Order read for resuming adjourned debate on amendment to Question [1 July]:
That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1982, contained in Cmnd. 8529.—[Mr. Nott.]
Which amendment was to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
fully supports the United Kingdom's continued membership of NATO; recognises that this involves both a commitment to detente through negotiations for multilateral arms control and disarmament and to deterrence through conventional and nuclear forces; declines to approve Her Majesty's Government's decision to purchase Trident missiles but despite the present economic difficulties believes that the NATO commitment to an annual increase of 3 per cent. in defence expenditure should be maintained."—[Mr. Crawshaw.]
§ Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.3.49 pm
§ The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Peter Blaker)
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence spoke last week largely about the direction of the defence programme. Today I shall speak first about people, especially the men and women in the South Atlantic task force and those who organised its despatch. My hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie), if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, will say something about the role of British industry.
The Falklands campaign has been a combined operation in two senses. First, it was a combined operation of the British people. The national upsurge of resolve when Argentina invaded our territory exceeded anything since the Second World War. Not only the Armed Forces, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, but the dockyard workers, the civilians who back up the forces in every part of the country, workers in the factories and supply depots and men and women in every part of the country were determined to do what they could to put right what they correctly saw as an international outrage. The speed with which the task force put to sea astonished the country, and, I believe, the world. It may even have surprised some of those who were directly involved in the operation. After years of self disparagement, the British people asked themselves in disbelief "Can it really be we who are doing this?".
I pay tribute to the logistic and supporting elements of all three Services—I hope that I do not offend the other two Services if in this context I mention the Navy—and all the others who worked round the clock to get the task force ready for sea.
In a narrower sense, the campaign has been a combined operation between the three Services. In peacetime there is normally a healthy rivalry between them. In wartime, especially in modern war, it must take second place.
The Falklands campaign was a remarkable demonstration of combined operations between the three Services and the Merchant Navy. It was one of the main reasons for our victory. A good example of it was demonstrated in one of the most important and critical operations of the entire conflict—the landing of 3 Commando Brigade and the 2nd and 3rd battalions, the Parachute Regiment, at San Carlos. An amphibious assault is one of the most complicated and risky operations of war.
154 We have all read or heard graphic accounts of the action. What is less well known is the fact that at the same time as that landing, diversionary attacks were launched by RAF and Navy Harriers on Argentine positions at Stanley, Goose Green and Fox Bay. Frigates and destroyers bombarded Stanley and raiding parties of marines and paratroops went ashore to harass Argentine positions elsewhere on the islands. A Vulcan bombed Stanley airport. The aim was to convince the Argentine commanders that the threat of an invasion lay on the east or south of the islands. The strategy worked and the beachhead was established without serious opposition from Argentine troops and with no battle casualties.
For each of the Services, a great deal could be said of their individual achievements while much is still not yet fully known. However, I should like to tell the House of some of them.
For the Royal Navy, all our missile systems achieved success. With the land-based Rapier and Blowpipe, they were responsible for destroying about 38 Argentine aircraft. Naval gunfire support proved immensely important in the re-taking of South Georgia and in raids and the land battle in the Falklands. Nearly 8,000 rounds were fired by 4.5 in guns. The effect of our submarines on the Argentine navy was profound both before and after the arrival of the task force. After the sinking of the cruiser "General Belgrano", the Argentine navy did not venture again outside their 12-mile limit. Our submarines thus played a fundamental part in the exercise of sea control. Our anti-submarine warfare capability appears to have deterred Argentine submarines from playing an active part in the operations. For the Fleet Air Arm, the fact that throughout the operation we achieved 90 per cent. availability of all aircraft embarked, demonstrates the immense skill and dedication of the Fleet Air Arm support crews.
I should like to say more about the outstanding success of the Sea Harriers. They shot down at least 28 Argentine aircraft, about 23 of which were fast modern jets such as Mirages and Skyhawks. Even when outnumbered by a factor of two to one, as was often the case, Sea Harriers continued to outperform and outfight the Mirages and the Skyhawks. On one raid, two Sea Harriers accounted for three Skyhawks of a flight of four. The fourth flew into the sea while attempting to evade. We suffered no losses in air-to-air combat during the campaign.
The Sea Harrier's success can be attributed to a combination of a highly manoeuvrable and versatile fighter, a reliable and capable missile—the Sidewinder—and, above all, to the resourcefulness, skill and courage of our young pilots who fought in the highest tradition of the Fleet Air Arm. Together with the RAF's Harriers, those aircraft accounted for a total of about 36 Argentine aircraft in the air and on the ground.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
Will the Minister break down the figures? He said that 30 Argentine aircraft were shot down by missiles from ships and Blowpipe. Will he give the number of aircraft that were shot down by missiles launched from ships alone?
§ Mr. Blaker
I would rather not do that at this stage. Attributing success to one missile or another or to one Service or another is a delicate operation. We are engaged on it now and I would prefer to wait a little longer until 155 we are more sure of the figures. I would prefer to get them right and publish them rather than break them down prematurely.
Some 18,000 men from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service, Merchant Navy and supporting civilians sailed in the ships of the task force. Several ships had already been at sea for some months away from the United Kingdom and were due to return to Britain when the operation started. It is difficult to find adequate words to describe their performance. After long periods at sea, closed up, at high states of readiness, some not seeing daylight for many weeks, often in very bad weather—a good deal worse on average than in the North Sea—they kept their ships, aircraft and equipment in working condition without shore support and then fought well, without the help from shore-based aircraft and allied forces that we expect in the eastern Atlantic. By the time some of the ships return to the United Kingdom they will have been continuously at sea for more than six months.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I am sorry to interrupt, but I should like an answer to a question that I have been asked to ask by the representatives of the families of those who are on HMS "Endurance" which has been at sea continuously, I am told, for nine months. It is said that there is an inexplicable delay in their return and that they will not come back until September. The families are asking about the delay and the Ministry of Defence is not answering. The families are worried and anxious at not being able to discover the reason. We were told that "Endurance" would be one of the first ships to be relieved. Will the hon. Gentleman give me an answer, either now or later, that can be passed to those families as to when "Endurance" will be brought home? That would dispose of some of the reasons that I will not give in public here as to why it is being suggested that she is being kept in the Falklands.
§ Mr. Blaker
I pay tribute to the crew of "Endurance". They have performed a remarkable feat of stamina. I was not aware of the right hon. Gentleman's point. I shall look into the matter immediately and let him know what is happening as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the success of our operations at sea, will he deal with our defences against sea-skimming missiles which the majority of the public believe are inadequate?
§ Mr. Blaker
I preface my reply to the hon. Gentleman with a request not to be asked to give way too often. I have much to say and I want to deal with disarmament, a subject that I know hon. Members want to discuss.
I gather that the hon. Gentleman is referring to Exocet. It is a dangerous and effective missile. That is why we have equipped our ships with the surface-to-surface version. The air-launched version that was used against us did not have entirely its own way. A high proportion of missiles were successfully countered by the ships against which they were aimed. The position is therefore not quite so bad as some members of the public have thought, but we are certainly looking at this.
Turning now to the men who fought on the ground, part of the initial landing force was 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines. These troops were, of course, ideally suited to this operation, first because of their amphibious 156 experience and techniques, secondly, because they are trained and equipped to operate in the cold and wet of the Arctic, and in the Falkland Islands it has been very cold and wet, and, thirdly, because their commando training enabled them to march 50 miles across the mountains and peat bog of the East Falklands with full equipment and then conduct a series of successful night assaults in the mountains west of Stanley against an enemy who had had nine weeks to prepare their positions. The same is true of the training of the parachute battalions who landed with them who shared their forced marches to Stanley and who carried out the now legendary attack on Darwin and Goose Green.
§ Mr. Anthony Buck (Colchester)
The whole House will be glad that my hon. Friend has paid special tribute to the Royal Marine commandos. Could he at some stage say something about their command structure? They particularly captured our imagination. It is a small force and the pyramid is very thin at the top. Would it be possible occasionally for a commandant-general of the Royal Marines to become a member of the Admiralty Board and go on to become Chief of Defence Staff?
§ Mr. Blaker
That is not a subject to which I have previously given attention, but I certainly undertake to look at it.
It is difficult to overstate the achievement of any of the land forces, be they from the Royal Marines, the Parachute Regiment or 5 Brigade. In operations often against odds of two or three to one, their success has been a vindication of the high standard of their training and their professionalism.
The problems of maintaining the fitness of soldiers in cramped, uncomfortable conditions on board ship during a long voyage in rough seas were substantial. Yet this was done successfully and when finally disembarked the ground forces were no less effective fighting soldiers capable of long and arduous marches over some of the most inhospitable terrain in the world. Their performance was in the highest tradition of the Armed Forces.
A vital contribution to the success of our operations was made by the Special Forces. Patrols of the Special Air Service and the Special Boat Squadron were landed into East and West Falklands from the task force three weeks before the landing. Working in among the enemy, living in the field in conditions of extreme discomfort and danger, they were able to provide intelligence that was vital to the successful conduct of the landing and to carry out the most daring and successful raid against Pebble Island, destroying aircraft that would have been a threat to the subsequent landing.
My right hon. Friend told the House something earlier about the contribution of the Royal Air Force. Let me say a little more today. Of the many essential tasks carried out by the RAF, perhaps the most important but least noted was that of supply. From the start of the operation, RAF Hercules and VC1Os were ferrying vast amounts of equipment and large numbers of Service men to Ascension Island, 5,000 miles from the United Kingdom. Every day for the past three months these aircraft and their crews have endured a punishing schedule which still continues despite the ending of active hostilities.
One of the most remarkable features of the operation for the RAF was the way in which air-to-air refuelling dramatically lengthened their reach. The Hercules, for 157 example, have been making a regular shuttle of immensely long round trips to the Falklands and to the task group. The longest to date took 28 hours non-stop. That is a tribute to the crews.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
In referring to the skill of the Service men involved, can the Minister tell us whether any cost tag has been put on the operation?
§ Mr. Blaker
Yes, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's written answer to a question yesterday by the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) shows the latest figures that we have been able to publish. We hope to publish more in the near future.
After modification for deck operation and ski jump training, 14 RAF Harriers deployed to the South Atlantic. They carried out some 150 operational sorties with only three aircraft lost.
An indispensable role was played, too, by the members of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the Royal Maritime Auxiliary Service and the crews of commercial ships. Some of them were at times in great danger, and sadly they too suffered casualties. To be a member of the crew of any of these ships must have required courage, not least those of the oil tankers and ammunition ships in the task force and of the commercial ships which entered San Carlos water.
We have said that we do not propose to draw premature lessons from the campaign. I am sure that that is right. On many subjects it will require some months of careful analysis, with those who fought, of individual events and actions and the performance of individual weapons. The lessons, I believe, will be valuable, to us and to our allies.
There have been reports, both in this country and abroad, that the victory of our forces owed much to superior equipment. We shall learn more about this in the coming weeks, but I can say now that on the whole there is little evidence that Argentine equipment was bad or inadequate.
There is one lesson which I confidently draw now, however. Even in the age of the missile, one of the most important factors in this campaign has been the skill, training, courage, morale, fitness and team spirit of our troops, the leadership and example given by officers and NCOs, and, not least, the efficiency of logistic planning and command and control. All these depend principally on human beings, not on equipment.
Some of the Argentine troops were well trained regulars whose professionalism was shown by the well-prepared defensive positions that our troops captured. There were many examples of Argentine skill and courage, not least from the Argentine pilots.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)
Can my hon. Friend yet give us any idea of the usage and quantities of Argentine equipment taken since the conflict ended, in view of reports in magazines such as Aviation Week about the extent of equipment captured? I am thinking particularly of use by CCFs and territorial regiments back home as well as the garrison that may end up in the Falldands.
§ Mr. Blaker
I have given written answers to one or two questions on this, which my hon. Friend may care to 158 study. The short answer is that there is a good deal of equipment, which we are still sorting. There is also a great deal of ammunition which will take some months to sort.
§ Mr. Keith Best (Anglesey)
My hon. Friend has suffered many interventions and I apologise for interrupting him again. Has he yet been able to carry out a full analysis of stocks of napalm and dumdum bullets left by the Argentine forces and the purposes to which they were likely to be put?
§ Mr. Blaker
We have no evidence of the use of dumdum bullets. We discovered a substance bearing some resemblance to napalm, but it is still being evaluated.
The leadership displayed by the Argentine officers was unable to compensate for the low morale of their conscripts, who made up 60 per cent. of their garrison. The relationship between officers, NCOs and men was poor. While they had good night vision aids they were not skilled in their use and not well trained in fighting at night. Their logistic planning was inadequate.
In all the human elements I have listed there was, then, no doubt of our superiority. No praise can be too high for the way in which our forces, backed by their civilian support—and backed, I should add, by the nation—conducted themselves during the campaign. The quality of their weapons apart, the ultimate test of any nation's armed forces is whether they have the skill, the training, the courage, and the will to win. The answer for the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom is emphatically "Yes".
I turn now, in striking contrast, to the Opposition Front Bench. The official defence policy of the Labour Party as approved last year is to reduce defence spending to the average proportion of the GDP spent by the West European countries. This would reduce our total planned defence budget by about one-third.
§ Mr. Blaker
I am talking about last year.
As was pointed out in last year's debates on defence, this would mean some alarming cuts in our forces—the equivalent of eliminating one of the three Services in its entirety—and between 350,000 and ½ million extra unemployed.
However, this year, the situation has changed. The resolution recently approved by the Labour Party national executive committee includes what the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) referred to last week as "the proviso". The proviso adds to the commitment to reduce spending the wordsbearing in mind the need to avoid widespread and precipitate redundancies for which no alternative work has been provided and Britain's need to provide adequate conventional defence forces".I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, who one imagines had some hand in the wording of that proviso, because whatever may be the pretence, the reality is that these words make nonsense of the commitment to a one-third reducton in spending. That is what they do and the right hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated upon it.
"But," the right hon. Gentleman will say, "we shall have more money for conventional forces because we will abandon Trident." No so. This year's Labour Party motion destroys that case. It proposes that, while we should still remain good members of NATO, we should cancel the 3 159 per cent. annual increase in defence expenditure agreed by NATO. Even if the 3 per cent. increase were cancelled for only one year, and then resumed, this alone would eliminate from the defence budget all the money saved by Labour's proposed abandonment of the Trident programme. This is because the Trident programme will take only 3 per cent. of the defence budget over the 18 years of its introduction. That 3 per cent. is cancelled out by the Labour proposals.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)
Will the hon. Gentleman now tell us what the perecentage of Trident on the budget would be during the peak year?
§ Mr. Blaker
The average over 18 years, which is the relevant point, is 3 per cent. That is why the abandonment of the 3 per cent. growth target by the Labour Party for even one year, because it would be carried forward to all successive years, would have the effect of withdrawing from the defence budget all that the Labour Party has undertaken to save by abandoning Trident.
§ Mr. Blaker
I shall not give way again. I have much to say.
I suppose I should out of courtesy refer to the amendment in the names of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and of hon. Members of the Liberal Party. It generally supports the Government policy except that it opposes the Trident programme. It was moved on Thursday by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw)—who has kindly sent a note to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explaining why he cannot be here today—in a speech in which he generally supported the Government's policies but failed to mention the Trident programme. We shall wait to hear with interest what the other spokesmen for the SDP and the Liberal Party have to say, however numerous their opinions may be.
I turn now to the subject of deterrence. I note with satisfaction that the national executive committee of the Labour Party accepts the policy of deterrence. Its latest document says:Britain should have sufficient military strength to discourage external aggression and to defend ourselves should we be attacked".Those words were quoted with approval, by the right hon. Member for Deptford on Thursday. They express the doctrine of deterrence. The same document proposes that Labour should maintain its support for NATO, and I understand that also is the position of the Opposition Front Bench.
It was under a Labour Government, with Ernest Bevin as its Foreign Secretary, that NATO was formed because of the perceived threat from the Soviet Union. The Soviet threat has not changed since 1949 except that it has become greater. The Soviet Union has become more powerful, its record of aggression longer and more alarming. Russia since 1917 has absorbed 17 countries or territories which were not its and has imposed its dominion on half a dozen more in Eastern Europe. Its forces grow steadily stronger and it continues to declare that its destiny 160 is to expand the power of Russian Communism. Its interference in the internal affairs of other countries is ever more brazen.
Since NATO was born it has relied on the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. In that time we have had peace in Europe. I believe that is no coincidence. It has had to rely on that doctrine because the Soviet Union rejected the Baruch plan put forward in 1946 by the United States, which then possessed the world's only atomic weapons, for abolition of nuclear weapons and international control of nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Since 1949 the Soviet Union has had nuclear weapons of its own.
The knowledge that created nuclear weapons cannot be wiped from men's minds. So long as the Soviet Union has nuclear weapons—even a few—the West must have them, too. For if the West had none its conventional weapons, however powerful, would have only the value of scrap metal. We would not, in the words of the Labour Party document, have sufficient military strength to discourage external aggression from the Soviet Union, nor to defend ourselves should we be attacked.
§ Mr. Blaker
I shall not give way again.
The question is whether Britain should have its own independent nuclear deterrent. We have had our own independent nuclear deterrent since 1955. We have been unanimously supported in doing so by our NATO allies on many occasions. We believe that if the Soviet Union were to imagine, however mistakenly, that the United Stales would not come to the defence of Europe if it were attacked, the British deterrent would be an added safeguard. The Labour Party now proposes to abandon this policy, which has been upheld by eight successive British Governments, in favour of a policy that relies for nuclear protection on NATO and, therefore, on the United States nuclear deterrent. I find the morality of that position confusing, to put it mildly.
But the unreason of the Labour Party does not stop there. Its latest document goes on to propose the closing down of all nuclear bases, including American, on British soil or in British waters. This is a policy intended to save our own skins while asking the Americans to protect us by risking theirs. But it would, in fact, make Soviet aggression or blackmail more likely.
The document proceeds to reach the apogee of silliness by calling for a European nuclear weapon free zone, ignoring the fact that the Soviet Union's SS20 missiles can reach almost any point in Western Europe, and the whole of the United Kingdom, from outside Europe. This is a shabby document drawn up in a hopeless attempt to cure the ills of the Labour Party. Would that Ernie Bevin were with us now to give his views on a document such as this!
If we are to have an independent nuclear deterrent, it must at least be effective. We believe, on all the evidence available to us, that by the 1990s Polaris, even with Chevaline, which is now in service, may not be effective because the Russians will have improved their defences and because the Polaris boats will be at the end of their useful life. We therefore need a more modern system. Of those available, Trident is by far the most cost-effective. Any system based on submarine-launched cruise missiles would either be ineffective or many times more expensive, for three reasons: the likely vulnerability by the 1990s of the cruise missiles unless launched in very large numbers; 161 the fact that the cruise missile carries only one warhead; and the limited sea area in which the cruise missile submarine would have to operate because of the range of the missile.
If the Labour party believes that Britain should have sufficient military strength to discourage external aggression, Trident is the weapon for it. It is indeed accurate, but so are the nuclear weapons of the Soviet Union. In the form in which we intend to acquire it, it will represent only what is necessary to assure deterrence in the 1990s and beyond. The ratio between the British Trident and the Soviet strategic systems will be about the same as that for Polaris when it came into service.
A number of hon. Members spoke last Thursday about disarmament. The Government believe in disarmament that does not increase the danger of war or of military blackmail. In the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the United Nations special session last month, we believe inthe balanced and verifiable reduction of armaments in a way which enhances peace and security".This is entirely in line with the final document of the first United Nations special session on disarmament in 1978; whose basic assumption was that disarmament should be sought by multilateral means, by negotiation and not by unilateral gestures.
Yet we hear calls from the Opposition for one-sided disarmament and for the United Kingdom to throw away its nuclear weapons, apparently in the hope that other nuclear powers would respond. What I have never heard from any Labour spokesman is any suggestion on which of the other four nuclear powers would respond. China? France, whose Socialist Government have just launched their sixth nuclear ballistic missile submarine? The United States? The Soviet Union? There is no answer.
If the United Kingdom were to be so foolish it would make a futile gesture that would profoundly destabilise NATO and would cause delight in the Kremlin whose leaders, in the words of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)—I hope I quote him correctly as I am relying on newspaper reports—would laugh at our naivety.
§ Mr. Blaker
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
Successive Governments since the war have worked for arms control and disarmament. Of the nine agreements achieved since the 1950s, five were signed under Conservative Governments and four under Labour. The one real disarmament agreement, the biological weapons convention of 1972, was signed under a Conservative Government, as was the partial nuclear test ban treaty of 1963.
The main reason why the world has not achieved more is not want of effort by the West. As the Labour Party, of all parties, should understand, it takes two sides to make an agreement. The main obstacle has regularly been the refusal of the Soviet Union to admit verification of the necessary measures on its soil because of the closed nature of its society. Time and time again, that is the block we have come up against.
162 In the face of slow progress towards balanced and verifiable disarmament it is very tempting to throw up our hands and call for dramatic gestures. To do that is to forget that wars have more often come from an imbalance between a powerful, acquisitive State and a weaker peaceful State than they have from an excess of armaments on both sides. One has only to look at the 1930s to see the lesson. Hitler was encouraged in his aggression by the weakness, disunity and lack of resolve of the free world. I doubt whether the Afghans would support the view that the present war in their country is the result of their excessive armaments. Nor would the Poles attribute that cause to the coercion they have recently suffered at the hands of the Soviet Union.
Nevertheless, we are entering a period of negotiation between East and West. The negotiations on intermediate range nuclear weapons are under way in Geneva, resulting from the Western proposal of 1979. The START talks in Geneva have recently begun, on President Reagan's initiative, for the reduction of strategic nuclear weapons. The West is about to put forward new proposals at the Vienna talks on mutual and balanced conventional force reductions in Europe. The West has proposed talks on improving confidence building measures between both sides.
I do not believe we should expect rapid results from these discussions. That is not the Russian way. The Russian way is to probe for disunity in the Western camp, to test our resolution and our firmness, and only when it fails to divide us, to make any move forward. That is the lesson of how we got the Russians to the INF negotiating table.
We must expect further Russian calls of unverifiable but high-sounding declarations. They have called for a declaration on no first use of nuclear weapons. We have a better position—no first use of any weapons. That is what the Soviet Union is already bound to by the United Nations charter and the Helsinki agreement. The Soviet Union has called for a freeze on intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe. The West has a better proposal—the abolition of all intermediate range nuclear missiles in Europe or targeted on Europe. The Russians have called for a freeze on strategic nuclear weapons. The West has a better position—reductions by one-third in the nuclear weapons of both of the super powers. Some time ago the Russians called for a declaration on the avoidance of the use of force in international relations. Three years later they invaded Afghanistan.
Some of the Western proposals I have mentioned have been put forward by the United States. But they have been fully discussed in advance in NATO and received NATO's support. The United Kingdom Government, for their part, have not been idle. Within the last two years, the Government have put forward, with the Netherlands, the draft which became the basis for the 1981 United Nations agreement to restrict the use of certain inhumane weapons. The Government put forward a proposal in the committee on disarmament for means of verifying a ban on chemical weapons. They put forward last year, with four other countries, not including the United States, the draft of a comprehensive programme on disarmament, much of which has been incorporated in the document now being discussed by the United Nations special session.
The right hon. Member for Deptford quoted on Thursday the sayingThe price of freedom is eternal vigilance".163 It cannot be eternal vigilance to throw away our own nuclear defences and destabilise the Western alliance at a time when the Russians have given no comparable undertaking and their spending on arms has increased by 40 per cent. in the last 10 years.
§ Mr. Blaker
I would rather not. I am about to conclude.
As we enter this crucial period of international negotiations on disarmament, it cannot advance the cause of disarmament by both sides to throw away our own nuclear defences and to pretend that a Labour Government would cut our conventional forces by one-third while we and our allies are at the negotiating table. Nothing could be better calculated to make the Russians play for time in the hope of disunity in the Western camp.
Our best course is to maintain our defences and insist that, if we are to disarm, the Russians must do the same. That has been the policy of the West for over 30 years, during which peace has been kept in Europe. The best route to continued peace and to agreed disarmament is to convince the Russians that the West remains united, resolute and strong. The brilliant success of our forces in the Falklands campaign will not have been lost on the Russians. It will, I believe, have enhanced in Europe the prospects of peace and freedom.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)
Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I pay my tribute to the skill, bravery and dedication of the Armed Forces and members of the Merchant Navy for their achievements in the Falklands. In doing so, I am sure that hon. Members will not forget those who gave their lives and the grief caused to their relatives and families. We must also not forget the pain and suffering of those who were injured and maimed. Some of that pain and suffering may last a considerable time.
The Minister made a curious speech. The hon. Gentleman sought to attack the Labour Party defence policy. He did not do so very effectively. He did, however, make some strange statements in relation to nuclear weapons. One part of his speech was to a great extent a rehash of the Trident debate. It contained the very strange statement—made more blandly on this occasion than on any other occasion—that it is immoral for a member of NATO not to have nuclear weapons. His point was that it was somehow immoral for Britain not to have Trident and to rely on the American contribution to NATO in terms of strategic weapons.
Many countries belong to NATO. Presumably those that do not possess nuclear weapons are acting in an immoral way. If this means, for instance, that Germany is being immoral, then long may that immorality continue. The real problem today is the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Opposition appreciate that neither Russia nor the United States will give up its weapons unilaterally. We want weapons merely to be in their hands and for those weapons to be reduced. The hon. Gentleman's arguments are not worthy of him. He should drop that kind of approach and argue the substance of the case.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
Is it not the case that the only country within the Warsaw Pact to possess nuclear weapons is the Soviet Union? If one follows the logic put 164 forward by the Government, not only Canada but all other NATO countries should have an independent nuclear deterrent as, presumably, should all the Warsaw Pact countries. That would mean a massive proliferation of nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Davies
My hon. Friend is right. We oppose any proliferation of nuclear weapons wherever that may occur. If we could get back to a situation in which only the two super-powers owned them, that would be a step towards a world that was safer and more free of nuclear weapons.
In the first part of his speech, the Minister dealt with the Falklands campaign. I should have thought that a substantial part of what he had to say could have been included in the White Paper. The Government have published a White Paper that ignores the Falklands campaign completely.
§ Mr. Davies
I shall give way in a moment. I should like to conclude this point. The Government have published a two-volume document with a glossy cover, costing £8.50, without a single reference to the war in the Falklands. This shows the kind of insensitivity that the Secretary of State has displayed, I am sorry to say, on occasions during his tenure of office. The only mention of the war made in the document upon which we have to vote tonight is a pathetic half-page foreword that is not even incorporated into the main document.
I understand the argument that there must be a military analysis of the consequences. I understand that there should be a wish, over the next few months, to examine which weapons worked well and which worked badly, what went wrong with some of the radar and why the Welsh Guards were left immobilised at Bluff Cove without air cover. These factors have to be examined over a longer period of time. But that need not have prevented the Secretary of State from publishing a White Paper that dealt with some of the things we have been told today and that at least acknowledged the fact that over the past few months, for the first time in almost a generation, Britain has been at war with another country.
Nowhere does it mention that more than 250 men were killed, twice as many were injured, five Royal Navy ships were sunk, and that the "Sir Galahad" was sunk with 30 Welsh Guardsmen still entombed. How on earth can we be asked to approve a document that lists Royal Navy ships as operational when we all know that they are at the bottom of the South Atlantic? That is insensitivity that the Secretary of State should not have shown towards the House.
