§ 2.52 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM rose to move to resolve, That this House approves the Report on Defence, 1960 (Cmnd. 952). The noble and learned Viscount said: My Lords, this year it falls to me to introduce this Motion into your Lordships' House, and it is, I think, the first time that I have had that honour, since I was not First Lord of the Admiralty sufficiently long to cover a period including the Report on Defence. I think that in many ways it may be an advantage that this Motion should be introduced by someone who has not a direct defence portfolio. My noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who will reply to the debate, will be able to answer any of the technical questions, or questions of detail, which may occur to your Lordships during the course of the discussion; and many others will no doubt be dealt with conveniently when we come to consider the individual Service Estimates as they come forward. But, my Lords, I would think that the main questions which people are asking at the present time are not primarily questions of detail or questions of technical expertise. They are, I would say, questions of policy; and personally I am convinced that the public is almost, if not quite, as well aware of the significant and relevant data and facts as the average non-defence-based Cabinet Minister. What is wanted, I believe, is not more information, although much information is lacking in the nature of things: in the plethora of information, and despite the welter of security restrictions, what is wanted is not so much more facts as the ability to think clearly about facts already well known.
§ There is a popular delusion in this island that our country was once—although the fable will go on to say that it is no longer—to use the felicitous absurdity of the authors of 1066 and All That, what may be called, "Top nation". My Lords, this is pure legend. For the greater part of our history we have been relatively weak. Even in the nineteenth century, which I suppose represented our highest point of relative eminence, Britain never matched in terms of absolute power, or even in terms of population, the great Continental giants. Britain had wealth; she had industrial leadership; 908 she had naval supremacy; and she had political influence derived from her vast overseas possessions—which at that time, of course, included the Indian Empire. But she had nothing like the population of, say, Austria-Hungary, or, later, Imperial Germany. Czarist Russia, although primitive and hidebound, was always a giant in comparison with Britain. And before the Napoleonic War, although Britain defeated France, Britain was never her equal in terms of absolute might.
§ Where we excelled was in a nice adaptation of policy to geographical position. Entrenched behind our Channel barrier, we maintained a naval potential sufficient to deter our enemies from aggression, and a European policy designed never to expose us for long isolated against the malice of a greater rival. The wars we fought were unaccompanied by designs of European aggrandisement, and our ambitions were satisfied by the destruction, through a coalition of outraged Powers, of whosoever for the time being coupled with the ambition to dominate the means of achieving dominion. So we survived and prospered between the reign of the first Elizabeth and the fifth George.
§ The armistice of 1918 marked the end of this strategy. The aeroplane had arrived. This was the era of "The bomber will always get through", and "Our frontier is the Rhine". Both propositions were broadly true, and to some extent invalidated the defence of the Channel barrier, which had sufficed for so long, and to some extent rendered obsolete the strategy founded upon it. Yet, my Lords, when the Channel barrier was tried again in 1940, both it and our traditional naval supremacy proved decisive in our favour in the end. Our traditional policies survived their last and their severest test at the very moment when most rational experts had pronounced them dead. But by this time the age of the missile had arrived, and the supremacy of the Air Arm was on the wane before the end of the war with Germany. Our military supremacy may have obscured the moral for the time; yet no fighter aircraft were able to face the V2, or even effectively, I would say, the V1, so long as either of these was valid. If no atom bomb had ever been invented or dropped, the power balance in Europe would have been approximately what it is to-day. Russia would 909 have been easily preponderant in land and air forces; the rest nowhere unless united and unless supported by America. The clue to the situation here might still have been the vulnerability of this country to the ballistic missile.
§ My Lords, in this basic situation the war with Japan concluded with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effect of this was to counterbalance what would have been an overwhelming Russian superiority by the American possession of the atom bomb. For some years this balance persisted. Perhaps it was as well that it did, for these were the years of aggressive Stalinism—years in which I personally, at least, believe that we were quite likely to have been made the victims of aggression if the balance had not been retained. In those days the atom bomb was a true deterrent, because it was held by one side and not by the other. It was a true deterrent because it stopped, it might be thought, the use of an overwhelming superiority of conventional forces by a Power which might well have harboured ideas of aggression by those means.
§ But we have now once more embarked upon a totally new era. Both sides now have nuclear weapons, weapons no longer confined to the atom or to the kiloton range. But we still talk about "the deterrent" as if we meant the same thing as before. In fact, we mean something quite different. We mean the possession by both sides of weapons so horrible and effective that we hope neither will dare to use them at all. This appears at present to be true, and yet, being true, the fact presents us with a challenge which we dare not avoid. For so long as the weapons are possessed, there must be a danger that they might go off, if not now or soon, at least at some time in the future. And so long as they are possessed by one series of Powers, whatever the balance of advantage, it would seem that there is no moral basis for prohibiting them to any, although it is manifestly true that their possession by many multiplies the danger of unpremeditated explosion. Moreover, although no doubt the philosophy of Communism remains unchanged, its methods appear to be different and perhaps more justifiable under Khrushchev than under Stalin, and to some extent, it may be, under Russia than in China. And if the 910 methods differ, the means to meet them must be different, too; and I would stress that the means must also bear the test of moral scrutiny no less than theirs.
§ Nor can either side ignore the fact that other issues than Communism now preoccupy a great majority of mankind. The world is not yet divided into Montagues and Capulets nor, like the later Roman Empire, into Reds and Greens. The Prime Minister recently spoke of a wind blowing through Africa, but the wind is blowing throughout the world, and though we should be unwise to ignore it, we should also be unwise not to recognise that periods of change are often periods of instability given to violence, and that outbreaks of violence, in the context I have been trying to describe, are, unless controlled, matters of infinite menace to mankind. The so-called deterrent is thus not enough in itself, or at least not enough for us in our unique geographical and historical position. We must be on our guard as much against erosion by nibbles as against destruction by blast. Freedom and justice can be destroyed by a whimper as well as by a bang, and our political systems may even, as Communists assert, collapse by their own internal contradictions no less than by a frontal assault. We must be ready to recognise the validity of diplomacy and economic policy, of spiritual as well as of physical weapons, in the great debate which will now ensue about the future of mankind.
§ Thus I would say that our problems are infinitely complicated, for our policies must remain constantly open to revision. But it is as well to have a clear idea of where we are trying to go in the end, and of how we are proposing to manage our affairs before we have got there. It is to that end that my present remarks are directed.
§ To-day, the only significant prayer in international affairs is the prayer for peace. Until 1945, the prayer in the National Anthem "Send Her victorious," or even "Scatter Her enemies And make them fall," made I believe, reasonably good sense to all except out-and-out pacifists, on the assumption, which we are entitled to make for purposes of our Defence Estimates though, of course, not for the purpose of a debate on foreign affairs, that our weapons would be used 911 only in the course of what theologians used to call a justum bellum, or just war.
§ But since 1945 at least, that prayer has been meaningless. We cannot contract out of a world war, whether we have initiated it or not. We cannot incur a world war without disaster. And I would say that, owing to fall-out, we could not remain effectively neutral without appalling casualties, even if this were otherwise possible, which it is not. Since 1945, therefore, at least, the only significant prayer has been the prayer for peace, if we are speaking about engagements on any scale bigger than the Korean campaign. That at least is my own personal conviction.
§ I say this because it seems to me that it is against this criterion that all our policies should be matched. Does this policy or that make peace more or less likely? If more likely, then the policy is right; if less, then it is wrong. To some extent the argument about nuclear weapons only underlines this truth. To some extent it has even obscured it. Yet I think that, fundamentally, that argument too must face, and be judged by, the same acid test. Does the possession by the West, or by this country, of the so-called nuclear deterrent make war less likely or more likely? If less, then it is right; if more, then it is wrong and its effectiveness in case of use becomes a matter of quite secondary importance in comparison with that judgment. To some extent the particular case only underlines the general point.
§ But it is as well to observe that that point arose and was valid quite independently of the nuclear threat. When the deterrent was first invented, the West had the atom bomb and the Communists had not. What then actuated the West was the knowledge that war against Communism would be ruinous and the desire to prevent it. At that time Communism had decisive advantage only in numbers and conventional weapons, but it was recognised even then that war would be fatal to Britain if it happened. Let us not forget that to some extent the East still have those advantages. Let us also remember that the term "conventional weapons" is itself a highly confused and confusing set of conceptions. This country and its people could be destroyed by weapons other than the nuclear warhead.912
§ The test of all our policies is thus whether each makes war less likely or not. If we reject, as most of us do, the doctrine of pacifism as demonstrably fatuous, if we condemn unilateral nuclear disarmament as a dangerous aberration, it is not so much because in the abstract we think they are wrong in principle (though I am personally convinced that they are); it is because in the concrete we believe that their supporters would be likely to prove the architects of the very misfortunes which they wish to avoid. Likewise, if we stay in the nuclear business ourselves—and we mean to do so, despite all our lesser commitments—that is not because of some abstract desire for national prestige, still less because we think that such weapons would ever justify themselves by their use: it is because we think that in that way we are marginally more likely to avoid the disaster of war rather than to incur it. If this is right the stakes are so large, the prize so infinitely worth winning, that the expense, though heavy, is worth bearing. If it is wrong, the mistake would be so serious that even if it cost us not a penny on the balance we should be wrong to continue the policy.
§ I should say that, theoretically at least, the question of disarmament is only a separate aspect of the same issue. But it is in itself so important that I may be forgiven for stressing its particular application. I make no particular claim to be the repository of much secret information. But as I contemplate the hideous weapons on both sides, which even in my partially informed state I know to have been invented—and here I speak only for myself—I regard either a world authority or total disarmament, in the long run, as the only rational objectives; and of the two I must say that I have regarded the first as the more rational. It is not that I favour at any given moment one course of action or another. It is that, contemplating those weapons against the backdrop of history, I am solemnly convinced that either humanity must find a means of abolishing or controlling these and other weapons—and by that I mean their manufacture, their sale and possession, and not just their development—or sooner or later a situation will arise, sometime, somewhere, when one will go off and give rise to a political chain reaction not the less predictable because its causes are in the 913 realm of politics and not physics alone. It may be fifty years hence, not ten. But my own youngest child is eight, and I should wish that he might live to a ripe old age and that we might bequeath him a state of the world which would permit him to do so.
§ Thus, I must ask, and seek to answer, the question in relation to our defence policies: by following what particular policy are we more likely to achieve disarmament in the long run? By going out of business or by staying in it? By having our own deterrent or by sharing; and, if sharing, with whom? For the possibility of a N.A.T.O. deterrent has recently become the subject of discussion, as well as an Anglo-American or a purely British one.
§ I return from these fairly theoretical but none the less, I think, important considerations to one or two plain facts which perhaps are not sufficiently emphasised. The first is that a Western deterrent exists; and the second is that for quite a long time to come the purely British component of it is going to be not merely an important but possibly an indispensable part. I believe that if either the British or the American public realised the extent to which as of now the Allied deterrent depends on the British V-Bomber force there would be less loose talk about sending us out of business and less nonsense talked about our not being able co afford our subscription to the so-called "nuclear club". I should like also to make this quite plain. There is, at least in my judgment, too great a tendency here to overestimate the ability and willingness of the American public to contribute to our joint defence. We are apt to think of them as infinitely wealthy. This is an error to commit which is a failure of sense no less than of sensibility. The test in each case is not of absolute wealth or absolute expenditure, but defence expenditure viewed as a fraction of their and our personal and national incomes. In these terms American expenditure is higher than our own, and in some ways a good deal higher—1l per cent. as against about 8 per cent.—although most of our Allies compare rather unfavourably with ourselves.
§ Though I have promised in this connection not to talk much of national pride and prestige, for these I regard as false gods, yet I must state my conviction 914 that in the long run—and I would say, despite the great Lord Salisbury, that nations cannot afford to ignore the long run, although people may—what is dishonourable in a people can seldom bring it profit or security. We owe it to the Alliance, if the Alliance is worth keeping, to pay our share. I believe that we are doing this now. If we can do it in the future, I should not think we were absolutely obliged at every moment of time to maintain absolutely independent armaments, and I have never thought ourselves able to maintain armaments capable of sustaining an all-out independent initiative. But this does not mean that we should not have weapons under our own control, or that we should not stay in the business ourselves, so long as the weapons of the class concerned exist.
§ Far more controversial than all this is the question of the next generation of weapons. The V-bomber will not last for ever as a weapon of war. Here I would say that we must be absolutely ruthless in providing ourselves with a defence which is not so out of date as to be ineffective for the purpose for which it is required—that is, the prevention of war. My right honourable friend in another place has spoken of his interest in the weapon known as Sky-bolt. The papers have been full of controversy about names like Polaris and Blue Streak. I do not think it is my function to canvass these matters in detail or in public to-day. But we must be ruthless in our determination to scrap anything which cannot be justified, and resolute in our intention to go in for whatever is necessary by way of research and development.
§ And though we are at all times to consider the expense of what we do and to keep it commensurate with our economic capacity, we must, I am convinced, be careful to continue to think in strictly contemporary terms. A modern weapon often cannot be developed at a cost less than hundreds of millions of pounds. We must not regard money spent on research and development as necessarily wasted or thrown away every time an expensive project is scrapped in favour of a preferable alternative. Nor must we grudge money spent on a preferable alternative simply because we know that the money will have been wasted if the 915 situation ever develops in which the weapon has to be used.
§ My Lords, the Estimates which are covered by the Motion are of the order of £1,600 million. Of this £1,600 million not more than about 20 per cent. is referable to the so-called nuclear deterrent and its defence, and 10 per cent. to the deterrent itself. I mention this figure for two reasons. The first is that there is an immense amount of ill-informed talk to the effect that our defence problems, and the economic difficulties to which they give rise, could be easily solved if we diverted the money, or part of it, which we now spend on nuclear forces to what are called conventional forces. The figures I have quoted show that this belief is unfounded. Were we to abolish nuclear weapons there might or might not be political, military or even moral advantages. What is indisputable, I should have thought, is that in terms of cash we should not be better off. Five-sixths of our expenditure would be unaltered, and, having deprived ourselves of the fire power represented by our nuclear arms, we should, I think, inevitably be driven to seek to replace it by some conventional armament, which, whether effective or not, would be likely to cost more in terms of cold cash.
§ But the second reason why I mention the proportion is even more important. There is so much talk about nuclear weapons nowadays that we are apt to think of our Forces in nuclear terms. The fact is that our Forces are now, and will remain in future, overwhelmingly "conventional" in character. But the fact also is that the distinction between "nuclear" and "conventional" is becoming, and will continue to be, increasingly arbitrary. As the White Paper presented by my right honourable friend points out, the nuclear weapon is only one part of the complex of factors that go to make up our defence policy. It is only one part of the apparatus, political, economic, military, intellectual and even spiritual, by which we, with other forces, maintain the peace and our own existence in equipoise. Even in the purely defensive field, the nuclear, although in my view at least, indispensable, is no more than an important factor.
§ The network of alliances—N.A.T.O., C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O.—do not 916 depend solely, and in the two latter cases I would say not even mainly, on nuclear power. At the same time, these alliances in themselves are equally important in our defence as any weapons by which they are defended. Even outside these alliances, our conventional forces, by their mere military presence, serve in many different ways to preserve the peace in different areas of the world. It is in fact quite clear that neither long-range nuclear weapons alone, nor conventional forces alone, could deter an aggressor from starting a major war. If one side had virtually nothing but long-range nuclear weapons, a surprise attack by the other with highly mobile conventional forces could present the wholly nuclear Power with a fait accompli. Nor could the possession of conventional forces alone prevent a major war. In the case of a Power owning conventional forces alone against a Power possessing both, I think this must be obvious. In the case where both sides possess only conventional forces, it is perhaps only necessary to say that the possible cost of a conventional war in human life, in destruction and in economic ruin has never yet deterred aggressors from making the gamble on occasion. The absence of nuclear weapons, at least in my opinion, would in itself only reintroduce into human history the futility and tragedy of recurring large-scale war.
§ In any case, it is no use talking about the absence of nuclear weapons unless in the context of general disarmament. For they exist. They have utterly transformed the nature of the struggle between rival Powers, and instead of setting the cost of resorting to war against the possible gains, all Powers have now not only to rule out war as a deliberate instrument of policy but to do everything they can to prevent its happening, even by mistake. I think it is insufficiently appreciated how far our defence policy has moved since the publication of the 1957 White Paper. We have moved, or are moving rapidly, from a fundamentally conscripted force on a national basis to a voluntary force of professional Servicemen—a conception, I would say, of the utmost boldness of which in the present day, I will confess at once, I was myself more than a little doubtful when it was first announced by my right honourable friend Mr. Duncan Sandys.917
§ As a corollary to that, we have got rid of the last relics of a conception of our Armed Forces based on a system of pay fundamentally inferior to that of civilian life. We aim to make the life of the Serviceman if anything more attractive because more adventurous, and certainly not less attractive because of the rewards. We must needs do so, because we need, and have got, forces of technicians and even technologists and scientists. The conception of the Serviceman as drawn from the ranks of the unskilled and of the either under or over-privileged, no longer has any significance or relevance at all. Side by side with the rarity and value of his labour has been recognised the necessity of a quality of equipment the like of which our Armed Forces have never possessed before.
