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I beg to move,
That this House approves the Outline of Future Defence Policy set out in Command Paper No. 124.
I hope that the House will forgive the delay there has been in presenting this White Paper on Defence. The main reason is that the Government felt that what was needed on this occasion was not the usual annual statement, but a broad reappraisal of future defence policy. We have endeavoured, in the White Paper, to place before Parliament our conception of how Britain's defence system should evolve over the next five years. It is as a five-year plan that this White Paper should be looked at. I hope that it is in that way that the House will address itself to the matter.
The White Paper has had a generally favourable reception in this country. Abroad, after some initial doubts, it has, in the main, been received with understanding and a good deal of respect. Some people say that the policy in the White Paper is revolutionary; others say that there is nothing new about it. Both are perfectly correct. The policy in the White Paper embodies many ideas which, as hon. Members well know, have been on more than one occasion expressed in earlier defence debates in all quarters of the House, in the Press, and in the country generally.
What is new about the White Paper is not the ideas which it contains, but the Government's decision that the time has now come when it is right and safe to base decisions upon it. With all respect, I am sure that hon. Members will recognise that it is easier to give bold and far-sighted advice to the Government than it is for the Government to weigh up the risks, to study the timing and to take the responsibility for grave decisions which, if they turned out to be wrong or premature, might expose the country to unjustifiable dangers.
The policy which we submit to the House in the White Paper is founded on the recognition of two basic facts. The first is that, in present circumstances. it is impossible effectively to defend this country against an attack with hydrogen bombs. If I may, I will talk about "hydrogen bombs" rather than about "thermo-nuclear weapons". Naturally, I cover all the scientific derivatives.
The second basic fact on which this policy is based is the fact that, whether we like it or not, we cannot go on devoting such a large part of our resources—and, in particular, of manpower—to defence. Since it must now be accepted that adequate protection against all-out nuclear attack is impossible, we believe that the British people will agree that the available resources of the nation should be concentrated not upon preparations to wage war so much, as upon trying to prevent that catastrophe from ever happening.
That does not mean that we should abandon all efforts to minimise the consequences should the deterrent fail to prevent war. That is why the White Paper makes it clear that Civil Defence must remain an essential part of the defence plan. There will be no real safety in the world until there is disarmament. I think we are all agreed about that, but I think that most of us agree that nuclear disarmament by itself would be disastrous—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—since it would give decisive military superiority to Russia, which would always be able to maintain larger conventional forces.
The Government will continue to do everything in their power to promote universal and comprehensive disarmament. We do not despair of reaching agreement. During my visit to Rusia last summer I saw something of the vast programme of social and industrial work upon which the Soviet Government are engaged. With those immense schemes of domestic reconstruction on hand, it is hard to see how the Russians, any more than we, can have any interest in war—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—or any desire to go on spending so much of their substance upon military preparations. But unhappily, there reigns between East and West at present such complete mutual distrust that neither dares to lower its guard. Before we can hope to reach agreement on disarmament I believe that we must find ways of creating some measure of confidence. That. I am afraid, will not be easy, and will certainly take quite a time.
Meanwhile, we must recognise the grim fact that the only means which the free world possesses to protect itself against Communist aggression and domination is the power to threaten retaliation with nuclear weapons. For this protective power the free world at present depends almost entirely on the nuclear strength of the United States. While America, with her immense resources, is bound to remain the major partner, it is desirable that Britain should possess some element of nuclear deterrent power of her own. There is, I think, agreement on both sides of the House about that.
The reason it is necessary was well set out in the resolution of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party two years ago, in which this passage appeared and with which, I must say, I am in complete agreement:
Hitherto, only the United States of America and the U.S.S.R. have possessed the hydrogen bomb. Labour believes that it is undesirable that Britain should be dependent on another country for this vital weapon. If we were our influence for peace would be lessened in the counsels of the world. It was for that reason that the Labour Government decided on the manufacture of the atom bomb and that we support the production of the hydrogen bomb in this country.
That was two years ago, but the attitude of the party opposite as set out in that resolution was confirmed by the right hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) in our defence debate in February. It was further underlined in a broadcast made only a fortnight ago by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), in which he said:
Our vital interests are not always the same as America's vital interests. That being so, the threat to bring the deterrent into play must exist here as well as across the Atlantic.
That is perfectly true, but there is also, I think, another consideration. So long as large American forces remain in Europe, and American bombers are based in Britain, it might conceivably be thought safe—I am not saying that it would—to leave to the United States the
sole responsibility for providing the nuclear deterrent. But, when they have developed the 5,000 mile inter-continental ballistic rocket, can we really be sure that every American Administration will go on looking at things in quite the same way?
We think that it is just as well to make certain that an appreciable element of nuclear power shall in all circumstances remain on this side of the Atlantic, so that no one shall be tempted to think that a major attack could be made against Western Europe without the risk of nuclear retaliation. I am quite sure that our European neighbours feel the same and are glad to know that Britain intends to remain a nuclear Power.
One of the basic principles of our defence policy is, therefore, that Britain must manufacture the hydrogen bomb. Again, I say I am glad that there is agreement on both sides of the House about that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I am glad there is agreement. It is rather fascinating—
—to watch the fission-fusion-fission of hon. Members opposite: We are only waiting to see which way the fall-out will be.
As far as I can see, judging from official statements, the only difference between us is whether, having made the bomb, we should test it. We are not anxious to use it. The only object of having the bomb is to deter aggression and prevent war, and that is something which, I believe, we all fervently desire. The question is whether a weapon which has never been tested would be a very effective deterrent.
I thought that the hon. Member would be better convinced by a right hon. Gentleman on his own side of the House.
In his broadcast the other day, the right hon. Gentleman said:
We must be able to show any aggressor that we have got the bomb. The only way you can really do that is to show that you have successfully tried it out and it has worked. To that extent tests are implicit in the decision to have the bomb.
The right hon. Gentleman may go on with his party politics, but I want to make it quite clear that he has selected a short piece of the broadcast and that I shall read the whole piece when I speak.
I gave way because I thought that the right hon. Gentleman felt I was being unfair. I gave way so that he could read the extract. He asked me to read it and I thought I would give him the opportunity to read it himself. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that I am engaging in party politics.
What I am trying to do is to emphasise the underlying unity of policy which exists, at any rate, at the official level. The right hon. Member for Belper is quite right when he says that we cannot separate the issue of the manufacture of the bomb from the issue of testing it. The hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman), who belongs to a section of the party which does not always agree on all these matters, summed it up very well in the Daily Mirror the other day, in the column "Crossman Says". He said:
We Socialists cannot go on sitting on the fence and trying to pretend that it makes sense to say that Britain should have an H bomb but not test it.
I am only trying to find a basis for agreement between us all. I believe there is a very wide measure of agreement between us; from the extreme Left to the extreme Right of the Labour Party there seems to be agreement.
The nuclear deterrent includes, of course, not only the bomb, but also the means of delivering it. For some years to come our V-bombers and further developments of which they are capable will be highly effective. As we know, they will be progressively supplemented in due course by ballistic rockets. In the first place, these will be the American weapons which we are expecting to receive under the recent agreement. As the House knows, they are subject to certain restrictions as to their use, but it is no good being too critical about that since, as I made clear in the House the other day, the alternative was to have no rockets at all until some years later.
I should like to emphasise that the acceptance of the American offer does not mean that Britain is going out of the rocket business. It will, however, enable us to concentrate work in collaboration with the Americans, on the development of more advanced types. In the meantime, we shall, as I have said, have the British V-bombers which, with British nuclear bombs, will give us a far from negligible element of nuclear deterrent power under our own control.
I thought that the hon. Member was an educationist. "Nuclear" covers atomic and thermo-nuclear.
In this connection, I should like to say a word about the future of the Royal Air Force. We are unquestionably moving towards a time when fighter aircraft will be increasingly replaced by guided missiles and V-bombers by ballistic rockets, but all that will not happen overnight. The introduction of these new weapons will be a gradual process, extending over a good number of years, and even then there will still remain a very wide variety of roles for which manned aircraft will continue to be needed. I therefore hope that young men who have the ambition to be pilots, as well as those who are interested in new technical advances, will continue as before to look to the R.A.F. for a fine and useful career.
The Opposition Amendment
regrets the undue dependence on the ultimate deterrent".
We are entitled—and no doubt the right hon. Member for Belper will help us in his speech—to ask them to make it clear just what it is they are criticising. They are agreed that under present conditions the country as a whole cannot be defended from nuclear attacks and that, pending disarmament, we must largely rely upon the nuclear deterrent to prevent war. This point, again, was very well stated in the same resolution of the National Executive of the Labour Party, on which I cannot improve. It said:
Until world disarmament can be achieved, weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Britain and her allies in N.A.T.O. form the most effective deterrent against aggression.
The right hon. Member for Dundee, West emphasised that further in his speech in our last defence debate.
If the Opposition are agreed that we must base our defence upon the nuclear deterrent, what is it that they are unhappy about? What is it that they want? Are they asking—and this is what I should like to know—that we should provide larger conventional forces than are envisaged in the White Paper? During last week hon. Members of the party opposite have to same extent been casting doubts upon the possibility of recruiting the Regular forces of 375,000 which we are planning, as stated in the White Paper. I do not see how they could hope to increase that figure and, at the same time, get rid of National Service.
On the other hand, it may be that the phrase
undue dependence on the ultimate deterrent
is prompted by the fear that every war might become a nuclear war. I do not know whether that is the thought. It may well be that in their minds is the
fear that every war may become a nuclear war. That is a very understandable anxiety, and one which has been expressed in a number of quarters recently.
It arises, I think, from a tendency to generalise about the nature of war. One must distinguish between major global war, involving a head-on clash between the great Powers, and minor conflicts which can be localised and which do not bring the great Powers into direct collision. Limited and localised acts of aggression, for example, by a satellite Communist State could, no doubt, be resisted with conventional arms, or, at worst, with tactical atomic weapons, the use of which could be confined to the battle area.
If, on the other hand, the Russians were to launch a full-scale offensive against Western Europe, it would, I submit, be quite unrealistic to imagine that the issue could be fought out on limited conventional lines and according to rules. In such circumstances, that is, a head-on clash between the great Powers in Europe, between the Communist world and the free world, it is inconceivable that either the Soviet Union or the free world would allow itself to be defeated, with all that that would mean, without throwing everything it had into the battle, including nuclear weapons.
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I want to ask him a question on a sentence which he used about the use of atomic tactical weapons. Did I rightly understand him to suggest that, in his view, a non-major effort by a Russian satellite, shall we say Germany, could be repelled with atomic tactical weapons without involving us all in a nuclear war? Is it the view of the Government that we can rely on atomic tactical weapons to counterbalance Russian conventional superiority, because this is a question to which we ought to have a clear answer?
It is very difficult to give a clear answer. I was saying before—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I am going to answer the hon. Gentleman's question.
What I am saying, and I repeat what I said earlier, is that we must not generalise about the nature of war. There are all kinds of different wars of different intensities in different parts of the world. I am not saying that in the case of any war which took place in Germany one could have any confidence that it would not end in a world war— any serious war in Germany. There are such enormous forces there and the great Powers are involved, but I am not excluding that possibility.
I am saying that it is quite conceivable that, in certain circumstances, it might be possible to resist an act of aggression, for example, it might have been possible in Korea—I do not know, but it is a possibility—by the use of tactical nuclear weapons without necessarily bringing the whole world down in conflagration. I have said "at worst," but what I am almost sure about is that when we get a head-on collision between the Soviet Union and the United States, involving the defeat of and domination by the one of the other, it is quite unrealistic to imagine that that kind of conflict can be decided by anything short of the whole works.
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Is it not the fact that even an atomic shell is the equivalent of four kilotons of T.N.T., about 400 times the size of the biggest block-buster ever used in the last war, and that we really cannot shoot these things around without having the whole of world opinion and world antagonism against us?
I am not proposing to shoot any block-busters around, as the hon. Lady suggests. I was trying to show that there are different degrees of war. The hon. Lady may be right, but I hope she is not right.
In certain circumstances, if it did come, in a war, to the use of tactical weapons, I devoutly hope that it might not necessarily lead to the use of the wholesale weapons of mass destruction on great cities, as distinct from the tactical use of these admittedly very formidable weapons in the area of battle. I do not think that there is any disagreement between us. This is a matter of fact, or, at any rate, not one of fact, but of one's hunch as to possible developments in the future. All this is purely hypothetical.
The House has a right to ask questions about atomic tactical weapons. Does this mean that we have now decided to dispense with most of our conventional forces in Europe on the assumption that a limited war can be fought with atomic tactical weapons? If this is the view, I beg my right hon. Friends above the Gangway to see the importance of what we shall be dividing on in this House, because this will be a Division which, I am sure, will unite this side against that.
All I would say is that we should certainly achieve something if we did that. I would like, joking apart, to answer the hon. Member's question. It certainly does not mean that we are abandoning our ability to use conventional forces with conventional weapons. Certainly not.
I was talking before about the necessity for Britain to have the nuclear deterrent, and by the nuclear deterrent I do not include primarily the tactical weapons. That is not what I am talking about. We are at present, to a limited extent, as the House knows, adopting certain tactical weapons, but the major effort is, of course, and will continue to be, in the conventional field.
I am glad that we are having this discussion, because I think it is rather important. I will go over it again, if I may.
First, I was talking about the various degrees of war. There is the all-out global war, the head-on clash and collision between the United States and the Soviet Union. I do not believe, and I do not think anybody else can seriously believe, that that could take place without the use of nuclear weapons. Then there is the possibility of acts of aggression—not where the two giants are both involved in a clash with one another—as, for example, in Korea. That was dealt with in Korea by conventional weapons.
I cannot say that, if, in some years' time, a similar situation arises, atomic tactical weapons might not be used by one side or another. Obviously, the bigger the weapon one uses, the greater the risks one takes of bringing the world to the verge of catastrophe. All I am saying is that the possibility is not to be excluded that those weapons might be used without necessarily bringing down the whole cataclysm upon the world.
I would like to go on.
What I would emphasise is that apart from the nuclear deterrent, which, we feel, we must have in this country, the major part of our military effort will, in any case, continue to go into forces designed to fulfil the conventional roles of military defence.
I do not think that I can pursue that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will answer the point, but I do not want to go on any further about it. What the hon. and learned Member is referring to is the strategy of N.A.T.O., and N.A.T.O. exists primarily to deal with just that head-on collision between the Communist world and the free world [Interruption.] Nobody has suggested that a minor incursion which might take place along the N.A.T.O. front would automatically be dealt with by the whole mechanism of nuclear retaliation.
I was saying, and I want to stress this, that a major part of our military effort will, in any case, continue to go into forces designed primarily to fulfil the conventional rôles of military defence. Above all, we must make our contribution to N.A.T.O., to S.E.A.T.O. and to the Bagdad alliance. We cannot any longer afford to bear more than our fair share of the joint burden, but no one need have any fear whatsoever that Britain will bear less than her fair share.
We are not contracting out of our obligations. Even at the end of our five-year plan, when all the reductions we have proposed have taken effect, there is little doubt that we shall still be making a more powerful contribution to the defence of the free world than any other country, apart from the United States.
In addition to our contribution to these alliances, we have, of course, to carry out our own special British obligations for the defence of our Colonies and of the other territories for whose protection we have responsibility. But that does not mean to say that we must go on maintaining garrisons and other forces overseas on the scale that we have been doing hitherto. We must, of course, keep an adequate number of troops in those places where there is a threat of local attack or where there is some special internal security problem. In planning the size and distribution of our garrisons, however, we must take full advantage of the greatly increased size and range of modern transport aircraft, which now make it possible to dispatch reinforcements rapidly to any place where trouble occurs.
One of the essential features of the White Paper is the maintenance of a strong central reserve of troops in Britain with a substantial fleet of transport aircraft to give them the necessary mobility. R.A.F. Transport Command at present has a number of Comet and Hastings aircraft and will, in due course, be receiving Britannias.
The right hon. Gentleman, as a former Secretary of State for War, knows that it would be a most grave indiscretion if I were to say exactly how many troops could be moved in what period of time. I would be very grateful if we could be supplied with similar information by certain other countries.
The Britannia is a spendid aircraft, which is ideally suited for long-distance troop movements. The Government attach great importance to the mobility of the central reserve and I assure the House that such further Britannias as may be necessary for this purpose will be ordered.
A number have already been ordered and further Britannias will be ordered. As the hon. Member well knows, this aircraft is only just coming in, even on the civil side. We are looking a little bit ahead, that is all.
For transportation within theatres of operations, the Beverley freighters are being provided. Quite a number of these are already in service and a considerable number more are on order.
In addition to troop movement and troop reinforcements from Britain, the Navy and the Marines provide a powerful element of mobile reserve and, in particular, of air power. It is with this consideration in mind that we have decided that the Navy should be organised primarily around a small number of carrier task forces. With modern ships and up-to-date equipment, the Royal Navy of the future, though smaller, will, we believe, be a highly effective mobile force well suited to meet all kinds of overseas emergencies and to play its part in sustaining N.A.T.O. and our other alliances.
Taken together, the various decisions on policy set out in the White Paper will reduce the Armed Forces sufficiently to enable us to bring National Service to an end. As everyone knows, National Service is extremely wasteful in its use of manpower. Its abolition, therefore, will in itself further reduce the numbers of men needed.
The Government's decision to bring National Service to an end has, I think, been universally welcomed, but I have seen it suggested that this is not a firm decision. I would like to make it quite clear that from now on all action is proceeding on the basis that the call-up will end in 1960 and that the last National Service man will leave the forces in 1962.
Our plan provides for reducing the strength of the forces by rather more than 300,000 men. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service hopes to have an opportunity later in the debate to explain to the House the way we propose to call up the reduced numbers required. I should, however, tell the House straight away that the Governme0nt do not intend to cut down the two-year period of National Service. While the strength of the forces is being run down, some loss of efficiency will, in any case, be unavoidable. It would not be right to add to this by increasing the training commitment and losing the last part of a man's service when he is of greatest value.
To abolish National Service, we must, of course, get the voluntary recruits that we need. As the White Paper explains, we are planning to reduce the Armed Forces from about 700,000 at present to about 375,000 on an all-Regular basis. I am not yet ready to give precise figures for each Service, but, broadly, it can be taken that about one-fifth will be for the Navy, rather more than two-fifths for the Army, and rather less than two-fifths for the Air Force.
Since voluntary recruitment is voluntary, there must always be some element of uncertainty about it. After taking the best expert and other advice available, we conclude that there is every reason to expect that we shall get the numbers we need. It is, I think, generally recognised that the abolition of National Service, with its disturbing influence, will in itself greatly help voluntary recruitment.
Also, it will be necessary, as the White Paper says, to take steps to make conditions of life in the Services more attractive. Various proposals are now being considered. The problem of recruitment is quite different for each of the three Services. The Army, and, to a lesser extent, the Air Force, will need greatly to increase the number of long-service recruits. On the other hand, the Navy and the Marines should have no difficulty in attracting on long, nine-year engagements all the men they require under the new plan.
The contraction of the forces that we propose will inevitably create the problem of redundancy among officers and senior other ranks. Again, this problem will differ in the three Services. In general, those most affected will be officers in the middle range. I will illustrate this as it applies to the Army. The subalterns and captains include a fairly large proportion of National Service men and officers on short-term engagements. Therefore, provided that new entries are restricted, the numbers in the junior ranks should adjust themselves fairly quickly.
In the upper ranks, most of the present officers will reach the normal end of their careers during the next five years, so that no large problem arises there. In the middle ranks, particularly among majors and lieutenant-colonels, there is, unfortunately, no escape from a considerable number of premature retirements. Until the new organisation is worked out in detail, it is not possible to calculate precisely the total number of officers and other ranks who will become redundant. The best preliminary estimate I can give at present is that the three Services together may have a surplus of between 5,000 and 7,000 officers and about that number of warrant officers and N. C. O. s.
We have carefully considered how these reductions should be effected. One method, of course, would be to allow the surplus to work itself off with the passage of time as those concerned reach the normal end of their careers. However, that would inevitably create a serious and prolonged blockage of promotion. It would be very frustrating to those now serving and would discourage young men from entering the Services as a career. We consider, therefore, that the aim should be to reduce the number of officers and N. C. O. s progressively as the forces contract. In this way, the process should be largely completed during the course of the next five or six years.
Those who leave the Services prematurely as a result of this new plan must, of course, be properly compensated. I am sure that the whole House would wish to see these men who have loyally served the country get a square deal. A scheme of compensation is at present being worked out. The Government primarily have in mind action along two lines. First, we intend to make special lump sum payments to the men affected. In addition, we propose to introduce some appropriate relaxation of the qualifying conditions governing retired pay and pensions in favour of those who leave the Services prematurely under the scheme.
I am dealing here with redundancy in the forces. I myself do not see that there is much fear, with the expanding economy of this country, that people displaced from war production will not find other productive work.
I come now to a question which is being much discussed, namely, that of the closer integration of the Services. It is being pointed out that the Armed Forces are being reduced to a combined strength which is less than the present strength of the Army by itself. This, naturally, raises in people's minds the question whether three separate Service Departments continue to be needed to administer fewer men than are now being administered by the War Office alone.
We should not, I think, lightly embark upon major changes in the structure of the great fighting Services and their relations one with another. Nevertheless, the Government recognise that, with the reduction in the size of the forces and the changing character of their weapons, some measure of integration or closer co-ordination must be seriously considered. This we are now doing, but I cannot yet say what our conclusions will be.
Meanwhile, the Service Ministers and I have set up machinery to carry out a comprehensive review of the administrative aspects of this question. The object is to reduce the number of headquarters, depots and establishments of all kinds and to eliminate overlapping between the Services. This administrative overhaul is a very big task, and I am convinced that it will not produce effective results unless it is directed from a high level by a combined inter-Service organism.
I have, therefore, set up a Defence Administration Committee, under the chairmanship of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence. The other Members of the Committee are the Permanent Secretaries of the three Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply, together with Service members of the Board of Admiralty and of the Army and Air Councils, who will attend when matters affecting their responsibilities are being discussed. The Committee will have a small staff of its own of senior officers and officials who can, when necessary, be sent out to study particular problems in commands at home and overseas.
I have endeavoured to deal with the most important individual features of the White Paper. But, of course, our plan must be looked at as a whole. It must be judged by the effects it is likely to have on our defence and on our economy. As regards the economy, the new policy has already saved the taxpayer quite a lot of money. I hope that we shall, over the next few years, be able to save a good bit more.
