We want to debate today a subject which is of tremendous importance to the nation and a situation of extreme gravity, as many of us believe. I think that the best comment on the gravity of the situation was the great excitement which the Secretary of State for War said he felt a few minutes ago—be obviously felt great pleasure in saying it—at being able to announce that, in 1960, some rifles, which all the Regular Army has not yet got, will be distributed at some stage to some of the Territorial Army units which at present, apparently, have none. Nothing could highlight better the gravity of the situation.
I heard one of my hon. Friends sitting behind me say that we are looking today at the consummation of the efforts of eight or nine Defence Ministers—for all I know, there may well be another very soon—and the expenditure of £13,000 million, and goodness knows how much effort into the bargain. The effect of it at the end of the day is that Britain lacks, in general, a defence policy. It lacks any real strategy to fit into that philosophical picture. It appears from what the Secretary of State for War said the other day at a meeting of the Army League that the Army will lack the men that it needs for the job. It is no good the Minister shaking his head. I will come back to that in a moment. It certainly lacks the equipment and the vehicles that those men, if they were there, would need if they were to be effective in the years immediately ahead of us. I propose to say a word about each of those in turn but, first, I should like briefly to refer to the general picture.
One of the difficulties seems to be that we cannot get the party opposite to face up to the existing situation. Over the last eight years we have had some of the most violent switches in defence policy that can ever have been executed. We have only to think back to 1957–58, to the doctrine of the then Minister of Defence and his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and then think of the situation for which we are now planning—just those two things alone—to see the vast changes there have been.
There has been almost astronomical expenditure on items that have never come to fruition or into service at all. Weapons are constantly being announced as being under research and development, but they hardly ever reach service. Every time we have a defence debate, we are debating not the weapons that right hon. Gentlemen opposite announced were coming in some years ago, and which ought to be here now; all the time—and this year is no exception—we are debating a new weapon, again under research and development which, like the others, may never arrive at all. It is not unfair to say that, at the end of the picture, the Army is neither equipped for its part in a limited war nor is it equipped for the defence of the Western Alliance and of N.A.T.O.
I recall this just to say that the other day the Prime Minister, here to deal with something else, made a cheap gibe at my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and those of us on this side about the problems that the Opposition face in arriving at their own assessment of the new position and the policies that should be followed in it. I do not complain if the Prime Minister wants to make his little party point, but while it may be true that we on this side conduct too much of our argument in the open, or, perhaps, too much argument altogether—I do not know—I wish that I could think that the Conservative Party was having any argument about defence anywhere at all. Instead of that, we are met with this absolutely monolithic front from which one can only deduce that no argument is going on. Otherwise, there would be bound to be expressions of dissatisfaction, and of disagreement, on that side of the Committee as well as on this.
We have tried to face the present situation with honesty, with candour and, we like to think, with realism, to try to produce out of the shambles that now passes for the Government's defence policy—a shambles that we did not produce, but one which was produced by those who have been in office for the past nine years—a defence policy that matches the problems, the needs and the resources. We are not, as the Government are, still face-saving desperately; we are not still refusing to face up to the facts of the situation, as the Government are; we are not still pretending that weapons exist when they do not exist, as the Government are doing, to avoid facing the facts.
I do not especially blame the present incumbent of the office of Minister of Defence for this. No doubt he thinks that he is a strong and realistic Minister—just as did the present Minister of Aviation before him. My own case is that the man who, all the way through, has dominated the scene; the man who, in fact, produced the untenable doctrines, as they have now turned out to be, of 1957 and 1958; the man who, in fact, enforced the switch to the now defunct Blue Streak missile; the man who really played politics with the Army and connived at the "cooking of the books" that produced the unreal figure that the Government said they would get in the Army, is neither of those two right hon. Gentlemen, but is, in fact, the Prime Minister himself.
The irony of it all is that be was so anxious to produce a policy switch that would save money that, in the end, he has brought us to the position where we have wasted more millions of pounds—more hundreds of millions, I suppose—than if he had never tried that money-saving operation at all. I do not think that gibes about defence policy lie at all in the mouth of the Prime Minister. Whatever anyone else can do on that subject, I should have thought that his record was really so bad that he could not do it.
Before I turn to details of defence deficiences I would ask the Committee to look at the vast changes that have gone on in the world of weapons and of politics over the years for which the Government have been responsible—and even since the ill-fated doctrine of 1957. I do not think that any one of us here today needs apologise for seeing things dif- ferently now from how he saw them in 1957—and that would go for Ministers as well as for us on this side of the Committee. The changes have been of such a tremendous order, politically and otherwise, that the only shame would be if one had not seen the changes or, having seen them, had not taken account of them.
Defence, as has been so often said, can only be an arm of one's foreign policy, and if the international picture changes and, therefore, the foreign policies one pursues in it change, the instrument should change as well. We have surely learned that. We on this side learned it, if we did not already know it, at the time of Suez, though Ministers did not seem to learn it then. Those who did not or have not learned it, are learning it the hard way.