It is not an academic subject. We are being asked to vote on a White Paper when the facts contained in that White Paper are incorrect. We should not be asked to vote upon it. The Secretary of State should have published a short White Paper incorporating an account of what is known about the Falklands war and in the autumn he should have published a fuller analysis. He could have had his Estimates before the Summer Recess—he has to—and they could have been voted upon. No doubt in the autumn there will be further Supplementary Estimates to pay for the increased costs. That would have been the most prudent and sensible course for the Government to have pursued.
§ Mr. Best
I should like to return to the point that the right hon. Gentleman made about the morality of this 165 country not dispossessing itself of nuclear weapons. Does the right hon. Gentleman consider that there would never be an occasion on which the United States of America would not whole-heartedly dedicate the use of its nuclear arsenal to the defence of Europe? Secondly, does the right hon. Gentleman believe that it is realistic for Europe not to have an essential element in the concept of a deterrent, to which his party subscribes, against the threat of the Soviet Union?
§ Mr. Davies
Europe has an essential element. The countries to which the hon. Gentleman has referred are members of NATO. The hon. Gentleman is saying that he does not trust the Americans. That is a great condemnation of NATO. I did not appreciate that the hon. Gentleman held those views about NATO.
The White Paper contains another statement that I believe will be proved to be wrong by the end of the year. It states that for the financial year 1982–83 defence spending will be just over £14 billion. I understand that that figure has already been overtaken by events and is wrong. The correct figure will be much higher. The Secretary of State looks puzzled. Can he tell us whether at the end of the year defence spending will be £14 billion, because the Falklands expenditure will have to be added to that sum? Despite the answers given by the Ministry of Defence it is clear that when we take account of the costs of the war, the replacing of equipment in this financial year, the cost of maintaining a garrison in the Falklands for the rest of the year—the Ministry of Defence does not yet know how much that will cost—the cost of the Falklands campaign for this financial year may not be far short of £1,000 million. That pushes defence spending for this financial year to nearly £15,000 million, or from 5.1 per cent. of the country's gross national product to 5.3 per cent.
Next year the defence budget and the percentage of gross national product will be even higher, because, apart from the cost of the Falklands, the Secretary of State has given a commitment that the defence budget will increase by 3 per cent. in real terms. If we assume defence inflation of 10 per cent.—that is a conservative estimate because what is often laughably described as defence inflation is the causal relationship between the armaments industry and the Ministry of Defence and it exceeds general price inflation—that adds 13 per cent. to the core £14 billion, and if we add about £500 million for the Falklands, defence expenditure next year may be close to £,16½ billion or almost 5.5 per cent. of the gross national product. Gross domestic product is hardly increasing.
The Secretary of State apparently believes that the Falklands part of the expenditure will come from the contingency fund. Having read the Sunday Express, I am not sure to which contingency fund he is referring, whether it is one that everyone knows about, or one that he keeps in the Ministry of Defence—according to the Sunday Express—out of reach of the Treasury. I assume that it is the main contingency fund. The House knows that that contingency fund is not a bottomless crock of gold; it is a mere accounting device. Eventually, the extra expenditure will have to be found. The Government should tell us how they will find the extra expenditure that increases the percentage of gross national product from 5.1 per cent. to 5.5 per cent. Where will the money come 166 from? It will not come from growth in the economy because, from the Bank of England's report a few days ago, we can see that the economy is not growing. The increase could come from extra borrowing, but the Government do not like borrowing and have spent three years of their existence reducing public borrowing. It could come from increased taxes, but again, the Government theory and philosophy is that taxes should be cut, although they have failed to do so during the past three years.
Under this Administration the increase in defence expenditure will be paid for by other Departments and other public bodies. It will be paid for by the education budget—there will be fewer teachers and larger classes—by less investment in public infrastructure, and by money that should be used to rebuild the country's industrial base. Members of the Conservative Party—especially the defence lobby—no doubt do not mind that. However, I remind hon. Members that the country's ability to defend itself depends not only on the percentage of its wealth spent directly on defence, but on its public infrastructure, the state of its manufacturing industry and, in this sophisticated age of electronics and technology, on the education of its children.
It is interesting to note from the latest parliamentary brief from the CBI that the CBI calls for urgent investment to improve the nation's infrastructure. It asks for £2 billion this year. I have news for it. That £2 billion will not come this year, because at least £1 billion will have to be cut from the budgets of other Departments.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
Did the right hon. Gentleman deploy those arguments in 1977 when his right hon. Friend the then Prime Minister decided to accept a 3 per cent. increase in real terms in defence spending?
§ Mr. Davies
The 3 per cent. is not being met by other NATO countries. It is questionable what is meant by a 3 per cent. increase in real terms. The hon. Gentleman should not be so glib about the 3 per cent. We accepted and agreed with the NATO decision. There are difficulties about the 3 per cent. It is not as easy as the hon. Gentleman makes out. If the Government are true to their philosophy the rest of the public sector will pay the increased arms bill. I am told that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is already moving around the Departments of Whitehall, except perhaps the Ministry of Defence.
The Secretary of State apparently justifies the publication of the White Paper in its present form on the grounds that the Government's defence strategy has not been affected by the Falklands war. If that is so it is a ridiculous over-simplification of the position, because the Falklands war highlighted the fact that the strategy was never credible in the first place and will hasten its inevitable reappraisal.
As I understand it, the Government's defence policy is based on four major roles. There is, first, the strategic nuclear deterrent—upon which there will soon be a substantial increase in expenditure as more money is spent on Trident. There is, secondly, the direct defence of the United Kingdom. Thirdly, there is the continental commitment in West Germany, and finally, the maritime commitment within NATO, which is mainly in the eastern Atlantic. Before the war, there was additionally a rather minor role—described as the out-of-area role—of looking after about 14 dependencies scattered all over the world.
167 They are the residuary legacy of the British empire. They include not only the Falklands but Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Brunei, Belize and many others. Before the war, little money was spent on that out-of-area defence, but that is becoming a major drain on our resources in addition to the four other roles upon which Government strategy is based.
We have to meet the cost of fighting the Falklands war and in the foreseeable future we shall need to maintain a not insignificant garrison on the islands. If the White Paper is right and the main threat is from the Soviet Union, there may be a call from within NATO to replace some of the ships and aircraft that will have to be kept in the South Atlantic. In addition, there will be the cost of replacing the ships and aircraft that were lost in the war.
Moving up the coast of South America we come to Belize. The Government have committed themselves to defending an independent State against the claims of its neighbour. I understand that there are about 1,500 British troops in Belize, some Harriers and probably a frigate. We all heard with trepidation last week the bellicose statements of the president of Guatemala on the treaty between Britain and Belize and of his country's designs upon part of Belize.
The Government's foreign policy in South America cannot be described as a crowning success. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury used to be the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office with responsibilities for these matters. Before the Falklands conflict the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley)— the Financial Secretary—used to carry the Government's policy around South America. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not in his place. Over the past few months he must have been gratified that he was able to bury himself in the bowels of the Finance Bill. The Government have a responsibility for the way in which he tried to negotiate with Right-wing regimes in South America.
One result of the Falklands conflict is that the Government will be ultra-cautious in respect of the other dependencies. That does not mean spending less money and it may mean spending more money. The out-of-area role has increased. That, in addition to the cost of Trident II and the commitment to 3 per cent. growth within NATO in real terms, means that finally the Government's strategy will not be able to be carried out.
When the Prime Minister dismissed the last Secretary of State for Defence, the present Foreign Secretary, she did it apparently because the right hon. Gentleman insisted on buying Trident as well as maintaining the level of conventional defence forces. I believe that the Prime Minister's instincts on that occasion were right. They told her that it was not possible to have Trident and that level of conventional forces. I believe that the present Foreign Secretary was wrong. However, the Prime Minister was wrong in maintaining that Trident was sacrosanct and that conventional forces should be sacrificed. We know that the present Secretary of State for Defence was given his job to implement the Prime Minister's policy. He immediately cast around for areas in which conventional defence could be cut.
When the right hon. Gentleman began that exercise he had to find less money than that which will be needed in future. At that time the commitment was to buy Trident I at a cost of about £5,000 million. Unfortunately, Trident II will cost about twice that sum. The cost will be about £10 billion at today's prices. The right hon. Gentleman 168 looked for cuts because that was his brief. There was not much scope for cutting the direct and immediate defence of the United Kingdom.
A substantial reduction in Rhine Army may have appeared attractive, but apart from the question whether the savings would ultimately be very great there were political difficulties contained in a complete withdrawal of troops from Germany. Different views have been expressed from all parts of the Chamber and it is clearly a difficult subject. My view is that we should not underestimate political difficulties, especially if the proposition is that there should be a complete withdrawal of the British Army. We must consider carefully the political effects on some other countries in Western Europe and the Soviet Union's perception of what is going on in central Europe.
§ Mr. Davies
AE. I have said, it is an extremely difficult issue to determine. It is one that Government of both major parties have considered. There have been speeches from both sides of the House telling us how difficult an issue it is.
§ Mr. Davies
A complete withdrawal of British troops, especially if they were replaced by German troops, would have to be considered extremely carefully because of the effect on some other countries in Western Europe and the perception of the Soviet Union. If the British troops were not replaced, we would be lowering the nuclear threshold in Europe. It would mean that we would have fewer conventional forces. That would make it more likely that nuclear weapons would be used in a war in Central Europe.
The Secretary of State could not move very far in that direction, so he cast his greedy merchant banker's eye on the surface ships of the Royal Navy. That was the only area in which he could try to cut defence spending. He thought that he could do that because of the many trendy and fashionable theories concerning surface ships and the needs of the Royal Navy. Having spent only a few months as a shadow Defence Minister—I know that that is obvious from my speech—I am of the opinion that there is not a portfolio in which there are more trendy and dotty academic theories.
Apparently one of the theories is that Britain does not need a navy any more because it does not have an empire. It is argued that we are now firmly and irrevocably anchored to the Continent of Europe and that we do not need much of a navy. Another theory is that if a conventional war breaks out in Central Europe it will be all over in a few days, or a week, and that then NATO will have to go nuclear. That is said to support the argument that there is no need for a large navy. It is based on the view that the Soviet Union enjoys massive superiority in conventional forces, but I do not subscribe to that view. There is some superiority but I do not believe that it is massive. The final argument is that surface ships are too vulnerable in the age of the missile.
The Secretary of State saw an added bonus in cutting the surface fleet. He recognised that fewer ships meant fewer dockyards. That meant that more money could be saved and used in part to fund a nuclear strategic deterrent.
169 In addition, he felt that he would be able to go to the chairman of Marks and Spencer to tell him that he was reducing the number of civil servants in the Department. The closure of Royal Navy dockyards reduces the number of civil servants in the Ministry of Defence.
The Opposition welcome the very temporary relief for the Portsmouth yard. We deplore the closure of Chatham and the Gibraltar yard. We shall be able to discuss in some detail the proposed closures when we consider the Navy Estimates in a few weeks time.
The Secretary of State has been rather unlucky. He almost got away with his scheme. It is rumoured—we can only read the newspapers—that he was so pleased with his handiwork that he was contemplating a short and pleasant walk across Whitehall to Great George Street and up to the commanding heights of the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman was a Treasury Minister for a few months. He was not in the Treasury team for four years as I was.
§ Mr. Davies
Yes, it does. Apparently it was the right hon. Gentleman's ambition to cross Whitehall, but unfortunately he left his flank unprotected. His defence strategy, apart from his personal political strategy was, in effect, torpedoed by General Galtieri. We all know that a task force had to be despatched. We all know, also, that because of the right hon. Gentleman's policies it contained ships that were either on their way to the breaker's yard, under the auctioneer's hammer or in mothballs. The ships were manned by sailors with dismissal notices in their pockets. They were prepared by dockyard workers who were on their way to the dole queues.
When the Secretary of State comes to analyse the military lessons to be learnt from the Falkland campaign, I hope that he will not use the conclusions to bolster and reinforce his own prejudices and attempt to justify his decision to reduce the number of Royal Navy surface ships. It is true that the nuclear powered submarines were extremely successful in keeping the Argentine navy in port, but it does not follow from that that there should be a greater reliance on submarines at the expense of surface ships. The House knows that they perform different roles and that one role is complementary to the other and that one role cannot be a substitute for the other.
It has been reported that the naval chiefs—we can get this information only from the newspapers—feared the loss of a carrier in the Falkland campaign and that they considered such a loss militarily acceptable. If that is so, presumably the Prime Minister considered such a loss politically acceptable. If she had not, she would not have sent the task force on the basis of that military assessment.
What is demonstrated is not necessarily the inherent vulnerability of surface ships but the enormous gamble the Government took in sending the task force to the South Atlantic knowing that many of the ships, in particular the carriers, were not really designed for the role that they were asked to perform. They performed the role very well. Without a land base and with carriers that could be described as truncated, because that is how they were built for anti-submarine work, the Government were lucky that the casualties were not higher in men and equipment.
The conclusion to be drawn from the Falklands should not be that the Falklands war was an aberration and can therefore be ignored, or that surface ships are inherently 170 too vulnerable, but that those suface ships placed in that situation were asked to perform a role that made them vulnerable because not many of them were designed for the role they were asked to perform. That is the lesson to be learnt from the Falklands.
The lesson to be learnt—I am glad that I take the Secretary of State with me—is that in future our ships and the men sailing in them must be adequately protected for whatever role they are asked to perform in an uncertain and a dangerous world—[HON. MEMBERS: "More money on defence."] I am coming to that. I knew that hon. Members would say that.
We believe that the Government are trying to spread scarce resources too widely and too thinly and that there will have to be a major reappraisal of priorities in defence strategy. The Secretary of State may feel—he is now looking pleased with himself—that he has managed to steal a march on the Treasury but, inevitably, either under the present Government or under a future Government of whatever party, defence budgets and this budget in particular will come under pressure. Corners will again be cut, ships will again be built using inferior materials and risks will be taken to save money. In the colourful language of the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), who is not here today, frigates will again be designed by the Treasury. That will be a fact of life because this budget is not sustainable. Far better for the Government to cut their coat according to their cloth than to try to make a coat which is larger but more threadbare and therefore gives less protection.
The Government should cancel Trident because it is a major escalation of the arms race. Its enormous cost—£10 billion at today's prices—means that conventional forces will have to be cut, thereby bringing the use of nuclear weapons in any crisis that much closer. In consultation with our allies, we should have another look at the costs of our commitment to keep British forces in Germany, although I do not believe that that is an easy option.
Our conventional defence policy should in the main be concentrated on two areas—first, on the defence of the United Kingdom itself. I pay tribute to some of the things that the Government have done in that regard, although there is more that must be done. Secondly, within NATO, we should concentrate mainly on doing what is best suited to our geographical position and tradition. That means making an effective maritime contribution in the Eastern Atlantic. We believe that if a war broke out in Central Europe it is more likely to be a war of attrition, not of blitzkrieg, and the strength and efficiency of naval forces in the Atlantic would again become crucial. That means that Britain must have a modern and well-protected surface fleet as well as an efficient submarine fleet, with proper dockyard facilities to support them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where will the money come from?"] I have covered that point.
The Secretary of State has got himself into a corner from which there is only one means of escape. He, the Prime Minister and the former Foreign Secretary failed to deter the invasion of the Falklands, a failure of judgment which has cost us dearly in lives and resources. The Secretary of State is still committed to a defence policy which could not have been carried out before the Falklands war and which cannot be carried out now. There will have to be another fundamental examination of defence policy, 171 but since it appears that the Secretary of State is too blinkered and too much a prisoner of his past errors to carry it out, he should make way for someone who will.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
The right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) said that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had taken a gamble. What is clear is that he would not have taken it had he been in her shoes, and General Galtieri would be sitting in the Falkland Islands today. At the beginning of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said that the issue that matters is proliferation. He looked back nostalgically to the days when the two super-powers alone controlled nuclear weapons. If the Labour Party ever aspires to Government again it should look at the real world. Not only Britain, France and China have nuclear weapons, but long before the Labour Party is likely to be in Government again, Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa, Argentina and Libya may have them, too. If the right hon. Gentleman really believes that Mr. Begin or Mr. Botha will be influenced by the policies of an incoming Labour Government on proliferation, I suggest that he is being a bit of a Bourbon on those matters and that perhaps he should think again.
The Falkland Islands crisis teaches us several important lessons that we shall no doubt examine more closely in the debate in the autumn or winter. It provides clear justification for the reorganisation of the Ministry of Defence, and proved by the response it was able to make to a virtually unexpected threat. It provides a remarkable justification of the decision to go over from National Service to all-professional forces. It goes a long way to justify our choice of equipment. But it also teaches another lesson which is fundamental to what I am about to say.
We lost some lives and we spent a great deal of money to win a victory that should never have been necessary had we been prepared. That is the issue that I wish to raise in the debate today. Have we analysed the global threat better than the Foreign Office analysed the threat to the Falkland Islands? Is our response adequate not to secure victory but to prevent the threat from developing?
The threat is graver than it has ever been at any time since the war.
There is the nuclear threat. As a Back Bencher I can say openly—it is obviously difficult for a Minister to say it—that now there is nuclear parity between the super-powers no one can expect to shelter under the American umbrella. We are therefore extraordinarily vulnerable, or would be if we did not have our own nuclear deterrent, to the threat of nuclear attack or of nuclear blackmail. That must be clear.
There is also the threat from the Warsaw Pact whose conventional forces have achieved considerable superiority over those of NATO in both conventional weapons and, with the deployment of the SS20, in tactical nuclear weapons. The deterrent power of the Western Alliance has been fading with the achievement of nuclear parity between the super-powers. Therefore, the validity of our defences in Europe has been declining steadily.
There is also the area of danger beyond which NATO and the threat that has been developing there to our sources of raw materials in South-East Asia, the Gulf and Southern and Central Africa, and to the trade routes on which we and Japan depend, upon which the whole industrialised West depends, for survival. This danger arises from the deployment of Soviet sea and long-range air power far 172 outside the Soviet Union and from the network of bases that the Soviets have developed all over the world. They are manned either by the Soviets of by their allies, in Aden, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Cuba, Vietnam, and Luanda in Angola. That is already a worldwide network with other corresponding facilities.
In addition, there are local dangers. We had one in the Falklands, unrelated to the Soviet challenge. There is the Iran-Iraq war which threatens the resources of the Gulf. Any of those local conflicts could merge into the greater East-West conflict.
As I have already said, this is the gravest threat that we have ever faced. The Soviets enjoy what Dr. Kissinger has called "a window of opportunity" in which they have a temporary superiority. It will be some time before the window can be closed. The Americans are trying hard to close it. They are doing so by defence expenditure that has produced the enormous borrowing requirement with high interest rates about which some of us have been complaining, but which in the long run are in our interest. I see no other way in which the Americans could finance what they are doing.
What is our response, and does it measure up to the threat? Here I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his staunch adherence to the doctrine of maintaining an independent British deterrent. As my hon. Friend the Minister of State said, we have it with the Polaris brought up to date, and we shall have it with Trident. It is quite clear that there can be no British strategy of any sort unless we have our own nuclear power; otherwise it is only an adjunct of someone else's strategy. If we are threatened with nuclear blackmail from the Soviet Union, or, indeed, anyone else, and have no nuclear power, it will be impossible to continue on our desired course. No responsible Government could have embarked on the Falklands operation had we not had our own independent nuclear power.
I well remember that during the Suez operation Mr. Khrushchev threatened Britain with a nuclear strike. We had to turn to the Americans, who were against the operation, and ask, "Will you protect us?" We therefore had to turn to one ally, who did not approve of the course we had adopted, and ask, "What are you going to do?" The Americans said, "We will tell the Russians not to do it", but it meant that we were in the hands of our allies.
This time, we were not. At the beginning, Mr. Haig wanted to support us but he was not quite sure how far. Eventually, he made up his mind, but without the cover of our independent deterrent any threat from the Soviet Union might have been decisive.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that had we had Polaris or Trident we could have gone on with the Suez operation, even in the teeth of American opposition?
§ Mr. Amery
Yes, in respect of the Russian threat. I shall not go into the history of the Suez operation. I am content to abide by Churchill's verdict when he said, "I do not know if I would have dared to start; I would never have dared to stop".
I am still in some doubt about whether, in considering the nuclear deterrent, we are right to settle for four boats rather than five. The case for four has been argued, but I ask my right hon. Friend to look at this again before he presents his second White Paper in the winter.
173 What of our contribution to NATO? My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) and The Times have asked whether we have got the balance right and whether we should take a bit out of BAOR and give a little more to the Navy and the maritime air force. They have a point if we are in absolutely rigid financial constraints. I brush aside the argument that we are naturally a maritime country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I shall explain. In the list of our heroes, the achievements of our generals—the Black Prince, Henry V, Marlborough, Wellington and the generals of the First and Second World Wars—are at least equal to the achievements of Nelson, Rodney, Drake, Raleigh and the admirals in the wars of this century. The difference is that before the advent of modern weapons, the Channel provided a moat behind which we could mobilise. Therefore, all that we needed was a standing Navy, not a standing Army. There was also a political advantage because there was no danger of a military coup.
We defended ourselves perfectly adequately behind that moat until 1940, but in 1940 we cut it damn fine. Had we lost the Battle of Britain—and we nearly did—and had the Germans gained air mastery over the Channel, the Navy would not have been able to prevent a German landing and God knows what would have happened. Just imagine what would happen were the Soviet forces to reach the Channel ports. Only the nuclear deterrent could prevent them from landing. Would it not be wise to man the outer ramparts as successfully as we can rather than simply sitting back behind the moat and waiting for things to develop? I do not see how we could possibly have fewer forces on the Continent than we have today. I join General Hackett in saying that we ought to have quite a few more.
In saying that, I do not disagree with the Navy lobby. It may well be—as far as I understand the matter, it is probably true—that we need more ships purely to fulfil our NATO commitment. I shall not say what sort or enter the argument about how many surface ships or submarines there should be, but I am sure that we shall need quite a few more to meet the third threat that arises from beyond the NATO area.
It must now be clear to the meanest intelligence that our withdrawal from south-east Asia, Aden and the Gulf was an unmitigated disaster. It led directly to an increase in oil prices and led on to the fall of the Shah. The bill that we have had to pay is already many times more than what we would have incurred had we retained minimum forces there. Belatedly, our American friends have come up with the rapid deployment force. Paragraphs 237 and 238 of the White Paper say what we could contribute beyond the NATO area. It looks pretty thin to me. It is true that we have just carried out a major and remarkable operation outside the NATO area in the Falklands, but we did it at the expense of our NATO commitments, by withdrawing forces from NATO, and with ships that were destined either for the scrap-heap or the market.
It may be said that another Falklands is unlikely. That is what people said after Suez; yet in 1961 we sent an armada to Kuwait. Like everything in war, these things happen unexpectedly. I do not know whether there will be another lone British operation, but I am pretty sure that, given the way that the world is developing—three wars were in progress only a fortnight ago—there will be a need for a British contribution somewhere outside NATO.
174 We already make a small contribution in Sinai. We now have another in the South Atlantic, and if we are to form a South Atlantic community, which I hope, we may enlarge it. It is also likely that we shall have to make a contribution to the United States rapid deployment force for the Middle East.
Nor can we be sure that emergencies beyond the NATO area will be isolated. They may well be harmonised with an increasing Soviet threat in Europe which may call for a greater state of readiness in NATO. We need to build again what we had until very recently—a force of perhaps two brigades, with the necessary air and sea support, capable by its training and equipment of operating outside the NATO area. Of course, in normal times it could be available to NATO, but it would be surplus to the NATO requirement.
We were very lucky in the South Atlantic, as the Minister explained, that the Marines had had Arctic training. Do we have people who are desert or jungle trained? We do not know where the next emergency will break out, but I should think that we need to have something as least as strong as the task force that we have just despatched to the South Atlantic, but outside the NATO assignment. To have this would be to have the best reason to believe that our American friends will have the guts when the crisis comes, and it may be very near, to put in their overwhelming potential strength in the defence of all our vital interests.
I may be exaggerating the gravity of the threat. If I am, I hope that my right hon. Friend will tell me so, and if so, much of my argument falls away. I hope that it may, but I am also afraid that he may be the victim, as were his predecessors in 1914 and 1939, of financial constraints. It is easy for Cabinets to face the immediate problems of domestic affairs and to give money to them, but to say that they do not know about the foreign danger and take a risk on that. It was very costly in 1914 and in 1939, and it was rather costly in the Falkland Islands.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend will read the signs aright with the help of his professional advisers, and will fight for what he thinks is right by of Government expenditure for our defences. However, hon. Members have a part to play as well. We are the people who vote Supply, and we must play our part and make our views plain to the Government. The issue is the gravest that any of us are likely ever to face.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
I disagree with so much of what the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) said that I hope that he will forgive me if I do not spend the whole of my speech answering his. There were some plums that I pulled out from time to time on which I agreed, including the issue on which he finished—the capacity for a force operating outside NATO.
The right hon. Member for Pavilion allows that romantic self of his to run away with him if he believes that if the Royal Navy had still been in the Gulf, the Shah of Persia would be on his throne today. Further, it was not Polaris or the absence of Polaris at the time of Suez that ended that fiasco. It was the fact that Mr. Harold Macmillan, having discovered the impact it was having on our finances, decided that the Suez adventure should no longer be supported. That was what turned the tide.
§ Mr. Amery
I was not trying to argue that that issue of Khrushchev's nuclear deterrent turned the tide. I was merely saying that it was an embarrassing position when, threatened by the Russians, we had to turn to the Americans because we had no nuclear weapons of our own. It was not decisive—many other things were decisive, including Mr. Gaitskell's attitude. However, this argument has a clear military application.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We had atomic weapons at that time, but we were dependent on the Americans. My conclusion is different from that of the right hon. Member for Pavilion. We cannot fight a war unless the Americans agree that we should do so, or unless we have at least their acquiescence in what we are doing. That is as true today as it was at the time of Suez. It is not something that I necessarily welcome, but it happens to be the case.
For example, the crisis in Cyprus occurred at a time when America's attention was engaged in President Nixon's final resignation and Mr. Henry Kissinger had all his attention taken up by that. It was because we could not get the support of the Americans that we did not stop the Turks. The American fleet could have interposed itself. However, I do not wish to spend my whole speech on these issues, because I have other things that I wish to say.
I shall not vote for the Defence Estimates tonight. The Secretary of State can have the money that he wants—that is not the issue. The policy is wrong. I do not deny the Secretary of State the money, although I disagree with important parts of the policy. My particular point is that I disagree with the Secretary of State's assertion last week that we have a balanced mix of forces—Navy, Army and Air Force—which must not be abandoned, and which is appropriate to our needs. That is the central issue for me. I shall not discuss nuclear issues, because my views on them are well known and do not need repeating.
I agreed with the right hon. Member for Pavilion when he asked whether we had analysed the threat. It is to this that the House is turning its attention more and more. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies) on the parts of his speech in which he discussed this matter. He came to the nub of it in a way that we have not done for some time in the past.
The truth is not, I regret to say, that we have a balanced mix of forces but that the structure of our forces has been unbalanced for some years, including the period when I was Prime Minister, that it is unbalanced at present and that the Government's new policy is making the problem worse and not better. That is my starting point.