What is even more important is that it will save a great deal of manpower. Over 300.000 men will be released from the Services, as well as many civilians now engaged on defence work, among them a considerable number of much needed scientists and technicians. The skill and energy of these people when transferred to productive work will undoubtedly make an appreciable addition to the strength of our economy at home and abroad.
Judged from the standpoint of defence, the new plan will give us compact, highly trained, mobile, all-Regular forces, equipped on up-to-date lines and well suited to face the realities of the world of today.
I have three things to say about the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, part of which will take in the laughter by hon. Members opposite. Let us get this out of our way at once, if we can. I do not begrudge the Government whatever fun, whatever joke, whatever party points they think it right to have out of the knowledge—it is no use denying it, and no one is going to—that there are differences of view about some of these very grave issues; and, if I may say so, after the conclusion of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, they are issues which are clearly as clouded in his mind as in the minds of others. The Government are entitled, in a defence debate to concentrate on that kind of game, if they wish, but I think that twenty-seven minutes out of a speech of one hour is a little long to spend on simply making the point that there are some disagreements here and that I have said some things with which some of my hon. Friends do not agree.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman spent a lot of time asking us some questions and asking about our Amendment. Up to this point, and up to any point at which I choose to change it, the discussion is wholly about his White Paper. He seemed to think that the whole vast array of questions which were addressed by him to the Opposition were naturally and properly susceptible to clear and unequivocal answers; and yet he clearly thought that every single question put to him from this side of the House would not permit of any kind of answer at all. I will do my best, in the course of what I have to say, to take in some of the questions that he put to us, because they seemed to be important questions to which we ourselves are bound to try to indicate our answers.
When the right hon. Gentleman came to the question of National Service and I thought of what he had just been saying about us—compromises and the rest—and when I saw sitting there the Minister of Labour whom, he told us, was tomorrow going to tell us about the thing of which only last July he was a most vehement opponent, I was a little amused that the right hon. Gentleman thought it was a point that he could laugh at. When talking about Front Benchers compromising, here is the right hon. Gentleman who said six months ago, as I shall quote in a moment—I am not bringing in any selected quotations, but I shall be quoting from HANSARD—that he did not see this as a practical possibility. There is a lot more which I shall read in a moment in the same strain. I have warned hon. Members opposite that, in that somewhat unrewarding field, there is no particular point in spending a lot of time suggesting that there are disagreements. There is bound to be such disagreement when defence is in the state where many people are uncertain where certain courses of action will lead.
I propose to do something which is not particularly usual for me. I propose today to stick fairly closely to notes—the word "notes" perhaps ought to appear in inverted commas—with which I have provided myself. If anyone thinks that he knows why I am doing that, there is no prize for knowing the answer.
As we all know, there have been six or seven Ministers of Defence since the present party gained power in 1951. Not all were there long enough to produce a White Paper, but those who have have one thing in common, and the right hon. Gentleman shares it today, that the White Papers and their speeches introducing them always started with the claim that they had produced a new policy. It is true of every White Paper at which I have looked, in preparing for this debate, since they began this operation five years ago. It was true in 1955.
The right hon. Gentleman today said that he was producing a five-year plan—a plan to be seen over five years. It is presumably something different from the one last year. But do not let us do an injustice to Lord Monckton, because Lord Monckton last year produced a seven-year plan. Lord Monckton last year introduced a White Paper in which he said—I am quoting from paragraph 1:
The main task of the past year, a task that will continue, has been to translate that policy"—
of Her Majesty's Government—
into a defence programme. In that process account has to be taken of three main factors political, strategic and economic.
I gather that those are the three main factors which the right hon. Gentleman was taking into account today. In paragraph 13, Lord Monckton said:
Nevertheless, proposals for this year have had regard to probable developments over the next seven years. The objects of this review were:
That is very good, but the right hon. Gentleman said today that he had done something entirely different. He then read out the same words in a slightly different order. I am only making the point that this White Paper is being sold a wee bit highly. The Government are doing themselves the discredit of saying that, over the last six Defence Ministers, including the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman has discovered, in a blinding flash on the road to Damascus, what was hidden from all the rest.
I am sorry that the Prime Minister has to yawn. I am coming to his aid. I am merely pointing out that it was all thought out before the present Minister got there. I know that the Minister of Defence claims to have written every word of this himself, but it is surprising how near it is to the last White Paper. Although in last year's White Paper it was a new programme, although it was a seven-year programme, and although it took account of all those factors, the right hon. Gentleman now says in paragraph 3 of his White Paper:
However, the time has now come to revise not merely the size, but the whole character of the defence plan.
That is the whole character of something that was to last seven years. When we turn to paragraph 9, he goes on to say:
Frequent changes in defence policy are wasteful and disturbing.
If we are to change it every year, and that is not the sort of frequent change that is disturbing, how often does he think that we should change it before it becomes disturbing? Does he realise the fact that every Minister of Defence who has came in for such a short time has thought that he was bound to start all over again? It is precisely because of that that we have wasted nearly £8,000 million since they started on the job. Now the right hon. Gentleman says that the whole character has to be changed because what has gone before is not up to it. There is nothing special about the right hon. Gentleman which was not special about Lord Monckton, and even about the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) and about the Foreign Secretary or any of the previous Ministers. They all meant it, too. They were all sincere. They all wanted to do the job, and they all declared it to be
the same job. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is laying it on a bit thick in assuming that, because he now says it, it is going to be something more certain than before.
I want to look at some of the points in the White Paper before I turn—and I want to develop the major part of what I have to say as the right hon. Gentleman did—to the major basic concept of the White Paper where there is something different—I believe there is—from the previous one. May I say first of all that, in so far as the right hon. Gentleman has the right to claim credit for having now faced up to the nuclear realities, we on this side are glad, (a) because clearly it was long overdue, and (b) because that is what we so vainly urged on Ministerial speakers in the debate in February of last year, in the one in July of last year and again in the curtain-raiser we had to this debate a month or so ago.
I will try not to overstate any of the criticisms that I want to make, but what I fear is that in so far as he has tried to face these realities and take decisions, the Minister has taken the negative ones—some of the negative ones; decisions to cut here, decisions to wind up there or partially to do so; decisions to get rid of National Service or partially to get rid of it. They are all negative decisions.
If he wants to know, what we mean by that part of our Amendment which regrets the lack of firm decisions is that none of the positive decisions appear to have been taken at all, none of the positive decisions that flow from the change in concept which he himself claims in this White Paper. I will do my best to show what I mean.
First, may I come to the question of National Service? We spent a lot of time on this last year. When the right hon. Gentleman says that the decision to get rid of it in a phased five-year plan is universally welcomed, all he means is that the Tory benches who kept saying that it was impossible last year have now joined the Labour benches in saying that not only is it possible but that it must be done. That is the only change there.
We then said that it was a fundamental decision if we were to get smaller, more efficient, highly mobile and less costly forces but, as I have said, we were asking for it to be done in four years. The only difference is that we were one year sooner—therefore, we should have saved a year on the way—and the Government want to take one year longer over the actual operation. Even in regard to that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr Strachey) said that if the Government's objection to our Motion was whether it should be four or five years, it was for the Government to say which of the figures they preferred and why. There was no other difference between what we proposed and what they are now doing, except in the discussion of the steps by which it should be done.
I quoted just now the actual statement of the Minister of Labour on 31st July, when he said:
In short, T simply do not believe that the Motion is a practical proposition …
Later he said:
As I see it, the practical problem which confronts us is that if the calculations we have made are right, we will need …
and I ask the Minister to listen to this, because this is why we suspect in part the firmness of the decision—
to supplement the number of Regulars that we are likely to obtain but not to the extent of calling up all the men who become available from an age class."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1956; Vol. 557. c. 1201.]
It was a declaration that they believed they would have to supplement the number of Regulars they were likely to obtain by calling up selectively a limited number of people. That was a firm declaration.
If the Minister of Labour now says, "Well, on reflection, I went too far; it has turned out in practice that it was a practical Motion and I was wrong to say that it was not so; I do not now believe that we will need to supplement from the ranks of National Service the number of Regulars we are likely to get"—if he says that, there is no answer from this side of the House. I, for one, will not subject him to the kind of jibes used against us. if he has changed his mind—well, somebody has to be first; I am rather pleased that it was us—I will accept that.
I will try, if I am called in the debate tomorrow, to deal with some of these matters, which I regard as most important, but there is one point which I should make now. The essential difference between the White Paper and the scheme the Opposition put forward last year is, first of all, the difference in commitments, but secondly and more important, the question of numbers, because last year—and the right hon. Gentleman will find this mentioned fifty times in the course of the debate— we were arguing on a basis of male other ranks of 200,000 and of a total of 450,000. I do not believe that it is possible to get by Regular service alone a total of 450,000; I do believe it is perhaps possible now to get 375,000, but that is a different matter.
I simply say this to the right hon. Gentleman. He had better read the debate. The two things he now asserts were not present are present. The debate last year was about changes in commitments, reductions in commitments. The very bases the Government are now proposing to wind up, we proposed should be wound up last year, and the 200,000 figure will be found there. It was mentioned by me as the most pessimistic figure of the number of Regulars required, having been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carshalton.
I went on to speak of all these assumptions that we could not do with anything less when we cut our commitments; that we could not do with anything less when we have done our reorganisation. I then took the other side and said that it had been alleged that the maximum we should get was about 130,000. I said this was the most pessimistic figure and that we thought that the two figures would be something between these two limits. By all means let the Minister now justify his decision. I only warn him that he will have to do an awful lot of arguing against the things he argued last year, and he must expect, particularly in view of the way that the Tory Party think they have the right to talk to us, to be hauled up to explain the difference between the view he took last year and the one he takes now.
I believe this to be right. We believed it to be right last year, but I still say that if it is a firm commitment then something that has not yet been done must be done. I came armed, but I do not need to use it, with what the Minister said in his interview on television. Then he said: "This is a firm commitment." Today he said, "All action is proceeding on the basis that this will end in 1961." They might not necessarily be exactly the same words, and I am making no point of that.
I am not making a point of that, but I must make a point of the fact that the White Paper does not say it. This, after all, was the outline of future policy. This is the great radical reappraisal for which we were asked to wait, but the paragraph on this question simply say that they will "plan on the basis of." It does not say what the Minister has since said, "We engage in a firm decision now that, come what may, National Service will end in 1961." This is a quite different matter. I am emboldened to push the point for this reason, too. We recognise on this side of the House that the Government do not end National Service merely by a declaration that they are going to end it. They do not end National Service merely by saying that they are considering how to get more Regular recruits. Some very firm and urgent decisions have to be taken at the beginning of the operation.
One of the consequences of this—my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will point this out if nobody else does; that is not the reason I am getting in first, but this just sets the plan of campaign for him—is that we have to cut the British Army of the Rhine very considerably. Unless the men in that Army really are highly mobile, and equipped with weapons which make up in additional fire power and efficiency for what they lose in numbers, and unless there really is a Transport Command here and now to service them from here and to reinforce them if need be—not something in the future but something here and now—by the time this operation to end National Service is done these men will be what I said they would be last July, like tethered sacrificial goats out there right at the end of the limb.
I am worried, not that he is using different phrases deliberately, but that, if it is a firm commitment, he is not taking in this White Paper, here and now, any of the decisions that militarily, defencewise, from a Service angle would make it possible. I am quite sure that the Minister of Labour will tell us how, technically, it will be done. His Ministry is tremendously good—as I know from personal experience—at this kind of operation, but is it not a bit surprising that not one Service Minister is to take part in this debate?
Not a single Service Minister is to speak in this debate, and of the Service Ministers it is the Secretary of State for War, in particular, who has to answer for whether the Army re-organisation, the mobility, the weapon changes, are really being engaged upon in time to go simultaneously with this operation. I think that we are entitled to have that informaion. If we do not have it in this debate, we must have it in the debate on the Army Estimates. We are entitled to know from the Secretary of State for War whether this firm commitments is being undertaken at the expense of the men—being jumped into as a commitment on paper—or whether it is being accompanied by a real working out of its consequences.
One of the consequences of doing it properly would be that we could not get these savings in this year. Part of the way in which this sum of money has been saved in this year—I will, of course, come to the figures later—is that in this year we are not spending money on replacements for the National Service men; nor are we spending it in improvement in accommodation, improvement in Transport Command, or in the weapons of improvement. That is being deferred. It may well be that the motives for that have nothing to do with what my base mind at first thought. It may simply be that the right hon. Gentleman was so determined to get a large proportion of saving in the first year that his colleague's handling of his share of the job and being responsible for the men was left right out of the count.
We should be told something about that. There has to be, and we all know it, a vast change in the Army structure, in the divisional formations, if this new model, small, efficient Regular Army is to do its job. The other night we were told by the Under-Secretary of State for War that the War Office minds were moving on the subject. Since then—dead silence. Have they moved right out of the War Office, or have they just run out of movement? There is plenty of advice available to the right hon. Gentleman on the subject, and some very excellent papers written on the kind of reorganisation that ought to be done, but this, it seems to me, is a fundamental omission from the right hon. Gentleman's paper.
May it not be that that is why we have run into such trouble in S.H.A.P.E. and in the Western European Union over our proposals to cut the B.A.O.R.? May it not be that they realise that this thing is being done as an economy, and not as a means of building up greater efficiency or greater purpose? The Americans, the Germans, even the French, are all re-organising their divisions, cutting their divisional slice to a total size of about half that of ours, and doing it without being set upon by others as defaulters: whereas we, who have carried more than our share for a long time, have had to face public inquisition and criticism, as though we were defaulting debtors, over re-organising our divisions. I think the reason is that we went about it as an economy move and without any preparation, instead of as a planned military Service operation to produce, as the Americans, the Germans and the French are doing, a division which is more relevant to today's military needs than the division we at present have.
That brings me to speak, if I may, on the whole question of our relations with N.A.T.O. I do not think that it is unfair to say, despite what the Minister says, that everything that has been done since he and his Prime Minister came to office in their present posts has created, at least, grievous concern and anxiety among our allies in the N.A.T.O. alliance. How the right hon. Gentleman could urge that these proposals were accepted with understanding abroad, I do not know.
I have many quotations here, but I will not use them—he must have them in his own office—but The Times correspondent, who went to N.A.T.O. when our
announcements were made, said on 6th April:
Not only are there doubts"—
he was commenting on Sir Frank Roberts' presentation of the details:
about the wisdom of British intentions, particularly in regard to their possible effects on other members of the alliance, but the prevailing feeling is that the British Government have 'by-passed' N.A.T.O. and thus weakened the alliance … The reply of the other members is that this is a unilateral decision, not in keeping with the spirit of the alliance. Moreover, some feel that the British White Paper smacks altogether too much of domestic politics.
That may, of course, be the understanding to which the right hon. Gentleman was referring—I do not know—but it is not a very good testimony to the way in which we have built up, supported, reinforced the N.A.T.O. alliance.
Perhaps I may be allowed to say that last year we took the very greatest care in our proposals—and I remember being twitted from all over the other side of the House because I did take so much care—that our proposals should first be put to our allies in Western European Union, discussed with them, and that the final decision should be taken in the light of those consultations. We were trying, at all stages, to protect the alliance, to take care of the consequences to the alliance of what we might be doing. It cannot be said that this Government has done that.
It may be ironic, but it is the fact that it is these two right hon. Gentlemen who have done as much as anybody to bring back a lot of the spirit of the 'thirties into this whole business. They have, in fact, done great damage to the N.A.T.O. alliance, to Western European Union, by the way in which they have done this, and by their failure to connect up the whole thing with these defence relevancies. I believe that that should be said to them very bluntly, and that is why I do so.
When I speak in this House, one thing always happens; the clock almost always moves twice as fast for me as for anybody else, so I will move to the major matter. But first, perhaps, I may refer to two detailed points—though not mere points of detail—and then leave the rest of the detailed criticism to my Service colleagues who, unlike those on the Front Benches opposite, will all be taking part in the debate.
The first detailed point concerns the perennial reference, again, to which we have both referred, to Transport Command. Can we get clear what we have, and then stop using these phrases about "substantial fleets" that only lead everyone into a state of unjustified optimism? A Manchester Guardian leader says:
There is one squadron of Comets and one squadron of Beverleys, and the Hastings are old and slow, though reliable. As a fleet it k far too small, and the Government's hope that it could be reinforced adequately by civil aircraft and by Britannias is almost pitiful.
If, in fact, that is all we have, if we are not to have any of the Britannias we have at present on order until 1958, if we are only now just ordering some others, what is the point of continuing to put this reference in every annual White Paper? The short answer is that we have not got a fleet, outside of what we could commandeer, if the day came, from the civil airlines. That is all there is to our Transport Command. The Beverley's range and lift is very much open to question as compared with its American counterpart, but, even so, the Beverleys are coming off the line so slowly that they will not be very relevant for a very long time to come.
We have heard all about this redundancy and of how we must take care of redundant workers. Why does not the Minister consider getting his Supply colleague to turn over some of the aircraft factories whose work is being cut off to making the Beverley for the main contractor? Is not one of our problems that Blackburn's are not really the sort or size of firm to do this in the time required? But there is no approach to that problem at all.
Then there is the business about missiles. I am still extremely uncertain about the position. We keep being told by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence that we have agreed in principle to the supply of some missiles from the United States to us. The New York Times of Monday, 8th April, makes it quite clear that the much quoted Thor, which is not by any means the only one involved in this highly secret agreement, is two to four years away from "true operational status," which means that it is perhaps five years away from us. It is presumably on this that the decision to cut the V-bomber force, both in the numbers originally projected and the numbers to follow on, was based.
Is this true? Is this the position? We are not here in secret. These things are freely quoted elsewhere. This is taking tremendous risks with our people's lives. If the basic deterrent and the ability to deliver it is the main thing that we have to take into account, the question whether we have enough means to deliver it and in time is of enormous importance to the survival of these islands.
I am asking the Minister. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member knows any more than I do. If I am wrong, let the Minister tell me, but there is no published information that leads me to think that I am wrong, and there is a good deal to lead me to think that I am right.
What is the position on warheads? [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] That never affects me, whether it comes from that side of the House or from this side. I cannot do for hon. Members opposite what I have resisted doing for those on this side of the House. None of us knows what the position is in respect of warheads. It is only the Minister from whom we need to have the answer. I am very puzzled about the position.
I put a question direct to the Prime Minister, which he can answer when he winds up tomorrow. Are we to be free to manufacture the warheads for these American missiles so that we have control of the deterrent, or are we not? Something which the Prime Minister said to me the other day led me to deduce that we were, and that if we chose—and he did not say that we would choose, and I do not press him on that—to manufacture nuclear warheads for ourselves for the American missiles, we should be free to do so.
On the other hand, President Eisenhower appears to have said exactly
the opposite. According to The Times of 28th March, President Eisenhower
… noted that Britain was producing certain types of atomic weapons but, if equipment were secured by any nation from the United States, atomic warheads would always remain under American control.
If that means anything, it must mean that we are not free to fit our own warheads which we control. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If it does not, I am delighted to have it pointed out to me, but hon. Members should look at the words carefully. "Equipment" covers missiles. It means rockets. If rockets are secured by any nation from the United States, the atomic warheads—and the statement makes no distinction about who makes them—will always remain under American control.
Is this so? It is no use arguing, as I try to argue on a point with which I am in agreement with right hon. Gentlemen opposite on the H-bomb, that the case is that we must have control of our own nuclear deterrent if, for a period of years, the only nuclear deterrent will be always under the control of the Americans. We cannot have it both ways. In this I am trying to protect the position of those of us who take this view about a nuclear deterrent. I believe that the position is far from clear at the moment and is in many ways rather worrying.
The only other thing that I would say about the Defence White Paper is on the figures for saving. I have never seen two paragraphs so clearly misleading as are paragraphs 70 and 71. Actual expenditures are set against estimated expenditures and gross sums against net sums, and no final figure is given. The unwary are liable to deduce a saving of several hundred millions, whereas we know that the saving claimed is £79 million; and the £79 million is less than the amount by which every annual expenditure on the Armed Forces has fallen below the estimates over the past five years. We know it to be a rather bogus figure, because it involves savings made this year which will need to be replaced in following years.
I now leave the details. More ought to be said about them during this two-day debate, including, I hope, from the other side of the House. I am not one of those who believe, as long as foreign policy and other major issues are part of party differences, that we shall be able to take defence out of party differences. We ought to clash. There is nothing wrong about it. This is an occasion when there ought to be probing from the benches opposite, and hon. Members opposite should not be impatient with those of us on this side of the House who try to do some probing.
I turn now to the major problem which worries us all. The views of hon. and right hon. Members opposite about it condition the White Paper, just as much as our views about it condition our Amendment. I recognise that it is an issue on which dogmatism comes badly from me—perhaps even worse from me than from anybody else. It is the issue of the ultimate deterrent, the conditions in which we use it, the influence it has on other weapons and the impact it has on foreign policy. It is an issue on which there is the gravest division in the whole nation. It may be fun to laugh about the Labour Party having different views about it and finding it difficult to be absolutely sure about any one of them. The House should remember that the British Council of Churches is also gravely divided.
If the Conservative Party swears that it has none of these worries within itself, it is more out of touch with the people of the country than any Government has a right to be. I will stand by, as I must, what I have said in the past on this, but I am bound to take account of the fact that there has been a great movement of opinion in two years and that those of us who hold our view about it are bound to try to argue that case, recognising the differences of opinion that exist and not behaving as though they ought not to exist. I forecast that there will not only be the British Council of Churches differing in opinion. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite will find that there will be one of these public opinion polls which will have a considerable impact on those on the other side of the House when it shows how much division there is among the British people on this issue.
What is the basis of the division and what is the problem? First of all, it is that people are uncertain about the thing that we are discussing, and nobody was more uncertain—honourably uncertain—than the Minister of Defence this afternoon. The same may be said of me by the time I have sat down, but I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was very uncertain in his attempt to deal with the problem of the ultimate deterrent, the weapon of mass destruction, the nuclear deterrent, and, against the megaton range, the kiloton range, which we shall try to use to make up for the relative lack on our side of the conventional forces of which other people have so many. When we have the problem of using that weapon without producing mass suicide and the problem of dealing with a limited war and getting the sort of limited aims that might result from limited wars, the Minister of Defence is as uncertain as anybody. We must expect people to be worried and divided. The only certainty is the uncertainty of life.
The uncertainty is the uncertainty of what happens to the future generation. I do not think I have ever spoken in this House as a Christian in name, but we are in Holy Week, and religion has something to do with politics on occasions. My approach to this is of somebody who is prepared to defend my view that Britain should still have a nuclear deterrent. My view on this issue is that of the most agonising call ever made:
Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.