Recent events in the Congo surely bring out the fact that there is now a new political situation in the world. There is practically no incident, no matter how small, that is not likely to be a spark for something much bigger if one is not extremely careful. Many things flow from that, but I do not think that Ministers see it and, therefore, do not get their defence policy into line. There is no territory or Power so small or unimportant today that cannot invoke powerful friends. We may say "friends", if we like but, at the moment, those Powers see them as friends and can, by invoking those friends, invoke the risk involved in the new weapons that existed to such a limited extent only a very short time ago.
It is because of this that we have to face the fact that there is a great limitation, a great change, considerable restrictions on the sort of defence policy we can run and, therefore, there have to be great changes in what we provide for it. This is not the occasion on which to debate the foreign policy conclusions of this, but, as was said earlier today. when the Foreign Secretary made his statement, it has its encouraging side. It would seem that the nations, however reluctantly, however unwillingly and hesitatingly, are being driven by the new threat in the situation towards a limited—though it may be none the less effective for all that—form of world authority, and towards some form of international security force. But, whatever may be the encouraging side, there are big issues that our own defence planners have to take into account, and I beg leave to doubt whether they are doing so.
One of the consequences for defence in all this is that the terrifying risks of the situation that can arise from any one incident place much greater emphasis on the need within the Western Alliance for genuine deterrents to take hold of the role. By "deterrents" I do not mean what the right hon. Gentleman once thought were deterrents—reserving the right to strike first; the massive nuclear attack—but a continuing level of policy aimed at deterring any kind of build-up of the conflict from any one level to another.
In the light of what has happened, I do not think that it is now possible to do what the right hon. Gentleman did. It is no longer possible to confuse deterrents and first strike, but in view of what the Government are still doing I am not at all sure that they have seen that, or, if they have, have turned it into practical effect in day-to-day policies.
I think that the consequence is that it must lessen the degree of importance given to nuclear weapons in any military strategy at all, which is one of the great changes that have taken place over the last few years. For one thing, nuclear weapons have not come forward as we were told at one stage they would. We have not got steadily down to the lower and the more usable thing, as people used to say. But, in any case, the risk of getting on to the nuclear escalator is so much more clearly in the minds of everybody now that we have to reduce in our defence thinking, whether nationally or in the alliance, the importance given to all this.
That has the other consequence that it raises the prominence and priority that we ought 'to give to the ability to deter, or to hold, if not to deter, at the non-nuclear level. Once one recognises that, certain things follow. This will affect our British defence thinking—I am thinking of our own home, national defence thinking—in this way: it must raise in our minds the question of what our contribution to our own defence and that of the Western world can best be. We have to work this out now, and I do not think that Ministers are doing so. But in working it out, two other con- siderations help considerably in arriving at the result.
It will obviously be true now that the old imperial commitment of which we talk so much, and of which the Secretary of State seemed to be talking a little while ago when he referred in some detail—I saw the report of his speech; I was not present—to the kind of commitments that we had all over the world and for which we had to provide forces, will undergo a change. I believe that the effect of Suez and of the Congo, the effect of what immediately happens is to make a great change in the extent of the old imperial commitments. The chances of doing anything are so very much reduced because other forces come into play. World opinion comes into play. Other powers come into play, and one would have far less 'opportunity, even if one wanted, to carry out this old commitment in the future than one has ever had in the past. The second consideration which must be in our minds is that unless we got there extraordinarily quickly, whatever we wanted to do, other things would be there before us. Therefore, it affects the Whole business of our approach to mobility and to the way in which we are going to equip and arm our Army.
I shall return to that later, but I want to proceed from that to the question of the independent British nuclear deterent, the question of our contribution to the Western deterrent and the question of nuclear weapons that we may think we need. I will not again go over the sorry story of Blue Streak, except to record once again, so that it is not forgotten, that it was a sorry story, a case of obstinacy carried through almost to the point of lunacy, and that it ended in a fog of evasion which Ministers still have not cleared up. It is somewhat to the discredit of the party opposite that so far there has been from the opposite side of the Committee no attempt to clear away the fog of evasion in which that project collapsed. The cost of it is still more than twice what hon. Members opposite have ever been willing to admit. Therefore, it is in every way to be regarded still as a very sorry story.
What is more germane to the argument that I want to develop is what I regard as the Government's persistent refusal even now to face the inevitable—and I mean inevitable—corollary of their own decision. However one thinks about the consequences of Blue Streak—and I am sure that we all have; the newspapers have written about it and commentators have commented upon it—one comes back to the same conclusion. Britain will not, after the decision takes effect, make an independent nuclear contribution to the Western nuclear deterrent.
Because we have decided mot to make the one independent means of giving effect to it. It might be argued that buying parts of it from somebody else, some day when we are allowed to do so, would be to have a share in it, but it cannot take the place of making our own contribution.
I cannot give way again. I have already given way once.
If Ministers are willing to say "Yes, we will be making something independently at some stage", we ought to be told about it. At present, we are going on information provided, and I do not think that there is any doubt that there is no plan anywhere for us to make or provide independently our own deterrent, after the V-bombers have ceased to exist and after the date when Blue Streak would have been our independent deterrent.