§ Moreover, the strategic conception of their rôle has altered, too. We must no longer consider them as the basis of a vast nation in arms, able to sustain a fight in the trenches of the 1914–18 type, or the long haul of a global war of the 1939–45 type. If we are to look on the grim menace of nuclear war in the right context, if we are even to view the necessity of disarmament in the right light, let us at least rejoice that, as a result of modern developments, we have cast off, or are casting off, some of the hideous and shackling preconceptions of the past. The possession by ourselves and others of weapons intrinsically so terrible that there is a real hope that they will never have to be used, and the existence of a real necessity for mankind to learn at last in some sense a common citizenship and a common obedience to law—and I would say personally some common authority as well—is not an unmixed curse. It is certainly not an unmixed curse for our Armed Forces, or for our young men and women.
§ The conception of their rôle as a highly mobile, highly professional, heavily mechanised, scientifically equipped force, whose business it is to undertake a great variety of strictly limited operations and even peaceful tasks, whose whole function it is to prevent the occurrence of total war and not to wage it, is in itself, I would have said, an advance in civilization, or perhaps a return to the civilized ideas of more ordered times.
§ But we have to live in the world as it is, with all its dangers and all its opportunities, without hysteria, without sentimentality, but with a due sense of our responsibilities and obligations, which extend, I would say, to almost every part of the world, and which give this country a unique influence vastly disproportionate to its intrinsic strength. Policy and diplomacy, cultural contacts and economic activities are in this field more important and, it must be added, infinitely cheaper than armaments. But an element of armed strength is still an indispensable complement of policy. Our abdication from our share in this would not conduce to world peace but to greater confusion, and the greater danger that war, if not actually intended by others, might in the event occur ex improviso after a welter of chaotic and unregulated appeals to violence. These responsibilities, great as they are, can be discharged by our own country only through an extreme economy in the use of men and materials, and such economy can be achieved only by a high degree of mobility.
§ There are some people to whom the weight of expenditure on modern defence is so large as to be appalling. When I grew to manhood between the wars, the whole national Budget was of the order of £800 million each year. Today, the Defence Estimates alone are something about £1,600 million. But what in those days was the national income? Our national income to-day is over £20,000 million. Over the next ten years, on the most pessimistic assumptions, our total national product is likely to be in excess of £200,000 million, and to be running at the end of the period at between £27,000 million and £28,000 million a year. Our present defence expenditure has not, I believe, increased more than our other Government expenditure in the period. Indeed, since 1957, when the present policy was announced, it has notably diminished. It was 8.9 per cent. of the gross national product in 1956 and had fallen in 1957 to 8 per cent., and in 1958 to 7.7 per cent. I would say that it is not likely to have diminished by very much since then, and indeed may have slightly risen, for the estimates for the last year and the 919 coming year for gross national product are still only tentative.
§ There are some who complain that these big sums on weapons and formations which we may never have to use are out of proportion, but I would say that those critics are only one degree less well advised than those who think that they have wasted their money on life insurance premiums because they have not died during the current year or have wasted their household insurance premiums because they have not been burgled. I say "one degree less well-advised" because premiums give only financial protection but our Armed Forces actually render the event insured against less likely. Forty-nine per cent. of the expenditure is tied to the men employed; they are, of course, expensive men, but I do not think they could be much fewer, and being good men they are worth what we spend upon them. Twenty-eight per cent. goes on production; I do not believe that this could be reduced if we are to be efficient. Fourteen per cent. goes on research and development, and this could hardly be passed over if we are to continue to progress.
§ I should like to finish with one word to noble Lords opposite. I was myself a little sorry to see an Amendment in the name of the noble Viscount. The issues surrounding defence are extremely novel, extremely complicated, and, of course, they naturally give rise to deep feelings and differences of opinion. In such circumstances it is inevitable that decisions relating to them and even the opinions expressed should prove highly controversial. But I would say that there is no reason at all why these discussions should give rise to Party controversy. So far as I am aware—and I Clink I may be to some extent in a position to judge since I have until recently been Chairman of one of the Parties and have taken part in most, perhaps all, political controversies up to and including the General Election—there is no difference of principle in this field between the leaders of the Parties which goes to the root of their Party faith. Any controversies there may have been have been about methods rather than objectives, and any controversy on Party lines that has taken place has, I should have thought, taken place only 920 because, or at least when, they were thought desirable from the tactical point of view.
§ I myself should be sorry to think that this was to be the precedent on this subject in your Lordships' House. I should think it was better that each should speak his mind plainly on matters of this high moment, without regard to Party affiliation and without even seeking Party divisions or Party advantage. I would appeal to noble Lords opposite, not indeed to refrain from criticism—there ought to be criticism plainly expressed on both sides of the House—but from taking up a purely Party attitude, and I would say that this is not only a right attitude but also good tactics. No one, I should have thought, could pretend that recent events in another place did much to enhance the reputation of the Party to which noble Lords opposite belong.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I accept the rebuke. What was started and intended as criticism of the so-called vacillation and confusion of the Government provided only an advertisement of the confusion and division in the ranks of the Opposition. I realise that the noble Viscount's Amendment has been more discreetly drafted. There is no reference to any reason for his lack of confidence. There is no reference to vacillation and confusion, no embarrassing commitment to an alternative policy, no New Testament allowed to exist irreconcilably with the Old. There is no shame in a Party expressing different opinions on matters of this importance—it is well that we should all speak our minds—but when a Party has no united mind it should not hide behind the mask of a "No confidence" Resolution in negative terms and pretend to a unity of attitude which it does not possess in condemnation of those who carry the responsibility for events and claim to be evolving, step by step, a rational and comprehensive policy for the country in a dangerous and rapidly-changing world. That claim I would put forward on behalf of the Government. In doing so, I do not seek to avoid criticism, but I hope to be met on every hand by the seriousness and absence of Party passion which I would say the gravity of the subject really deserves. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the Report on Defence, 1960 [Cmnd. 952].—(V. Hailsham.)
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved, as an Amendment to the Resolution, to leave out all the words after "House" and to insert instead: "While recognising the need for an adequate defence policy, has no confidence that the policy set out in Report on Defence, 1960 (Cmnd. 952), in spite of increased expenditure, provides an efficient defence for the country." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, we have listened to a speech this afternoon which was most extraordinarily different from the speech to which I listened from the Minister of Defence in another place when he introduced the White Paper and tried to deal with its contents. I can see quite well what very grave and anxious thought spread across the noble Viscount's mind when he found that he would have to introduce this Paper to-day. It would be much more convenient not really to deal with the Paper, not really to explain the policy. As I sat listening to him, I thought that perhaps he was the first to apprehend the point made in The Times after the debate in another place, that what the Ministers were faced with in another place was how they were going gradually to extricate themselves, through the mouths of Mr. Watkinson and Mr. Soames, from the position which had been left to them by Mr. Sandys. That is the real difficulty that the noble Viscount has obviously, from his speech, had to face. We have had a most learned discussion. I admired the phraseology; I admired some of the philosophical as well as the ordinary human terms. I enjoyed them. But it did not deal with the White Paper, and that is what it is the business of the House to do.
§ We say that as a result of this White Paper and as a result of previous White Papers which in the past we have discussed very much on a non-partisan basis, and on which we have failed to see any real action, the time has come in your Lordships' House to move a Motion of no confidence in the policy in this and even in previous White Papers so far as they concern this White Paper. So I move formally the Amendment.
§ My Lords, every Government of a great and free country like ours has always 922 had the great moral responsibility of providing for the adequate defence of its citizens and for arranging that defence in relation to the international as well as the Empire and Commonwealth commitments and liabilities. I feel that, however much the Opposition may be able to contribute from time to time to the effectiveness of a defence debate, it can never be put into the position of really entering into the full responsibility of a Government. It may give advice; it may give criticism; it may, if necessary to bring them to book, give real opposition—and I have seen in my long Parliamentary lifetime when that kind of attitude has had to be adopted by Conservative Back-Benchers against a Conservative Government, without which opposition we should perhaps never have got through some of the great national crises through which we have passed. So do not let there be any emotional appeals to us that this is not the occasion for having a Party view upon it. The responsibility lies with the Government always in this great matter of defence. It is because we have examined the record of the Government on defence at this crucial stage in our history that we say that it is time to let it be fully known that we have no confidence in their present policy.
§ What are the facts? The facts are that the Government, in the period of more than eight years that they have been in office, do not seem to have had anything like a continuous policy and objective, although I would grant this at once: that I am fully convinced in my own heart that they have just as much concern upon this particular objective—that is, of getting final disarmament under control—as we have. It has been in their way of trying to reach that objective that we feel they have gone wrong. In the course of those eight years we have had no fewer than nine Defence Ministers—we have reached the ninth hole! We have suffered badly from this constant breaking up of the chance offered to a Minister of any length of period of control and of direction of policy within his Department.
§ At the moment we have arrived at a White Paper, and we have a new Defence Minister together with an alteration in the duties covered by other Ministers who, I take it, ought all to be under his direct control as regards defence matters. 923 We have broken up the Ministry of Supply, and have gone back to the old-fashioned method, which may lead to a great deal of disturbance in regard to the old co-operation and economies in the basic idea of the Ministry of Supply, which is being handed back to Service Departments. A new Department has been set up which is responsible for supply but is camouflaged by the fact that it has to look after especially one industry in the country—the aircraft industry—because it has civil as well as military obligations.
§ To whom is that Minister of Aviation responsible? He was the ex-Minister of Defence. What now is his position in defence? Obviously, having listened to the speech we have heard this afternoon, we are watching the spectacle of the Government doing their level best—and nobody will get a better brief on it than the noble Viscount has this afternoon—to get away from the effects of the policy which was introduced by Mr. Sandys in 1957. What now is Mr. Sandys' position? Has he a great responsibility in defence? Is Mr. Watkinson, the new Minister of Defence, really in charge and in full control of the whole of the defence policy? I think we had better have an answer to that question because of the great issues that might possibly arise from it. The noble Viscount has himself clearly marked the difference in the situation today as compared with 1957. I sat listening with great admiration. I could see that he had studied this matter most carefully. I feel that I apprehended what was the main purpose in his speech—namely, not to be caught up himself on policy; not to explain policy, but just to see whether he could not drive a wedge between some of my Back-Benchers and myself as to the wisdom or otherwise of voting in a Division on the basis of "No confidence."
§ Let us look at the situation. The noble Viscount has spoken this afternoon about the terrible position the world is in with regard to weapons. How right he was when he said that the terrible, hideous weapon of nuclear energy was not the only hideous weapon! How right he was at least to let us know—he was very modest about it, although I thought it most probable that he would know a great deal more about it than many of 924 us because of his position as Minister for Science—what are all the other hideous methods of mass destruction which are obviously known not only to the scientific leaders of our country but to other countries as well! How right he was, when we are dealing with a case like this, to ask the question as to what our attitude should be! Shall we be more likely to prevent war if we retain possession of these hideous weapons with a power to use them, or shall we be more likely to make it more possible that war will happen? That is a right analysis—a good approach to it.
§ But what has bedevilled the whole situation in the organisation we have so carefully built up in alliance in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? Has it not been the fact that we had a lot of dithering between 1951 and 1956 as to what policy should be adopted, when there was such clear evidence, especially from the Commander-in-Chief in dispatches in the Suez campaign and now confirmed by Sir Anthony Eden in his biography, that we were not ready to undertake even that ill-conceived operation? Although the people in the field did the best they could, they were held back for days and days because the military strength of the forces was not yet ready; nor was there the mobility that the noble Viscount spoke about to deal with the situation. That is the actual fact.
§ Why have we now arrived at this difficult situation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? I am not going to deal with that in any detail now, but I should like to come back to it later on. Has there not been a great deal of trouble ever since members of all Parties in this House, and members of all sections of the public outside this House, were staggered, not only by the basic policy of the 1957 White Paper, but by paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper, which for the first time by any Power speaking for itself alone and not its people—just itself—made it perfectly clear that the intention was that, having obtained control of nuclear weapons and having considered ourselves to be inferior in the possession of nuclear forces, if there were a major attack even by way of conventional measures by Russia and her allies, then we should make the heaviest possible strategic nuclear weapon reply?925
§ Who was it who laid the real foundation of the present difficulties?—the Government which is represented opposite. What a terrible thing to do! I said so at the time. I said it was virtually moving to suicide. We had the assurances of Mr. Sandys in 1957 that it was the only sensible policy. We had the assurances of Mr. Sandys right up to the last two years that although we might be bringing to an end, as the noble Viscount clearly indicated, the period of the usefulness of the V-bombers in carrying and despatching nuclear weapons, nevertheless we were entering into the era of missiles, ballistic and the like, and that everything was going to be all right. There was Blue Steel—the stand-off bomb, as I think it is called. There was Blue Streak. There was argument as to whether Blue Streak was likely to be really effective. Mr. Sandys was quite sure, absolutely certain, that it would be. But now we understand that it has been realised by Her Majesty's Government, as it has been realised long since by people acquainted with these matters, that there has been profound development and expansion of Russian knowledge and achievement in the despatch of long-range rockets, both in what I shall call the actual "attack" upon the moon and, a later development, in the evidence of the accuracy with which they can despatch their rockets, as they proved by despatching rockets for thousands of miles, firing accurately at a target away in the Pacific. That has changed the whole situation.
§ As a rule, the Blue Streak cannot be fired from a moving base—certainly not on its present basis—and it has been discovered, I expect to the horror of Mr. Sandys himself, that we cannot possibly get any advantage from the Blue Streak unless we have an adequate defence of it. And at the moment there is no answer at all to the long-range rocket with a nuclear warhead that can be despatched with accuracy, not over the thousands of miles covered by the Russian missile to a practice target in the Pacific but over only hundreds of miles if despatched from certain places in Europe.
§ We have no security at all for the bases from which we fire. I have heard one or two people say recently that it was all "hooey" to talk of the value of the 926 new warning system which is to be set up, at the suggestion and with the help of the Americans, in the National Park in Yorkshire. I would not denigrate in any way the possible usefulness of that system; because, although it is clear that we in this country have no defence against this new and accurate long-range rocket, if it means that, by a chain of stations such as we shall put up in Yorkshire, a chain extending from there round to America, and away to the other side of America as well, the Americans can get fifteen or twenty minutes' warning, which will be sufficient time for them to get their mobile base deliverance of their weapons, then the very fact that they can do so in that time will be an addition to the deterrent effect of possession of the weapon. For this reason, as I say, I do not myself denigrate in any way the use of that warning system which is to be set up—although will be a lot more useful to the Americans than to us and we might have been let off with a rather smaller contribution to the cost.
§ Let us look at other discussions which have taken place on the way up. There was discussion not only of Blue Streak but also of Polaris, which was to be a different kind of rocket altogether, with different fuel. It was thought, according to the discussions on record, that this weapon, even though its range is less than half that of Blue Streak, might be used from a moving base like a submarine. But when we read to-day the Report of the debate in another place, what we do find is the position about Blue Streak and Polaris? Does the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty feel able to advise us on this matter tomorrow, when he replies to this debate?
§ What is the position? Is not it obvious to the ordinary layman that there can be little reason for thinking other than that the debate in another place showed a gradual retreat from the use of the weapon at all? Clearly, there are two things quite missing in the position taken by Her Majesty's Government. We have no immediate weapon to put in its place. The right honourable gentleman the Minister of Defence said in the debate in another place that development on that will continue for the time being. That is a point to which we ought to turn, and perhaps some noble Lords may turn to 927 it in more detail upon the discussion of the Estimates. But from the attitude taken yesterday by the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Watkins, in another place, it looks as if we shall go on spending money on this thing which in the end will be futile to our purpose, just as we went on for years spending more and more money on aircraft like the Swift, being mulcted of tens of millions of pounds in each Budget, without there being anything to offer for it afterwards.
§ There is also the other thing to be taken into consideration at the same time, which gives me lack of confidence—that, apparently, we have no real and confirmed views on how we can turn from these "silos", as they call the bases for weapons like Blue Streak. What do we turn to in the way of movable bases? Can we turn to submarines? What is there in the naval programme as shown in this White Paper on Defence to show that we shall be able, within a reasonable time, to have submarines that will enable such weapons to be used from a movable base? No clear indication is given to us as to whether we shall require, for the carriage of these weapons, a nuclear-driven submarine or an ordinary, orthodox propelled submarine. There is no information at all upon that. All we know is that Her Majesty's Government are, to use words used in the Daily Mail some weeks ago, "once more in a dither" as to what they are going to do about this problem.
