has been going up by about 5 per cent. a year for the past five years, while the expenditure of N.A.T.O. has declined by 4 per cent. since 1964. I believe that owing to the horror of nuclear war it is the country or countries which have the greater conventional forces which will win; Cuba is an example of this. I believe, therefore, that we must strengthen the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Whatever happens, we have our fishery protection and peaceful activities like the Hydrographic Service, and we still have, regrettably, commitments such as Ulster. I would like to pay a tribute to the troops there and, having been there, to put in a plea that if troops are to go there for six-month periods they should have better accommodation.

Having been recently to the Far East, I feel that no praise can be high enough for the rescue work done in East Pakistan and Malaysia.

I want to mention one very controversial point, the question of the Beira Control. Personally, I believe that we are completely wasting our manpower and ships in this operation which is costing nearly £2 million a year. Why should we continue to do this any more than we should continue being a major Power in N.A.T.O. without other countries taking part, when we know perfectly well that everything Rhodesia needs is getting in by the back door? We are being very hypocritical about this. I would like to see money saved in this way and used for more serviceable purposes.

With regard to recruiting, we want 1.2 per cent. of the labour farce to join the services, but until 1976 we shall need 1.6 per cent. Therefore, we must give young people more confidence in a career in the future. I believe there is a need for Royal Navy recruiting officers at the universities. Those are very good places for interesting students. There is also the University Scholarship scheme and this could be improved; and we have to prove to students going into the services that they will have adequate equipment.

We must encourage the fleet chief petty officers—a new designation, the equivalent of the regimental sergeant major—to prolong their service after nine years. From the diagram at the end of the White Paper we see that only 35 per cent. of Royal Navy men and 32 per cent. of Royal Marines re-engage at nine years, as opposed to 50 per cent. in the Army and 59 per cent. in the R.A.F.

The major reason for men leaving the services is their wives. People are marrying younger and women today are not prepared as were their grandmothers to have long periods of separation. Housing, particularly for the Royal Navy, is still very short. I hope we shall not have the segregation "in cantonments" of Service wives in the future. I have suggested that local authorities in Service towns should be given an amount of money to enable them to allocate a number of houses in housing estates so that wives can be integrated into the normal life of the city, because as a whole young Service wives do not like senior Service wives, however charming they are at organising clubs. Young wives prefer to lead their own lives and to be near the shops rather than the NAAFI; they want to join in the life of the town.

In olden times the young naval wife was better off when she lived near her mother and was able to join the local activities.

Furthermore, when wives are to go overseas they should be given some idea of the type of life they are to lead. Quite a number of them have never been even to London but they are sent to places with completely different customs and languages and so are not very happy. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Royal Navy is setting up a special enquiry into the problems of these young people and I hope you will include this subject.

One hon. Gentleman yesterday spoke of sailors, soldiers and airmen working as clerks, typists, telephone operators and computer operators. I agree with him that these men could perfectly well be replaced by women. Experience in Israel has shown that where women work with men morale is better. Also, are we not demanding too much of recruits? In the nursing service we have the example of the State Registered Nurse and the State Enrolled Nurse. Are we not demanding far too high a standard? Could there not be two types as in nursing?

I must mention the dockyards because people in the dockyard towns are still worried about these being hived off. Secondly, regrettably dockyard workers come within the cut in the number of civil servants. I would suggest as I have done previously that non-industrial and industrial civil servants in this type of organisation should not be added to the total number of civil servants. I believe that since this Government have been in power the number of civil servants has gone up by 4,000 and so the Government are very anxious to cut down the number, but in places like he dockyards this would be to defeat their object because, for example, there are not enough draftsmen. People working in dockyards should come under a different category and should not be counted in with the general run of the Civil Service. I believe this practice will be found to be delaying essential work. I would add to the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink) previously, that we should have another ship in the near future, if possible, to be built in the dockyard. On 20th March, R.D.V. "Crystal" will be launched and after that we shall be happy to have another ship. Though I realise that dockyards are, for the most part, repair yards, it is hoped that they may again build ships, which they have proved they can do adequately, and it is rather boring for dockyard workers if they have only to do repair work.

I hope, too, that the hon. Gentleman who winds up will encourage men to come from places like Malaysia and Nigeria to train with the Royal Navy, so that we can help to build up their navies. More encouragement to immigrants to join our Services is needed.

If only the United Nations were more effective it would be possible to stop the selling of arms and reach settlements without wars, but since 1945 all countries have had to spend and waste a large amount of their G.N.P. on defending their nations against possible attack. The waste of manpower and money has been fantastic.

If the world is to achieve an advanced civilisation we must consider ways of avoiding wars. That is why I want an all-party Committee, so that we can have some agreement in this country; we shall, perhaps, then be able to overcome the difficulty of having the Secretary of State in another place, because he would be able to join us. If we could have a common defence policy in this country it would prove worthwhile and help peace in the future.

6.30 p.m.

Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

Under the heading Western Security in the White Paper there are the words The Continuing Threat". The paragraph underneath says: Western security remains under the shadow of the present and potential threat of the vast military resources of the Soviet Union. The choice of the phrase present and potential is curious. It does not say "present or potential" nor "present and future", or even "existing and potential". I find the words rather confusing. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) observed yesterday, some people are completely obsessed by anything the Russians say or do. That is understandable in those who have been fed continual propaganda calculated to divide the world into the good guys and the bad guys or, as they say in my native heath, the goodies and the baddies. That is a simple, clear-cut, tidy and neat definition.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1969, which said: The Czechoslovak crisis … demonstrates that the Soviet Government is prepared to invade an independent state against the wishes of its Government and people … Would the hon. Gentleman say that the Czechoslovak people have been obsessed with the tyranry to which they have been subjected?

Dr. Miller

The hon. Gentleman must wait. I shall develop points on this. I do not object to the contention that the Soviet Union gobbled up Czechoslovakia. Of course it did, and no hon. Member on this side can find anything good to say about what the Russians did on that or other similar occasions. But what the Russians did to Czechoslovakia may or may not affect us. That is exactly the point I am coming to later. We must accept that dangers exist, but we must not over-react to them. An attitude of over-reaction is indefensible when it is held by responsible members of a Government who should, and I believe do, know better.

Here I come to the hon. Gentleman's point. It would be criminal folly not to react to a threat, and I do not suggest otherwise. When our interests are in jeopardy we must defend them. But we must make a calculated decision about when they are threatened. Are they threatened now? Is it not a fact that the Soviet Union is merely acting as the super Power which it is? I have few reasons to applaud the U.S.S.R., and many reasons to criticise very strongly both her words and her deeds. But is she really threatening us? I believe that that question is as valid of the presence of Soviet vessels in the Indian Ocean as of their presence in the Mediterranean.

In yesterday's debate the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell), in a very interesting and candid speech, implied that he had no use for those whom he terms either Left-wing pacificists or right-wing sabre-rattlers. The trouble is that there are too many sabre-rattlers. I do not see anything wrong, as some hon. Members opposite seem to, with a climate in which there is greater stress on peace than on war. I see nothing to be ashamed of when the younger generation is no longer impressed by the so-called glories of war.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman also talked about the difficulties of recruitment and remarked that most Western countries had similar problems, citing France, West Germany and Italy as examples. If we keep calm in our defence attitudes and rid ourselves of inflexible notions it may be that we can cajole and persuade the Russians to join the anti-war club. If we have to adopt an inflexible attitude that the Russians will never do that, then the future of mankind is doomed.

If we are so concerned about Russian influence on non-aligned nations, why are the Government so intent on destroying all the influence we have, influence so laboriously and slowly built up, by supplying arms to South Africa?

In Europe we should be paying much more attention to the attitude adopted and the policies adumbrated and followed by Herr Willy Brandt's Government. In their Ostpolitik they have arrived at something we should be arriving at. They are moving towards a modus vivendi with the Russians. No nation has more reason to fear the Russians, rightly or wrongly, but the West Germans will arrive at a compromise solution. This country can learn a lesson from them, which the Government would do well to pay attention to.

Last September I visited defence establishments in South-East Asia and the Far East. In Singapore we have about 18,000 Service personnel, presumably to defend the island against external aggression. In 1942 we had 10 times that number, 180,000 men, and we could not defend the island against external aggression.

I am not happy about what I saw in Singapore—the multiplication of social facilities for the troops, with clubs, swimming pools and so on. This is very wasteful, as is the £800 a week being spent on cutting the grass at Changi, a sum which was reduced from a much higher figure.

The White Paper mentions the Jungle Warfare School in Johore in Malaysia. I agree that there is a need for the School, but if we feel that it should be retained why is it not to be retained under British control instead of being handed over? It has done a lot of good work, and it should remain under the British Government's control and not be handed over to any other Government.

The White Paper also mentions the Caribbean area, which I have visited several times. I remember a few years ago being in British Honduras. I regret that there will only be an infantry company group out there. If ever a bigger force could be justified in order to deter external aggression, it is in that territory. Mark my words—when British Honduras obtains independence, it is virtually certain that neighbouring Guatemala, which for years has cast covetous eyes on its tiny neighbour, will either invade or exert tremendous pressure upon little British Honduras not to resist being swallowed up. Any ordinary citizen of British Honduras would back up amply my fears in this connection.

I turn now to Northern Ireland. While not dissenting in any way from the view, expressed by so many right hon. and hon. Members, that the Army is doing a thankless but necessary job, I remind the Government that they must not forget that the problem in that unhappy part of the United Kingdom is not primarily military. It requires a political and economic solution. Religious discrimination must stop; equal political rights must he accorded to the Roman Catholic minority; economic prosperity must be fostered and discrimination in jobs and housing must be stamped out. That is the problem. It is not primarily military, and the Government would be well advised to turn their attention from the military side, necessary as it is at the moment, to ways of tackling the problem, which is essentially economic and political.

The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) mentioned the Beira patrol. The White Paper makes bare mention of it or of the United Nations embargo on the export of oil to Rhodesia. It almost seems as though the Government were apologising for the distasteful necessity to comply with the United Nations. Yesterday, the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) put it in his clearest, pro-rebel way when he said: With regard to the Beira patrol, I do not want to embarrass the Government but there really is something a little grotesque about a Conservative Government maintaining this maritime charade, which is pointless and unpopular…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1971; Vol. 812, c. 1289.] "Grotesque", the hon. Gentleman says. It is not the only thing which is grotesque about this Government, with their nationalisation policy. He advised the Government to put an end to the Beira patrol. Certainly, I think that if we must spend money on defence, this is a worth while field. The Rhodesians, after all, are rebelling against the Crown. I know that this is a reiteration but one does not destroy the fact that they are rebelling by reiterating it. Whatever their grievances, real or imaginary, we must do every thing in our power to bring Rhodesia back into the constitutional fold.

I come now to pay, pensions and facilities. It is very welcome to have the new military salary arrangement. This was an innovation by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Healey). But prevention of separation of married Servicemen from their families still leaves something to be desired. There is still undue delay, very often, in families joining the husband. The unmarried Serviceman also needs consideration—for example, as has been suggested, he should have shorter tours.

Exaggerated responses, even to legitimate fears, are signs of pathological abnormality and defence expenditure thus based is self-defeating. The Prime Minister talked about the minimum expenditure compatible with efficiency. The trouble is that we can never be sure of what is the minimum required and we tend therefore always to over-react. We cannot hope to keep pace with Soviet military spending. It is quite impossible. In any case, so much of Soviet military spending is very largely political window dressing.

I repeat to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) that I do not say that we should not always be on our guard but we have to make much cooler calculations if we wish to avoid being enmeshed by decisions which spring from obsession and dogma and are not based on a reasonable and logical appraisal of the defence of our interests.

Our policy is a matter of judgment. Many of us on this side of the House see it in an entirely different light from that in which it is seen by hon. Members opposite. But it is a matter of judgment, and we must not be accused of lack of patriotism if we see it differently from the way in which they see it. We must have some confidence in the future and a degree of trust, otherwise we may have to announce—and this I would regret very much—to our people that we regret to intimate that tomorrow has been cancelled because nuclear power will destroy us and we no longer care.

6.46 p.m.

Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) ranged over a wide variety of subjects, but I want to take up one of his points only. He said that he would like to see a modus vivendi with the Soviet Union. Wouldn't we all? The trouble is that it takes two to make a modus vivendi.

I was interested in what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) said about the North Atlantic Assembly. Like him, I have served on it for many years, and I too would like to see it given official status. I hope that the Government will take what he said very seriously. I shall not repeat his arguments but I endorse them. I also endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) had to say about an all-party defence committee. We discussed this in last year's debate and I think that there is a very great deal to be said for it, especially if we are to aim at having some kind of all-party defence policy.

In last year's debate, I gave it as my view that the best thing about the White Paper produced by the then Secretary of State was that it left a number of options open to his Conservative successor. And so it has turned out. First of all, thanks to the right hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Mr. Healey)—I am sorry that he is not here to get this modest tribute from me—we still have with us our old friend, the independent British nuclear deterrent, the abolition of which, some hon. Members opposite may remember, was one of the principal planks in their 1964 election platform. Secondly, by retaining the right to train and exercise British forces in the Far East, he kept a foothold for us east of Suez which is now, I am glad to say, being consolidated and developed—I only wish that he had done the same in the Persian Gulf instead of cutting the ground from under our feet as he did. Thirdly, by leaving even tiny territorial cadres in existence, he made possible the present successful revival and re-expansion of our reserve forces. For these small mercies we should be grateful to him, and I would of course also like to congratulate his successors on the alacrity with which they have availed themselves of the opportunities he afforded them.

If last year's White Paper left a number of options open, it also left a number of questions unanswered. I want to spend a few minutes trying to see if we can find the answers to some of those questions in the 1971 edition.

One thing that this year's White Paper makes abundantly clear is the nature and scope of the Government's defence objectives. On page 1 we are told that Britain's basic security continues to depend on the strength of the North Atlantic Alliance but that British interests and responsibilities are not limited to the N.A.T.O. area and that the Government's chief objective is to enable Britain to resume a proper share of responsibility for the preservation of peace and stability in the world"— an aim which I for one have no difficulty in endorsing.

What is more both the White Paper and Ministers' speeches leave no doubt as to thinking that lies behind these aims. We are told, straight out, that they are motivated by the continuing and growing Soviet threat to Western security. I am very glad that the Government have been so forthright about this. I do not see any point in doing what some hon. Members opposite have tried to do, namely blinking what are indisputable and incontrovertible facts. I agree of course that the new Soviet military presence in a great many different parts of the world is largely political and psychological in motive. But in the prevailing nuclear stalemate, that is what makes it so particularly important that we and our allies should try to match that wherever possible and should not give the Russians the chance to extend it still further by continuing to pull out from more and more areas of strategic, political or psychological importance, leaving it to them to fill the power vacuum thus created. Which is why I am less than happy about what is happening at the moment in the Persian Gulf. The Minister of State emphasised the importance of Europe. Europe certainly is important. But I am inclined to share President Nixon's view that the threat to peace is every bit as great in the Middle East.

I was extremely glad to hear my hon. Friend the Minister of State being so brutally frank yesterday about the Warsaw Pact's enormous conventional superiority over N.A.T.O.—about what he called" the massive expansion of Soviet military might". Again this is indisputable and must be faced, especially since my noble Friend tells us that the gap between our relative strengths is widening all the time. How right he was, too, to say that we must not leave everything to the Americans, that we Europeans must bear a bigger share of the burden. That again is a view which I strongly support.

I was also delighted to hear my noble Friend stress the relative importance of conventional forces. This is something some of us used to have great arguments about back in 1957. But by now I think most rational people have discarded the idea of streamlined nuclear forces and a "bigger bang for a buck" being the be-all and end-all of defence policy and have come round to the view that, when it comes to the point, conventional forces, an adequate conventional presence in the right place at the right time, in other words a proper conventional deterrent are every bit as important as a nuclear deterrent.