We in the Labour Party are trying to face this situation in our new policy. We have got to face the fact that there is this collapse, this gap, this great change from what we have been trying to do to what we think we will do in the future. But this is added to by some other problems that have to be faced and which the Government do not seem to face. The first is the new risk of the spread of the bomb. There used to be a risk that the bomb would be spread by people obtaining the "know-how", manufacturing it themselves and manufacturing the means of delivery themselves. But the moment we start talking about buying or acquiring, by gift or purchase, from somebody else, then the risk of the spread of the bomb takes on an altogether new characteristic. It takes on a new urgency.
America recognises this very well. The very reason that the Americans do not want to do any bilateral deal about Polaris, the one missile which exists, is that they do not know how they would hold the French pressure for a bilatera deal the moment they did it with us. We all know that the German Government's position is that they can accept the situation now while no other Continental Power is involved, but the moment the Americans made this available to some other Continental Power they would demand it, too. This is the problem that is being faced by everybody except Her Majesty's Government, so far as I can see.
We have tried to face the fact that the old arrangement by which we and the Americans kept it to ourselves was based upon this special relationship which we talk about and which the Americans were willing to say they accorded to us because of our contribution in that field. But the moment we acquire it by gift or purchase, the old special relationship no longer exists. This is the problem which would be created for everybody the moment there was the sale or gift to this country of a strategic missile capable of carrying a thermo-nuclear warhead.
There is also the other consideration that we have tried to lake into account din our policy, which I mentioned earlier, about the changing place of the thermonuclear deterrent in allied strategy. We conclude that ft is better on all grounds—practical and policy grounds—to recognise the facts, to accept What they mean, and then concentrate on the consequent problems, both political and military, which are very great, to which it gives rise. But not so Her Majesty's Government.
This is the point to which I now want to address my remarks. In the first place, we have the Skybolt humbug. With great respect, it is humbug. I do not believe that any Minister is taken in by it. My own conclusion is that this is an oblique way of putting across a change of policy consequent on their own Blue Streak decision, in such a way that they do not arouse too much opposition immediately inside the Conservative Party. Any assumption other than that would be to take such a low view of Ministers' understanding, of their grasp, of their guts or veracity, that I shrink from it, even in their case.
Let us get down again to Skybolt and let me return to some of the things which were said when we discussed the matter before. First, it does not exist. In spite of all the rather sly insinuations that there is something in California which is just waiting to be bought by us, it does not exist. We do not yet know what the final configuration will be. We do not know exactly what sort of guidance it will have. We do not know much about it, even if it ever comes to exist. We have not bought it and, although the Minister occasionally implies that we have decided to buy Skybolt and, therefore, need not worry about the departure of Blue Streak, because there will be something to follow on, in fact we have not bought Skybolt.
What we have done is to buy a certain limited right for some of our technicians to share with American technicians in the development work on Skybolt. If the Minister says that we 'have done more than that, he must tell us, but up to now that is all we have got from him. It is up to him to show that my facts are not right. He said that I was wrong in what I said about the expenditure on Blue Streak, but in that, as in many other 'things, I turned out to be nearer the truth than he was. I understand that we have bought the right to participate in development work 'on a missile which is under development and which may or may not come to fruition.
I go further. The Americans have not bought it. One remembers what happened to the Canadian aircraft company, Avro, which made such a great switch in its aircraft programme on the assumption that Bomarc was to be produced, only to find that the Americans cancelled the project when they found that it was no use to them. Therefore, we ought not to read too much into the present situation. The Americans have not bought Skybolt and might not buy it.
I am following the right hon. Gentleman's argument with interest. Am I right in saying that his attack on the Government is for failing to provide an independent deterrent which he feels should be provided, either through manufacture in this country or by purchase from the Americans, and which, he says, the Government have failed to provide?
I do not understand how the hon. Member can have been listening to what I said before I reached this point. I went to same lengths to explain my view of the situation and of the policy changes and my reasons for saying why we should accept them. I am attacking the Government for evasion and for what I believe to be downright deceit. I am not now examining what they should have done. I am pointing out that they have no right for claiming what they say will be so and I am examining the position on their awn evidence.
Nobody knows when Skybolt may exist or what it will cost. [Laughter.] I do not know what the Secretary of State for War finds so funny. If we could get from Ministers a little less of this inane laughter and a little more willingness to answer questions openly and above board, questions which the people have the right to put, we might get a better policy. Nobody knows when Skybolt will exist, or what it will cost, and nobody knows what United States policy will be at the time, if Skybolt ever exists.
I believe that the talk about Skybolt is partly for the morale of the party opposite and partly for the morale of the Royal Air Force—for the Royal Air Force here and for the American Air Force; and I can appreciate the point of that at this time. What I do not see is where it gets us, because some day somebody will have to face the truth and we might as well do it now, because if we do not we shall go on getting invalid, irrelevant policies because of the existence of this miasma in place of the truth and we shall involve ourselves in much more useless expenditure and, in consequence, fail to do the things which need to be done in the interim.