§ We are right at this stage to say to the House that the White Paper of Her Majesty's Government gives us no confidence in their policy. Let us take the question raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, on which he made a great deal of comment—the essential nature, in our defence programme, of mobility or, as he said in a later phrase, "high mobility". I am well aware that there are certain aircraft being added to the strength of Transport Command in the Royal Air Force which will greatly improve the overall capacity of our mobile service. But did your Lordships ever see anything so slow? As with so many other weapons, there has been Defence Paper after Defence Paper from this Government where particular vehicles, aircraft or weapons are mentioned again and again; but it will take years and years after suggested produc- 928 tion orders are placed before there is any delivery. It is an amazing record of delay and inefficiency, and it is perfectly true to say that, with the accumulation of these policies from year to year, we are now faced in this White Paper with the largest peace-time budget for defence with the least amount of security that we have ever had. That is the real fact of the case.
§ Is not it right that we should move a vote of no confidence, when, in other debates in which we have taken part, though we have not divided the House, we have given the warnings; when warnings have been given in another place as well as in this House, and when we see, in the case of the Admiralty—and we shall probably say more on this when we come to discuss the sea Services—that it is more than three years since it became clear, after the refusal of the R.A.F. to adopt the NA.39, two years ago that a production order was promised? What have we now, more than the fact that it is hoped to give a production order this year? When will it arrive and when will it be effective? It is perfectly hopeless in relation to the proper paying of our share (as the noble Viscount said) to the collective defence of the free nations, which we have undertaken to do under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, to see delays of this sort going on—always killing the good by waiting far too long for the best. We are never adequately equipped from year to year.
§ Nor do I speak without some experience on the other side as to how things ought to be, even in times of great difficulty. I say this to the House. Nobody had a much more difficult time than I, as Minister of Defence, when we were faced with the position of bankruptcy in 1945 and 1946, and yet had all the leftover troubles of the war, great occupation forces and a new upheaval in the East. I wonder what the Government would do in similar circumstances now. I wonder whether they would have had the courage of the Labour Government to send a division of troops and three squadrons of fighters, and to lay a strip in Hong Kong at the end of 1949 and be in a position to put a complete, efficient brigade group into the very first part of the Korean war. Judging by the reports we see, whatever 929 expeditions this Government have had to undertake in the last eight years, they have never kept up the general basis of efficiency we were able to do even in those difficult times.
§ When we come to discuss the details of the Estimates we may be able to prove other things as well. But before I sit down I must talk to the noble Viscount a little about the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is now suggested, in various places, that the reports which leaked from American sources (I am very happy they did leak) that the Germans were negotiating in Spain for bases to get supplies at least—and now it appears, on other matters also, such as space for flying training—were a storm in a teacup and nothing very much to worry about. I hope the Government will not accept that. They get credit because, although they did not do anything effective, they did make their view known to the German authorities: that it would be unwise of them—I repeat, unwise of them—to attempt what the Germans were attempting in Spain. Maybe the publicity which has been brought to the matter in this country and elsewhere is responsible for the change in the kind of statement that is now being made by Dr. Adenauer: he has promised to consult the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation before anything is done.
But, my Lords, there are two things which seem to me outstanding and which we must consider. The first is whether there has been a gradual deterioration in political control of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation authorities. If I can find the quotation here I should like just to quote some words used by Mr. Walter Dowling, the United States Ambassador in Germany, when he made a speech at the German Press Association luncheon last Wednesday. He said:
There is no basic disagreement between the United States and the German Government on the matter of supply bases in Spain, but there is some difference of views as to how the matter might best be handled. There is a definite need of German bases outside Germany, and there is no particular reason why the Germans should not have supply bases in Spain.
If we had read some of the Press comments to Mr. Dowling, before he went to that luncheon, it might have been useful. He continued:
We agree on the necessity for supply bases in the rear. So far as we personally are concerned it does not matter if they are in France, Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, or the Low Countries. If N.A.T.O. agreed, they might be in Spain, we have no objection.
Might I ask whether this statement by the accredited Ambassador from the United States to West Germany is approved of by Her Majesty's Government? Might I ask whether they have been consulted by the United States Government before giving any authority that such statements should be made by their accredited representative abroad? Or have we moved into another situation regarding Germany, the only Power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which is in the position of having definitely promised (otherwise she would not have been in the Organisation) not to manufacture nuclear weapons? We have been given the information in the House the other day by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne (who I am very sorry has written to tell me he could not be here to-day because of indisposition), that there is nothing in the existing agreements which could prevent Spain from manufacturing—
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
—any of these weapons, as well as having supply bases in Spain. There is nothing to prevent them doing it at all.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
I thought I said "in Spain". If the House would like me to repeat that statement again I will. It is very vital. I say that Germany is the only Power in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation which has had to promise definitely that she would not manufacture any nuclear weapons on her own territory. But we have been informed in the House by the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, that there is nothing legal in the treaties which would prevent her from manufacturing them in Spain. What sort of position is that for the people who had to fight the war for freedom and liberty?
And do not think that such anxiety is expressed only in such fiery articles as that which was written by Mr. I3arkley in yesterday's Daily Express. I turn to a 931 Dominion paper, to-day's issue—March 9—of the Toronto Globe. What do they say?Senator David Croll went too far … last week when he said that Germany was 'not to be trusted' … We must agree, however, with Mr. Croll's observation that 'as Germany's strength grows, so does her arrogance'.An example of that arrogance was a speech delivered by defence Minister Strauss at Vilshoffen in West Germany, on the same day that Mr. Croll expressed his concern to the [Canadian] Senate. Holding forth for two hours, Mr. Strauss hotly defended his scheme to have German supply depôts and air training bases in Spain,and so on. This is going round the Commonwealth. There is very great British feeling, about it. What sort of political control have the Government in this matter? If we look at the Paris Agreement, October 22 and 23, 1954, we see, in all the welter of documents that have come out about this matter—it is difficult to keep trace of them all—the original terms of that Agreement:The Federal Chancellor declares: that the Federal Republic undertakes not to manufacture in its territory any atomic weapons, chemical weapons or biological weapons, as detailed in paragraphs I, II and III of the attached list; that it undertakes further not to manufacture in its territory such weapons as detailed in paragraphs IV, V and VI of the attached list. Any amendment to or cancellation of the substance of paragraphs IV, V and VI can, on the request of the Federal Republic, be carried out by a resolution of the Brussels Council of Ministers by two-thirds majority, if in accordance with the needs of the armed forces a request is made by the competent Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation;"—it is not in the power of the Military Commander to make any important change in regard to this particular declaration; it must go to the Council of the Brussels Treaty—that the Federal Republic agrees to supervision by the competent authority of the Brussels Treaty Organisation to ensure that these undertakings are observed.Now I feel sure that it was the existence of this particular Article that caused the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, and I believe a Government spokesman in this House (I see that the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, is now in his place) to say that the proposals of Germany were not in accordance with the spirit of the Treaty, and that, therefore, the objections and the wild statements—as some of them were—in Western Germany, were not 932 justified at all, because it is a legal quibble more than anything else in relation to the spirit of this particular set of documents. I want to urge the Government so to assert themselves in the political councils of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation that if there is any question of an extension of facilities to Western Germany, of giving her powers to manufacture or increase bases or supplies in Spain, this Treaty will be altered to fit the proper feelings of the people—people who had to see their families die, and many of their children never to come back. Terrible scars are carried by people in our country—scars suffered in the cause of liberty. Yet when it is laid down after the war what the Germans shall do and what they shall undertake, they rise up and behave as arrogantly as they are behaving now.
There is something else that requires to be said. It is time, we think, that there was an overhaul as to what is the proper interpretation of the word "authorities" so often used of the North Atlantic Organisation. Who are the authorities? There is the manner in which the statements are issued as to what can be done. Take, for example, the recent announcement that a special brigade is to be formed for emergency—what is called a strategic reserve—issued from the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation by the authorities. When he is asked about it, General Norstad says that it is with the tacit consent of certain other Powers—and he quotes them, including ourselves. Parliament knows nothing about it—nothing! It leaks out from the Military Head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. We have no control, no voice, no say whatsoever. That was never the spirit in which Mr. Attlee, Mr. Bevin and myself did all the preliminary foundation work of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is contrary to what we aimed at, and contrary to the spirit: and if the Government, in the present difficult situation in the world, do not see to it that it is amended, I think that they will be very gravely responsible. I should like to have some statement on that to-night.
My concluding words will be these. I indicated earlier that I welcomed very much some of the things the noble Viscount said. Certainly we are agreed upon what is the only possible objective that 933 all our defence policies should lead us to, with the present extraordinary growth in the power of man to destroy himself altogether—that is, general disarmament, under proper inspection and control. But if we cannot get protection by means of an actual world police force, or by military arrangements to support the collective decision of a World Court, at least we should not be denied our own police force for the protection of our own citizens, though all else, as I say, should be a matter of disarmament. The first step to be taken should be to get world agreement upon the absolute abolition of all weapons, and I would include in that the bomber—all weapons which are capable of mass destruction. I hope that this House, this Party, and all Parties in the State, whilst never being willing to forgo the duty of defending ourselves unless proper arrangements are made on a basis of world agreement, will give all the power and energy that we possibly can to securing such a disarmament conclusion.
§ Moved, as an Amendment to the Resolution, to leave out all the words after ("House") and insert ("while recognising the need for an adequate defence policy, has no confidence that the policy set out in Report on Defence, 1960 (Cmnd. 952), in spite of increased expenditure, provides an efficient defence for the country.")—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)
§ 4.17 p.m.
My Lords, after hearing two such excellent speeches, I am moved to wish, as I am frequently moved to wish, that some noble Lord would perhaps open his speech by remarking that since everything that could usefully be said about a subject had already been said, he would say no more and hope that his example would be followed. The debate this afternoon might indeed seem to be a case in point, for in the persons of the two noble Viscounts who have addressed you, as your Lordships doubtless know, you have listened to a Minister of Defence, two First Lords of the Admiralty, a Minister in charge of scientific research, an Elder Brother of Trinity House and a Fellow of All Souls. After that array, I find myself at considerable disadvantage. I have no knowledge of defence matters in that sense. My own experience is that I happen to be one of the small generation who were 934 just not too young for the First World War and just not too old for the second one. My experience happened to be in about eleven of the sixteen available ranks in the Army, but they were the most junior ranks; and here I should like to pay tribute to what I might call the three happy "C's"—the Corporal, the Captain and the Colonel, which are the most enjoyable ranks in that branch of the Service.
There are three good reasons why we should discuss further this vitally important subject of defence. One is that the wider the field of examination, the better. The second is that the picture is constantly changing: politically, economically, militarily, logistically and in every sort of way. The third is that four months ago the noble Lord, Lord Winster, the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, and myself asked Her Majesty's Government if they could say whether there was any development on the Defence Papers of 1957 and 1958. The noble Lord speaking for the Government—and I am glad to see that the First Lord of the Admiralty is going to wind up for us: I am delighted by that, for I have a great admiration for him—replied first of all, "Wait and see: that is to say, wait until March. And here we are. And his second answer was "No, Her Majesty's Government place themselves exactly on those Papers of 1957 and 1958". As we are getting towards 1960, that seemed to me rather surprising.
I may have misread the National Press, but I got the impression that our Prime Minister had been travelling a great deal in several continents with the idea of discussing international matters which, I suppose, impinge on defence. President Eisenhower, I believe, has had several peripatetic journeys into Europe with the same object, and so has Mr. Khrushchev, General de Gaulle and Dr. Adenauer. It really seems to me odd that all these journeys, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government and in regard to defence, should have been so completely fruitless. In fact, I do not believe that they were.
The Amendment moved by the noble Viscount who leads the Official Opposition appeared on the Order Paper only a day or two ago. I should have been satisfied if, as the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, suggested, the debate considered the White Paper on Defence in 935 straight support or straight disapproval, without amendment. Indeed, I should have preferred to do this, for this Amendment does not go nearly far enough to please me, and it refers, as does the White Paper implicitly, to "adequate defence" and to "efficient defence," both of which phrases seem to me to have become meaningless and to indicate the attitude of mind, which I think is far too widely held, of an era which is quite obsolete, the era when a nation, like Britain in the last century, could be more or less militarily all-powerful and self-sufficient and safe.
Not only do I criticise this myopic squint in the Opposition Amendment (if the noble Viscount will allow me to say so); I am reluctant to ally my colleagues and myself in the Division Lobby with a Party which supports an independent British nuclear deterrent, for that is a major difference between the Liberal and the Labour Parties to-day. And it is a very important difference. It is the difference between clinging to nationalistic tradition in the international field, a paradox which I hoped all Parties were overcoming, and, on the other hand, the realisation that until the nations work co-operatively and also with standardisation (a word not yet mentioned this afternoon), the shadow of strife will always be present. Indeed, I consider that it is this watertight individualism among the N.A.T.O. nations with such a variation of ideas of all nations, which has caused such great difficulty to General Norstad and those who are trying to get a smooth running machine at N.A.T.O.
I could have put down an additional Amendment for your Lordships' consideration, but out of respect for the tradition and for the convenience of the House I felt that that might have been an unwelcome move at so late a stage. So I content myself with saying that, as far as it goes. I accept the noble Viscount's Amendment, but with this serious reservation. But if he should divide the House on this Motion, my present intention is to vote for his Amendment, though I do not support the wider policy of his Party.
Rather than elaborate my reservation, for there are many speakers still to come, I will simply indicate, if I may, the sort of amended Motion which I should have liked in other circumstances 936 to put before your Lordships from these Liberal Benches. It would read something like this:That this House, being of the opinion that the creation and maintenance of an independent nuclear deterrent is dangerous, ineffectual and financially ruinous, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to modify its defence programme in this sense and in the interests of British prosperity and survival.That is no extreme attitude, but it is rather different from the Amendment before your Lordships at the moment. It is the opinion which I sincerely believe to be held by a great majority of the people in this country—and not only in this country. And if it be held by most people in this country, then it becomes the political and moral duty of the Government, of whatever Party they may be, to ensure that it becomes national policy.
In a matter of this gravity, I think it is regrettable that a plebiscite or referendum to the people is so unpractical and difficult. But I do urge the Government, in perfectly good faith, to re-assess frequently their judgment of public opinion and to face, with the courage which I know everybody would applaud, the fact that an alteration of opinion and policy in these fast-moving times of new scientific discoveries and changing balances does not necessarily indicate either vacillation or weakness. If it is a change for the better—and recognition of what is better comes only from experience—it is a good change and must be courageously undertaken without faltering. The essential change of psychological outlook from the national to the international is bound to be gradual and therefore to need constant re-assessment and adaptation, both in policies and in practical programmes.
Last month I had the privilege of opening a debate in your Lordships' House on progressive disarmament, a matter not unrelated, I think, to defence. So far as I was concerned, that debate seemed particularly inconclusive, for it appeared to me that the majority opinion of your Lordships' House was fairly definite from two quite contradictory points: first, that nuclear weapons inevitably led either to defeat or suicide; and secondly, that in order to postpone this disaster, more nuclear weapons should be made. I do not pro- 937 pose to recapitulate the views then expressed, but the Government's argument seemed to me then, as it seems now, that since every nation, including our own, is vulnerable, the only means of defence is to prepare to attack. By this means, in this country we stand a good chance of expiring second instead of first, which I am sure is very comforting. And on that principle, that attack is the best means of defence, it seems to me that the National Defence Paper which we are discussing should be more correctly termed a National Attack Paper, submitted by the Minister of Attack, and that we are really deceiving ourselves if we think that we are spending these increasing thousands of millions of pounds just to keep ourselves inviolate and cosy, for that we shall not be until general disarmament, to which the Government pay lip-service and also, I think, believe in, comes about.
My chief criticism of our attitude to this programme of attack is not that the Service Departments and the Ministry itself are not necessary in these restless and threatening days, for N.A.T.O. needs them; and we ourselves need conventional forces. It is that this programme of increased armaments, costing far more than we can afford and paying a very poor dividend indeed, is surely in basic conflict with the professed aim of the Government to get armaments reduced. If I am challenged on this point, I would refer your Lordships, and particularly the noble Earl the Leader of the House, if he were here, to the speech of the Foreign Secretary to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September of last year, which I read with interest at the time and of which, thanks to the generosity of the noble Earl, I have two spare copies. My complaint is that we are contributing to the defence armament of the West far more than our just proportion; that we spend a good many million pounds without any return whatever; that even if our contribution were multiplied a hundredfold, there is still no escape from vulnerability; and, finally, that we just cannot afford this sort of outlay. In fact, we are trying to have it both ways, and in that sense I would suggest that we have never had it so bad.