We do not know what we do. We do not know the consequences. We do not know that we may not be using the devil's means to interfere with the Creator's purpose. And it is no use any of us pretending that we do. The answer is that we do not, and we have to take all this into account.
None of this is new or special to me. I say all this because in the last fortnight or so, since I took occasion to make clear where I stood on this issue, and took occasion to make clear what the Minister has repeated today, and what the policy of my party has been on this—since then I have experienced the impact of the degree of public opinion thereon. I do not mean attacks on myself calling upon me to resign, abusing me. I am used to those as a trade union official for many years. I mean the kind of thing that is coming now from ordinary people, good people. One gets the impression of a vast impact, a vast amount of feeling, and a great change of feeling.
Remember that we know a lot more about this weapon, or at any rate we have a lot more evidence on the slate in 1957 than we had in 1955, and it is no use just shrugging all that off. Of course there will be anxious re-examination, anxious reconsideration of this matter, I hope throughout the nation. I hope also that whilst those of us who take the view that it is essential for our national position to have in our own hands the possibilities of using the deterrent, take into account the real emotions and feelings that motivate those who disagree with us, we shall find that those who disagree with us, in turn, will take account of the fact that we are moved by all those carne emotions, too, even if we may have come down in another way. Incidentally, when I refer to our national position, I do not mean pride and power, but our geographical position.
Of course, it is easier for some of us to follow a logical course of action right through, coldly. Some of us are made that way. Some of us can argue from the decision to make the atomic bomb, through the decision to make the hydrogen bomb, the Christmas Island as a logical consequence, very coldly, but that does not mean that everybody is made as coldly as that. For some people the thing is complicated right through. I go back on nothing I have said. The policy of my party as it is now—and of course it may change at any time by due processes, because we are a democratic party—is as it has been published. But those of us who make the case for this deterrent, and who hope to hold it at that position in a democratic society, have to make a case that can be held.
I am shocked, I say it quite frankly, starting from that point of view, which I hope will commend itself to the Minister. I am shocked, both in the White Paper and in his speech, at the loose way in which the phrase "the ultimate deterrent" is employed. Today the Minister called it the H-bomb, but in the White Paper will be found the phrase "ultimate deterrent", which I assume means the same thing, namely, the means of mass destruction. It gives me the impression that some scientific gentleman in the Ministry of Defence, who has been propaganding this idea for some time, has at last found a Minister who will take an idea that has not been worked out, and will run off and present it in all its awfulness.
If I may weary the House with my own personal thinking on this subject, it seems to me that there is, and must be, more than one degree of deterrent in this business of the ultimate deterrent. I say that because the ultimate deterrent, the H-bomb, the weapon of mass destruction, is only a weapon right up to the day on which it is used. On the day in which it is used, and thereafter, it is no longer a weapon for Britain. It may be a weapon for somebody else with a bigger area, but for Britain it ceases to be a weapon because we are very small and we will have experienced all the consequences.
So that it is a weapon only so long as it remains a deterrent. Therefore, we have to maintain it as a deterrent. I offer this to the Minister as a basis for further thinking, that there are degrees of deterrence available, practically, and that unless we can offer some hope rather more firmly than merely not ruling out the possibility—unless we think this out further and offer some hope that we can employ a deterrent without the certainty of being blown up, we may find that we have all the weapons, all the means of delivering the deterrent, and that it will be no deterrent at all because nobody will believe that we would have the will to employ it when the day came. If we let this backlog of public opinion build up, based on fear and emotion, and we cannot show a logical case for the deterrent which falls short of actually using the mass retaliation principle, then we may find that we, the Ministers, we, the politicians, have the mechanics but that the people will control the will to make use of them.
So I say to the Prime Minister that there are two distinct bases for this part of our Amendment which I beg him to consider deeply. I ask him—though it is entirely up to him not to go round making what seemed the rather pathetic, and if humiliating at all, self-humiliating remark that he was recorded as making at Ayr, that this is one of the responsibilities that the Socialists will never face. We in the British Labour movement have played our part in Britain's defence as well as in any other respect, and a short reconstruction of recent national history will show the right hon. Gentleman on what uncertain party grounds he was there.
The two distinct grounds are these: First, as I see it, there is the absolutely urgent and vital task of trying to revitalise the discussions about some real measure of international control, limitation and abolition of continuing peacetime explosions. For unless we do that, we run the risk of claiming more victims for these wretched weapons in peace time than might ever be claimed in a war in which they dare not be used. In doing that, get the whole impasse, the whole log-jam of international disarmament discussions moving again. I will come back to that in a moment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If anybody on the benches opposite thinks that this is an argument which can be stated without a lot of difficulty and a lot of complication, he is entitled to try. I will do my best.
The second ground I ask the Prime Minister to consider for that part of our Amendment is this. There are circumstances in which some limited nuclear force is the only available redressor of an otherwise impossible situation, in which the Soviets possess all the cards, in their own overwhelming strength in the so-called conventional forces, and in their different attitude to human life and values. Since this is so, we must seek to discover and to maintain some line between what is essential for our purpose and what is not; what we retain as the ultimate deterrent and what we may have to use.
To talk grandly about nuclear deterrents, and to be prepared to use—as we seem in this White Paper to be doing, and as I thought the Minister seemed to be doing today—both the so-called tactical atomic weapons and the strategic deterrent, without having thought out any balance that we could hope to hold between those things, seems to me to be almost an act of criminal folly. We We dare not do that. It is not easy. We have to work this out. Therefore, we say in this part of our Amendment, not that we go back on past decisions, but that there is such a feeling, so much uncertainty, so many aspects which we have not yet worked out for ourselves; that we are unable—the Government or us—to put the full case; that, therefore, we should now decide to make one great effort to dislodge the whole log-jam and to try to get talks about two things, about the future of this matter and proposals on control and limitation and banning, which might be acceptable, and also about the sharing of know-how, sharing the knowledge of these matters, because that as much as anything else will affect our need to poison the atmosphere.
We certainly do not want to poison the atmosphere to collect samples of fallout to see how the thing works if we can get it from paper work which has already been done, or from samples which have already been taken. That would affect our decision to go on. I invite the Government to say to the other nations concerned that we will not post the notice of our explosions at Christmas Island at the same time as we post them our letter suggesting that we should try to get agreement on the heads to which I have referred, and also that we will not send it in the next post, but that we will give them some time to think over the matter to see whether there is room to do something.
At the very least, even supposing that the grand design did not work—and not all grand designs do work—we would have removed a great deal of the load of unhappiness from many of our people who feel that we should not blindly and desperately go on with our plans without trying something else. If we get something out of it, we might be relieved from going on with the test. I would not be a party, and we would not be parties, to this proposal if we felt that in any way it put an intolerable burden upon us, or was an insurmountable hazard in our way if, unhappily, we had to go on later. We are convinced that it does neither. We are convinced that what burden it would put upon us would be well worth while being in the scales against the enormous stakes which are on the other side.
I ask the Prime Minister, if we were not so committed, would anybody say that Sir William Penney really advised the Government that the only period in history when he could have his tests and do his work was in the period April to August, 1957; that he said it could not be the period August to April, 1957–58, or April to August, 1958, or some other time. Is there any magic in this present period? If, by suspension of tests there is no insuperable barrier to future tests the Government are well protected, and if by doing it we can give a great lead to our people and the world, would it not be worth setting against the irritations, discomforts and difficulties?
I am bound to say in my amateur way—and, of course, I am an amateur strategist—that I regard the outline of future defence policy as commended to us as being open to this valid criticism. For a long time, the Government have refused—we think obstinately—to face the nuclear realities. Now they have become so bemused by the word, and, perhaps, by the desire to use it for economy purposes, that they have rushed into an uncharted field and committed themselves to an enormous concept without having shown in their planning whether they have anything with which to back it. We need to make a most careful appraisal of the kind of forces and the kind of weapons which we need to be maintained if we are to have this deterrent approach to affairs.
That we have not yet done. It is no use for the Government to say that they have given us an outline of defence policy for the next three, five or seven years ahead. That policy will become apparent when they have done this work and thought out the answers to all these questions. Of course, it can be argued that this can lead us to conclusions which would limit the financial economies which could be immediately made. I have never disputed that. I have always said that in the kind of change-over in defence policy now needed, we would not get at once the money savings, but that they would accrue after a time rather than at the beginning. I am sure that those savings can be made, but just how soon and just how much would be deeply affected by the answers not only to the questions I have raised, but by integration with our allies, how much the Americans and other people would be willing to share with us, and so on.
In conclusion, if I have to commit myself, out of office, with none of the advice available to the Government, I think that I would prefer forces which were reached in this way, balanced forces which took these considerations into account and which would serve our needs and widen our prospects, rather than take the line of the Government. They have rushed many fences to get £79 million economies into this year. As a result, they have left us gravely unprepared for the risks that we can face, gravely overprepared for the one thing we never want to face and, meantime, have left us vastly dependent on other people for policy decisions of the gravest import to us. That is how the White Paper looks to us. That is why we shall invite the House to approve instead the Amendment.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
declines to approve the Outline of Future Defence Policy, Command Paper No. 124, which, despite the waste of money and resources in the past five years due to repeated Government vacillation, still lacks the firm decisions essential to an effective defence policy; further regrets the undue dependence on the ultimate deterrent on which the policy set out in the White Paper appears to be based; and recognising that international disarmament is the only real solution to the problem of defence, and conscious of the dangers to humanity of the continuance of nuclear explosions, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take an immediate initiative in putting forward effective proposals for the abolition of hydrogen-bomb tests through international agreement, meanwhile postponing the United Kingdom tests for a limited period so that the response to this initiative of the other Governments concerned may first be considered".
A few of us from time to time go to places like Strasbourg and there discuss defence and other matters. Sometimes, those who are present at those discussions are very few, sometimes too few for the responsibility and duty upon their shoulders, not only to present the British point of view in foreign assemblies, but to bring back to this House the views which we there heard.
It is along those lines, at least to begin, that I should like to discuss the White Paper which is the subject of our examination today. Those of us who have recently been to Strasbourg were left in no doubt about the anxiety which remains in many Continental minds about the withdrawal of British troops from Western Germany.
We have a strong case. Our mistake was in not presenting it the right way round. The impression left in Continen- tal minds—and the one that was left in my mind; I was in no way cognisant of the fact that private discussions had taken place—was that we had made up our minds that we were going to take a certain line of action and went through the motions of taking part in discussions afterwards.
In talking with many of my Continental friends I heard most generous praise for the contribution made by Britain to the defence of the West, but my friends said: "Why, with this strong case, did you reverse the procedure to which you are a party in an agreement, by taking a decision and justifying it afterwards?" That is the action which I think was a mistaken one, and it has left a good deal of doubt and ill-feeling. Our Continental friends feel that we might do the same sort of thing in regard to our other obligations.
As my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both said recently, N.A.T.O. is the heart and core of our whole defence policy, whether economic or military. We are bound to N.A.T.O. and to Western European Union, which is a nucleus within N.A.T.O, by a solemn treaty We must remember and respect the terms of our treaties and also respect the sensitivities of the other countries who are parties to the treaties.
At the moment N.A.T.O. is running a temperature. Many of its member countries believe that we are trying to draw out of our N.A.T.O. obligations and retire behind a kind of nuclear bastion in this country. That is a foolish conception, because they go on to say, "Why should not we all have nuclear weapons? Why should not we all have the ultimate deterrent? In an agreement of this kind we cannot have both first-class and second-class allies".
Paragraph 11 of the White Paper underlines the importance of integration going further. That is absolutely right, but it depends to a certain extent upon what is meant by integration. If every country were to have a little of all the weapons of defence and of all kinds of defence it would be extremely wasteful. What is desirable is that each of the contingents supplied by the contracting parties should be armed with the lesser atomic tactical weapons, such as the kiloton rocket, which I am told can now be fired from an Army lorry and which will fairly soon replace conventional artillery. That is in a different category.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) when he stresses the importance of clearing our minds upon the question whether we can lay down an area of differentiation between the minimum atomic weapons, the intermediate atomic weapons and the ultimate deterrent. That is a problem which we must face. It may be impossible of solution. It is certainly extremely difficult, but we must think about it.
Apart altogether from the minor tactical atomic weapons, it would be ridiculous and quite unnecessary for each of the component parts of Western European Union or N.A.T.O. to think that they must have a little of everything—of nuclear power, atomic power, naval forces. etc. Only the United States of America and Soviet Russia—if it is possible even for them—are strong enough in manpower and finance to be able to support all these methods of defence at the same time.
As in the case of research, the nations of N.A.T.O. will have to specialise. We are all dependent upon each other. With our relatively very small conventional forces on the Continent we are dependent upon French and German infantry and upon the other nations—the Belgians, the Dutch and the Italians—whose detachments go to make up the ground forces. Without them Western Europe would be over-run at once and what then would be the use of our having a nuclear deterrent and sitting back in this country, in the light of what we have heard from my right hon. Friend, namely, that this country is not defensible from attack by the ultimate deterrent, the nuclear bomb?
We are all dependent upon each other and our conceptions of defence must be dovetailed together. There is no need for any component of N.A.T.O. to develop an inferiority complex and to consider, because it has not got nuclear weapons and we have, that we are better off. We can provide an effective force only if we stand together and co-ordinate the whole of our defences.
We developed the H-bomb not particularly because we wanted it. I do not attach too much to the prestige argument. I do not believe that that is why we developed the bomb. We did it because, in a world conflagration, the United States might have a different idea about the first target to be attacked, or put a different value upon it. There can surely be no doubt between our Continental allies and ourselves as to when, where and how to strike, because their defence is ours and there cannot be the same arguments and differences of opinion as there might well be between ourselves and the United States of America. I hope that our Continental friends will not consider that we are taking a softer and easier line of defence than they are being asked to take because we alone have the H-bomb.
The White Paper recognises the importance of integration not only in the way that I have been trying to describe—in the integration of our defence policies —but in the matter of co-ordinated research, which is badly needed. It is good to hear that something is happening in that direction. A few weeks ago some of us went to a French research establishment at a place called Vernon and were there shown a guided missile called "Parca". We saw a film of what it was able to do and examined it carefully. It seemed to me to bear a very close resemblance to a ground-to-air guided missile which I had seen in a film, under conditions of great secrecy, at the War Office, three or four years ago. I asked my French friends how much it had cost to develop this weapon and they told me it had cost £10 million.
They told me that it cost £10 million.
When I asked them whether there had been any consultation whatever upon the manufacture of the weapon I was told that there had been none. What a waste in scientists' time and of money! It cost £10 million to develop a weapon which seemed to me to be almost identical' to a weapon produced by us two or three years before—and I dare say that we were two or three years behind the United States in the development of our weapon.
Another sphere in which money is being wasted is in relation to the standardisation of the end-use items. I know that the Standing Committee on armaments is struggling to get something done, and that a number of agreements upon matters of lesser importance have been concluded, but the process has not gone far enough. I ask the House to think of the great increase in the efficiency of our forces if they were able to interchange everything that they needed. That is a Utopia which can scarcely come about. I ask the House to think of the saving there would be in the cost of production and supply of all the implements of war, and of all the simplification in what the Americans call logistics, or the bringing forward of one's requirements and supply needs along one's line of communication.
We have made very little headway in important items, and not a single end-item of importance which has been produced in a Continental country has been accepted by the United States. All our articles cannot be that much inferior. If America urges us to co-ordinate our production it must also pay its part. It must be a two-way and not a one-way traffic.
I wonder how many people in this country realise that each country which goes to make up the components of the N.A.T.O. forces has its own logistic line; that is to say, it has its own lines of communication, with its own type of equipment, running from bases to the places and the terrain where are its forces. There are Dutch, Belgian, British, American and French lines of supply.
I wonder how many people realise at what disadvantage that places the Supreme Commander. If he wanted to move a division from the south to the area of some other country, he would have either to extend the lines of supply of that division or unit—and thereby create complications in the extension and running of them across a possible line of attack or possible front—or else he would have to rely on the lines of communication and supply in the country into whose territory he was moving. The newcomer would be able to use practically none of its equipment.
The Commander-in-Chief of all the central European forces said that it made such a move very complicated indeed—I thought he was going to say that it would be very nearly impossible. Yet that is just the sort of move which would be needed in a battle; the moving of forces from south to north, or north to south, in order to reinforce a threatened area. Just think of the difference between the 175 Russian divisions, with all interchangeable pieces of equipment, and our hotch-potch of sizes of divisions and equipment and these lines of supply from which we have to suffer.
The next thing I would advocate is that the weight, size, mobility and fire-power of the divisions, or whatever unit is to be the standard unit of the West, must be more approximated to one another than they are at present. We have different sizes of divisions, different mobility and fire-power, according to the country which makes the division available.
There has been a little progress made in this matter, because the new German divisions are to be almost identical with the latest American thinking on the subject. An interesting feature, apart from increased mobility and fire-power, is that they are doing away with brigades and introducing instead combat groups, with staff responsible only for operation and training; and they are able to take a unit away from one combat group and add it to another easily and quickly, according to the needs of the tactical situation. That is a move which will have to become universal. I believe that we have to go in that direction.
I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for War say in a speech a few days ago that our thinking was tending towards the independent brigade group. That is even better than a combat group within a division. After all, we have to have these contingents or formations mobile, able to disperse and concentrate, and able to skip out of the way of the appalling effect of an atomic bomb with the maximum mobility which we can give them.
The Americans are extremely proud of their latest conception, the 101st Airborne Division. That is a complete division, able to be moved by air, along with medium-sized tanks and tactical atomic weapons. Of course, as a strategic reserve, that is a splendid thing to have at one's disposal, but I wonder what the airfield on which that division landed would look like. An immense concourse of aircraft would be required to move the whole division along with its equipment. Is it at all likely that such an airfield, with the clutter of aircraft landing on it and taking off from it, would escape an atomic bomb? It would be an ideal atomic target. There, as I see it, we have too big a unit. The conception of moving it by air with all its equipment is right, but it means moving too big a unit.
These are rather technical matters, and I wish now to turn to a political matter. I should like to say a word about the so-called "Gaitskell Plan" which was much discussed on the Continent recently. Whatever may be the advantages of a neutral belt running from the north to the south of Europe, including a neutralised and reunited Germany, the defence of the West under such circumstances would become impossible. I put that very question to General Valluy, who commands all the forces, land, sea and air, in Central Europe. He said, as I have just told the House, that if such a decision was come to, the defence of the West in the form of anything like our present conception would be impossible.
Already the present amount of terrain and the forces at his disposal are too small, and we were left in no doubt that the best we could hope for, even if our divisions were up to full strength—neither ours nor the French ones are, and the Germans are not yet there—would be to delay a full-scale Russian irruption until the atomic air strike took place. It is not a brilliant outlook—
But then, with our 30 divisions, we have the power to delay the enemy as they are crossing, or near to crossing, the German frontier; whereas if we have a neutral belt, which is vulnerable, with no opposition in that vast area, we should be starting to bottle up our airfields and our launching sites. We should be starting to create a number of worth while atomic targets in an ever smaller area, and the spread of a hydrogen or atomic bomb over all our airfields and launching sites now concentrated in France and the Low Countries would have a much more devastating effect than if the same attack took place—
But that does not seem to me to be altogether relevant. Whether it destroys us more easily or not does not much matter, if our only purpose there is to delay the enemy long enough for a counter atomic strike on Moscow and their other cities. If we had a neutral belt of about 800 miles I should have thought the passage of that neutral belt and then Germany and the Rhine would at least give time to get our deterrent bombers or rockets, whichever it may be, under way. As that is the only object of the operation in any case, it does not seem to me to matter much.
I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is leaving out of his calculation what I thought he tended to support; that it was possible to conceive of this war being fought with atomic weapons and the atomic strike being of less importance.
Possibly over Germany, possibly in Germany. I agree that the German situation would not be a happy one, but neither is that of any country involved in atomic warfare.
It was the view of the General, and I quite agree, that such a decision would bottle up our airfields or launching sites in an ever smaller area and consequently would make them much more vulnerable, and more easily knocked out by the enemy.
I entirely agree with that. If the combatants are to face each other in Germany it should be possible to have a limited atomic war. If they are thousands of miles apart they would avoid a limited atomic war, especially if they have to cross an 800-mile neutralised area.
I will take the hon. and learned Gentleman to discuss this matter with my friends. It cannot be done in question and answer across the Floor of the House of Commons, because it is too complicated for that.
In the meantime we have to pin our faith on the deterrent, and upon close co-operation and integration of the forces supplied by our other partners and allies in N.A.T.O. and the Western Union. We must continue to work for a world disarmament agreement.
It is interesting to note that we have now reduced our forces to the figure which the Russians suggested for us in their last proposal. [An HON. MEMBER: "More"] I wonder why we did not use it then? It must have been a bargaining point which was missed. What we can say in the disarmament discussions is that we have now come down unilaterally to the figure that the Russians asked.
Much of what I have said represents Continental thinking. It may be right or wrong. Those of us who attend Continental conferences should tell this House what the conferences are thinking. That is the reason why we are sent there. It is one of the minor justifications of our continuing to have representatives at Strasbourg and elsewhere.
It is somewhat difficult to discuss the White Paper on Defence if one ignores foreign policy altogether, as the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) has found out. We should be out of order if we introduced foreign policy as such into the debate, nevertheless there is a certain amount of it in the White Paper.
The hon. Member for Scotstoun may have been right in his remarks about the tactical and strategical considerations of using certain weapons in Germany. When he touched upon what he was pleased to call the "Gaitskell Plan" I recalled that one of his previous leaders, Sir Anthony Eden, had something to do with a similar plan some time ago. The hon. Gentleman ignored the essence of that plan, which was not militarisation but demilitarisation.
I do not know what the generals might think of the territorial disadvantages of the plan. They would like to have the world in which to play their battle game, with modern high-speed bombers, and fighters. They cannot do that. When they had manoeuvres in Germany, as the Under-Secretary of State for War may know, they could not carry them out be- cause the area was too limited to enable them to put up their fighters to engage in the manoeuvres.
We have to keep our remarks in perspective. What is it? It is enshrined to a certain extent in the Amendment which my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) moved. The only thing that will be effective for complete protection—I think the Minister of Defence said this earlier today—is disarmament, complete disarmament. If it were possible to extend the neutral area of Switzerland right across Europe it might not give a military advantage to our commanders but it would at least keep the combatants farther apart, and that is the whole issue.
Eastern and Western Germany are so close together that an incident in one could cause serious warfare. If something happened in Eastern Germany such as happened in Hungary I cannot believe that West German military forces would be quiescent within their western boundaries. There would be the call of brother to brother, and it would lead to a wider area of conflict.