I will give an example of how that is already happening. We have had the picture of this state of affairs with the example of Blue Steel, this new self-propelled, stand-off bomb. The Minister of Aviation, who was then Minister of Defence, cancelled the Mark II edition of that bomb, which was to fly under its own power for quite a long way, a distance said to be 600 or 900 miles. It is now said that it is to be reintroduced and that we are to have the extension development of the Mark I of Blue Steel.
I think that Blue Steel has been brought back into the picture because of the business about Skybolt. The Government are trying to bring back something which will carry them over from now until the time at which they think Skybolt will be available. That is what I mean when I say that we get into more evasions and more irrellevant policies and more wasteful expenditure once we start on the business of refusing to face consequences.
I will not go into the tragic story of the Minister of Defence's involvement with my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt). The right hon. Gentleman was extremely lucky to leave only a few tail feathers behind. Had there been any justice in the world, he would have had a rough time. The then Minister of Defence cancelled Blue Steel originally because it was a flat-flying missile. Does that reason still hold good? If it does, why is the Minister now going on with the extension development of the Mark I, which will, presumably, be subject to the same criticism, plus the fact that the bomber carrying it will have to get much nearer to the target that would have been the case with the cancelled version? If the original reasons do not hold good, does that not mean that the project should not have been cancelled in the first place and that the mistake with Blue Streak was even worse than we thought?
My other question on this is whether the Minister would be messing about with the business of fitting bomb to bomber or bomber to bomb to get a 100-mile stand-off capability, with the anti-aircraft rocket defence which is now available, if it were not for the fact that he is involved in the Skybolt business. Therefore, does not the whole matter turn on the fact that we are again being committed to policies and expenditures because the Government have got into their eyes a weapon which does not exist, which may never exist and about which nobody has any view?
I appeal to the Government now to accept the facts as we have accepted them and as, I suspect, all their advisers, with the possible exception of the Royal Air Force, have accepted them and as the Government themselves will accept them in two or three years. In that way they will be able to use the released energy and resources to handle the political consequences and to fill in other alarming gaps in the situation.
I want to consider some of those gaps and deal, first, with the man-power situation, manpower for the Army, in particular—although it now begins to be certain that the Royal Air Force will not reach its target, either. I am not seeking to make political capital out of these things, but it is time that the House, Ministers and the public faced what is now coming.
We know about the original "cooking of the books". The right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), who is now going to another place on his way to Nigeria, as High Commissioner, was good enough to tell us about the Hull Committee and how the figures were arranged to provide a figure which the then Minister of Defence could accept. We have followed the tortuous attempts of the Secretary of State over a long period to maintain that there would be no problem. He has judiciously mixed figures and dates so that we have never been very clear about to which date he was applying which figure, or whether he was taking the figure of 180,000 or 165,000. Sometimes he talks about the end of 1962 and sometimes about the beginning of 1963, while at others he speaks of 1965. He has constantly mixed them together in the hope of avoiding being brought to book.
However, in November last year, not so long ago, he committed himself quite firmly and he spoke of what the strength of the Army would be at the end of 1962. This was not half way through 1963, nothing to do with 1965, but at the end of 1962 when the last of the National
Service men has left the Army. He went on:
I can still give a confident answer to that question. I believe"—
he then got to the beginning of 1963—
that the beginning of 1963—I base my thought on the evidence that we have had now over two years of the new terms of service—will find us with an Army with a strength of at least 165,000 all ranks, which was the target set in 1957, and I also believe that we shall in the majority of arms have exceeded the target and be on the way"—
all by the beginning of 1963—
to reaching the higher ceiling of about 180,000…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1939; Vol. 613, c. 624–5.]
That was the right hon. Gentleman's view in November, 1959. Last week he went to the Army League, where I was not, and he gave them a speech at a lunch. I have had only the report of it which appeared in The Times, though I have seen a much larger and, I think, the full text of what he had to say, which has been circulated on a more limited basis. According to The Times, which headed the article, "Army will not reach target. Admission on recruiting", the Minister said:
Projecting forward the present trend of recruiting figures we will reach 165,000 in the early days of 1963.
The right hon. Gentleman thought that it would be 1965 before we reached the target of 180,000. He went on to talk about the extent to which we were tightly stretched. Is not the present position that we shall not be at the 165,000 figure—about which the Minister was confident in November of 1959—at all by the end of National Service; that we therefore now face a period when we shall not only not have the optimum figure, which was 180,000, but we shall not have the necessary minimum of 165,000; that we shall, therefore, be down below the absolute minimum that everybody has always said that we required? If one reads the letter from Lieut.-General Poett to some of his units, of which I have a copy, or the list of questions published the other day in The Times, one sees that people have been talking outside this House of a figure higher than 165,000 as the figure which is really needed.
I want to ask the Minister of Defence to face this. Does he accept that there will be significantly less than 165,000 at the turn of 1962–63, at the end of the year when National Service finishes? If not, I think that the Secretary of State must provide an answer to what he himself said at the Army League luncheon. If that is so, does not it mean that we have not only less than the optimum but less than the necessary minimum and that this will continue for some time?