One difficulty is that human memories are so long, and it is almost impossible 938 to change in one post-nuclear generation the reliance on past outdated experience of 1939, 1914, of Trafalgar and Waterloo, and even of Agincourt. We are dragging our feet. Our mental receptivity has not caught up with modern techniques. We are piloting a jet-age machine with the supersonic control lever in one hand and a hunting horn in the other. Indeed, I am not sure that our old-fashioned and pompous terminology in respect of Departments and Ministers is not really a symptom of clouding issues and confusing quite simple thoughts. I have referred to the Ministry of Attack, which we know as Defence. We have a Secretary of State for War, who is powerless to initiate, maintain or conclude a war. Our Navy, on paper, would seem to a foreigner to be controlled by a privileged club of senior sailors. The so-called Air Ministry has no regulations about our breathing or the liberty of the individual bird, which I think are the chief uses of air. It has not the least control of the temperature or the movement of air. It is merely responsible (rather like a small post office) for the occasional transmission through that element of British lumps of metal of varying shapes and sizes. And most magniloquent of all and breathtaking in its arrogance is the title of Minister of Power. To be the fountainhead of all Power: what a position! What an assumption! I some times wonder whether, in the table of precedence, he contends with the Minister of God, and who wins.
These superficialities, my Lords, are not I hope totally irrelevant. The youth of to-day is badly confused by false standards and gross over-assumptions. Violence and intimidation are accepted equally lightly, in strip cartoons and in international politics, as fairly normal phenomena; and although every responsible person wants peace, our young people see around them a cynical acceptance of preparation for war, so that even their infant games derive from the delinquent kick which is given by lawlessness. Many of us, therefore, feel a sense not only of frustration but of shame that our defence budget grows instead of diminishes; that our limited national means have to be so much expended on warlike projects of doubtful efficiency or of proved inefficiency and of rapid obsolescence, instead of on desperately pressing social needs (I need 939 not enumerate them) and the alleviation of crushing taxation which holds down prosperity and confidence like an elephant standing on a spring crocus.
I rather wish that the Church—and there are none of its representatives here to-day—which also, admittedly, has a wide equilibrium to maintain, could give a more forthright line on these difficult matters. Your Lordships may remember that in the early Middle Ages a famous theological problem was, "How many angels can dance on the point of a needle?", and I hope sincerely that its counterpart to-day is not, "How many bishops can dance on the point of a dilemma?"
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, mentioned the National Anthem. I should like to remind him also thatWhen Britain first.…Arose from out the Azure Maina personal undertaking was given, by a presumably representative body of guardian angels, that Britons never should be slaves. This, I suggest, was at the time mandatory rather than permissive; but without doubting the validity of that angelic guarantee, I do urge that we should take steps to see that we do not sink into the slavery of following the easiest conventional course of continuing in a purely experimental arms race, now that arms themselves are boomerangs. Our contribution cannot be ultimately effective, as we all know; and surely the way out of these great troubles which we have to-day is not chiefly the cynical one of adding to the vehicles of human destruction.
Arms are regrettably necessary. Defence is based on the instinct of survival. But the target of our programme is beyond achievement, even if we spend a hundred times what is now proposed. And the tragic pointlessness of it is twofold: first, that we are building up more and more human deaths to be dealt out when the horrible D-Day arrives, and also are risking present damage by strontium fall-out and possibly other unrecognised malevolent by-products; and secondly, that we know, both from experience and from common sense, that an enormous part of our effort and of our expenditure continually proves to have been wasted by obsolescence and the changing needs of technical warfare. For example, both Parties on this side 940 of the House, as the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, indicated, pressed the Government not to proceed with fixed nuclear sites but to base the Blue Streak on seagoing vessels or in aircraft. How much money has been spent on trying to develop this misconception of fixed sites will probably never be known. It is, of course, easy to ask the Government by looking ahead to provide against the unknown, and it is unreasonable to expect them always to be able to do so. But in probing the unknown it is the Government who have the machinery of research and of invention and, indeed, of anticipation. I would ask them to concentrate upon looking ahead to the furthest receding horizon of discovery.
In this connection, we might remind ourselves that up to a hundred years ago sound could be transmitted only in its primary form. Only a hundred years ago it was found possible to increase the transmission to enormous distances by the use of wires—by the telephone and telegraph. And only fifty years ago it became possible to multiply those distances without any wires at all—by radio and television. And there we stick. We do not have the imagination to get prepared for the next obvious stage in this progression. For we argue and legislate, for instance, about unsightly pylons and power lines spoiling our landscape, when surely within fifty years electric power will be transmitted without any wires at all, as sound and vision are transmitted now.
And we must be more ready—I have no doubt that many young scientists are—to throw overboard even what may have seemed to be basic conceptions. As a further example, I might even mention a simple thing—namely, the invention of the wheel, which I suppose dates back to primitive man. It is an elementary instrument—virtually a two-dimensional disc for minimising strains and friction. And we are planning all our future land transport as if this wheel could never possibly be superseded. Yet it is conceivable—and I throw this out in a sort of H. G. Wellsian sense—that road surfaces themselves may become travelling belts of ball bearing molecules, moving at, say, one mile an hour at the edge of the road and 60 miles an hour in the centre, which would rapidly cause wheels to become obsolete. These are 941 merely fanciful instances to emphasise the great need for anticipating, as far as possible, the trend of future developments and the equally great need not to dissipate our limited wealth on the sort of conventional extravagances which in the past I think have only too often proved to be completely unfruitful.
My Lords, I have no more to add. Public opinion to-day demands the so-called deterrent and places faith in it basically because the world is not yet far enough advanced to look in the face the true danger of its own potential nuclear annihilation. But what I say in respect of the Motion before us to-day is quite simply this: that our so-called defence expenditure is too big, is growing bigger, and ought to be smaller.
§ 4.37 p.m.
My Lords, I would say, first of all, that I entirely disagree with the Amendment moved to the Motion by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough. I would say that the Government have provided an efficient defence policy under the prevailing circumstances and within our financial capacity. I certainly do not agree with the views put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Rea, as regards the nuclear deterrent. In spite of what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has told us to-day in his philosophical oration, I think it would be true to say that most. Members of your Lordships' House find themselves in the same position as last year when we debated the 1959 White Paper. And what is this position? It is that most of us are incapable of evaluating a policy of defence because we are in possession of too little information. It may well be that, for reasons of security, certain facts must be withheld, but I do beg Her Majesty's Government to supply as much information as possible. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, mentioned the V-bombers and said that they would not last for ever; but he did not go into the question as to what was the replacement. He then mentioned briefly Skybolt; but he did not tell us what were the possibilities of this particular weapon.
It appears that the present Defence White Paper endorses the paper of last year, but with one important exception. This important exception is the hint of adjustments in long-term plans. What 942 these adjustments are to be is a matter, I would say, that is left to our imagination. I suggest that the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, is not quite fair to Mr. Duncan Sandys in saying that he has laid down the wrong policy, because there has been a great change in conditions since his policy was instituted. One does not have to look very far to notice that, since the commencement of the Five-Year Plan, Russia has forged ahead with ballistic missiles which is having the effect, I would say, of altering our conception of maintaining a rocket deterrent. I think that is exactly what is happening. The improved accuracy of the ballistic missile has undoubtedly turned our eyes towards having movable bases for discharge, rather than relying on holes in the ground for the Blue Streak rocket. The vulnerability of the Blue Streak rocket, if it is to be sunk in the ground in concrete firing pits, is obviously very great and could, of course, be pinpointed by an enemy without any great difficulty. Surely no one seriously expects that an order to fire the Blue Streak rockets from these pits would be given before enemy bombs had actually been discharged. I suggest that few of our Blue Streak rocket pits would be fit for retaliation after the enemy's bombs had landed.
The question is: Are we to have Blue Streak rockets discharged from holes in the ground which are so easily destroyed by the enemy, or are we to have movable bases? There are, of course, two types of movable bases which an enemy could not destroy completely in the early stages of a war. They are the aircraft with the stand-off missile, and the Polaris missile, which is fired from submarines beneath the water. I would suggest that the real dilemma—whether accompanied by angels or bishops, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, suggested—of Her Majesty's Government is that neither the aircraft with the stand-off missile nor the Polaris missile has yet been completely perfected. I hope I am wrong in this assumption, and that Her Majesty's Government will very shortly be able to turn towards movable bases for ballistic missiles. Until movable bases are available, no doubt we must rely on land-based missile defence. But I hope that consideration will be given to slowing down the production of Blue 943 Streak rockets and spending the money released on less vulnerable missile delivery methods.
I have little doubt that the snags, if they still exist with Polaris and the aircraft stand-off missile discharge, will soon be solved, and we shall be able to begin at once to reduce our expenditure on the Blue Streak rocket. We cannot, of course, afford all forms of missile discharge, and we must concentrate on the most effective and least vulnerable form of missile base. Surely we are not limited to the very expensive atomic-powered submarine as a movable base for Polaris weapons. Why not a surface ship, and a conventional submarine designed for rocket missile discharge? I understand that the United States are considering the construction of a number of small conventional submarines, of about 1,500 tons, armed with one Polaris weapon, instead of the large atomic-powered submarine, which I think carries as many as fifteen. We could, of course, save a great deal of money in this direction. I understand that the Minister of Defence is shortly to leave for the United States to see for himself what progress has been made with movable bases, and I am sure that his visit will have a great effect on our present missile policy.
May I turn for a few moments to strategy in Europe? There certainly appears to be a great difference in the strategic concept between East and West. I suggest that there is a strong probability that Russia is maintaining large conventional forces, not only in order to be militarily supreme in the event of an agreement to outlaw nuclear weapons, but also to force a conventional arms race in the West. I feel sure that we are fully alive to that position. I do not believe that Soviet military strategy has changed very much since Stalin's day; it remains basically unaffected by atomic developments. I think it was only a year or so ago that Marshall Zhukov said thatair power and nuclear weapons by themselves cannot determine the outcome of an armed conflict.The fact is that what we consider as a revolution in warfare by the use of atomic weapons, the Soviets see principally as a great increase in fire power. To us it has made the battlefield nearly irrelevant, but to the Soviets it has 944 served merely to underline its importance. They reject, I would say, the idea that a strategy based on nuclear attack on cities and bases could be decisive while an undefeated army remains in the field.
May I suggest that in Soviet eyes the immense reciprocal damage which would occur heightens rather than detracts from the importance of the Army, which they see as being the decisive arm once the strategic nuclear exchange has taken place? The strategy of the Russians is undoubtedly the occupation of Europe by immensely strong military forces, because they do not rely on either inter-continental ballistic missiles or intermediate rockets. They say that a decisive victory cannot be achieved unless they have a large and great army in the field. There is no doubt that they are gearing themselves for a long war. I trust that, in view of Soviet strategy, our policy as regards the use of tactical atomic weapons will remain the same, and that they will be used by us in the event of an all-out attack on Europe by the Red Army. I would say we have no other choice. At the same time we must, of course, improve our conventional forces to the utmost of our ability. The deterrent of global war must still remain our first priority, and we must be prepared to implement it if necessary.
I consider the defence policy of Her Majesty's Government to be the best one in the circumstances, and in my view we are, in fact, obtaining value for money. It is true that the defence budget has risen this year, but I would say that it does not appear to me to be excessive, as it is a rise of only some 5½ per cent. at a time of rising national income. Whatever we do, we must continue to maintain the strength of N.A.T.O. as much as possible and give all the assistance we can. I fully support the Motion which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Hailsham to-day.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ LORD WINSTER
My Lords, I think we are bound to admit that complaints about defence policy and performance grow steadily. This makes one ask: Are those who shape the programme as defective in judgment as the criticisms allege? One would, of course, think not and that 945 one should have confidence in Ministers and Service chiefs in these matters. Nevertheless, uneasiness persists. There seem to be two sources of chronic dissatisfaction. The first is that defence of the West is based on Alliances, and if some of the Allies do less than they should, then Western defence must be weaker than it should be. But if we plan our defence on the basis that our Allies cannot be relied upon, I think they are certain to oblige. An Alliance is always bound to have its troubles, which occur most of the time, and I always feel that we ought to be as indulgent as we possibly can to our Allies. For instance, there is this criticism of America and the warning system which is to be erected in Yorkshire. I think that is unfortunate. I should like to see recognition by us of the fact that that warning system is part of the defence of the Alliance, not only part of the defence of this country or of America but part of the defence of the alliance; and as such I should like to see better support for it than America seems to be getting at the present moment.
The second source of criticism is that we are behind our possible enemy. We are certainly not gaining—indeed, we are not even catching up on him. In missiles we are a long way behind where we should be; we have no defence against fast-travelling missiles and nothing to detect and ward off the missile-carrying submarine. Those are very grave defects in our defence system. There is criticism that preoccupation with nuclear war has been allowed to weaken our capacity for the kind of war in which we are most likely to find ourselves involved. There is also continual criticism of the process by which decisions in defence matters are reached. There are complaints that the process is slow, that it reaches wrong decisions and that it dodges vital decisions. Those are the criticisms which I feel the Government have to meet.
The public, of course, have no way of testing such criticisms, but there is no doubt that among the public a frightening residue of uncertainty remains. In the past, missile development has been at times very extravagant, sometimes sluggish, sometimes full of duplication; it has been deficient in scientific know-how; and anti-missile and anti-submarine devices have been deficient in ideas and accomplishment. I am not 946 one who is inclined to think that these weaknesses spring from spending too little. I notice that in business large organisations which function very efficiently do function by close budgeting and by "hard-boiled" control. We know well that there is no limit to the military appetite for money, and I believe that the key to more efficient effective defence is a better allocation of the money available. I believe that effective reorganisation of our various defence arrangements would yield very large savings. My thinking on that point is borne out by the Reports we read from time to time from the Select Committee on Estimates and from the Auditor-General, which call our attention to perfectly appalling wastes of money for which there has been no tangible result at all.
The weaknesses alleged by the critics can be traced invariably, if one goes back far enough, to confusion in the decision-making process. The process of reaching decisions requires simplification and considerable speeding up. Any Minister, any Service 'Minister and any Minister of Defence, is in danger of becoming the captive of this decision-making process, and he may easily become a victim of evasions. The subtle art of nullifying decisions has been very highly developed in the Services.
The Government Defence White Paper is published annually. I wonder whether that is really necessary. In the course of nine years we have had about nine Defence Ministers, many changes; but all that changes really is the name of the Minister signing the White Paper. Defence itself remains unsatisfactory; expenditure is high; vacillation remains a key factor, and policy is very ill-defined. Since 1952, £13,000 million has been spent on defence, and yet the Grigg Committee, which was appointed by a Conservative Government, reported adversely on the equipment of the Forces. And Suez (never mind about the political side of it for this afternoon) revealed a perfectly disastrous Pack of planning.
The Navy has been disastrously reduced. In the event of war it could not defend the Merchant Navy. I wonder if the present Minister of Defence, when Minister of Transport, ever looked into that matter. His atten- 947 tion was certainly called to it on behalf of the Merchant Navy. The Air Force always seems in a muddle about its aircraft, and the Army is always in trouble about mobility and delays with helicopters; it seems to remain rather behind. For instance, the Army had the idea of the automatic artillery which has just found its way into the American Army. Each White Paper in turn, as it comes out, tells us of weapons and equipment which are coming along, but it very rarely mentions any arrivals. No Minister has been able to explain why it is that what has been highly praised by the Minister of Defence, and promised, has not materialised, but has in some extraordinary way just dropped out—vanished. We hear no more about these wonderful pieces of equipment or weapons which have received such high praise in a White Paper.
Then, too, I wonder if Mr. Watkinson is really fully seized of the duties of his Ministry. I noticed that in his speech in another place he laid great stress upon disarmament. In fact, I thought the speech was almost more about disarmament than about defence. I do not want it to be thought for a moment that I decry welfare. If we are to keep abreast of manpower problems we have, of course, to keep pay and food and such things as close as possible to industrial standards; and so, of course, the cost of the Services is bound to go up. But I do not think that welfare is the prime duty of the Minister of Defence. I think it is a matter that is rather in the sphere of the Service Ministers. I should prefer to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty telling us about the sailor who said that he had never in his life been fed so well as he is to-day.
It is very satisfactory to hear that statement, but I should like to hear it from the First Lord of the Admiralty: I do not think it is the business of the Minister of Defence. I think, too, that he may exaggerate the value which he places on the many visits that he makes. For instance, he is not qualified to say whether we have had good value for the £20 million spent on modernising the "Victorious". I have no doubt that we have; but Mr. Watkinson is not capable of assessing that value, though he has access to experts who are capable 948 of giving a view. Nor will he be able to assess the technical value of Skybolt and Polaris, which he is shortly going to America to inspect. Here again, he must rely upon his experts for an opinion upon them. To the best of my recollection Polaris was examined, inspected and investigated as recently as last November. I am not quite clear why it has to be investigated all over again.