The field that lies open to us in considering the White Paper is immense. Is it within the ambit of our defence forces? That is in itself a commentary on the fallacy of many of the statements in the White Paper. Our own forces are completely incapable of protecting this country. I doubt whether any national force can, alone, protect its own nation. Therefore, we must act in association with somebody else. That is the essence of N.A.T.O. planning. The White Paper is taken today in isolation from N.A.T.O. planning.
As I listened to the Minister of Defence I got the impression that, instead of discussing the matter constructively, he was doing a dismantling operation on our defence forces. He was not doing a complete dismantling by clearing a site before rebuilding, such as hon. Members may have seen on the site in Pall Mall which used to contain the Carlton Club. Perhaps I shall understand the White Paper a little better when the Service Ministers tell us how they fit into the plan. We are at a great disadvantage because we do not know what the Services will offer us. The White Paper tells us the plan, but the plan can only be put into proper perspective when the War Office, the Navy and the Royal Air Force tell us exactly how they will translate many of the sentences in the White Paper into actual practice.
With all our disabilities, we must try to see what is behind the mind of the Minister of Defence. I am not against a lot of his dismantling, which should have been done long ago. Anti-aircraft Command, as I have often said, should have been dismantled long before the Prime Minister did it. Much of the pulling down which the Minister of Defence is now proposing is vitally necessary if we are to prepare for an efficient, small and really capable defence force.
When I say "defence force" I mean one defence force in the future. How long it will be in materialising I do not know. We shall not have these three autonomous defence forces, the Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force for ever. I welcome that, if that is in the right hon. Gentleman's mind. He talked this afternoon in easy phrases about a strong, central reserve in this country, with adequate air transport to move troops speedily to the seat of trouble, yet when I asked him how much of these defence forces he could move at present in that manner he retired behind his barricade of security.
The right hon. Gentleman is the last Member in this House to do that. We all remember how, just before the war broke out, the right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to tell the country how totally unprepared our air defences were. Just as he tries to do with us today, the War Office brought all the panoply of discipline and security down on his head. He was a young officer in the Territorial Army and subject to the Army Act. They endeavoured to court-martial him. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to face these questions today. They are not meant to be destructive. We are trying to test whether his words have any real meaning. If they have, I shall be the first to give him credit for them. My impression, gained from reading this White Paper, is that much of this dismantling is being done in panic and that we have nothing to put in its place except, as the right hon. Gentleman told us today, the ultimate deterrent.
I am one who believes that under present conditions we have to possess the ultimate deterrent. This afternoon the right hon Gentleman read resolutions passed by the Labour Party, to which I belong and which I support today without any reservation whatever. I do that for this reason—that we cannot protect ourselves in isolation from the possible forces of aggression. What are they? The biggest force of aggression is Russia. If Russia has the ultimate deterrent, I say that the only way to counter her is to have the same deterrent because, if we do not have it, we lay ourselves open to the possibility of Russia using that on us and extinguishing us. Where would all our glib talk about national defence be then?
Let us not forget that only a little while ago Mr. Khrushchev warned us, at the time of Suez—it might have been an idle threat, but he used it—that it might be necessary to use ballistic missiles upon this country in order, as he said, to stop us waging war in Suez. There might be other circumstances in which that gentleman, like Mr. Hitler, would know no limits and use that deterrent on us. In so far as our missile would be any counter to that threat, I say that we have got to have it. That brings me inevitably to the question of tests. I can only say this, if I may be frank and honest in the matter.
I am afraid that my mind does not work so quickly on these matters as does the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). Perhaps it is not so made up as his mind may be. I hope that he will be patient with me and allow me to express my opinions more briefly, I hope, than my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper did from the Front Bench this afternoon. I agree to this extent with the Amendment, that we should do away with the tests for reasons which there is no need for me to go into. I would agree to stop ours for a limited period, but not if I thought that that would prejudice us as against Russia. I cannot ignore the fact that Russia is carrying out her tests almost every week.
In that respect, I am bound to say that some of the statements that I hear made, not only in political parties but elsewhere, seem, if not hypocritical, to avoid the point. I want to refer in this House this afternoon to something which I read in
The Times this morning. It was a statement made by a gentleman who used to be an hon. Member of this House and who is now vice-chairman of the Labour Party Executive, Mr. Tom Driberg. He has been writing, according to The Times, in the Moscow News, of all papers. He writes that:
The time is short. The exact date of the tests is secret. …
It is our tests, he means, not the Russian tests—
They may take place quite soon. But it may yet be possible by international and domestic pressure, to persuade the British Government to accept the Soviet suggestion that, at least, tests be suspended at once for an agreed period.
I hope that Mr. Driberg will accept the British suggestion—the suggestion of his own party, which has been tabled this afternoon—that those tests should be limited. I hope he will go further than that and say to the Russians, "If we are to stop our tests, you must stop yours at once."
—but many of us omit to say so, including the vice-chairman of the Labour Party, who has been writing with all the facilities that Moscow can give to him—and his friends in Moscow, traitors to this country—in a Russian newspaper. I speak feelingly about that because I want hon. Members on either side of the House to be quite certain where I, at least, stand. Any hon. Member who wants to do so can put his point of view. Hon. Members may think that we are misguided or divided in our views on this matter of the tests. I would only stop our tests for a limited time, as the Amendment says, provided that the Russians stop their tests too. We have not heard any response from the Russians so far.
I say one other thing to the Minister of Defence, on the question of air transport to move strong central reserves, as he called them. He will not tell us what we have got because, he says, security will not permit him to do so. I do not believe that for a moment. I believe it is merely a facade hiding the fact that we have not got the air transport to move these strong central reserves just now. Therefore, all his fine talk about his plans for creating those reserves falls to the ground because he cannot transport them. If hon. Members want an illustration of that, let them consider, as many military minds are considering at present, how we flew our forces into Suez for a limited operation. There has been widespread criticism about the inefficiency of the air transport there.
I should like to make clear that, in the first place, this is a five-year plan, secondly, that I have never claimed that we have got what I consider to be an adequate Transport Command at present to carry the number of troops at the speed which would be necessary at this moment. I have never claimed that; what I am claiming is that it is our determined policy to have it. We are building it up. We are ordering further aircraft to do so and I regard that as one of the linchpins of the whole policy.
I accept that from the point of view of long-term policy, but I cannot forget that year after year, in debates on the Service Estimates and on White Papers, we have been pursuing this point, and previous Defence Ministers have been telling us exactly the same. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must agree that our questions to him now are very much to the point. By saying what he just said, he has made a criticism of his own Government that they have not been providing these facilities. After all, they have been in power for about six years. The House has voted all the money for which they asked, yet today the right hon. Gentleman has to come to the Dispatch Box and admit that he has not got sufficient air transport to move the forces he wants but that he may have sufficient in two, three, four or five years.
As I said, this is a five-year plan. We have not yet made these great reductions in the forces overseas. When we do make those reductions, of course it will be very much more important to be able to move the reinforcements from the central reserves. So long as we have forces—close on 700,000—dotted all over the world in larger numbers than we think necessary, the importance of being able to move reinforcements from Britain is not so great, The basis of the policy is to be able to reduce the total number of our forces and garrisons in reserve overseas and it will be absolutely essential to have a reserve in a high state of readiness in this country, and the means of moving it rapidly by air.
I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman. What he is saying, in effect, is that we have large numbers of forces overseas. We had larger numbers three or four years ago. What about the Egyptian commitment? We were told then that if only we could reduce our commitment there we could reduce our forces and without such a commitment, of course, we could handle the problem of transporting them. If the right hon. Gentleman does much more reconstructing he will get the forces down to a size at which he will not need as many aircraft to transport them. He will have enough to be able to do it with the aircraft in hand.
Although the right hon. Gentleman may be telling us something about his five-year plan, he is telling us about the end of that plan. Unfortunately, the defences of this country must be maintained in the meantime. They must be as adequate as possible to protect our people from any aggression with which they may be assailed. My conclusion from listening to the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon and from reading his White Paper is that he came into office, saw how overloaded and extravagant were all the Service Departments, and decided to cut. He was the surgeon diagnosing the disease in the Service Departments, and he has cut ruthlessly. He is only doing what the Prime Minister did when he was Minister of Defence. There is a great co-operation between the two, as there should be.
That is all very well, but surely the right hon. Gentleman will not deny us the right to say that all this time we have been criticising this extravagance, and that it is only now that he has come to his present conclusions. He said nothing today about Civil Defence, although it is mentioned in the White Paper. In paragraph 12 it is stated,
It must be frankly recognised that there is at present no means of providing adequate protection for the people.
In paragraph 18 it is stated,
While available resources should as far as possible be concentrated on building up an
active deterrent power … civil defence must accordingly play an essential part in the defence plan.
It is only a year or two ago that the Home Secretary stood at the Box explaining his Civil Defence measures and talking about moving 12 million people in this country under the impact of nuclear attack. Will the right hon. Gentleman or someone else on the Government Benches answer this question: where are the Government's Civil Defence plans today? Parliament is being asked to spend large sums of money on a so-called plan, but have the Civil Defence plans gone overboard? Is it the Government's policy to move 12 million people from one part of the country to another under nuclear attack? Unless we have an answer to that question, what are we to think of the White Paper other than that it is a collection of bits and pieces, a jigsaw puzzle, which none of us can put into proper shape?
In answer to a Question which I put to him recently about integration and joint staff training, the right hon. Gentleman asked me to give him any ideas I had He did not put it in that form but he said he would be pleased to receive any ideas. I should not be surprised, especially after listening to him today, if at some time he wants a supreme commander for the much smaller integrated forces. The Under-Secretary of State for Air shakes his head vigorously. I expect him to do so, and I expect the Under-Secretary of State for the War Office, who is also present, to shake his head, too, if they follow the vested interests of their own Ministries.
Make no mistake about it: there is already considerable resistance in the Service Departments to the right hon. Gentleman's plans. Who knows why his predecessor was not reappointed when the Government were changed? I have heard it suggested that one reason was that he would not agree to the economies. He is not to speak today and to give us the benefit of his advice. It is remarkable what paucity of what we might call expert evidence is being offered to the House today by Ministers in charge of Service Departments.
What is the reason? This is the reason—and let them deny it if they can: they have not made up their minds what is to happen to the patient whom the right hon. Gentleman the surgeon has operated on so rapidly. That is why we have not the Service Estimates before us. The Service Ministries are unable to put before the House a coherent plan to fit into the terms of the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper.
I tell the Service Ministers sitting on the benches opposite that they will have to stand up to some of the vested interests in their Departments. After all, the Minister of Defence is doing some of their dirty work for them; he has told us today that considerable numbers of the middle ranks will have to be "bowler hatted"—and by a Conservative Government at that. What would have been said if it had been a Labour Government doing that?
It is, of course, inevitable that it should be done, once we take the step which the right hon. Gentleman has taken, but why not go a step further? If we are to have an efficient defence force, comparatively speaking a small one—375,000 men—compared with pre-war figures, the right hon. Gentleman will want a supreme commander. Why should he not have one? We had one when we were fighting the war in the Far East. There was a supreme commander when we invaded Normandy. He will have to reach that conclusion. The right hon. Gentleman asks my opinion, and I tell him that from the decision to appoint a supreme commander will flow a great deal of efficient, co-ordinated, integrated staff planning and staff training.
May I ask the Service Ministers—I know they will not answer—whether they have their war manuals ready? Do they know how they would go to war if they were involved in hostilities? I venture to suggest that not one of the Departments, including the right hon. Gentleman's own Department, has its war manual so complete that it could build up an efficient force able to give a good account of itself if we were involved in war.
Some hon. Members may say that all these matters are trivial, but hon. Members with any military experience will know that they are the basis on which the Service Departments work. Think what would happen if by chance war broke out as it broke out in 1914 and 1939. We have seen it happen in our lifetime. We do not know how long notice we should get. If it happens, how will the military machine go into operation? I suggest to the House that the military machine is so disorganised at the moment that it would not be able to go into action effectively—and that is the measure and the test of the Defence White Paper which we must put to the right hon. Gentleman.
Having taken part in many defence debates in the House and having had some limited experience in charge of a military Department, I feel that it is impossible this afternoon for me to assess in any measured way the impact of the White Paper on the defence forces. It boils down to this: the only defence we have at the moment is the ultimate weapon, plus the nuclear weapons which are being granted to us by America. To that extent we are dependent on America. I say nothing about that, for I think it is inevitable. We must be allied with America, otherwise we are in a hopeless position.
I do not place much reliance on many of our other allies. One of the reasons why I supported the rearmament of Germany was that I knew that at least we should get an efficient fighting machine there, and if we want efficient fighting machines we would do better to look for them in the places where they are to be found. I regret to say that some of our allies today are broken reeds. They would not be able to withstand the impact of the forces which we would have to meet.
I therefore accept the position that we have to be allied to America and to take what they can give us from their arsenal until we can provide some weapons which will give us some umbrella to put over our own heads. If it rains in the meantime, I do not mind whose umbrella it is so long as I have some protection, and that is the protection which America offers us today. Although they may be difficult people to deal with, I would far rather deal with them than with the Russians.
I say to hon. Members who have been in this House for many years, both before the war and during the war, and who are seriously concerned with the defence of their country and not concerned purely to make party capital about it, that I fear that today our defences are not as strong as this White Paper would have us believe. If that is a criticism of their own Government, it has to be made. Let some hon. Members opposite remember that they have not been afraid in the past to make constructive criticisms of their own Government, if need be. I invite them to do the same today. They may not be able to go into the same Lobby with us tomorrow night, but I ask them to be as frank with the House as I have been, and as was my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper.
I very much enjoyed the speech which we have just heard from the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger). There is much in it with which I agree, and also much in it with which I do not agree, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not think me discourteous if I do not debate with him, because I wish to take rather a different line. I should, however, like to pursue the last suggestion which he made, which was the suggestion he made to the whole House that we should be frank about this matter and accept the very heavy responsibilities which rest upon all of us.
Rather than debate with the right hon. Gentleman, I prefer to limit myself to one or two general observations about the situation which, as I see it, will face this country in the period which is considered in this White Paper, and particularly the period after the five years mentioned, which is after 1962. Before doing so, I should like to express my welcome for the proposals in the White Paper, and I would say to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that if my welcome is a cautious one, it is none the less sincere for that.
I welcome the White Paper because I believe it is realistic. If ever there was a situation which called for realism, it is the situation in which this country and its allies find themselves at this time. I suppose it can always be said that realism is desirable, and realism was certainly the first thing which occurred to me on reading my right hon. Friend's approach to this problem. I welcome it further because I believe, and I am in some conflict here with the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw, that it gives a lead to our allies.
I am quite aware of the discord which has resulted from the publication of the White Paper in N.A.T.O., but I believe that, in all our relations with our fellow men and with other countries and with our allies, it is very often necessary that there should be that shock. Indeed, we have heard the word "jerk" used repeatedly in his speech by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I do not think that lasting damage necessary flows from savage action, and it was savage action that led to the language we see in the White Paper. I welcome it, because I believe we are cutting our coat according to our cloth. Admittedly, it is a fair criticism to ask which came first—the chicken or the egg; for it is not clear from the White Paper whether it was a very careful re-assessment of our obligations and liabilities and then a decision to fit the forces to meet them, or whether a decision was first taken that only so much of the national wealth could be afforded and therefore the commitments had to be adjusted.
Finally, I welcome it because I believe it is a document which states quite clearly the Government's intentions and faces up to the theories and the facts as they are to be seen at this time. We see from time to time in the publication of White Papers a sort of tribal language only understood by members of the tribe, but here we have language which everyone can understand, and on an issue of such vast significance that is not a minor quality. Of course, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen have said it already, and indeed it will be said many times in the course of the debate, that there are going to be vast difficulties. They will take the form of human problems, economic problems and political problems, technical difficulties and strategic problems. I do not propose to dwell upon these, but I will make a brief reference to something which occurs to me which will be of special concern at least in the Army.
Apparently, we are to require a permanent, Regular volunteer force of about 165,000 men. I hope nobody will seriously question the general observation that in this country, when there is no immediate or obvious prospect of war, the British nation is bored with its Armed Services and is disinterested. A career in the Armed Services always makes very little appeal to young men, and to a lesser degree to young women, and I do not know that that is something of which we should be ashamed. It may be that we should be proud of the fact.
I suppose that it is one of the few occupations in which one virtually never does what one is employed and trained to do, namely fight. However efficient a man may be as a professional soldier, he hopes that there will not be war and that he will not be called upon to do the one thing which he is trained and paid to do. Therefore, in the military art, one is continually standing and waiting, and that is perhaps demoralising, and may be one reason why we have never found it easy to muster large military forces.
There is also the problem, as I see it, that if we are to get the men we require, clearly we have got to offer them interesting pay scales, but, more important, amenities. I believe that the problem will face us in future, as it faces us today in the Rhine Army. The more amenities we provide, the more we tend to limit the military effectiveness of that force.
In the Rhine Army today and in the Second Tactical Air Force we have two very fine military weapons, but I venture to put it to the House that because of these amenities, which have to be there if we are to attract men into the Services, these forces would fight rather less well if their wives and families were, under conditions of war, almost certain to be refugees. I know that it will be said that in the last war our homes were bombed and so on, but that is not the same problem, and I believe that it will remain a problem so long as we have to offer, as we ought to offer, substantial amenities in order to attract people into our Services.
There is also the problem which has been touched upon by one of my hon. Friends concerning standardisation, and I think it is a very fair criticism of the failure to co-operate in a wider sphere that today in N.A.T.O. we have so little standardisation. It would seem that in an integrated force of that sort, a great deal of effort, good will and intelligence is being displayed in getting integration, and I think that the former Commander-in-Chief deserves great credit for that. None the less, I think it is a fair criticism that we have not reached the same standardisation which we might expect, to which reference has been made, and that is going to be the problem in future and perhaps a more acute problem in the range of weapons which we are now considering.
I think that in Germany itself we also have a problem. I hesitate to make criticisms which perhaps will be misunderstood, but I believe that in Germany we will find that this race, which is already almost the industrial master in Europe and which has certain characteristics which I find alarming, will present serious problems to us, their allies, in the years ahead.
Indeed, I believe it is recognised by the German people and amongst the leaders in Germany that perhaps they cannot trust themselves in their tendency to be a militant people. That doubt is perhaps more strongly implanted in their present leaders than it is in those of us who must confess to some suspicions and doubts.
Would the hon. Member not agree that there is another reason why the Germans feel diffident, nervous and unhappy: namely, that they feel it is almost certain that an atomic war may be fought over their land, and they remember what the last war did to them without atomic weapons?
It is reasonable that intelligent people would in any circumstances be apprehensive if they were to be in any way involved in a war using nuclear weapons. I would not have said that that was unique to the Germans. Of course, there is the possibility as military strategy is developing that their country will be a battlefield, but I do not believe that that is any more a grave danger for the Germans than it is for the people of these islands. Therefore, to that extent, I would not accept the hon. Member's qualification.
Assuming that these are difficulties which are to be faced and overcome, difficulties which will be repeated in all the Services, I believe that there is one overwhelming problem and one vital question which must be asked and must be answered. It is not—and here I claim the indulgence of the House—something which we can consider as an issue between one party and another, or between one nation and another.
Since the war, since the annihilating effects of nuclear weapons have become known, we have seen America, the Soviet Union and ourselves developing what we have called the ultimate deterrent. We have seen our defence strategy built around it. That has been given more vivid emphasis in the White Paper than, perhaps, ever before, and it is very largely the matter which we have been discussing so far.
This is the question which I must pose and to which, I confess, I cannot give the answer. Ultimately, policy must result in physical action. Plans must result in somebody taking action on the ground. I wonder very much whether anyone who holds supreme authority today, or may at some future date exercise supreme authority, in the world as it must be in the next decade, in a democratic community such as we are going to have—thank goodness—can envisage that the man, or the Government or Cabinet, exists or can exist which, when the time comes, will have the courage or be able to take the decision to press the button to let off the ultimate deterrent.
I realise that the basis of our approach is that it will never need to be used. Are we, therefore, assuming that this whole policy, the policy of our United States allies and the defence or aggressive policy of the Soviet Union, is based on a gigantic bluff? If it is, I think we must accept the possibility that our potential enemies will be making an assessment of our moral strength.
Things do not stand still. What we are doing and planning, and what our potential enemies are doing and planning, is very much the concern, in our case, of our allies. I therefore wonder very much whether on a certain day or night or afternoon in the future, 500 yards from here, where the seat of Government really resides, a situation can ever exist when it is decided that all this human effort, all the material resources and the expenditure which has been incurred will, in fact, be employed as they have been designed to be employed. I hope that the courage and the singleness of purpose will exist, but we do not know. As I have said, I claim the indulgence of the House in putting a question which I cannot answer.
I realise that there will be those who ask whether that is not the argument for giving up and for not having the ultimate deterrent. I realise, too, that many other hon. Members wish to speak and I am anxious not to detain the House long, but having posed that question and invited the counter-suggestion that in the long run, and, therefore, in the ultimate, this approach is unsound, I must say quite clearly that I believe that the second choice is much worse than the first one that this policy poses.
There is an old Chinese proverb, which will be known to some hon. Members, which says that there are twenty ways of escaping but the best is still to run away. I believe that the second decision is to run away, because a much worse alternative is posed. The damage which may be done to future generations—that unknown quantity which is causing such grave anxiety to so many people—can be compared with something infinitely worse: in other words, to be without the power to strike back is, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence suggested, to subject the nation to the most grotesque form of blackmail.
If I have to admit that we are faced with a choice of evils, I believe that the line we are choosing, while is it fair to describe it as negative, is the only line we can take. If that be another good reason for supporting the White Paper, I am quite prepared to stand by it.
Since the speech of the Minister of Defence, we have heard some very interesting speeches raising a number of points which at other times and in other circumstances would be of real importance but which, in view of the major point which is brought out so clearly in the White Paper, pale into insignificance.
That is why I want to begin by thanking the Minister of Defence, not only for his speech, but for the White Paper. I understand that it was written entirely by himself. It is clear, definite and concise, and for the first time it stresses in cold print a matter to which many of us have been trying to direct the attention of the House and of people outside for a very long time. Particularly has that matter been stressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill).
Time and time again, the right hon. Gentleman has used his great powers to direct public attention to the position to which humanity is being driven by science and politics. One may refer back to one of his great books, written as long ago as 1923 or 1924, in which his words were almost prophetic about what would be happening between 1939 and 1945, and certainly about what will happen should the third world war fall upon us. It is for that reason that I am particularly grateful to the Minister of Defence. He sets out in a few words the true position, not only of this country but of every country in the world.