The right hon. Gentleman maintained that it would only be for a few months, but how do we know? Might it not turn out to be longer? All the time the right hon. Gentleman has been moving his targets back and his periods forward. I wish to ask this specific question. Does the pledge, or statement, or whatever it was, that the then Minister of Defence gave in paragraph 48 of the 1957 White Paper—which was confirmed by the present Minister on 22nd June of this year—still stand, namely, that if we reached this position and we could not get the minimum, selective service would have to be considered by the Government?
I wish to ask what the Government intend to do about the situation. Are they taking any action to deal with this at all? Will there be a cut in commitments? So far as I can see, the Secretary of State took pains to restate 'them all, even though he was facing the fact that he was not getting the men he hoped to have and indeed needed to have. Will he do anything now to stimulate recruiting? If not, will he make use of selective service and, if so, how? This would be a very powerful operation to get a few thousand men and it would have a tremendous impact on the nation.
Do the Government intend to sit on their hands and do nothing while the situation gets more and more tragic and difficult? If we have not the minimum, it is already tragic. If, in fact, the trend were to go the other way, and we found more and not less difficulty in getting recruits, we could find ourselves down to 150,000 or 155,000 instead of the 165,000 by the middle of 1963. Here I think that there is a criminal evasion about a matter of absolute supreme importance, and that we are entitled to ask the Government to give clear answers; or to take responsibility for the fact that they are not going to bother and that it will come right. I hope that we shall receive a lot of support from hon. Members opposite in the middle of next year, if we find that the Government have evaded the issue in 1960 rather than facing it when they should have done.
I wish to pass to the next question, that of mobility of this small Army. Even were we to get the optimum figure of 180,000 it would still be fearfully stretched for the jobs which the Government want it to do. Mobility would be still of enormous importance. But if we are not to get the optimum, and if we are not even to get the absolute minimum, it becomes of absolutely crashing importance. What is the position? We have never been given straight answers, I hope that we shall get them today.
What is the position regarding freight carrying airplanes? I do not want to be answered by references to the Britannic. I am not talking about ability to move men but our ability—at a time when we shall be so stretched that if we are to get anywhere it will have to be almost always by air—to get heavy and awkward equipment to our Forces?
Ministers ought now to know what they would not tell us in the last defence debate. When do we expect to have our own freight-carrying planes? What orders has the Minister yet placed for the Britannic? What production order has been given? When does he expect it in service and when does he expect the Argosy? Is not it a fact that neither of these planes, neither the long distance one nor the short-haul one, can be there in time to affect the present situation? Is not it a fact that, as things stand, we shall face a situation when we have a very small Army with no tactical or strategic heavy lift capabilities at all? Is not it questionable that even when they come, as at present intended, they will not fill the need?
When I raised this matter before, the Minister of Aviation as I well remember, interrupted me with the question would I buy American planes. The right hon. Gentleman thought that he was on a powerful point and he kept on at me to get an answer, yes or no, which—
May I interrupt my hon. Friend, to stop up one possible loophole? I had an Adjournment debate on 4th May in which I inquired whether the Britannic had been ordered. I was told that the contract was not then signed. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the contract is still not signed? Would he, therefore, be good enough to amend his question in relation to the Britannic, so that it is not in terms of orders but when the contract will be signed?
All right, my hon. Friend has added a question and perhaps the Minister will tell us whether he has signed the contract.
But the information I still want is his assessment of the time when he will have these in service. I wish to know whether the production order has been placed. I can then work out from that the time-scale for the engineering work to take place. What my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has said reinforces my assertion that these planes cannot be here on any time scale which will help the problem and assist the Secretary of State for War or whoever is passed the job of making this tiny Army stretch over all the jobs which the Government have in mind for it.
I was going to answer the Minister of Aviation who asked, would I, in those circumstances, buy American, in the circumstances which Ministers have produced? I will ask the Minister of Defence, straightforwardly, would not it be better to recognise that we cannot get airplanes of our own to do this job in time, and since we must support the Army properly and give it what it needs, would not it be better to go into the question of building the American Hurcules, the heavy-lift airplane under licence here? It could be built with Rolls-Royce Tyne engines in Ulster, as the Britannic will not arrive in time. It is in service and has the sort of performance which we require for the job envisaged by the Secretary of State.
Would not it be better to face the consequences of what I am told the newspapers call the "Sandys' moratorium"—I understand that is the term for the period during which the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Defence? Would not it be better to accept the consequences of that and order this other plane to be built here?
The same deficiency of aeroplanes, which I have talked about, could be brought out in almost every sphere of the Army's equipments and weapons. We cannot put this very tiny Army in a position to do its job, no matter what decisions are taken now, by the end of 1962. The story is the same whether it is anti-tank weapons, guns, missiles, the full issue even of the rifle, the replacement of the machine gun, the replacement of the Centurion tank—everywhere we look we find that the Army is running down below the figures which the Ministers themselves wanted a little while ago. We find it with gaps in every respect—its equipment, its support, its mobility.