All I have said about the activities of the Minister of Defence is that they are, or should be, different from those which stand revealed in the White Paper. I think his duty should be concerned with weapons and policy, with research and equipment, and expenditure. We heard little from him, either in the White Paper or in his speech, about research. It is no good feeding the men like fighting cocks if there are no transport aircraft to take them and their heavy equipment to a place where a crisis has arisen. I am glad to see that things are improving in Transport Command, but I am still not clear whether Transport Command is equal to the task of transporting the heavy equipment of troops who are suddenly sent abroad. If we have not the aircraft to move them, and if their weapons and equipment are largely semi-obsolete, and if there is no provision for moving their heavy transport, it is no good.
I was glad to hear what the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham said, following on what Mr. Watkinson had said in another place, on the question of expense. It is a timely reminder that conventional forces cost far more than nuclear forces. Drastically to reduce our nuclear forces and to put the savings into conventional forces would have a most disappointing result on the total defence expenditure. I was glad that both the Minister and the noble Viscount have stressed that. I want to analyse what Mr. Watkinson claimed in his speech. He claimed that it would be "as frank an exposition of defence policy" as security allowed. He claimed for the Government plans that they areclear, comprehensive, good value for money spent.I recognise at once that problems involving nuclear weapons are extremely complex and difficult to solve, but I do not think they have been solved to an 949 extent which justifies Mr. Watkinson praising them to such an extent. I see that the Government are now engaged on adetailed review of our defence effort.How many such reviews have been proclaimed by the long succession of Defence Ministers? Practically every Defence Minister has introduced that as an alleviation of a rather dreary story. But, of course, a review ought to be going on all the time. That is the whole idea of having a Minister of Defence. To announce yet another at this moment is, I think, "eyewash."
It is claimed that the White Paper gives "a clear and detailed report" on "our thinking on defence policy." But in seems to go back on the 1958 statement on Government policy. At any rate, The Times leader the other day enumerated four directions in which the Government are moving away from Mr. Sandys and his 1958 policy. But something that I found most odd about this latest review is that Mr. Watkinson was at special pains to emphasise that it is very much his wish that theChiefs of Staff should play an important part in this study.I am glad to know "how well they are working together" and that they have been giving—these are Mr. Watkinson's words:valuable advice from their expert knowledge.What on earth does one expect a Chief of Staff to do out of his long life in a Service in which he has risen to a high rank? I am greatly surprised that this should impress the Minister to such an extent, because, frankly, I think it is patronising to speak in that way of these officers. I see that Sir John Slessor thinks that the Service chiefs should be allowed to play a greater part in the formation of defence policy. He thinks that the standing and prestige of the Chiefs of Staff has "undoubtedly diminished" since 1955 and thatsomething badly needed doing to restore the status and proper functionsof the Chiefs of Staff.Their job should be to tender collective advice to the Minister of Defence,and their advice on strategic policy should be the proper basis of the Defence White Paper. Sir John thought that the Minister would find that much could be done to integrate the three Services more closely.
950 My Lords, I have been wondering for some time whether the Ministry of Defence is really wanted. We are bound to admit that Minister after Minister has left that office leaving nothing of value behind him. The truth is that many of the appointments to the Ministry of Defence have been completely mystifying. I myself think that they have been due to the necessity that Prime Ministers have of finding something for "dear old Buggins"—"We cannot leave him out; we have got to fit him in somewhere." I can think of no other explanation for some of the appointments to the Ministry of Defence. But mostly the Minister has not had a policy. If he has had a policy he has been moved on before he has had time to put his policy through. Mr. Sandys is the latest example of that, and of course there have been others. The policy is too often dropped by his successor. The net result has been uncertainty and confusion. The Ministry had its origin in the days of Neville Chamberlain, who was repeatedly pressed to institute a Minister of Defence; but he instituted a Minister for the Co-ordination of Defence who very quickly became known as the "Minister for the Coagulation of Defence." I remember how he used to tell us that the production of a certain weapon had been doubled since he last addressed the House; but when pressed, it turned out that, instead of one, we were now getting two. I think one might still often call the Minister of Defence the "Minister for the Coagulation of Defence." I still cannot see how the Ministry has really been an improvement on the old C.I.D. or the other old arrangement for working with the Chiefs of Staff.
I agree with Mr. Watkinson that the division between conventional and unconventional weapons blurs the defence issue, which of course depends upon the whole and not upon the nuclear part alone. But, he says,We must be ready to produce instant reaction to an aggressor.The fact is that we have not the plans or the mobility to do this. Mr. Watkinson enumerated seventeen places where British forces might suddenly find themselves with a job to do. Among them he quoted Simonstown and Australia, which seems to me to be going a little far. I should be surprised to see British 951 forces called into Simonstown, in any event. But of course if we should be called upon to act in seventeen places at once—or even a very small number of them—we should find that we simply have not got the forces to do so. I thought his claim that the re-equipment of our forces has reached "a very advanced stage" went hand in hand with the statement that we had been able to buy Beaver aircraft from Canada—rather a curious place to go for the Beaver aircraft. There was a time when "The Beaver" used to produce our own aircraft for us.
Then we were told [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 618, col. 852]:We must get into the nuclear submarine business … for the hunter-killer … and … the missile-carrying rôle.My Lords, we ought to have been in the nuclear submarine business long ago. We first began talking about it in 1945. One is now being built at Barrow and may be launched this year; but there is no proper missile submarine yet in any plan of which I have heard, while the American Navy is rapidly on the way to an all-nuclear Navy, with large ships as well as submarines. We are to have a second commando carrier, but when? Is it firmly decided when that shall be laid down? We are told only that plans are going forward. We are told, "We want one of the new types of assault ships." But when? Is that ordered or on the point or being ordered? And so it goes on, all through the story of the White Paper. It is all a question of when, when, when—everything is "when" and promises.
There is the most extraordinary statement by the right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Defence (col. 853):Comet IIs … are … coming to the end of their useful life. I hope … that before long the Air Ministry and the Royal Air Force … will be able to discuss with the British aircraft industry a transport jet aircraft.It seems to me to be leaving it rather late in the day to have such discussions. The Minister went on:It is high time that we had Transport Command and the civil aircraft industry working … together.I should say so! But what are we to think of the Minister's predecessors who let us arrive at this state of affairs? I think it is disgraceful that we have had 952 to wait for so long for some steps to be taken about Transport Command. In debates on defence, and on the Army and Air Force Estimates it has been a hardy annual to have complaints to Her Majesty's Government about the state of Transport Command. Apparently, at long last, the warnings have been heeded, and improvements are now taking place.
I must not keep your Lordships any longer, for there are many speakers to come, but in conclusion I should like to say something about the Blue Streak missile. We were told by Mr. Sandys, when he was Minister of Defence, that that was the type of missile best suited to British needs. It can be deployed, of course, only on vulnerable fixed sites. But although Mr. Sandys said that, I came to the conclusion, on reading his following remarks, that he was not really very enthusiastic about it. Now it looks as if Blue Streak may be dropped. Mr. Watkinson is already enthusiastic about Skybolt. In fact he is going to America to inspect and examine the possibilities of Skybolt, which can, of course, be launched from aircraft. But he gives a warning (col. 861):that it is … only in the development stage … and the promise of such a weapon is not always fulfilled.At the same time he says:Skybolt would undoubtedly be eminently suitable for our V-bomber force, would thus extend … very considerably … the period for which the force could … make a significant contribution to the deterrent.This seems to me to be a most extraordinary state of affairs. One Minister of Defence praises Blue Streak very highly, but apparently that is on the way out; and his successor praises Skybolt very highly—praises it to the skies—while giving us the stock warning that it is only in the development stage and that we may quite possible have a disappointment—
§ LORD WINSTER
Yes; and in any case we do not know whether Her Majesty's Government are going to pin their faith in Blue Streak or in Skybolt. But if they are putting their faith in Skybolt could we be told when we are likely to get that? Then it is the case, of course, that no decision has yet been taken about whether missiles are to be 953 used from fixed sites or mobile launchers. The right honourable gentleman, the Minister of Defence still wants more information on that subject. I should have thought that by now the Minister would have had enough information on the subject to enable him to come to a decision.
I end by saying that we have heard this afternoon something about nuclear defence and the form it should take. My feeling is that the decision to establish a N.A.T.O. nuclear force, and the thought which is clearly being given to making N.A.T.O. a fourth member of the Western "atomic club", has grown logically out of the nature of atomic weapons. France and Great Britain are facing facts which point them away from separate national efforts. France has exploded her first nuclear device. It is only a nuclear device and has to be developed into a workable bomb: that will take some years. Then the bomber to carry the bomb must be produced. We do not know when that may be, but it will mean more years. Missiles will then be needed to replace the bombers and that will take perhaps seven to ten years. After that the next job is to move on to the H-bomb and to work out a warning system. France has many, many years ahead of her in working up a nuclear arm.
We also have much still to get. We want, for instance, a five-minute warning system. I understand that in 1963 we may have a system that will give us five minutes' warning. It is rather a long time to wait for it in a state of uncertainty. Then we hope to produce a workable H-bomb warhead. It will take—what? Three years? We have to replace bombers with missiles, whatever missile is decided upon. That will take five to seven years. If it is to be Blue Streak, that will require fifteen minutes to prepare for action. When the five-minute warning comes it will seem to leave us some minutes on the wrong side. In fact, I think Blue Streak would provide an ideal sitting duck. I think these things are dreamlike; I think these things are out of reach except for the two Powers, America and Russia. N.A.T.O. is the heart of Western defence plans, and they assume a pooling of nuclear and conventional weapons. N.A.T.O. is an Alliance, and national interests divide, 954 complicate and weaken. The logic of atomic preparations seems to me to point inevitably towards partnership.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, before I make the few remarks which I want to make in your Lordships' House, I hope that your Lordships and the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition will allow me to make one or two comments upon the speech he delivered this afternoon. Sometimes I have suffered under his rebuke for introducing what he has termed a Party aspect of some debate. This afternoon the noble Viscount delivered—and I make no objection to it—a fine, robust, Party speech from the Party angle. It was a general condemnation of Her Majesty's Government's defence policy. To the appeal from my noble friend Lord Hailsham, that though we can differ on these matters we should endeavour, so far as possible, to present to the nation a single front, and therefore not divide, the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition replied by saying, in effect, as indeed he was fully entitled to say, that it was the duty of the Opposition to oppose such an ill-conceived and ill-executed policy as the Government were putting forward for the country.
I should like to remind the noble Viscount that once before the Party opposite, distrusting the Government of that day, misjudged the position of the needs of national defence in a grave way, which I believe they still suffer from throughout the length and breadth of the country. Let me only remind the noble Viscount of how 42 members of his Party went into the Lobby to regret that… Her Majesty's Government should enter upon a policy of rearmament, neither necessitated by any new commitment nor calculated to add to the security of the nation, but certain to jeopardise the prospects of international disarmament and to encourage a revival of dangerous and wasteful competition in preparation for war.That was two years after Hitler had come to power, two years after the German munition factories were putting out their munitions.
My Lords, will the noble Lord remind us which Government it was that was distrusted at 955 that time, and whether about then the present Prime Minister had rejected the Conservative Whip?
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, that particular Motion was voted for by the present noble Earl, Lord Attlee, by Sir Stafford Cripps, and by the present Lord Wilmot of Selmeston. I will not weary your Lordships with other names, which might be equally embarrassing if I read them out. I prefer much more the real, honest and logical comment made by another Privy Council member of the Party opposite when, in a broadcast in 1944, this Socialist Minister said:Our difficulties have largely arisen because our defence policy has in the past been arrived at as the result of Party dog fights in the House of Commons. An old and not very wise catch-phrase says that the duty of an Opposition is to oppose, so the Estimates for the Fighting Services have had to be opposed like everything else.I think that was a much more honest declaration, and it was one which your Lordships will be glad to hear was made by the noble Lord, Lord Winster, a member of that Party.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am always glad to hear these remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye; I enjoy them very much. Of course, in the period before the war which he is now dealing with, we had only 45 Members, I think, in the Whole House. Certainly most of us who take the line we take to-day were not in the House at all. He may remember that the attitude then of the Government upon defence was so supine that Mr. Churchill (as he was then) was in continuous opposition; and when my noble friend sitting next to me, Lord Dalton, and I myself came back into Parliament we always supported Mr. Churchill in what he was doing.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I quite agree. Let me remind the noble Viscount that although there were only 45 Members in the House, 42 of them were in support of that Motion.
I should like now to pass to two points which I think the noble Viscount the Leader of the Opposition will not find in any way controversial, but I hope they may be of some interest. The Government have admitted that we are in a rethinking 956 period; that we are in a new era for our defence policy. Therefore any criticism of mine does not mean lack of support for the Government, but is what I think anyone is entitled to submit in a period of re-thinking. My Lords, we speak here with a limited knowledge and not from informed positions like those from which the Ministers are able to speak. Therefore, I think one can best serve the debate by asking those whom I would term my political betters one or two simple questions based on ordinary logical reason. I have two such questions.
It is the declared policy (and it has been said on both sides of the House, by my noble friend Lord Hailsham and by the noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough; and it is a view, I think, shared by everyone of all Parties) that the eventual hope, aim and purpose of all peace-wishing Governments is to see a gradual limitation of arms, possibly leading to a millennium of abolition of all arms, including the nuclear weapons. Towards this end the Disarmament Conference at Geneva is about to re-commence. We have seen for a long time past that experts have been bogged down in details as to the conditions for stopping or for resuming nuclear tests, and they have been bogged down on questions of inspection. We think—and I am sure rightly—that the Russians have been very difficult; and they, naturally, say the same of us.
I would not advocate—I think no one would—any unilateral risks to be taken by this country. My question is this: Should we not now have a new approach by the heads of Governments going above the experts in order to see whether, here and now, we cannot all agree not merely to suspend or limit, under certain conditions, but to stop all future nuclear bomb tests? We in this country are well and truly members of the "nuclear club," and we are told so often to-day that we all have weapons, in force and in quantity, big enough, and with capacity to spare, to obliterate us all from the face of the earth. There is the admitted sufficiency of nuclear weapons for Britain, for America and for Russia each to obliterate the other; and, that being so, what extra value is there in more tests? If we already have a sufficiency of obliterating power, what 957 is the disadvantage of having no more tests? Whether I be exploded into fragments by a standard model or disintegrated into particles by a de-luxe model of the megaton bomb is to me of comparatively academic interest. My Lords, if we really do have this sufficiency of bomb blast power, what do we lose—what does anyone lose—by giving a lead here and now by saying that it seems of little use for any of the great Powers to continue nuclear tests, and, that being so, the heads of the great Powers will agree that there shall be no more nuclear tests? That would at any rate start disarmament off in the right direction. I hope the Government reply will convince me in due course of the error, if there be an error, of this simple logic—that if we have sufficiency to-day, why should we go on trying to create greater sufficiency?
My second question is equally simple, but I must preface it by a few supporting remarks. Our policy is to defend ourselves against the possibility of sudden aggression by atomic weapons, and for that we have two lines of defence. First, and by far the more important and impressive, is the possession in our own hands of the deterrent. I liked the line of argument of my noble friend Lord Hailsham, when he said that "deterrent" was the wrong word to-day; that "deterrent" was all right when one side had it but the other had not. I am not at all sure that, instead of the expression "deterrent", "equaliser" would not be a more appropriate description. The first and by far the most important and impressive part of our defence is the possession of this deterrent, whether you call it a deterrent or the possession of the equaliser—which, as the 1957 White Paper said, must be capable of tremendous and terrible retribution against any aggressor.
§ LORD OGMORE
My Lords, might I ask the noble Lord, in view of his argument that we should have the deterrent, to what extent we should all be equal, now that France is testing the bomb and we understand that China is going to do it? How many other countries should have this nuclear deterrent, so that we should all be equal to one another?
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
The noble Lord refers to the first question I 958 asked—namely, if we have a sufficiency of blasting power, what is the use of going on with further tests? Logically, if all tests were stopped, I should hope that no other country would endeavour to join the nuclear club.
This deterrent can be delivered in one of two ways: either from fixed rocket bases, as we may call them, or from mobile bases—submarine or V-bomber. Our second line of defence is defensive measures: fighters, ground-to-air or air-to-air missiles, including the Bloodhound—and we have just read that there were 70 per cent. "kills" in interception. Then we have the Javelin nightfighter, and we have the Lightnings; and all this is supposed to be hacked by a civil defence organisation. My Lords, an attack on this country is likely in one of two forms, or possibly in both: high or flat trajectory rockets and/or enemy bombers. My noble friend Lord Hailsham referred to Mr. Baldwin's statement, "The bomber will always get through." I think he was very wise so to do, because it is just as true to-day as it was in those days. Many of your Lordships on both sides of the House were connected with our bomber effort during the war, and you may know that we always calculated that if we had a 10 per cent. persistent wastage in our bomber effort we could not sustain that effort: a 10 per cent. wastage, which meant that we reckoned that a large proportion of our bombers were going to get through.