All this is fine. But there are one or two things I am worried about. One of them is this. At the moment N.A.T.O., on which the whole of our defence policy is based, is barely credible. We were told in last year's White Paper that N.A.T.O.'s conventional strength was "just sufficient" to afford a minimum flexibility of response before recourse to nuclear weapons. In other words the nuclear threshold was so low as to be practically non-existent. And now my noble Friend tells us that the gap in conventional strength between N.A.T.O. and the Warsaw Pact powers is "steadily widening". So that presumably the "minimum flexibility of response", the tiny nuclear threshold we were told about last year, has now disappeared altogether or soon will.

The Minister of State said yesterday that we must "be prepared to face unpalatable facts squarely and to react appropriately". Now is his chance. Because if these are not unpalatable facts, I do not know what are. He himself has stressed the need for stronger conventional forces and he says that we Europeans must make a bigger contribution to the alliance. How right he is. What I want to know is how we are going to do it and what we are prepared to spend on it? Because, quite honestly one T.A.V.R. armoured car regiment, however excellent, will not be enough to tip the balance. As my noble Friend so wisely said, "Safety has a price which has to be paid for. If one is not prepared to pay for peace one risks paying for it in war." And let us be quite clear that just because our contribution to N.A.T.O. compares favourably with those of our European allies, it does not automatically follow from that that it is adequate.

But let us leave aside for the moment the question of costs and turn to the equally unpleasant question of manpower. Because the fact is that you cannot have bigger, better, stronger conven- tional forces without more men. And we all know that the recruiting figures, though better, are still far too low to support any kind of increase in targets. What it comes to, I am afraid, is that raising a sufficient force by voluntary recruiting is not an easy matter. Indeed I feel some sympathy with the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee of Congress who said last week: I think the only way to get an all volunteer army is to draft it. The draft of course, is not a very popular subject among politicians and never has been. Nobody likes paying that particular price for peace although nearly all our allies, except for Luxembourg and Canada, and all our adversaries, do in fact pay it. But, even so, however repugnant the subject may be, I hope that in winding up tonight the Minister will give us some idea where the Government think they are going to get the men they look like needing if we are really to have bigger conventional forces.

Naturally, like the hon. Member for Kelvingrove, we all hope that the Russians will have a change of heart—I have been hoping that for 30-odd years. We hope, too, that the Americans will not decide to bring back any more troops from Europe under the pressures to which they, too, are subjected. We hope that none of our other allies will go back on any of their obligations and that we shall find it possible to fulfil our own obligations east of Suez without additional manpower. We hope that no more unexpected commitments will crop up anywhere. We hope, finally, that under a Conservative Government recruiting trends will get better and better.

Because, of course, if all these hopes materialise, there is a reasonable chance that a substantially greater defence effort will not after all be required of Great Britain. But if they do not, if things go on as they are going now, if N.A.T.O. goes on losing ground, I am afraid that the Government may have some difficult decisions to face before very long in the field of defence.

7.0 p.m.

Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)

I am pleased to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean). With much of what he said I agree. I disagree with some of it, and this is also true of the White Paper. When I read it, I felt that I was looking at a White Paper of my party of about three years ago when financial restrictions made it necessary to decide that we were no longer required east of Suez.

I am pleased to see that N.A.T.O. is put down in the White Paper as a cornerstone of our defence. This is something which I have always stressed. It is said that the Russians have no intention of starting a war in Europe. I accept that, because there is no need for anybody to start a war if they can get the fruits of war without having to fight for them. Russia will never start a war because she has succeeded up to now in getting those fruits without having to fight for them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) is a personal friend of mine, but I disagree with him on defence. It would be very nice if the £950 million that we should save by cutting down from 5½ per cent. to 3 per cent. of the G.N.P. could be spent on essential services, but I have a grave suspicion that if £950 million were saved on defence it would not necessarily be spent on social services. It might be more pertinent for my hon. Friend to ask somebody in Prague who did not want the Russians there whether he would rather subscribe towards £950 million or have free spectacles. I know what choice he would make.

Although I am not anti-Russian, I am guided by what has happened since 1945. Those who say that Russia is genuinely frightened of the Western Powers should bear in mind that in 1945 when we possessed the atomic weapon we were capable of imposing any treaty we wished on Europe. The fact that we did not do that shows clearly, as does our conduct since then, that we want Europe and the rest of the world to live and let live. I have no time for those who argue that Russia is justified in saying that she is frightened of what the Western Powers will do.

What does worry me about N.A.T.O. is that—as I and many hon. Members have known for too long—with conventional weapons we cannot stop the Eastern Powers if they decide to advance into Europe. The most worrying aspect of this is that for the second time in our generation we should have to make a moral decision whether to use atomic weapons. This decision would never have to be taken by the Russians first. The Russians would not wish to use atomic weapons because they could win with conventional weapons. By economising and cutting down our conventional forces to the extent that we have done, we have been left with this problem eventually if it comes to a showdown with Eastern Europe.

I do not agree with those who say that we should not talk bluntly of these matters. The Russians talk bluntly of them, and they are matters which they understand and respect. The only time they have ever been stopped in their tracks has been when we have spoken bluntly. The Berlin blockade was called off by the Russians only because they realised that we intended to win that battle, even if it came to a showdown. They withdrew from Cuba when they realised that America was prepared to go the whole hog. It is no good being mealy-mouthed about these matters. We have to face them as the Russians face them.

I come back to the point that I do not believe that the Russians intend to initiate a war in Europe. They do not intend to initiate a war anywhere else if they can help it. What worries me is that a war could start by a miscalculation on the part of the Russians. This could have happened two years ago with Czechoslovakia, and this must have worried the Russians when they made their decision to go into that country. If there had been resistance, however futile it might have been, there was always the possibility that it would not have ended there. The next would have been Yugoslavia, and so on.

If such a situation arose in which we were not directly involved, what could we do, even if we had six or twelve months to prepare for an extension of the conflict? At present we could do nothing because we have no reserve to fall back on. For the first time in the history of this country we have no second line of defence. We have no reserve forces from which to raise a second army to try by conventional means to match the Russian forces. Even if we had six or twelve months, we should still have to fall back on the nuclear weapon, and this is what worries me. Defence means money, and this is not popular. The House is not packed with hon. Members wishing to speak in a defence debate in order to say that we should spend more money. That does not get a Member of Parliament votes in his constituency. It is only when the crunch comes, as it came in 1938 and 1939, that people ask why they have been betrayed and not told what was required. These things should be said beforehand.

What puzzles me about my party and the Government is how they assess what should be spent on the defence forces. A person with a motor car who has a certain amount of money to spend on petrol and wants to go on a day's trip will decide where he will go by calculating how far the car will go on the petrol he puts into it. More petrol than that he will not require and less than that would be useless to him. It is the same with our defence commitments. We must decide what is required and that money must be found. That does not mean that we should have high-falutin ideas of world grandeur or of controlling places in which we have no interest and which have even less interest in us. We must be realistic, and this is where I disagree with the Government's policy. Many members of the Government are still seeking this grandeur that was once the British Empire. They have never understood that the days of dominating areas by forces have gone.

What we have to do now is to win men's minds. Have hon. Members ever considered that the only Communist country in Europe which maintained its independence after the last war was Yugoslavia. Why?—because it got its Communism—I dislike Communism, but if they want it, that is up to them—from inside and it was not imposed from outside. This is what is happening throughout the world and these are the facts we have to face.

What is happening in Romania? Let us pay a tribute to the people of Romania who over the last two or three years have taken courageous decisions which could have involved them in military occupation by the Russians. The freedom that is wanted by every country in the world will not be denied either by Russian oppression or by British or American imperialism. There is more chance for this country and for those who think like us if these countries can win independence and a new-found freedom for themselves and not have systems imposed upon them by Russia or China.

The Prime Minister in his speech made the point that only through stability and by keeping our forces in Malaysia could we hope to reap the economic advantages which were coming to us. He was kind enough to allow me to intervene to say that it is the Japanese who are making the greatest economic advance in Malaysia. They have no troops there. Carrying the Prime Minister's argument to its logical conclusion, should we not have left the Japanese there at the end of the last war to maintain stability so that we could be free to sell the goods? To my mind, defence is a logical process. It means using forces at the point of greatest impact and discounting the outlying areas where they are immaterial to the decisions at issue.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the industrial might of America was built up under the shadow of the white ensign, and that the industrial might of the Japanese is now being built up under the protection of the United States forces? In other words, if one can get somebody else to do it for one, it is a good thing.

Mr. Crawshaw

This is a sound principle and therefore why cannot we encourage somebody else to provide this protection while we sell the goods? Let me go back to the point of Malaysia. What worries me about this area is that it is not an area with a tremendous amount of stability. It is an area in which, in some ways, democracy has been abandoned because of the possible outcome of elections. It is an area in which there is great racial tension. I believe that it is an area which will utimately be democratic in our accepted sense of the word. While we have British troops, white troops, stationed in coloured territory it acts as a catalyst for everybody who wishes to oppose that Government. The Communists make great play of the situation and everybody who wants to oppose that government points to the presence of imperialist troops and uses it as an excuse.

I have been out to Malaysia. I know how difficult it is for Ministers when they go out there and meet people who are more British than many of the people in this country and who plead, "Do not leave us—come and support us." And they genuinely mean it. But surely what we have to decide is whether we have the forces to do it. Or are we just sending a token force and making them hostages to fortune? Can it be imagined that if trouble broke out in the Middle East we might be required to intervene by reinforcing the troops in Malaysia? I cannot imagine such a situation. I believe that what is required in this area is an understanding, in the same way that we have an understanding with New Zealand or Australia. Nothing is written down in that respect. We do not say that New Zealand or Australia cease to be part and parcel of us merely because they are not involved in N.A.T.O. We accept that in two wars they sent their men to help us. They know that if it came to the crunch and they needed our assistance, we should do what was required of us. But when one puts troops on the ground in areas where one is not able to reinforce them, it leads to a very difficult situation.

This brings me to the matter of Indo-China and Thailand. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) has now left the Chamber and I was about to refer to him and to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East who are so genuine in their efforts to get the Americans out of Vietnam. It is no good looking at the matter with hindsight. Some five years ago I remember saying in this House, that if America put 1 million troops into Vietnam, she would never win a military victory. But let us not imagine that when American troops go from Vietnam there will be no repercussions. From there the war will go over into Laos, Cambodia and eventually into Thailand.

I am concerned with any obligations that we have to go to the assistance of Thailand. I have asked questions on this matter and have never received a satisfactory answer, except to be told that British troops have helped to build an airfield there. Let us face the fact that if this is so, we should become bogged down there in a war as bad as that being fought by the Americans in Vietnam and it would be a war that we could never win. I am asking that we should be realistic about our defence plans. Do not let us put troops into areas where they are not wanted and where we cannot reinforce them.

There has been much talk about the Indian Ocean, and I am convinced, with the greatest respect to the Prime Minister, that this is a mere face-saver because the Foreign Secretary at the time of the General Election promised certain things in relation to South Africa. It was unfortunate that he did so. I have no time for the South African regime, though I have many personal friends in South Africa. I know that many of the forces of South Africa are helping to reinforce the rebel regime in Rhodesia and for that reason alone I am not very friendly disposed to South Africa. But to say that by giving them arms that we shall stop Communism coming into South Africa is the opposite to what is actually happening. If we are to win minds in the African countries we must give them their independence and allow them to stand on their own feet. It is no good driving those countries into the arms of the Communists by giving arms to South Africa since by so doing we shall do nothing but worsen the situation.

The Beira patrol was mentioned and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dame Joan Vickers) said that it was costing some £2 million a year. I understand that there is one ship there. What does the hon. Lady want to do with that ship? Does she want to bring it back and put it into mothballs and spend the £2 million somewhere else? The situation will still cost money whatever happens.

I believe that the question of manpower will become worse, for many reasons. One is the fact that fewer people today have contacts with and relatives in the Armed Forces. One of the best recruiting aids to recruiting into the Armed Forces is that somebody in a family has served in the Forces and can advise about Service life.

The word "conscription" has been used. I do not say that the public at large is very hostile to conscription, though politicians seem to think so. Most people who were conscripted into the Forces look back on the time with some satisfaction. Certainly anyone who was not conscripted says that it is possible to tell those who were conscripted by the different attitudes that they have to life and matters in general. In most cases, there is an improvement. However, that is not why I am against conscription. I am against it because I believe that it does not result in an efficient Army. With all the necessary chopping and changing, with men being sent for training, serving a short time with a unit and then being demobilised, one does not finish up with an efficient Armed Service. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), with whom I disagreed in almost every defence debate when we were in office, for having built up an Army which, having regard to its size, is probably the most efficient in the world today.

Having said that, there is some need to consider the manpower problem at large, and I return to my question about what we should do if we had six or 12 months' warning of some pending operation. I cannot see that we can do other than have substantial reserve forces. People will accuse me of getting back on to my subject of the Territorial Army, and I am. I do not believe that we shall get massive manpower into our Territorial Reserve Forces today for a number of reasons, and it may be necessary to have some call-up into the Reserve Forces in the form of a certain period of training each year so that the force built up as a result could form the home base when the Territorial Army proper went overseas to strengthen those units overseas which required reinforcement.

These are matters which should be looked at by the Government. I have no wish to make party political points in this debate—I have never believed in doing that—but I beg the Government to discard their outmoded ideas of imperial grandeur. We are to have one submarine in the Indian Ocean off Malaysia. I do not know what the intention is. Is it supposed to look for the other 400 Russian submarines in the area? Let us be realistic about these matters. Let us not be persuaded by those who still think that we have an imperialistic rôle to spread our forces too sparsely over the globe. Let us ensure that the forces that we have are used to the best advantage.

I want to end by reiterating a point that I have made before and one which the hon. Member for Devonport has made again today. Before long, I hope that it will be possible to set up a Committee of this House to consider defence matters. As my hon. Friends the Members for Penistone and Salford, East say, there is not that much difference between the parties on these matters, and it is unfortunate that from time to time people seek to make party points on subjects which should be above party politics.

7.24 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) that the Russians do not want to initiate a war in Europe, though I think that the hon. Gentleman failed in his admirable speech to draw the conclusion from that that the main threat at present is outside Europe. This is where I find the official policy of the Opposition difficult to understand. They seem to be saying not that we should do nothing outside Europe but that we should do nothing effective. When they were in office right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, though not necessarily with the assent of all their followers, reaffirmed the Simonstown Agreement, held joint exercises with the South African Navy, and some of them favoured the supply of arms to South Africa. However, we shall be debating that matter tomorrow. The right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) said that he was in favour of competing with the Russians for facilities in Mauritius. When they were in office, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were at pains to assure the nation and our Commonwealth allies about our capacity to reinforce the Far East. In his speech, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister brought out clearly the superiority of the present Administration's method of contributing to the security of the Far East, namely, by taking part in a Five-Power Commonwealth Force.

But whether it be the policy of the party opposite or of Her Majesty's Government, it will in any event be necessary to maintain our lines of communciation with South-East Asia. How are we to get there in time of trouble? Are we to go Westabout across North America? If not Westabout, shall not we need to be sure of the Persian Gulf? It is with that in mind that some of us tabled the Amendment which appears on the Order Paper but which, I understand, has not been selected.

When right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite bowed so shamefully out of Aden, they bowed the Russians in. The hon. Member for Toxteth said that we should not think in imperialist terms, and I agree. He said that the days of British domination are gone, and they have. It is the Russians who are thinking in imperialist terms. It is they who think in terms of domination. The Soviet Union today is as much the master of Egypt as ever Britain was in the days of Cromer or Killearn. The Persian Gulf is a region which was the subject of an intended carve-up between Molotov and Ribbentrop in the days of the alliance between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.

Russia waits to dominate the warm waters of the Gulf. The area is one which is intrinsically vital to us, providing, as it does, 60 per cent. of our oil and 75 per cent. of the oil of Western Europe. It is also vital for staging. Today, neither the Sudan nor Libya will give us over-flying rights in real emergency. If we remove our forces from the Gulf, as hon. Gentlemen opposite would like, how shall we stay in Muscat or Masira. After Aden, there was a school of thought which said, "We are out of Aden. We can remain nowhere". There was a school of thought which said, "Aden has gone but, after all, we are in the Gulf. Aden was not worth the bloodshed". However, both schools of thought would unite if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had their way. They would unite to say, "We have evacuated the Gulf, and must quit Muscat and Masira". What then? I suppose that we could have nice naval regattas at Abadan. In any event, it would be imprudent to reduce the strategic options open to the United Kingdom.