I have spent a little time on this because I do not think that either the country or hon. Members opposite are alive to the gravity of the situation which has now come about. This is far more than a party point, although I am entitled to make a party point of it, too. If Ministers fail, the Opposition is entitled to take advantage of it. But it is far more than that. This is a situation of extreme gravity. So far as we can piece together what we know, it is a very worrying, indeed a frightening situation, and all that we have from the Ministers is the utmost evasion every time.
I turn from that to N.A.T.O., because there are one or two matters there that I want to raise, which are again of tremendous importance to this country, and on which I think that Ministers are again not facing up to. When I talk about N.A.T.O. I mean the whole Western Alliance. The first is the use of the American bases in this country. I want to get one thing clear. I hope that the Minister of Defence is quite sure that he will face the logic of his own decision on Blue Streak and get rid of the Thor bases. We can make no sense of what he has decided on Blue Streak if we go on keeping the American Thors here. They are much more vulnerable, much more dangerous, much less useful in defence.
I turn to the use of the other bases here. I shall not develop this in view of the assurance that we had from the Prime Minister yesterday. I understand that officials are now discussing it and shortly he will be discussing it with the President. I hope that we shall then be given, as soon as we can be given, information about what happens. If possible, I would hope for some report before the Recess. I want to make this clear so that there is no misunderstanding.
This time the agreement must be a comprehensive one. It must provide for a really effective British share of the control of the operations from those bases. Ministers must be in a position to know what is going on and in an effective position to intervene if what is going on is what ought not to go on, and to intervene in time for it to be effective. We should make it perfectly plain that this is what we and, I believe, the bulk of the people in the country, whether they vote Labour or Conservative, feel on this matter.
We must this time be told in full what the terms are. There has been too much to worry people in the last months for us to accept again any assurance that this matter is too secret, too highly important for us to be told. I make my position clear. So long as it is a proper and necessary requirement of membership of the alliance, I shall support these kind of bases here, but not in the terms that have been operating up to now. That is just not possible.
We must now have an effective British share in the operation and be in a position to deal with it, and Ministers must expect to have to tell us what they have done if they want our support on this issue.
The second point which worries me about N.A.T.O.—and I now come to S.H.A.P.E.—is the part that nuclear weapons, and especially long-range nuclear missiles, are to play. I am very worried about what British Ministers are doing. Again we cannot gat straight answers. It cannot make sense to distort the defensive posture, the holding posture of that military alliance by putting into it strategic, last resort deterrent missiles in an offensive role. If we put Mace missiles and, even worse, Polaris missiles into the forward strategy of S.H.A.P.E. and the forward areas of S.H.A.P.E., we shall inevitably get file strategy building around them. We shall turn from an alliance whose job it is to hold and fight for a pause and to give an opportunity for reflection and turn it into an alliance whose only immediate reaction to anything will be to poop off the one thing that we want to avoid being pooped off by anyone. In other words, we shall be talking about deterrents, but we ourselves may be likely to start an H-bomb war in the West, which can never benefit the West.
A first strike H-bomb effort by the West can never be of benefit to us. Yet we have the Americans putting great pressure on N.A.T.O. They have already had their way about the Mace. Now they are putting great pressure on getting Polaris distributed there and to integrate it with the forces on the Continent. We do not know what steps Ministers are taking to oppose this, and we do not even know that it is the policy of the Government to oppose it.
The strategic aircraft command was never put under S.H.A.P.E. for very good reasons. I consider that the Ministers should face up to why strategic missiles—and a missile that can reach Moscow must be in the strategic area—have a different relationship to the one that we thought was the only safe and possible one in the case of strategic aircraft. I hope that Ministers will not be misled by the comparison with the tactical aircraft. This is not the real comparison at all. I am sure that the other one is.
I beg the Ministers to recognise the German issue here. Let us be fair to the Germans. I do not believe that the present Government even want the Polaris missiles. I know that the S.P.D. does not and I know that large numbers of Germans do not. Do not let us allow the Americans or anybody else in N.A.T.O. start to put such pressure on them that a situation happens that would be militarily inadvisable, militarily wrong, and also politically very difficult and very dangerous indeed. I hope that Ministers will oppose this and say that they will oppose it not merely on purely military but also on political grounds.
The third thing which I do not understand is what the Ministers are doing in the field of political institutions in N.A.T.O. At the moment they do not exist. On the other hand, they are more badly needed than ever, partly because of developments in N.A.T.O. itself and partly because of the change which will come over the alliance when we lose, as we shall soon, our own special influence and our own special control. The need for political institutions applies not only to the need for control over weapons or control over the strategy of the alliance or over the policy of the alliance, but also to some means of influencing and co-ordinating the policies of its separate allies.
I do not believe that it is as difficult as folk are apt to say—that we must have one finger on the trigger and fifteen on the guard. I do not accept that it is as difficult as that. The standing group procedure on the military side, which has always worked well, offers quite a good parallel for what could be put upon the political side. It is not difficult to think up ways and means of doing it. What is necessary is to insist on the alliance that it must be done. If we do that, we shall not be alone. In fact, had we been prepared to give General de Gaulle a bit of support on this issue some time ago, a lot of other problems which we have had with Europe might not have arisen, quite apart from being able to settle this one.