The Government propose to reduce our aircraft carrier strength, cut down the number of frigates and destroyers, close dockyards and run down the strength of officers and naval ratings by 10,000 men, leaving us with the smallest Navy of the century. This policy has serious potential dangers for our country's safety. It is a misapplication of the proper division of resources between the Services. We do not have the right mix, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli said. I support him and I refuse to support the Defence Estimates as they have been published because they have that issue wrong.
I question the prevailing wisdom on two main subjects, both of which were touched on by my right hon. Friend for Llanelli and one which was touched on by the right hon. Member for Pavilion. I question that, in the vernacular, the Falklands was a "one-off' event and can 176 be ignored, and I question the theory of the short, sharp war that will last for only days. That was something that was said before, in 1914 and in 1939.
I am reinforced in this because our maritime strategy policy has not been the result of a careful re-examination of the problems. It has been caused, as my right hon. Friend for Llanelli pointed out, by the fact that the Secretary of State, having been plucked from the obscurity of the Department of Trade, presumably because he was more biddable than the present Foreign Secretary, found himself with some issues that he was unable to touch. He could not touch Trident for particular reasons, he could not touch the troops in Germany for other reasons and so the whole of the expenditure savings that he was required to make fell on our maritime strategy.
There was no balanced judgment about our defence role, and it is this issue that the House as a whole ought to challenge and not merely accept. Just because these fixed constants were there, we do not have to accept what has happened to our surface fleet. We have cut ships large and small. I felt some shame when I heard that we were selling off ships—something that we have never done before in this way—out of the active Fleet to other countries.
We invited Chile to purchase HMS "Norfolk". We attempted to sell HMS "Invincible" to Australia. We asked the Americans whether they would like the Royal Fleet Auxiliary "Stromness", and they said "Yes" and grabbed it with both hands. We have never run our defence system in this way before. I felt rather humiliated when I heard that that was the way in which we intended to try to rake up the money to get within the limits. Nothing was spared.
Perhaps the greatest irresponsibility of all involved HMS "Endurance". I shall not discuss the matter this afternoon, except to say that she was sacrificed, despite repeated warnings from both sides of the House about the impact that it would have. We now know that Mr. Costa Mendez took it as a signal that we would not fight. I shall now leave the issue, but in my opinion, it was a classic example of penny wise, pound foolish.
It is clear from what has been said that there is serious and growing disagreement about our present defence strategy. Indeed, when I listen to my own Front Bench, I begin to feel that we are becoming a Navy party.
§ Mr. Callaghan
In that case, all I can say is that the speeches that I have been making for years on the subject are having more success now that I have given up any Front Bench responsibility than they ever had when I sat there.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am hoping to become a PPS again one day.
I want to deal with the particular issues, and I shall take a little longer than I usually do on them. I hope that I do not normally intrude in this way.
The present Fleet is designed for its main task of acting as an anti-submarine Fleet, and in the light of Soviet deployment I entirely agree with that. Its major purpose is to provide backing for the central front in Europe by protecting the eastern Atlantic and the approaches to Europe. Indeed, I should like its role to be strengthened in that area, and I shall come back to that matter. Up to 177 the moment, it has been flexible enough to undertake other duties. It has been flexible because it has been capable of swift adaptation, and it has been capable of swift adaptation because it has had shore facilities and dockyard support. To cut that support will now undercut our ability to have a flexible surface Fleet which, although basically and rightly designed to meet our NATO responsibilities, has nevertheless been capable of operating in other directions, as we saw in the recent Falklands crisis.
Now some of the dockyards are to be axed, and the combination of a smaller, seagoing surface Fleet, and the withdrawal of shore support means that our Fleet will be less able to fulfil general tasks. It has been able to do that up to the moment. I am certain that the Secretary of State himself has sent task forces on tours around the globe, and that was done during my day. We should strengthen and continue that ability. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), had responsibility in that regard. I am not sure, but I believe that it was the intention to do the same this year, although the damage caused by the air attacks on the Fleet probably now make that impossible. However, with the cuts that are being made in the Navy today, we shall not be able to do that in future. So an element that has existed up to the moment is being destroyed as a result of this policy.
§ Sir Frederick Burden (Gillingham)
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that after the NATO exercise "Ocean Safari", Admiral Cox emphasised that defeating enemy submarines could not be done by aircraft or nuclear submarines alone—and I quote—contrary to some suggestions made in London."—[Official Report, 15 February 1982; Vol. 18, c. 23.]
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden) adds to my point. I do not believe that his Front Bench—which he supports, at least on some occasions—understands the role of maritime power, or how it is to be deployed. I do not say that we always understood it either. I sometimes felt that my Front Bench, even when I was on it, did not understand it. However, it has much improved since my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) has taken over.
Most serious professional naval opinion believes that we could not carry out an operation like the Falklands as swiftly or as successfully—some say, even at all—in two years' time. Even a layman like myself could see that it was a close-run thing. If that opinion is held, it is something on which the Secretary of State should reflect very carefully before he proceeds with these plans.
The Government argue, as do some others, that the Falklands was a one-off affair, unlikely to be repeated, and that we should not change our strategy because of that. I do not ask the Government to change their strategy of supporting the central front. Indeed, I shall argue that we might reinforce that strategy. However, I also argue strongly, as did the right hon. Member for Pavilion, for retaining the flexibility to deal with one of the so-called one-off incidents.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford said the other day that we have already had a series of one-offs that will never be repeated. He mentioned the Beira patrol. That was one-off. He referred to the cod war. That was one-off. There was the protection of our shipping in the Gulf of Oman during the recent war between Iraq and Iran.
178 That was one-off. Each was different from the one that went before. No one knows what the next one will be. We should have a capacity to deal with that situation, and we shall not have it if these plans go through.
There are other possible scenarios that all of us can imagine. I shall not go into them today. However, I want to repeat what the right hon. Member for Pavilion said. I want to emphasise the point on which I agree with him, and not the 99 points on which I disagree with him. Today our ships sail every ocean.
There seems to be general agreement that NATO should not act as a body outside its own self-imposed boundaries. Therefore, it takes no notice of the threats to its members' interests outside its area. Someone must—for such threats are growing, and they could become serious. Something which appeared as trivial as interference with our merchant ships and trade could occur with pirates off the coast of Indonesia, yet when one looks at the conditions off the coast of south-east China today and off the coast of the Malasian peninsula, who would guarantee that British ships will be able to sail freely through those waters? I should not like to guarantee that. Where is the flexibility that we should need to deal with trouble in that area? In my opinion, the Royal Navy is particularly suited by its history to undertake such a role. We are a maritime nation. We have special expertise. With our ability and experience, we can undertake such a role.
I am still on the subject of the one-off. I believe that we should discuss these matters with other ship-owning nations. The threats that are growing are of such a character that merchant ships may need to arm themselves more than they have done in the past and be more adaptable in protecting themselves.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) should not be provocative about that. If he had stayed, he might have reinforced me in what I say about the Royal Navy.
I turn to the other role of the Navy, which is to support the central front in Europe and control the eastern Atlantic. It seems that every generation has to learn the lesson afresh that Britain and Europe depend wholly on overseas seaborne supplies of food, energy, minerals and raw materials for our industries if we are to survive as a continent and a nation. In the past, Britain has always been more deeply aware of that fact than has continental Europe, but in recent years—here I do not exclude my own years—we seem to have overlooked this basic truth. If we have to fight a war against the Soviet Union, those supplies will need to be safely transported, for without them we should be utterly defeated.
If we are to carry on a war against the Soviet Union, 30 ships, day in, day out, week in, week out, month after month, will need to leave the eastern ports of the United States and arrive here safely with their goods. I regret that we do not have the strength at the moment to do that satisfactorily.
There is a prevailing wisdom that such measures will not be required because war, if it comes, will be short, 179 sharp and brutish, with the total destruction and horror that will accompany the use of nuclear weapons. Those who hold that view may be right. That is why all must press as hard as possible for mutual agreements to reduce nuclear weapons and to outlaw nuclear war.
However, another scenario is at least possible and the Government should provide against it. At present, there is a nuclear stalemate because the Soviet Union knows the dreadful destruction that can he visited on it, just as CND makes us aware of the terrible horrors that could afflict the civilian population in these islands. Surely, the real use of Europe to the Soviet Union is not as a nuclear devastated land mass, the cities and industries of which have been destroyed, but as a potential base for the extension of Soviet influence and the Soviet system, and as a source of technology and skill. That would require a Europe that had become subservient to the Soviet Union, not devastated by it. It would be completely opposed to Europe's destruction.
The strangling of Europe by blockade at sea, destroying our supplies and reserves so that we cannot be reinforced, coupled with a conventional attack in Europe, is at least a possible scenario for the Soiet Union. It is one that we should prepare against. Therefore, we must be able to withstand a long war, as well as envisaging a short, horrible nuclear exchange that would end with mutual devastation.
§ Mr. Peter Hordern (Horsham and Crawley)
The right hon. Gentleman has plainly spelt out to the House his support for a stronger Navy and he is now treating us to his views about the nuclear deterrent. In the present circumstances, knowing how he substituted Chevaline for Polaris, does he support Trident?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I will, if I may, continue my theme and return to that point towards the end of my speech. We are not ready to withstand a long war. Under the influence of our allies we have succumbed to the view that continental land and air forces are more important than sea protection and re-supply.
Despite what the Secretary of State says, we have never been, and are not today, a significant land force. The whole of the British Army is smaller than the reserves that the Americans hope to pour into Europe in the event of a war. As the right hon. Gentleman said a year ago in his defence White Paper, we are following the least natural course in our history. In recent expenditure-cutting exercises that fallacy has led to low priorities and the scrapping and selling of ships that should have been kept. I agree with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clarke) on that point.
We are the one nation that should take a strong lead in discussions with our NATO allies on this matter. They should review their priorities and we should convince them that the ability to ensure supply, reinforcement and protection is as important to the safety of continental Europe as is the presence of 50,000 British troops there. It is our job to argue that with them. If we have to withdraw a division, it is my clear conviction that we would be adding to their security and safety if we were to reduce the number of British troops serving in Germany today as a means of strengthening the Navy in the way that I have suggested.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Nantwich)
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that we should reduce the British 180 Army of the Rhine and have fewer soldiers altogether, or reduce the British Army of the Rhine and bring them home? The latter case would result in a very small saving indeed. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that we have a small Army. I hope that he is not suggesting that it should become even smaller.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do not know the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question. All I can say is that I would certainly bring many of them home because there would be a considerable saving in foreign exchange, which could be spent in better and different ways. However, as to the exact numbers, I do not know. It might cost us more initially to provide barracks, but I am talking about the long-term consequences of British policy in that area.
I want a return to our natural role. If we, with our history, experience and leadership in maritime matters do not give such a lead and argue the case, no one else will. My criticism of the Secretary of State, and, indeed, of some of his predecessors, is that they have not given such a lead. They do not believe in it, and the result is that Britain has the wrong defence priorities. The Secretary of State is not alone he is only the latest to embrace such a short-sighted view. However, he has done more damage than his predecessors. I regret that the Chiefs of Staff did not act as a body last year. Instead, it is well known that there was an unseemly scramble, each defending his own service and fighting for what he could get, and the Navy came off worst.
I am not speaking about these matters simply because there is a Navy lobby—as though there is something indecent or obscene about a Navy lobby. I am concerned about Europe as a whole and about Britain's interests. I am concerned that we should get the balance of resupply and reinforcement right, as opposed to what we have in the front line. If we were to withdraw, say, for the sake of argument, half our troops from Germany—I do not know what the figure might be—it is absurd to say that they would not be made up. Of course they would be made up. Once our continental allies were convinced of the need for Britain to fulfil its natural role of being their security and defence—as we have been in the past—it is absurd to say that they would not then make the necessary arrangements.
What should we do? First, we should not take unilateral action but should urge upon NATO a fresh examination of the balance between front line forces in Germany and our contribution to their protection through resupply facilities by sea. We should argue that Britain's contribution can best take the form of a stronger naval presence. I understand that that would have consequences on our land commitment and I would try to convince our European allies that we are looking through their eyes as well as our own.
Britain's maritime contribution should take the form of more surface ships, with adequate air cover and air defence to protect merchant shipping. I should reverse the mistaken policy of abandoning the modernisation of ships half-way through their life. If the Falklands has shown anything—I am ready to wait for the conclusion of the examination—surely it has shown the necessity of up-to-date air defence systems, which change, perhaps, every 10 years or so. Therefore, if the Secretary of State can be persuaded to change his mind about anything, will he please change his mind at least about modernising those ships' air defence systems, even if he does not want to go for a full-scale refit?
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Nott)
I greatly respect the right hon. Gentleman's experience in all these matters and his intellectual and emotional attachment to the Royal Navy, but before he concludes his excellent speech—much of which I agree with—will he discuss resources? He talks all the time about the need for a stronger Navy. I also happen to want a stronger Navy. However, the right hon. Gentleman has not explained how he intends to free resources from the British Army of the Rhine. The share of the defence budget taken up by the Royal Navy today is greater than the share taken up when he was Prime Minister. If the nuclear element is excluded altogether, the share of the Royal Navy's conventional budget will be about the same in 1990—under my plans—as it is today.
How does the right hon. Gentleman square the problem of resources? That is the central issue. The right hon. Gentleman led his party into an election on the proposition that as a percentage of our gross national product, the defence budget should be smaller. That was in his manifesto. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman address his mind to resources?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I shall try to address my remarks to that, but I have already spoken for a long time. However, I shall try to answer the questions that have been asked. I believe that the figure is now 29 per cent. of the budget and that the figure was 28 per cent. when we had some responsibility for the matter. That is the margin of difference and there is really nothing in it. I understand that in a year or two the percentage will be lower. However, anyone can prove anything with statistics and there is not much in the right hon. Gentleman's first point.
Some of his other points are extremely important. On resources I have come to the conclusion that we should not proceed with Trident. A year ago I made much the same speech in the defence debate and said that I would keep an open mind about the matter. I hoped that we would be able to find resources elsewhere. However, if we cannot—and it seems that we cannot—I am ready to give up Trident and to continue to run Polaris, updated by Chevaline, as long as possible. For the reasons that I have given, we shall, after that, have to rely on the United States of America. I simply do not accept the view put by my Front Bench that we should deny the Americans bases for nuclear weapons in this country. I cannot understand that view, although I do not want to get into an argument with my right hon. and hon. Friends now.
Just as other countries have found that they have to give up certain of their defence requirements, so must we. They do not all have nuclear weapons. I must say that I thought it was a little odd for the Minister to argue that every country should have its own nuclear weapons. Perhaps I misunderstood him, but that is what it sounded like to some of us. My answer will not satisfy those who want to continue with Trident. However, like the Secretary of State, they must face the choices. In addition, I would find more resources by saving on the foreign exchange of BAOR and, if necessary, by reducing the size of the land forces and increasing the number of reserves.
We cannot dodge such issues. There is one area in which we might have done more and in which the Secretary of State is doing even worse, despite what the White Paper says. I refer to naval reserves. We should be building up our reserves far more than we have done so far. In that way, we could save money and could provide 182 for the overriding necessity. I do not have a romantic affection for the Navy. I regard my view as a cold analysis of where the interests of Britain and Europe lie.
I apologise if I have not answered one of the Secretary of State's questions. However, I have said that we should increase the number of naval and other reserves. We should keep the facilities at Portsmouth dockyard to modernise our ships. I had hoped that the Secretary of State would deal with the modernisation of air defence systems when he intervened. I hope that he will consider my proposition seriously. Modernisation is important because protection from air attack is vital and can be achieved only if our weapons systems are kept up to date. The Merchant Navy is absolutely indispensable. I am glad to see that the views that I have expressed for some time—I and a few others expressed them last year—are beginning to win. The debate on what we should do is beginning. I am glad that that should be so and I hope that we shall continue to stimulate the debate so that we can get matters right. None of us want to attack the Secretary of State because he is a Conservative. Unfortunately, that is his weakness. He is a witty and intelligent man, but he happens to be wrong.
I shall not rest until the Secretary of State has been removed from office and until we have a Secretary of State with a more basic understanding of where Britain's national interests and its strategic role lie.
§ Sir Frederick Burden (Gillingham)
The speech by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was most interesting and I agreed with much of it. The success of the Falkland Islands action was due to a wonderful combined operation. The use of all three Forces together is a legacy of the late Lord Louis Mountbatten's ingenuity. I was fortunate enough to serve on his staff in South-East Asia.
During the debate last Thursday, the Secretary of State confirmed the closure of Chatham dockyard, with the loss of 7,000 jobs, by the middle of next year. He also stated that, while there would be a reprieve for Portsmouth, the manpower reduction there would go ahead early in the new year. At the conclusion of the debate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces gave thanks to the Royal Navy dockyards generally, and singled out Devonport and Portsmouth for special praise. I was surprised that particular dockyards should be treated in that way. I should have thought that all were entitled to equal commendation. As I knew how much it would mean to the workers in the dockyard at Chatham and to the people of north Kent, because of the threat hanging over them, I intervened and said:I am greatly surprised that the Minister singles out Portsmouth and Devonport. He should be generous and pay tribute to four major dockyards. Chatham did its best and served well.
§ Sir Frederick Burden
I shall give way, with pleasure in a moment. When I made that intervention the Under-Secretary smiled and smiles were exchanged between him and the Secretary of State. My hon. Friend replied:I was hoping to be as generous as I could, but I believe that little, if any, task force work was carried out at Chatham.At that, I felt impelled to leave the Chamber. A few minutes later, my hon. Friend said: 183My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham chooses to leave before I make my comments about his dockyard. That is somewhat discourteous."—[Official Report, 1 July 1982; Vol. 26, c. 1127.]There was nothing more that the Minister could say about the closure of Chatham dockyard. The hopes for its future role had all been raised before. It would have been an ineffectual cosmetic. The next day, I received a letter from the hon. Gentleman that merely demonstrated that all that he would have said, had I remained, would have been cosmetic. I take the greatest exception to his remark. Nothing that the Minister could possibly say would go beyond conciliatory mutterings that would do little, if anything, to provide real hope for the vast majority of workers in Chatham dockyard and to the people in north Kent as a whole.
By a touch of good fortune, the next morning I received a copy of the local newspaper. In it, a headline stated,Well done dockyards, says boss".That praise for the dockyard workers came from Captain Philip Stearns, the production manager in the yard, who had sent a shipyard brief to the workers. He said that 38 miles of rope had been produced during the Falklands crisis by workers, all of whom have been told they will be made redundant in September. He said that another startling success was the double refit of HMS "Phoebe", a frigate that has now been converted for anti-submarine work. The workers also made the inflatable rubber lifeboats for the Falkland Islands operation, according to Captain Stearns, and they put in 800 man-hours on HMS "Phoebe" in 11 weeks. At the very least, they did all that they were asked to do. The workers resented most bitterly the suggestion that they had done little or nothing.
I hope that the words of the captain of the dockyard gave them some comfort. I had hoped today that my hon. Friend would apologise for saying that the Chatham workers had done little or nothing. I also resent the Minister's remark that I was discourteous in leaving the Chamber after that statement was made. There was no way in which I could have remained in my seat.
The Under-Secretary told me yesterday that he had spoken on radio Medway. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) and I pressed the Minister about this interview. I telephoned radio Medway this morning. I do not know whether he asked to go on radio or whether they asked him.
§ Sir Frederic Burden
I was told on the telephone that the Minister had said that he stood by everything that had been said last Thursday about Chatham dockyard. The Minister said that he had no reason to apologise, and that he stood by everything that he had said last Thursday. Can one but wonder that the people in that part of Kent are disillusioned with and disgusted by the lack of generosity for all the work that has been done by the Royal Navy and the Forces in that area for hundreds of years?
§ Mr. Wiggin
I seek no quarrel with my hon. Friend. I opened my remarks on the subject by congratulating all the dockyards and ports for the work that was done. My hon. Friend accused me, perhaps justifiably, of a sin of omission. I readily acknowledge the part that Chatham played in some of the task force work. I said so in a letter to him and in the lengthy interview that he mentioned. If I gave the impression, in the heat of the moment, that Chatham did nothing, I apologise and wish to withdraw 184 any such imputation. I am sure that the work carried out at Chatham was done with the usual skill and enthusiasm that we have come to expect from that dockyard.
§ Sir Frederick Burden
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his generosity and I accept his remarks. They will give confort to many people in Kent, especially in my constituency.
Unfortunately, that was not the first gaffe made about Chatham. On 27 April, the local newspaper stated that the dockyard workers had been informed that there would be no further redundancies. The next day, they were informed that there would be further redundancies, starting on 20 May. The following day, another statement was issued saying that the redundancies would be held up. In disbelief, I telephoned the office of my hon. Friend—who was not there—and was told by a senior civil servant that it was true and that minds had been changed. I hope and pray that no such mistakes will be made in the future, in view of the terrible trouble that they can cause to many men and their families.
The first intimation of the cuts in the defence forces was in the House in late May of last year. To everyone's surprise, The Daily Telegraph forecast almost everything in my right hon. Friend's White Paper. When it was published, it confirmed the forecast almost word for word. It announced, among other things, the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance" from the South Atlantic. "Endurance" is a Chatham-based ship and I have a great interest in her. But the fact that she was to be scrapped and not replaced was an invitation to the Argentines, after they had invaded South Georgia, to accept that we had no intention of resisting any attempted annexation of the islands by force.
However, that was certainly not the view of my self and 80 other Conservative Members. On 22 March five senior members of the House and I tabled a motion stating:That this House, being greatly disturbed at the implications evident as a result of the recent landing on the Falkland Islands Dependency of South Georgia, of a party of Argentinians conveyed there by an Argentine naval transport ship, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to give an assurance that a Royal Naval force, of sufficient strength to repel any attempt by the Argentine Government to annex this British colony by force., will be kept on station in the area; and further asks Her Majesty's Government to declare in unequivocal terms that the Falkland Islands sovereignty will not be transferred to any foreign power, unless the islanders have asked for such a transfer in a referendum".I wonder whether at that stage a warning was sent through our ambassador to the Government in Argentina. I am told that the captain of "Endurance" on two occasions warned the Ministry of Defence, I assume, because he would have to get in touch with it and not the Foreign Office, that the Argentines were building up an invasion force. Did he do that? When was it? What action was taken after the warnings? That is very important.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has emphasised the enormous value of the hunter-killer submarines. My right hon. Friend intends, apparently, to increase the number to 17 from 12. In his White Paper last year he described it as our most important naval defence weapon. However, Devonport is to be given the sole task of looking after those vessels in future—the task of refuelling, refitting and repairing. HMS "Swiftsure" is the only one on which it has started. That is a first-time refit, which is the most simple. It has been in that dockyard for three and a half years and will not be operational again until March or April, which means that it will have been 185 out of operation for four years. However, Chatham has been looking after such vessels and been turning them out every two years. It should be reprieved.
It has been stated that the hunter-killer submarines bottled up the Argentine Navy. That is true. One of them sank the Argentine cruiser. However, I wonder whether there might be a question hanging over the invulnerability of the nuclear hunter-killer submarine. After the NATO operation "Ocean Safari" last year, Admiral Cox stated that the Russian diesel electric submarine was "deadly" because of its silence and because it could pick up a nuclear propelled submarine long before that submarine could pick it up. We know that the Russians have a considerable number of submarines. Can it be assumed beyond doubt that our SSN submarines would not be vulnerable in the confined areas of seas in which NATO would probably operate against the Russians, in view of the enormous Russian fleet of "deadly" diesel electric submarines? It is easy to assume invulnerability of vessels in war, but that is not so, as has been shown in the Falkland Islands.
The Foreign Secretary was completely and utterly wrong to announce that he was introducing his White Paper for 1982. It has appeared with the Defence Estimates. It is admitted that it goes up to only March of this year, before the Falkland Islands operation began. Would it not have been wise to wait and discover the lessons that must be learnt from it?
The Minister stated that some of the ships that were intended to be scrapped or sold—four destroyers—would be retained. Surely they and the other ships that were damaged in the Falkland Islands will require, in many instances, a considerable amount of refit and repair work. It is impossible to estimate the real scale of that until after the ships have been docked and after investigation has been carried out in full.
It is wrong to close down or to suggest further closures at Portsmouth from January this year. Nothing has been said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about HMS "Invincible". I objected in the House on 15 February to the sale of "Invincible" to Australia at a knock-down price of £175 million, against the price of replacement of £330 million at the time. She has performed yeoman service in the Falkland Islands. Will we let her go to Australia? We want the answer. It has not been given. Not one word has been said about it. The "Illustrious" will soon be operational. If we are to be assured of having two aircraft carriers always operational, this country must have three in case of damage to or the refit of one.
I apologise for speaking for a long time. I should like to say much more. I beg the House to bear with me for speaking for a long time. I feel deeply about these matters. They are of great national interest. If the Falkland Islands problem had arisen in two years' time it would have been impossible to send the task force with any real chance of success. I believe that it was at my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's insistence that that operation was undertaken. I thank God for her insistence and the success.
Each of the Services should have a political Under-Secretary who is operating for them. Each Under-Secretary should fight the corner of his Service. That position should be restored. It was a tragedy that it was ever removed. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) shakes his head. I say to him with 186 respect that I have been a Member of the House for a long time. I have been engaged in war. I have studied this problem. I believe that each of the Forces needs an Under-Secretary to fight its corner, work within it and get to know all that goes on in that Service. The time is ripe for that to happen again.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the House that everyone feels deeply on this subject. Two hon. Members have been called in one hour. I know that all hon. Members who have been rising in their places wish to speak. They must bear that in mind.
§ 6.9 pm
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
The debate started appropriately with heartfelt tributes to our Service men in all three Armed Forces. We have done that in previous defence debates but it has a special poignancy now when one remembers the loss of life, the injuries that have been sustained and the immense courage that has been demonstrated by all our Services in the Falkland Islands.
It has sometimes not been easy to hold the commitment of the House to the Services and to the necessity to spend money to ensure that our Service men do not risk their lives as a result of outdated equipment or because they are inadequately supported. I hope that the events of the past few months will refresh the commitment of those who have always felt that it is essential for the country to commit reasonable expenditure to the Services.
The debate so far has not grappled with the real, hard choices that face any Government. For those who wish to register their dissatisfaction with the Government's defence policies—there are many on both sides of the House—our amendment represents a realistic alternative. We accept that the NATO commitment, which was first entered into in late 1977, of a 3 per cent. real terms increase in the defence budget must be fulfilled. It is also realistic to remind ourselves of the debate of almost a year ago when the Secretary of State presented his cuts. In fairness to him, he had to make those cuts because the defence budget was running out of control. It was necessary to rein back and to make some difficult choices.
The hon. Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden) rightly upheld his constituents' interests. In spite of the harshness of this closure, no one can doubt his sincerity. Some hard decisions lie behind keeping defence expenditure even at its present 3 per cent. per annum in real terms increase.
What are the lessons of the Falklands? They will emerge in the investigation, but some are immediately obvious. The first is that the submarine, whether nuclear or diesel-electric, has showed itself to be an extremely powerful weapons system in modern naval warfare. The nuclear-powered submarines that we deployed in the South Atlantic completely bottled up the Argentine navy. That was one of the most successful aspects of the campaign.
Those of us who argue for increased expenditure on the conventional Navy are right to insist that it be spent on submarines. Submarines are the real battleships of the future. One of my main and serious criticisms of the Secretary of State, which I also made a year ago, is that he has not sufficiently protected the build rate of nuclear-powered submarines. There is much anxiety that in the 187 early 1990s the number of our submarines will have dropped to a point when they are sufficient to meet neither our world-wide role nor our North Atlantic seaborne role. That remains a serious criticism of the Secretary of State's strategy.