Whether these defence measures—static, ground-to-air and air-to-air defence—can undertake surely and definitely to deal with atomic-head high trajectory or flat trajectory rockets is something I do not know. I think it is very bold to make the claim to have 100 per cent. "kills" there. But of one thing I am sure, and that is that if 80 enemy bombers carrying atomic weapons came raiding this country, some would get past the defence. I do not know what the Air Staff will claim to do, but I do know that no Air Staff officer will claim 100 per cent. certainty in stopping the enemy bombers getting through. If only two or three or four get through, is that not enough, with the modern weapons of destruction, virtually to destroy the whole of Britain? I am no expert in these things; I only read about the megaton bomb being worth tens of 959 thousands of tons of T.N.T. Suppose ten bombers of that 80 got through. Our cities would be virtually gone, and our rocket retaliatory bases would be made untenable.
So my question is: why are we spending all this money to bring down some but not all enemy raiders if those of the enemy raiders left could wipe us all out? I am sure that fighters, ground-to-air and air-to-air missiles have a rôle in tactical operations, and to that extent must be justified, used with conventional forces—and, of course, Civil Defence must play a part. But, that being so, in view of the limited resources of this country, could not a great deal of the money now being spent purely on defence be better spent in the expansion of mobile delivery bases? Put not your faith in holes in the ground, but in mobile delivery bases. I believe that the V-bomber force will be the most powerful force for the next seven or eight years. It may be for longer than that, but certainly for that period the V-bomber force will be the most powerfully effective and economic way we have of delivering atomic weapons.
Now if your Lordships would accept the general proposition that, for the delivery of the atomic weapons in the immediate future, the next few years, the V-bomber force is probably the "best bet", and certainly the most economic, I have one more suggestion to make before I sit down, and it is this. We have N.A.T.O.; we have C.E.N.T.O.; we have S.E.A.T.O.; and now we have General Norstad's new conception of the possibility of N.A.T.O. having a strategic force. That has tremendous implications which I would not dream of touching on this afternoon; but I do suggest that we might well consider a new pact, which would not cut across but which could be, as it were, superimposed upon those pacts which I have cited to your Lordships, a new pact to ensure that in future all aggression in any part of the world would meet retaliation, swift and sure, and if one section of the free world were blotted out the other sections would see that the retaliation was carried out. That pact, I suggest, would be a Commonwealth Security Pact, so that if there were aggression on the free world by nuclear attack, from Britain and Canada, from 960 India and Pakistan and from Australia swift retaliation by a V-bomber force would be assured. If that were known to an enemy who reckoned on wiping out Britain or Europe, they would hesitate before starting; and if they started it would be a grave miscalculation on their part.
The British Commonwealth is the greatest single non-aggressive unit in the whole world. It has not the political conflict which a N.A.T.O. strategic force would have as regards who gives the orders and who has responsibility for giving them. We are recognised as the greatest single force for good against evil, for freedom against destruction. A single great pact such as I have suggested need not affect the other pacts I have mentioned. It would be a further buttress of security, clear of European complications. We should find less difficulty in negotiating such a pact than we have had in negotiating others which today are of doubtful value. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will consider the possibility of a Commonwealth Security Pact. I know that we shall hear lots of arguments against, but I should like to see a positive lead towards that end because in this way the Commonwealth would once again be a sure shield for all within and for millions who love freedom without.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, we have just heard a thoughtful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, who posed four important questions. I think that it would be a disservice to the noble Lord and to his questions if I attempted to answer them from our point of view immediately after his speech. They are serious questions, which will have to be studied by the Government; and sooner or later they must be answered. The noble Lord took up the cue given by the noble Viscount the Deputy Leader of the House, who chided us on putting down an Amendment to his Motion for the approval of this year's White Paper. I thought that the noble Viscount's speech was a remarkable one. As I listened for the first fifteen minutes, I felt this was one of the few occasions on which I could say that I entirely agreed with the noble Viscount. But as the moments ticked away, I felt that, while the tenor of his speech was 961 still acceptable, he was avoiding the main issues and the implications that are raised in this White Paper, as my noble Leader has said.
We have had nine Ministers of Defence in nine years; and not nine junior Ministers, for the Minister of Defence is one of the most important members of the Cabinet. And during that time we have had a succession of Service Ministers. We have heard from the noble Viscount himself that his occupancy of the office of First Lord of the Admiralty was so short that he never had the privilege of introducing a Defence White Paper. Let us be really sensible. How can any man grasp the implications that lie in defence when his tenure of office is an average of twelve months? Is it any wonder that, year after year, we see White Papers filled largely with platitudes and promises? Is it unreasonable, in those circumstances, to expect that aircraft and equipment, embarked upon in all sincerity as practical propositions, go on and on, using vast sums of money, and in the end prove worthless?
One cannot blame the Minister of Defence. He cannot stop a project until he has had an opportunity of examining it. Let me take, for instance, the Blackburn aircraft NA39. This is a high-flying aircraft, which was wanted very much by the Royal Navy. In time of financial stringency, the Defence Minister tried to force the R.A.F. to take this aircraft. But the R.A.F. requirement is a low flying aircraft, a "hedge-hopper". If the NA39 had been called upon to perform that task, its bolts would have drawn and its wings dropped off. The Navy are still waiting for the NA39. There is a production order, but I have no idea what is the quantity.
On that account and on many others, I think that there is every reason for the Opposition—I would say that it is the bounden duty of the Opposition as a body—to criticise the succession of Ministers and the change of policy. And I would ask any noble Lord who, in his heart of hearts, does not have confidence in the Government's defence policy, to support us. There would be nothing wrong in that. I think that he would be doing a duty. Many of the failures of a Government are due to the fact that their own supporters have not been prepared to speak up.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord's speech, in which he has been very courteous to me personally, but I took down the following notes for my noble friend the First Lord of the Admiralty:The NA39 is a high-flying aircraft. The R.A.F. require a low flying aircraft. If the NA39 had tried to fly low, its wings would have dropped off.I am just wondering whether the noble Lord wants to adhere to that series of propositions.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I do not want the noble Lord to take a false point. There are very important points in this debate. When I was First Lord, I had a certain amount to do with the NA39. I assure him that the opposite of every one of these three propositions is true. The NA39 is a low-flying aircraft. The R.A.F. almost without exception want high-flying aircraft. If the NA39 flew low, it would be performing the function for which it is designed.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, coming from the noble Viscount, and from the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I am prepared to raise my hands in surrender, but my general principle is right—that the requirements of the R.A.F. and the Royal Navy are the opposite of each other and they are being asked to accept the same aircraft. I think that that is a fair statement. I thank the noble Viscount for his correction, because I should not wish to go down in Hansard as having put a false proposition. Also on the question of aircraft, the Royal Air Force for a number of years have been wanting the TSR2. Yet we see in the White Paper a statement to the effect that this aircraft is still only under design. Can the noble Lord, when he replies, give us any information as to when this aircraft is likely to come into service?
I should like to take up a point—and here again I agree with the noble Viscount—on the question of the nuclear weapon. I agree with him that the bomb, as I prefer to call it, and not the equaliser—the bomb to me is a more horrifying expression—ceased to be a deterrent when Russia got it. But it was still a deterrent when it became a question of 963 ability to deliver that weapon. Now, to a large extent, that has been equalised. The deterrent, I believe, now lies in the ability of the country to maintain as near as possible 100 per cent. alert. I remember 18 months ago going to Whiteman Airfield in the United States. There, at the end of the runways, were the bombers with the crews sleeping beside them. They were maintaining, at least so far as the aircraft on "alert" were concerned, 100 per cent. alert; and they maintained that they could get most of their strategic air command in the air within fifteen to twenty minutes. I do not believe that is possible for us. Therefore, it becomes a question of dispersing our bombers. We see in the White Paper that the Government are still considering the dispersal of our big bombers. I believe that we have got to get on very quickly with spreading our bombers, because that is the only way in which we can protect the deterrent, the bomber.
I was disappointed that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, when he spoke to us this afternoon, could give us no indication about the development of the bomber fleet after the V-bomber. I personally place little reliance on the missile. The missile cannot be maintained at the alert the whole time, and one cannot visualise that the Soviet Union would give us any warning. There are some who think that we shall see a build-up; but I do not. If they attack, they will do so without warning. We know that the early warning systems will give, at the most, in America fifteen minutes, and here four minutes. Therefore, I cannot see these missiles, if they are on the ground, or even if they are below the ground, being a real deterrent. But I believe that if you disperse those aircraft, it should be possible to get them in the air; and the beauty of that (if I may so express it) is that once you have put your aircraft on the alert you are not finally committed but can bring them back, whereas with a missile there is no coming back. To me it is important that with a missile you have four minutes to decide whether you send your missile, and then there is no coming back. But with aircraft, you can put them in the air; you can hold them; they are protected, they are the deterrent—and you can bring them back if your information is wrong.
964 I want to say a word or two about N.A.T.O. I think the House will agree that there has been some concern on the political structure of N.A.T.O., and I should like to put this question to the noble Lord who is to reply. Are the Government satisfied to-day that the political machinery is sufficient to cover the conflicting ideas of the countries who are our Allies as they arise? Whilst it is possible to raise strong feelings on the question of Germany and Spain, to my way of thinking there was absolutely no reason for the news coming out as it did. Had there been consultation? If there was consultation, why was it that the Germans were dissatisfied and went their own way? We have had the case of the Americans in France: they have been forced, I believe, to withdraw their aircraft from that country; and we have our own difficulties with Iceland. It may well be said that that has nothing to do with N.A.T.O. defence, but anything which can possibly divide the Allies in N.A.T.O. is of the greatest importance to the whole force.
I do not know whether the Government are aware of the announcement that was made by General Norstad the other day in regard to this mobile force to be equipped, as he says, with conventional and nuclear armaments. It may well be that the Government should know, but I certainly question whether such an important policy statement should come from the Commander. I think it should have come out as a statement of agreed policy of the political heads of N.A.T.O., because as the Sunday Times asks:What is the purpose of this force?Obviously, General Norstad cannot say in public, because that is a policy matter. But we should know. We are equipping a mobile force, which we are going to take part in, with possession of nuclear weapons. Where is it to operate? Surely that is a policy statement. Who will decide when it will use its nuclear weapons? That, again, is a policy statement. Such announcements may well cause disquiet in the smaller countries of N.A.T.O. who have no nuclear weapons but who may be called upon to support this policy.
Therefore, I would say in all sincerity that these political announcements and decisions should come from the 965 Ministers of N.A.T.O. and not from the Commander of the Force, fine officer though he may be. I would ask the noble Lord when he comes to reply if he can tell us whether the Government are satisfied with the present political organisation for consultation, and, if not, whether they are seriously going ahead to improve the system. I have deliberately tried not to take a Party line, and I hope that I have been successful. But that does not mean that if we as a Party do not agree with, or have little confidence in, the Ministers, we should not use the opportunities we have in this House of showing our disapproval.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I would agree with what the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat said on the question of bomber forces and as to spreading our bombers, and I propose to return to that matter later. I intend to dwell mainly on the question of our nuclear deterrent, or, as my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye called it, the equaliser. Since the 1957 Defence White Paper, I believe there has been a certain amount of official re-thinking. It would appear to me that the emphasis has shifted from fixed launchers to mobile launchers, and making the deterrent more invulnerable rather than defending it. I do not think that that was specifically stated, but judging by what was said in another place and reading between the lines of the present Defence White Paper, that is what I believe to be the case.
In 1957 we were to rely on our V-bomber force fitted with megaton bombs, to be supplemented by Thor missiles. The defence of the bomber airfields was to be assured by a manned fighter force, to be replaced at a later date by ground-to-air missiles. In 1958 we were told that a more advanced type of ballistic missile, the Blue Streak, was being developed on the highest priority: that progress was being made on a stand-off bomb, Blue Steel; and that development of the nuclear-powered submarine "Dreadnought" was proceeding. Last year, on the knowledge available, we were told that the Blue Streak was the type of missile best suited to our needs, whilst Lightning fighters and Bloodhound missiles were still relied upon to defend our deterrent bases. To-day, the V-bomber force still 966 remains, as stated in the White Paper, our main contribution to the strategic nuclear power of the West. We have four Thor bases, the Lightning is to enter regular squadron service within the next few months, and Bloodhound is now being deployed in service with the R.A.F.
We are told that an order is being placed for the first all-British nuclear submarine within the course of the coming year. Here I should like to say how much I regret that it is not to be for a missile-launching submarine, as Her Majesty's Government's policy is, rightly, to deter aggression. This may be the simple logic which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye. But if we are to have one atomic-powered submarine which cannot carry missiles, I should have thought that there was a simple logic in having one missile-launching submarine in the initial stages. Two statements are encouraging this year. One is contained in the White Paper, and one was made by the Minister of Defence in another place. The statement in the White Paper, which I think is encouraging, is thatthe possibility of mobile launchers are being considered.I sincerely hope that they are being very actively considered, as other noble Lords have said.
The encouraging statement made by the Minister of Defence in another place was as follows [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 618, col. 847]:… it is only the duty of a Minister of Defence to try to see how best to achieve the objective of keeping peace by deterring war with the greatest efficiency at the least cost.As inter-continental and intermediate-range ballistic missiles have been in service in the Soviet Union since July, 1958, and as there are now approximately 100 principal missile bases, I believe it is reasonable to assume that the main threat to this country now comes from guided missiles. The words contained in the Defence White Paper of 1957 are still very true, in spite of development which is taking place in America on the anti-missile missile. That statement is as follows:It must be frankly recognised that there is at present no means of providing adequate protection for the people of this country 967 against the consequences of an attack with nuclear weapons.I presume that this would apply, too, to other types of warfare to which the noble Viscount referred in his opening speech. I believe he meant bacteriological and chemical warfare.
As work has begun in the Soviet Union on atom-powered submarines, one can also fairly reasonably assume that some will be fitted with intermediate-range solid propellant rockets. That brings me to the Fylingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station in Yorkshire, consisting of a very high-powered multiple radar, with an effective range of several thousand miles, and capable of scanning a wide are in space. Complex electronic computers will sort out, as it were, the information received by the apparatus. At this point I should like to take this opportunity of asking the First Lord, when he comes to reply, if he can state whether this station or the station in Greenland could track a missile which was launched from a submarine within the Arctic Circle and heading for this country. For I believe in the words of Lieutenant General H. G. Martin in a Daily Telegraph article which appeared on June 29 last, under the heading "Protection versus Deterrent":make the deterrent credible to friend and foe alike and the need to use it will never arise.Our planning, as I see it, should be on the assumption that the warning we should get would be that of the worst possible case—namely, as has been mentioned in another place, four minutes. I think it is disappointing that the Secretary of State for Air should have said in another place on February 17 [OFFICIAL. REPORT, Commons, Vol. 617, col. 1292]:We hope to get enough time to get a substantial part of the bomber force into the air.He said, "We hope", my Lords. With a view to increasing the numbers of V-bombers which could be airborne in less than four minutes, would the Minister consider asking his right honourable friend whether it would be possible to set up training exercises and training flights, starting from instant readiness, through the scrambling procedure, and so on, so that four or more 968 aircraft could be simultaneously airborne from a number of bomber airfields?
The Secretary of State for Air also said that the crews of Bomber Command were becoming very familiar with the air routes of the world. Here, I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government whether consideration could be given to initiating training flights to some of the 220 N.A.T.O. operational bases, which extend, as your Lordships know, from Northern Norway to Eastern Turkey. Could not our Victors and Vulcans exercise to and from bases in this country and those of our N.A.T.O. allies? We should also in that way be showing the flag, and that is an aspect the importance of which has been stressed in previous debates, whether it be by the Navy or the Air Force. If certain airfields within N.A.T.O. can accommodate Valiant aircraft (it is true that they are to be used in a tactical capacity), there is no reason, I should imagine, why similar airfields could not accommodate the Vulcans and the Victors, while naturally retaining their strategic rôle and capacity. It is interesting and important to remember that Western Europe consists of an area of approximately 17½ million square miles and of approximately 450 million inhabitants, around one-fifth of the total world population. Therefore one cannot belittle the importance of our N.A.T.O. allies. Such flights could but strengthen the ties between members of the Alliance, for, as stated in the 1957 White Paper, we have to rely on collective defence.