Why do we say that we need a certain military presence? It is not to fight the Russians but to forestall a dangerous vacuum, to give stability to an area which is already at risk through infection from South Yemen and the subversive war now being waged in Dhofar—the sort of operation which both Russia and China conceive it as their mission to support under the title of "war of liberation".

Above all, this is a region of irredentist claims. To take one example, Saudi Arabia commands the Western and Southern parts of the immensely oil-rich state of Abu Dhabi. In 1952 Saudi Arabia occupied and in 1955 was expelled from Buraimi. Saudi Arabia has not accepted the Riyadh line of 1935. In the recent uncertainties I understand that the Iraq Petroleum Company has been compelled to stop drilling in a very important area of Abu Dhabi.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite may ask, "Do they want us to be there?" I say that they do. Certainly the Gulf rulers do. One could produce evidence and facts to establish that. What we cannot expect is public statements to that effect. They are not going to stick their necks out to have their heads lopped off after what happened under the last Administration when, with an interval of six weeks, they were told that British forces would remain and then the British forces would not remain. What a victory that was for the Left-wing tail which seems to wag the Labour dog. I know that it would be nothing to them if rulers who are Britain's friends were replaced, perhaps by violence, by military dictatorships like those which elsewhere in the so-called Arab world have destroyed dynasties and Western interests with them. Emirs and sheikhs, the determinists opposite believe, are doomed by history, but the fact is that there has been more genuine social progress in the Middle East under monarchy, in Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, than under the revolutionary juntas in Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. For the ordinary Arab it is better to be governed by tradition than by terror.

I can understand that the Rulers should have hesitated. No British Minister has visited them—since the extraordinary perambulations of the right hon. Gentleman to whom I have referred.

It is high time—I am very glad at what the Prime Minister said—that it was made perfectly clear that British policy is not made by anyone but by British Ministers, and it is high time that it was realised in the Gulf that there was a General Election last June. Of course, it is difficult to reverse a policy. I know that hon. Members opposite are quite good at reversing policies, but it is difficult, and I suppose that it is quite natural, in default of any other instructions, to continue working on the directives of abandonment. I am very glad, as the Prime Minister said quite clearly today, that there has been a reversal of Socialist policy.

We are told that if we remain there, if we keep even a modest military presence, we shall become an object of agitation, that we shall be denounced as imperialistic. The hon. Member for Toxteth said just that. It is objected that we shall become an Aunt Sally for such régimes as the Ba'ath in Iraq. We have not been so thus far and the truth is that through history, including recent history, we have made a very small show of force, and we have achieved a great measure of stability with very few troops indeed.

Let no one say we have not got the money. We are spending something like £10 million—is it now? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), when he was Secretary of State for Defence, was offered the whole cost of a British contribution to the defence of the area, which proved that we were wanted, but he turned it down with contempt. Let no one say we have not the ships. Have we six frigates in the Mozambique Channel or have we one, as the hon. Gentleman suggested? If we have one frigate it seems to me that the Beira patrol is an even more futile farce which should be brought to an end. I hope that we shall hear, when the debate is wound up, that that nonsense is also to be wound up.

We do not need many troops. Of course, it is right that we should try to build up the union of Arab Emirates. I hope that that may be possible, but there is not a hope in hell of building up a union of Arab Emirates unless we are prepared to give it some support, including military support. Of course we should equip and exercise with the Trucial Oman Scouts and other local forces and with the forces of the union, if the union comes about, but what is important, it seems to me, is that, under whatever formula, we do keep troops—a battalion, perhaps, with an armoured car squadron, and a special air service squadron, training in the mountains—that we just keep that minimum force in continuous circulation in the area.

It would seem to me very strange if, having quite rightly, in my view, incurred considerable odium in deciding to build up the South African Navy to help defend our interests in the South Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, we should take such action as would break down the northern perimeter of the Indian Ocean's security. We are asking for a very small premium to be paid to insure an enormous investment. There are very great interests at stake.

We have derived profit from the Gulf. In justice, then, we have a duty to help to keep the peace and security of an area where we have been predominant for more than a century. If we fail in that duty—and we must remember that it will be very easy to get out, but well-nigh impossible to get back again, history may record that those responsible were the new appeasers.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)

I shall resist the temptation to follow the argument of the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). I have had a rather boring week and nothing would revive me more than a good party fight at this time of the night, but it would not fit in with the few remarks I want to make and it would be a departure from the rather statesmanlike attitude I like to bring to these debates.

The first thing I wish to emphasise is that at this late hour there is absolutely nothing more that any back bencher can say at all, because we lack the authority of the Front Bench spokesman who will wind up from this side of the House, and—of course, this we feel so keenly—we lack the information which is available to the spokesman who will wind up for the Government; but the fact that I have nothing whatever to say will not prevent me from saying it.

It may seem rather churlish, since I have been called in this debate, to cast a considerable degree of doubt on the way in which these defence debates are conducted, but I would ask the weighted question whether this is the way in which defence ought to be discussed at all. I remember that when I was on that side of the House, as much then a nuisance as I intend to be on this side, I supported hon. Gentlemen who were then on this side of the House in a united demand for a Select Committee on defence which would argue about these matters, and discuss these matters, in an atmosphere totally different from that which naturally prevails in this Chamber.

I remember that one hon. Gentleman, lately promoted to glory on that side, sponsored a Motion which many people on this side signed, and I hope that since he is now on the Government side of this Chamber he will revive that Motion and press the noble Lord as hard as he can be pressed.

I think that it is terribly important not that we remove party considerations or legitimate and deeply held differences of opinion from our deliberations about defence, but that we should conduct our arguments, and divide, if necessary, not according to whether we are red or blue, but on different issues. I remember saying in this House on one occasion—and I won the full approval, for the only time in my life, of the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) for saying it—that there is no such thing as a Socialist frigate and a Conservative frigate, there is no such thing as a Liberal aeroplane or a maverick aeroplane: there are aeroplanes and there are frigates. The arguments about how these are deployed, the arguments about the political objects they are deployed to serve, are matters of legitimate political controversy, and they are best conducted, in my view, when none of us feels it incumbent upon him to prove that the other side has always been right on every single question—or wrong, as the case may be—or has to spend at least half a speech satisfying his Front Bench and his party Whips in trying to prove that the party opposite is a bunch of scoundrels, liars and incompetents.

I am not greatly distressed that the White Paper is not a document to which I can give my wholehearted support. I always found something with which to quarrel in the White Papers produced by the Labour Government. Sometimes it was the grammar; sometimes it was something more fundamental. However, it does not distress me unduly that the White Paper is an unsatisfactory document. I regard it as a transitional document. There will be another White Paper soon and that, too, will mark out the path of retreat from carefully prepared positions established before the General Election. That will be something which I shall naturally welcome, but not with chortles of party political glee. It will be a welcome sign that the Conservative Party, now in power, are becoming the realists that they proclaimed themselves to be before they came into power.

We have had a strange doctrine proclaimed in recent months: that we in this House and the Government shall make the decisions concerning the deployment of British armed forces and that British interests shall be the sole guide to those decisions. This conflicts with the whole of historical experience. Military decisions have been forced upon this country for over a century, because for well over a century we have not played an aggressive initiating r£le in world affairs.

We did not freely decide to take up arms against the Napoleonic empire. The Napoleonic empire made it impossible for us to refrain from taking up arms. It was so in 1914, and markedly so in 1939. The decision was forced upon us by the German Reich, as it then was, and we had to adjust ourselves to that decision. I find nothing shameful in the historical record or in the fact that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in the next White Paper will begin to adhere to the pattern formed by the historical record. We should recognise that for many years we have not been able to take totally independent decisions in this sphere.

When we look at modern defence problems I think that we have to remove the word "defence" in its narrower sense from the argument. We are now talking about a contribution to security. The hon. Member for Chigwell was talking about a contribution to a form of security in the Gulf and in the Trucial States. The hon. Gentleman was not talking of defence in the way that he would have to talk about defence if my aggressive constituency of Ilkeston invaded his defensive constituency of Chigwell. We have to use different terms, and a contribution to security gives us the correct conceptual framework.

This is why the first emphasis in all our considerations must be Europe. This is the heartland. If we are not safe in Europe, we cannot do anything anywhere else. Therefore, we have to be safe in Europe.

I wish to pose the kind of question which could be better answered in a specialist committee with specialists serving that committee and providing the kind of information which is not normally exchanged across the Floor of the House in a debate of this kind. The question is: how safe are we? Absolute safety is nowhere to be found and never has been.

We tend to look at N.A.T.O. from our own standpoint, keenly conscious of its deficiencies, knowing quite well that the infrastructure is not all that it should be. that standardisation has hardly got off the ground, and that there is still, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) pointed out, no adequate political machinery attached to it. But remembering all those deficiencies, as all those who study these questions inevitably must, we tend to forget that it is still a pretty formidable force when looked at from the other side of the hill.

I have recently been reading a document prepared by an American adviser to the present Administration discussing some of the problems arising out of a possible security conference. I have been chasing around the building trying to find the document, because I should love to quote from it. Parts of it were reproduced in "Survival", the journal of the Institute of Strategic Studies. I have not the document with me. In fact, I have forgotten the author's name. I normally give credit for ideas which are not my own. That gentleman has been taking a cold look at N.A.T.O., making an effort to look at it from the other side of the hill. When looking at the effective deployable strength of the Warsaw Pact compared with N.A.T.O. he makes certain deflating side calculations which we should constantly have in mind.

The major calculation which he makes is based on the fact that in order to suppress Czechoslovakia the Commander of the Soviet Union, or rather the Warsaw Pact—we know that that is only a euphemism for the Soviet Union and its satellites—had to deploy 300,000 troops —25 divisions. Not all those troops were in Czechoslovakia. There were subsidiary deployments to take account of possible reverbations moving outward from Prague, but 300,000 troops were deployed to act in a police rôle.

Making allowance for these factors, I believe that we have far more stable societies on our side of the barrier than they have on theirs. Despite their military parades, their monolithic doctrine and their great 6th November demonstrations, we can deflate some of the alarming calculations which we have had about the Warsaw Pact strength. Without playing the numbers game and without in any way contradicting the figures given to the House in yesterday's instalment of the debate, from the standpoint of the C.-in-C. of the Warsaw Pact N.A.T.O. looks far stronger than to those of us in this House who are consistently, and rightly, critics of N.A.T.O. rather than unalloyed admirers and public relations officers.

Another point has to be stressed. We cannot look at the balance of forces in any theatre in a purely arithmetical way. Had we mounted up the arithmetic in most of the conflicts in which we have been engaged, not only should we not have won them, but we should never have embarked upon them. One division commanded by a military genius can knock out four divisions under the overall command of a military idiot. When we take into account all these other factors, I think that N.A.T.O. is not only stronger than we sometimes think, but, more important, that it looks stronger on the other side of the hill than it does to us.

I agree with one word that the Prime Minister used, apart from the necessary platitudes. The right hon. Gentleman used the word "doubt". Deterrence means doubt to a potential enemy. I think that we are now in a position to do what the late Sir Winston Churchill always suggested we form N.A.T.O. to do—namely, that we arm to parley. I think that we can now parley without risk. I think that we are ready to follow the lead given by Chancellor Brandt in the new Ostpolitik. I was delighted to read—I was not able to be present the whole time yesterday—that the Government actively support the Ostpolitik of Chancellor Brandt. It is a probing operation. It surrenders nothing, but at least it tries to establish where we are in Europe and whether, having confronted and probed for 20-odd years without any success in Western Europe, the Russians are ready to talk about matters of mutual interest. One cannot talk to the Russians about anything else. Once one starts talking ideology, the table goes up in smoke and propaganda slogans start to fly. But one can talk about matters of mutual interest.

Chancellor Brandt has established that they are now ready to talk about some matters of mutual interest and we should be foolish to neglect any opportunity to talk about these matters. But we must never lower our guard while we are trying to have exploratory discussions.

One thing is fairly clear when we try to jump over the other side of the hill. We must never imagine that, because of the impressive array of might which the Soviet Union commands and controls, everything is lovely in their garden. They do not control the Middle East. They have not kicked the Americans out of the Middle East. They have not demolished the military power of Israel, which is a factor of considerable importance in the Eastern Mediterranean and in Middle East affairs.

Israel is not an ally. We do not indulge in sending a vote of thanks to the Israeli army on every victory, but every hon. Member who thinks calmly will be glad that they are there and that they are organised and that they have prevented the opening of the Suez Canal, which would increase Soviet Naval strength in the Mediterranean by a factor of at least five. So there are factors comprised of powers not allied with us, over which we have no control, but we must take them into consideration.

The Russians have made no headway in Europe. There has been no social collapse anywhere in Western Europe of which they can take advantage. Consequently, they may be getting tired and, most important for us, there may be the odd commissar who is beginning to disbelieve his own propaganda, which is the very small beginnings of a little bit of hope.

I read in the German magazine Der Spiegel a lengthy series of articles by Gomulka's former interpreter, who sat in on all the discussions before the invasion of Czechoslovakia. The important thing which comes from these revelations is, first, that the top leaders in the Communist bloc were divided on this question, and, second—perhaps more important for us—that they were seriously disturbed about its possible repercussions on the structure of the Warsaw Pact.

I do not maintain that we should lower our guard. I do not maintain that the strength of N.A.T.O. should in any way be reduced, or even that the conventional strength of N.A.T.O. is in any way satisfactory, but I would argue that, from the other side of the hill, they see a stronger N.A.T.O. than we do. They look back on a record of continued political failure and perhaps they are now ready to come over a little. It is worthwhile that we should be prepared to meet them and take up seriously, for the first time since the formation of the Warsaw Pact, the question of a possible European security conference and the emergence of permanent machinery from such a conference.

I have said rather a lot for someone who had nothing whatever to say, and I now want to address some stern words to some of my hon. Friends who are not present to hear them. I have heard, as was inevitable, certain disparaging remarks about the future use of sea power. It is necessary to remind ourselves of one fact. Although I am not in favour of covering every Russian fishing boat with a comparable armed British fishing boat, or trying to follow every Russian submarine, some 390 of them, with a N.A.T.O. submarine—that would be an impossible job—we cannot ignore the growing importance of sea power in the world strategic picture.

In many ways, the Cuban confrontation was a kind of dry run for World War III. In fact, if this were a staff college instead of the House of Commons, it would be more convenient to refer to it as World War III, and scale oneself forward to World War IV when we are trying to scare each other to death. The scenario is perfect. One starts with the nuclear sabre rattling and it then gradually comes down. The discussions are very constructive. The decisive factor which ended that confrontation was not so much that President Kennedy was prepared to risk the American cities but that, at the crucial point of the escalation, he had more conventional naval strength in the Caribbean than the Russians could hope to have.

This is an abstract general point. I am not trying to localise it. I am not about to take a high dive into the Indian Ocean or any other ocean, but I urge every hon. Member to bear in mind that sea power is not extinct or a tiny factor, and that no strategic argument carries any sense at all unless it accepts that, in the conventional field, there must be a growing emphasis on sea power in all its forms.

I do not know what we are expected to do in the party sense about the White Paper. I certainly intend to vote for the Amendment. But since the White Paper is a transitional document, since, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, it is the kind of document which my own party. when in Government, produced about three years ago, since experience will gradually winkle out the eccentricities in the present Government's defence policy, I am reluctant to vote against the White Paper as a whole unless I hear convincing reasons from my own Front Bench for so doing.

Since oratory obviously has no power to move right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, we have to leave it to experience; outside experience and the facts of international life will eventually promote them to the wisdom which they so badly need at this moment.

7.57 p.m.

Mr. Churchill (Stretford)

I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) in much of what he has said, and, indeed, much of what his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) said. They have both talked of negotiating from strength and of the need for a strong defence capability and have expressed misgivings about Governments, whatever their political complexion, who consider economising too much on defence expenditure.

I share their feeling that defence should be, so far as possible, a nonpartisan affair. After all, we all live in the same country and we are all proud to call ourselves British. I believe that our interests, whatever party we may belong to, are much the same when it comes to protecting the freedom and lives of our people.