No one knows whether we shall ever need another amphibious assault. I tend to agree with those who say that the Falkland Islands conflict cannot be dismissed as one off. There are many parts of the world where we may need to use force again. We are concentrated in Europe, but our foreign policy is not yet completely constrained within the European context. As long as we have the capacity to do so, we should maintain the capability to reinforce our foreign policy world-wide.
The maritime role is extremely important. The Secretary of State has effectively recognised that already—he has saved "Intrepid" and "Fearless". No one who has commented on the Falklands issue has doubted that those ships were essential for putting some of the heavy equipment ashore. I have always been sceptical about an opposed assault on the northern flank. That is not a realistic role for the amphibious forces in the future. It may be realistic on the southern flank and world-wide. Having got the ships, however, it is worth retaining them. Nevertheless, spending the same quantities of money again cannot be justified.
The through-deck cruisers, as they used to be called, have shown themselves to be effective in war. I took them through the Admiralty Board in 1969. I have always had some doubts about whether they would fulfil their role and justify their expense. There can be no doubt that the maritime aircraft—the VSTOL, and the Ski Jump—have provided effective attack weapons. So too has the helicopter base.
The Secretary of State faces a difficult decision about "Invincible". The Australians were immensely generous to offer to cancel the arrangement. The offer was a bargain. Nevertheless, we must recognise that some Commonwealth countries have been our firmest allies throughout the emergency in the Falklands. If "Invincible" were to go to Australia, that would not be of no account to us. Indeed, she would be deployed in an area where we are unable constantly to deploy. That would have some value and should be taken into account.
Perhaps the Secretary of State will decide to keep "Hermes". He will then face the difficult decision whether to lay down a new ship. That would be an expensive commitment. If he makes it, he may be forced to tell the Navy that some of the expense must be met both from the sale and from the reduction of surface ships. On that issue, I part company with some of what has been said. I strongly favour a re-balance, and I criticised the Secretary of State last year for making cuts that were too deep into the conventional naval force. That decision does not necessarily mean the perpetuation of a large number of hulls.
Another lesson to be learnt from the Falklands is that a hull must have a modern weapons system. There has been inadequate spending on weapons systems by, I fear, successive Governments. The admirals have concentrated too much on the number of hulls. The Secretary of State must be honest with himself and his supporters. Why does the Honiton Division Conservative Association, Newspoint say: 188Talk of running down the Navy is nonsense … There will be more major ships and submarines operational in 1985 than there are today. A massive modernisation programme of the fleet is in hand"?That is not true. The total number of major warships—frigates and above and submarines other than Polaris—in the conventional fleet when the Government took office was 98. By April 1982 there were 86 and current plans are for a further decline by the end of the decade. Therefore, the Secretary of State's statement on 7 April—we cannot be criticised for cutting back the conventional Navy, when it is far larger today than it was when we took office, and so it will be in the late 1980s" —[Official Report, 7 April 1982; Vol. 21, c. 1050.]—is not true. He should say so. He is shifting spending withing the Navy. That is fair enough, it has some validity, but he should not try to pretend that the Navy is larger or that it will be able to answer every demand in the future.
I am worried whether we have enough frigate hulls to meet all the demands. As I said in the previous debate, when I was Foreign Secretary I kept asking for frigates and the Ministry of Defence constantly found difficulty in having them available to deploy. I am glad that the type 23 is now a general purpose frigate. It will be better for that.
I come to some of the wider questions. How is this to be paid for? Some of it will involve increased expenditure. The House must face this. The fundamental thrust of our amendment is that we cannot afford Trident, but I am not so unrealistic as to claim that that means a great saving in the defence budget now and in the next few years. It is high time that the Labour Pary started to face that reality. The reality is to live within our budget over the next few years. Trident will pose immense problems for the defence budget in the next 10 to 15 years. Frankly, we cannot afford it under present budgetary constraints. The country must face that fact.
In this context, again, the argument advanced in the White Paper is basically dishonest. The Secretary of State always asks us to compare any alternative to Trident with his own system. We have never made any attempt to do that. Those of us who have argued that we should extend the life of Polaris and consider alternative options in the 1990s have always accepted that it will be a less effective and a lesser deterrent. It could not have as many warheads. The Secretary of State says in the White Paper:We should therefore have to deploy many more cruise than ballistic missiles for the same striking power.That is clear, but we are not arguing that it has to have the same striking power. We have argued consistently that we are extremely reluctant to give up the nuclear deterrent. Having spent the money on Polaris, we wish it to continue its life. We will consider replacement of Polaris when the time comes—in my view, not before eight years' time. If it needs to be done a little earlier, we will consider it a little earlier. I am simply saying that the country cannot afford the super-sophisticated 'Trident system. There are differences of opinion on this, of course, and there will be differences of opinion on other things, but at least our proposal offers the possibility of extra resources to go into the conventional forces in the next 15 years.
§ Mr. Nott
The right hon. Gentleman makes a very interesting argument, but I am sure that he will agree that for a nuclear deterrent to deter it must be credible in the eyes of the potential aggressor. I do not think that he has really given attention to this. Given what we know of the 189 likely developments in the ABM defences in the Soviet Union in the 1990s and beyond, expenditure on a second-rate deterrent that is not credible in the eyes of the potential aggressor is money ill spent. In my judgment, we must have something that deters or it is not worth spending a penny on it.
§ Dr. Owen
Credibility is a matter of judgment. The right hon. Gentleman refers to ABM defences. As yet, the only system of this kind is the Galosh system around Moscow. There are signs that that is being uprated, but I believe that Polaris could continue to penetrate it. In any case, I have never taken the view that it is essential for a British deterrent to be able to hit Moscow. I have always argued the strategy of a minimum deterrent still being credible for the potential and only task for which we need it—the situation in which NATO has been completely destroyed and the United States is no longer an effective, reliable ally in Europe. However, those are issues to which we can return. The basic fact is that if the House wishes to commit itself to a higher standard of conventional defence in Europe and world wide, we must ask ourselves whether we can afford this massive tranche of expenditure in the next 15 years.
With regard to BAOR, I have always regarded this commitment, and particularly its foreign exchange costs, as excessive for this country. Having said that, however, it is extremely difficult to reduce the numbers of BAOR at present.
Two areas must be seriously examined. First, we must get some momentum into the MBFR negotiations. With the new Western proposal due to be tabled fairly soon, it ought now to be possible to sidestep the issue of data and, in the four-stage approach with a seven-year reduction period, to achieve verifiable lower figures. It should be possible to avoid getting locked on the present data problem in which, for a breakthrough to be achieved, the Soviet Union would have to admit that what it has been saying for the past eight or nine years is incorrect. It will not do that, so we shall have to circumnavigate that issue.
In my judgment, it is essential to achieve a better balance of conventional forces in Europe because we could then start to remove the battlefield nuclear weapons, which I believe are by far the most dangerous part of the nuclear equation in Europe. We should move away from talks about the very ambitious object of "no first use" of nuclear weapons to the more limited but none the less important objective of "no early use" of nuclear weapons. I have always believed that it is dangerous and incredible to have battlefield nuclear weapons within 20 kilometres of the border. I believe that a battlefield nuclear weapon free zone is negotiable, provided that it is accompanied by a conventional balance.
The White Paper's claim that the Trident issue could continue to be kept out of the START talks is nonsense. Indeed, another argument for not going ahead with Trident is that of disarmament and arms control. If President Reagan succeeds in achieving deep cuts in the number of nuclear warheads and reducing the United States arsenal to 5,000 warheads, the British deterrent will represent 10 per cent. of United States warheads and the French deterrent, with its land-based systems and extra submarine, would represent 15 per cent. In other words, Britain and France would have 25 per cent. of the then 190 lower level of warheads. It is nonsense to think that they could be kept out of the START or the INF talks. It is essential that we begin to consider how this issue is to be dealt with in the strategic arms reduction talks. If we go for deep cuts, in which I very much believe, there will have to be a contribution from Britain and also, one hopes, from France.
§ Dr. Owen
Time is pressing, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way.
It is extremely difficult to take seriously almost anything said by the Labour Party in this debate. There have been some robust and splendid contributions from the Labour Back Benches, arguing almost without exception for increased defence expenditure. The Labour Party itself and its Front Bench spokesmen, however, argue an incredible policy. This has never happened before. If there is anything on which there has been agreement and broad consensus in the House, it has been over defence policy. The positions of the various Opposition Front Bench spokesmen in defence have had a great deal of continuity and inner coherence. That is no longer so. It is time that some Labour Back Benchers refused to go through the Lobbies with their Front Bench colleagues and the Tribunite lobby. It is no longer credible for Labour Members to come together, as they will tonight, to vote against the Defence Estimates. They dare not vote for the only proposal for which they should vote—our amendment. They are to vote against the Government on the Defence Estimates. That is the minimum programme on which they can agree, because it says nothing. It is simply a negative vote.
Labour Members are incredible. They tour the country promising that every dockyard and every establishment being cut back would be maintained, paying their Danegeld to the Transport and General Workers Union, forgetting that at every TUC conference that same union moves resolutions calling for a severe reduction in defence expenditure. Moreover, such a reduction is also usually part of a composite at the Labour Party conference. The whole procedure is dishonest and it is no longer possible for it to continue,
Labour Front Bench spokesmen are effectively putting the argument contained in those resolutions. In the old days, the Labour Front Bench completely disowned the lunatic Left, but they now say that they want a non-nuclear defence policy, the removal of all United States nuclear bases from this country and a substantial reduction in the defence budget—one may argue about whether it would be one-third or one-quarter—while at the same time they want every job saved, no redundancies and no closures. The whole thing is rubbish. Indeed, it is not just rubbish—it is serious rubbish.
The fact that the Labour Party is no longer credible was demonstrated throughout the Falklands crisis—half its heart was in the right place but the rest was unable to say what needed to be said. This cannot go on. The Labour Party is in an incredible position. One cannot have a party claiming to be the official Opposition with no policy on defence and what is more, allowing its shadow Cabinet to go along with it. I hope that there are some hon. Gentlemen in the Labour Party who know in their hearts 191 that the Labour Party's defence policy is rotten and that they will at least not vote against the Defence Estimates, even if they feel unable to vote for our amendment.
§ Mr. Robert Atkins (Preston, North)
The whole House is no doubt grateful for the speech made by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). I hope that he will forgive me if I do not develop his detailed analysis of the problems of the Labour Party policy.
I understand the reasons for the publication of the Defence Estimates and I look forward to the next White Paper, such as it will be, on the Falklands. I imagine that that will be towards the end of the year. It would be unwise of me to speak at length on the Falklands until all the results are known, except perhaps to make three brief comments. I pay tribute, as all hon. Members have rightly done, to the contribution made by our Armed Forces. That almost goes without saying, but ought to be said, and said continually.
I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) to ask about the equipment captured during the Falklands conflict. My question followed an article this week in Aviation Week. The article specified in detail some of the equipment that was taken over. What will happen to that captured equipment? Will it stay in the Falklands, or will it be utilised for training and other purposes in this country, particularly among those forces which so often suffer—the cadet forces, the Territorial Army, and the home service units?
Before directing my remarks to the substance of my speech which, hon. Members will not be surprised to learn, deals with the P110, I refer to the requisition of merchant ships, aircraft and other property where that property, particularly aeroplanes, is subject to leasing or other financial arrangements that involve foreign banks and foreign companies. Are our requisition powers capable of taking them over? I am led to believe by some informants within British Airways that they are not entirely certain that some of their equipment could be taken over by the Ministry of Defence, even though it was not needed in this instance.
I also refer to the Trident offset agreement—or the lack of it—and the lack of dual sourcing. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton (Mr. Pattie) is to answer the debate and I therefore want to deal with some industrial problems. I quote from a leading article in The Engineer of 3 June. This states:Etched in tablets of stone at the time Britain agreed to buy Trident was this statement: 'United Kingdom manfacturers are to compete on the same terms as United States firms for subcontracts for Trident 2 weapon system components for the programme as a whole.' … The Engineer's evidence is that the invitation from America has been treated as cynical. The timetable of the programme is such that one-quarter of the subcontractors will have been selected by the year end. And British companies new to the technology appear daunted by the suffocating documentation and approval procedure.If that is the case and 50 per cent. of subcontractors will have already been selected by next year, clearly British industry will have to work extremely fast and realise that the administrative, bureaucratic security and contract period constraints will have to be overcome. Is the Ministry of Defence doing enough?
There is a requirement under air staff target 1228 for an urgent and early decision on what are loosely known 192 as either Alarm or Harm anti-radar missiles, essential for Tornado. On 2 April I asked my hon. Friend for information, but he said that no news was forthcoming. I want to know when that news will be available.
I now turn my attention to the P110 which, in a number of ways, is essential to this country. It is also important to the Fylde area of northern Lancashire. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) will also be aware of this problem because his constituency is directly affected. There is no mention of the P110 in the White Paper. We all know that AST403, as it used to be called—the European combat aircraft or, loosely, the Jaguar replacement—was effectively cancelled by statements in the last White Paper.
The Prime Minister's exhortation to the aerospace industry at the SBAC dinner in 1980, when she expressed the view that the Government were entitled to look to the aerospace industry to point out export opportunities and reminded us that the prospect of overseas orders would be a factor that would play an increasing part in defining our own operational requirements is most appropriate to the P110 project. A market survey carried out by British Aerospace shows that in a collaborative programme it could expect to produce 850 aircraft—500 for the United Kingdom, the Federal Republic of Germany and Italy, and 350 for export. These conclusions have been validated by an independent consultant and the Ministry of Defence, Sales, is in broad agreement.
For those who are not familiar with it, the P110 is a single-seat, air superiority aircraft powered by two Rolls-Royce RB 199 engines. I inquired on Thursday whether the 67R derivative of that engine, which is related to Tornado and which will be essential to the P110, will be ready. Again, I am not entirely happy with the answer that I received. Much of the P110's structure is of a carbon fibre composite. Its systems and equipment are either based on existing developments or on already funded research programmes. The high power of the engines, combined with light weight, the sophisticated aerodynamics, and the fly-by-wire control system result in a highly energetic and agile aircraft outstanding in the air superiority role and equally effective in ground attack roles.
An aircraft like the P110 is essential to the defence needs of the United Kingdom. There is an operational case for the Royal Air Force to purchase P1lOs to fill a gap in its commitments in the central region in the 1990s and to satisfy the AST 403 and replace air defence Phantoms. There is a further operational case for additional P1lOs to complement the Tornado interceptor in defence of the United Kingdom air defence region.
The aircraft is designed to make cost-effective use of a combination of Tornado-related developments and new technology available from demonstration programmes. This approach has the advantages of reduced development costs, reduced time scale, reduced risks, and confidence in performance predictions, in service dates, and so on. Moreover, the project is in accord with paragraph 20 of Cmnd. 8288 of June 1981.
The development of a new fighter aircraft would represent a logical technology step towards the development of an advanced short take-off and vertical landing aircraft—the so-called STOVL—to meet air staff target 410 planned for entry into RAF service towards the end of this century. Furthermore, the aircraft would be operationally complementary to the STOVL aircraft.
193 The threat is not just in strategic terms. There is also a threat to industry. The industrial case for launching a new high performance military aircraft revolves around the need to maintain a national capability. The main thrust of this argument is that without such a project the military side of the aerospace industry could run down to a level from which it might not be possible to recover. Furthermore, the equipment manufacturers depend on new aircraft projects to launch their products on the export market. The recent Falklands crisis also produced a strong argument for the retention of a national defence industrial base with the capability of effective, flexible and rapid reaction.
In this project the industry, recognising the trend in rising costs for the development and production of defence equipment, proposes a partnership between Government and industry aimed at easing financial and management problems. International co-operation with Germany and Italy has arrived at the stage where the aircraft configuration and the development programme have been finalised. Discussions are proceeding rapidly towards contractual agreements. It has the added bonus of keeping the French aircraft industry at bay.
The proposal to the United Kingdom Government represents a radical change in procurement procedures, but it is hoped that a step-by-step plan will be agreed by British Aerospace and by the consortium involved that will minimise the joint commitments and risks at each stage.
Until now the project has been supported by private venture funding, by a consortium of British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Dowty, Ferranti, Lucas, Marconi and Smiths Industries—that in itself represents a unique situation and a roll-call of our successful industries—amounting, by the end of this year, to £25 million and to £35 million by the middle of 1983. Understandably, without some limited customer commitment, industry cannot continue indefinitely to write off this level of expenditure against profits. Some urgent commitment by the Government is needed.
The cost of the P110 as presently constituted has the United Kingdom providing 40 per cent., the West German Government 40 per cent. and Italy 20 per cent. Over 10 years, that represents about £500 million to the United Kingdom Government, not the £1,000 million figure that is sometimes bandied around. From that £500 million, it is anticipated that the industry will provide between £150 million and £175 million, reducing the Government's commitment to between £300 million and £350 million.
The aircraft industry runs down this year. This certainly applies to the aircraft division based at Warton, near my constituency. Jobs, especially among the design team, are at risk. The P110 is vital in this regard. Once a design team is broken up, it is extraordinarily difficult to reconstitute it.
In regard to exports, the possibility of £6,000 million in foreign income is at stake. It may appeal to the right hon. Member for Llanelli (Mr. Davies), with his Treasury experience, to know that about £2,000 million in tax revenue, together with support services income, is also possible. Operationally, the aircraft meets the demands of what was the AST403 and is a step technologically towards the AST410, the STOVL aircraft.
Most important perhaps in terms of the emotion that surrounds defence is that any alternative to the P110, a 194 necessary aircraft, will entail buying foreign. That prospect is unacceptable to me, and I suspect to many hon. Members. It is, I hope, recognised that defence spending must be raised at least to the 4 per cent. level suggested by SACEUR. This argument was eloquently expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) last Thursday. By following this course, many of the problems to which hon. Members have referred will be resolved. Above all, we shall be able to fund the P110, which is vital not only to the Preston factories of British Aerospace but to the subcontractors and other members of the consortium who are actively involved.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)
What is the cost of this aircraft relative to the cost of the air defence version of the Tornado?
§ Mr. Atkins
I shall tread cautiously in this regard. I am not privy to all the detailed figures that my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton no doubt has at his fingertips. I shall not therefore be drawn into the argument unless my hon. Friend has some information.
§ Mr. Walker
The figure, I understand, is about £7.5 million, as against £14.5 million for the air defence version of the Tornado.
§ Mr. Atkins
It is pleasant to have informed friends ready to leap to one's aid. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides recognise the vital importance of the project in a wide variety of areas. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Chertsey and Walton will be able to give me confidence that the Government intend to move towards funding this aircraft in the near future.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)
I shall not take up the remarks of the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins), who has spoken about a constituency interest in the P110. I hope to learn more of the significance of that aircraft in coming days. However, I wish to speak directly of my own constituency where the naval base and dockyard of Rosyth is located. Other hon. Members representing dockyard constituencies have referred to the work undertaken to meet the Falklands crisis. I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the wonderful work done at Rosyth.
We are thankful that some of the ships sent out originally from Rosyth such as the "Plymouth" and the "Yarmouth" will be returning. I understand that the frigate "Plymouth" is due to return in the next week or so. We are grateful for a change of policy by the Government which means that the "Fife" county class destroyer has been reprieved. There is nothing that better indicates the patched-up and patchwork nature of the White Paper than the omission of a massive annex that appeared in the previous year's White Paper dealing with merchant fleets.
There is nothing in the current White Paper to show the importance of the Merchant Navy in the Falklands crisis, nor that the Government have grasped the importance of having a suitable and viable Merchant Navy to support other naval operations. When I raised the question last Thursday of a replacement for the "Atlantic Conveyor", the response was clearly a bromide. No other nation with a maritime background and depending on a naval strategy would be so mealy-mouthed as to say that it would be left to the vagaries of the market to decide a replacement for a ship like the "Atlantic Conveyor". As my right hon.
195 Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has remarked, it will be necessary to pay more attention to merchant ships if massive use of naval forces is contemplated in future. It is therefore absurd to rely on foreign yards to build ships for the Merchant Navy.
We are seeing the rundown of our maritime capability. The Select Committee on Industry examined British shipbuilding. There is need for a maritime strategy. Part of that strategy should be devoted to ensuring an increase of merchant vessels built in British yards. There has also been a rundown in refits in the dockyards. In 1976–77 there were 58 major and normal refits. In 1980–81, the figure had fallen to 38. I concede that refits are becoming much more complicated and more costly. I appeal to the Minister to give further information about the dockyard study to which reference is made in paragraph 521 of the White Paper. All the paragraph says is:the Dockyard Study referred to in last year's Statement is now being re-examined in the light of the defence programme review to see to what extent its recommendations remain valid.I imagine that few of its recommendations remain valid in the light of the Falklands dispute. I want to know what the Government intend to do about the overall position of the dockyards. What are the implications, if Trident is set in train, for the refit programme of a dockyard such as Rosyth? I understand that an "Ohio" type class submarine is to be built in the United Kingdom. Is it intended that the refit will take place at Rosyth or at Devonport? Or is some other programme of study to be embarked upon? Those in Rosyth who recognise that the programme had to be set aside because of the commitment to the needs of the Falklands crisis want to know about the long-term programme. I take the view that it is questionable whether we should build Trident. I am not unilateralist. I have made my view clear. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) is not here. He flits in and makes his inflammatory speech, and before anyone can reply he walks out. Privy Councillors have that privilege.
One of the major arguments against Trident, as my right hon. and hon. Friends have pointed out, is that payments for it will swallow 15 to 20 per cent. of the Ministry of Defence's capital expenditure from the end of this decade until the middle of the next. There was some argument as to what would be included in capital expenditure. That is the view of David Greenwood, the director of the centre for defence studies at Aberdeen. I presume that he knows what is meant by capital expenditure, and that is an enormous chunk of the expenditure that would go on equipment.
If the view is taken that we should remove ourselves from the strategic nuclear deterrent area—I accept that is what it means and that Polaris will not last much beyond 1990—then certain other things are set in train. The buildup of what are loosely called conventional weapons has to be considered. Currently we rely on a threat to destroy the whole of the northern hemisphere to keep West Germany free. To anyone who looks at the matter sensibly that is an absurd proposition.
I am not sure that it is correct to take the view that the major threat is that posed by the Soviet Union. I believe that there is a great deal to be said for the views expressed by Gerald Smith, who led the United States of America in the SALT 1 discussions. It was felt that there was great advantage in new technology by which one man could knock out a number of tanks with new weapons. There was 196 evidence of the vulnerability of tanks to new weapons during the Yom Kippur war. If the great advantage of the Soviet Union is in their tanks, what are the Government's views about the new technology? We have heard little about that.
I pay regard to the changing nature of Soviet power and believe that it has moved away from looking at Europe. I do not pretend to be an expert, but if one looks at Jane's "Fighting Ships" one must be impressed by the might of the Soviet navy. It is not a navy that is content with looking at Europe; it is looking at the Soviet world role. If we are to combat that, our Navy must have a world role. I accept what is said about SSNs, but it is absolutely absurd that a gestation period of almost 10 years is needed to get a replacement for the "Oberon" class diesel-powered submarine. There are arguments for SSNs and diesel-powered submarines, but equally there is an argument for a powerful surface fleet. My criticism of the Government is the same as that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East—that they have not considered that.
For a long time we have been designing and redesigning ships when we should have been moving ahead because that would provide jobs for our shipyards. It should have been done for a long time and not just as a result of the Falklands crisis.
There has been a great deal of criticism about materials used on the ships. I take those criticisms on board, but I recognise that ships in any war will be sunk and the most inflammable and dangerous material used on a ship is fuel and ammunition. The other materials of course have to be looked at. The Admiralty marine research technology establishment is a unique centre in my constituency that was being run down. What role will it be given in assessing the consequences of the Falklands campaign on ship design?
We have had no discussion of new technology. One of the most fearful aspects of the White Paper appears in para 312 headed "Space". It states:The Soviet Union devotes enormous resources to the development and operation of spacecraft. This effort is steadily increasing. The number of satellites launched gives an indication of the scale of the Soviet programme: in 1981 the total was 124. By contrast the West launched 28. A comparison of the number of rocket launchers used to put single or multiple payloads into orbit shows an all-time total by the end of 1981 of 1,437 for the Soviet Union, 7861or the United States and 45 for the rest of the world.I remember going to an election meeting where Lord Bertrand Russell received guffaws of laughter from the audience when he said that humanity would be capable of producing satellites that went round the world and fired whenever attacking forces desired. That was fancy, but I have been told that the Soviet Union has a satellite in space with a life of 4,000 years. We argue about deterrence, but how does the West react to that fearful prospect? How do we make the Soviet Union recognise that space should be peaceful? I am annoyed at the Government and my party for not saying what is in train because those of us who are not experts cannot comprehend what is happening.
If people had seen at the time what was happening in Goose Green, San Carlos and elsewhere in the Falklands, they would have been horrified. One of the most terrible things I have seen was some of our people returning to this country who were not our nationals, and what hurt me most was to be told—I hope the Minister will deny it—that these people, who were mainly catering staff, had to go through immigration. That is a disgrace, and one I hope 197 that can be expunged. Our Forces deserve great credit. I pay my tribute to them all. I hope that the House will pay regard to those effects of the Falklands campaign.
§ Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)
This debate and the one that took place last Thursday established four good points. First, there is the recognition of the invaluable role of the Royal Navy. There has been complete agreement about that. Secondly, although this is not a united view, there is a recognition of the need to maintain the British Army of the Rhine. Thirdly—there is far from united recognition here—should Trident be sacrificed to make room for expenditure on conventional weapons? Fourthly, most of those who have contributed to the debate have tried to take up the challenge that has been thrown down by the Government, especially by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, about the need to face painful choices.
I shall make some brief observations on those four issues as a Back Bencher, as a member of the NATO Assembly and especially as a member of the military and political committees and chairman of the manpower sub-committee of the NATO Assembly.
In his foreword to the White Paper, my right hon. Friend states:Only when the Falklands crisis has been fully studied will we be in a position to take reasoned and considered decisions on what adjustments need to be made to the defence programme". How right he is. With respect to the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the Prime Minister of the former Labour Government, who spoke with considerable authority, it seemed that he was already making some considerable and rather sweeping sudden adjustments. The effect of his proposal would be to destroy the efficacy of the British Army of the Rhine. It seems that he would withdraw it and that is would cease to be the British Army of the Rhine. He argued that the best way out of our expenditure difficulties is no longer to remain a nuclear power and no longer to be a contributor to the land forces of Western Europe. He suggested that we should concentrate exclusively on the Royal Air Force and on our maritime tradition.That is too sweeping a judgment to make. It is one that runs away from the main problems that we face. The Royal Navy has a vital role to play. Those of us who consider these matters from a NATO point of view are increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of NATO in the northern and southern flanks, in which a maritime capability can play an important part. In NATO there is a growing perception of an increasing risk that hostilities can develop in areas outside NATO, which are of vital concern to NATO. The perception of the risk has grown with the growth of the Soviet fleet, which now can operate worldwide. The need to have the ability to operate outside the NATO area, which means a maritime capability, is one that the United States has taken up with its rapid deployment force.