Finally, my Lords, I would say a few words on Skybolt, which has been referred to by previous speakers in this debate. Last year I believe it was known under the heading of Weapons System 138A. At that time at least fourteen companies in the United States were competing for this air-launched ballistic missile capable of being carried by the Mach. 3-B70 Walkyrie bomber. The specification then called for a weapon some 30 feet in length (which could be shortened), capable of being launched at three times the speed of sound and at an altitude of 70,000 feet, and thereafter of flying 1,000 miles with a megaton warhead. I am therefore indeed glad that, as mentioned by the Minister of Defence in another place, the 969 R.A.F. is closely informed about the development programme of this missile. Provided that this weapon can be supplied within the right time schedule, it should considerably assist in the closing of a deterrent gap, should any arise. Timing or the time factor is one of the most important points, if not one of the greatest points, one has to consider at the moment.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, as the noble Lord is speaking about the time factor, would he not agree that for the time being we have a pretty powerful flying weapon in Blue Steel, but that it is likely to meet increased resistance from the Russians and will soon be able to be shot down? And would he agree that there is no real prospect of getting Skybolt into operation for another five years?
§ LORD MERRIVALE
I agree with the noble Viscount. We do not know how long it will take to get Skybolt. The whole question of timing, placing the order at the right time, design study, research and development, and so forth, is extremely important. I cannot say whether it would take five years for the Skybolt to be operational or not. This time factor is important. In view of the increasing complexity of modern weapons, the period between design study and introduction into service is becoming correspondingly long, which I believe is one of the aspects to which the noble Viscount has just referred. No doubt from the point of view of cost many would like to see the introduction of Skybolt first. But no doubt there are many others who, from the point of view of invulnerability, would prefer to see the introduction of a missile-launching submarine with some missile similar to Polaris.
In conclusion, my Lords, as technological changes there must be, let us make sure that this constant process of evolution is carried through effectively, smoothly and efficiently by careful planning, so that our weapons, when they become obsolete in concept, may still be ahead in the field.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I do not propose to dwell on the technical aspects of this White Paper, which has been so capably done by my noble friend Lord Merrivale and by other noble Lords. 970 I speak as perhaps the youngest Member of your Lordships' House to take part in this debate and also probably as the least qualified; but there are just a few words I would like to say.
First, regarding paragraph 16 of the White Paper, which deals with Service accommodation, I think this aspect at least has much to commend it. Good progress seems to me to be being made in the building of new barracks and it is saidin addition to extensive improvements to existing premises".I should like to put one question to the noble Lord the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is probably unreasonable to expect a reply immediately, but perhaps by the time the Army Estimates come out it may be possible. The question is, how much splitting up is there between money spent on new accommodation and on improvements to existing premises? It seems to me that renovating existing premises can, at least in the case of many of our barracks, both at home and abroad, be a very expensive project. Also, I think the House would probably like some information as to the type of accommodation which is going to be provided for places like Benbecula and other areas where rocket sites and general nuclear war ancillaries are to be provided; and I think perhaps Fylingdales also comes into the category. It is quite obvious that expert men will be needed to man these installations, and it would be satisfactory to have an assurance that accommodation in relative quality to the type of men who are manning these installations will be provided.
The other day I saw the film called On The Beach. The novel was written by Nevil Shute, and many of your Lordships have probably read it. I have not read the novel, but having seen the film I feel that the subject is not irrelevant to that which is being debated to-day. As many of your Lordships doubtless know, the story concerns the effect of radiation on a community. There were some rather frightening shots of the City of San Francisco as it could appear if it were struck by modern missiles, and there was the almost ironic scene of an ordinary morse receiving set being kept going by an empty Coca-cola bottle. One's immediate reaction to this film might well be, "What a horrible thing all this 971 nuclear war is, and expenditure on defence. Let us chuck it all up!"—I apologise for the colloquialism, my Lords. But on thinking more deeply, the more I thought about this film the more was I certain that we are right to spend money on this type of defence. To run away would be rather like the batsman who was batting on a perfect wicket. He may have made a century when stumps were drawn, but the opening of play on the following day had been preceded by heavy rainfall, so that he would have to bat on a sticky wicket. He may perhaps have said, "I cannot face this. It is going to be too difficult. I am going to throw in the towel". I think that is the reaction which some people have to-day to the nuclear bomb, to rockets and all these other modern missiles.
My noble and learned friend the Lord Privy Seal, if I quote him aright, referred to his younger son in relation to the forthcoming nuclear age. I have two young daughters, the elder of whom is half his younger son's age. I, and thousands of parents, view the future of the nuclear age with the greatest concern. But Soviet Russia has perhaps the strongest submarine force in the world, and a tremendous armaments programme. She has slave labour in the satellite countries to produce armaments and other machines of war. I am always in favour of negotiations and Summit Conferences. Provided they attain something practical, or there is a hope that they will do so, the more Summit Conferences we have, the better. I therefore feel that here we must try to strike some reasonable medium. We must negotiate for control of armaments, so far as possible, but we must negotiate from strength. I am almost too young to remember Munich, but many people have said to me, "Remember Munich; we must not be caught unprepared again." As a relative layman in these matters, that seems to me to be sound sense.
When I was doing my National Service in Austria and Germany just after the war there were constant cries that our equipment was out of date. I was a wireless operator in the Royal Corps of Signals. Our sets were out of date; our armaments were out of date—or so it was said. When I went into the Territorial Army immediately after finishing my 972 National Service, again the cry went up, "Our equipment is out of date." It seems to me that we are making a creditable effort to bring our defence resources up to date. I am not saying that this White Paper is free from blemish. On paper the expenditure is large; indeed, expenditure on our social services is large. Only the other day I was indulging in conversation with a senior Army officer who made the remark, which seemed to be most relevant, "If you want a good Army, you must pay for it." I, for one, am the first to criticise rash expenditure, be it public or private; but I feel that, by and large, we are getting value for money from our defence expenditure. Of course, the nuclear age is largely an age of the unknown. Before Faraday's day, electricity was unknown and unthought of. One could go back centuries in thinking of other things—even perhaps clothing. So I end by saying that, before we criticise Her Majesty's Government for their policy, let us not forget the criticism which was rightly levelled before the last war at our unpreparedness, and let us now never forget the Boy Scouts' famous motto, "Be prepared!"
§ 6.29 p.m.
LORD SAYE AND SELE
My Lords, it is with great diffidence that I address your Lordships' House on this Report. I should not think of doing so in regard to the first part of the Report because, as a member of the noble band, or at any rate the happy band, of "C" s to which my noble Leader referred earlier, I should find difficulty in finding the difference between Blue Streak, Black Knight, and possibly even "Golden Arrow"—they all confuse me. But when I come to page 11 and to paragraph 49 of the Report, which is headed "Civil Defence"—a phrase which I have heard used only once in this debate to-day—I feel that it is to some extent "up my street" and that I am perhaps qualified to speak on it. Perhaps I ought to give your Lordships what little qualification I have—ten years as chairman of a civil defence committee in one of the smaller counties. At any rate I feel that I have had some kind of experience in this. When I come to read the three little paragraphs on Civil Defence, I say to myself: if the rest of this Report is like these three paragraphs that I see here on a subject 973 about which I know something, can I ask myself to approve this Report? And I am sorry to say that I cannot.
Paragraph 49 of the Report says that civil defence must be developed "as a framework for further expansion." I think common sense will tell us that civil defence cannot expand in time of war. If common sense cannot tell one so, I think the facts of Singapore and the reports of the German Army after the war make that absolutely clear. The chief warden in my county had the misfortune, poor fellow, to be sent as a brigadier to Singapore to organise civil defence. He said that when he got there it was an impossibility; and I am told that the Germans said that after 1943 they could not expand their civil defence.
Passing to the next paragraph, I see that some 142,000 volunteers are in and 132,000 are out, over three years. That is a difference of 10,000 upwards, in three years. What earthly difference can they make? Those who know how civil defence is made up will realise that probably the best part of those are up in one corner of a county, with another lot down at the bottom, for one gets pockets of civil defence—people joining where there is a keen chap to encourage them, while the rest of the area is a blank. Your Lordships will see it stated in paragraph 50 that:Particularly encouraging progress … has been made in the recruitment and training of volunteers with scientific qualifications to act as Scientific Intelligence Officers.The quota for my party is twelve, and the number we have been able to get so far is two. And may I say at once that I have an admirable and efficient team of civil defence officers who have produced in our region a percentage considerably higher than the national percentage. That leaves one in a pretty difficult dilemma if one wishes in any way to support the Motion.
Then, in paragraph 51 it is stated that:Close co-operation between the Services and the civil defence authorities continues at all levels.Of course it does; but what does it continue to do? It continues at all levels and at the same level. It does not get on. Mainly, the civil defence chaps are keen, and that is all right. The Army do their work; but the national reservists (and the noble Lord who spoke before me may have some experience of this) 974 have gone. National Servicemen made a lot of mobile columns ready to do civil defence, but what is to come in their place? We now have certain units of the Army for that. We are told that a number of major Territorial Army units to-day do their training in civil defence—one year in four. I do not know whether this is the second or third year, but it is certainly not the fourth year yet, so they are not all trained. When they are trained, they are the active column. So on that I cannot support the Motion.
Let me say a few more words. At present we depend entirely on the voluntary system. There was the statement contained in the 1957 White Paper on Defence, that there is no adequate defence against the hydrogen bomb. When that is said in a Government Paper the voluntary recruitment for civil defence flops straight away. Perhaps in time it gradually picks up, but then we get a show like there was in The Times of last Saturday—an article on a report of the London County Council warning of civil defence deficiencies. It is quite appalling, but one may find the same throughout the whole country. And in the same newspaper was an article practically saying that civil defence is no good to anybody. After that, how can we expect to get volunteers? We just cannot.
I suggest that what is needed from Her Majesty's Government, first of all, is an absolutely firm statement that civil defence can help to save somebody: it may be you, it may be me—I do not know. Or can it, or cannot it? Let us not haver, because that does not help. That makes the situation impossible. The firm statement having been made, how are we to get the people?—because in any case, and whatever is said, we shall not get a proper network of civil defenders throughout the countryside. As I have said, we get them in little pockets. We must have an absolutely clear plan. We have at present an admirable General, I believe a Gunner, in charge of Civil Defence. He makes an admirable plan, but we have our civil defence teams and our industrial civil defence entirely separate. I hesitate to ask the question—I will not do so—but may I suggest that practically everybody in this House knows who his civil defence officer is, who is his local warden, who can tell him where the nasty stuff is falling from 975 the air? It is a very important point. After this clear decision we should get the plan right and make it easy; for, after all, it has to go throughout the whole of the country. The plan must embrace everyone and produce a network of civil defence throughout England, Scotland, Wales and, I suppose, part of Ireland. Unless we have a civil defence network everywhere we cannot say that we have done our job.
How are we to get that done? We have lost most of our volunteers—or, at any rate, we are losing them. What about education? Why should not civil defence—the means of survival—be taught in our schools, say in the last term in secondary schools? I should like to see all the Jacks and Jills who were sitting up in the Gallery just now going home in the evening and asking, "Mummy, what about fall-out?" and, "Daddy, what are you going to do? What about our water supply when something happens?" Daddy may say, "We shall all be killed". But that need not be so. The bomb, if it is a bomb, may fall somewhere else. But if it does not, and if Mummy and Daddy do not know what to do, they are "for it".
I suggest, therefore, that education is the basis of civil defence. At present we cannot induce the education authorities to use civil defence training in any way. I have even been told by one good lady that she would rather drown her children (or something of the kind) than have them taught civil defence. That is the attitude we get. But there are children. Why not educate them? We give thousands and thousands of pounds in grants to people to go to universities. Why should we not ask a little something of them in return? Why should we not give them something else as well, the knowledge of how to survive, and ask in return that, for a period at any rate, they should act in civil defence in their own home? What I ask is for a network of knowledge to start with, and then a network of trained national defence workers—I avoid the term "national service workers" and say "national defence workers"—and they should be ready in their own homes, when they are at home, and in their own industrial units when they are at work. If your Lordships—I say "if"—decide with the Government that the show can work, I think that in 976 that way we shall be able to make it work. And how nice it would have been if we had sent ten or twenty teams of trained rescue workers off to Agadir as well as those blankets and the £2,000
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the other day I came across a passage in a Service journal which was actually the editorial to the publication of the article on a lecture by General Sir John Cowley, and with your Lordships' permission I should like to read it to you. The writer says:It is one of the tragedies of our modern times that the speed of technological advance is so great that no officer who has left the Services can hope to keep abreast of new invention. One of the results of this is to deny to the Services the benefit of the advice and counsel of their senior retired officers. They are all out of touch within six months or a year of retiring,and so on. I regret to tell your Lordships that, in spite of that atomic deterrent and the lateness of the hour, I do not propose to be daunted from addressing your Lordships for a few moments. There is quite a grain of truth in those remarks. It is getting harder and harder for those who have left the Services to keep pace with developments and to make sense of them; but, none the less, those of us who were in the Services and are now in this House must do the best we can.
I am also glad that the sentiments expressed by the writer did not daunt the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, who has just sat down. I, too, am a member of a Civil Defence committee in one of the smaller counties, and I agree with a great deal of what he has said. I have always felt that Civil Defence has suffered through not being closely enough connected with Service circles and through being too much connected with the Home Office. I have a clear recollection that when I was sitting on the Benches opposite and the Civil Defence Bill was going through the House. I said I doubted very much, despite the high esteem in which I held the Home Office in other matters, whether Civil Defence would prosper with prison reform next door and deprived children down the passage, and I still hold that view.
Let me come back for a moment to the Defence White Paper. Here I would say that, despite what the noble Lord, 977 Lord Saye and Sele, said about opposing the Motion and what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, who has now left the Chamber, I take the opposite view. Although those of us on the Benches behind my noble friends in front do not slavishly accept everything we find, we take quite the opposite view as to what we shall do, because we shall encourage our noble friends in front of us to do better and better by supporting them in this Motion.
It is quite interesting to look at the titles of the various statements on Defence that we have had during the years. The present series begins with 1957, as I think noble Lords would agree. The White Paper of that year was called An Outline of Future Policy; the next year, 1958, the White Paper was called Britain's Contribution to Peace and Security; in 1959 it was called Progress of the Five-Year Plan: and in 1960, the White Paper we are discussing now is called simply Report on Defence. That makes me wonder for a moment whether the White Papers which have followed since 1957 have disclosed a consistent following of the 1957 Plan, or whether my noble friend Lord Hailsham, who moved the Motion this afternoon, was in fact a deviationist. I do not think he was, because if we can go back to the 1957 White Paper (which I have just looked at and perhaps may do so again in order to refresh my memory), I see that in paragraphs 13 and 14 something like this is said: while comprehensive disarmament remains among the foremost objectives of British foreign policy, it is unhappily true that, pending international agreement, the only safeguard against major aggression is the power to threaten retaliation with nuclear weapons. I do not see that anything in the present White Paper or anything my noble friend has said has really shaded that view, even if there are some other things which have to be considered with it. Of course, since matters have not stood still since 1957, there has to be a certain amount of change in keeping abreast of the times to meet the changes in weapons, in thought and all the rest of it. But it is perfectly clear to me that the present White Paper follows consistently the line that was set by the then Minister of Defence in 1957.
978 This White Paper, to my mind, looks as if it represents a year of achievement; that is to say, a lot of the thinking and planning which took place in earlier years has in fact been translated into action. I say that I think so because no White Paper on Defence, even this one, tells us exactly what is happening, and cannot do so because of matters of security. But I should think that a great deal of solid progress has been achieved during the year, even if the White Paper does not say so in terms. There has been since 1957 a certain amount of criticism of earlier Defence White Papers on the lines that, although a great deal was said about new weapons and new equipment, one had the feeling that they existed only in the way the French describe as en principe, which means, in practice, very little. But I get a different impression from the present White Paper, because more weapons seem to be coming into service.
I should also think that a great deal of good can be looked for from the reorganisation of the Ministry of Supply and the Ministry of Aviation; and also, not less important in its own way, from the merger of the various firms concerned with the manufacture of aircraft and guided missiles. I think it has been, or would have been, a fair criticism of the situation in the past to say that the relationships, not always good, between the manufacturing firms, the Ministry of Supply and the Service Departments have not given the best possible results in the way of establishing designs quickly, going into production and coming from production to delivery. The system, it always struck me, encouraged rather more than it should a certain amount of wasteful and fruitless development—locking up a lot of technicians competing with each other, who might have been employed in other and better ways—and a certain amount, I must say, of "knife sharpening" between the Services and the Ministry of Supply, each of them paddling their own canoe and sometimes forgetting who was the real enemy. I feel that this reorganisation will go a long way to eliminate a certain amount of friction which I am certain there has been up to now; and when we are here this time next year discussing the next White Paper I am confident that we shall see those results.
979 There is another side to all this which I always think is made difficult by our continued use of the terms "nuclear warfare" and "conventional warfare", just in the same way as (perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Saye and Sele, will disagree) I dislike the words "Civil Defence" which I think place too much emphasis on "civil" and too little on "defence", which is the object of the exercise. After all, defence is really one subject, and we do ourselves no good by trying to divide it into artificial compartments by the use of these various misleading terms, and particularly the term "conventional warfare", for I always feel that those of us who cannot resist the temptation of being intellectual snobs and "anti-blimp" in what we say feel that we ought to cry down conventional warfare—that is to say, the use of troops on the ground in situations which will occur before the necessity arises to use the nuclear deterrent.