For a long time, it has been clear that the traditional ideas, methods and measures which mankind has pursued for centuries are no longer applicable. The past is completely dead. At the beginning of the Second World War, that very great general, Lord Milne, delivered a speech to a number of Members of the House of Commons in which he pointed out that the major principles of strategy had not changed in the slightest from the days of Alexander, Hannibal or Caesar, through the Napoleonic era down to the 1914–18 War. In my talks with those who were responsible for our strategy in the last war and to whom we owe our safety, they have agreed with Lord Milne that that was the position until the coming of the atom bomb.
The whole position is now changed. Those axioms which were settled and accepted throughout the centuries are of no value whatsoever today. The position of mankind has been completely altered by the advent of—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that we should use one simple expression—the hydrogen bomb. Long before the invention of that bomb, it was realised that no one country was able to be quite sure of defending itself successfully against aggression. There was, therefore, throughout the world a seeking for allies. I remember it well, even before the 1914 War. At the time when the tripartite arrangement had been made between Germany, Austria and Italy, there was then the question, who were our friends and who were France's friends? It became abundantly clear in 1947, when Russia began to rise in her might against the rest of the world, that no nation could any longer be in a position to defend itself. That is why in 1948 we at once began seeking for allies. We formed N.A.T.O. and S.E.A.T.O. There was the Pacific Alliance between America, Australia and New Zealand, and finally there came the Bagdad Pact. All these alliances emphasised our individual weakness and reminded us that it was necessary to combine together in order to defend ourselves against any attack which might come.
What has always puzzled me is that, while we agree that we must have a common policy of defence, we continue to have separate foreign policies in each country. How often have I heard it hurled across the Floor of the Chamber that we in this country are now being led by America, implying that that is something dreadful in itself and that we ought to have our own foreign policy. I should have thought that, from the moment we had agreed that we were not in a position to defend ourselves, there ought to have been a unified foreign policy—one policy and only one policy. It is obvious that any particular country following its own foreign policy as it pleases may, in so doing, endanger the position of all the others. We came very near such a situation during the last few months. That is why it is essential that stress—if stress has to be laid upon what I still regard as the smaller matters—should be laid upon the need for integration of the free countries, to which the right hon. Gentleman very rightly called attention.
The Minister said that he thought it was possible to have limited wars within a small area, although he admitted that it was possible that they might easily extend until we had a major world clash. The possibility of having such limited wars is becoming less day by day as the means of spreading information become more and more efficient. News is general and universal; it is no longer confined to any particular place where a disturbance takes place. It used to be our boast that from the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 until 1914 this country had maintained the peace of the world, except for a short period of two years when the Crimean War was fought. It was said that we had maintained the "Pax Britannica." But every year without exception throughout that period there was what we have called the small wars, the kind of thing to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. That might have occurred in the Victorian era. It is much too dangerous to rely upon the possibility that the spark of such a conflict could be confined within a small area today.
I should have thought that our own experience would have shown us that. A shot in Sarajevo started off the major clash of 1914–18. It may be that we turned our backs upon the invasion of Austria and Czechoslovakia, but the invasion of Poland brought the major clash. None of us can be sure that the smaller war may not easily develop into the bigger war. I ask the Minister of Defence not to rely too much upon confining one's attention to conventional weapons or tactical nuclear weapons, the use of any one of which may within a week, or even within a day, lead to the use of the major weapons which will bring destruction upon the world.
The right hon. Gentleman has put boldly and clearly not only our position but the position of the world. The principal duty of any Government today and throughout history has been to protect the individual against every outside threat. The right hon. Gentleman said today, and made it abundantly clear in the White Paper, that the Government is no longer able to carry out that prime main duty. What is true of this country is true of every other country in the world, and there is not a single exception. In paragraph 10 of the White Paper, the Minister very right calls attention to the fact that
The growth in the power of weapons of mass destruction has emphasised the fact"—
I am glad he uses the word "emphasised" because the need was known already, but needed emphasis—
that no country can any longer protect itself in isolation. The defence of Britain is possible only as part of the collective defence of the free world.
I quite agree. That is why I should have thought it right for the Minister to go on, if it were within the province of the right hon. Gentleman to do so, and say that, for that reason, the free world ought to have one common policy and not merely one common defence.
The position is made much clearer in paragraph 12:
It must be frankly recognised that there is at present no means of providing adequate protection for the people of this country against the consequences of an attack with nuclear weapons.
In that one sentence, the right hon. Gentleman calls the attention of the whole world to the position in which humanity stands today.
That is where we have been brought by our great scientists and by the policy which Governments throughout the world are still pursuing. They are living in a past age. The new era is here upon us and new ideas have to be brought to bear in order to save humanity. That is the true position.
What the right hon. Gentleman said a little later emphasised even more clearly to us in Britain the true position. That was his reference to the Navy. We have depended in this country upon our Navy ever since Tudor days, ever since Queen Elizabeth I. It saved us at that time. It saved us against the aggression of Louis XIV. It saved us again during the Napoleonic period. It kept us alive during the two major wars; otherwise we would have starved from lack of food.
The right hon. Gentleman very rightly points out today that in this atomic age the Navy is of no use whatsoever if the world war comes upon us, unless, as he points out, perchance a few more of us live for a little longer than he can anticipate at the moment, in which case the Navy will be needed to bring us food. That is the position to which we have been reduced. That, to my mind, is the major point which has been brought out so clearly by the White Paper and by what the right hon. Gentleman has said.
In the meantime these bombs are still being made and still being tested. The manufacture of them is one thing and the testing of them—and this is where I differ from the right hon. Gentleman—is another. The matter arising from the testing of them was brought to my attention first and to that of certain other hon. Members of this House by Professor Hadow, a very remarkable man, who is the head, as he has been for many years, of the Chester-Beatty Cancer Research Institute. He wrote a letter to The Times early in 1955, as a result of which some of us who belong to the Association. of Parliamentarians for World Government, to which I am proud to say well over 100 Members of all parties in this House belong, together with a number from the other House, asked him to address us, which he did. I had the honour of being in the chair. He told us that one could not be definite about these matters.
He told us at that time that scientists were able, even with regard to the hydrogen bomb, to assess accurately the direct effect of any one of those bombs or, indeed, the direct effect of any missile, but what they were unable to assess was the indirect effect of the hydrogen bomb. He went so far as to say that a number of scientists held the view that the damage caused by those bombs was not limited either in time or in space. What a terribly frightening statement that was. As a result, hon. Members who heard him speak suggested that it might be possible to hold a conference of world scientists. He welcomed it in words which I well recall. He said that scientists spoke the same language the world over and they were just as anxious to impart information as to get information. He thought that even the Russian scientists would be willing to join in such a conference.
At the request of my colleagues, I went to see the then Foreign Secretary, Sir Anthony Eden, and I told him the whole of the story as it had been told by this great scientist and asked him whether he would not move on behalf of the Government to summon a world meeting of scientists. His reply was negative, for two reasons. First, he thought that the Russians would not come, and secondly he thought that secret information might be given to them. I ventured to point out that no one has a monopoly of science and that no one knows who was the true inventor of any particular scientific method. No one can tell us with absolute definiteness who was the inventor of X-rays, whether it was Sir William Briggs or Röntgen. I understand that this is largely a matter of mathematics and that these great people work on the same matter and might arrive at the same conclusion together.
A refusal came from the Government. We were just a few Members of Parliament. We nevertheless decided that, although we had no money, we would do our best to get the scientists to come. The London County Council helped us by lending its building. The scientists came, I believe from over thirty countries, at their own expense. They included four of the leading Russian scientists. I was told by our own scientists—and two attended from Harwell—that the Russians were as forthcoming as any of the scientists who attended the conference. Without a single exception, they called attention to the fact that the danger arising from the testing of these bombs in time of peace was exactly the same, indirectly, as it would be from their use in time of war.
Like the Prime Minister, I am no scientist, so I did not preside over the conference. It was presided over by another great scientist whom we have in this House and whom we all deeply respect, namely the right hon. Gentleman the hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Walter Elliot). I draw attention to this and ask whether it is necessary now to go on pursuing one's own way without knowing what damage it might cause at this particular moment. The Minister says sincerely, "I do not want to use these bombs at all. I do not want to use them in war." Then why use them in time of peace when we may be doing damage, to which, in the words of Professor Hadow, we know not whether in the damage done to humanity there is a limit in either space or time?
I gather that the Prime Minister will be speaking tomorrow. Will he tell the House what is the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to Mr. Stassen's proposals? I understand that Mr. Stassen is now putting forward proposals which say, "We will stop manufacturing these bombs if you will stop doing so in Russia. We will keep the stocks we have, but we will stop all tests and will set up a form of control which will see to it that no more are manufactured and no more let off." What answer have Her Majesty's Government to that? The White Paper and the speech of the Minister of Defence today have pointed out how necessary it is that we should combine together and how not one of us can afford to take action on his own. We have seen the effect of going off in this way on one's own.
It was the Labour Government that started in this way in 1950. Although the N.A.T.O. Agreement had been signed in 1948, they decided, on their own, and without even informing the Leader of the Opposition—which is the usual thing to do—that they were doing so. They decided that they would also go in for these nuclear weapons. They set aside £100 million—which was a very big sum in those days—for the purpose. As far as we know, they did that without informing any of their colleagues in N.A.T.O. who would certainly have been affected.
What is happening today? As more and more attention is drawn to this matter, Governments and countries are getting more and more uneasy. We have seen what Herr Adenauer has said he would do, and what reaction came at once from German scientists. This is the first time in my knowledge and recollection that a German, scientist or otherwise, has put world and human considerations outside before the fact that he is a German. I well remember August, 1914, when it was thought that the German Socialists might not co-operate in the war which had been caused by the Kaiser and his satellites, but the answer that was made by the leader of the Socialists at that time was, "I am a German first and foremost and only secondarily am I a Socialist." That must have been said again and again during the time of Hitler, but now we have a position in which German scientists are saying, "No, we are part of humanity and we are asking for a reconsideration of this matter." That is the position facing us today. Nobody knows that better than Her Majesty's Government, and nobody has put the alternative more clearly than have Members of Her Majesty's Government.
The Minister of Defence referred to this today. He refers to it also in the White Paper, in which he says that until there is complete disarmament we have, unfortunately, to rely upon our power of retaliation. In other words, war is prevented by the fact that one nation fears that its opponent may be more efficient than itself and may be able to throw more of these weapons more quickly and more effectively. That is our position.
This is what has happened in my lifetime. I remember the years before the 1914–18 War. That era was one of optimism, of confidence and of expansion. The present era is one of fear, and fear everywhere throughout the whole world. We do not know whether this civilisation which has taken centuries to build will be allowed to go on or will be destroyed overnight. How clear that was made to the house by the Prime Minister, speaking, as I knew he would have to speak, as the Minister of Defence under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford. That has been the view of the right hon. Gentleman for Woodford, as I know, for a couple of generations. It has certainly been his view since the end of the 1914–18 war.
The present Prime Minister, on 2nd March, 1955, in a similar debate to this, replied to a speech of mine, following much the same line as I have done today, only that I did not then have the clear statement which has now been made by the Minister of Defence. The right hon. Gentleman said in reply to me, speaking as the then Minister of Defence,
On the whole question of disarmament, our purpose is simple and our record is clear. Genuine disarmament must be based on two simple but vital principles. It must be comprehensive and it must provide a proper system of control. It must be comprehensive, by which I mean that it must include all weapons, new and old, conventional and unconventional. The control must provide effective international, or if we like supranational, authority invested with Teal power. Hon. Members may say that this is elevating the United Nations, or whatever may be the authority, into something like world government. Be it so, it is none the worse for that. In the long run this is the only way out for mankind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd March, 1955; Vol. 537, c. 2181.]
Those are the Prime Minister's words. Nothing has since been done.
The United Nations Assembly and the Security Council have not fulfilled the great objectives which we thought they would fulfil when the Charter was drawn up in 1944. Those responsible knew then that they were not providing for all time. It was only a beginning. They knew that a time would come when humanity would be moving along and would require major amendments to be made to the Charter.
In 1955, in its tenth year, and in accordance with the appropriate Article in the Charter, the Assembly decided almost unanimously that a committee should be set up to look into all the proposals for amending and strengthening the Charter and making it really workable in the interest of humanity. The committee was to report back in this Session in 1957, and the Assembly instructed its Secretary-General to call together such a committee. The Secretary-General has not done a single thing since that resolution was passed. It is difficult to expect countries to obey the orders and decisions of the Assembly when its own Secretary-General is failing to do so.
I should like to know from the Prime Minister tomorrow what attitude the Government are taking about this. I want to pay my sincere tribute now to the work that has been done by the Foreign Secretary so often at Lake Success, working side by side with that great Frenchman, M. Jules Moch, who is in this country today. I sincerely hope that the Government have this in mind. Otherwise, what is left for humanity?
What is the good of talking about these smaller details? if a world conflict breaks out there is an end of all our civilisation and all that we have stood for. Is there an alternative? Yes, there is. The Government know that there is. Is it enough for Government spokesmen merely to appear at Lake Success or at the Dispatch Box in this House to make these statements? I do not think it is. Why do they not go out and preach this to the world? Preach it to the people. We have to carry public opinion with us. The Government should point out, as the Minister has pointed out in the White Paper, the danger in which humanity stands today. If that is done, I think people will respond and then we will find, as the Minister again pointed out, that the scientists who today are devoting their time to the destruction of human beings, will then turn their great powers to the improvement of affairs and to the betterment of human lives.
That is the alternative, and I beg the Government to follow that alternative.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), as always, has raised this debate to a high level. Everybody must agree with his anxiety and with the sentiments that he has expressed in the last few minutes. I ask the right hon. and learned Member to believe me when I say with absolute sincerity that I believe that in this very horror of the hydrogen bomb, under the shadow of which the world is living today, lies the world's first real chance of disarmament. There can be no disarmament in respect of the hydrogen bomb before we get rid of our conventional weapons. That would be an absolute travesty of effort. If, how- ever, as I believe is possible, for the first time we can get rid of our conventional weapons under the shadow of the hydrogen bomb, we may find that opportunity of disarmament which will give the world a second chance.
The right hon. and learned Member said several things with which I agree. For example, he said that nowadays the small war is becoming out of date and that, as time goes on. it tends ever more to lead to a great war. The right hon. and learned Member said we needed new ideas to solve these problems, but it might be well if we went back to some of the old ones which have been forgotten.
Now I want to comment on the White Paper. I believe that the Minister has rendered the country a great service in bringing us face to face with facts. The White Paper is not a plan, it is an outline. Yet it brings us face to face with facts, and unless we face those facts it is impossible to make practical plans. Today we have to approach the problem of whether the defence measures here outlined are adequate. We have to forget the question of the money that we have saved. We have to consider our chances of providing a fair defence for the country. We have also to beware—perhaps not in this House but in the country and in the newspapers—of what I might call the Dunkirk spirit. We have an amiable national habit of turning our difficulties into victories. That is admirable in wartime, but it is not necessarily a good thing in times like these. So we must face the fact that a reassessment of what we can do is not an easy thing, it is difficult, and that our position may well become much more dangerous. The White Paper emphasises that no country can any longer protect itself in isolation. That has been the current thought behind many of the White Papers that have been produced on defence, and at last we have it absolutely straight.
I believe, however, with many other hon. Members, that we are setting perhaps a dangerous example to N.A.T.O. by the unilateral action that we have taken to some extent in saying that we will abolish conscription, and also in the reduction in the Navy. I think that we were right to do it. I am merely underlining the fact that by doing so we may be running into considerable danger, and I will try to explain what I mean. We are dependent on N.A.T.O., particularly in naval matters, for the defence of these islands against the onslaught of 500 modern Russian submarines. We should not shrug off those 500 Russian submarines. They are far more modern, far more dangerous, than submarines were at the end of the war, and they are becoming more dangerous every day. In my view they constitute in themselves just as dangerous a threat to this country as does the hydrogen bomb.
We have to depend for the defence of our supply lines on co-operation with N.A.T.O. By reducing our naval forces in the way we are doing, we are placing greater reliance on our allies, and I should like to know just what is N.A.T.O.'s power in this respect. The personal problem of this country is the feeding of this country in time of war, and even though we will have only a small contribution to make to N.A.T.O. I believe that we should have command of our end of the supply line. I hope that the Minister of Defence will make our position clear to N.A.T.O. in that respect, because it is one of the problems resulting from reducing the Navy to the extent that we are reducing it.
There is another problem. We are entering a dangerous phase when we reach the point when ballistic missiles can deal with any part of Western Europe, but when they cannot reach America, and when American missiles cannot reach Europe. Many years will elapse yet before we get trans-continental missiles, and so for those years this country will be in the forefront of the battle. It will not be until we get real trans-continental missiles, in perhaps ten years' time, that we can really say that the full potential of the deterrent has been developed.
These are questions which only our experts can answer, and like other hon. Members I shall look forward very much to the debates on the Service Estimates, when we shall hear how the Services are proposing to implement the outline proposals which have been made, and how they can provide for this country an adequate defence. We shall have many questions to ask the various Service Ministers on these matters as the years go by.
There are two things that we should do at present. The first was mentioned by the Minister of Defence, and it is entirely non-controversial. The run-down will take live years, and during that time an enormous strain will be placed on the morale of the officers and men serving in the forces. The Government should take extraordinary steps to try to maintain that morale. I suggest three simple things which might be done. They are all quite obvious and there is nothing particularly new about them.
First, the Service Ministers and the Government should take the officers and men of the Services into their confidence and should go out of their way to explain to those serving in the Army, Navy and Air Force just what is happening. Men will always follow a good explanation, but they do not like not knowing.
The second thing has already been mentioned. There must be generous treatment for those who are redundant. The country will be disgraced if we do not give generous treatment and if we are not seen to give generous treatment to those who will have to leave the Services. Wherever the fault may be, and for whatever reason the forces have to be reduced, it is certainly not the fault of the men who have given so much of their lives and time to the Services.
Thirdly, I should like to see the Ministry of Labour and industry together set up organisations to deal with the very high quality of manpower which they will receive from the Services. That is for our own benefit as much as for the benefit of the very highly trained technologists and technical men who will be entering the service of their country. I want to see them going to the right places and getting good jobs to serve their country in the best way. I hope that when the Minister of Labour speaks tomorrow he will be able to tell us what special arrangements he is making to cope with this problem.
Will the hon. and gallant Member carry that argument a little further and say that some of the tens of thousands of men and women, who served in the last war and who took up work in ordnance factories and who will also be redundant because of this policy, should have extended to them the same privilege of compensation because they are no longer wanted?
Some of my hon. Friends and I have drawn attention to that on several occasions and have pointed out that any reduction in our Armed Forces will have a considerable effect on the redeployment of labour throughout the country. I cannot answer the hon. Member's question. It is a perfectly sound proposition. To put it bluntly, I do not think that he will have a great deal of luck with his proposal, because it is the men who are actually serving in the forces who should be specially helped. The hon. Member will find that the vast majority of those he has in mind are craftsmen whose crafts can be employed in civilian walks of life much more easily than those of the men in the Services themselves.
The second matter is a little more controversial. It is perhaps sufficiently important to raise in this debate. It is the matter of our bases. At the beginning of my speech, I said that I thought that the phase of limited wars was an historical episode which was gradually drawing to an end, but I am sure that we should still do a great deal now to prepare for them. As the House knows, for one reason or another we are losing our bases in many parts of the world, and many which still exist and which served us well in the past, may not be useful in the future, because they are not in the right place or for other reasons.
I welcome the creation of the central reserve to which the White Paper refers. It is in that part of our forces that I should like to see the beginning of integration. I have never been a believer in integration for the sake of integration. Integration is a means to an end, and if it is not achieving the end it should be dropped; and any experiments which could and should be carried out should be carried out in the central reserve.
Referring to the central reserve, the Minister says, in the White Paper:
To be effective, the Central Reserve must possess the means of rapid mobility.
He developed that theme and there has been a certain amount of argument about it. I believe that to be effective that reserve needs more than that. It needs the means to establish a base capable of maintaining all its arms. As a nation we pride ourselves upon our ingenuity and adaptability. I believe that it was the Duke of Wellington who said that
when a rope broke, he tied a knot in it and went on. I sometimes think that in this very highly technical age we do not make enough of the adaptability and ingenuity of our people.
I want to see us establish a mobile base, and by that I do not mean merely an aircraft carrier, or what are called fleet trains. I want to try to establish a base which will be able to deal with the whole of a small armed force. I have some experience of these matters, and I do not believe that the Army and the Royal Air Force fully appreciate what can be done from ships. Surely a nation which produced Mulberry, a nation which produced P.L.U.T.O., can, if we rely on the brains of the young men, produce a concept which would not be beyond the means of the country and which would add very greatly to the efficiency of the Central Reserve. For that job we should look to the Royal Navy. We have floating hospitals, and we could do a great deal to create a modern useful base by using ships. I should like the Minister seriously to consider that.
Finally, as I said, I congratulate the Minister of Defence on what I think is a first-class appreciation of the problems which confront us. Such an appreciation in all its starkness is essential to enable us to plan. These plans are as yet in embryo and during the next five years it must be our unsparing duty to examine them in great detail and to ensure, as far as is humanly possible, within the economic limits imposed on us, that they provide adequate defence and a worthy contribution to the defence of the free world.
I agree with at least one point of the hon. and gallant Member for Horncastle (Commander Maitland), namely, that the old-fashioned bases, such as Gibraltar, Aden, Cyprus and the rest, are completely out of date. I could not accept his alternative. My own view, having regard to the extent of nuclear warfare, is that we must regard our bases in the future as being Australia, Canada and Africa. Nothing much less than that will be much use. I do not want to develop that point.
I want to deal with the practical issues of the White Paper. I am very much attracted by what the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said earlier, and I should like to follow his idealism, but I came here today determined to speak about the White Paper, to touch on some of its faults and defects, and to make some suggestions. I should like to say to the Minister, whatever anybody else may say about it, that his White Paper is an improvement on anything we have had from the Government.
While I regret the fact and realise the shortcomings of having had seven Ministers of Defence in the last five years, and while I do not wish any well to this Government and hope that they go out very quickly, at the same time I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will remain Minister of Defence until the Government die and it is possible that some of the things which he suggests may get carried out.
As I see it, the White Paper definitely commits us to nuclear war. That is certainly what will happen the next time a major war breaks out. I disagree with the Minister in regard to his idea—as I understood him to put it—that we can use nuclear weapons in a limited war. Once we have used tactical nuclear weapons, as they are called, I do not believe that we can avoid using the ultimate deterrent.