There is little doubt that our American friends in NATO accept prime responsibility. They recognise that there are interests that are European and that are outside NATO. If we are to carry American public opinion with us, it will be necessary for us to recognise that the Royal Navy can play a part, should it be necessary, rather than leave the 198 United States to go it alone. For example, we, too, have vital interests in the Gulf. If there is an outbreak of hostilities, which could break out into something more important, in the Indian Ocean or elsewhere, we should be there to help out. This suggests that the strength of our Navy will need to be enhanced, in view of the possibility of undertaking duties outside the NATO area, including the East Atlantic.
I do not want to draw too rash a conclusion because in doing so I would fall into the trap into which others have fallen. However, the preliminary studies that we make of the Falkland Islands campaign leads us to ask "Is the role of the Royal Navy, or of any navy, one which has a real future and which is credible in the face of modern missile tactics, strategy and capabilities, or is a navy really a sitting duck?" This question is posed because of the losses that we suffered. There is no time to go into the details, much as I should like to do so. In any event, we can expect a full study from the Government.
The way in which the Navy behaved in the South Atlantic tells me that there is a role for it and that it can protect itself in future. The costs of strengthening its defences and its ability to protect itself may not be as great as some might imagine. If they think that that will be a heavy burden, they must come to the conclusion, as others have, that something must give elsewhere. In doing so, they will have to argue that the role must be taken up by the Air Force or the Army. They probably adopt this argument because they fear that the lessons to be learnt from the Falkland Islands campaign will be expensive.
I speak with an open mind. I feel that those who argue against the strengthening of the Navy probably believe that we were outsmarted by the Argentines to the detriment of the Navy. I do not think that we were.
The British Army of the Rhine is professional but it is small. It would have a catastrophic effect on our allies if we were seriously to entertain withdrawing this small but effective army. I see no other group that is likely to come from the Dutch or the Germans that could match what the British force does in playing a supportive role on the central front in Western Europe. I do not know how it could be argued in Washington that it is vital for the defence of the United States to station about 300,000 of its men in Europe while we feel that it is not vital to station 55,000 of our men in Europe. In political terms, let alone defence terms, that does not add up. Neither would it add up for those countries on the continent of Europe which have conscription and believe that we should.
I have discussed this issue with many politicians and military staff in the course of my duties as a member of the manpower sub-committee. We can get away with the argument that we do not need conscription because we fulfil certain roles with the Royal Navy and the Air Force and because we have highly professional forces. However, if we reduce our forces in Europe or withdraw them, that argument will prove impossible to sustain. The pressure will then be on us to fulfil our role in NATO by introducing conscription.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), whose knowledge in these matters is widely respected on both sides of the House, suggested that the important thing about a military presence in central Europe is not the reserves but the forces in being. He argued that if the forces in being are ready and available to defend, they deter. The decision to move soldiers in a crisis will always be a difficult one. How right my hon. Friend is.
199 He is supported by a former commander of the British Army of the Rhine, General Sir Harry Tuzo, who thinks that the warning of any attack on NATO, certainly on the central front, could come in the form of fragmentary, confused and ambiguous signs. In The Times today, he writes that a decision to move large blocks of troops across the Channelwill be stigmatised by some as provocation but will in any case, make a strong political and emotional impact in the countries concerned".Those of us who live in the shadow of the Falkland Islands war know that the decision to send a task force while negotiations were still proceeding was regarded by some hon. Members as provocative. By stationing our Air Force and ground forces on the Continent of Europe we avoid falling into that trap. The problem becomes simpler and our forces, as my hon. Friend rightly said, will be seen to be acting as a true deterrent.
I do not want to rehash the Trident argument, but I believe that it would be folly now for a British Government to give the signal to the Soviet Union that we no longer believe that Trident or a British nuclear missile system has any strategic role to play. From the figures that I have heard today the cost arguments do not prove that on these grounds alone it should no longer be in our budget.
The costs in terms of proportion of defence effort and equipment do not at any time, as I understand the figures from the Government White Paper, exceed those that we have comfortably afforded or, if we have not comfortably afforded, agreed should be part of the cost of the development of a conventional aeroplane such as the Tornado.
There is also the wider political argument. As someone who respects the United States enormously, I say that it is prone to making political miscalculations and misjudgments along with the rest of us. If the Russians thought that they could take the risk of attacking the Alliance in the mistaken belief that the United States would not be prepared to use its nuclear weapons, they would have to take into account a nuclear weapon force which is British and European based. If we were to deny ourselves that, the risks and uncertainties of starting a war would be that much greater.
§ Mr. Allen McKay (Penistone)
If the hon. Gentleman is arguing that we should fulfil our commitments to the British Army of the Rhine by keeping the forces there, why does he not argue that, instead of an independent nuclear deterrent, we should have a NATO deterrent?
§ Sir Geoffrey Johnson-Smith
It would be nice to try to work out a NATO deterrent—our deterrent is NATO targeted and to that extent it is a NATO deterrent—but if one is thinking of having a command system that embraces all the nations, one is restricted by the problem that Germany does not want any part of it. If Germany did want a part of that system old enmities would be aroused. There would be one dickens of a political football if that sort of argument were started again. We have a deterrent in British hands and our friends in NATO are happy that it should be. It is targeted within NATO but they recognise that in certain circumstances we have the right to use it. They know the sort of circumstances that we have in mind.
I turn to my fourth point, which has been very much established during the two-day debate—the choice thrown to us by the Secretary of State. In one sense there is no choice. No one who takes these matters seriously could 200 argue that we have the choice of reduction in expenditure. There are some who think that that argument does not stand up, certainly not in the light of previous events and certainly not when one looks at the figures of the growing threat of Soviet arms expenditure.
Investment in defence is investment in peace because strong defence is the best way of preventing a potential enemy from making miscalculations, as has happened so often in the past, about our resolve and our ability to defend ourselves. I know that some hon. Members believe that we spend too large a proportion of our GNP on defence expenditure but that is not the only way to measure these matters, although perhaps it is the most accurate way. We spend more of our GNP because we are poorer. Our GNP is smaller than that of France or Germany. We do not spend more per head than the Germans or the French. If we want to argue on those terms, so be it. If we want to do that, we will lose our influence. But there is much more than that. We would begin to lose the battle. We would begin rot to provide effective forces. We would no longer act in any sense as a reliable military ally in NATO and by our playing around with figures, by deciding, as the Opposition have, that we should reduce the proportion of GNP to spend on defence, we would be getting out of the defence business altogether. For the reasons I have already mentioned, that would be fatal. Defence expenditure helps industry and sustains employment at a time when it is vitally necessary to sustain both. It keeps alive important technical skills in Britain.
I conclude as I began. There is no option but to consider the possibility of some increase in expenditure. I believe also that the Government's strategy is right. It is a balanced strategy between Navy, Army and Air Force. It may be that, as a result of the Falklands, more will have to go to the Navy, but if more has to go to the Navy at the cost of sacrificing the efficiency of the Air Force and the Army, in the face of the evidence of the Soviet threat, future generations will think us shortsighted and that we walked a perilous path.
§ Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)
The hon. Member for East Grinstead (Sir G. Johnson Smith) deployed his arguments on the basis of the defence statement prepared by the Government. I differ from him in a number of respects on the four issues that formed the theme of his speech. Unlike him, and in common with many of ray right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches, I consider that the defence statement was out of date before it was officially published.
The statement fails to take account of the Falklands crisis and many other world facts. On that basis it should be rejected in the Lobbies tonight. The basic assumption on which the statement rests is that the main threat to the United Kingdom is posed by the USSR and its allies. On that basis the argument for rearmament and for participation in the arms race is justified. I believe that the main threat to the United Kingdom and to many other countries is world war or our becoming involved in a major conflict that will destroy our way of life, and perhaps life itself. Our policy must therefore have as its main objective the safeguarding and protection of our people against such an eventuality.
The history of recent decades and a survey of the world scene underlines the fact that the biggest threat to world peace today arises not in Europe or in the developed 201 countries but in the Third world where there are innumerable instabilities that could lead to a war at any time. Events only this year illustrate that. There was the conflict in the South Atlantic, the conflict in the Middle East and the continuing Iraqi-Iranian war. Neither the USSR nor its allies have been directly involved in those wars. Today, Africa, Asia and Latin America are seething with problems that could easily lead to war that could escalate and spread far beyond ordinary expectations into a major conflict.
This is not new. The First World War arose out of an escalating arms race between the great powers at that time, with instability on the fringes that produced a succession of crises. There was Morocco in 1905, Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908, Morocco in 1911, the Balkan War in 1912 and the shooting of the Archduke of Austria at Sarajevo in 1914. The last-mentioned event plunged the world into armed conflict far beyond anything that most leading statesmen at the time imagined possible. There are parallels today, but despite that the great powers vie with each other to sell arms to the Third world where the greatest danger arises of the type of conflicts to which I have referred breaking out. The competition to sell arms is a form of Russian roulette in which the Russians may not be involved. No one knows whose Blowpipe or Exocet missiles will eventually be used against whose Service men. Regardless of our experience in the conflict with Argentina, the defence statement in paragraph 409 states:We shall also be paying greater attention to the sales potential of projects and programmes authorised for the Armed Forces.It is estimated that defence sales transactions in 1982–83 will be £1,800 million. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) referred earlier to the sale of warships. Even as the task force was setting sail for the South Atlantic, we were transferring a former destroyer, HMS "London", to the Pakistan navy. In what way would such a transfer help to promote world peace?
We have supplied arms and trained forces and seconded our own personnel to train foreign forces in a long list of countries that are wholly devoid of any democratic practices and which not infrequently have appalling records on human rights, which they have denied and trampled underfoot.
Last year, the Secretary of State for Defence, when challenged by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) on arms sales to dictatorships such as Chile, El Salvador and Argentina, stated in defence of his policy:I regret that there are many dictatorships in the world, and if we sold defence equipment only to countries with our constitutional arrangements, our sales would be very small".—[Official Report, 21 July 1981; Vol. 9, c. 156.]Frankly, that is the morality of the pimp or the drug pusher. The merchants of death are sowing dragon's teeth in flagrant defiance of what experience shows, and our experience in the South Atlantic ought to convince us of the need to turn our backs on this particularly pernicious policy.
The military cliques, juntas and dictators that we arm are the largest threat to the peoples whom they claim to defend. The military coup is now becoming the standard way of changing a government in many parts of the world. To defend the suicidal rush to supply the means of destruction to the world's dictatorships is like laying a trail 202 of gunpowder to our own back door, because sooner or later one of the crises that will explode, which will be fought with weapons supplied by the great powers, will embroil us all in a major world conflict.
Side by side with that madness, we are indulging in an unparallelled race to develop, manufacture and deploy ever more destructive nuclear weapons systems on the ground that the only real threat comes from the Soviet Union. The Falklands crisis showed that nuclear weapons cannot be used to our advantage in many—I would say all—circumstances. Even the advocates of nuclear weapons usually accept that if they were ever used, the deterrent theory on which their possession is based would have failed.
The price of deploying nuclear weapons on our territory and in our submarines against the Soviet Union is to have Soviet nuclear weapons targeted on our country. That means that any nuclear attack on the Soviet Union from any source—even a reckless or accidental attack—could result in those missiles targeted against us being launched on their way. Those attacked could not afford to delay to ascertain the origin of the attack even if it were not clear. In those circumstances, the weapons deployed on our soil do not defend us but put our people at a tremendous risk.
The vast expenditure involved in deploying such weapons is not merely a waste but increases our vulnerability to destruction. Furthermore, if we allow another power to deploy its weapons on our soil, we run an additional risk that they could be used without our being properly consulted, despite the claims that that could never occur.
I have never argued in favour of a vast escalation of defence expenditure, and in that respect I oppose the commitment of the Government, the SDP and the Liberal Party. I believe that Britain would be much safer and more secure if it used the money at present devoted to nuclear weapons to provide adequate conventional forces to defend our country. That is the basic case advanced by the Labour Party.
When the ships arrived in the South Atlantic, they had no effective defence against sea-skimming missiles. When the Secretary of State was challenged on this point—relatives of Service men on those ships told me that they had no proper form of defence—he said that we did not have that defence because the Russians did not possess sea-skimming missiles. However, we had nuclear weapons that we could not use. It would be very much better if our defence expenditure was made on equipment and weapons that we shall need in the real world.
If Britain renounced nuclear weapons and promoted schemes for nuclear-free zones and non-proliferation, our country would be less likely to be the victim of nuclear attack than it is at present. Furthermore, it would help to convince other countries that they do not need nuclear weapons to defend themselves. Although the Minister renounced the contrary point of view when challenged, the logic of his position is that if we need nuclear weapons to defend ourselves, every other country has a case for possessing them as well. We must all be aware of the tremendous increase in the danger of world and nuclear war that that would mean.
Britain should take a lead against arms sales and seek to persuade other countries to do likewise. The world would become less, not more, likely to be beset with 203 armed conflicts in developing countries if we greatly reduced the continued sale of armaments to Third world countries.
The sort of policy that I have defended, and which the Labour Party is advancing, would not mean discarding our conventional defence forces. Conservative Members should not argue that case. On the contrary, we believe that our defence forces should be well trained and equipped to deal with any circumstances that they may reasonably be expected to face. We can never justify the sacrifice of conventional defence to build up nuclear capability. If we still cannot afford conventional defences on the scale that is necessary, I and a number of my hon. Friends believe that we should begin withdrawing our forces from Germany. The resources that became available could then be deployed in the interests of Britain.
Government policy as set out in the White Paper does not recognise or attempt to fulfil the requirements that I have indicated for Britain's defence policy. The statement should be rejected on these grounds. It fails to meet the real defence needs of Britain and it provides for an escalation of defence expenditure. In that respect, the Government are now supported by the Liberals and the SDP, and I hope that the supporters of the alliance outside the House will take careful note of what it is saying in here, as many of those supporters are not saying the same thing.
If we continue escalating defence expenditure, we shall cripple our economy and destroy any hope of a real recovery, as President Reagan is already finding with the policy of escalating arms expenditure in the United States. I believe, as I have always believed, that it is up to hon. Members to take a stand against the madness of the nuclear arms race. Accordingly, I hope that we shall register in the Division Lobbies a good vote against the statement. It is against the real interests of the defence of the people of this country.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
I begin by paying tribute to our Armed Forces in the South Atlantic, the dockyard workers who volunteered to accompany them and the men and, all too often forgotten, the women of the Merchant Marine. In their skill and courage they have no equal among the armed forces of any nation. I know that that is a view shared on both sides of the House. We mourn those who did not return and who by their gallantry and sacrifice made the victory possible. Nor should we forget in our deliberations today the dangers faced by those who serve us so well in Northern Ireland.
The lessons of the Falklands are many and will be pondered for many years. We all have our pet lessons that we feel ought to be learnt. Broadly speaking, the lessons fall into two categories—tactical and strategic. At a tactical level, the most obvious one is the vulnerability of surface ships to attack by submarine and by air. The power of nuclear hunter-killer submarines was vividly demon-strated not merely by the sinking of the "Belgrano" but by the fact that thereafter the entire Argentine navy was effectively bottled up by a handful of British submarines so that General Galtieri had little more than his bathtub in which to play battleships.
The necessity for air cover was once again vividly demonstrated, if it was not already clear. The Harriers and, above all, their pilots performed superbly, losing not one aircraft in air-to-air combat. None the less, it was a 204 close run thing, and had the Falkland Islands been 100 miles closer to the Argentine mainland it would have made the entire operation one of great risk.
Why, one must ask, are there no tracked Rapiers deployed with British forces today? This equipment has been available for several years. It was designed originally for the Shah of Iran, but successive Governments have failed to press ahead and order it. The tragedy of Bluff Cove could have been avoided had tracked Rapiers been available. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced that three batteries of mobile Rapiers—by which I presume he meant the tracked version—are to be ordered now.
The need for the Royal Air Force to have a long-range strike capability was also vividly demonstrated. The Vulcan strikes were probably the longest strategic bombing raids ever mounted by any air force in the world. They involved nine in-flight refuellings for each aircraft striking Port Stanley.
Why, one must ask, were they equipped only with 1,000-lb iron bombs of Second World War vintage 15 years after the Six-Day War—which I had the opportunity to report and write a book about—made clear the effectiveness of the Israeli so-called runway dibber bombs? Why does it take, with our system of committees in the MoD, 15 years to develop an effective airfield denial weapon? It is something that must cause us grave concern. We have one in the pipeline, but it was not available this spring. It will not be available until next year. Perhaps my right hon. Friend can say something about that, and about what is to be the future of the Vulcan force.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been criticised for publishing the White Paper, but let us not forget that, however glorious our victory in the South Atlantic, it was a limited war against a third-rate power. The threat to the people of these islands will come not from what the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) called a "tinpot Fascist dictatorship" in Latin America but from the conventional nuclear forces of the Soviet Union. It is those forces that pose a constant threat of world war and nuclear war.
More important even than the tactical lessons learnt from the Falklands are the strategic ones. These have a direct application to the Soviet threat that confronts us. It has been said that we were attacked with little warning. The Prime Minister, in a radio interview recorded in New York during her recent visit, remarked on this to the interviewer. She said that there had been no warning time. This is something that is deeply entrenched in the Foreign Office ethos of how war should be conducted. There should be no war without a proper warning time and we have been told, with reference to the Soviet threat, that we can rely on a warning time. Smoke signals will appear from the Kremlin when it plans to move.
If there is one thing that one can deduce from the volumes of Soviet military writings and doctrine it is that it is at the heart of its doctrine to exercise to the maximum the advantage of surprise. In 1968 I was in Prague reporting in the weeks before the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. It was no surprise that it was at the moment when the Soviets were engaged with their Czech allies at Czarna and Bratislava that the military attack on Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union came.
I pray that there will not be, but if there is to be a third world war initiated by the Soviets, one can be sure that it will be when we are sitting round a disarmament table in 205 Geneva. It will come at the moment when one least expects it. I hope that we shall learn this vital lesson about warning time. It is not something that should be relied on.
A further lesson that is clear from the Falklands operation is that more often than not, certainly in the present century, wars arise from miscalculation. British Governments, sad to say, with the Foreign Office in the forefront inevitably, have an unfortunate track record of misleading dictators. We did it effectively with Signor Mussolini and Herr Hitler, and now we have done it again with General Galtieri, falling victim to this peculiar and particular form of diplomacy in which we convince our prospective opponents that we shall not resist them if they attack. It is vital that those who hold sway in the Kremlin should never be placed in the position of miscalculating what might be the reaction of the British Government and our allies in NATO.
The recent demonstration of resolve by the British Prime Minister and Government and, above all, by the British nation as a whole, will not have been lost on the Soviet leadership. That is almost certainly the most important aspect of our victory in the Falklands, because it is on Soviet perceptions of the resolve of Britain and her allies that the peace of the world today depends.
The Falklands operation has provided a vivid demonstration of the fact that deterrence is invariably cheaper than war. We did not do enough to deter war in the South Atlantic, and it is appropriate that there should be an inquiry, but—far more serious—we are not doing enough as a nation or as an alliance to ensure the maintenance of peace by a policy of deterring war. That is the foundation of the NATO strategy. Our vast outlays, collectively as an alliance, on defence, are not so as the better to fight a war or the better to win a war, but so that that war which is unthinkable in the nuclear age will never come upon us.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) has emphasised on more than one occasion in our debates that the strategic deterrent is an essential component of our defences. It is idle for Opposition Members to talk about scrapping Trident and devoting the resources to a larger Navy, so that we may more effectively take on more tinpot dictatorships in Latin America. That would completely undermine any basis for any independent military action in the future, should that prove necessary, by this country. We have already heard in this debate how, at the time of Suez in 1956, the Soviets used the threat of nuclear blackmail to try to forestall Britain's intervention in the Middle East. Now that we have the nuclear deterrent, it is significant that no such threat—so far as we know—was ever made by the present incumbents of the Kremlin. I do not believe that even those sitting below the Gangway on the Opposition Benches would suggest that that is out of an excess of good nature on the part of the men in the Kremlin. It is, above all, because we have a nuclear deterrent, and it is absolutely vital to maintain that strategic capability.
I find it regrettable that the internecine warfare between the Services outside this House should have been reflected in our debates in this Chamber. I fear that it is inevitable that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) appears to favour a larger Army at the expense of Trident, while my hon. Friend the Member for 206 Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark), having a naval con-stituency, not surprisingly favours a larger Navy at the expense of the Rhine Army. The right hon. Member for Deptford, speaking on behalf of the Opposition, pretends to favour the same line—a larger Navy at the expense of Trident—but his claim and that of his party are utterly disingenuous, not to say dishonest, because the Labour Party is committed to slashing our defence budget by onethird—a sum equivalent to 10 times the entire Trident programme. The Labour Party's policy is one of unilateral disarmament—not only nuclear, but conventional. How can one provide for our conventional defences if at the same time one slashes by one-third the resources allocated to defence?
I do not share the enthusiasm of some right hon. and hon. Members for robbing Peter to pay Paul in this context. The fact is that we need more resources for defence all round. It is essential that we maintain a well-balanced capability to respond effectively to a wide variety of threats—limited, major, conventional or nuclear.
It has been suggested that we should reduce, or even withdraw, the British Army of the Rhine and RAF Germany, but it is Britain's participation on the central front that represents a vital contribution to NATO's capability to deter war. Of 55,000 Soviet tanks, 30,000 face us in Western Europe, and the Rhine is Britain's front line of defence. Even in the present situation, Britain is no more than 22½ minutes' flying time from the Soviet air bases in East Germany. We could not contemplate the fall of West Germany and other parts of Western Europe without gravely undermining the whole basis of our security here. I welcome the fact that the present Administration have increased by 25 per cent. the number of tanks that we have manned in the Rhine Army at present. To reduce or withdraw the British Army of the Rhine and British RAF Germany would lower the nuclear threshold, increase the risk of war, and pull the rug politically from under our allies in Europe. Our Army is already far too small, and to withdraw it would be to demobilise it. Certainly I see no scope for savings in the British armed forces in Germany.
The air defence of the United Kingdom and our surrounding waters remain a critical area of weakness. I am delighted that the Government are to arm 70 Hawk trainers, but when will that programme be completed? Perhaps my hon. Friend, in winding up, will tell us. The fact is as I had occasion to say in a defence debate when I sat on the Opposition Benches five years ago—and nothing has changed to this day—we have no more than 70 air defence aircraft available for defending our shores, the North Sea, the Channel, and the Western approaches. Seventy aircraft are far too few.
The vital importance of airborne early-warning radar has been demonstrated in recent weeks in the south Atlantic. When will Nimrod AEW be in service? Will it now have in-flight refuelling installed from the word go, as I suggested earlier this year? I was told that that was not being contemplated at that time.
We need a larger and more capable Air Force. Certainly I see no room for cuts there.
Then there is the defence of the United Kingdom base. In the face of eight Soviet airborne divisions, the United Kingdom home defences are grossly inadequate. While the addition of 20,000 reservists proposed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is a worthwhile beginning, it in no way matches the gravity of the threat. We as a 207 nation should aim at being able to mobilise no fewer than ½ million men and women under arms for the defence of our homeland. Territorials are the most cost-effective form of manpower, and I see no room for budget cutting on that front either.
I have already mentioned the strategic deterrent, and in my view it is right to go ahead with the purchase of Trident. Certainly it is the most cost-effective system that is available to us, and it is one-third less than the cost of the RAF's Tornado programme.
That brings me, finally, to the Royal Navy, which is so much in our thoughts at present and so much a bone of contention in our debate. The Secretary of State was right last year to see the nuclear hunter-killers as the capital ships of today and to shift the emphasis increasingly towards a sub-surface navy, including the announcement of a new class of diesel-electric submarine. We must also maintain a substantial force of surface ships to safeguard our supply and energy lines around the Cape and, above all, the NATO reinforcement capability across the North Atlantic, on which the entire strategy of NATO depends.
I am delighted that the Government have rethought their plan to reduce the Royal Navy to a two-carrier fleet by its decision to retain "Invincible". I know that I am not alone in expressing my gratitude to the Premier and Government of Australia for their generous offer in that regard. However, that cannot be done within the existing budget.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
The hon. Gentleman is obviously privy to information which other hon. Members, and perhaps his own Front Bench, have not received. When did Mr. Sinclair give that great concession and have the Government agreed on "Invincible" remaining?
§ Mr. Churchill
It was not Mr. Sinclair who made such a concession; it was Mr. Fraser. He said that he would be more than happy to renegotiate the agreement and if Britain wished to retain "Invincible" he would be agreeable to that, although reluctant. My right hon. Friend has made clear his wish to retain "Invincible". I know that he will have the support of almost all Conservative Members.
It is urgent that a significant proportion of the resources that have recently been lost to the defence budget be restored. Last year, supported by 10 of my hon. and right hon. Friends, I tabled an amendment to the Prime Minister's motion on the Defence Estimates for 1981–82. It backed the Secretary of State's defence priorities but expressed the view that greater resources should be provided to safeguard peace and freedom. Nothing that has happened in recent months causes me or my hon. Friends to modify that view. Indeed, it reinforces it. We must have more resources for defence.
Britain is currently devoting no more than 10.5 per cent. of its public expenditure budget to defence. To raise it to the levels pertaining in the mid-1960s would require a 50 per cent. increase in the existing defence budget. It is urgent that a significant proportion of the resources that have been lost to defence over recent years should be restored. In that context, one area that might be looked at is the £1,926 million currently being devoted to the work of the Manpower Services Commission and other make-work projects. With so many jobs to be filled in defence, and with the external threat so grave, it defies belief that 208 such resources could not be better allocated in the provision of real jobs and real security. For that reason, I appeal to my right hon. and hon. Friends to insist that the Government do what is necessary to strengthen our defences and to safeguard peace.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
To take up one of the points made by the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), page 34 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" shows that the United Kingdom comes third after the United States and France in defence spending on a per capita basis. The hon. Gentleman appears to be suggesting that we can go way ahead of that even though vast sums are already being spent on defence.
As this is the first speech from the Liberal Bench on the Defence Estimates, I should like to follow the example of other hon. Members and express my admiration, and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends, for the bravery, fortitude and leadership shown in the Falklands campaign by all the Forces involved—in which I include the Merchant Navy.
My constituency has had a long tradition of service in Her Majesty's Forces. As I found when I met some of the wives and mothers of my constituents recently, many of them were present in the South Atlantic. One at least, regrettably, lost his life, on HMS "Sheffield", and others were wounded.
It was an honour for me to attend the Camp Hill prison officers' club, last Saturday—we have three prisons on the Isle of Wight—where I received a cheque well in excess of £3,000 towards the South Atlantic fund. That shows some of the feeling on the island. It is a notable achievement for the prison officers to raise so much money.
It has long been the Liberal Party's policy to oppose the whole concept of the independent nuclear deterrent. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) does not need to remind me of the last war, but that certainly has been the Liberal Party's policy for the past 20 years. We have initiated several debates in the House on that subject—certainly two in the past two years.
We predicted at the time of those debates that Trident's cost would surely escalate from the then stated figure of a maximum of £5 billion. In paragraph 121 of the Defence Estimates statement, we see that the price has indeed soared to £7,500 million. That was the figure at last September, and no doubt it will go higher still.
I have listened to all the protestations to the contrary from various defence spokesmen, but there is no doubt that that burden will have a seriously constricting effect on the provision of adequate conventional equipment. That is the main area of our disagreement with existing Government policies. We are strong supporters of NATO and should like to see—as our joint amendment clearly implies—more money spent on the development and purchase of the best available conventional weapons.