I would particularly join my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) in her plea for an all-party Committee on defence.

I welcome the Government's measures to make good the deficiencies which exist today in our defences by stepping up the number of frontline fighter squadrons committed to central Europe, in the form of Jaguars, the decision to retain the "Ark Royal" and the decision to step up the Reserve capability in this country.

I also welcome the creation of a five-Power Commonwealth defence force in South-East Asia which, I believe, is well within our capabilities economically and strategically. This decision is welcomed by our friends and allies in South-East Asia and could make a substantial contribution to the maintenance of stability in the area.

The cornerstone of Britain's defences is N.A.T.O. and the key to N.A.T.O. today, as in the last 25 years, is the presence in Europe of United States Forces. It must be the prime aim of any British Government to do all in their power, certainly in the short-term, in view of N.A.T.O.'s complete incapability of facing the Soviet Union without the military might of the United States, to see that the United States commitment in Europe is maintained. The only way we can do this is by showing America that we believe in collective security, that we are prepared to play our part and that we will not leave it to them, as we have done to far too great an extent in the last 25 years.

This can be done by stepping up our effort in Europe, and I therefore welcome the decision of the Government to take action on this front. However, our resources are very limited and I believe that our contribution in certain specific areas outside the European theatre could be of far greater value to our allies, both in Europe and across the Atlantic in the United States than by committing those same forces in Europe. On 8th April, 1963, the Leader of the Opposition told the people of America: It is one hundred times easier for Britain to remain there"— he was referring to east of Suez— even with a token force—than for us, still less the U.S.A., to seek to enter if trouble breaks out. It is, above all, this aspect of the Government's policy that I wholeheartedly support in that we have been able to establish inside South-East Asia a situation in which we do not have, as we had until recently, an open-ended commitment with no deterrent force planned to be on the spot. We have reversed that situation. We now have a limited commitment, but we have on the spot forces who can act with our allies as a deterrent to any instability that might arise in the area.

If we are able to maintain the United States commitment to Europe by stepping up our contribution, then I believe that Europe will be secure. Nevertheless, we have interests outside Europe, and there are two in particular which are vital to the security and future of this country. The first is the security of our shipping on the high seas, on which the Western countries are far more dependent than are the countries of the Warsaw Pact; this is particularly important in view of the 340 attack submarines which the Soviet Union has deployed in the oceans of the world. This is a factor of which we should take great note.

The second of our vital strategic interests is oil, without which neither our industry nor our defence capability come to nothing. Two-thirds of Western Europe's and British oil supplies come today, and will come for the foreseeable future, from the Gulf. Interference with British or allied shipping on the high seas requires at least an act of war, and hon. Members on both sides are generally agreed as to the unlikelihood in present circumstances of the Soviet Union wanting to risk a war.

However, if the Government were to follow the Labour Government's policies in the Persian Gulf, by sticking to a deadline for pulling British Forces out and the Russians were to gain political control of Britain's and Western Europe's oil supplies, the consequences for this country could be only disastrous. This political control could come about without any act of war whatever.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that the Soviet Union was always looking for means of bringing political pressure to bear. I agree with him 100 per cent. and if I were in the Kremlin tonight and looking at the situation of Britain and the Western Powers throughout the world, I would say that there was no area on which I would place higher priority than to gain political control for the Soviet Union of Western Europe's oil supplies. The possibilities of gaining such control for the Soviet Union could be limitless.

It is said that the Russians will not take over the Persian Gulf. But what if they do? That is the question we must ask ourselves. We have seen what has happened in Egypt; how they have 10,000 Soviet troops there, with fighter squadrons and naval and air bases. We have also seen what has happened in Aden and how quickly they followed us in there. We run the risk of jeopardising our industry and defence capability—indeed, perhaps even our independence as a nation—by risking the possibility of the Soviet Union gaining control of such a vital strategic material.

Many hon. Gentlemen opposite would like to see in yesterday's statement by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary confirmation that their policy of withdrawal, in which many of them did not erstwhile believe, is being continued. It does no such thing. It reverses the policies of the Labour Government in the Persian Gulf and perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite have missed the fact that no terminal date has been set for British withdrawal from the Persian Gulf. Indeed, the Government have wisely and deliberately left their options open.

Mr. George Thomson

I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the part of the statement of the Foreign Secretary in which he said that Treaties will cease by the end of 1971". These are the Treaties on which our operational military presence in the Gulf is based. It is impossible, in the light of his words will cease by the end of 1971".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1971, Vol. 812, c. 1229.] to come to other than the conclusion that the Government will follow the timetable for withdrawal laid down by the Labour Government.

Mr. Churchill

That is a somewhat unwarranted assumption. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary declared that these particular Treaties would come to an end. But he also made it clear that he was willing to enter into new treaties with the countries in the area and that he is willing to see further contributions of British Forces in a training rôle and a British presence, if that is the wish of those in the area. From having had an opportunity of visiting the area, I know that the great majority of those in power, not only in the Gulf States but even in the neighbouring States, favour Britain remaining—the Government have wisely and deliberately left their options open, and I welcome this. The Gulf has enjoyed a stability, thanks to the presence of British forces, a stability that unfortunately the rest of the Middle East has been denied in recent years.

But the previous Administration's decision to pull out has gone far to jeopardise that stability. Old rivalries and ambitions have been aroused once again. I pay tribute to the fact that they were able to secure at least the removal of one of these ambitions, regarding Iran's claim to Bahrein, but others remain. Iraq has had a long standing claim against Kuwait, and Iran against the two islands of Abu Musa and the Tumbs held by Ras Al Khaimah. The Saudis still have aims and ambitions which they have not forgone against Buraimi in Abu Dhabi. But the greatest threat is the determination of the Soviet Union to gain political control of Western Europe's oil supplies. I earnestly hope that the Government, and the Opposition, will not dwell too long on the difficulties of staying but, rather, concentrate their minds on the dangers of allowing Britain to become another Berlin, an outpost at the mercy of a hostile power for a vital strategic material.

Naval presence in the Gulf is not enough. It is folly to think that this country can engage in gunboat diplomacy with the Soviet Union in this area. No matter how many ships of the Royal Navy we may be able to deploy in the Persian Gulf, the Soviet Union, should it so wish, would be able to deploy ten times as many, especially if the Suez Canal were to be reopened. Such gunboat diplomacy is out of date, although I recognise that the former Secretary of State for Defence under the previous Administration, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), in some grandiose sabre rattling, once said that he would be able to send the Soviet fleet to the bottom of the Mediterranean within hours.

Hon. Members


Mr. Churchill

Minutes—I beg the right hon. Member's pardon. The only hope of keeping the Soviet Union out is to have a permanent force of British troops, on rotation, training in the Gulf. In addition, we must have at least two secure airfields. I know that this would be welcomed by those in the area.

It is an essential corollary of this that we should give more meaning to the CENTO Alliance and that it British Forces are to stay in the Persian Gulf they should work in very close co-operation not only with the CENTO Powers, especially Iran, but also with Saudi Arabia, so that some effective form of regional self-defence can be built up and that one day we shall be able to leave without leaving a vacuum behind us, which would be the situation if we were to adhere to the previous Administration's timetable for withdrawal.

I have every confidence that the Government will do all that is necessary—nothing more and nothing less is asked of them—to make sure that no hostile power gets a grip on Britain's jugular vein.

8.14 p.m.

Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, North)

An advantage of speaking at this late hour is that one has the opportunity of congratulating so many hon. Gentlemen opposite on their courage and tenancity in being determined to prove that the Government are not following the previous Government in their policies of withdrawal from the area east of Suez. Perhaps the louder they shout in that respect the more confident we may be that they lack confidence in the ability of the Government to stay in that part of the world. If they are so confident that the Government intends to deploy British forces east of Suez at strength, why on earth did a number of them go to the length of putting an Amendment to the Government Motion on the Order Paper which welcomes …the assistance offered to the proposed Union of Arab Emirates in the Gulf but, in view of the present uncertainties, calls for the continued presence of British forces in an area of major strategic importance to the West. The only matter on which the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) and I disagree is that there is uncertainty. There is no uncertainty. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite have decided, in its essentials and in principle, to follow the defence policy of their predecessors in the area east of Suez, and a frigate and a submarine more or less, for a year or two more or less, makes not a great deal of difference.

I am sorry to see that the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) has left the Chamber.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

He is coming back.

Mr. Moyle

Good. One or two of the things he said indicated that he, in contradistinction to most of his hon. Friends, had been able to remain awake for sufficient periods during the Prime Minister's speech this afternoon to he able to comment with confidence on certain sections of it. That was a refreshing change.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

That cheap comment was not worth coming back to hear.

Mr. Moyle

I thought that I might be doing the hon. Gentleman a service with the leadership of his party. In view of the honesty which he demonstrates on these occasions so regularly, I thought that some sort of push from this side of the House would be very helpful to his future prospects. He raised a number of points in his speech, as did the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean), which demand a serious answer from a Government who have misled the party opposite, if not the nation, in the policy which they said they would follow if they won the election last June. We shall look forward to seeing whether the Minister who replies to the debate gives the answers to which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are entitled.

Perhaps I should not have complimented the hon. Gentleman on staying awake during the course of the Prime Minister's speech. What I am about to say may sound a little narcissistic, but those of us who listened to the Prime Minister were touched by the repetition of his faith that his friends in Europe are militarily interested in areas outside Europe. He has said this before. He said it about three years ago in a defence debate. I thought that by now he had dropped it.

My criticism of the Europeans would be not that they are not interested in the Indian Ocean but that it is incredibly difficult to get many of them interested in areas like the Mediterranean and the Middle East on the one hand and the Arctic Ocean on the other hand. My criticism would be that far too many of them have their eyes fixed on the gap between the Alps and the Baltic. That is politically unwise, but I should have thought that it is militarily unwise also. Nevertheless, it is an example of someone believing what he wants to believe against all evidence to the contrary.

One of the things which I should like to do is to talk about the paper AD70, which is referred to in paragraph 11 of the White Paper. It is not a document which is available to the public, but summaries of the less confidential portions are available in the document known as "Nouvelles Atlantique" or "Atlantic News", as the case may be. It is called "Alliance Study on Defence Problems for the Seventies" and is an excellent summary.

I find very little in that document to disagree with. It starts by saying that the policy of N.A.T.O. should be one of détente and defence. It gives equal emphasis both to the détente and to the defence. However, what we find in the White Paper, which is supposed to be in many ways an interpretation of the Alliance policy as set out in paper AD70, is a fairly brief reference in paragraph 9 to the possibility of East-West negotiation and an even more terse reference in paragraph 10 to the same document. Thereafter, this White Paper is a continual series of commentaries on warlike preparation and the whole balance which we find in the AD70 document between détente and preparations for it, on the one hand, and defence, on the other, is totally lacking in the White Paper.

Particularly for those of us who remember the atmosphere of the 1950s, a study of this document reveals an atmosphere of haunting nostalgia as portrayed by the cold war attitude of the whole of this Government's approach as set out in the White Paper, which we could well do without. It is obvious that right hon. and hon. Members opposite not only left government in 1964 but also left behind real thought on the problems of the Western Alliance and the problems of Europe.

I turn now to the question of the problems of Europe. It can now be said that there are possible prospects at some time in the not too distant future of a major European conference on the political problems of Europe as they have been with us since the end of the Second World War. I would not want to over-stress this. There is much ground to be covered. There are many problems to be solved. There are many hurdles to be surmounted. However, the map of the course which we must follow can be vaguely discerned.

Again the criticism that I would make of the White Paper is that there is no evidence of any thought by the Government as to how they might start solving some of the problems which will emerge as we approach—I hope—that conference in the future. For example, there is President Willy Brandt's Ostpolitik, which has been referred to several times in the debate. It has been launched and it is making some progress. It has encountered some obstacles, but the possibilities of reaching an agreement should not be ruled out. If an agreement is reached the major obstacle to a European security conference as regards the West German Government will have been removed.

We shall then be faced with the prospect of sitting around a table and talking perhaps to the Russians and their allies. Yet against this background there is only a minimal indication on the part of the Government of the possibilities of the impact of the S.A.L.T. talks, for example, on a European security conference. What are these going to be? I would not expect the Government to have answers at this stage, but I do expect them to have at least asked the questions.

The questions are of some importance. If the strategic arms limitations talks fail, what do we then do? The situation may well be serious. These talks have been talked about almost exclusively in terms of A.B.Ms and M.I.R.Vs, to use the technical jargon. However, there are the Polaris submarines, of which we have four. What would be the fate of those four Polaris submarines if the strategic arms limitation talks broke down? Do the Government intend to spend large sums of the British taxpayer's money on upgrading those submarines into a more powerful weapon, or are they thinking possibly of winding that aspect of our defence effort up entirely and concentrating on something else?

If the talks succeed—let us assume that an understanding is reached or that a firm agreement results—what will be our position? Will we in Western Europe, for example, be subject to a commonalty of interest in these nuclear matters between the Soviet Union, on the one hand, and America, on the other, which may be detrimental to our interests?

As far as I can see, there is no sign of Government thinking on these very important armament matters, other than from time to time references, which I must admit were far more frequent before the election than they have been since, to an Anglo-French nuclear deterrent. I hope that we shall hear very little of this, not only because the Secretary of State has shown a total inability to defend the concept to the House whenever he has been pressed upon the matter, but also because, if there were such a business, first, the balance of the bargain between us and the French would be in favour of the French. We have masses of technical "know-how" which we would have to put in. The French have very little comparable "know-how" which they can put into the bargain for our benefit.

Even that is a minor argument compared with the fact that France is still outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation; and if we in the House believe, as I hope that we all do, that we can use N.A.T.O. as a system of preparing the approach to a European security conference, there must be no possible deal with the French as long as they remain outside N.A.T.O. I do not think that we can tolerate such an idea.

Apart from the strategic arms limitation talks, there is the question of conventional forces. Now that right hon. and hon. Members opposite have joined my right hon. and hon. Friends in deciding to withdraw from the east of Suez area, perhaps over a matter of time, the possibilities of saving on the armaments budget boil down to the prospects of what can be saved in Europe.

What can be saved in Europe will depend upon a successful international negotiation. Nothing in this area will be achieved without a successful international negotiation. One of the techniques which has been thought of to achieve a successful international negotiation is the idea of balanced mutual force reductions. No one should get the idea that this will be a simple exercise. It is not a question of one country saying to another, "You break up one of your guns and we will do the same". If security is to be maintained at the same time as balanced mutual force reductions are being made, the exercise becomes much more sophisticated.

A great many problems arise. I have mentioned same of them in the House on previous occasions. An obvious example is that the Russian Army, even at the end of the negotiation, would not be more than about 2,000 land miles from the centre of Europe, whereas there is a grave possibility that the bulk of the American forces might be the other side of the Atlantic. Somehow a formula to balance those two possibilities must be brought in.

Next, the Russians have more divisions in Central Europe than do the Western Powers. Here again, the situation is not simple. It would not be a matter of merely working out a ratio of knocking off two Eastern European divisions for one Western Power division, because N.A.T.O. divisions are, broadly speaking, much larger than Soviet divisions and the divisions of the Warsaw Pact countries. The Russians have more tanks than we have, but our tanks are probably better. We have more anti-tank guns than they have.

These are the sorts of very sophisticated problems that the Governments of the Western Alliance will run into immediately they sit round a table, if they ever reach the conference table, and discuss the question of balanced mutual force reductions. There is no evidence at all that the Government are carrying out any thinking on these subjects. The few examples I have put forward are those from the Labour Government exercise and are at least 12 months old. What we would like to know and what we are entitled to ask the Government is whether there has been any further thought about the problems involved in this kind of exercise. Is there to be a different balance solution brought to the conference table? All these problems of Ostpolitik, the problems of the S.A.L.T. talks and of mutual balanced force reductions are part of the approach to detente, part of the problems to which, on the evidence of AD70, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is giving deep thought to but which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in their White Paper have given no more than the briefest possible lip service.