I will tell hon. Members why I say that. It is because they make such an awful mess. People talk gaily about tactical nuclear weapons as if they were like little Mills bombs. There is nothing smaller than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It is ridiculous to suggest that a losing side —and I am, of course, assuming that both sides are using tactical nuclear weapons—will not go on to something bigger. I certainly would if I were in command of the losing side. I should not hesitate for a moment.
I would remind the House that this issue was really decided at Nuremburg, where we put to death some of the military and political leaders of the losing side. It is quite certain that anybody losing the next war will suffer the same fate. Quite certainly the side which thinks that it is going to lose will not be content to fiddle about with little Hiroshima bombs. It will go for as many big bangs as it can before it goes up in flames itself. It is a complete error of judgment to think that we can get away with what is called the graduated deterrent. I would like to do away with all the expenditure on these small weapons at once.
I do not want the right hon. Member to misunderstand what I have said. I have not talked about the graduated deterrent, which presupposes that these weapons can be controlled All I said was that we must not exclude the possibility, in certain circumstances—I mentioned a distant theatre, like Korea—of limited tactical atomic weapons being used without necessarily bringing about a wholesale cataclysm. I did not say that I had any confidence that that would necessarily happen.
To me that is an abomination. Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest that we might have used one of these tactical nuclear weapons at Suez? It is outrageous to think that we who possess these weapons are going to use them on a lot of people who are completely defenceless. I can quite appreciate the argument for using them against a great land mass, or against the Russians-cum-Chinese, whom we cannot stop otherwise, but that would be a major war, and once a major war comes the ultimate deterrent will certainly be used.
I will not pursue the argument. I do not want the manufacture of tactical nuclear weapons, but I do want the H-bomb, about which I shall have something to say shortly. There is a great deal of talk about cutting down expenditure. I do not believe that that will happen. As I see it, if we are going in for all these horrors, it will cost us a packet of money, even if it may save a lot of manpower.
I am told that the body of the "Thor" that it is said we are getting as a resift of the Bermuda Conference costs £3 million, and to put a head on it w ill cost another £2 million. The "Corporal" costs £300,000. As a United States general said to me, "The horror of all this thing so far as I am concerned, with regard to expense, is that every time I pull the trigger bang goes a million bucks." That is the kind of little weapon we are giving to the artillery.
With the sort of battery that I used to command in the 1914–18 War we used to think nothing of firing 5,000 rounds a day. That would now cost 5,000 million bucks! I am often accused of making people laugh, but I am deadly serious about this matter. This thing is crazy. Nobody takes the trouble to think about it.
If one pauses to reflect upon the awful possibility that one might become a Minister of Defence—I am glad to say that I have been demoted—one must not behave irresponsibly. One must assume that one may have to take responsibility at some time or other. I reflect that, however great the cost, it is useless to say that we cannot afford whatever is necessary for defence. That is why I stick to the big bang. What is necessary must be afforded.
My secret agents have not yet furnished me with the figures.
Hon. Members have talked about limited wars. It is possible for them to break out in two places. My second reflection upon reading the White Paper and listening to what the Minister has said about limited wars and the running down of forces is to ask what he is going to do if two limited wars break out at the same time. However well armed and skilful our forces are, they cannot be in two places at the same time.
If we can integrate one force into two, that would be a very satisfactory state of affairs!
I want to talk about some of the shortcomings in the White Paper. My first complaint is that there is still no sign of a collective defence under N.A.T.O. It seems to me absolutely vital that the N.A.T.O. countries should get together and co-ordinate their production. One day last year I was talking to General Gruenther and he said, "You know, it is perfectly absurd: in the N.A.T.O. nations we are making six different kinds of jeeps and no parts are interchangeable. The only thing common to them is the air in the tyres." That example can be carried right up the scale and from it we can see what an absurd waste of manpower is going on. We are making a lot of different things of the same kind which should be made common to all the N.A.T.O. nations.
Secondly, there is not much sign of a unification of the three Services. We pressed for this last year, and we have pressed for it for quite a long time. I ask the Minister to think about this. Cannot he make a start by integrating the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force? They have only two functions. They each have to carry the Army where it wants to go, and they each have to drop bombs on the enemy. They are both doing the same things, so why cannot they be integrated? That would save a great deal of manpower and money.
I want to say something about the economic and industrial position at home. Paragraph 6 of the White Paper rightly says that
military expenditure should be considered in conjunction with the need to maintain the country's financial and economic strength.
The Minister has rightly said that the proposals which he has made will give us 300,000 more men.
So I turn for a moment to the question of steel. This atomic energy development plant is simply mopping up steel at a rate which nobody realises. Would it surprise the House to learn that at the present time I am importing steel from Australia to go into machines to work in Northampton, at about 50 per cent. above the price I pay for steel here? All these great atomic towers, 150 ft. high and 70 ft. in diameter, are lined with 3-in. plate. Of course, industry cannot get enough! The Government should buy some of the steel from Australia and let me have the home steel. At any rate, that is what I want. [Laughter.] I wish that hon. Members would not laugh, because I am in grim earnest about this matter. How am I, charged with the responsibility of furthering our exports, to do so successfully if I have to pay 50 per cent. more for my steel than I would if I bought it at home? I am not asking for subsidies; I am asking the Government to be sensible.
I now turn to the question of Transport Command. Paragraph 35 of the White Paper says quite categorically that:
a substantial fleet of transport aircraft is being built up …
To me that is just fabulous nonsense. I am not going to mention figures, because I shall be told that it is not in the national interest. But what is this great fleet which is being built up? It is a
handful of Britannias, rather more Beverleys, and a handful of Comets. I am told—I do not know enough about it, because I do not know what size a brigade is now—that all the transport that the Government have on order at present is incapable of lifting more than one brigade. If that is so, it is perfectly disgraceful, and it is about time someone got called to order on account of it.
I wish to talk for a moment about the Territorial Army. There is another extraordinary statement in the White Paper. It states that the Territorial Army is to be primarily assigned to the task of home defence. Then it says that two divisions are to be assigned to N.A.T.O. An Army which has been trained for home defence will be of no earthly use to N.A.T.O. at all. It will not have been trained the right way. If it is to be part of the N.A.T.O. forces, it must be trained properly for the job. And, even when it has been so trained, it must be capable of being got to N.A.T.O., which means that it has to be airborne. There will be no other way of getting it there. The White Paper does not tell us anything about that. I would like to hear from the Secretary of State for War, or from some other Minister, whether these two Territorial divisions are to be part of N.A.T.O. or not. If they are not, they could go for home assignment—
Has not the right hon. Gentleman got it a little wrong? Is it not a fact that a year ago two divisions, the 53rd and the 43rd, were ear-marked for N.A.T.O., and that the White Paper says they will no longer be so ear-marked for N.A.T.O. but will be available for home defence?
All right. With regard to the statement that manned fighters will soon be superseded, I was very glad to hear the Minister say that of course he does not want young men to slop going into the Royal Air Force. That was a point which I was going to raise, but the right hon. Gentleman has covered it so completely and openly, and has made clear what is wanted, that I do not wish to spend the time of the House saying anything more about it at all. Quite obviously, manned aircraft will always be wanted for conventional forces, and it would be a terrible thing if it went out from this House or by way of the White Paper that young fighter pilots are not wanted.
I was going to say a great number of things about the whole business of the Royal Air Force, but I think that I had better reserve that—[HON. MEMBERS: "No, go on."]—for another day. What I want to say, briefly, is this. I have made certain examinations, or I did until a month or so ago, about what is going on in the aircraft industry. I do not want to talk today about the urgent necessity of rationalising the industry. What alarms me is that, except for one machine which has now been scrapped and which we are not proceeding with, I have not come across anything, either among fighters or bombers—even on the drawing board—which is out of the "aluminium age". What I mean is that everything we have in the foreseeable future will continue to be made of aluminium. But they will be as out-of-date as the dodo by 1960. By 1960 or 1961, neither the Russians nor the Americans will have an aluminium fighter or bomber, so far as I know, and, so far as I can gather, there has been no development at all here which is commensurate with what is going on in these two vast competitive areas. I could develop that further, but I do not wish to take up the time of the House.
I have one or two suggestions which I want to make. I have said that I consider it vitally important that the production effort of the N.A.T.O. nations should be integrated and that the forces here should, as soon as possible, be unified and a start made by putting the R.A.F. and the Navy together. With regard to the divisions in Germany, I want the Minister to tell us what lie intends to do. Knowing a little bit about the War Office—but not nearly as much as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger)—I have a shrewd suspicion that what the generals will do is run down the numbers and diminish the number of division; whereas what they should do, so far as I understand it at all, is to maintain the same number of divisions and run down the number of people in them.
Can the Minister say whether that is to be the policy? Which is it to be? I know that there are to be fewer men. Are there to be the same number of divisions, or is there to be a division less with the same number of men in the other three? If we leave it to the generals, from my knowledge of generals I am pretty certain what they will do, and they will muff it. The suggestion I want to make it this—
That comes very well from the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby). My language sometimes is a bit loose.
The suggestion I want to make is this. I have never understood why we today in this country seem to be ashamed of having a foreign legion. I should have thought that there is a great deal to be said for having one and that there are lots of people who would join it. It would help the manpower position here, and it would help unemployment in other countries, and, what is more important, both to me and to my hon. Friends—whether they agree with me or not—is that it certainly would help to ensure a speedy ending of National Service. I hope that we can give some serious consideration to that.
Then I want to say something and make some proposals with regard to transport aircraft and civilian needs. We talk about the Britannia rather loosely as if it was quite a simple development. But anyone who knows that machine and knows something about its development knows the enormous amount of money involved in the development of any transport plane. They do things differently in America. The whole of the military needs and civilian requirements are linked up together and, in effect, the military "hold the baby" and "carry the can." We do not do that here, and I do not see how we can get the Transport Command we need for our strategic reserve—or central reserve, or whatever we like to call it—with up-to-date planes unless some effort is made and a change is made by the Government towards co-ordination between civil and military requirements so as to ensure that these planes can be developed and delivered on time. It is impossible, in my view, for private enterprise to do it alone. The Government have to supply the necessary funds so that we are able to carry it through.
I am almost at the conclusion of what I want to say, but I have a lot more to say, and it is all about the hydrogen bomb. I was laughed at a year or so ago when I made a speech—not in this House but in the country—in which I suggested that what was really wanted—I say this with great seriousness—was a "treason club for scientists"—a club to which all people engaged in atomic and nuclear energy examinations or science should belong—with an undertaking that they would tell everybody everything and that no nation would ever be able to put one over the other. I know it sounds fantastic. Of course, I see the difficulty. But there is something in this. I do not believe it is beyond the bounds of possibility that Russian scientists would come in with the Germans and others. I can see the difficulty of believing that we could get the politicians to agree that they should. That is a different thing altogether.
But, leaving aside my dream, there is a great deal to be said for an international scientific organisation to which these suitable people should belong and share their knowledge. If we could have something like that, I believe it would help us a great deal in the future with regard to avoiding some of the horrors which otherwise may be perpetrated in the world.
Last year, I suggested in the defence debate that the most urgent and important thing of the time was the pooling of nuclear knowledge. I mentioned that the strongest possible representations should be made to the United States to persuade them to change their line so that we could pool our knowledge to take advantage of everything that was being done and avoid unnecessary duplication which would otherwise take place. And, more important still, if at that time we had been successful in getting them to agree, several things would have happened. We should not have gone on with our bomb at all; we could have had theirs. Secondly, we could stop all the "big bangs". Thirdly, and most important of all, as Jules Moch says in his book, up to that moment in time it was possible to detect within about 10 per cent. where all the fissile material was going. The longer it goes on with three nations making the stuff, the more difficult it becomes to tell where it is all going to lead and to get any sort of control.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it would be better to get the Foreign Secretaries in every country to try to take away the causes that compel us to defend ourselves? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. That would be better than to get this "treason club" among the scientists. If the Foreign Secretaries really got down to it and took away the causes of our fears and suspicions, would not that be much better?
I have often thought in my waking hours in the early morning that it would be very good if the Foreign Offices were Ministries of Peace instead of intriguing organisations. If that is what the hon. Gentleman means, I am with him. I certainly understand that to he what he has in mind, and I do not disagree with him. But here we are; what we are trying to do is to get some sort of hold on what is happening in the continued development and extension of these horror weapons.
Again I was laughed at last year when I was talking about this subject, asking that America should be asked to change her laws: but later I was talking to General Gruenther about it. He said what I am saying now, "Don't believe it. America can be persuaded to do this." He had appeared before one of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committees and said, "The sooner we pool all our knowledge of this matter, the better it will be for humanity." The Senator said, "Why don't you say that more often? We agree with you." He replied, "I am only a general. It is for you politicians to say it. Not for me."
I want to know from the Government what they have been doing about it. I am constantly making speeches on the matter in the country. They do not get into the Press very often. A lot of us are doing the same sort of thing. People talk about it. What steps are the Government going to take? It is no use telling us that something happened at Bermuda. All that happened was that we arranged that we should have bodies costing £3 million and we then have to put heads on them costing £2 million. They will then have the bodies in their store, and if we want to control our own heads we have to make them and put them on. [An HON. MEMBER: "We are not allowed to do it."] It is exactly the same as ending us one million pairs of boots without any soldiers in them! They would be of no use. Why does not the right hon. Gentleman deal with this position? He knows something about it. I understand he made quite an impression at Washington. I wish he would go over there again and bang their heads together and see whether he cannot get something done to get that United States law altered which prevents our sharing our nuclear knowledge.
I come almost to the end of my speech. The right hon. and learned Member referred to what Mr. Stassen said the other day. Whatever Stassen said, we do not get the bomb. I would like to see all these bombs thrown to the bottom of the deep blue sea and the manufacture of them stopped by all countries, Russia included. But I do not think that that is practicable, because I do not think we would get it done.
Therefore, I am one of those persons who believes that we ought to have the bomb. We have not got it until we test it, so therefore we ought to test it. I am quite willing to wait two or three months to see whether everybody else will come into line, with proper supervision, control and inspection. I can only agree to that if the Americans can let us have some of these weapons so that we can defend ourselves, but I certainly would not wait a long time. But I know the argument is that if we are to insist upon this other nations will develop their own hydrogen bombs. I do not believe that is practicable. The arrangement with America at the present time is that she will not deliver enriched uranium to any nation making bombs. The supplies would stop as soon as they started to make them. I would like to get our bomb tested quickly and then have a standstill all round to get control and gradual abolition. I sincerely believe that we can treat better with the Russians if we have the bomb than if we have not.
I come to my final point, which is rather longer. While we are thinking of these things, it is just as well to contemplate in our own minds what the enemy are after. We all assume that the enemy is the Russians. I hope the day will come when we shall find a way of peacefully solving all our difficulties with the Russians, but it does not look like it just now. Let us face UQ to the position. As far as I understand him, he Russian wants one of three things. Either he wants peace. He can have it tomorrow if he will agree to proper supervision of armaments production. Or, if he does not want peace, does he want peaceful domination of the world by Communism? That is what I believe he wants. I believe that the battle in the world is between the Vatican and the Kremlin. Nothing else matters at all.
I do not want to hurt anybody's feelings at all. I mean, of course, between the Kremlin and the Christian Churches everywhere. If that is what the Russians want, then one of their ways of doing it, as I said at the Government Dispatch Box when I was a Minister, is by a war of economic attrition against us, making us waste our substance in the making of these beastly things which we are never going to use, and thus making it impossible for us to give aid to the backward peoples. The Russians will get all the backward peoples by the march of events because we have not been able to give them the economic security that they desire.
The third alternative is the one we are considering today. Do the Russians mean war? If I were responsible for the defence of this country, I would insist upon having my own control of the hydrogen bomb at the present time. Nothing else would satisfy me. In 1942 when I was speaking to this House in the middle of the Second World War, I referred to what I believed was the possibility that we would end as America's Heligoland off the coast of Europe. That is pretty well what we have done. As far as war goes, it is all right so long as the Americans are on our side and are willing to act, but, as the Minister said, it is possible that the time may come when the Government over there are not quite as friendly as they are now. They may have different interests at heart from our own. Then where are we?
I want to make it quite clear beyond any shadow of doubt to anybody who thinks of attacking Great Britain that there is a bang in the other direction which will hurt them just as much, and that we are not going to be left stranded without the means under our own control of defending our own country. Some people may find difficulty with my method of speech. The fact of the matter is: if the Russians want peace, they can have it. If they do not want peace, I wish to be in a position where, if the worst comes, they will be deterred by the fact that calamity will overtake them, too.
In common with hon. Members on both sides of the House I express my appreciation of the last, robust part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). I was interested in the remark which he made about the desirability of creating what he called a "treason club", in which scientists would tell all the nuclear secrets. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman doubted whether such a thing were a practical possibility. I think in fact something of that kind does exist at present, and that we are very much nearer that state of affairs than the right hon. Member seemed to suggest.
Some of us were told only the other day by a very senior Government scientist that it is an interesting fact that in the world as it is today all the highly developed technological nations are within three or four years of one another in all modern, scientific discoveries, and that a great deal of what is called security in fact does not exist, for the very reason that was in the mind of the right hon. Member.
There was one phrase the right hon. Member used which I should like to take as a text for the opening of my remarks. He said that this White Paper was certainly going to cost us "a packet of money". Listening to some of the speeches in the debate, one might have the impression that that packet of money represented the price that we were being asked to pay for war. It seems to me that this White Paper can only be justified and the packet of money justified if we regard it as the price that we in this country are prepared to pay for peace. It seems to have no justification on any other basis.
Surely the hope of peace in the world today rests upon the continuation of the cold war and the continuation of the cold war, it seems, rests upon the fear of the hydrogen bomb. If the cold war can be continued long enough, peace will come from the only place that it can come from, which is inside Russia itself. My support for the White Paper, my support for the policy of the Government and for our developing and testing the hydrogen bomb, is based on the fact that I believe that that is the best way of buying time during which internal changes may very well take place behind the Iron Curtain.
Does not the hon. Member also think that during the next five or ten years technological education in Russia will mean that Russia will not be behind in the arms race, but beating us by a still greater tempo?
That is repeating, perhaps in another form, what I was saying a moment ago—that as between one great technological nation and another I do not believe that there is any great leadership in these new advances. I concede the point at once to the hon. Member.
If, as in the world today, there is this terrifying game of blindfold chess going on, I cannot see how a country placed as we are dare refrain from putting on the chessboard one of the most potent pieces. It may be said that we ought never to manufacture, we ought never to test, we ought never to use, the hydrogen bomb. That I can understand. What I cannot understand is that we should agree to manufacture the hydrogen bomb and not to test it, because it seems to me that the only thing we would be doing by that policy would be to give Russia three, or six, or nine months' advance of us in this technological race that is going on the whole time. I cannot see why we want to go out of our way to make a present of nine precious months to Russia in the situation in which the world is at present.
With regard to the actual testing of the bomb and the risks which go with it, I have done the best I can to understand the scientific literature which has been published in this country and in America on the subject. My conclusion is that which the Prime Minister expressed in his speech a few days ago, that to no significant extent will existing dangers be increased by any test that we might undertake. Not only to the House as a whole, but particularly to hon. Members opposite, I want to put two considerations that I feel that serious-minded hon. Members ought to have in their minds in this regard.
It surely cannot be a scientific necessity that we should be divided about the scientific results of this test according to the side of this House on which we happen to sit. Surely there is not a Conservative science and a Socialist science; there can only be one science. When I find that the division between testing the bomb and not testing the bomb follows a division in this House, I cannot believe that that division is based on a scientific assessment of facts as we know them, but that it is purely a political difference.
The second consideration which ought to weigh with us is that this is one of those decisions in which the Ministers who are responsible for taking it are in the same boat as the rest of us. They cannot hide behind anything. If in fact the explosion of a test hydrogen bomb is going to bring with it the sort of dangers which have been suggested frequently by hon. Members opposite, those dangers are going to be suffered by Ministers, by their children, and by their grandchildren. If Ministers are prepared to take that sort of responsibility, it seems to me that the value of the scientific advice that they have got is being backed in the most personal way by their decisions.
There is a different point altogether in the White Paper to which I want to make special reference. We are committing ourselves in the policy which the White Paper declares to a withdrawal of 13,000 of our troops from Europe. I do not suppose that the withdrawal of 13,000 troops has very much military significance. I do not suppose it matters a great deal militarily whether certain R.A.F. units are based on Europe or are based on this country, but I believe that the Government have greatly underestimated the psychological effect of those decisions.
I believe that that decision, militarily of little importance, is calculated to do serious harm to European unity, far more harm than possibly the Government have realised. There were some hon. Members—possibly some are in the House at the moment—who were with me about a year ago when we visited the City Council of West Berlin, a council which has the standing of a Parliament. I remember that the first question that those hard-headed West Berliner politicians put to us—speaking, remember, in the "bear's mouth"—was, "How soon are you and the Americans going to sell us down the river to the Russians and pull out of Berlin?" I suspect that our brigade in Berlin is worth an army corps, so to speak—not militarily, but because it is an outward and visible sign to the West Berliners that we really do intend to stay put and back them up.
I think that the same doubts are to be found in France. No doubt the French Government will understand what we are doing and why we are doing it, but I very much doubt whether the French people understand what we are doing and why we are doing it. I do not believe that the French people are very much impressed by White Papers on Defence. What they want to see is British and American units in their streets and cities.
I see an hon. Member opposite who was with me a few weeks ago when we talked to the French Prime Minister about this very question. M. Guy Mollet said to us that, whether it was rational or whether it was not, among French people there was a belief that so long as British and American trops remained in France and in Germany there was no likelihood of offensive moves by the Russians, but that if those troops came out, or even if small units of them came out, we should play into the hands of Russian propagandists and to that extent discourage French morale.
Having had those two experiences, and feeling the necessity of holding Europe together, I am inclined to suggest that our strategic reserve, instead of being located in this country, as apparently is the intention, might very well be located on the Continent of Europe, by agreement with France or even with Western Germany. I believe that we should then solidify enormously the will of the European people to resist.
I very much doubt whether the whole of our Regular Army will be concentrated in the strategic reserve. I yield to the hon. Member's military knowledge, but I do not think that the strategic reserve will be constituted of the whole of our Regular Army.
I want to refer briefly to two specific pieces of carry-forward work which I think this White Paper demands. One has been referred to already, and it is the build-up of Transport Command. As the years roll on, it will be very easy to sacrifice Transport Command. Over five years there will be all sorts of calls for economy, and I can see that if no use is made of the reserve for a year or two, and if there are good markets for the Britannia aircraft all over the world, and if there is a Britannia II and a Britannia III in the offing, all those arguments may prevail in an economy campaign which will gradually whittle away the effectiveness of the Transport Command and the effectiveness, in consequence, of the strategic reserve.