The Warsaw Pact countries certainly possess a marked superiority in the number of battle tanks. The figures show a ratio of about 2.5 to 1. My understanding is—I do not claim any expertise in the field—that tank technology is now relatively static, while at the same time there have been substantial advances in the development of anti-tank devices.
As so many hon. Members have already pointed out, some of our ships in the Falklands did not have the benefit 209 of the latest missiles, such as Sea Wolf. That was because cuts had to be made, although it has proved to be a costly mistake. As an ex-matelot myself, I thought that our ships did extremely well. I thought that we might lose more. We did not lose a carrier, the QE2 or the Canberra. Those ships were protected remarkably well. I should like to know how many planes were shot down by our ships. I believe that it was quite substantial.
Effective investment in conventional forces, which must include renewed efforts at standardisation within NATO, using the most modern equipment, raises the nuclear threshold and therefore positively reduces the threat of nuclear war. It also puts in doubt the concept of the so-called "flexible response", which I am glad to see is now under attack from many reputable sources. I and my right hon. and hon. Friends share the views of Lord Zuckerman, Lord Carver, Mr. McNamara, the former United States Defence Secretary and others on that subject. We welcome the recommendations of the Palme report, with its call for the establishment of a battlefield nuclear weapon-free zone in Europe, starting with Central Europe and ultimately extending from the northern to the southern flanks of the two Alliances.
May I turn to the Secretary of State's speech last Thursday, and welcome the partial reprieve that was announced for Portsmouth, although I wish he had gone further. Many of my constituents work in the dockyard. I should like to congratulate the Portsmouth Evening News, which has run an effective campaign to stop the cuts in the harbour. It delivered a large petition to 10 Downing Street only the other day.
Like the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed), whose speech I listened to last Thursday, I believe that there is a role for Chatham if we are to keep our nuclear submarines adequately maintained. I am delighted to see that we are to build more, but if so, is it really to be said that Devonport and Rosyth can manage them all?
Where are the SSNs to be built? Do we only have one yard—I think it is Vickers—that can now build nuclear submarines? Will we reactivate Cammell Laird or somewhere else? That is the question I asked a year ago. Chatham has already proved itself in the role of maintaining nuclear submarines.
With Spain joining NATO, does it make sense to close Gibraltar? One senior American admiral, whom I shall not name, serving in the Mediterranean, would like to make use of some of Gibraltar's facilities. The dockyard workers in Gibraltar are also to be praised for their role in the Falklands dispute.
Although it may now be our intention to keep HMS "Invincible"—and I was interested to note that the hon. Member for Stretford seemed to have some inner knowledge—so far we have only been told that the decision has yet to be taken. I suspect that we may yet sell either HMS "Illustrious" or HMS "Ark Royal". That would be a great mistake. We need all three ships. Long before the Falkland Islands crisis, that same American admiral went on exercises with HMS "Invincible" and said that it was an exceptionally good ship and the American navy would like to have one like it.
I shall conclude on the subject of hovercraft. That will be no great surprise to the Minister. I do, of course have a major constituency interest. The first hovercraft invented by Sir Christopher Cockerell was built and launched at 210 Cowes as long ago as 1959. Yet despite its obvious attractions, the Royal Navy still, regrettably, cannot make up its mind about whether it wants any hovercraft operating in the fleet on a permanent basis. it is about to close facilities at Lee-on-the-Solent and I understand that it has sent its remaining hovercraft back to Cowes. The one purchased from Vosper Thornycroft is on the sales list. It was, of course, a mistake to purchase it from Vosper Thornycroft.
In the meantime, the Russian and American forces are making, or intend to make, very good use of this British-invented technology. Some hon. Members may have seen pictures of large hovercraft landing troops on the beaches during Warsaw pact exercises last autumn. I am now told that the United States Marines intend to build no fewer than 103 hovercraft during the next 10 years, each of which can carry one main battle tank for the Marines. It is known as the LCAC programme. Fortunately, there is a spin off, because the skirts will be built at Cowes under a £3 million contract.
It would surely have been a godsend if the force commanders in the Falkland Islands had been able to take advantage of large modern hovercraft to land troops and equipment on the beaches. I watched the film of tanks and heavy lorries coming off landing craft into what appeared to be fairly deep sea. At any moment, I expected one of them to stall. Perhaps we did not see those pictures. However, it would have been much easier to land straight on to the beaches.
I may be wrong, but I wonder whether the troops on HMS "Sir Galahad" would have had to wait there for three hours if we had had the ability to put them straight ashore. Some years ago a hovercraft was tested on the Falkland Islands, but I do not know the results of that exercise. However, there is another, more vital role for the hovercraft. I refer to its mine hunting capability. At present, there is a requirement for a single role mine hunter. It is referred to in paragraph 212 of the Estimates.
I understand that British Shipbuilders, a French-Dutch consortium and my local company, the British Hovercraft Corporation, have been asked to submit proposals, which will then be assessed in October. Given the prejudice that exists against air-cushioned vehicles in some naval circles—although not among the technicians—at this stage I ask only that the hovercraft should be given a fair crack of the whip. In the long run, it will be cheaper and more effective, as the trials at Lee-on-the-Solent must have proved. They tried hard enough to blow one up, but they singularly failed to do so. I ask the Minister to give me an assurance that the competition—that is what it should be—between the three different vessels is still open and that the outcome has not been prejudiced as some of us, regrettably, suspect.
§ 8.7 pm
§ Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)
It is a pleasure to speak after the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), whose constituency is just across the water from mine. He has made a valiant case for some of the industries in his area which will benefit from defence procurement. I agreed with some of his points, but he will not be surprised to hear that I did not agree with his comments on Trident. I am a firm adherent of that programme.
I add my tribute to those paid by others who have spoken in the debate and commend the valiant efforts of our Service men in the South Atlantic and elsewhere. I pay 211 special tribute to the Secretary of State for Defence, who has come in for some fairly tough criticism and press comment. In recent months he has had to shoulder an enormous burden of responsibility. It is remarkable that the whole campaign did not suffer greater losses. It is very much to my right hon. Friend's credit that so many of his decisions—a lot must have been finely balanced—were right. He deserves a fulsome tribute from Conservative Members and I am sure that those sentiments will be echoed by Opposition Members.
I also have drawn some pet lessons—as my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) referred to them—from the battle of the Falkland Islands. If anything, the conflict vindicates the defence strategy set out not only in this White Paper, but in previous Conservative Government White Papers. The broad strategy of moving away from numbers of vessels as floating targets and towards greater firepower, not only for our maritime forces, but for our airborne and land-based forces, is broadly sensible. The division of responsibilities between nuclear and conventional forces should be maintained, along with our presence in Central Europe. Our presence in Central Europe has been a matter of some contention in the debate but I broadly agree with the strategy that has been followed for the past few years.
The second lesson to be drawn is that we should not pay too much attention to the more extreme elements of the Naval lobby. Many people in my constituency press me hard on the matter, but next time round the conflict could be in an entirely different theatre. In such circumstances, an airborne capability could be the essential requirement instead of a maritime capability. If we had had a longer airfield on the Falkland Islands and if we had accepted the Shackleton committee's recommendation in this respect, we might—if we had had the fixed-wing aircraft—have been able to use airlifts of troops and we might even have been able to pre-empt the conflict. Major lessons can also be drawn from this by members of the previous Administration, who substantially reduced the RAF's Transport Command.
Lessons can also be drawn about the extent to which naval vessels should be better armed. There is a tremendous amount of work for the Admiralty surface weapons establishment. I am sure that it will carefully consider any assessement or report made by the Minister on necessary improvements.
The first part of the White Paper covers Trident. Many right hon. and hon. Members have commented on it. I was very sorry to hear the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), say that he had now decided that he is not in favour of Trident and that he thought our decision to order it was wrong. It is a matter of great regret that a former Prime Minister, whose sincerity and experience in such matters is unquestioned, should make such a decision after heading an Administration that substantially improved our existing nuclear deterrent through the Chevaline programme. I would point out to him that we are making a decision for the next generation. That weapons system will not only be the best guarantee of Britain's security and independence for the next 10 years, but perhaps for the next four decades. It will come on stream in the 1990s.
Some of us here today may be in the House in 2020 and we shall want to look back and see that the right long-term decision was made for our security interests that looked to the generation which would benefit rather than short-term 212 defence needs. It is impossible, given the development lead time of some of these weapons and technologies to finance, over a decade or less, weapons that are supposed to have a life of 30 years and a development period of 10 years. It is nonsense to look at it in that way. We should spread and discount the financing over a much longer time.
So much for the capital cost, which, on the latest estimate of £7.5 billion, is admittedly substantial. But one of the great advantages of this weapons system is not only that it provides the ultimate deterrent—so it has proved over the past 30 years—but that its current running costs, year on year, are relatively small. The annual cost of Polaris, our existing British nuclear deterrent, is £327 million this year, which is about the equivalent of building 15 miles of motorway. That expenditure amounts to 2.3 per cent. of our whole defence budget for that ultimate and very important guarantee of our national security.
As for personnel manning the nuclear deterrent, that accounts for only 2,400 men, which is only 0.7 per cent. of our defence manpower. Therefore, I would argue that the deterrent is highly cost-effective, that the running costs, year on year, are extremely low and that it is an excellent investment for our long-term security.
One reason why I very much agree with the White Paper is because it adheres to the re-equipment programme that was begun under the Labour Administration, but which has broadly been followed since then, despite the pressures on the budget in recent years. I especially welcome the continuing commitment to improving our air defences and the delivery, albeit on a slightly longer phased programme, of Tornado.
I share very much the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) in pressing for the P110 tactical combat aircraft to come on stream at the end of this decade in succession to the Jaguar. It is essential that we have this aircraft, and that it is British technology and British-bought technology, rather than presenting another generation of politicians with the only alternative of having to buy American because of a failure by this generation of politicians to decide now for the future. Political time scales in defence are far too short. They rarely exceed the time of the next general election and we should look to a much longer time scale.
There has been a great deal of comment about defence savings and the Secretary of State challenged many of us who have asked for improvements in our defence capability to say where we would make savings. It is surely right that, without any substantial further commitment to defence spending above the 3 per cent. real increase, any improvements in our capability can only be at the expense of other items in the defence budget.
Substantial moneys can be saved, not only within the defence budget, to make room for some of the priorities such as the P110, which I would like to see. Also, the Secretary of State should be better armed by many of his hon. Friends in his arguments in Cabinet for a greater shale of public expenditure for defence.
I shall consider first the savings that can be made. One of the substantial items of the so-called defence budget pensions for Service men, which I believe this year will cost £657 million. Another £240 million will go on assistance for Service men and their families with such things as education. Few other Departments of State have to bear on their own budget the pensions year by year of former employees or civil servants. They all come under 213 the Paymaster-General and are paid for separately. Yet with the Armed Forces, the entire pension cost comes from within the defence budget. It is a substantial sum that has risen by more than the rate of inflation in recent years and that makes a sizeable hole in what could otherwise be afforded in terms of defence equipment. I wish to see a redefinition of that expenditure.
Secondly, substantial savings could be made in local administration and communication, which will cost about £903 million this year. That is an enormously large sum for a rather amorphous description of activities. I hope that those responsible for those activities will examine much more incisively what is involved to see whether costs can be cut.
Thirdly, procurement should not be exempt from greater scrutiny. I know that the Select Committee examined it. The procurement executive, which is a large spender, should be subject to much more rigorous control and substantial change. Project definition, which has been the subject of improvement and where efficiencies have been made, needs even more economies and efficiencies. An inordinate amount of time is spent in the development process. To take a tactical combat aircraft as an example, we have been talking about that for more than five years. The time between taking the decision that we need such a weapons system and the time when it comes into service is often 10 or 15 years. Time costs an enormous amount of money in defence. We must try to reduce the entire development period and thereby save much money.
Many schemes would stand a much better chance of going ahead if we made decisions earlier. The previous Government spent a long time on bilateral discussions with the French, the Germans and the Italians about whether we should have a single or double-vectored thrust on tactical combat aircraft. The discussions proceeded slowly and eventually the scheme was dropped because we could not sustain the cost. As a result there is great uncertainty about the future of an essential front-line piece of air defence equipment.
§ Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)
Can my hon. Friend comment on the fact that the British aircraft industry has not sold the RAF on the idea that it needs the P110? Is that not a waste of time?
§ Mr. Nelson
That is not the information that I have. As my hon. Friend will know, the background to the project was an assessment of an air staff target. The RAF brought forward a blueprint of its requirements. There was an attempt by British Aerospace—rightly if it had to develop the scheme independently—to produce a tactical combat aircraft that would be attractive to other countries, as it was to Germany and Saudi Arabia. There must be more give and take by the RAF. The RAF changed its mind about what it required with the Harrier, so there is nothing sacrosanct about Air Staff targets.
We have not maintained our commitment to increase defence expenditure by 3 per cent. a year in real terms since 1977. I make a serious allegation which, if it is true, could be used by Defence Ministers to much better advantage in the Cabinet when they say "We must have what we told the House and the public that we would have."
The reality is that, because of Treasury voodoo and the way the figures are assessed in volume terms, the increase 214 since 1977 has been rather less than 3 per cent. a year. If the increase had been the full 3 per cent., as at 1975–76 prices, the estimated expenditure for this year would not be £14.09 billion but £14.7 billion. If we had maintained that commitment, I estimate that we would have over £600 million more to play around with. That is a substantial sum. The deficiency has spread over both Labour and Conservative Administrations.
The Secretary of State may say that this year we are increasing the defence budget by 3.8 per cent. compared with the previous year, but that follows an increase in the previous year of only 1.8 per cent. Between 1980 and 1981 defence expenditure in 1975–76 terms, according to the latest estimates, increased by only 1.3 per cent. This year the increase is to be 3.8 per cent. Therefore, over the last two years the increase has averaged out at only 2.5 per cent.
Even if we say that we are not responsible as a Government for what happened under the previous Administration, when, in one year, the budget fell in real terms, and if we look at what we have done since we came to power in 1979, we see that we have underperformed. We have short-changed ourselves on the defence budget. Instead of an increase of 3 per cent., there has been an increase of approximately 2.9 per cent. It may be said that that is a small difference, but it works out to about £50 million or £60 million.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will bear in mind that there is strong support from the Back Benches for Ministers who will argue the case more forcibly in the Cabinet that we must get not only the 3 per cent. increase that we were promised but a greater commitment towards our defence needs, which inevitably will require a greater political commitment, which I trust my speech has demonstrated.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I pay tribute to Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse, Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet, and his forces, on a brilliant feat of arms in the Falkland Islands campaign. I am thinking especially of the task force commander, Rear Admiral John Woodward, the ships' companies of the task force, General Moore and the soldiers and marines in his land forces, the men of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the mercantile marine and the men and women who, stretching back to the United Kingdom from deep in the South Atlantic, made possible a most impressively improvised logistical tail.
However, I reserve my special congratulations and my sympathy as well as admiration for the task force commander, Rear Admiral John Woodward. This was the first war that has been conducted almost on television. Unfortunately, he had to cart around in his flagship what appeared to be half of Fleet Street. As a result he now has to contend in the writing of his dispatches with judgments that have been made up and down the country by tens of thousands of armchair strategists. Some have already been arrogant enough to commit themselves on paper. Not surprisingly, they have been members of the press.
Rear Admiral Woodward deployed his task force at an almost unprecedented distance from home base in the harshest possible environment and in the face of threats about which we can relax now, but he could not then. He was shipborne for weeks on end, planning as he went along. He was in regular contact, perhaps not always for 215 his peace of mind, with Northwood and Whitehall. Despite all those factors he achieved his objectives and preserved the core of the fleet.
As has been said by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), a former sailor, the wonder is that there were not more losses. What losses there were were on the fringe. They were mainly of radar pickets. We grieve for those who were lost on the ships and those who were injured. But the wonder is that there were not more. As has been said today and last Thursday, it was a close run thing. Our eventual judgment will be that we are all enormously indebted to the man who carried the greatest responsibility on his shoulders, Rear Admiral John Woodward. He fulfilled the highest traditions of the Royal Navy.
Those of us who have been fortunate enough to he in the Chamber for the whole of the debate will have been immensely stimulated by the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I have taken the liberty of telling him that he gets better. His speech today was a tour de force. Although he was most provocative there cannot be any hon. Member who was not interested and, perhaps, charmed by what he had to say. Not even the Secretary of State, to whom he dealt some heavy blows, could have resented what he said. He backed up his charges with argument. The points that appealed most to me related to the continuing argument about a long or a short war. I agree that it is likely to be a long rather than a short war. If we allow ourselves to fall into the frame of mind that accepts that it will be a short war, we have lost before it begins. I include the Secretary of State and even some of my hon. Friends in that category.
I also liked what my right hon. Friend said about there not being the right mix in our forces. He pointed out that the present structure was wrong, that there was a need for more balanced priorities and, therefore, more balance in our contribution to NATO. As he said, the matter can be reduced to a question of choice. I especially like his suggestion that the Labour Party has become the Navy party. Above all else, we must think hard about the charge that the structure of our forces is now unbalanced. Several hon. Members, notably the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Sir G. Johnson-Smith), insisted that the balance was right. I shall deal with that first.
It is clear, upon examination of last Thursday's debate, that many hon. Members are prone to forget that we are members of an alliance. All of us are liable to fall into that trap, but we must assess defence needs against the background of that alliance's strategy and objectives. Both we and NATO must get our priorities right. The greatest problem of alliance planning, given the explosion in defence costs, is, as the Secretary of State said, resource allocation. I am sure that my right hon. Friend recognises that the budgetary constraints that bear heavily on the Secretary of State now are likely to intensify rather than to be relieved.
That explains the growing call for burden sharing in the Alliance. It must point to a division of tasks between the members of the alliance. It points clearly to one of the major points of my right hon. Friend's argument. The United Kingdom should make its prime contribution, on a comparative task basis, on that which we do best, the historic maritime role.
At the moment, Britain is trying to make an all-round contribution to the Alliance. We are trying to do too much 216 rather than doing that which we are best equipped to perform, historically, geographically and from the point of view of performance. As a result, there is too much penny-pinching between and within the Services rather than concentration of scarce resources in an efficient and comprehensive Service. That is best illustrated by the Secretary of State's cuts of the surface fleet.
It is extraordinary how complacent some hon. Members have been today, despite what was said last Thursday. They have still not fully understood the seriousness of the Secretary of State's attacks on the Navy. It is no good the Secretary of State arguing—the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) accepted it—that we will go sub-surface in compensation. The Government have ordered only two SSNs in the past three years. They will do well to get one more out of existing capacity before it is commandeered for Trident which, as my right hon. Friend said, is substantially responsible for the present lack of balance. The House wants a balanced and interdependent force of not only SSNs and maritime patrol aircraft but also escort vessels and other surface units.
Overall, greater precision in alliance priorities is required if we are to provide for the most efficient use of increasingly scarce resources, because the problem will continue and become more pressing. We are unlikely to achieve such precision, however, so long as we insist on maintaining the appearance of making an all-round contribution to the Alliance, rather like the United States. Furthermore, those same budgetary constraints, which are now also bearing more and more on the United States, could increasingly push us into a high risk strategy in the Atlantic in relation to reinforcement and resupply. Again, my right hon. Friend issued the sternest warnings about that. That commitment is largely ours in the East Atlantic and Channel. We can take no chances on that, because to do so might lower the nuclear threshold.
Why does the Secretary of State persist with his 1981 defence review in the form and content of his 1982 Defence Estimates? Why is he intent on cutting our naval strength in the face of the ever-growing Soviet maritime threat that has been described by hon. Members on both sides of the House today? The effect on the Navy of his 1981 defence review has been dramatic. In addition to being saddled with virtually the whole bill for Trident, the naval programme has had to suffer cuts of £5 billion to £6 billion for the next nine years. Let me put that in perspective. Those cuts amounted to more than twice the funds lost by the Army, and more than seven times those lost by the RAF—on top of unbalanced and substantial reductions the previous year. Consequently, our overall military balance will be impaired and our flexibility to meet the unforeseen will be eroded.
As my right hon. Friend reminded the House, we need only recall the cod war, the Beira patrol and the Gulf of Oman requirement, as well as the Falklands crisis, to appreciate examples of operations arising at short notice. They demonstrate typically the flexibility of maritime power through its presence and the wide range of options that it offers to diplomacy.
In our lifetime, there can have been few more convincing demonstrations of the flexibility and effectiveness of sea power than that shown in the Falklands crisis. Nothing else would have done the job. Precisely the same forces appropriate to peace-time presence world wide through our annual global deployments and the 217 exercise of deterrence within the NATO area were suddenly called upon to submit to the test of war, seemingly on the other side of the world.
Fortuitously, the Falklands crisis occurred before the cuts in the Navy's front line capability had gone too far down the road. As the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) mentioned, at the height of the crisis a party political handout was printed and circulated to local Conservative parties. I have a copy with me, but I need not discuss its points in detail. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned one or two of them. By dint of selective quotation, it sought to show that the doubts increasingly being voiced were groundless and that last year's defence review had—believe it or not—given the Navy more money, better capability, and so on. Like the defence review itself, that public relations exercise was a con trick. It was a catalogue of half truths or, as The Times put it on 21 June 1981,some sleight of hand in ministerial explanations.Even some members of the Government have been saying that if Argentina had waited until 1985–86 it would have found more Royal Navy ships afloat. As I shall show, the Secretary of State said that in the House a few weeks ago, although not in relation to Argentina.
Let us briefly examine one or two of those claims. The number of ships, for example, is vital not merely to our assessment of the defence review but because if offers useful comparisons between the performance of the Government, the Ministry of Defence and No. 10 and that of the previous Administration of the kind that have already been made in the debate.
The word "operational" is open to several definitions. Leaving that on one side, we are facing a steady decline in the number of warships in the conventional fleet. When the Government took office there were 98 major warships—frigates and above—as well as submarines other than Polaris. By April 1982 the number was down to 86. Current plans, despite the Secretary of State's shipbuilding announcements last Thursday, show a further decline by the end of the decade. It follows that the statement by the Secretary of State in the House on 17 April thatwe cannot be criticised for cutting back the conventional Navy, when it is far larger today than it was when we took office, and so it will be in the late 1980s."—[Official Report, 7 April 1982; Vol. 21, c. 1050.]is simply not true. Certainly new ships are entering service, but, as the Secretary of State said to me at Question Time yesterday week, this is almost overwhelmingly the result of orders placed by the Administration of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East.
The planned numbers of carriers, destroyers, frigates, nuclear submarines, Sea Harriers, Royal Marine Commando groups, assault helicopters, and Royal Fleet Auxiliaries are all fewer than those inherited from the Labour Government. Recent orders show that the shipbuilding figures in the handout are, again, highly selective. Of the 27 major warships that have entered service since 1979, or will enter service over the next five years—there is some interesting information to be found in answers to written questions in Hansard—only four type 22 frigates and two SSNs have been ordered by the Government. That is only four out of 27 major warships.
Furthermore, the Government have so far placed orders, before last week's announcement—and that was 218 for only one ship—which average only half the value per year achieved by the Labour Government. That is an average expenditure of £300 million per year—the handout claims £400 million for last year—compared to £600 million per year under the Labour Government.
However, the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces was brazen and misleading enough when replying to the debate last Thursday—I am sorry he is not here tonight—to refer to theGovernment's inheritance of a defence machine which was starved of funds and equipment".—[Official Report, 1 July 1982; Vol. 26, c. 1129.]
§ Mr. Blaker
We inherited a situation in which the defence finances were running into an impossible position.
§ Mr. Duffy
When I challenge the Minister, as I was prepared to challenge the Under-Secretary, to name one weapons system or one item of equipment of which the Government were starved by the previous Administration, he cannot do so. This is from a Government who dithered over the lightweight version of the Sea Wolf system that sailors were praying for a few weeks ago, dithered over Sea Eagle and have only confirmed the system in recent weeks, and who cancelled the improvement programme for the Sea Dart that was needed in the type 42s. Only now have the Government, after three years in office, made up their mind about the Sea King replacement and put in hand the type 23 frigate and type 2400 submarine.
§ Mr. Duffy
There are many other consequences of the 1981 defence review that time does not allow me to mention. I shall content myself with referring to only two.
Mid-life modernisation of destroyers and frigates is to be abandoned. That will result in increasing obsolescence in the surface flotilla weapons systems. I can understand the Under-Secretary of State's dilemma, but he should reconsider this again, not merely on account of the dockyards and support depots that are to be run down or closed but because it could prove to be a false economy. The second consequence of the review is that between 8,000 and 10,000 officers and men are to be made redundant by 1986, with a similar number in the last half of the costing period.
Like many hon. Members, I wish to examine some of the lessons of the Falklands for the Royal Navy. The main lesson is the need to be able to cope with unexpected situations. We must retain flexibility and versatility as well as an adequate capability in our future Fleet. We were able to deploy quickly and effectively for the Falklands operation because we were living on the fat of the pre-1981 defence review. This did not amount merely to the ships and weapons systems that I have mentioned. There was also the setting up of the merchant shipping register in 1978. Did that not work brilliantly? Is the situation not contrary to the claims made last Thursday by the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces?
Inherited from the previous Labour Government and available for the Falklands crisis were 55 running destroyers and frigates. Even so, others had to be brought forward from the disposal list. Moreover, there were still 219 three carriers if one includes "Illustrious" and five dockyards with no rundown in manpower. By the middle of the decade, we shall have only about 50 destroyers and frigates, of which as few as 42 might be operational, perhaps only two carriers in service, two dockyards and about 10,000 fewer naval officers and ratings. Afloat support will also have been seriously reduced.
Greater risks will be taken with manpower and support. The fleet will possess markedly less flexibility. Two absurdities stand out against the background of the Falklands crisis. The first is the projected sale of "Invincible". The second is the cancellation of planned improvements in the Sea Dart weapon system. Its performance in action in the Falklands crisis was entirely as expected. It did not disappoint. It could not do any better. We are not now in a position to put in hand an improvement to the system. That is the responsibility of the Government.
We must retain three carriers, including "Hermes", until "Ark Royal" is available in mid-1985. The Aussies have given us the opportunity but, contrary to the optimistic view of the hon. Member for Stretford, they clearly wish to return to the status quo ante. The Aussies will not let us off this hook if they can help it. We shall have to watch the sales pitch. We must improve the capability of surface forces, especially against aircraft and missile attack. We must have 50 destroyers and frigates in operation with none in the standby squadron. The dockyard capacity at Portsmouth must be expanded beyond the level announced last week. There must be consequential support ashore.
Perhaps most important, given the Government's handling of the defence review or, as The Times put it, the Government's "sleight of hand", we need to look closely at battle casualty replacement. We cannot replace the two type 21s. We can replace the type 42 but cannot improve its missile system following the Government's decision last year. Realistically, we can only look to the type 22s. But the Government did not make a good start last week with its announcement of a single type 22 order. There is a time factor as with the "Fife", "Glamorgan" and "Bristol", which are to be retained. They can have a life expectancy of only six years before their missile systems become inadequate. Will the type 23 be ready by then, and in what numbers?
On the Government's record to date, we can entertain little hope. We run the risk of being dangerously deficient at sea by the end of the decade. That is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East has suggested that the Opposition are now perhaps the Navy party. We know the dangers to which it may be exposed late in this decade if the Government's cuts in the surface fleet are allowed to pass.
§ Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)
This has been an interesting and distinguished debate. I have enjoyed listening to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) whose speech I followed in a previous debate in the Chamber, as I did his contribution in the North Atlantic Assembly. The hon. Gentleman's comments were most useful. I respect the compliment that the hon. Gentleman paid to his right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) whose speech was also interesting and distinguished. There has been reference to the "Navy party". I hope that the right hon.
220 Member for Cardiff, South-East feels that the Navy party spans the whole of Portsmouth harbour, from his original home at Portsmouth to my constituency at Gosport.
I should like to add my tribute to the men of the task force on behalf of the people of Gosport, with which the force is strongly connected. I pay tribute to the eight men from Gosport who lost their lives in the South Atlantic, the 22 men now in Haslar hospital, Gosport, and others who are badly injured and coming home by sea. We think of them and their families, those who waited and those who still wait. There have been a number of problems in fighting a war effectively in the blaze of the television cameras and the press. The number of difficulties with mail, personal and communications problems, has been comparatively small when one thinks that 26,500 families were separated. I pay tribute to the families, who behaved excellently.
It is an extraordinary story of courage and professional skill. The civilians should be praised for preparing the task force. The Gosport-Portsmouth area was the main embarkation centre for the departure of the D-Day forces in 1944 and it was the main departure centre for the task force on this occasion. It is an excellent logistics centre with victualling and repair facilities, armaments, fuel, and personnel living close by. It makes the Portsmouth harbour area an excellent one-stop shop for the Fleet.
I give strong support to the Government's overall strategy outlined in the White Paper although it has been under attack in some areas. We need to be involved in four areas—the nuclear deterrent, the home base, a presence in Europe and in the eastern Mantic, as well as our out-of-area capacity. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe and other hon. Members have made the point that we must grasp the essential truth that we are spending more and getting less. The pressure on resources has been enormous. The number of ships that the Navy had in 1950 is four and a half times the number it has now; it had twice as many submarines. The RAF had three times as many aircraft and the Army 300 more tanks. That is when we have spent more in real terms on defence and when the equipment budget has increased from 30 per cent. of defence expenditure to 46 per cent. of the budget. Those who talk about defence cuts talk about the diminished number of ships and aircraft and do not face the fact that we are suffering from disarmament by inflation. There is a real resources problem that must be grasped.
The Government's response to the pressure on resources has been justified by the Falkland Islands crisis. Many commentators asked where the country would have been if it had had to face the Falkland Islands crisis and mount a task force in three years' time. How many people have asked where the country would have been had it been necessary to mount a task force in April 1979, when Service pay was well below the level accepted as being fair and when the previous Government had been building a number of ships? Cynics might say that the previous Government used defence as a job creation scheme. Ships were being built, but did they have the missiles, the torpedoes, the war stocks, the POL and the necessary facilities—the logistics of war? There are many ways in which the task force was better equipped and more capable than it would have been in 1979.
I support the Government's strategy but there are some caveats that I have raised previously and that remain a matter of interest to me. The first is the need for the surface Fleet. We talk about the need for reinforcements from the 221 United States of America. Can we really expect the United States of America to pour men and equipment in American ships, protected by American warships, across the Atlantic and to provide the necessary war stocks unless we are prepared to play our part in providing the surface ships and submarine sea capacity needed in the eastern Atlantic? We have been devoting considerable resources there but they have been under pressure in recent years.
The balance in the North Atlantic between NATO forces and Warsaw Pact forces shows that NATO has 43 submarines, excluding SSBNs, whereas the Warsaw Pact has 85. NATO has 73 surface ships to the Warsaw Pact's 52. These raw facts conceal the reality which is that the Warsaw Pact does not need its surface ships or submarines except to attack ours whereas we have a crucial and overriding need for sea support in times of emergency. Russia and its allies have available about 400 submarines, which is eight times the number with which Hitler faced us in 1939. This is a threat that we cannot ignore.
The dockyard's future is linked with the future of the surface and the submarine fleets. I accept that we plan to have more ships operational in 1984 than in 1981 and that the previous style of mid-term refit may not be appropriate in future. However, I must put to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement that there may be a longer-term requirement for Portsmouth dockyard.
In the shorter term I put it to my hon. Friend that the fleet returning from the South Atlantic will undoubtedly have repairs and refitting requirements that will last well beyond the end of the year. I am no expert in these matters but I anticipate that there must be a work load that will keep our dockyards going for a year or more and probably considerably longer than that. Is it possible for my hon. Friend to make a firmer commitment and to give a clearer indication of the shorter-term future of Portsmouth dockyard, which is the future spanning the repairs and refits of the South Atlantic fleet?
When my hon. Friend has dealt with the so-called shorter-term needs of the ships and the requirements of the dockyard, I ask him to give an early indication of the dockyard's work load and the need for an updating of the missile packs and radar equipment, which everyone in the House accepts to be a necessity. There may not be a need for mid-term refits in the accepted sense, but I believe that there will be a need for updating the missile packs and missile kits that the ships carry. If we move to ships with modular construction, which will make it easier for missile packs to be replaced and updated, I expect that this will provide a work load for the dockyards.
To these thoughts we must add the lessons learnt from the Falkland Islands, which should be specific rather than general. I do not think that we should completely change our defence posture or strategy because of the Falkland Islands conflict. The Fleet's capacity to mount such an effective exercise has proved that it was in good shape and appropriate for what are known as out-of-area operations. However, we must remember the vulnerability of surface ships to attack by, at best, a second-rate air force that used iron bombs.
The Argentine fleet was not used. How would our surface fleet match the Russian fleet with its 400 submarines, of which about 85 are deployed in the Atlantic? The first and obvious lesson must be that, as far 222 as we can, we must go submarine. Secondly, in so far as we can, we must avoid the need for sea supplies by trying to build up essential stocks and considering ways of providing food supplies in emergencies in the United Kingdom rather than using the North Atlantic for food supplies and other essential reinforcements.
Having done that, having updated our Merchant Marine and used that, having employed various ingenious ways of operating Harriers from container ships and having manned our merchant ships with guns and one or two other ingenious fitments, we shall still be left with a heavy demand for a surface Royal Navy to protect surface convoys. This means that we return to the resource argument. There are those who say that the resource argument is not a problem because resources can be found by scrapping Trident. That is an argument with which I do not agree but it is respectable arithmetically.
Another answer is given by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who say that we should increase the resources that are made available to the Royal Navy, especially to the surface fleet. But we already spend a considerable percentage of our GDP on defence. It is a higher percentage than that spent by all of our allies, excluding Greece and the United States, which are special cases. If we ask for an increase from 3 per cent. to 4 per cent., we are entitled to ask "3 per cent. or 4 per cent. of what?" We are entitled to look sideways at our allies and to see if we can persuade them by negotiation and discussion to accept a higher percentage of the burden of defence within the NATO area. We cannot continue indefinitely to fulfil three roles well—our home-based role, our European role and our Atlantic role. One of the roles needs to be diminished.
Have we analysed the threat? Where, for instance, do we want our Army to be if there should be a pre-emptive strike in Europe? Do we really want our Army to be on the Continent should it be subject to a pre-emptive strike? Our NATO allies should shoulder more of the burden in Europe for land forces. We are entitled to look to Germany, Norway and Denmark to commit more forces on the Continent. We are entitled to ask Canada why its percentage of gross domestic product for defence is only one-third of that which we provide for defence. I can understand the arguments that have been used against the point of view that I am expressing. I can understand that to the Army a roulement between Aldershot and Northern Ireland may not sound attractive but I am sure there are also ways of dealing with that.
I say to the Secretary of State and to my hon. Friends, "If you want more money for defence, do not take on the Treasury and claim an even larger percentage of scarce resources. Take on the Foreign Office and persuade it to persuade our allies to take a greater share of the common burden."
Whatever resources we devote to defence they will be of little value unless we have the resolution to use those forces. We have shown as a nation that we have that resolution and we can be proud of it because it is our greatest strength.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)
I join others in paying tribute to those courageous men who were involved in the Falklands conflict. The tragedy of the debate is that there seems to be an atmosphere in the House that we are on the eve of the third world war when we should be examining realistically the situation that we face.
223 The Prime Minister announced today that the long-awaited inquiry into the Falklands conflict is to take place. We should remind ourselves of the debate on Trident when the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) asked the Secretary of State why the Government were prepared to spend £10 billion on Trident when they were not prepared to spend £3 million on defending the Falklands. The Secretary of State replied:I do not intend to get involved in a debate about the Falkland Islands now. These issues are too important to be diverted into a discussion on HMS 'Endurance'.".—[Official Report, 29 March 1982; Vol. 21, c. 27.]It is significant that the Secretary of State has restored HMS "Endurance" to defending the Falkland Islands. That shows the Government's complacency on defence matters. The position was compounded by the letter that was sent by the Prime Minister to Mrs. Nichols of Gerrards Cross on 3 February in which she said:Our commitment to the territorial integrity of the Falkland Islands is not in doubt. Our judgment is that the presence of the Royal Marines garrison, which unlike HMS "Endurance" is permanently stationed in the Falklands, is sufficient deterrent against any possible aggression.That letter reveals the Government's complacent approach.
The Opposition Front Bench has already put the case that the Labour Party is not a party of unilateral disarmers. That must be put clearly. There must be a defence force to defend our island, but choices must be made, and we believe that the Government are making the wrong choices in embarking on a massive expenditure on nuclear weapons.
For some time now, prominent world leaders have warned us of the dangers of a nuclear conflict. I quote from a speech made by Lord Louis Mountbatten in Strasbourg on 11 May 1979. He spoke of a nuclear attack on Britain in the following terms:In the event of nuclear war there will be no chances and there will be no survivors. All will be obliterated. I am not asserting this without having deeply thought about the matter. When I was Chief of Defence Staff I made my views known. I have heard arguments against this view but I have never found them convincing.There have been no convincing arguments in this debate for a further escalation of nuclear weapons. The words of Lord Mountbatten are just as true today. It was a tragedy that that man of peace was assassinated.
Lord Zuckerman, the chief scientific adviser to the Government, said in a speech in America in November 1979:As our own White Paper on Defence put it as long ago as 1957, there was then no means of protecting the nation against the consequences of a nuclear war. There is none today when the scale of attack may be 100 times greater than it was in the 1950s".We must recognise that we are living in a world that possesses 50,000 nuclear weapons with a destructive power of a million Hiroshimas. Why are the Government prepared to add to defence expenditure totalling £15 billion a further £10 billion on acquiring a nuclear weapon which, if used, will constitute failure? We are living in an Alice in Wonderland world when we talk about nuclear weapons. That is why it is important to talk about disarmament. We should not be escalating the arms race, which the Government are doing. We should seriously be talking with the Russians and others in an attempt to achieve multilateral disarmament. If we are prepared to take unilateral action to increase expenditure, we should consider taking unilateral action to reduce world tension.
224 Frank Blackaby, the chairman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, said in his annual report:During the past four years, world military spending has been following an upward trend at the rate of about 3 per cent. per annum (in volume). This is rather faster that in the previous four years in spite of the deteriorating performance of the world economy. So the burden measured as a share of the world total output has probably been rising. It is difficult to get a meaningful measure of the world total, for what it is worth the current dollar figure in 1981 was 600–650 billion dollars".That is the extent of the arms race. About £380 billion is now being spent. We must try to get ourselves out of this massive arms race, because if we are not careful we shall talk ourselves into a third world war.
I do not believe that the United States or the Soviet Union will start a nuclear war. Those who have studied the consequences of such a war know that it must be avoided. That is why the Labour Party is putting forward a realistic policy by saying that if the Soviet Union and the United States possess nuclear weapons that can destroy the world 17 times over, we should stop other countries escalating that race.
The danger is not that the super-powers will press a button and start a world war. The danger we face is that there may be a computer mistake. We could well have a war by accident.
When the Prime Minister addressed the United Nations she said:Let us face the reality. The springs of war lie in the readiness to resort to force against other nations and not in 'arms races' whether real or imaginary"."Imaginary"? They are real.
Armaments are not simply the consequence of international tension. They are also a cause. That is why we must use our diplomatic efforts to reduce world tension because of the arms race, and why the Labour Party is right to reject the White Paper. It is already out of date in view of what has happened in the Falklands, but more than that it is on the wrong path in putting more of our eggs in the nuclear basket and cutting back on conventional forces. We should maintain our conventional forces to a greater extent than we can because of this massive nuclear expenditure. At the same time, we should reject the massive build-up of the arms race and the nation should play its part in the United Nations to get out of the arms race.
§ 9.6 pm
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
Like other hon. Members, I wish to congratulate the task force on having done its job well. In particular, with my colleagues, the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), and Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson), the latter whom I am sure all hon. Members will be delighted to see in his place today. I wish to pay a particular tribute to the peculiarly civilian input to the task force from the people of Hull and Humberside. The North Sea ferry "Norland", the "Tor Caledonia", and the maids of all work, the ocean-going tugs "Yorkshireman", "Irishman"—that is a good combination—and "Salvageman", are less glamorous than the QE2 and the "Canberra", but equally important. Unfortunately, they are known in Hull as the forgotten ships, and their families are the forgotten families. Here I take up a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) about the families of the men on HMS "Endurance".
225 I quote from a local newspaper about the wife of somebody on the "Tor Caledonia". She says:We have had no mail for six weeks and the company has had no information apart from a telegram saying they are alive and well.We don't know where they are or how long it will be before we get any news.The reporter says:While one fully understands the necessity for security in order to safeguard the lives of men and the safety of ships, it is particularly galling to have specific queries dealt with in a negative, off-hand manner, and then hear the very news one has been asking about broadcast on television the same evening.Several times promises to ring back—even with negative answers—were unfulfilled—showing a deplorable lack of courtesy.In the case of the "Norland", relatives were told by the Department officials in Portsmouth that she was likely to be back in a fortnight, only to have this denied later and to be told that she would be back in mid-August. The relatives know that a job has to be done and are prepared to carry it through to its conclusion, but they are entitled to accurate knowledge. They should be the first to know, and I urge the Government that this should be so.
I use Hull as an example. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East referred to his ship, but there must be many other wives and families in other ports who are baffled and confused by the conflicting stories that they hear. Hon. Members representing ports will know how a rumour can spread from central Hull to east Hull in 5 or 10 minutes, as it goes from family to family. Anguish and confusion grows and people wish to know about it.
Two other matters worth mentioning here are of some importance. We hope that we shall have the same bands and the same official welcome home for the sailors from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels and for the civilian ships as were available for the more glamourous vessels. Secondly, it is incumbent on the Government to bring to an end this sudden cheeseparing and shoddy attitude demonstrated by the Admiralty over the payment of crews of RFA vessels, where the Government are now in dispute with the National Union of Seamen. There should be no distinction between civilians in either the RFA or the Merchant Navy who were in the task force. This important matter must be looked into.
Today's business could have appeared on the Order Paper as the "Keith Speed justification debate". Rarely so quickly and so sadly has a Minister who has resigned been shown to be correct. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) has probably exercised more power and influence over naval matters from the Back Benches than he was ever allowed to at the Ministry.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) dealt with naval matters in great detail. We have yet to hear about the Royal Air Force and the problems of the P110, apart from what the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) said, and I agreed with much of what he said. So I want to discuss some of the thinking behind this increasingly irrelevant White Paper and to explain why Labour Members completely reject it.
We shall vote "No" because we do not believe that the policies in the White Paper are relevant to the defence needs and the security of these islands. We have no confidence whatever in those who conduct our affairs in 226 this most sensitive national issue. The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Speed) said that the White Paper was "out of date" and contained few positive proposals.
We believe that the Secretary of State should have used the occasion of the Falklands campaign to have a fundamental rethink of his policies and attitude towards NATO. Whether or not the Falklands is a one-off out-of-area exercise, its influence on future defence thinking is bound to be profound. It has not only been a laboratory for weapons and systems—as well as human bravery—but for political and diplomatic responses to crises, for consideration of allied support, and for strategic and tactical thinking.
If the White Paper promised for the autumn is nothing but a tactical or professional examination of weapons and weapons systems, the Secretary of State and his hon. Friends—or perhaps his successor—will have lost a great opportunity for rethinking the whole position. He may come up with conclusions which are identical to those he has already reached, although I suspect not, but even if he does, the exercise will have proved worth while if he shows that he has not shut his mind to any of the lessons that one can learn from the Falklands dispute.
There is an opportunity, as a result of some of these experiences in the out-of-area activity, to examine our whole attitude to NATO. Ever since the inception of the Alliance, we have concentrated our efforts on the European central front. Certainly it is the most politically sensitive area, but over the years it has proved to be the most stable area.
The northern flank is very vulnerable, but it is particularly on the southern flank that stability in central Europe is most lacking. On that flank, NATO faces not only the Warsaw Pact, but an unstable region, where States with frustrated nationalism, fundamentalist religions, bursting populations, and great gaps between the rich and poor are threats to the world's peace and stability. Moreover, they sit astride sources of energy—if not ours, certainly those of our allies and the United States. Their social priorities and moral goals are alien to those of the materialistic philosophies of the East and West. We do not always understand them. They must give concern, because their actions sometimes appear to us irrational and unpredictable. We must therefore pay careful attention to the southern flank. For historical and political reasons, the main thrust of our largely static defence force is in Central Europe.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) and I suspect, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-east, and I, are not suggesting that RAF Germany or BAOR should be shipped home tomorrow. We are saying that in the decade after the Brussels treaty, NATO priorities should be re-examined, both in terms of what we are committed to in the Treaty and in terms of the task now facing NATO.
In terms of our responsibilities, we must ask ourselves, "Do we really need such a large Rhine Army? Does it need to be stationed there permanently as a garrison on the Rhine? Could not units be rotated to Germany, as they are now from Germany to Northern Ireland, and that enormous tail of administration and families deployed in the United Kingdom?" Clearly, the Department has thought about the matter very carefully. It has shown much sensitivity in this regard. Otherwise, the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary would not have made so many assertions in the debate and produced so few arguments.
227 We should like to see the evidence because we believe that the additional expenditure in the United Kingdom would be more than offset by the foreign exchange earnings and by the increased job opportunities in the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe spoke about the Fleet's capability and the reinforcement and supply that is needed across the Atlantic. I intend not to deploy those arguments but merely to assert that there was a great deal of wisdom in their attitudes. Firm consideration should be given to the points that have been made.
We understand the sensitivities of our allies about such matters. However, we are the greatest European contributor to NATO and we are entitled not only to ask for an examination but to have it.
The hon. Member for East Grinstead (Sir G. Johnson-Smith) should have had his facts right. Britain's total defence expenditure is the highest in Europe and, per capita, is second only to that of France. We may be a poor nation but we are contributing far more than many of the richer nations in Europe. It is quite right that they should be asked to make their contribution.
I turn now to the item in the White Paper that governs the whole of the Government's defence policy and which takes an increasing share of defence expenditure, making us vulnerable as an island and less able to contribute in the most effective manner to NATO. That is the Trident programme.
The Government argue for the Trident replacement as though it were just an up-market version of Polaris. It is not. Trident creates an immediate and significant escalation in the nuclear arms race. It is quantitively and qualitatively different from Polaris. Its range, precision and boasted ability to take out silos make it a strategic first-strike weapon. The number of its targetable warheads is 10 times greater than that of Polaris.
§ Mr. Churchill
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that there is no sea-based system with a navigational system accurate enough to have a counter-silo capability. From that point of view it is not a first-strike weapon.
§ Mr. McNamara
That may well be so, but it is still a first-strike weapon in terms of its ability—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Hon. Members should not talk about nonsense because there is an awful lot of that in the White Paper.
Trident is a mere fig leaf to cover a significant escalation in the capacity, capability, accuracy and lethalness of Britain's strategic nuclear force. Labour will have none of it and a Labour Government will not carry it through.
There are other arguments. The building of the Trident submarine will distort our building programme of hunter-killer submarines. The Secretary of State conceded that last Thursday when he referred to SSN19. Yet those submarines have demonstrated in the South Atlantic their ability to bottle up a hostile fleet without adequate ASW equipment. They are a powerful weapon against both the Russian surface and submarine fleets.
On one matter I disagree with the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) and the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). There is still the need for a surface capability. We do not yet have a submarine from which we can launch either a Sea Harrier or a helicopter.
228 Trident also puts pressure upon funds available for defence spending. Already its cost has leapt to £7.5 billion at 1981 prices. Many commentators think that that figure is at least £10 billion now. With inflation and with untried systems, in building the submarines and the weapons system, prices are likely to escalate out of all proportion, distorting the defence budget and harming our conventional capability.
No matter how much the Government massage the figures, that money could be available for defence and many chiefs of staff would have shopping lists for more effective conventional weapons which would improve our general defence capability.
We could, for example, have paid money for something that the Secretary of State lamented that he could not pay for. I refer to the reopening of the Nimrod production line as a major defence and sales priority. Indeed, that might appeal to the hon. Member for Preston, North. We could have done with Nimrod and an advanced early warning facility in the Falkland Islands, provided that it had its air refuelling system. We could also have kept Chatham, Portsmouth and Gibraltar dockyards open. Naval dockyards are not only about defence, but about loyalties. Those loyalties are two-way; from the Government to the workers and from the workers to the Government. However, the Trident project has closed Chatham and has left the prospect of 30 per cent. local unemployment in Medway. It has ruined Gibraltar and has, at best, put Portsmouth on a life support machine. There would have been no need for the closures if we did not have Trident.
Why do we have to have Trident? Talking of the aims of his policy, the Secretary of State said:The first is the maintenance of a credible strategic nuclear capability to deter nuclear blackmail by our enemies."—[Official Report, 1 July 1982; Vol. 26, c. 1056.]The first and obvious observation is that our nuclear weapons—whether tactical or strategic—did not deter the Argentines. It is interesting that the Secretary of State did not refer on that occasion to an independent deterrent, although the Minister did this afternoon. To paraphrase the Prime Minister, we need Trident in case we stand alone. However, to justify our forces in Europe the Secretary of State talks of the need not to disturb the dormant isolationist tendencies in the United States.
Therefore, the argument is that if the United States of America becomes isolationist and cuts itself off from the United Kingdom and Europe, we need our own independent deterrent. What independence? The missile and delivery system are American. The submarine and warhead are British, except of course for the explosive. The enriched uranium needed for the warhead is now to be manufactured in the United States of America.
If the United States is not isolationist, we do not need Trident. If it becomes isolationist we shall have many big submarines and empty warheads, but nothing with which to deliver them. Apart from those minor difficulties we shall have in the Secretary of State's words an "independent nuclear deterrent". The Russians must be quaking! The greatest contribution that the Government could make to peace and to de-escalating the arms race would be to show, at the outset of the START negotiations, their determination not to go ahead with Trident. The next Labour Government will do just that.
On Thursday, my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford spoke about the cruise weapon controversy and quoted the Minister who had said that cruise missiles were 229intended by the United States, at the request of Europe, to demonstrate its commitment to the defence of Europe".—[Official Report, 1 July 1982; Vol. 26, c. 1075.]Therefore, cruise exists not for defence, but for political reasons. I never thought that the 200,000-strong United States forces on the Rhine were just searching for the Lorelei. If Europe wants a commitment from the United States it has it in those 200,000. However, in some ways we in Europe—and, indeed, in the world—must be grateful for American largesse. It has galvanised Europe and to a degree—but, for obvious reasons, only to a degree—Eastern Europe and particularly the young, into becoming aware of the dangers and horrors of the nuclear arms race and of the threat the weapons pose for mankind. Last autumn's massive demonstrations forced a change in presentation and—I hope—in policy in the United States of America and in its attitude towards the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Without those demonstrations there would certainly not have been any Geneva talks.
We believe that the Government can help the progress of those talks in two ways. First, they can help the talks by not blindly supporting President Reagan's zero option. Secondly, they can help their progress by not unthinkingly attacking President Brezhnev's freeze proposals and the idea of a status quo. Both of those are negotiating positions that neither side can accept. The Russian status quo would lead to immense superiority in SS20s, which NATO could never accept. Equally, President Reagan's zero option, which does not include seaborne weapons, weapons in the United Kingdom, or the Fill flying from East Anglia, would give NATO a considerable edge that the Warsaw Pact would find unacceptable.
We in the Labour Party believe that the overall European theatre nuclear balance must be considered. All NATO and Soviet nuclear weapons systems based in the geographical continent of Europe or targetted towards it must be included in the Geneva negotiations. That is what we believe, work for and wish to see happen.
Thus, Labour regards the White Paper as completely unacceptable because of its first priority, Trident. From that first priority flow all the distortions and errors to which all parties have drawn attention. But if the White Paper is faulty, what of the judgments of its writers? Can we trust them and their judgment in the defence of these islands? The answer must certainly be "No". The policy was one of deterrence and it failed to deter the moment that the first Argentine marine landed on the Falklands.
Let us examine the evidence in what might be called the first and only epistle of the blessed Margaret to her disciple Madge and the party assembled at Gerrards Cross. We read in chapter I verse 3:Our commitment to the territorial integrity of the Falkland Islands is not in doubt. Our judgment is that the presence of the Royal Marine garrison, which unlike HMS Endurance"—
§ Mr. McNamara
Yes, the House has already had this quote and it will have it many times again—is permanently stationed in the Falklands, is sufficient deterrent against any possible aggression."Any possible aggression". The right hon. Lady's commitment may not have been in doubt but her judgment certainly was and her blunder led to the loss of 250 brave men and many proud ships.
230 Despite her posturings on Cheltenham race course, the right hon. Lady appeared not as Britannia triumphant but more as an Ethelreda the Unready. It was her blunder, yet she has the gall to say to her right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath):I am sure my right hon. Friend would not wish to prejudice a judgment made on a very distinguished Foreign Secretary".—[Official Report, 1 July 1982; Vol. 26, c. 1039–40.]I suspect that she is concerned not so much to justify Lord Carrington as to protect her own position. It was her blunder.
After all, as Prime Minister the right hon. Lady transferred the evaluation of intelligence functions from the Foreign Office to the Cabinet Office, her own Department, over which she had precise and direct control. If we cannot trust her judgment to protect the Falklands, what possible reason have we for trusting her judgment, or that of her Secretary of State—the office boy living on borrowed time—to protect the British Islands? They could not protect a whelk stall.
So the right hon. Lady blundered and the task force sailed to save the Falkland Islands, but it was sent by a Government more intent on saving themselves. The right hon. Lady is still seeking to do that, as she tried to do in her speech at Cheltenham racecourse, when she tried to justify nearly 4 million people unemployed.
§ Mr. McNamara
I would not be so sure, brother. One thing is certain, you will not be back in the next Parliament to collect it.
§ Mr. McNamara
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. You may not be here then, but you will be missed by us all. The hon. Member for Preston, North certainly will not be here in the next Parliament. After all, we know he is hurriedly looking round for constituencies despite requests from his office not to do so.
Let us get back to Cheltenham racecourse. The right hon. Lady tried on that occasion to use nearly 4 million unemployed, a failing economy, social distress and a breakdown in our social cohesion as reasons for her success in the Falklands. Now it appears from her comments last week that she is trying to use the thanksgiving service at St. Paul's cathedral to achieve that same purpose.