There has been no preparation at all, as far as I can see, and no thought about these problems. For that reason alone I shall be only too happy to support the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Thomson) and to vote against the Motion approving the Defence White Paper. I have not spoken about Northern Ireland at all, and before sitting down I would like only to record my personal thanks for the efforts our troops are making to keep the peace in that very difficult corner of the United Kingdom.

8.29 p.m.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

I am glad to follow the hon. Gentleman in the many interesting and reasonable points he made and also my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) in what he said about the Persian Gulf and the fact that he believes options still to be largely open. I believe this to be so. The negotiations are not yet over; indeed my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said he has the intention possibly of visiting this area very shortly.

I would like to take up one point mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas), who is not in the Chamber at the present time. He suggested that Greece should be moved out of N.A.T.O. Here I must declare an interest, having been a military attaché in Greece at one time, not a particularly good time. It was the period of Enosis when things were not too friendly. I must stress that Greece is an extremely good ally of ours. Her fighting men are extremely courageous and resolute. It is wrong for members of N.A.T.O. to attack each other, because we need all the strength N.A.T.O. can give.

I was one of the Members who signed the Amendment which was not called. Certainly, I welcome the Government's continuing interest in the Persian Gulf area and I hope that whatever forces are left there—and we understand some forces will be left there-—will be sufficient to act as a deterrent to any forces of aggression coming in from outside. When one looks at the whole political problem of this area it is very difficult to get a grasp of the whole thing. I see it as three separate problems, each a concentric circle, each larger than the last.

First of all, there is the inner circle of the actual States which border the Persian Gulf itself, the seven Trucial States, Qatar and Bahrain. A certain amount of damage was done there by the irresponsible decision of the Labour Government, but when several hon. Members from both sides of the House went out to visit the area last summer we found everyone in the area still extremely friendly and they wanted Britain to remain. We talked with several Rulers. Some of them said, "We want Britain to be strong in this area. We do not want her to be weak. Do not think all Arabs are your enemies. The Arabs in the Gulf area are certainly your friends".

The next area of widening political interest, the middle circle as it were, are the larger States which surround the area—Iran, Saudia Arabia and Iraq. I believe the damage done by the previous Administration affected this area to a greater extent. All these countries as soon as they heard the announcement that the British Government were to leave this area decided they must carve out areas of political influence for themselves. We have heard there were various claims and threats made in this area. Fortunately, the claim on Bahrain was settled by diplomatic means. But the claim of Iran on the strategic islands at the mouth of the Gulf, Abu Musa and Tumbs, still remain and Iran has threatened to seize these as soon as the British Forces leave.

Then there is Iraq's interest also in these islands and her interest in and threat to Kuwait. Saudi Arabia on the other side also is interested in the islands at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and still has claims on Buraimi and Abu-Dhabi.

When we look at the outer circle of the wider political area, we find the brooding presence of Soviet forces in the Indian Ocean area. They are waiting for a vacuum, which will surely be created if British Forces leave. They know very well that it is impossible to have a direct confrontation, but in every case, as they have done before, they wait until the British move out and then move in.

The likely sequence of events, should Britain move out of this area altogether, is that the States in the Gulf will have a comparatively short life. They will gradually crumble. One after the other, they will be taken over by revolutionary régimes, and the Soviet Union will offer aid and help which will be readily accepted. Very shortly after that, the Russians will be in possession of the whole area.

In examining the whole problem we are rather looking through the wrong end of a telescope, looking at the lesser evils and not the greater.

8.36 p.m.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

I can understand the position of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather), he having put his name to an Amendment which is critical of the policy announced yesterday afternoon by the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, who is one of the senior members of his party, because I found myself in a similar position when I was sitting on the other side of the House. I do not speak harshly to the hon. Gentleman, but I must tell him, and even more the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) his hon. Friend who spoke a little earlier, that they are both clearly mistaken. The language of the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, speaking, I presume, for the Cabinet, was quite definite yesterday. I think that the hon. Gentleman has not even the excuse of not having been present when his right hon. Friend spoke.

The matter was put to the right hon. Gentleman quite clearly. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) has the bad habit of addressing us and always leaving us very soon afterwards, so that it is almost impossible to be courteous to him and refer to him with a smile across the Chamber. We must always criticise him in his absence. But he has another rather better habit, which is that he puts his questions clearly and precisely when he wants to, and yesterday afternoon was one of those occasions when he did want to. He said: My right hon. Friend has explained what Her Majesty's Government are prepared to do when the union is formed. Can he give us an assurance that until such time as the union is born and is capable of assuming some stability in that vital area the existing British military presence will not be withdrawn? The Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary replied: The military presence is due to be withdrawn by the end of 1971, but we have sufficient time to form the union. If the union is not formed I shall return to the House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1971; Vol. 812, c.1231–32.] That is what the right hon. Gentleman said; the military presence will be withdrawn by the end of 1971.

Mr. Churchill

Is due to be withdrawn. That does not mean that it will be gone by the end of the year.

Mr. Mendelson

The hon. Gentleman can wrap himself around with dreams, but I must tell him with great respect and, as he knows, profound admiration, that if he does wrap himself around with dreams and not realities he is not following in the family tradition. Realism is important, and I take the statement of Government and Cabinet policy by the responsible senior member of the Government, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, and do not even intend to press any further the Minister who is to reply, who has his hands full with all sorts of other problems with which he will have to deal. I accept the statement by the Foreign Secretary as being Her Majesty's Government's policy.

I move from there to the reason why the last Government decided upon this policy. It is also one of the reasons why the present Government are continuing to implement that policy. It lay in the attitude of Iran and other countries in the area which have a very clear policy. It is nonsensical for the United Kingdom, whatever hon. Members on the back benches opposite might think, to pursue a policy of military presence in the area which is not fully accepted by the surrounding powers. That was the decisive reason why the last Government decided on their policy.

It is not as if the last Government were, as is so often alleged by hon. Members opposite, so eager to withdraw from previous major positions of influence held by the United Kingdom. Many things can be said of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) as Prime Minister, but no one can say that he was over-eager to withdraw from British positions overseas. That was not his policy, as will be conclusively proved when the history of the period comes to be written—and when that comes, I do not mean exclusively the book which my right hon. Friend himself is preparing.

I want to refer to some of the things said by the Prime Minister today. I want in particular to concentrate on his treatment of the proposal for a European security conference. He said a little more than is contained in the White Paper. He was obliged to, and it was high time. Hon. Members opposite tried to laugh this off earlier today, but one of the serious disadvantages from which we suffer is having the Secretary of State for Defence in another place and not in this House, because he is head of one of the main spending Departments of the Government and it is this House which is responsible for raising revenue. [Interruption.] It is no good the Under-Secretary of State muttering. This is a proper constitutional point.

This House is responsible for expenditure and for raising revenue, and it is a constitutional outrage that the Secretary of State for Defence is not a member of it. One of the serious consequences is that he cannot be questioned about the speech he made introducing the White Paper, for which he is responsible, in another place. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that this would have fallen foul of constitutional commentators 100 years ago, never mind today. I would suggest that the founder of the Economist would have been more on our side than on his. I make that point because he might be more impressed by that than by me, speaking at the tail end of the debate. We have heard the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and one of the Under-Secretaries of State for Defence in the debate and we are to hear the Minister of State in reply. We must make do with what we have. It is the duty of right hon. and hon. Members on the Treasury Bench to defend what the Secretary of State said in another place. This afternoon, the Government moved away from the Secretary of State's exaggerated language. The Prime Minister was cooler and rather moderate in his approach. He tried to make good some of the awful impression made by the Secretary of State for Defence. But although he tried, in substance he did not move beyond it. Therefore, I found his contribution on the problem of a European security conference quite inadequate and in no way responsive to the Amendment.

What is at stake here is the possibility of moving towards a European security conference with the purpose of eventually creating a European security system. All this cold war talk that we had from the Minister makes no contribution towards that. Since there are but few Members of the House who read what I write—not more than a quarter of 1 per cent.—I propose to repeat something which I wrote in an article not long ago, published in Tribune, a paper to which I should like to give a little publicity. The article was to do with the problem of the approach to the European security conference.

I pointed out that a security conference which is called for the purpose of putting the stamp of respectability upon the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia would not be worth calling. That is my view today. I say this so that it should be established as common ground that I do not want a security conference if it is not to serve the major purpose for which many of us have worked for ten years or more in many countries of Europe. That purpose must be to discuss European security and to prepare arrangements for further conferences discussing the whole of Europe. It must eventually lead to a dissolution of the two military blocs and their replacement by a European security conference.

As a first step in that direction, because this will obviously take many years, there must be an early agreement on mutual force reductions. This is the essential ingredient. What the Government ought to do is to send an early and positive response to the Soviet Government and other countries in the Eastern bloc saying that we accept the idea in principle and that we should now go ahead to discuss an agenda.

In doing this they could make use of the helpful proposal made by the Finnish Government who have made it their business to offer Helsinki as a meeting place for the beginnings of a European security conference—call it a preliminary conference or the first meeting of the conference itself. They have put forward certain suggestions which could now be discussed. It is quite wrong for the Government so far to have "cold-shouldered" those proposals.

The argument is then adduced that it is essential to get agreement over Berlin before we can send such a positive response. I do not accept that argument. This must not be confused with the attitude of the West German Chancellor. The proposal of a European security conference addressed to the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and other countries is one thing, the internal political position of the head of the German Government is another. We are not here to decide what the attitude of the German Chancellor is to be; that is his business, the business of his party and his Parliament. I would not presume to give him advice.

My task is to give advice to our Government, and the two must not be confused. The Foreign Secretary always confuses the two and treats them as if they were the same thing. The Prime Minister did so this afternoon. There is a considerable political interest on the part of Herr Brandt to get a reasonable agreement over Berlin before he can recommend to his Parliament in Bonn the ratification of the treaty with the Soviet Union and Poland. As far as we know, he has a very narrow majority. A treaty of that importance would not be very meaningful unless he gets members of other parties outside the S.P.D. to vote for it, just as, if I may be allowed to make this point in passing, a majority of 20 or 30 in favour of entering the Common Market would be meaningless and useless. Unless there is true party agreement on going into the Common Market, everyone knows that we shall not do so. There must be an overwhelming majority for any such proposition. I do not expect to carry both sides of the House, all my hon. Friends or the Front Benches on this proposition; I just mention it in passing to liven up the debate.

I think that the analogy holds good and that Chancellor Brandt finds himself in precisely that position, but this is not what we are discussing. We are discussing the logical approach and the positive response to proposals from the Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc countries for preliminary meetings on a European security conference, the acceptance of discussions on an agenda. This the Government should do straight away, and we should be pressing them for that. To the extent that I take the Amendment to mean that we are pressing the Government in that direction, I am glad that we put it down. We are criticising them for not doing anything positive in the direction of East-West relations and East-West détente. It is a fair answer to give a positive response, in spite of the reservations which I have expressed and which we must express as a country about the preliminary proposals advanced by the Soviet Union with a limited agenda.

The answer to the proposal is not that because they are proposing to limit the agenda there can be no approach to a conference. The answer is, "Yes, we accept an approach to a conference, but we have an equal right to propose additional items for the agenda". This is what the United Kingdom must do. If we said that only an acceptable agreement over Berlin could open the gateway towards a security conference, we should be handing over a veto power to Herr Ulbrecht, who is the last person I want to have a veto over European security developments.

The Foreign Office knows very well, since its representatives have been present when I have attended international conferences, listening in carefully, that on the subject of a European security conference the voice of Soviet representatives and the voice of East German representatives are not the same. The Soviet Union is far more interested in having a European security conference in the reasonably near future, whereas the representatives of East Germany pay lip- service to the proposal and immediately say that full international recognition of the D.E.R. must come first; indeed, that is their major aim. To say that unless there is an acceptable settlement over Berlin there will be no approach to a European security conference is to hand over to the East German Government the power of sabotaging for a year and a day a satisfactory settlement over Berlin, thereby making sure that there shall be no European security conference.

We know—certainly the noble Lord knows—that in all the discussions between Poland and West Germany and between the Soviet Union and West Germany the stumbling block has always been East Berlin. The East German Government do not wish the relations between the Federal Republic and the Soviet Union to become too friendly, because they are afraid of being bypassed. This is simply realism and has nothing to do with ideology. The East German Government know very well that the Federal Republic has the Ruhr and all the major industrial assets in the heart of Europe. If there is to be permanent friendship between the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic, East Germany will become less important to the Soviet Union. This they do not wish to see. It is a disastrously mistaken policy for the Government to advance the argument that a Berlin settlement is a sine qua non of an approach to a security conference. They should change their policy and we should press them as strongly as we can to change it.

To the extent that anybody on my side of the House might be echoing the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, they are equally mistaken, and I want to warn them off any such echo—[Laughter.]—I do not take kindly to the amusement of the hon. Members for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) and Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). They are both serious characters, and it is unusual to see them so highly amused, particularly as I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Chigwell in dead silence. He should understand that I was doing that not because I thought it was the last word in foreign policy, but merely as a matter of courtesy to him, and he should return it.

I turn to my last point which concerns another item which has been discussed in the debate. I refer to the position in the Far East—[Interruption.] I am afraid that we must bear with hon. Gentlemen opposite who find it extremely difficult to listen to any speech lasting more than about 12½ minutes. I am trying hard.

The Minister of State and the Government must understand that they are engaged in a game of shadow boxing. It is clear that the position in the Far East does not make possible a very large permanent British military establishment there. The Government have realised that, and they accept it. However, realism between the two sides of the House on these matters requires that there should be some point at which we leave the propaganda game of quoting from each other's speeches. It does not establish a point that one wishes to make to quote a sentence from a speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton when he was Prime Minister. Quotation is no substitute for argument. But in this Parliament we have become used to Members of the Government quoting from speeches made by members of the previous Administration, be it on industrial relations, defence or foreign policy. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench seem incapable of composing speeches of their own. If they did not have large chunks of speeches by members of the previous Administration from which to quote, they would have to sit down after only four or five minutes, and that would not do. They cannot live without the speeches made in the past by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I suggest that they should mend their ways.

Looking at the negotiations between, say, Australia and the United States, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite must realise that nothing can be gained by propaganda. In fact what is possible is a very modest contribution. The juggling of figures about which we have heard will not add to our prestige and the confidence of others in us.

We declare our bitter disappointment with the first White Paper that this Government have produced. We declare our bitter opposition to the language of the Minister of State. We declare our profound opposition to the perfunctory way in which relations between East and West have been treated in the White Paper. We have no confidence in the policy advanced by the Government in the White Paper and the speech of the Minister of State. For that reason, we shall vote against the Motion tonight.

8.58 p.m.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

I do not suffer from the difficulties which affect the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) and the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister of State on providing a statement on the Defence Estimates which puts Britain's defence first. It must be harder for those hon. Members opposite who share an ideological affinity with those whose interests are contrary to those of the United Kingdom—

Hon. Members


Mr. Mendelson


Mr. Frank Allaun

I am sure that the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) is entitled to disagree with me and with my hon. Friends, but he is not entitled to say what he has just said, and I ask him to withdraw it.

Mr. Wilkinson

No. It is not for me to make distinctions between the relative degrees of Socialism. I cannot do that. All that I will say is that I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman said what he did with sincerity and on behalf of his constituents—

Hon. Members


Mr. Allaun

On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to say that I am sincere or insincere or that Socialism is not in keeping with the interests of this nation, but I ask him to withdraw what he has just said about myself and my hon. Friends.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir R. Grant-Ferris)

There is no point of order for me. I do not think that what the hon. Gentleman said falls into the category which would justify the Chair asking for a withdrawal. It should be a matter between hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I must leave it at that.

Mr. Allaun

Further to that point of order. What the hon. Gentleman said was tantamount to saying that we were acting in a way contrary to the interests of this nation. It is that which I am suggesting is not permissible.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I do not think the situation is quite as the hon. Gentleman puts it. It might possibly be considered that way in a debate such as this, but it might also be felt in other debates to be quite normal.

Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)

I was not involved in what the hon. Gentleman said, but two of my hon. Friends were. It would be within the recollection of the House that what the hon. Gentleman said was an imputation on the motives of my two hon. Friends. If, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you are in any doubt as to what was said, you should ask for a transcript of the hon. Gentleman's words so that he should be given the opportunity to withdraw the imputation on the reputation of my hon. Friends.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I heard what the hon. Gentleman said and I feel that it is a matter which, with great confidence, I must leave with him.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I answer the hon. Gentleman? This is a serious point. What I was saying in good faith was that I regretted the suggestion that we should so hugely limit our defence expenditure so as to incur a cut of some 2½ per cent. of gross national product expended. As for the hon. Member for Penistone—

Mr. Mendelson

I make no complaint about what the hon. Gentleman said. What he said is of no importance.

Mr. Wilkinson

There were three main points in the White Paper. The most important is the section on improving the capabilities of the Armed Forces; the second is how they are to overcome manpower difficulties; and the third is how they are to enhance their rôle in the community.

One aspect of our defence planning which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), and also by the Minister of State, is that of the nuclear hypothesis in an era of nuclear stalemate, when there is an overwhelming preponderance of conventional forces on the side of the Warsaw Pact countries and the Soviet Union. I agree with the hon. Member for Toxteth that our reserve capacity needs augmentation. On this matter the White Paper gives ground for hope. We are getting a sizeable increase of our Army reserves, which is admirable.

The sentiments expressed in the White Paper are also worthy of note when Chapter 3 begins by saying The significance of the reserve forces extends far beyond their essential military role. It is not just the fact that if we want to be able to meet a small incursion or a minor risk of escalation with an appropriate response we wish to have appropriate conventional capacities to do so, but also that we want to be able to face the more alarming possibility of prolonged conflict without resort to the nuclear weapon. There is no way of doing that without adequate reserves.

I suggest that no two arms in the reserve forces are more important than the naval and air arms. I am delighted that the Territorials are to have their strength augmented, but it is a fact that the most complicated and technically sophisticated military tasks are performed by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. The training is much longer, the degree of expertise is of a far higher technical calibre, on the whole. Therefore, there will be a very great gap in our capability unless we can expand our reserve naval and air elements. Although I welcome wholeheartedly the additions which we have made to our conventional strength—the extra aircraft carrier, which is admirable, and the extra Jaguar squadrons, which can be dispersed because it does not have to operate on hardened airfields but can operate from a cricket pitch or at any rate a big football field, which is a far better concept than the hardening of static airfields.

Our conventional capacity is already being increased, but we should look at the augmentation of the naval and air side. We have eleven minesweepers—have we not?—which the Royal Naval Reserve disposes of. That is a very fine, worthy force of some 6,000 men. The Royal Air Force, however, has a mere single paragraph in this Paper, and that is an extraordinary state of affairs when we note what the Israeli Air Force is capable of. In that country, as an Air Reservist one probably goes to work to the office in the morning, at noon straps a Skybolt to one's back, flies a mission in the afternoon, and comes home to tea. If anyone tells me that that is not a professional air force I can only say that he is making a grave mistake.

I turn to what the Secretary of State said in the other place on 24th February when he pointed out that 52 per cent. of our defence expenditure goes on pay and allowances. If we look at the projections of that expenditure—and I am glad that they are only targets and not fixed ceilings—we find that, as manpower costs rise to compete with industry, and as weapon costs escalate, we shall face an extremely difficult situation.

I suggest that what might have appeared a flippant suggestion is not so flippant at all. The Swiss operate what is very much a citizen force, and if anyone were to say it is not possible for such a force to operate professionally in those circumstances, I would point out that the Air National Guard in the United States operates supersonic aircraft and has 92 flying squadrons with 1,800 aircraft of which 13 tactical fighter and reconnaissance units were called up for service in Vietnam operationally and showed themselves perfectly professional and capable of carrying out the job.

What I am trying to get across is that for the longer term, if we want not to reduce equipment programmes or drastically to cut back on Regular manpower, we have to increase our reserve capability, not just because it gives us the option not to invoke nuclear retaliation at an early stage of hostilities in Europe but also because it will bring defence expenditure to a reasonable proportion of the Budget, a proportion which this country can tolerate in the longer term. I believe that these are most important matters.

Lastly I must emphasise that this would greatly improve recruiting. There is far too little contact between the ever-shrinking Services and the civilian population. That is a healthy thing for neither. Another thing which would help recruiting and which I would mention in the last minute and a half I have is this: it has been emphasised that education takes up an increasing proportion of the time span when a potential Serviceman can be of use to the Armed Forces. I suggest that the creation of an inter-Service cadet college at Greenwich where cadets of all three Services could do an academic year in imposing surroundings in the public eye, before they dispersed to their respective professional academies for specialised training, would be an admirable thing. I am not decrying the university cadet scheme or financial inducements to bring people into the Services from there. All that is admirable, but I think it would be also helpful to have this joint cadet college, for it would be valuable for morale and for the standing of the Armed Forces in the community.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

Had I known that the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) would have begun in such an intemperate way, I would not perhaps have been so generous in giving him time to speak. I am not sure whether I could do a mission from Aberavon in the afternoon and get home for tea.

I want, first, to pay tribute, as many hon. Members have, to our troops in Northern Ireland. We have in Northern Ireland nine major units—it is right that the House should get the issue in perspective regarding our commitment there—comprising 5,000 infantrymen, which compares with just over 9,000 in the whole of B.A.O.R. today.

Our troops in Northern Ireland perform a difficult and unpleasant task. Indeed, any assistance in aid of the civil power is bound to be difficult, because it taxes the resources, the ingenuity and, indeed, the patience of every fighting unit. When heaped upon this is the growing hostility of a small number of the population, as was inevitable over the months, then the task becomes doubly difficult.

It is hardly credible that in 1970, almost on the doorstep of the Palace of Westminster, British troops should for such a long time be engaged in a task of this nature—and how well they do it.

I join in sending good wishes to the troops who are performing this task. It would not come amiss for me to mention also the families of the troops in all parts of the United Kingdom, sensing perhaps a little of their anxieties as they watch television weekend after weekend and see their menfolk going about their tasks. It has never been easy historically from this side of the water to understand, let alone to solve, the problems of Northern Ireland. But in the drive to restore normality in Northern Ireland, perhaps it would not come amiss for me at this stage in the debate gently to remind those who might be minded to throw the next petrol bomb or to set the next booby trap to think a little about the families of the boys who are keeping the peace and doing the job so well. I am sure that the whole House sends its good wishes to our troops in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) asked about accommodation. I welcome the additional accommodation which will be provided. This will lessen a little of the separation from their families of the troops in Northern Ireland.

I ask the same question as was asked by the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid): what effect has service in Northern Ireland had on re-engagement? I hope that the Minister of State will be able to tell us about ithat.

Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip-Northwood)

When the right hon. Gentleman refers to 5,000 infantrymen, does he mean literally five battalions of 1,000 infantrymen each, or does that include the armoured car units, the gunners, and the like? What is the situation regarding brigade and division?

Mr. Morris

I have contracted my speech. I said that in Northern Ireland there are nine major units comprising 5,000 men acting as infantrymen. Of the 53,000 total troops in B.A.O.R. there are just over 9,000 infantrymen. I stress that point. It is a comparison of these two sectors of the British Army. I have cut down my speech, but I am trying to go through a great deal.

Like other hon. Members who have taken part in the debate, I have read the White Paper in conjunction with the statement which was made in October. The first question which crossed my mind was why the Government bothered to bring out this White Paper if they produced all the goodies they had and put them in the window at the behest of the faithful in the statement which they made in October. It reminded me of the statement by the late Aneurin Bevan about the Budget: that it was a relic of a peasant economy; there had to be a sowing in the spring and an expectation of a harvest in the autumn. I suppose that because the predecessors of the present Administration had brought out White Papers in the spring they thought it was the decent thing to do. But they give us no new information.

What was odd and significant was that the first piece of new information, the contribution to the European Defence Improvement Programme, was dished out in a paragraph in a Press release from the Secretary of State. Then yesterday we had the latest political somersault from the Government in the statement on the Gulf. It is odd that this empty and bogus White Paper could not have contained a reference to that political somersault.

The October White Paper can be underlined in four parts. There would, first, be some kind of commitment in the Far East, second, the "Ark Royal" would continue its functions as a carrier, third, there would be an increase in TAVR, and, fourth, some Jaguars would be diverted from training. That is hardly something to excite the colonels in Cheltenham or the admirals in Hampshire. Any student of defence, having regard to the new expectations of our friends and allies set out in these White Papers, would have expected at least some new money to back them with.

One remembers the critical, indeed almost hysterical, Motions which we had every year on the Labour White Papers from the other side of the House. Let me remind the House of some of these. In 1970, the Opposition moved to deplore the policies of the Government … which involve a continuing reduction in the effectiveness of our defence forces, to the detriment of national security, interests and commitments. The same in 1969. The same in 1968.

The champion of the Opposition then was the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). That was when he was a shadow, before he sought the limelight. He condemned the Labour Government for having … undermined the confidence both of the Services and of our friends and allies and seriously weakened the defence capability of this country. If, according to the Conservative manifesto "A Better Tomorrow"—or is it "A Better Day After Tomorrow"?—these were the years that the locusts have eaten, one might have expected, as I am sure the faithful opposite expected, some radical change of policy, some massive infusion of new funds.

But do they find it? The assumptions made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) when he referred to N.A.T.O. and our r½le in N.A.T.O. in his last White Paper. He said: At present, the level of these conventional forces is just sufficient for this purpose, though there is a need for improvements in quality and equipment. That was his analysis in the White Paper on which hon. Members opposite moved an Amendment and against which they voted in the Lobby. Despite this, my right hon. Friend's conclusions have been endorsed by the Secretary of State as recently as the last debate in the other place, when he said that the assessment of his predecessor still applied 12 months later.

If our provision was so bad, if the Amendments of the present Government year after year were right, if our period in office could be likened to a sort of Old Testament six lean years, then one might have expected some radical change, if the Opposition then were not totally "phoney". We might have expected new plans, real commitments and real money to back them with. If our order of priorities was wrong—I take great pride in the fact that it was such that for the first time in our history we spent more on education than on defence—then the least the faithful opposite might have expected was some small infusion of new money. But they find that the present White Paper, word for word, goes along with our Defence White Paper in money terms. Indeed, they are adding insult to injury by increasing the expectations of our friends in the Far East. The basic Conservative defence posture, as hon. Gentlemen opposite who study defence know, is that there is the same money in the Defence White Paper, plus this Far East commitment.

But they go one better. They claim now that they are spending less than us on defence. They say that they will be spending less than the targets that we set and that their aims over the next four years will involve substantial savings on previous plans, making a major contribution to the Government's expenditure programme. It cannot bring heart to hon. Gentlemen opposite to be told that spending is £1 million below even the October target.

As for there being not much damage to our rôle in N.A.T.O., if one accepts the endorsement of the Secretary of State and the figures of the Government, it seems that we will not have much wherewithal to put anything right anywhere. It is odd that I must remind the House of the statement which was made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, in the Tory Party's "Campaign Guide". He said: We do not pretend to think we can provide adequate defence on the cheap. We are prepared to pay the price to secure our interests and fulfil our commitments. Now the proud aim of the Conservative Party is not that they are spending the same as us but that they will spend less.

Let us consider the Far East. We understand that between £5 million and £10 million is the assessment of the extra cost of this new presence. I find this impossible to reconcile with the statement of the Prime Minister of 18th January of last year, when he said: Well, I am not going to tie myself down"— Who can tie the right hon. Gentleman down? Certainly the Gulf enthusiasts on the benches opposite cannot tie him down to ten plus or minus —100 million". Perhaps he was anticipating decimalisation or, like Lord Randolph Churchill last century, was having difficulty with "those damned dots".

Lord Balniel


Mr. Morris

I will not give way.

Lord Balniel


Hon. Members

Sit down.

Mr. Morris

I have reduced the length of my speech considerably. In any event, the noble Lord did not give way to me during his speech yesterday.

If I am wrong in my assessment, then let us consider equipment and manpower. First, take Polaris submarines, to which the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink) referred. The cost refers to the same number of boats. Indeed, Ministers tend to get indignant when I ask whether or not the Government intend to build a fifth Polaris submarine. Their answer is that the Government are keeping their options open.

That might well be their answer. It is the least their supporters expect from them. If they were to be so foolish as to build a fifth Polaris submarine, from where would they get the money? Is it in their targets and costings? Have they provided for it? When will they come clean and tell the House of their intentions in this matter?

Then we must consider the nuclear powered submarines, the Hunter/Killers. Where is the restoration of the cuts for which we were strongly attacked time and again? The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said that the Conservatives would undertake to restore the Hunter/Killer programme. I have no doubt that hon. Gentlemen opposite and their supporters, particularly in Birkenhead, expected that undertaking to be carried out. Last night, however, we had this statement of the Under-Secretary of State: I am not my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham. He was right about that. and I am not saddled with anything he said in opposition".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1971; Vol. 812, c. 1352.] I am not an expert on saddling, but when he goes into the Government paddock tonight I hope that he and his right hon. and learned Friend do not nobble each other unduly.

When he spoke last night the Under-Secretary did not answer any of the questions that had been asked about ships and equipment. I hope that when he speaks tonight the Minister of State will answer at least some of them, and particularly those asked by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). Last night the Minister sheltered behind the long gestation period for equipment. He told us about the inheritance he had received. If the Government believe that we were wholly wrong and have not provided the money, if the fruits of any gestation period can- not be seen, perhaps we might have expected from the Government a new conception. But there is not a single instance in the White Paper of any change of plan or any innovation as regards any piece of equipment, save one which I shall come to later.

The subject of the purchase of Exocet has been raised. I think it was in October or July that the Minister proudly told us that the Government had decided to buy Exocet from the French. He wanted this to be regarded as a new and exciting piece of policy, a change of plan by the Government, and he wanted all the credit for his Administration. When I questioned whether he knew of the part played by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr David Owen) and myself in encouraging both navies and the scientists to get together to see whether this piece of equipment was worth while, he stoutly denied that we had had a rôle in it. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not get too excited about this either, especially the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), who criticised me so strongly every time there was a purchase of any weapons.

On Army equipment, I shall not weary the House with the catalogue of ironmongery. Which we had last night. I sympathise with the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Lambton), who had to go through the equipment line by line. I shall not do that. When one looks at all the items, the Chieftain, the Rapier, Swingfire, the arming of the helicopter, the new sights, better ammunition, one after another, I cannot see one brainwave, one innovation or one dramatic change of policy of which I did not know or participate in when I had a small hand in the Ministry of Defence, unless—and this may bring a cheer to hon. Members opposite—there is an omission which has not caught my eye.

I concede that there is a slight change regarding the Air Force, that there may be some Jaguars diverted from training. That may bring a cheer from hon. Members opposite. But as we were told in October, they come from the total purchase of Jaguars. There will not be a net increase.

Perhaps I may be forgiven for forgetting the "Ark Royal", also mentioned today. The continuation of the "Ark Royal" as a carrier is one of the biggest albatrosses round the necks of hon. Members opposite. As the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson) asked, does a carrier fleet of one make sense? What happens when there is a refitting? Or what happens when it has necessarily to go into port? If its rôle as a carrier is so vital, can it be spared on those occasions, which go on month after month and in some cases more than a year? If it can be, I ask a question which was asked during the war: is its journey, as a carrier, really necessary?

Perhaps hon. Members opposite should look at the small print. The aircraft will be provided from those totally planned, and fixed wing flying recruitment will not be reopened. Recruitment is the biggest problem of all, as the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) said. We respect him in all matters concerning defence, although we do not always agree with him.

The Secretary of State said that Service morale is not, and rightly not, a party political issue. But he went on to attack the Labour Government for having caused, the recruiting problem. The trends to improvements in the last few months owe a great deal to the inception of the concept of the military salary by my right hon. Friend, and on 1st April Servicemen will receive their final allocation of this salary.

If hon. Gentlemen opposite wanted to keep politics out of this, perhaps the words used in their campaign guide about the military salary would not have been used. They said that so far few good words have been said about this concept. If the proposition is so bad, what proposals have they got? What carrots—what new inducements—have they got for Servicemen? They have none. They have no ideas or suggestions. All we have from the Government are these fine words—that the Government firmly believes that its intention to restore the Armed Forces to their rightful place in the life of the nation and to keep defence in the front rank of its priorities will in itself provide a direct encouragement to recruitment. Is that enough? Or is, perhaps, growing unemployment from Scotland to Wales to be the not so secret weapon of the Government?