I want to end what I have to say with an appeal through this Committee to the people outside, very largely to the great bulk of people who make up the Labour movement. This is a difficult field for us. Of that there is no doubt. All our instincts, our traditions and our faith are revolted when we seem to be considering means of destruction, however much we remind ourselves that we are planning to deter and trying to avert such things 'happening. Nevertheless, I believe more strongly than ever that freedom, the democratic way of doing things and the advance to effective social democracy and all we stand for depend upon the answers which we give in this difficult field.
We have worked on our answers in the document "Foreign Defence Policy", which is now before the country, before the House of Commons and before our people. We have worked on our answers. There is good reason to think that we have probably got them as nearly right this time as can be. We are heartened by the reception of them by informed and civilised opinion here and by the fact that there is now, for the first time, a real unit existing in this difficult field between the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party and the German S.P.D. It seems to me that we in the Labour movement, because of the collapse there and because of the consequences of Government action, have to awaken the public mind to understand the dangerous vacuum which has been created by the Government and the kind of policy which should be followed in its place.
I hope that I may appeal to the Labour movement frankly, honestly and openly to let us rise above any reservations that we may have as individuals to unite in trust and confidence among ourselves to bring security and effectiveness into the foreign and defence policies of this country.
I should like to respond to the first thing that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said. He may remember that in the defence debate I said that the Government were engaged at that time, and had been engaged before then, on a detailed examination of this country's military tasks in a rapidly changing world. Of course, we are doing that. It would be utterly wrong if we were not. Therefore, the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, when he implied that it was only the Socialist Party that was trying to rethink the problems of what we all accept in a rapidly changing world, both technologically and strategically, was incorrect. He was a rather changed right hon. Gentleman today. I welcome that. The old Adam peeped out a couple of times, but perhaps the mantle of greater authority is to descend on the right hon. Gentleman's shoulders; I do not know.
We on this side have tried to be factual and objective about defence policy. We have not tried to belabour the Opposition on a subject—on this, at least, probably the right hon. Gentleman and I agree—which, as a prominent trade union leader said, should not be too clouded with the more extreme forms of political wrangling. The difficulty is that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, I do not know whether genuinely in mistaken beliefs or for their own party political differences, try all the time to justify their own changes of policy by stating that the Government have taken action or been inactive and that this in some mysterious way justifies entirely their own changes of policy. I believe that a calm and factual approach to defence is the right one. If we did not believe that, world events today would, and should, certainly cause us to believe it.
I do not want to get into acute party political issues, because, as The Times said, I realise the almost insurmountable difficulties of leading the Labour Party. I must, however, take issue with the right hon. Gentleman when he rather spoilt his factual approach of today by presenting to the House of Commons and to the country, in common with his right hon. and hon. Friends, a completely distorted view of the facts of defence policy and progress.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accept from me that nothing could be more dangerous at the moment in this dangerous and divided world than that we should get the facts of defence wrong. There is no single thing that the Government or the Opposition could do that would be more dangerous than that. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it also from me that what I intend to try to do now is to set out the facts as clearly as I possibly can and to go as far as I possibly can, although the right hon. Gentleman, having been a Minister of the Crown himself, will know that there are certain points beyond which one cannot go at this Box—one can go somewhat further when standing at the opposite Box. As far as I can, however, I want to set out the facts, because, as I wish to repeat, the one thing that the House of Commons, the Government and the country must not do at this moment is to give a possible aggressor the wrong idea of what we and our allies are doing. Misunderstanding about defence is a very dangerous thing.
Let me deal first with the question of the nuclear deterrent. First, I must ask where the party opposite stands. The right hon. Member for Belper, who opened this debate, took a strong line about this in the defence debate, when he said:
Clearly, I and the Labour Party do not take the unilateralist position on nuclear weapons. They exist. They must be a component part of our strategy and our armoury of deterrents unless and until an equivalent or greater advantage can be gained either by multilateral and controlled disarmament or by some lesser but vital advance".
The right hon. Gentleman then added:
I have never seen how one can seek to arm for defence and ignore weapons which exist."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 878.]
I ask the right hon. Gentleman, is that his position today? If it is, I will gladly give way if he wishes to answer now; or possibly his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) might prefer to answer at the end of the debate.
I will answer it myself. So far as concerns nuclear weapons existing in the Western Alliance, that remains the position. But what I have said today, and what is laid out in our policy statement, to which the Minister must now address himself, is that since we can no longer ourselves provide an independent British deterrent, I am not applying the same arguments to the provision by us of weapons manufactured in Britain. The Minister is now mixing up what we, Britain, do and what we, the West, do.
I merely want to get this clear. The words in the document to which the right hon. Gentleman refers state:
We believe that in future our British contribution to the Western armoury will be in conventional terms, leaving to the Americans the provision of the Western strategic deterrent.