Did the 250 men die for that? Is that why a task force went to the Falkland Islands, or did we go to liberate people and to secure their independence and their right to self-determination? The right hon. Lady's behaviour during the past few weeks over the defence of the Falkland Islands has been beneath contempt. For that reason, we cannot vote for the White Paper. We have no trust in it or in the Government and we wish to see the back of them all.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) may well feel that he has crossed the line in some of his concluding remarks when he reads them tomorrow.
It is hardly surprising that many participants in the debate have concentrated on the Falklands campaign rather than on the contents of the defence White Paper.
231 [Interruption.] I shall do so myself. A fair amount of emphasis has been given to the Falkland Islands by Ministers. That is as inevitable as it is right.
Before the debates some people criticised the Government for publishing a White Paper at all, thereby posing the intriguing prospect of a defence White Paper debate without a defence White Paper. Such critics ignore the make-up of a defence White Paper, which is part policy, part finance and part an end-of-term report dealing with a variety of military deployments and exercises.
The publication of a necessarily pre-Falklands White Paper underlines the Government's firm belief that, whatever the so-called lessons and conclusions of that campaign may be, the main threat continues to lie with the Soviet Union. It is all the more important that the Falklands campaign with its special and even unique problems should not necessarily become the arbiter of defence priorities in the NATO area.
There is, however, one very clear lesson and that is the vital importance to this country of a strong and vigorous defence industrial base. In a moment I wish to pay tribute to the exceptional performance of British industry throughout the Falklands conflict. I have some examples that I wish to share with the House. Many remarkable stories of industrial performance are yet to be told.
The key element in the performance of industry was speed of response. It is worth bearing it in mind that every time we buy systems from abroad, to the detriment of our industry, we run the risk of undermining that capacity to respond quickly, a capacity that was crucial in the Falklands conflict.
British companies have been extremely co-operative, inspired greatly by public recognition of the emergency as being both national and genuine. Action has often been launched in response to requests by word of mouth from controllerate staff, with the necessary paperwork following later.
There are obvious implications in that for the modus operandi of the procurement process. If the paperwork and the procedures can be circumvented in the national interest, why can that not happen all the time? Some people have suggested that it was possible only because financial constraints were removed. That is not the case and I would go so far as to say that, in many instances, the total cost would be cheaper because of the shorter time taken to carry out a project. That aspect will form part of the post-Falklands analysis.
The response by large and small companies has been excellent. Most hon. Members will have many examples of dedicated and unstinting effort from their constituencies. I emphasise that my examples are only examples and that our thanks and gratitude go to all of those whom I cannot mention for reasons of time.
As was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph on 4 July:Sabre Safety, a small company in Aldershot make a range of safety equipment such as breathing sets. The Navy had originally planned to purchase 2,000 of its Elsa (Emergency Life Support Apparatus) sets, but a week after the sinking of the Sheffield, this was increased to 11,000. Since the Elsa gives a person trapped in a fire eight minutes of extra air, the Navy's urgent interest was obvious.Sabre's problem was how to increase production of the Elsa from 50 to 2,000 a week to accommodate what was a £1 million contract, a big one for a company with a 1981 turnover of around £2 million.Yet by augmenting its 76 strong workforce with 11 extra staff, working up to seven days a week and getting the co-operation of 232 suppliers, Sabre was able to deliver—ahead of schedule. Remarkably, it has also been able to maintain production of its other products.A similar story is told by Peter Lockey, joint managing director of Newcastle-based Berghaus, which specialises in high-quality rucksacks. Before the Falklands crisis, around 700 special rucksacks had been sold to what Lockey terms 'specialist units' of the Army.A week before the Queen Elizabeth 2 sailed, Berghaus was asked if it could produce another 3,000 rucksacks. Back came the answer that this was impossible in such a short time The MOD persisted and asked if it could have 600.Lockey believed that this was still impossible but a mass meeting of the rucksack section of his 280-strong workforce convinced him it could be done.
§ Mr. Pattie
The point that the right hon. Gentleman finds so amusing is that I am trying to make it clear to him and the House that the performance of British industry has been exceptionally good. The management and the work force, in which the right hon. Gentleman is supposed to be interested, by working from dawn to dusk over a weekend, supplied all those goods.
With regard to shipping, particular mention ought to be made of the civilian shipyards that were involved. A notable example of these was Vosper Shiprepairers at Southampton, which converted at great speed some 11 ships, including the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Canberra, involving extensive overtime working, including night shift and weekend working. Swan Hunter Shipbuilders on the Tyne achieved a two-and-a-half month advancement in the completion of HMS "Illustrious" by a combination of redeployment, overtime and night shift working and some short-term recruitment, all of which effectively doubled the labour input for the vessel for the period mid-April to mid-June. Yarrow Shipbuilders achieved a three-and-a-half month advance in the completion of HMS "Brazen" by introducing a night shift and extensive overtime. At Cammell Laird HMS "Liverpool" has been delivered 12 months ahead of schedule, an excellent achievement.
The Royal Ordnance factories have also played a prominent part. Among the items supplied to meet urgent requirements were 4.5 in. naval gun spares and ammunition, Sea Skua anti-ship missile warheads, safety and arming units for Sea Cal anti-aircraft missiles, depth charges and a number of other explosives for Royal Engineers' use. For Rapier, which was, of course, of significant importance in the land element of the campaign, British Aerospace Dynamics provided spares and advanced modifications at very short notice, in parallel with its subcontractors, Marconi Space and Defence Systems, which make the Rapier Blindfire radar. The same two companies were also heavily involved in responding to the urgent need to produce Sea Skua missiles rapidly before the main task force sailed. Night vision equipment and communications were also the subject of hectic activity, with. Thorn/EMI, Marconi Avionics, Rank Taylor Hobson and MEL and their subcontractors working long hours to fulfil additional requirements.
Hercules transport planes were also converted for in-flight refuelling by Marshalls of Cambridge. The modification was achieved in two-and-a-half weeks by dint of round-the-clock working and dedicated effort, providing an inspiring example. The conversion of the Nimrods, the anti-submarine reconnaissance aircraft, for in-flight refuelling, was an early priority. The task was 233 carried out by British Aerospace, Manchester division, in 17 days, the firm having been given a tight deadline of 21 days. To have beaten that deadline and converted the required number of aircraft within 30 days of the go-ahead is an outstanding feat Conversion of helicopters has been another essential task, in particular the provision of a rocket-firing capability by Westland Helicopters for Gazelle. Staff of the contractor worked round the clock over the Easter weekend to produce the necessary modification kits and designed, produced and cleared the installation within a few days.
Electronic firms have also been required to work near-miracles. Smiths Industries produced a major new software programme for the Sea Harriers in a matter of days. Ferranti doubled the production rate of Blue Fox radars for the same aircraft and also planned and organised a modification programme that could be carried out on board the carriers while the task force was in transit, two engineers sailing with the fleet to do the job.
The examples that I have given illustrate, I hope sufficiently clearly, the ingenuity, adaptability, and sheer hard work displayed in all parts of the industry throughout the crisis. Management and work forces alike gave unstintingly of time and effort. Weekends and holidays were disregarded in the interests of getting the job done and industry can be proud of having matched the efforts of our fighting troops during this testing period. It can rightly share in the credit for success.
§ Mr. Allen McKay
The hon. Gentleman has given a list of achievements by British industry of which Members of the House and people outside are well aware, because there is no work force like the British work force in time of emergency. Will he now tell that work force how the Government intend to win the peace and get the 4 million back to work?
§ Mr. Pattie
Within the confines of a defence debate, I thought it appropriate to place on record our appreciation of what industry has done. Time does not allow me to do true justice to the magnificent support provided by the civilian staff of the Ministry to the armed forces during the crisis. I merely itemise some of them. Without the men of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and their ships, the task force could not have refuelled, rearmed and revictualled. The Royal Navy Supply and Transport Service issued and transported massive quantities of weapons, ammunition, food, fuel, general stores and spares from its United Kingdom depots, at sea on the RFAs and from the air bridgehead on Ascension Island. The Royal Maritime Auxiliary service was deployed for possible salvage operations. I mention, too, the large numbers of key civilian staff in the Army, Navy and Air Force departments, both in headquarters buildings and at outstations, the procurement executive, the Metereological Office, the research establishments, and last but not least the royal dockyards, which bore the brunt of the task of civil conversions and refits of Royal Navy and RFA ships. It has been said in some newspapers that these men and women are the forgotten heroes of the Falklands campaign. They are not forgotten, and I pay tribute to them all.
The key question underlying all contributions to the debate has been the allocation of resources. My hon.
234 Friends the Members for Stretford (Mr. Churchill), Gosport (Mr. Viggers), Chichester (Mr. Nelson) and East Grinstead (Sir G. Johnson-Smith) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) all argued powerfully for more expenditure on defence. I am sure that the Treasury and the Foreign Office will have noted what has been said. I certainly hope so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) raised a series of points. He asked what would happen to the Argentine equipment captured in the Falkland Islands. Some of the aircraft and helicopters will be brought back here. The small arms are still being catalogued, which is an extensive and lengthy process. My hon. Friend also mentioned requisition powers. To the best of my belief, they are adequate, but in the light of his comments I shall certainly look into the matter.
With regard to Trident, I am aware that many people in British industry feel that the arrangement with American industry may not be starting as well as it might. I can tell my hon. Friend now, however, that the next stage is the publication of the guide produced by the strategic systems project office and now being widely disseminated to British industry. This is the jumping-off point for British companies to see the American prime contractors and get the business.
The air staff target 1227 "Alarm and Harm" will be the subject of a statement in the fairly near future.
I turn to the P110, on which I know that for a few sparse moments I shall have the attention of the hon. Member for Kingson upon Hull, Central. My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester also supported the P110. I assure the House that hardly a day goes by without our discussing this programme with British Aerospace or other companies. In an extremely interesting intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) asked whether it was true that the Royal Air Force had doubts about the acceptability of the P110. To put it another way, the key question at the moment is whether the P110 satisfies the needs of AST403. I remind my hon. Friends especially that the "T" in "AST" stands for "target" and that the next step is to translate that air staff target into an air staff requirement. Some work will need to be done and only at that stage can a contract be let and a contract placed. Much work is going into this at present and I shall certainly keep the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North closely informed
§ Mr. Robert Atkins
Does my hon. Friend recognise the urgency of a decision, whether or not it be converting from target to requirement, bearing in mind that the private venture capital must end, probably by the end of this year?
§ Mr. Pattie
I assure my hon. Friend that the urgency, the timing and the needs of British industry are well appreciated.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion felt that certain lessons had come from the Falklands campaign that vindicated the recent reorganisation in the Ministry of Defence, and vindicated the decision not to have national service but to favour all voluntary forces, as was decided some years ago. It also vindicated our choice of equipment. He rightly felt that we should consider the growing global threat from the Soviet Union and what he described as the window opportunity that is in its favour.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Sir F. Burden) made another extremely eloquent and passionate 235 speech on behalf of Chatham dockyard and rightly drew attention to the first-class work done at Chatham to help the task force.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) asked about HMS "Endurance". HMS "Endurance" has been involved in the operation from the beginning and has played a uniquely valuable role. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, she has been in the South Atlantic for a considerable time. I can understand that the families of her crew are anxious for her return. "Endurance" will be returning to the United Kingdom as soon as is operationally possible and we are taking into consideration the time she has been deployed. I cannot as yet, for operational reasons that the right hon. Gentleman will understand, give the actual date of her arrival in the United Kingdom. The long association of "Endurance" with the Falkland Islands and her familiarity with the operating conditions in the South Atlantic have made her peculiarly and particularly useful. That is why it is not yet possible to release her.
§ Mr. James Callaghan
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to create greater uncertainty with that general reply. The families who have been in touch with me understood that "Endurance" would be returning in September. To say that she will be returning at some time in the future will reawaken that uncertainty. Their case is that, because "Endurance" has been in the South Atlantic so long and because they understood that she would be one of the earliest ships to return, they want to know whether she can return before September. I understand that the ship's company would also like to know.
§ Mr. Pattie
This enables me to refer to an important point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central. I realise that rumours are rife in ports with people saying that this or that is to happen. Where there is uncertainty we shall do everything possible to remove the periods of uncertainty quickly. It is clearly not in anyone's interest that these families should be anxious for longer than is necessary.
I remind the House that these are not peacetime conditions. As regards the South Atlantic, we have still not received agreement from the Argentine Government that, apart from a ceasefire, they are prepared to end hostilities. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that operational considerations apply.
§ Sir Frederick Burden
My hon. Friend has made an important statement. Unless we can be assured of peace, it is wrong to consider the lessons and make provision in the dockyards for what work is necessary until the ships return.
§ Mr. Pattie
I prefer not to give way. I intend to deal with other points that the right hon. Gentleman has made. I assure him that if he is still unhappy about the point I shall write to him. I hope that I have given the assurance that we shall try to end the uncertainty.
Several hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, have used the phrase that if the Falklands campaign had happened two years from now Britain could not have coped. The facts simply do not 236 support this argument. It has been suggested in the polemics of the debate that the task force was made up of sailors most of whom had redundancy notices in their pockets. There were almost 10,000 sailors in the task force. Ninety of them had redundancy notices; five were compulsory and 85 voluntary. I wish to put that point in context.
It has also been suggested that most of the ships were on their way to the scrap yard, were being sold or something of that sort, and that for these reasons the operation could not possibly have been mounted in two years. I shall say just one more time what has been stated on several occasions. We have two carriers, "Invincible" and "Hermes". Before either was disposed of, they would be replaced by other carriers of the "Invincible" class. I refer to the "Illustrious" and the "Ark Royal". We are therefore talking about two carriers that are operational now. The question about being able to mount the operation in two years time is perfectly fair. It is also true to say that of the 42 warships that have been deployed in the task force six were on the disposal list.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the "Invincible". Can he say tonight that the "Invincible" will not be sold to Australia?
§ Mr. Pattie
No, I cannot. I am also glad to have the opportunity to say in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford, who prematurely announced that we had taken that decision, that his announcement was premature.
The right hon. Members for Cardiff, South-East and for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) spoke about the balance between our forces. I regarded their contributions as almost a continuation of last year's White Paper debate. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that our forces had been unbalanced for years. The right hon. Gentleman is a pretty authoritative source to be saying that, and to be saying that it was also true in his day. It is not sufficiently appreciated that this unbalance of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks has occurred more within a Service than between Services. It is all very well to say that the Navy should be doing this or the Air Force doing that. What about the balance that is provided and contributed towards our defence efforts within a Service? If the Government were as hostile to surface ships as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply, we would hardly be bringing forward the type 23 frigate with such care and attention. We are making it a general purpose frigate to give precisely the flexibility that the right hon. Gentleman requires.
Of course we rely on sea routes but we have to take account now of the speeds of merchant vessels, which are vastly different from what they were in 1943. An escort vessel that turns aside to prosecute a possible target or contact 30 or 40 miles away from the ships it is escorting will have its work cut out to catch up with the vessels it is escorting. We are looking at new techniques of protected lanes and of getting convoys to their destination. It is important that we keep up with technology and that we make ships capable of improvement without the major refits that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outlined in his White Paper last year. Several people have said that the choice is still between more platforms or better weapons. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intervened during the speech of the right hon.
237 Member for Cardiff, South-East to say that the fundamental question remains one of resources: where will we get the resources from? In the Labour manifesto of 1979—not from futuristic documents—we saw:We shall continue with our plans to reduce the proportion of the nation's resources devoted to defenceThe last election was fought on that issue but we are now told that we must have new resources. I was disappointed that a former Prime Minister, in the search for resources, should point the finger at the British Army of the Rhine, without apparently considering the critical effect that will have on the cohesion of the Alliance and on the apparent perception by the United States of America of our ability in Europe to resist. He is against Trident, and I find that the saddest thing of all. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman can take that position. We either want a strategic nuclear capability or we do not. If we want one it has to be effective.
The right hon. Gentleman was the Prime Minister in a Government who took the leading role in achieving the Chevaline improvement programme. Apparently that was all right, but we are now to continue until some unspecified future date and just fall off the end. The right hon. Gentleman apparently knows more about what will happen than the rest of us.
§ Mr. Douglas
I return to the issue of mid-life refits. Where would the "Yarmouth" have been if it had not had an extensive refit?
§ Mr. Pattie
The "Yarmouth" would have satisfied operational requirements perfectly well. The hon. Gentleman has raised several detailed points that are important. I do not have time to respond in detail but I shall write to him after the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead in an excellent speech took a position which has not been fashionable. He argued the case for retaining BAOR because in-place forces outweigh the value of reinforcements. That was the line followed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) asked whether his hovercraft would feature in the competition in October. The answer is "Yes".
My hon. Friend the Member for Chichester, in a first-class speech, stressed the importance of air power. He pointed to some possible savings, in which of course we are interested. He talked about pensions, local administration and communications, and the procurement executive, which is of interest to many hon. Members.
The Falklands conflict revealed the usual spectrum of opinion, ranging from those who do not want a task force, those who want the task force sent provided it is never used to those who are prepared to accept that force had to be used to resist an aggressor after all diplomatic efforts to resolve the matter had failed.
Before we indulge in such a welter of analysis and inquiry that we begin to doubt whether we won we must remember that the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentina on 2 April and British troops re-entered Port Stanley on 14 June. Whatever arguments there are about weapons systems and detailed operations, there can be no escaping the fact that many things went right. If they had not gone right we should not yet be in Port Stanley.
238 The Falkland Islands campaign subjected British forces to the most vigorous series of challenges faced for many years, and they were overcome by superior motivation, training and sheer professionalism.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 30, Noes 295.240
|Division No. 257]||[10 pm|
|Bradley, Tom||Magee, Bryan|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)|
|Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Cartwright, John||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Penhaligon, David|
|Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Freud, Clement||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Ginsburg, David||Sandelson, Neville|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Horam, John||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Howells, Geraint||Wellbeloved, James|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillhead)||Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|McNally, Thomas||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Adley, Robert||Cadbury, Jocelyn|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Carlisle, John (Luton West)|
|Alexander, Richard||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul|
|Ancram, Michael||Chapman, Sydney|
|Arnold, Tom||Churchill, W. S.|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Atkins, Robert(Preston N)||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th.E)||Cockeram, Eric|
|Baker, Kenneth(St.M'bone)||Colvin, Michael|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Cope, John|
|Banks, Robert||Cormack, Patrick|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Corrie, John|
|Bendall, Vivian||Costain, Sir Albert|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Best, Keith||Critchley, Julian|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Crouch, David|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Blackburn, John||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Blaker, Peter||Dover, Denshore|
|Body, Richard||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Dykes, Hugh|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Bowden, Andrew||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Eggar, Tim|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Elliott, Sir William|
|Bright, Graham||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Brinton, Tim||Eyre, Reginald|
|Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon||Fairgrieve, Sir Russell|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Faith, Mrs Sheila|
|Brotherton, Michael||Farr, John|
|Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)||Fell, Sir Anthony|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles|
|Buck, Antony||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Budgen, Nick||Forman, Nigel|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Butcher, John||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Fry, Peter||Marten, Rt Hon Neil|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mawby, Ray|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Goodhew, Sir Victor||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Gorst, John||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Gow, Ian||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Gray, Hamish||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Greenway, Harry||Moate, Roger|
|Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Grist, Ian||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Moore, John|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Morgan, Geraint|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hannam, John||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Mudd, David|
|Hastings, Stephen||Murphy, Christopher|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Myles, David|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hawksley, Warren||Needham, Richard|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Nelson, Anthony|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Neubert, Michael|
|Heddle, John||Newton, Tony|
|Henderson, Barry||Nott, Rt Hon John|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Onslow, Cranley|
|Hicks, Robert||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Osborn, John|
|Hill, James||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Hooson, Tom||Parris, Matthew|
|Hordern, Peter||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)||Pawsey, James|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman||Pollock, Alexander|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Porter, Barry|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Jessel, Toby||Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rathbone, Tim|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Renton, Tim|
|Kimball, Sir Marcus||Rhodes James, Robert|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Knox, David||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Lamont, Norman||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Lang, Ian||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Latham, Michael||Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Rossi, Hugh|
|Lee, John||Rost, Peter|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Loveridge, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Luce, Richard||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Shepherd, Richard|
|McCrindle, Robert||Shersby, Michael|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Silvester, Fred|
|MacGregor, John||Sims, Roger|
|MacKay, John (Argyll)||Smith, Dudley|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Speller, Tony|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Spence, John|
|Madel, David||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Major, John||Sproat, Iain|
|Marland, Paul||Squire, Robin|
|Marlow, Antony||Stainton, Keith|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Stanley, John||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Steen, Anthony||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Stevens, Martin||Waller, Gary|
|Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)||Walters, Dennis|
|Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)||Ward, John|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Stokes, John||Watson, John|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Wells, Bowen|
|Tapsell, Peter||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Wheeler, John|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Whitney, Raymond|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.||Wickenden, Keith|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Thompson, Donald||Wilkinson, John|
|Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)||Williams, D.(Montgomery)|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Trippier, David||Wolfson, Mark|
|Trotter, Neville||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|van Straubenzee, Sir W.||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Viggers, Peter||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Waddington, David||Mr. Anthony Berry and|
|Wakeham, John||Mr. Carol Mather.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 292, Noes 219.244
|Division No. 258]||[10.13 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul|
|Alexander, Richard||Chapman, Sydney|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Churchill, W. S.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)|
|Ancram, Michael||Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)|
|Arnold, Tom||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Cockeram, Eric|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)||Colvin, Michael|
|Atkins, Hobert (Preston N)||Cope, John|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th,E)||Cormack, Patrick|
|Baker, Kenneth (St.M'bone)||Corrie, John|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Costain, Sir Albert|
|Banks, Robert||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Critchley, Julian|
|Bendall, Vivian||Crouch, David|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Best, Keith||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Dover, Denshore|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Blackburn, John||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)|
|Blaker, Peter||Dykes, Hugh|
|Body, Richard||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Eggar, Tim|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)||Elliott, Sir William|
|Bowden, Andrew||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Eyre, Reginald|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Fairgrieve, Sir Russell|
|Bright, Graham||Faith, Mrs Sheila|
|Brinton, Tim||Farr, John|
|Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon||Fell, Sir Anthony|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)||Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Forman, Nigel|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Buck, Antony||Fraser, Peter (South Angus)|
|Budgen, Nick||Fry, Peter|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Butcher, John||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Goodhew, Sir Victor||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Gorst, John||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Gow, Ian||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Gray, Hamish||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Greenway, Harry||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Grist, Ian||Moore, John|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Morgan, Geraint|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)|
|Hannam, John||Mudd, David|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Murphy, Christopher|
|Hastings, Stephen||Myles, David|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Neale, Gerrard|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul||Needham, Richard|
|Hawksley, Warren||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Neubert, Michael|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||Newton, Tony|
|Heddle, John||Nott, Rt Hon John|
|Henderson, Barry||Onslow, Cranley|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Hicks, Robert||Osborn, John|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Hill, James||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Parris, Matthew|
|Hooson, Tom||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Hordern, Peter||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Pawsey, James|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman||Pollock, Alexander|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Porter, Barry|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillhead)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)|
|Jessel, Toby||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Renton, Tim|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Kimball, Sir Marcus||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Knox, David||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Lamont, Norman||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Lang, Ian||Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)|
|Latham, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Rossi, Hugh|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Rost, Peter|
|Lee, John||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Loveridge, John||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Luce, Richard||Shepherd, Richard|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Shersby, Michael|
|McCrindle, Robert||Silvester, Fred|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Sims, Roger|
|MacGregor, John||Smith, Dudley|
|MacKay, John (Argyll)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Speller, Tony|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Spence, John|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Madel, David||Sproat, Iain|
|Major, John||Squire, Robin|
|Marland, Paul||Stainton, Keith|
|Marlow, Antony||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Marten, Rt Hon Neil||Stanley, John|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Steen, Anthony|
|Mawby, Ray||Stevens, Martin|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Stokes, John|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Waller, Gary|
|Tapsell, Peter||Walters, Dennis|
|Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)||Ward, John|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Warren, Kenneth|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Watson, John|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.||Wells, Bowen|
|Thomas, Rt Hon Peter||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Thompson, Donald||Wheeler, John|
|Thome, Neil (Ilford South)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Thornton, Malcolm||Whitney, Raymond|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Wickenden, Keith|
|Trippier, David||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Trotter, Neville||Wilkinson, John|
|van Straubenzee, Sir W.||Williams, D.(Montgomery)|
|Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Viggers, Peter||Wolfson, Mark|
|Waddington, David||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wakeham, John||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Walker, B. (Perth)||Mr. Anthony Berry and|
|Abse, Leo||Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)|
|Adams, Allen||Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)|
|Allaun, Frank||English, Michael|
|Alton, David||Ennals, Rt Hon David|
|Anderson, Donald||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Ewing, Harry|
|Ashton, Joe||Fitch, Alan|
|Atkinson, H. (H'gey,)||Flannery, Martin|
|Bagier, Gordon A.T.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)||Ford, Ben|
|Beith, A. J.||Forrester, John|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Foster, Derek|
|Bennett, Andrew (St'kp't N)||Foulkes, George|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Freud, Clement|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon A. (M'b'ro)||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Buchan, Norman||Golding, John|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Gourlay, Harry|
|Callaghan, Jim (Midd't'n & P)||Graham, Ted|
|Campbell, Ian||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)|
|Cant, R. B.||Hardy, Peter|
|Carmichael, Neil||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Clarke, Thomas C'b'dge, A'drie||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Heffer, Eric S.|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)||Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)|
|Coleman, Donald||Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Homewood, William|
|Cowans, Harry||Hooley, Frank|
|Cox, T. (W'dsw'th, Toot'g)||Howell, Rt Hon D.|
|Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)||Howells, Geraint|
|Crowther, Stan||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Cryer, Bob||Huckfield, Les|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Janner, Hon Greville|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)||John, Brynmor|
|Deakins, Eric||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Dewar, Donald||Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)|
|Dixon, Donald||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Dobson, Frank||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Dormand, Jack||Kerr, Russell|
|Douglas, Dick||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Dubs, Alfred||Kinnock, Neil|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lambie, David|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Lamborn, Harry|
|Eastham, Ken||Lamond, James|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Morton, George|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Newens, Stanley|
|Litherland, Robert||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||O'Neill, Martin|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|McCartney, Hugh||Palmer, Arthur|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Park, George|
|McElhone, Frank||Parker, John|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Parry, Robert|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|McKelvey, William||Pendry, Tom|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Penhaligon, David|
|McMahon, Andrew||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Prescott, John|
|McTaggart, Robert||Price, C. (Lewisham W)|
|McWilliam, John||Race, Reg|
|Marks, Kenneth||Radice, Giles|
|Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)||Richardson, Jo|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Maxton, John||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Robertson, George|
|Meacher, Michael||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Rooker, J. W.|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)||Ryman, John|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Sever, John|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Tinn, James|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Torney, Tom|
|Short, Mrs Renée||Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)||Watkins, David|
|Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Weetch, Ken|
|Silverman, Julius||Welsh, Michael|
|Skinner, Dennis||White, Frank R.|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)||White, J. (G'gow Pollok)|
|Snape, Peter||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Spearing, Nigel||Whitlock, William|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Stallard, A. W.||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)|
|Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Stoddart, David||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Stott, Roger||Winnick, David|
|Strang, Gavin||Woodall, Alec|
|Straw, Jack||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Wright, Sheila|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Thorne, Stan (Preston South)||Mr. Frank Haynes and|
|Tilley, John||Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1982, contained in Cmnd. 8529.