I referred in my opening remarks to the keeping of the peace by the troops. It was odd and sad that in his speech in another place the Secretary of State stressed the dangers and the rôle that Britain must play but said not one word about disarmament. The Secretary of State frivolously dismissed the suggestion that it would have been proper for him to have mentioned the question of disarmament. Today the Prime Minister sought to repair some of the damage, but he is the same person who last year complained that the Foreign Secretary was not taking part in our defence debate. This year neither the Foreign Secretary nor the Secretary of State for Defence—who is well removed from any danger of being questioned in this House—is taking part.

What was odd about the Prime Minister's anodyne speech this afternoon was that he ignored the critical Amendment tabled by 12 of his hon. Friends as regards the policy of withdrawal from the Gulf, as if that Amendment did not exist. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) claimed that the Government were not committed to withdrawal at the end of 1971; it would not happen. If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything and I wonder whether his assessment is right or whether the concern of the 12 hon. Members opposite as expressed in the Amendment is not accurate.

I am sure that it was with shock and dismay that those hon. Members heard the Foreign Secretary's statement yesterday. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I congratulate the Government on their wisdom at the eleventh hour, at almost five to 12, in announcing their change of policy. Let all hon. Members be quite clear about this. It means that Labour's policy of withdrawal of operational troops from the Gulf by 1971 will continue and will take effect and that all these offers of help, which are not far different from the offers of help which were set out in the 1969 White Paper, are contingent on the wishes of the Rulers.

The reality of the situation is that at the end of the year the operational troops will be out and the Treaty will come to an end. The Government's policy on the Gulf is standing on its head. At one stroke, if I may coin a phrase, they have destroyed their credibility in foreign affairs. If the dangers, whether from the strategic and military point or from the political point, are so serious, we wonder at the Government's strange order of priorities, in that they withdraw from the Gulf but decide to supply ironmongery in small doses to South Africa. This is a very odd and unusual assessment and we doubt whether this assessment of the military danger in the Indian Ocean is shared by many other countries.

I shall not anticipate tomorrow night's debate on South Africa. I am reminded of the words in the White Paper that The Soviet Union will be competing with the efforts of China to extend her political influence among the developing nations. This is a recognition that there is a fight for the hearts and minds of peoples. Whatever protestations the Government may make about apartheid—I do not dispute them—if arms are supplied to South Africa, we in Great Britain will be guilty by association. Therefore I invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote in favour of the Amendment we have put down and against the Government White Paper because it is a bogus White Paper, a "phoney" White Paper and additionally it will give the whole House the opportunity of testing those 12 hon. Members who have put down this critical Motion on the Order Paper tonight.

9.36 p.m.

The Minister of State for Defence (Lord Balniel)

With the permission of the House I will try to answer some of the points which have been raised in the two days' debate, although the number of speeches makes it a fairly daunting task. First of all, we have listened to a speech of superb Celtic imagery and mixed metaphor from the right hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. John Morris). We have heard about the faithful, about the years the locusts have eaten, about sowing in the spring and harvesting in the autumn, about the Old Testament's six lean years; and I am bound to say, having listened to the right hon. Gentleman, that I cannot help feeling that the best parts of his speech were the innumerable quotations from the Conservative campaign guide of the last election.

It has, I feel, been a very constructive two days' debate, albeit an exceedingly sombre one in the light of the speeches that have been made. Many suggestions have been put forward, and if I cannot answer them in debate, I can assure the hon. Members concerned that the Government will be considering the points which were put forward. Equally, alternative policies have been developed by the Opposition with—apart from a few exceptions—eloquence and moderation.

I undertook to answer specifically the points which were made by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) in yesterday's debate. He asked whether there could be a debate on the Select Committee Report on Defence Research Establishments. I personally, and all those associated with the Defence Ministry, would certainly welcome such a debate, but he will know that this matter has been referred to by the Leader of the House who said that he understood the importance of the subject and that there may well be an opportunity for this to be debated when Select Committee Reports are debated. He could not, however, give a commitment at this stage.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the supply of computers to the Soviet Union. The Prime Minister raised this matter personally with President Nixon last December. The question of the sale of certain I.C.L. computers to the Soviet Institute of High Energy Physics at Serpukhov was discussed. This institute is concerned only with peaceful scientific research, although the computers in question are powerful enough to fall for consideration within the international agreements to which we are party. The discussions are still continuing between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States of America.

The hon. Gentleman indicated that he felt that multi-national companies based in the U.S.A. and having resources in Britain were at a disadvantage compared with British-owned companies which deal with Eastern European and Soviet markets. Following the U.S. Export Administration Act, 1969, the United States has freed the foreign subsidiaries of nationally based concerns from U.S. internal control regulations. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's question but it is a complex one and if he wishes to raise further points I shall be happy to try to answer them in correspondence.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

That is a great help.

Lord Balniel

During the debate many questions were raised on the subject of manpower. In particular, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Major-General Jack d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) discussed the possibility of the integration of noncombatant support units. This enables me to turn to the subject of improvements in the organisation of headquarters and support functions.

We have decided to replace the various command headquarters in this country next year by a single Headquarters United Kingdom Land Forces. The number of district headquarters will be reduced from twelve to ten. These changes will not only improve efficiency but will save about 1,000 civilian and 250 military posts. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Barry Jones) referred to the effect of the decision on Chester. We are aware of the problem of local employment and are considering an alternative Army unit which could be located there and which would employ a good proportion of those now employed in Western Command.

The Headquarters Organisation Committee is examining the structure and methods of working of the Ministry of Defence itself. A number of recommendations are referred to in the White Paper. Our purpose in the examination of the Ministry of Defence is to seek to reduce the tail of the Services to the absolute minimum, so that as much as possible of the available resources will be available to the teeth. A good deal has been done already to rationalise the Services' supply system by making one Service responsible for particular support functions, along the lines suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth.

Overall, the number of Ministry of Defence civilian employees will have been cut by nearly 90,000 since the early 1960s. Some 35,000 are United Kingdom staff, and the rest are local employees overseas. Much of this is a reflection of the rundown of the Armed Services, but as this is a constant source of criticism within the Services I should mention that civilian reductions have more than kept pace with the reductions in Service manpower.

The last Government planned to reduce civilian numbers by a further 23,000 by 1974. We shall do better than that. The 1971–72 slice is 16,000. However, as this has been mentioned in the debate frequently, I must avoid creating any impression that there is a sharp contrast in defence between the civilians who form the tail and the Armed Forces who form the teeth. Many Service men perform support functions, and many of the Ministry of Defence civilians are very far from being what we might describe as pen-pushers and members of a bureaucracy.

In our counting of civilians are people who work in the Royal Ordnance factories, the research and development establishments and the Royal dockyards. As an example of the problem which can be caused by confusing civilians with armed personnel, I should mention that half the force which supports the Polaris system is civilian and the other half is armed personnel.

The point I am making is that a reduction in the bureaucracy is of crucial importance, but the reduction of civilian personnel is not an end in itself. One of the problems is that we are actively civilianising the Armed Forces in order to relieve the burden on the military manpower.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Lord Balniel

I would much rather not.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

One bureaucratic mistake that has been made is that free travel warrants are being issued to Service men by the shortest instead of the quickest route. This is a small but important matter to Service men on short weekend leave. My hon. Friend could put it right tomorrow with one flick of the wrist. Will he do so?

Lord Balniel

I will examine the point by the shortest and quickest method I can and will write to my hon. and gallant Friend on the subject tomorrow. Virtually every speaker in the debate has referred to the problem of manpower. I should like to confirm what my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. David Walder) said, that trends of employment and unemployment do not affect the recruiting position of the Services in any large measure. My hon. Friend criticised some of the advertising. We are always willing to seek advice, but my impression is that the advertising is fairly good. The most successful advertising photograph which has appeared, which resulted in the maximum number of recruits, was a picture of a perfectly enchanting girl—and this, I think, will help the point which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned about improving the woman power.

I believe that the problem of manpower is one to which there is no single solution. We cannot make life in the Service in every way comparable with civilian life—and indeed we do not want to. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell) said that we need men who are committed and dedicated with a very strong sense of patriotism and a sense of purpose. Men in the Services are stretched to the limits of their courage and endurance and have to take on tasks which are unpleasant and dangerous. Indeed, it is this challenge which attracts the kind of men we want.

I think that, in voluntary professional forces, we want to move to a Service which is difficult to get into because of the high professional standard and easier to leave. It is for that reason that we have, for instance, extended the four-year break point to all non-apprentice branches of the Royal Navy, so that men need not commit themselves for very long periods of service. We have accepted the same principle in adopting the Donaldson Committee's recommendations with only a minor modification. On 1st April next, all who join the Services—Army, Navy and Air Force—under the age of 17½ will be able, when they reach the age of 18, to shorten their engagement if they so wish. It seemed to us and to the Committee unacceptable that young people should enter into long-term commitments and not have the chance of thinking again.

Mr. Frank Allaun

And the Navy?

Lord Balniel

And the Navy. The hon. Gentleman was wrong in the point he made. I will not elaborate on it now, but he was mistaken.

I turn to the wider issues of the debate. A number of speakers have covered the ground very thoroughly in discussing the Government's policy in the Gulf. This is an important policy decision and it is right that the House should inquire closely into our interests in the area. These interests, of course, are not confined to the nine Gulf States on which debate has naturally centred. There are our large interests elsewhere which require good relations and continued co-operation with other countries in the area. I am thinking of Saudi Arabia and also of Iran, our partner in CENTO, to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West also referred.

Aircraft will continue to be based in the Mediterranean declared to CENTO. The CENTO route to which my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) referred will continue to be of great importance for our communications to the Far East. So also will be the airfields at Gan and Masirah and the staging rights in Bahrein which we should wish to use.

Right hon. and hon. Members opposite are wrong in their claim that what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary announced is the same as their policy. They decided unilaterally to set a date for withdrawal. We in opposition on several occasions said that a continuing British presence in the Gulf would depend on the views and wishes of the local Rulers. In our manifesto, we said that we would hold talks with the leaders in the Gulf. Our promise has been fulfilled and the policy which we have announced is, in our consideration, the best way of forming new and stable relationships in the area in the new situation. I do not regret for a moment that the Government have taken some time, as the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) seemed to criticise, to examine these issues. Many Governments were involved and it was right to ensure that the views of all the Governments concerned were taken into account.

Some hon. Members fear that the proposed alteration in our defence arrangements will leave a vacuum which the Russians will promptly fill. This fact underscores the importance of the Government's offer of continuing assistance M the building-up and training of local forces. I emphasise that these are offers at this stage, not solutions to be imposed on the Rulers, who are moving towards a new status of independence and self-reliance. If they are accepted, the British forces will be in the Gulf in a training and liaison r½le. These continuing elements of British forces could include, for example, the Royal Engineers to help, as they have done before, with construction activities in the area as well as with training.

There would be regular visits by the Royal Navy, there would be regular exercises of Army units up to company or even battalion level if the Rulers so wished. There could also be visits by aircraft for training purposes and there could be officers and men on loan to the local forces, particularly the Trucial Oman Scouts in their new r½le.

What we are working towards is a greater self-reliance on the part of the local States. A military contribution of the kind I have described could exercise considerable influence on the situation in the area. My impression is that this emphasis on the opportunities of training and liaison in this area commands the general support of the House as a whole.

I turn to that part of the Opposition Amendment which claims that we are over-stretching the forces by placing on them additional and unnecessary tasks East of Suez. Like the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher), I do not accuse the Opposition of being scoundrels, rogues or liars. I just disagree with them. I do so on both counts of the Amendment. First, the reference to additional tasks can refer only to our intention to contribute forces to the Five Power arrangements. Our contribution is limited in size but of great value in complementing the resources of the other four Powers. It has been warmly welcomed by those four Powers in the Far East.

We have said in the White Paper that our interests and responsibilities cannot be confined to N.A.T.O. We feel it wrong and mistaken in defence terms to draw a hard-and-fast line between the geographical area of N.A.T.O. and areas outside Europe. Anyone who wished to read a reasoned argument on this should read the admirable speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot). Right hon. Gentlemen opposite say that these are additional tasks, but our ships and aircraft would be carrying out tasks just as demanding whether they were stationed in the Atlantic, the North Sea, the Indian Ocean or the Gulf.

I think that hon. Members opposite are specifically referring to our decision to station land forces in the Singapore-Malaysia area. Again, I have to remind them that the defence of the area is a task which will be shared by the Singaporeans and the Malaysians, who are building up their own defences. In addition, the commitment is of a consultative nature.

We do not know what the Labour Administration intended to offer in place of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. What we do know is that the last Administration said that they would deploy troops from here to the Far East within the general capability based in Europe. When we returned to office they were running an exceedingly large reinforcement exercise to prove this very point. In the last Defence White Paper they went out of their way to say that they would continue to train forces of all British Services in the Far East after 1971. I appreciate the anxiety expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) and the right hon. Member for Dundee, East that our forces stationed in South-East Asia could get sucked into an internal security situation. However, the defence arrangements which we and our Commonwealth partners are planning together will be concerned with the external defence of Malaysia and Singapore. They will not be concerned with internal subversion or security. That is the responsibility of the local Governments and it is not ours.

I would say to those who fear that our troops could possibly be embroiled in a serious local situation created by internal subversion that what we contemplate, and what we shall be discussing with the Ministers who will be coming to London next month, is an arrangement which will involve all five Governments in an equal commitment to consult together if any external threat developed. This would mean that all five Governments would need to decide in consultation whether a particular situation related to external defence or was an internal matter for the local Governments. One cannot conceivably be precise about such a situation in advance. The immediate need in the Far East is to establish a visible and vigorous arrangement for co-operation in defence which will serve as a general deterrent, which will promote confidence and which will cement the defence arrangements which exist in that area.

It ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to claim that this defence effort which we are making is, to quote their word, "unnecessary". So far they have never defended their withdrawal from the Far East on the grounds that it was strategically necessary. The defence they have always advanced is the defence which they put forward immediately following devalution in the debate on the cuts in public expenditure, that it was economically necessary. Never before have they said that defence in that area was unnecessary.

I will turn briefly to the last part of the Amendment on the question of détente and disarmament. I waited throughout the entire debate to hear one constructive suggestion put forward by

hon. Gentlemen opposite of a step towards détente, disarmament or arms control where they were prepared to negotiate and we were not prepared to negotiate. The only disarmament proposal which I have heard was that put forward by the hon. Member for Salford, East who proposed a cut of £950 million in the defence budget. At a time when the Strategic Arms Limitation talks are continuing and we are supporting them, at a time when German Ostpolitik negotiations are proceeding and we are supporting them wholeheartedly, at a time when the Government are taking part in the Four-Power negotiations on Berlin, at a time when the Government have lodged a draft treaty on biological warfare in Geneva, it is incredible that we should be charged with making no serious effort to achieve détente and disarmament. The Amendment of the hon. Gentlemen is shallow in content, and I do not believe that it is one in which they themselves believe. I ask the House to reject the Amendment and to support the White Paper which we have introduced.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 270, Noes 312.