I urge upon my right hon. Friend that the implementation of that section of the White Paper will be a matter of the most extreme urgency and importance. The Britannia can offer a speed of 400 m.p.h. or more, and that should provide a speed of movement of a strategic reserve which should satisfy any general for many years to come.
I turn to the question of Civil Defence. Here there is a very grave necessity for a breath of fresh air to be blown upon the present state of affairs. Left, right and centre, policy decisions are waiting to be taken in this respect. Either the courageous decision has to be taken that in a nuclear war Civil Defence can offer nothing—and I believe that that is a mistake—or else such decisions as have to be made must be faced courageously, even the terrifying decision of evacuation. In any event, decisions must be taken. By not taking them, in fact we are taking them. I am sure that local authorities and the Civil Defence personnel are anxiously waiting for a lead and are waiting for the decisions consequent on the White Paper to be given to them.
I believe that if we are prepared to pay the price, this White Paper may buy us peace. That is why I support it. But I am certain that it will not buy us peace unless we are deadly serious about it and until we show by carrying this policy through that we mean business. I am sure that bluff will not do. We failed in the past to secure peace by preparing for peace. This time I hope that we have agreed to learn from our failures and to try to secure peace by saying that we are prepared for the alternative.
If I do not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) it is because I have not been in the House long enough to claim to be an adroit scholastic expert on Civil Defence policy.
It is evident that future defence policy is to be based on military reorganisation, with greater reliance on nuclear power, which threatens to be a nightmare to humanity, and the life and death question which confronts us all is quite plain: how can we assure progress and escape annihilation without the surrender of independence? We have been repeatedly told for some years that the high price extracted from the peoples of this nation is to prepare to defend Britain and to develop such powerful atomic and other nuclear weapons of retaliation that any aggressor dare not take the risk of his own destruction.
Even the Minister of Defence now confesses that there is no adequate total security against the consequences of a nuclear attack. I was glad that the hon. Member for Putney raised the question of Civil Defence, because it brings to my mind the debate on the Government's Motion approving last year's Statement on Defence in which the then Minister of Defence made these remarks:
Then there is the problem of evacuation. Revised plans are being made for the evacuation of the priority classes. There will be a broader definition of these classes than that used in the last war.
In the preliminary estimate, which is all that we have been able to make at present, we estimate that all this would involve making plans for the movement of about 12 million people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1032–3.]
After reading the latest Statement on Defence, it would not be surprising to
anybody if local authorities scrapped all their defence plans.
I have a recollection of reading somewhere that the population of this country is about 50 million. What we should like to ask the Minister of Defence is this. Are the plans for evacuating 12 million people still in existence, and, if so, what are the Government going to do about the remaining 38 million?
Faced with this grim prospect, we are quite justified in saying that the search for an answer in order to avoid an atomic war should be made a reality, and more for another reason than for just agreeing to and digesting the Minister's home-brewed Defence White Paper. Reading the New York Times of 7th April, I found that the editorial article and comments on the Defence White Paper said this:
We might decide to follow Britain's lead and prepare deliberately for an atomic war with diminishing emphasis on other and more immediately expensive kinds of war. This is planned suicide … suicide perhaps in a good cause … suicide in defence of liberty … but still suicide. What Britain has done is to bring us a long step nearer the choice between an atomic all-out war and a practicable peace system under which the struggles of ideologies and systems would certainly continue, but under which it would be impossible for a few madmen to destroy the world.
That does not come from a Labour Party organ; it is the official view of the United States. This challenging task that we face—the alternative between suicide or continuing to gain and preserve the benefits of civilisation—manifests itself in various ways, and should not be beyond a solution.
I think it would be wise at this stage to give this debate a little twist. I note in the Defence White Paper that—
Britain must at all times be ready to defend Aden Colony and Protectorates and the territories on the Persian Gulf for whose defence she is responsible … In addition, Britain has undertaken in the Baghdad Pact to co-operate with the other signatory States for security and defence, and for the prevention of Communist encroachment and infiltration In the event of emergency, British forces in the Middel East area would be made available to support the Alliance. These would include bomber squadrons based in Cyprus capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
One may need to express the hope that the Government will not be in as big a
hurry as when they bombed Port Said. We realise that the whole of the area is a breeding ground for Communist infiltration and intrigue, and that the tremendously increased wealth has not been brought about, for example, from sand. but from one commodity alone—oil—and that that change does not apply to everybody. It does not take much imagination to understand that.
I realise that one cannot begin to discuss the problems of a country unless one has a picture of the background of the land and its people, and, as one who has recently returned from the Middle East, I am not going to hold a post mortem on the Suez Canal affair, because it is quite obvious that both Soviet Russia and the United States of America have enhanced their Middle East positions since the Anglo-French attack on Egypt. The experience of history, especially recent history, when it does lay down the law about the issue of freedom, shows that man cannot be held back in his fight for progress and for a better life.
At no time have relationships between this country and the countries of the Middle East more urgently needed a better level of understanding.
Before the hon. Member moves on from the question of the Middle East, will he not agree that we in Britain have responsibilities in the Persian Gulf, in Aden and in the Protectorate, that we have responsibilities in Cyprus, both to N.A.T.O. and under the Bagdad Pact, and that it is not sufficient to shrug this off and say that these responsibilities have been acquired either by the United States or by Russia? They are our responsibilities and we must honour them.
Had the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) waited to hear my speech, he would realise that I am aware of that.
What the people of the Middle East want is not the promise of a nuclear blasting if they gravitate into the Russian orbit. What they want is something more than a cure of nuclear pills. The great wrong is that they exist in conditions of injustice and degradation.
Some might think that it is not wrong to impose injustice on the poor when the poor themselves endure it, but poverty can be endured only for a time. It appears that we have now reached the stage when unreason, magic and superstition are being slowly but surely pushed to one side. What the people of the Middle East want is a Bill of Rights, with more attention paid to legal protection and organised collective bargaining, imbued with the task of creating progressive administration and exerting a profound educational influence that will become immune to Communist ideology, at the same time sweeping away many of the anti-democratic measures.
That involves the creation of a more closely-linked population, conscious that it can bring accomplishment to the vitally necessary task, as a first line of defence, of saving the real interests on which this nation as an industrial power depends. We must in all the circumstances divorce ourselves from past policy which is no longer consonant with the realities of political life in the Middle East.
At some of the places which I visited in the Persian Gulf, if an Arab got up on a box in the market square and said the same things that I have the privilege to say here, he would probably get his ears chopped off. That is the kind of freedom that the people there have.
Everybody knows that the rapid advances made by some nations in that area are not shared by others, either economically or socially, and that there is great need for reform. Many of the sheikhs and rulers whom we met were kind, good at entertaining and showing us around, and are most certainly pro-British, but that is due partly to their financial affinity with the oil companies. Even though Britain has inhabited the area with political advisers to Arab rulers, the economic fact is that some of the regions are dominated by American oil companies, who adopt the philosophy, whether it be wise or not, of staying out of local politics. In such conditions, Britain should take the initiative and express the desire to direct attention towards industrial and political associations which are an administrative necessity for the moral influence and wise leadership which can achieve the balance needed for a healthy economic society.
The hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Woof) will, I hope, forgive me if I do not follow him closely, except on two points. He mentioned Civil Defence and spoke of what he thought was the apparent futility of it. If our Civil Defence organisation as it is today saves no more than 100 lives tomorrow, it is still worth while. He spoke also of suicide. I would remind him that many honourable and patriotic men in recent days have preferred suicide to Communist slavery.
I accept that.
I welcome the statement which has been made on the outlook for defence, for four reasons. First, it seems to me to be the first time that the Government have stated clearly that they realise that methods of attack have, temporarily, we hope, outrun methods of defence. Hence, we have the doctrine of the deterrent, to prevent rather than to prepare for war. There is an old Roman saying, "Si vis pacem, para bellum"—"If you desire peace, prepare for war."
What happened to Rome happened when Romans forgot that saying, when they grew fat on idle living and too much eating, when Romans forgot to keep their geese by the gate to give them due warning.
The second good point about this White Paper is that it shows the Government's realisation that, expensive as armed forces are, sheer weight of £.s.d. does not necessarily buy defence. It is only the economically sound country which can be militarily strong. Thirdly, we have here the first realistic showing of a longer-term policy, an outline of a plan for the next five years, not an annual report. Lastly, the White Paper is the first honest determination to face the conscription issue.
Undoubtedly, there were risks which had to be weighed, and those risks have, in my opinion, been courageously taken, weighed and accepted. No time, when we come to think closely of these matters, can be any better or any worse for taking such risks. Only the future can be the judge of that, and none of us can foresee the future. People also criticise and term it a risk that we should place so much reliance on the United States technical development and upon the numerical strength of their armed forces. Many would deplore that. But this is not altogether a one-sided exchange.
We have to remember that in this country we have contributed a tremendous amount to research. Let us never forget that it was our scientists in Britain who were the initiators of the nuclear research which led to atomic explosions, thence to hydrogen explosions and to all the peaceful applications of atomic science. There are numerous other techniques which we have contributed. There is the equipment which we have designed and manufactured in this country and which is now being manufactured under licence in the United States and elsewhere—the aero engines, the steam catapult, the Asdic, and many other equipments and weapons of war, all of British invention and design and all a contribution to our common defence effort.
Then there are the sites which we offer in this country for airfields and for bases, and last but not least there is our own strength. That is why we must strive to be strong not only in our own defence but in the common defence of our friends and allies as well.
There is another risk which has been weighed and accepted, the recruiting risk which has to be taken if we are to do away with National Service. If, as the Minister has assured us this afternoon, good conditions of service, a fair deal for those who find themselves redundant and a good career aspect in the three Services come out of this, I think that that risk has been fairly weighed and fairly accepted. All those three necessities—good conditions, a fair deal, and a good career aspect—are expensive. All will cost money, but it will be money well spent if we can achieve Regular forces without recourse to National Service.
What is likely to be the future shape of the Services? Taking the Navy first, I do not think that we need fear about recruiting. I think that if we are honest with ourselves we will all admit that in the last few years the Navy has been very uncertain. It has considered itself to be somewhat in the doldrums, but nevertheless, its recruiting has not suffered too badly, and apparently we shall be able to keep up a strength of 80,000 or more. I say advisedly "or more" because I rather query whether a strength of 80,000 men for the Royal Navy will be sufficient to maintain the carrier task group forces in the future in sufficient size and numbers for our requirements.
The Army, in its future shape, will, perhaps, need about 160,000 to 165,000 men, which one newspaper has taken to mean the equivalent of about 50 infantry regiments, 20 armoured regiments and the necessary ancillary corps. That, unfortunately, will mean that about 24 infantry battalions will become redundant, and similarly about 9 armoured regiments. How are we to maintain the esprit de corps of our Army if these famous names are to disappear from it? My only suggestion, for what it is worth, is that an amalgamation of the regiments, such as took place with the cavalry regiments after the 1914–18 War, might provide some means of keeping these long-famous names in existence, though in conjunction with another name.
Then we must consider the future shape of the Royal Air Force and the possible risk in the rather uncertain period of time ahead of us. I think that we can say with absolute certainty that, for at least another ten years, manned aircraft will be required for both Fighter and Bomber Commands. Quite apart from that, even when that space of time has passed and, if we assume that guided missiles have taken the place of both those Commands, there will be ample scope, as we have seen from the debate, for flying personnel in Transport Command. Surely there will still be a need for reconnaissance and for small conventional strike forces for limited warfare—the kind of thing which has recently been going on on the borders of the Aden Protectorate.
I believe that there will be another very important role for one branch of the Royal Air Force, a branch which at present considers itself to be the Cinderella of the R.A.F., namely, Coastal Command. I am convinced that that command will be needed if our enemies are building such very large numbers of U-boats, the most modern of which are capable of probably 25 knots and more in short bursts under water. Those would be highly dangerous weapons, menacing our seaborne trade and our very lifelines and, from my knowledge of modern techniques, they are unhuntable and undetectable at that high speed underwater, at any rate from surface craft. This is where there may be a great future for Coastal Command to be once again the valuable force in hunting the U-boat of the future, just as it was so valuable during the Second World War for the self-same purpose.
We must, of course, look at what all that costs. Vast sums hurriedly spent are more often than not mis-spent. Like the housewife we have to be selective of quality. A good small joint is better than a mass of gristly stewing steak. The Socialists, some years ago, started their three year defence policy with a plan to spend £4,700 million in that time. When the Conservatives came to power in 1951 that was altered to the Tory long haul, and now we have the new look introduced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence. I entirely agree with the policy which he has outlined in the White Paper.
The new look.
There is no point in spending vast sums and training large numbers of men until we are certain that we have the right weapons and the right methods. But there is a paradox which presents a problem. We cannot afford diverse and costly experiments, although research is essential in order to be certain of what we want for the future, and we must be sure before we embark on spending large sums. It is difficult to resolve quite how far we can go with this expensive research and development, and quite how far we can limit it and still strike a happy medium and remain safe.
I am sure that we are grateful that the Government have faced the fact that there is at present no adequate defence against all the dangers confronting us. It is interesting to compare that with the Russian outlook. At the Moscow Congress in 1956 Mr. Mikoyan said that
hydrogen and atom warfare can bring about great devastation—none of us dispute that—but that it cannot result in the destruction of mankind and its civilisation. Some people have doubts about that. He went on to say that it would
… destroy the outdated and pernicious régime of capitalism in its imperialistic stage.
I have a suspicion that that statement by Mr. Mikoyan was for internal consumption.
The Russians have, of course, one great advantage. The vast spaces of Russia, China, and the satellites, provide room infinite dispersal. They expect to be hurt, but they are sure that they will not be vanquished. We can take a lesson from that, and disperse our defence elements far more widely. There is far too much concentration in Europe and in these islands. N.A.T.O., the Bagdad Pact, S.E.A.T.O. and the A.N.Z.A.M. treaties all go some way towards dispersing defence responsibilities, but the time has also come to invite other members of our Commonwealth to undertake a greater share of this problem and of the expense involved not only in money but in manpower I should also like to advocate some form of African defence pact.
Let us encourage co-operation and stress the weakness of neutralism. Together we can hold fast, but separately we shall be terrorised like Hungary and subjugated to the Kremlin.
It has rightly been said, by the Minister himself in opening the debate and by many speakers on both sides of the House, that the White Paper marks a very significant step forward, "step forward" is the term used, in our military thinking. I cannot help being a little worried by this phraseology at times, because many a good man has been lost in forest, fog or blizzard simply by taking one step forward after another, following his nose, taking pace after pace, plodding on without pausing to check his bearings. I have a feeling that to some extent the Minister, in writing his White Paper, has taken a step forward, but has not adequately checked his bearings.
I should like to check the bearings first. That exercise may bring me in some respects to conclusions similar to those of the right hon. Gentleman. In other cases we may find that we are running on slightly different tracks. I apologise to the House if I introduce one or two clichés in this reassessment and reappraisal. A cliché, after all, is only a truth which has often been repeated, and it may be proper to repeat them at the beginning of a reassessment of our military position.
The first thing which we can now firmly say is that the only purpose for military forces is the defence of the 50 million people in these islands; that military force can no longer be used as an instrument in military adventures in order to further foreign policy by other means. I would have hoped that it would never have been necessary to re-emphasise that cliché, but, of course, the Suez operation launched by hon. Gentlemen opposite makes it necessary to reaffirm it, because they attempted to use military force in the furtherance of foreign policy and not to defend the people of these islands.
Secondly, it is true that now no longer can military forces be used for territorial aggrandisement as a precursor to trade. It is certainly true that military strength or potential military strength cannot in these days be used simply to influence the foreign policies of other countries.
Therefore, the first cliché, premise or precept, is that the sole purpose of our having defence forces at all is to defend the 50 million people of these islands, to defend them from the threat of thermonuclear attack—H-bomb attack for the benefit of the Minister—to defend them from being over-run by armies, to defend them from the threat of slow starvation by the sealing off of our sea approaches.
The next point in taking our bearings again is this. We must bear in mind all the time the dreadful dichotomy of our position in these islands. We are a small group of islands off a great Continental land mass. Because of our position, we have become a great Power. That is one product of our position. But because we are a small island off a great Continental land mass, we have not, for an appreciable length of time, been strong enough to support our position in the world as a great Power. Therefore, our geographical position in the world leads to the contradiction that first we are a great Power, and, secondly, we are not in the military and economic sense of the word, in comparison with other major Powers, strong enough to look after ourselves and to defend ourselves on our own. Having taken our bearings in this way, we next have to consider what kind of defence policy is possible and proper.
There could be two immediate policies available to us. One is neutralism and the other is collectively to organise our defences with other countries which think like us. There are many people in this country, not a very large number, who take the view that perhaps the time has now come for us to recognise that we are a minor Power and, having recognised that, to try to escape behind a cloak of neutralism and to leave it to the "big boys" to fool around, in the hope that by the protection of neutralism we shall be left unhurt and undamaged in the process.
That is not a point of view to which I can adhere for a moment, because it ignores altogether the first point I put, that we are in the position in which we are because of who we are and where we are. If it were possible to pull these islands several hundred miles north, and tuck them up against Greenland, we might be a neutral country. We should be cold, but we should be neutral. If, on the other hand, we could cut the cords that bind us, steam south, and tuck ourselves in against the coast of Africa, we should then be warm, but we should be neutral. But neutralism in our present position is a policy which can in no way fulfil what must be the prime aim of the Government, namely, the defence of the 50 million people of this country.
Therefore, we are left with the second possible means of defence, namely, collective security, under which we accept responsibilities to other nations and, in turn, expect them to accept responsbilities for our own defence. This means three things. First, and above all, it means that we must depend upon the maintenance of the rule of law in the world. Here again this Government are extremely culpable because, of all Governments, it was the Government of this weak and vulnerable island which first breached the rule of law in regard to Suez. This is not a risk which we can afford to take because, in pursuance of our defensive aim, we are dependent upon other people obeying the rule of law, and it is consonant with that that we must obey the rule of law ourselves.
The second thing which flows from the concept of collective security is that we must integrate our defence structure with those of our allies and those who think with us. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) touched upon this point, and I want to elaborate it a little. It has never been the case within living history that this country has been able to defend itself alone. I pointed out the dichotomy of our position and our fundamental weakness in manpower and in our economic and military potential.
That has always been so. It is nothing new to say that we must co-ordinate and integrate our defensive effort with those of our allies. In earlier days we may have been able to put down Zulu risings and Matabele rebellions without much help from outside, and in time we managed to deal with the Boers although it was not easy. But in the First World War our infantry manpower deficiencies were made good by France, and in the Second World War, even although, in the initial stages, we were fighting against one European nation, of a size comparable to our own, victory would not have been possible without the contributions made by Russian manpower and United States technology, ships and bombers.
If all that were true in terms of conventional armaments how much more true is it in the thermo-nuclear age, in our discussions of these weapons of mass destruction?
We must integrate our defences. I shall refer to that point again and try to relate these fundamental reappraisals to the White Paper.
There is nothing new in what the hon. Member is saying. Our whole history has shown that we have always had allies, and have always fought with them. We have not always been able to have forces equal in size to those of Continental countries. For the last two hundred years we have pursued a policy of maintaining allies on the Continent.
The hon. Member must have missed my apologia at the beginning. I said that I was going to repeat some obvious military clichés. I hope that they have registered. I think that they needed to be repeated, because in many respects the defence policy which the Government are bringing forward completely ignores them. I said that if we are to take a step forward the first essential is to take our bearings. I have tried to take our bearings, and I am terribly sorry if I have bored the hon. Member in the process. Perhaps he will bear with us, and we will see how we get on later.
The third factor for consideration in our assumption of collective responsibility—and here we come rather close to the White Paper—is that with the maintenance of the rule of law we must be prepared and able to take collective defensive action whenever the first invading soldier sets foot across the first frontier. It is when we express the situation in simple terms like that that we begin to see some of the more obvious drawbacks of the White Paper. Disregarding a thermo-nuclear attack; disregarding the threat of H-bombs, when the first invading soldier crosses the first frontier we must play our collective part in resisting that aggression, in maintenance of the rule of law. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me how the Government propose to do that?
We in our Amendment have pointed out—it has been endorsed from both sides of the House—that the swerve in our policy is away from the conventional and towards H-bomb strategy. What is going to happen at the ten o'clock Cabinet meeting when, for example, Yugoslavia and Greece have been invaded from the East and we have not the conventional forces available to meet the attack? What is the decision of the Government to be? Is it to be to launch a thermo-nuclear attack in retaliation on Moscow on Monday morning; knowing that on Monday evening London, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Cardiff will go up as well and the whole of this island will be written off? Or, lacking the adequacy of conventional forces in order to meet some limited kind of attack, shall we sit back and allow ourselves to be nibbled away around the periphery?
The Government may reply that they propose no such thing. They may argue that in the White Paper they have stressed both the need for conventional forces and outlined the means by which they hope to achieve them. By the way, that difficulty came out clearly from the answers given by the right hon. Gentleman himself to questions by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) when he envisaged the use of A-bomb weapons at least as a means of stopping a limited attack. But, as was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), we are not chucking hand grenades about. We are not using Mills bombs—or if we are it is as though two men were throwing Mills bombs at each other in a telephone booth. This means the use of weapons the smallest of which will—as my right hon. Friend pointed out—be of Hiroshima magnitude. Therefore, it is nonsense to say that by using weapons of that nature one can limit or freeze any local war. It would be an incentive to a big war and a "big bang."
The Government may say that they would not propose to do that at all. They might fall back on the argument that they have in the White Paper outlined means whereby they would provide the conventional forces needed to meet a limited attack. I want to deal with the various aspects of the White Paper, but before I do so, I wish to know why none of the seven Ministers and junior Ministers associated with the Service Ministries is speaking in this debate.
There are more than a few gaps in this White Paper, and it is quite impossible for the House adequately to discuss this defence policy without having some of the gaps filled in by the Service Ministers themselves. Have the cats collectively got their tongues? Does the Prime Minister not trust them to take part in a major debate? Does he prefer to use them only in the rather cosy club atmosphere which we have when we are discussing the Service Estimates, when none of the rough boys comes along? That is not good enough.
It is not good enough to say that we propose to do this with the Army and that with the Navy—although even that is pretty vague and must have been written in another hand than the Minister's. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman wrote the whole of the White Paper. I think he wrote most of it, but when it came to the naval bits another hand crept in from on high. But is it really good enough that we should have been presented with this White Paper in which there are so many gaps which not a single Minister comes forward to fill?
