Defence

Part of LONDON COUNTY COUNCIL (GENERAL POWERS) BILL [Lords] (By Order) – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th July 1959.

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Photo of Sir Henry Legge-Bourke Sir Henry Legge-Bourke , Isle of Ely 12:00 am, 27th July 1959

Before the Private Business came on, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) was about to interrupt to remind me about paragraph 61 of the Defence White Paper of 1957. For the purpose of greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy of it, although I was very well aware of its contents. It refers to the Government decision not to introduce any further types of bombers and to drop the development of the supersonic manned bomber, which could not have been brought into service in much under ten years. I was well aware of that, and I hope that in my remarks, the hon. Member paid particular attention to one observation which I made to the effect that research and development should continue.

I have never assumed that paragraph 61, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, automatically meant that there would be no aircraft development from then onwards. It was a question of the sort of aircraft required and for what purpose, and my own feeling is that the Swallow, if it works out in the way I believe it will, will be applicable to all types of military as well as civil aircraft. It is a question of choosing the right size and the right equipment as well as the use which will be made of it. It involves a fundamental change in the design of aircraft, and it is of the utmost importance, both from the defence and the civil points of view.

If I might return to my general theme, I would say that one pretty good test to which a defence policy might be subjected is this. Has there been comparative peace or not? I think that, whatever else may be said about N.A.T.O., and I have read Lord Montgomery's observations with the greatest interest, it has helped to keep the peace. It may be that it could be better equipped than it is, and it is most important that we should continue to ensure that our contribution to it is as efficient as possible. I have no reason to think that our contribution compares unfavourably with that of others. Our contribution to it is a substantial one, and is very high, financially, in relation to our thin population, when compared with that of any other nation in the world.

My belief is that we have to face this situation. We have to be prepared to use American anti-tank guns, while allowing ourselves to develop one type of tank and the Americans another, the Belgian rifle and so on. We have to do these things, because if we attempt to do all of them ourselves, we shall overburden ourselves economically.

On the general question raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East as to whether we can afford not to be a nuclear Power, I have no doubt about my answer to that question. We have got to be, if we are to be able to influence the policies of those who are. I think that of all the inanities which have been uttered on this subject, none has ever equalled what was said by the right hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bottomley) in a television broadcast, in which he said that he felt that we ourselves could well rest content with the Americans and the Russians having these weapons, and us not having them, because they would never use them to blow each other to bits unless it was absolutely vital to do so. I think that is some of the most muddled thinking I have heard, because it seems to me that, if it is vital to blow each other to bits, that sort of argument defeats its own object. It is the possession and not the use of the bomb which is important. It is the possession of the bomb, because by possessing it we can make clear our own power to devastate the other side, while living in the hope that that knowledge—granted it is a gamble—will deter anybody else from deliberately creating a situation in which the use of the bomb would become inevitable. That is, in my view, the only logic to employ in the possession of the H-bomb.

Unless we can make certain that nobody else in the world would ever make the bomb again and had destroyed what they had, it seems to me to be a terrible mistake not to have it. For that reason, I support the Government, and I cannot understand at all the argument in favour of a non-nuclear club, even assuming that other people would join it, which I believe they would not do. I should like to repeat my congratulations to the Government on having made up their mind two years ago on what they wanted and on having stuck to it, and I hope they will continue to stick to it and to carry it through to a successful conclusion.