Division No. 216.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Albu, Austen Clark, David (Colne Valley) Edelman, Maurice
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Edwards, Robert (Bilston)
Allen, Scholefield Cohen, Stanley Edwards, William (Merioneth)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Coleman, Donald Ellis, Tom
Armstrong, Ernest Concannon, J. D. English, Michael
Ashley, Jack Conlan, Bernard Evans, Fred
Ashton, Joe Corbet, Mrs. Freda Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.
Atkinson, Norman Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Fitch, Alan (Wigan)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Crawshaw, Richard Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Barnes, Michael Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Barnett, Joel Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Foley, Maurice
Beaney, Alan Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Foot, Michael
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Dalyell, Tam Ford, Ben
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Darling, Rt. Hn. George Forrester, John
Bidwell, Sydney Davidson, Arthur Fraser, John (Norwood)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Freeson, Reginald
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Galpern, Sir Myer
Booth, Albert Davies, Ifor (Gower) Garrett, W. E.
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Gilbert, Dr. John
Bradley, Tom Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Ginsburg, David
Broughton, Sir Alfred Deakins, Eric Golding, John
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Gourlay, Harry
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Delargy, H. J. Grant, George (Morpeth)
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)
Buchan, Norman Dempsey, James Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Doig, Peter Griffiths, Will (Exchange)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Dormand, J. D. Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Douglas-Mann, Bruce Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Cant, R. B. Driberg, Tom Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Carmichael, Neil Duffy, A. E. P. Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Dunn, James A. Hardy, Peter
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Dunnett, Jack Harper, Joseph
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Eadie, Alex Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith MacPherson, Malcolm Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Hattersley, Roy Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Healey, Rt. Hn, Denis Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Heffer, Eric S. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield,E.) Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Hooson, Emlyn Marquand, David Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)
Horam, John Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Houghton, Rt. Hon. Douglas Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Mayhew, Christopher Sillars, James
Huckfield, Leslie Meacher, Michael Silverman, Julius
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Skinner, Dennis
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Mendelson, John Small, William
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Mikardo, Ian Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Millan, Bruce Spearing, Nigel
Hunter, Adam Miller, Dr. M. S. Spriggs, Leslie
Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Stallard, A. W.
Janner, Greville Molloy, William Steel, David
Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)
Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Stoddart, David (Swindon)
John, Brynmor Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Molye, Roland Strang, Gavin
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Murray, R. K. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Ogden, Eric Swain, Thomas
Jones, Dan (Burnley) O'Halloran, Michael Taverne, Dick
Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.) O'Malley, Brian Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Oram, Bert Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Orbach, Maurice Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Judd, Frank Orme, Stanley Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Kaufman, Gerald Oswald, Thomas Tinn, James
Kelley, Richard Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Tomney, Frank
Kerr, Russell Paget, R. T. Torney, Tom
Kinnock, Neil Palmer, Arthur Tuck, Raphael
Lambie, David Pardoe, John Urwin, T. W.
Lamond, James Parker, John (Dagenham) Varley, Eric G.
Latham, Arthur Pavitt, Laurie Wainwright, Edwin
Lawson, George Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Leadbitter, Ted Pendry, Tom Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Leonard, Dick Pentland, Norman Wallace, George
Lestor, Miss Joan Perry, Ernest G. Watkins, David
Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg Weitzman, David
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Prescott, John Wellbeloved, James
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Lipton, Marcus Price, William (Rugby) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Lomas, Kenneth Probert, Arthur Whitehead, Phillip
Loughlin, Charles Rankin, John Whitlock, William
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rhodes, Geoffrey Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
McBride, Neil Richard, Ivor Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
McCartney, Hugh Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
McElhone, Frank Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
McGuire, Michael Robertson, John (Paisley) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mackenzie, Gregor Roderick,Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Mackie, John Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mackintosh, John P. Roper, John Mr. William Hamling and
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Rose, Paul B. Mr. Kenneth Marks.
McNamara, J. Kevin
Adley, Robert Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Chapman, Sydney
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Body, Richard Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Boscawen, Robert Chichester-Clark, R.
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Bossom, Sir Clive Churchill, W. S.
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Bowden, Andrew Clark, William (Surrey, E.)
Astor, John Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Atkins, Humphrey Braine, Bernard Clegg, Walter
Awdry, Daniel Bray, Ronald Cockeram, Eric
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Brewis, John Cooke, Robert
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Brinton, Sir Tatton, Coombs, Derek
Balniel, Lord Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Cooper, A. E.
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Cordle, John
Batsford, Brian Bruce-Gardyne, J. Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Bryan, Paul Cormack, Patrick
Bell, Ronald Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Costain, A. P.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Buck, Antony Crouch, David
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Bullus, Sir Eric Crowder, F. P.
Benyon, W. Burden, F. A. Curran, Charles
Berry, Hn. Anthony Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Dalkeith, Earl of
Biffen, John Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray&Nairn) Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)
Biggs-Davison, John Carlisle, Mark d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Blaker, Peter Channon, Paul d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack
Dean, Paul Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kaberry, Sir Donald Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Dixon, Piers Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Redmond, Robert
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Kershaw, Anthony Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Kilfedder, James Rees, Peter (Dover)
Drayson, G. B. Kimball, Marcus Rees-Davies, W. R.
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Dykes, Hugh King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Eden, Sir John Kinsey, J. R. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kirk, Peter Ridsdale, Julian
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kitson, Timothy Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Knight, Mrs. Jill Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Farr, John Knox, David Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fell, Anthony Lambton, Antony Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Lane, David Rost, Peter
Fidler, Michael Langford-Holt, Sir John Royle, Anthony
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Russell, Sir Ronald
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Le Marchant, Spencer St. John-Stevas, Norman
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Fookes, Miss Janet Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nC'dfield) Scott, Nicholas
Fortescue, Tim Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Scott-Hopkins, James
Foster, Sir John Longden, Gilbert Sharples, Richard
Fowler, Norman Loveridge, John Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'g'h & Whitby)
Fox, Marcus McAdden, Sir Stephen Shelton, William (Clapham)
Fraser, Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford& Stone) MacArthur, Ian Simeons, Charles
Fry, Peter McCrindle, R. A. Sinclair, Sir George
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. McLaren, Martin Skeet, T. H. H.
Gardner, Edward Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Gibson-Watt, David McMaster, Stanley Soref, Harold
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham) Speed, Keith
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McNair-Wilson, Michael (W'stow,E.) Spence, John
Glyn, Dr. Alan McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest) Sproat, Iain
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. Maddan, Martin Stainton, Keith
Goodhart, Philip Madel, David Stanbrook, Ivor
Goodhew, Victor Maginnis, John E. Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Gorst, John Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Gower, Raymond Marten, Neil Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Mather, Carol Stokes, John
Gray, Hamish Maude, Angus Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Green, Alan Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Sutcliffe, John
Grieve, Percy Mawby, Ray Tapsell, Peter
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Grylls, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)
Gummer, Selwyn Mills, Peter (Torrington) Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Gurden, Harold Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Miscampbell, Norman Tebbit, Norman
Hall, John (Wycombe) Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W.) Temple, John M.
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Moate, Roger Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Hannan, John (Exeter) Molyneaux, James Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Harrison, Brian (Malden) Money, Ernie Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Monks, Mrs. Connie Tilney, John
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Monro, Hector Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Haselhurst, Alan Montgomery, Fergus Trew, Peter
Hastings, Stephen Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Tugendhat, Christopher
Havers, Michael Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Hawkins, Paul Morrison, Charles (Devizes) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hay, John Mudd, David Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Hayhoe, Barney Murton, Oscar Vickers, Dame Joan
Heath, Rt. Hn, Edward Nabarro, Sir Gerald Waddington, David
Hicks, Robert Neave, Airey Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Higgins, Terence L. Nicholls, Sir Harmar Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Hiley, Joseph Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Normanton, Tom Wall, Patrick
Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Nott, John Walters, Dennis
Holland, Philip Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally Ward, Dame Irene
Holt, Miss Mary Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Warren, Kenneth
Hordern, Peter Osborn, John Weatherill, Bernard
Hornby, Richard Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Weds, John (Maidstone)
Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia Page, Graham (Crosby) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Page, John (Harrow, W.) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Howell, David (Guildford) Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.) Wiggin, Jerry
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Percival, Ian Wilkinson, John
Hunt, John Pike, Miss Mervyn Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Hutchison, Michael Clark Pink, R. Bonner Woodhouse. Hn. Christopher
Iremonger, T. L. Pounder, Rafton Woodnutt, Mark
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Warsley, Marcus
James, David Price, David (Eastleigh) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Younger, Hn. George
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Jessel, Toby
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Quennell, Miss J. M. Mr. Reginald Eyre and
Jopling, Michael Raison, Timothy Mr. Jasper More.

Main Question put:

Division No. 217.] AYES [10.12 p.m.
Adley, Robert Fell, Anthony King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Kinsey, J. R.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fidler, Michael Kirk, Peter
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Kitson, Timothy
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Astor, John Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Knox, David
Atkins, Humphrey Fookes, Miss Janet Lambton, Antony
Awdry, Daniel Fortescue, Tim Lane, David
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Foster, Sir John Langford-Holt, Sir John
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fowler, Norman Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Balniel, Lord Fox, Marcus Le Marchant, Spencer
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone) Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Batsford, Brian Fry, Peter Lloyd,Rt.Hn.Geoffrey(Sut'nColdfield)
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Bell, Ronald Gardner, Edward Longden, Gilbert
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Gibson-Watt, David Loveridge, John
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Gosport) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Benyon, W. Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) MacArthur, Ian
Berry, Hn. Anthony Glyn, Dr. Alan McCrindle, R. A.
Biffen, John Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B. McLaren, Martin
Biggs-Davison, John Goodhart, Philip Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Blaker, Peter Goodhew, Victor McMaster, Stanley
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Gorst, John Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)
Body, Richard Gower, Raymond McNair-Wilson, Michael
Boscawen, Robert Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bossom, Sir Clive Gray, Hamish Maddan, Martin
Bowden, Andrew Green, Alan Madel, David
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Grieve, Percy Maginnis, John E.
Brains, Barnard Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Bray, Ronald Grylls, Michael Marten, Neil
Brewis, John Gummer, Selwyn Mather, Carol
Brinton, Sir Tatton Gurden, Harold Maude, Angus
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hall, John (Wycombe) Mawby, Ray
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Bryan, Paul Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Hannam, John (Exeter) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Buck, Antony Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Bullus, Sir Eric Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Miscampbell, Norman
Burden, F. A. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire,W)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Haselhurst, Alan Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Carlisle, Mark Hastings, Stephen Moate, Roger
Channon, Paul Havers, Michael Molyneaux, James
Chapman, Sydney Hawkins, Paul Money, Ernle
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hay, John Monks, Mrs. Connie
Chichester-Clark, R. Hayhoe, Barney Monro, Hector
Churchill, W. S. Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Montgomery, Fergus
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hicks, Robert Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Higgins, Terence L. Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Clegg, Walter Hiley, Joseph Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Cockeram, Eric Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Mudd, David
Cooke, Robert Hill, James (Southampton, test) Murton, Oscar
Coombs, Derek Holland, Philip Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Cooper, A. E. Holt, Miss Mary Neave, Alrey
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick Hordern, Peter Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Cormack, Patrick Hornby, Richard Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia
Costain, A. P. Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Normanton, Tom
Crouch, David Howell, David (Guildford) Nott, John
Crowder, F. P. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Curran, Charles Hunt, John Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Dalkeith, Earl of Hutchison, Michael Clark Osborn, John
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Iremonger, T. L. Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Page, Graham (Crosby)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack James, David Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Dean, Paul Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Parkinson, Cecil (Enfield, W.)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Percival, Ian
Dixon, Piers Jessel, Toby Pike, Miss Mervyn
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Pink, R. Bonner
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Pounder, Rafton
Drayson, G. B. Jopling, Michael Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Price, David (Eastleigh)
Dykes, Hugh Kaberry, Sir Donald Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Eden, Sir John Kellett, Mrs. Elaine Proudfoot, Wilfred
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kershaw, Anthony Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kilfedder, James Quennell, Miss J. M.
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Kimball, Marcus Raison, Timothy
Farr, John King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter

The House divided: Ayes 310, Nose 270.

Redmond, Robert Speed, Keith van Straubenzee, W. R.
Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Spence, John Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Rees, Peter (Dover) Sproat, Iain Vickers, Dame Joan
Rees-Davies, W. R. Stainton, Keith Waddington, David
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Stanbrook, Ivor Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Ridsdale, Julian Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Wall, Patrick
Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Stokes, John Walters, Dennis
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Ward, Dame Irene
Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Sutcliffe, John Warren, Kenneth
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Tapsell, Peter Weatherill, Bernard
Rost, Peter Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Royle, Anthony Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Russell, Sir Ronald Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
St. John-Stevas, Norman Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) Wiggin, Jerry
Sandys, Rt. Hn. D. Tebbit, Norman Wilkinson, John
Scott Nicholas Temple, John M. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Scott-Hopkins, James Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Sharples, Richard Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Woodnutt, Mark
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.) Worsley, Marcus
Shelton, William (Clapham) Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Simeons, Charles Tilney, John Younger, Hon. George
Sinclair, Sir George Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Skeet, T. H. H. Trew, Peter TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Tugendhat, Christopher Mr. Reginold Eyre and
Soref, Harold Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Mr. Jasper More.
Albu, Austen Deakins, Eric Howell, Denis (Small Health)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Huckfield, Leslie
Allen, Scholefield Delargy, H. J. Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Armstrong, Ernest Dempsey, James Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)
Ashley, Jack Doig, Peter Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Ashton, Joe Dormand, J. D. Hunter, Adam
Atkinson, Norman Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Irvine,Rt.Hn.SirArthur(Edge Hill)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Douglas-Mann, Bruce Janner, Greville
Barnes, Michael Driberg, Tom Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Barnett, Joel Duffy, A. E. P. Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)
Beaney, Alan Dunn, James A. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Dunnett, Jack Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Eadie, Alex John, Brynmor
Bidwel, Sydney Edelman, Maurice Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Edwards, William (Merioneth) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Booth, Albert Ellis, Tom Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur English, Michael Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bradley, Tom Evans, Fred Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham, S.)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Proven) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Judd, Frank
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Foley, Maurice Kaufman, Gerald
Buchan, Norman Foot, Michael Kelley, Richard
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Ford, Ben Kerr, Russell
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Forrester, John Kinnock, Neil
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Fraser, John (Norwood) Lambie, David
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Freeson, Reginald Lamond, James
Cant, R. B. Galpern, Sir Myer Latham, Arthur
Carmichael, Neil Garrett, W. E. Lawson, George
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Gilbert, Dr. John Leadbitter, Ted
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Ginsburg, David Leonard, Dick
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Golding, John Lestor, Miss Joan
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Gourley, Harry Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Grant, George (Morpeth) Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Cohen, Stanley Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Coleman, Donald Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Lipton, Marcus
Concannon, J. D. Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Lomas, Kenneth
Conlan, Bernard Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Loughlin, Charles
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J. Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Grossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) McBride, Neil
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Hardy, Peter McCartney, Hugh
Dalyell, Tam Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) McElhone, Frank
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith McGuire, Michael
Davidson, Arthur Hattersley, Roy Mackenzie, Gregor
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mackie, John
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Heffer, Eric S. Mackintosh, John P.
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hooson, Emlyn McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr Tydvil) Horam, John McNamara, J. Kevin
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas MacPherson, Malcolm
Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Pentland, Norman Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Perry, Ernest G. Strang, Gavin
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Marks, Kenneth Prescott, John Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Marquand, David Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Swain, Thomas
Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard Price, William (Rugby) Taverne, Dick
Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Probert, Arthur Thomas,Rt.Hn.George (Cardiff,W.)
Mayhew, Christopher Rankin, John Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Meacher, Michael Reed, D. (Sedgefield) Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Mendelson, John Rhodes, Geoffrey Tinn, James
Mikardo, Ian Richard, Ivor Tomney, Frank
Millan, Bruce Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Torney, Tom
Miller, Dr. M. S. Roberts,Rt.Hn.Goronwy(Caernarvon) Tuck, Raphael
Milne, Edward (Blyth) Robertson, John (Paisley) Urwin, T. W.
Molloy, William Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor) Varley, Eric G.
Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees) Wainwright, Edwin
Morris, Alfred (Wytnenshawe) Roper, John Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Rose, Paul B. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon) Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock) Wallace, George
Moyle, Roland Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne) Watkins, David
Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney) Weitzman, David
Murray, R. K. Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne) Wellbeloved, James
Ogden, Eric Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
O'Halloran, Michael Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford) White, James, (Glasgow, Pollok)
O'Malley, Brian Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich) Whitehead, Phillip
Oram, Bert Sillars, James Whitlock, William
Orbach, Maurice Silverman, Julius Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Orme, Stanley Skinner, Dennis Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Oswald, Thomas Small, William Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Paget, R. T. Spearing, Nigel Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Palmer, Arthur Spriggs, Leslie Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Pardoe, John Stallard, A. W. Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Parker, John (Dagenham) Steel, David
Pavitt, Laurie Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Pendry, Tom Stoddart, David (Swindon) Mr. William Hamling.
That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1971, contained in Command Paper No. 4592.