I propose to deal with one or two points because there is still time for a right hon. Gentleman opposite to speak. I am delighted that the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Sir W. Anstruther-Gray) is to follow me. But the real point at this stage is that no hon. Member, however gallant, can adequately fill up the gaps in this White Paper, which is a production of the Government. There is still time for some right hon. Gentleman opposite to rise to his feet, push his way past the stretched-out legs, seize the Dispatch Box and answer in detail some of the questions which I should now like to ask.
First, we find that there is to be a reduction of commitments. But when we examine that we find that first the battalion is to be taken away from Korea. That is a sound move, and we advocated it most strongly ourselves in recent debates. But we are still apparently going to need troops in Libya for purposes which are not expressed and are not clear.
We are still going to need an enormous garrison in Cyprus. That I find almost obscene. It can well be argued that we ought to have rocket bases and bombers in our own island for our own defence, but I find it wicked to hold an island in subjection and then to use it as a base for launching nuclear weapons, knowing that the whole of that island will be completely wiped out against its will when the first retaliatory bomb is dropped on it. Many overseas garrisons are to be reduced, but there is no detail of that reduction.
Then we come to the discussion of a central reserve. The White Paper says:
To be effective, the Central Reserve must possess the means of rapid mobility. For this purpose, a substantial fleet of transport aircraft is being built up …
How realistic are we on that point? Let us remember that only a few months ago the Americans held an experiment in providing a complete air transportable lift for their famous 101 Airborne Division. For ten days, they demobilised the entire resources of the United States
transport air fleets by the effort. Remember how many they have and remember the size of their resources. In this context, to think that we, without considerable expenditure and within the foreseeable future, could mount an effort in any way comparable to that is taking things too far.
The hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) said that in dealing with National Service the Government had at least made a brave attempt to face the problems. I cannot see how they have introduced any clarity into this matter. They have said, and it has been re-emphasised today, that the call-up will end in 1960. Now I refer to the White Paper and not to the speeches made on television. The White Paper, which is carefully drafted, says:
It must nevertheless be understood that, if voluntary recruiting fails to produce the numbers required, the country will have to face the need for some limited form of compulsory service to bridge the gap.
How can we abolish compulsory service in one paragraph and retain compulsory service in the next paragraph of the same document?
We require answers on this point from the Minister of Labour when he discusses this matter tomorrow. I hope that he will have more than that to discuss when he replies, because he has also to justify the speech which he made only a very short time ago, referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who dwelt upon it earlier. I am bringing the point up again only because the right hon. Gentleman rose during my right hon. Friend's speech and said that we had got the figures wrong and that he had rejected the abolition of National Service because the figures then were based upon the total estimate of 200,000 men, which he thought impracticable to secure other than by National Service. He said now that the figure was reduced to 175,000 men it was perfectly all right. He is now prepared to change his mind, because the reduction by some 25,000 men has occasioned this enormous revolution in the right hon. Gentleman's thinking. Let us see what he said about the 200,000 men. He said:
… with a Regular Army of about 200,000 and that even on that figure there seems to be a gap of 130,000.
If we give him 25,000, the right hon. Gentleman is still 110,000 out on his
calculations, the 25,000 being the reduction from the 200,000 on the previous debate to the 175,000 which he now thinks he can secure. I hope he will answer this point in some detail. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head. He can read what I am saying tomorrow in HANSARD, and I can sit here and listen to his reply.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, in that same speech, that the Government hoped
… that the day will come when National Service can be ended, but they cannot see that day at present in the light of the known facts."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st July, 1956; Vol. 557, cc. 1208 and 1209.]
How can the known facts have altered for the right hon. Gentleman? It ill becomes him or anybody else on that side of the House to point any kind of finger towards hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House because, in the words that have been used by Government supporters, "Some minds may have moved in certain directions". No minds have moved more quickly than that of the right hon. Gentleman. Either he played the wrong card in July or he has played the wrong card now. He is an experienced bridge player. I understand that the technical term is "To revoke". The penalty for revoking too often is social ostracism, being thrown out of the bridge club and being drummed down the drive from the club. The right hon. Gentleman is certainly in danger of it on this occasion. [Interruption.] I think that the right hon. Gentleman is explaining to his colleagues what "revoke" means.
What I was explaining to my right hon. Friend, which perhaps I can develop tomorrow, was that the hon. Member has left out altogether the figures in regard to officers. In one case he is dealing with male other ranks and in the other case with male all ranks. That makes quite a difference.
I was taking two figures from the same paragraph of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. If there is an error, it has crept in between the first and third sentence of that paragraph.
Another matter on which I think we should have an answer is how the Government propose to achieve Regular recruitment, It ought to have been stated here in this debate whether there is to be an end to the three-year period of Regular call-up and whether a longer period is to be introduced. It is no use leaving that to the debate on the Service Estimates. We should have had those Estimates some time ago. We are in the dark, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite must have made up their minds. There is no excuse for not having given the House those very important figures.
A final point, almost in parenthesis, is that it was said that the middle ranks to be "bowler hatted" are to be bowler hatted over the next five years. They have no trade union to represent them. I therefore must arrogate that rôle to myself. I hope that the Government will tell those officers as soon as possible what their individual future is to be and not keep them hanging about from year to year while prospects of civilian employment dry up.
Another point which should be in the White Paper is the whole conception of divisional structure. We managed to tease the Under-Secretary of State for War, in reply to an interjection in the last Army debate, to give us some wisps of information about that. I should have thought that if anything further had developed it should be mentioned in this White Paper.
The two points on which we doubt the whole strategic conception of this White Paper are, first, that it places a stress on the H-bomb which we think is dangerous and, secondly, that it does not seem to provide the required level of conventional forces, or, to put it in perspective, the required balance between conventional forces and the thermonuclear weapon.
Perhaps I had better go on to describe what kind of pattern of forces we think is necessary. The majority of us on this side of the House believe that it is still necessary to possess some limited—I underline "limited"—degree of thermonuclear H-bomb deterrent. I described earlier the terrible position in which we might be placed should we have to decide whether to use an H-bomb in defence of another country. Let us remember that in that difficult period when things in the world might be going awry the United States might be placed in that position if we do not possess some limited form of deterrent ourselves.
I do not think it is practicable, I think it would be idiotic, to try to match the United States or Russia in any way with the H-bomb weapon, but I believe a limited form of deterrent in our hands is necessary. Otherwise, we would be too dependent and putting too big a strain on the alliance than in certain circumstances it could bear. Therefore, the consequences might be surrender. Even if the consequences are not rosy, we feel we ought to have the deterrent in our hands.
Secondly, I believe there should be some conventional arms, limited and integrated with the forces of our major allies. This is a point on which the Government in the White Paper have again failed to express a clear policy. The hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) and other hon. Members opposite have many times during the debate pointed out that in the recent Government reshuffle on defence policy there has been no adequate integration and no adequate consultation with our allies. That is inviting disaster.
What would happen if all the other European nations and the United States were to follow the precise pattern which we have followed, with a switch of emphasis from conventional to thermonuclear arms? It would mean that nowhere in the world was there any policy other than that of massive retaliation. I remember that hon. Members opposite were just as perturbed as we on this side of the House were when Mr. Dulles announced the policy of massive retaliation. If other countries follow our pattern and if other N.A.T.O. countries go through the same switch in emphasis, then there will be no policy other than the policy of massive retaliation.
There is a whole host of questions which should have been discussed, among them the question of standardisation. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich is a little out of date when he says that there are six kinds of Jeep and that none of the parts is interchangeable. After a committee has been sitting for six years we now have a common denominator carburetter, although of course it is not yet in production. This is the sort of thing which the Government ought to have tackled if they were presenting a reasonable policy on this subject.
I want to answer one question which may be put: do we believe that by integration with our allies in a military sense we become a satellite of those allies? I would answer, "In no circumstances." A satellite is a nation which is the disposable property of another nation. Nothing which I have proposed, nothing in the degree of interdependence which we ought to seek to secure, involves Britain in being a satellite of another country any more than our dependence on French manpower in the First World War and on Russian manpower in the Second World War made us satellites of France or Russia.
It is only a question of a common collective endeavour for the common preservation of freedom. I have outlined two possible approaches to defence, bearing in mind that fundamentally the only aim of the whole policy is to defend our 50 million people. One is neutralism, which I reject. The next is collective security on the lines which I have described.
But what is the stage which we have now reached? We have a White Paper which tells us that no defence is possible at all. In time there may be the development of defence mechanisms which will defeat rockets, but it will be a long time coming. Since at the moment we are in a position when the Minister of Defence himself says that there is no defence in these circumstances, should we not undertake some radical rethinking? It is the need to take the next step perhaps in a rather different direction which lies behind most of the Amendment which my right hon. Friends and hon. Friends have put on the Order Paper.
When I was an infantry subaltern I was told that the best means of defence is to attack. It was a precept which I viewed with some reservations in certain instances. The new precept is that the only means of defence is deterrence. Surely we are now reaching the stage when the only means of defence is collective disarmament, and it is in order to draw the Government's attention to that point that we have framed our Amendment in these terms.
I hope that the Prime Minister will give us one of his more sober efforts tomorrow. This afternoon, for twenty-seven minutes out of an hour's speech announcing a new major defence policy, we have to endure the naïve, jejune, sixth form, heavily underlined irony of the Minister of Defence. For him it passes as wit. To us it was a bore. I hope that when the Prime Minister is burning the midnight oil—because he burns an awful lot of midnight oil in his speeches—he will leave behind his bumper fun book tonight and tomorrow will come to the House of Commons with reasonable answers to the propositions which are contained in our approach.
We are asking for the postponement of the hydrogen bomb test. It is no answer to say that we did not say this some time ago or that there are differences of emphasis. It may be that on this matter the surface of the Labour Party is rather like a turbulent stream but that is better than its being as placid as a stagnant pond. On this matter, during the whole debate today, in everything that I have read by all hon. Gentlemen opposite, there has not been one single bubble of doubt, of question, of worry, as to whether this was the right thing to do. I would be appalled to belong to a party which had such placid and stagnant unanimity among its members, because it certainly does not reflect the torment of moral questioning which is going on in the country at the moment. We have always said that the Conservative Party does not present the main streams of thought in this country. Never has that been more demonstrably true than in their attitude to this question.
Let me put it to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in this way. The only means of defence is disarmament, and therefore a White Paper on Defence which does not contain some suggestions—or speeches in support of the White Paper which do not contain some lines of thought—on what positive action can be taken to secure collective disarmament is not a Defence White Paper at all, because it leaves out the main feature of possible defence for these islands.
The point which I should like to register, and on which I will finish, is that the Government have this terrible responsibility—it is not in our hands, because the Government have the responsibility—in regard to the H-bomb tests. On this side of the House, there are not many hon. Members who can trace their hereditary line a long way back, blazoned with heraldry, but, at least—and this is a terrible truism—we all have one thing in common—that, somehow, the lifeline has been preserved and has got as far as us since Creation. Somehow, the lifeline which is in us has survived floods, pestilence and disease, all externally imposed upon humanity by outside forces, and now we are in a position when we ourselves have the power to determine whether that lifeline will continue into the future.
In this forthcoming summer, there are to be three separate series of tests. There is to be the American series of tests, then the Russian series of tests, and then ours. Russia, for what it is worth, and it may be worth testing, is prepared to stop her tests. It may not be so, but it is worth testing. The United States, only two days ago, brought forward a proposal saying that under certain conditions it was prepared to stop its tests. Now, are we in Britain who have the most to gain, since we are the most vulnerable nation of the trio, to be the silent member of the trio? Is no approach to be made by this Government at all? Is no attempt now to be made at this hour to secure some form of agreement on this matter, which is going to affect the whole of humanity?
Because nothing on these lines is contained either in the White Paper or in the speeches in support of the White Paper, we must condemn it, not only for the technical details, not only on questions of military technology which we feel at times are wrong, but because, on the whole basis of their appreciation of defence at this moment, the Government have started to take a step forward, but. to our minds, in the wrong direction.
The last occasion when I had the pleasure of following the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Fienburgh) in a debate on defence was before the White Paper had been published, and the hon. Member saw fit to forecast that his party would receive the White Paper with reserve, with restraint and with suspicion. I think I would be on secure ground if I ventured to say that that was an understatement in reference to his speech during the last half hour, and, indeed, an understatement in regard to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) who opened the debate for the Opposition.
On this side of the House, however, and in the country in general, the White Paper has been well received. Bearing in mind that it forecasts a policy to be carried out over a period of five years, and that if at any stage that policy is found to be faulty it can be corrected, I think that my right hon. Friend has done a very good job of work in producing the White Paper and also by his speech today.
I expected my right hon. Friend to be a success as Minister of Defence, and I was interested that the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes), although he said, quite fairly, that he did not like the Government, was of the same view that, as Minister of Defence, my right hon. Friend was well chosen.
There is not much between us. I think that the House in general will be grateful for this lead, which has prevented us sprawling about as we have done in our recent defence and Service discussions.
I like particularly the basis on which the White Paper is founded—for example, in paragraph 13—
the overriding consideration in all military planning must be to prevent war rather than to prepare for it.
Nobody could regard that as other than a happy basis and I support unreservedly the emphasis placed by the White Paper on the deterrent, because in the deterrent I see the greatest hope of peace.
In placing faith in the H-bomb, however, we must give it every chance of succeeding in its deterrent effect. The right hon. Member for Belper said—I thought, quite rightly—that the deterrent is a weapon for us only so long as it remains a deterrent. We must not weaken it by using it. I could not agree more, and that is the basis of my argument with hon. Members opposite in the line that they have taken in tabling the Amendment.
I cannot understand why certain hon. Members opposite should be against testing this bomb, nor can I understand why they should hesitate to test it, because until it is tested and proved efficient, the deterrent effect is not available. Surely, we must test it to prove to the world that it will work.
Does the hon. Member really think that Russian policy will be based upon the proposition that if we were to test the bomb over Moscow a would not go off? The alternative is if we test it and it does not go off.
As with many of the hon. and learned Member's questions, the answer needs a good deal of thought.
Surely, I can carry the hon. and learned Member with me in putting forward these propositions. The power of a deterrent is a combination, is it not, of two factors? One is its destructive force, which must be proved and accepted, and the second is the political certainty that the Government in whose power it lies would have the will to use it in an emergency. It seems to me that if one undermines either of those factors, one hopelessly weakens the influence of the deterrent.
The Amendment moved by the Labour Party does harm in two ways. Postponing the tests leaves everyone in doubt as to whether the H-bomb really is as formidable as we are told. By showing that on this serious matter the alternative Government of Britain is unhappy and divided, they leave our enemies in doubt as to whether hon. Gentlemen opposite would really use it in an emergency. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thank God for that."] An hon. Gentleman says "Thank God for that." Have we to learn our lessons over and over again? I am not talking of the lessons of the history books but of the lessons of our own lifetime. Have not nearly all of us lived through two wars in which the doubt of foreigners as to whether Great Britain would fight has certainly been a contributory cause of the first and probably speeded up the coming of the second?
Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman realises that there is a difference, does he not? The question before us then was whether we would fight. The question now is whether we will commit national suicide. There is a slight difference between the problem facing us in 1914 and 1939 and the problem facing us today. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman really is trying to make out that there is no difference between them, that only shows how much better it is to have a little doubt on such questions as that rather than have the ignorant certainty he himself has.
Of course there is a difference between one case and another, but my aim, and the aim of the White Paper as stated in paragraph 13, is to try and prevent war rather than wage it. In 1914, the uncertainty of Europe as to whether the then Liberal Government, with its pacifist members, was prepared to fight was a contributory cause to the Kaiser's war taking place at that time. Again, we can all remember what happened in 1939. Although we would accept the fact that sooner or later Hitler was bound to fight, there is no doubt that he was encouraged to do so by the reports which were reaching him from this country that England had not got the guts to stand up for herself. Nothing gave greater basis for those reports than the action of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite.
If I may be allowed for a moment to fight my own battle with right hon. Gentlemen opposite, I will remind the House that in 1939 the behaviour of the Labour Party in voting against conscription had an effect in causing Ribbentrop to report that Great Britain would not fight.
Sir W. Austruther-Gray:
I base my remarks on the paragraph in the White Paper which expresses the intention to preserve peace rather than to prepare for war. That is the basis of the nuclear deterrent, and it is the basis of the present Government's attitude towards the H-bomb.
May I now turn to the next point in considering the H-bomb, which is the question whether it is sufficient to leave the H-bomb in the hands of the Americans—
The hon. Member says "No", and I agree with him. I was asking whether that was sufficient to prevent anyone attacking us, or whether we must make these bombs ourselves. The White Paper appreciates—and the right hon. Gentleman agrees with it—that we must have some of our own, and I am sure that he is right.
It may be that we probably will have to base our defence ultimately on American power. We are all of us very conscious of how much we owe to American intervention in the war of 1914 and in the war of 1939. But it is as well to remember that although a trickle of help to Britain started quite soon in both those wars and grew steadily, it did not turn into full military participation for quite a long time, either in 1917 or 1941.
There are two other points to be borne in mind. In both those cases it required an overt act of hostility against the United States to bring her in, the sinking of the Lusitania in 1917 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. These reflections make it clear that it would be very unwise to count on American reaction on our behalf being sufficiently quick and whole-hearted—and it would have to be very wholehearted to touch off the button of the hydrogen bomb—to take effect before we might be overrun. In all this I am assuming that the United States would see eye-to-eye with us, but she does not always, however righteous we may think our cause, as we have learned before. My hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) made a further point, that even if the United States were working with us she might not select as No. 1 priority the target which we believed to be most vital for our survival. These reflections lead me to support without hesitation my right hon. Friend in deciding that we must produce H-bombs ourselves.
May I turn from that to what I understand more easily, and that is the traditional forces, because however useful the H-bomb may be in preventing a major war, we all know that it cannot stop local wars, as we have learned in the last five years. Therefore, let me turn to the forces that we require for the defence of the Colonies and our obligations under N.A.T.O., S.E.A.T.O. and the Bagdad Pact.
The question is, can we carry out those duties with 375,000 men, which the Minister of Defence has mentioned in the White Paper, instead of 700,000 men? I believe that over a period of years—it is five years that we are looking to—taking advantage of the mobility of a very much improved Transport Command—and this I am sure has been the feeling of more than one speaker on this side of the House and, indeed, on the other side—we can, but it depends on whether we can recruit the Regular Service men we need. The recruiting of these 375,000 Regulars is clearly connected with the manner in which we get rid of the surplus from the 700,000, that is the 300,000 persons in the Forces, a great many of whom will naturally finish their time—all the National Service men with great delight—but there will still be a residue which my right hon. Friend mentioned of middle seniority officers and N.C.O.s.
The numbers that my right hon. Friend mentioned were from 5,000 to 7,000 officers in the three Services combined with about half that number of non-commissioned officers. That is quite a lot. It must certainly affect the future of our recruiting whether we are successful in paying these men off in a manner which they regard as just and fair, because it is no good sacking a man from a Service at 40 and then expecting him to recommend his son of 17 or so to join up the next year. Of course he will not do it.
I think that my right hon. Friend appreciates the importance of the problem and the White Paper talks about fair compensation. I should have preferred the word "generous" to "fair", but I appreciate that if we are too generous all the middle-aged officers might leave in a bunch and that would not leave a good balance. The hon. Member for Islington, North spoke about these men being given a bowler hat and having no trade union to defend them, but I am sure that we can count on all hon. Members, on all sides of the House, to do their best to see that they get fair play.
The next point is the question of making the best use of the available voluntary manpower in the country. The figures give cause for anxiety in the case of Army recruiting. They give cause for uncertainty with Royal Air Force recruiting, and cause for satisfaction with recruiting for the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. Today, out of 111,000 sailors, no fewer than 103,000 are volunteers. Out of 10,000 Marines, no fewer than 8,000 are volunteers, making a total of 111,000 volunteers out of the 121,000 serving today. But, according to the breakdown of the Services which the Minister mentioned today, the proportion required for the Navy will amount to only 80,000 or so. Therefore, if we have all the 111.000 volunteers we shall have a surplus of 31,000 sailors and Marines.
I do not think that we shall get so many joining the Royal Navy, because the end of National Service is round the corner, but it is reasonable to look to 10,000 sailors and Marines above the number required. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not waste that voluntary manpower. It is no good asking them to go into another Service. I do not think that they would do so. They would go back to fishing or some other occupation. Ii is better to take them as sailors and then to find a suitable task which the Navy can take over from the Army and the Air Force.
It is not impossible to visualise the manning of Malta by the Royal Navy and making Malta a Royal Navy headquarters command. Hong Kong may need half-a-dozen battalions largely for civil defence. I would not be in favour of putting sailors in barracks and making them soldiers, although that might apply to the Royal Marines.
I am encouraged by my hon. and gallant Friend, with his naval experience, saying that he would be prepared to live in barracks.
Hong Kong would be a suitable place to which to send a frigate or two and have the sailors based on the frigates to do the kind of policing work with the civilian population that at present would require the services of soldiers. So I hope that my right hon. Friend will not neglect that point.
Finally, I come to an Army point, which is a matter that will inevitably be hard for old and serving soldiers to bear. If we are to restrict the size of the Army in the way it is to be reduced, there must inevitably be a reduction of many units which have given good service and have earned a great reputation. I can only ask my right hon. Friend to do his best to ensure that he does not lightly dissipate the traditions of these regiments, the units' names, the father-to-son tradition, the nucleus of personnel, the recruiting area, the county connection—all these things are so precious.
If my right hon. Friend can possibly do so, let him reduce the numbers in the corps. The Royal Corps of Artillery is safe enough. Any volunteer who wants to do so can get into the Gunners, but I ask him not to give extra tasks to the Gunners that they have not got now. Rather let those extra tasks, such as the rocket regiment, be taken over by a county regiment and be called the Hampshire Rocket Regiment or the Border Rocket Regiment, because if we can keep that tradition, it is worth considering.
I cannot close my speech without remembering how often in days gone by, when economy in defence has been sought, one has been conscious that the very weapons and arms that one has been regarding as redundant might be needed again in an emergency. I hope so much that this will not be the case today, but I am confident that we have reached that state in straining our resources where it is impracticable to continue at our present level of defence expenditure in manpower as well as in materials and wealth.
I am sure that the Government were correct to reappraise the situation and to produce a White Paper calculated, as best it could, to meet the problems of the next five years. Bearing in mind that it is a five-year programme, which can be adjusted in the light of events, I think that this House and the country should support the White Paper as a sound step in the right direction.