If we have to divide our defence problem into more than one compartment, I should like it put in rather another way—a way which has perhaps been highlighted by what General Norstad recently proposed in the way of a N.A.T.O. force. After all, so far as we in this country are concerned, large-scale deterrent action could take place in practice. I imagine, only as part of a N.A.T.O. operation. On the other hand, small-scale deterrent action, by which I mean preventive action, if you like by conventional forces, is something which we could and should be able to undertake as our right and in our own time to discharge those responsibilities which are our own and which are not concerned with N.A.T.O. In other words, if our conventional or ordinary forces are equal to their task, and if they are properly organised and properly mobile, they will serve in their own way to forestall (if you do not like the word "deter") those incidents which break out suddenly all over the world, as they have done recently, and are found to lead to major wars when we are not looking. So, to take the first case, we have ample justification for making our own contribution to the N.A.T.O. deterrent.
To my mind, that does not mean that we should therefore set out to duplicate efforts which are being made in the same direction by other members of N.A.T.O. 980 Less and less does that make sense, because less and less is it likely that we shall "go it alone" in any operation requiring the use of the nuclear deterrent. I think that that was a point that my noble friend Lord Hailsham made when he said that national pride and prestige led one to worship false gods. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, also made the same point in his speech; though I am bound to tell him that I could not, for the life of me, understand why, having thought of an Amendment in a certain set of terms—and I thought there were points in that Amendment from his point of view—he should then say that he and those on the Benches alongside him were going to support an Amendment which seemed to me to be in precisely the opposite terms. But perhaps I did not understand him rightly.
My Lords, if the noble viscount will forgive me for interrupting, I think I said that though I could not support the Amendment in total, it was only because it did not go quite far enough. So far as it does it is all right.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
I am glad to think that his reasoning satisfies the noble Lord himself and his supporters. However, as I say, if we wish to take our part in the major deterrent, we are committed to working with N.A.T.O. on the equipment side, and that is the only way in which we can avoid a scale of expenditure which is totally out of line with our resources and with our duties in other directions. We can come on from that to say how vitally important it is at the present time that we in this country should do all we can to support the strength of N.A.T.O., the prestige of N.A.T.O. and the task of General Norstad who commands its forces, at a time when, for a number of reasons which it is no good trying to go into to-night, N.A.T.O. is under more and heavier fire than it has been for a long time—and that is doing us no good.
As I say, whatever one may think in theory about starting an atomic war, and about its advantages and disadvantages, if N.A.T.O., and no doubt the other Pacts, C.E.N.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O., are able to provide their share of deterrence or discouragement to anyone to wage a war, it is really fanciful to suppose that we shall not find that these nuclear weapons which we now have gradually fall 981 into the category of poisonous gas and bacteriological warfare. They are still there, but they are so costly to one's own side to use that all the influences—humanitarian, political and all the rest—draw more and more against their use. And if we can, by our own preparations, work towards that end, we should be doing a good day's work for this country.
Then, to come to the other point, we are left with the importance of having resources outside N.A.T.O. sufficient to meet our own responsibilities. That is fairly clearly set out on page 10 of the present White Paper and in the reference to mobility in paragraph 42, which I was very glad to see. After all, whatever one might say about Suez, and however much one may discuss Sir Anthony Eden's book, from the military and operational point of view one of the really important lessons of Suez is this question of mobility and proper organisation of a highly-trained striking force, its transportation and logistics generally. The same thing goes for our air defence, which a number of noble Lords have mentioned during the course of the evening. I agree with those noble Lords who have mentioned it, that there is a need for greater mobility in our air defence—I think my noble friend Lord Teynham said something about that—and, therefore, the need to have a new look at the whole of our air defence so that it may be sufficiently mobile and flexible to do what we want in the way that we want it done.
My Lords, time is short, but I must come to the other side of the White Paper, the manpower side, because, however successful we are in our policy and in our weapons, all these plans depend in the last resort on our producing sufficient manpower to do the jobs that we set out to do. So we come to the side of recruiting and see how we are progressing, and whether we are progressing satisfactorily on the road that we took in 1957, when it was decided to abolish National Service. So far as I can understand the figures, I should say that we are keeping about level with where we should be. The White Paper itself gives an Army figure in Annex I which shows us that in the Army (I will take for simplicity) there were 172,000 in 1959, there will be 160,000 odd on the 1st of next month, and 166,000 in 1961. That compares 982 with various targets or standards, or whatever they are called, of between 170,000 and 180,000 for the Army; so one would say that, although Regular recruiting is holding its own very well, we are by no means out of the wood. I still think that the abandonment of National Service was a right step to take, but we shall have to go another year or two with Regular recruiting before we can put our hands on our hearts and say that it has been fulfilled in the event, as I am confident we shall be able to say when the time comes. That is why one must welcome the new pay code and the other steps to improve the public relations of the Army announced by my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence in another place. At last we are coming somewhere near a career structure with an upper age of 55, although that is still a good deal lower than the corresponding ceiling for anybody in a black coat in the Civil Service.
Unfortunately, my noble and gallant friend Lord Jeffreys is not here to-day, and I must make the point that we still have a long way to go before pensions and retired pay of ex-Servicemen of all ranks are right. There is still room for improvement. I will not go further, because I believe that one of my noble friends will be talking about this tomorrow, but with my noble and gallant friend away from the Chamber I felt it only due to him to say what I know he would have said if fortunately he had been here. So we may say: so far, so good; but we are not out of the wood yet.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, if the noble Viscount is moving away from his remarks on personnel, I wonder, as he is such an expert on this matter and has such long experience, whether he could give me his view on this point. In view of modern weapons and methods, is the total of 175,000 Regulars for all three Services enough to provide the skilled personnel to do all the work which in war time was done by what was called "the tail"? It will be an extraordinary feat if you can get out of 175,000 men enough for all commitments under Alliances, do the necessary training and have enough people to occupy all other positions.
§ VISCOUNT BRIDGEMAN
My Lords, the noble Viscount does me too much honour, and I would remind him of the quotation I made at the beginning of my speech. Unfortunately I am not sufficiently in touch with these matters to be able to say off the cuff whether I think it is right. I trust my noble friends in front of me and imagine that they and their trusted advisers in the Ministry of Defence and Service Departments have worked these things out as they should. Beyond that, I am afraid it would not be wise to go.
I think that we ought to pay a tribute to Sir James Grigg and the Committee over which he has presided. Although I do not think they discovered anything that Service Departments had not been told already, they have at least confirmed it on a high level. I hope that they will not weary in well doing, and that we shall continue to have the advantage of this Committee keeping an eye on the personal affairs of men in the Forces. We should also pay tribute to those officers who had to be resettled, so many of whom have faced up to their personal problems and have resettled themselves in civil life. One hears comparatively few complaints about things having gone wrong, and that is a great tribute, not only to the care with which Sir Frederic Hooper and all those concerned in the Services have given to the affairs of ex-Servicemen, but also to the men themselves, who have faced up to the realities of life and have adapted themselves so successfully.
To come back to recruiting for a moment, before I sit down, I would say this. With the abolition of National Service we shall be faced more and more with the task of keeping the Services in front of the public, of making them see how necessary the Services are to national defence from a general point of view, and of showing individuals who may join the Service what a fine career awaits them. I will say no more about that, because I hope that some of my noble friends will be saying more in to-morrow's debate and the hour is late.
We also have to think out, in the new conditions without National Service, how we can make the Reserve and Auxiliary services a real support to the Regular Forces. A great deal of rethinking will have to be done, some in 984 connection with the civil defence, and particularly I would say with the Royal Air Force; because, since the Auxiliary Air Force squadrons were abolished, there is no body to represent the Air Force in the non-Regular world before the public, except the Air Training Corps. Perhaps we could leave that now and go into further detail in the Air Estimates debate.
I would only mention one paragraph in the speech made by my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence in another place. He said this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 618, col. 855]:This is another matter on which I hope Sir Frederic Hooper will give me advice. I know the great work done by the cadet force, but I wonder if we can expand that. Is it an impossible thing to do? All of us have it in our hearts to do more, if we can, for the youth of our country, and I wonder whether, when they have finished with National Service, those coming out of the Armed Forces cannot play a greater part in that and in bringing some adventure and more touch with the outside world to youth as part of their contribution to the wellbeing of the country as a whole.I should like to congratulate my noble friend on having so quickly mastered what one might call "the Albemarle language". I would also say that he should make use of the material he has at hand. The Cadet Force is the Army's own youth movement. I am delighted that he has suggested that Sir Frederic Hooper should give his mind to the problem. May I say, on behalf of the Army Cadet Association, for whom I am entitled to speak, that we in that Association intend to co-operate to the utmost with Sir Frederic Hooper.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
My Lords, at this time of night your Lordships normally expect a real winding-up speech that will gather together the threads of the debate we have had this afternoon. With your Lordships' permission, however, I propose not to do that but to devote a few minutes to dealing with the White Paper on a frankly lower plane than that which has informed most of the speeches this afternoon. I should like to deal with certain matters of detail which I believe fully justify my noble friends and myself in our refusal to give our approval to this White Paper. We believe that the policy 985 the White Paper describes has not given us, and is not giving us, adequate defence. I hope that my noble friend Lord Balfour of Inchrye and other noble Lords will forgive me for not commenting on their speeches.
To start with the nuclear deterrent, from reading the White Paper, I believe that the means of delivery of the nuclear deterrent are deficient—or, indeed, nonexistent. We read in the Memorandum on the Air Estimates that it is not until the Mark II Vulcans and Victors are coming into service that we shall have a bomber capable of carrying stand-off nuclear weapons. We have Vulcan Is and Victors Is in service, but as I read that paragraph, they are capable of carrying only free-falling bombs. I ask the Minister: in the present state of air defences in Russia and in the world generally, is that a reliable way of delivering this bomb? If it is not, how can we say that we have the deterrent?
We read also that the Thors are coming into service, and that they are an important contribution to the strength of the West. But the Thors are operated from fixed sites; indeed, they are well known to anybody who has read the daily Press and seen pictures of people marching to those sites. We know that paragraph 36 of the Defence White Paper casts doubt on the reliability of fixed sites from which to deliver the retaliation to enemy missiles; and we know, further, that the Blue Streak would also require fixed sites. The general opinion in the Press and elsewhere seems to be that these are being given up. How long is it since the first germ of doubt entered into the minds of the officials and the Ministers in the Defence Ministries? We suspect—and I think it is legitimate to suspect it—that there has been quite unjustifiable delay in coming to a decision. There has been a reluctance to admit any miscalculation, fully justified though the decision may have been at the tune it was come to, unjustified and unnecessary expenditure, and delay in developing what will be the efficient means of delivering the nuclear bomb.
Passing from that, I should like to say a word or two about surface-to-air weapons. Can the noble Lord tell us why the two Services, the Army and the R.A.F., have decided to go in for different surface-to-air weapons? We read 986 that the Army have adopted the Thunderbird Mark I as their first surface-to-air weapon; and a little on in the same Paper we see that the surface-to-air guided weapon Bloodhound is being deployed in service with the R.A.F. Is that not an example of lack of co-ordination between the Services? It is just the sort of thing that we hoped the Ministry of Defence would look after. We hoped they would see that the resources of the country were used in the most effective way.
The other kind of trouble for which our defence forces are required is the minor operation, the minor incident arising out of the cold war, and anything up to what may be called the limited war: in other words, anything not involving an armed clash between the major Powers. I would take issue with the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, over one point. He said that incidents such as arise fairly often round the world, and which involve the need for British Forces, are liable, if left to themselves, to develop into major wars. Surely, the lesson is that nothing develops into a major war unless one of the major Powers wants it. These incidents have to be dealt with, and have been dealt with for generations, by British forces; it used to be called Imperial policing.
The small war on the fringes of the Commonwealth is, as I say, something that we have known for generations past. What sort of forces have we now to cope with that sort of situation? You do not want the latest type of battle tank; you do not want heavily armed naval or land forces; and most emphatically you do not want nuclear weapons. We know that the tactical nuclear weapons are being made smaller and smaller; and I think we have heard of nuclear weapons of half a kiloton capacity. But who, in a minor war on the fringes of the Commonwealth, wants to let off 500 tons of T.N.T. in one go? It is not the kind of weapon for that type of operation. So let us put that out of our minds and realise that what is required for that sort of work is the old-fashioned armed forces. This involves, to a large extent, infantry. You cannot economise in men when it is jungle lighting or fighting in undeveloped countries. You need the men with light weapons. Of course, they must have all modern 987 aids, and particularly mobility; but primarily they have to be organised and equipped so as to be, above all things, versatile. They have got to fight in jungles at one moment and perhaps in a semi-Arctic climate the next. That will be the major part of the Army's task, with the R.A.F. supporting.
How far can the Minister say that our forces now meet the requirements of that kind of operation? We see that the re-equipment of the Army is going on, and we read in paragraph 56 of the Army Memorandum that troop trials are to be carried out this year with the F.N. general-purpose machine-gun, due to replace the Vickers machine-gun and the Bren. It is now 1960, and there has been talk of replacing the Bren for about fifteen years. Whether the method of supply that has now been superseded was at fault, I do not know, but the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, will remember that it was eighteen years before the Bren itself was produced to supersede the Lewis gun; and that was under the old method of provisioning by the independent Service Departments. I suspect that it is not the machinery so much as the spirit of the Services in being encouraged to go for the best. But the search for the best means sometimes an almost intolerable delay in the acceptance of a weapon for the troops.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
That may have something to do with it, as well. Somewhere else we are told that the Army is being equipped with the Saladin armoured car. But surely that is ancient history; we should not be told that in this 1960 White Paper, because it has been in service for at least three years, if not more. As many noble Lords have said, the mobility of these forces is vital. It is the factor that is most important in the successful dealing with the kind of emergencies which arise. It is good to know that the Royal Air Force have formed a special group, No. 38 Group, whose task, as I read it, is to provide the Army with the mobility it requires. I wonder whether they are getting exactly the type of aircraft they want. It seems to me that for operations of that sort tactical, as well as strategic, mobility is needed.
988 There is much talk of helicopters. But surely in the present state of development, until we get the Rotodyne helicopters, a helicopter carrying four or six men each is not really a practical proposition. Surely aircraft are needed which can operate from the smallest possible landing fields. There is only one mention of the Twin Pioneer, which I think is the aircraft in East Africa now. Is No. 38 Group going to be equipped with that type of short-range versatile aircraft as well as the long-distance aircraft which are required for the strategic mobility of the forces? Are we adequately equipped for amphibious warfare? The Navy Memorandum tells us that we have in the operational fleet a squadron of seven landing vesels, a headquarters landing ship, three tank landing ships, three tank landing craft, and a few more in reserve. Does that represent equipment adequate to put a land force ashore in conditions where there are no landing facilities?
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
Certainly there is the Commando carrier. Do Her Majesty's Government visualise only the Royal Marine Commandos being capable of amphibious landings? Surely all troops, wherever stationed, may be called on to carry out this sort of operation. It may be in a different hemisphere from where the Commando carrier—for there is only one—is operating. Should we not be assured that there is in existence a force of landing craft sufficient to cope with emergencies of this kind?
The next grade of war, so to speak, is the limited war, which is more than a frontier operation about which I have been speaking, where there are organised forces equipped with up-to-date weapons on both sides. Examples of this were at Port Said, Suez and Korea. What are our capabilities for dealing with operations of that kind? Have we the aircraft to transport forces? Have we the aircraft and ships to maintain them in any part of the world? Are the brigade groups or similar organisations organised and equipped in such a flexible way that they can be used for whatever emergency of this type should arise? Those are requirements of de- 989 fence on which nothing that we have read or heard so far assures us that the Government really are in a position, not two years or one year hence, but now, to deal with.
There is another question which I think needs to be asked. There have been for a long time now Ministry of Defence and inter-Service Staff Colleges. There has been all the apparatus of inter-Service co-operation. We all know that officers of the Services co-operate very well on the spot at the lower levels, but at the higher levels you get, as some noble Lords have mentioned, the axe-grinding and the contest between the different Services for power, prestige, money. Have the Government any hope that they are beginning to break down the inter-Service jealousies and rivalries? In this country they do not hit the headlines so much as they do in the United States—but we all know the kind of relations which exist between the different Services in the United States. We hope that our own three Service relations are getting better. Are the Government satisfied with the climate of inter-Service relationships now; and, if not, what do they hope to do about it, and how do they hope to escape this state of affairs? Those points seem to me to be, on a level of detailed execution of the policy, matters about which I and my noble friends have great doubts whether the Government have given us as good value as we ought to have had for the money that they have spent.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(The Earl of Swinton.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.