What I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say now, however, is that provided this country clearly continues to have in its possession the means of manufacturing nuclear weapons and the means of delivery them, the Labour Party supports the policy of maintaining that nuclear capacity.
That I am very willing to do. In that case, I hope the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will not continue to try to present a false picture of where they say the Government are.
Let me make the Government's position plain on this question of the nuclear deterrent. We do not believe it is immoral or improper or unwise to possess the capacity to manufacture and to deliver nuclear weapons so long as they are also possessed by Russia. On the contrary, we believe that we must continue our nuclear contribution to defence till the control of these weapons can be achieved under a proper system of international supervision and disarmament. As soon as that situation can arise, the better the Government will be pleased, but, till it does so, we believe that it is a moral as well as a practical duty to maintain our capacity to manufacture and deliver these weapons.
If, for example, one were to take the extreme view of what is said in this document to which the right hon. Gentlemon has referred, then it would seem to me that there would be little point in going forward with the re-equipment of the V-bomber force and the Mark II V-bombers, and if we fail to do that we deprive the West of an immensely powerful contribution to its nuclear deterrent force.
Where the Opposition has gat into difficulties is by failing to examine and face the logic of the time scale in all these questions of deterrent weapons. Unless we see these things against the background of the time scale, we get the whole position wrong.
Let me give an example of what I mean. The right hon. Gentleman has just said, and it is said again in the various documents which his party has produced, that because we cancelled Blue Streak the Thor missile, which is deployed operationally today, should also be swept away, and his judgment is that that is so because a fixed site missile is too vulnerable. I agree; that is why we did cancel Blue Streak. But let us look again at the time scale. Blue Streak would not have been operational till after 1965. That is when, it was quite certain, fixed site missiles would be too vulnerable. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, no."] Perhaps I may be allowed to finish my argument. What the Opposition is claiming is that Thor is outmoded today, in 1960. That, of course, is not for a moment comparing like with like.
I will give way when I have finished this part of my argument.
What the Opposition is saying is that five years' further development in missiles has no relevance at all. In other words, it is dismissing and distorting the time scale—a very dangerous thing to do. If the Opposition claims that Thor is unjustified today because Blue Streak is unjustified in 1965, it proves exactly the point I am making; that is, the Opposition is taking no regard at all to the essential time factor in this question.
Is it not the case that the Government justified this very late decision to give up Blue Streak because of the evidence of the accuracy of Soviet missiles now—as revealed in the tests in the Pacific and in other ways? What, in fact, is the like which we are comparing with like is the accuracy of Soviet missiles at the present time, which we presume will last into the period when Blue Streak would have been effective. The plain fact is that the vulnerability of the missiles is based on the evidence the Government now have about the accuracy of the Soviet missiles.
If the hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to read what was said in the debate he will see. The right hon. Gentleman quite fairly tried to present the facts of his case. I must present the facts of mine, and if the hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to look at what was said in that debate and also to look at what he says in his own party document here, he will see that it is clearly so, that no examination is made of the quite different time scales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] It is usually courteous to give time for somebody to answer a question. As I wish to be clear in my answer, I shall answer it in my own time.
As to the question of the accuracy of Soviet missiles, what was clearly said was that there were already signs in current Soviet tests of the increasing accuracy of missiles, which must be related to the time scale, to how many missiles are likely to be available, to their future development, and that again comes exactly to what I have said, that Thor today makes an important contribution to the deterrent of the West today. Perhaps by 1965, I accept, it may be a quite different position, but the point I am making is that these relativities in time must be clearly kept in mind if we are to take a balanced view of what we are talking about.
Surely the all-important question within the time scale is when is it relevant? Are the Russians in a position here and now to wipe out our Thor bases at any moment they choose? And is not the position that they have rockets on site to our knowledge in East Germany and that they have only to touch the button to attack the whole of our Thor bases?
I have already answered the hon. and learned Gentleman by saying quite clearly that the Thor missile at this moment is an important contribution to the nuclear deterrent of the West. But it may well not be so by 1965.
Perhaps I may come on now to the question of the plans which the Government have made to continue to make our independent contribution to the nuclear deterrent of the West.
Again, I do not accept—I do not want to pursue this, but I do not accept for a moment—that statement which the right hon. Gentleman has made again today that the cancellation of Blue Streak leaves us in the position that we cannot remain in any sense of the word an independent nuclear Power. That is a very convenient doctrine if one wants to adopt the kind of double stance which I think the right hon. Gentleman was being forced into, the stance of being all things to all kinds of Socialists, the stance of saying to the unilateralists, "We will not have the nuclear bomb," but to the right-wing of his party, "We cannot have it." That, in my view, is not a policy. It is a misleading compromise, which may well mislead people outside this country as well as, perhaps, a very few inside it.
Anyway, the Government have a very clear plan, and I wish to set it out. Today, we have the Mark I V-bombers in service armed with free-falling bombs with nuclear warheads produced in this country. I take it from what he said that the right hon. Gentleman supports that, that he accepts that as a proper contribution to the West's deterrent. I am glad he agrees with that. We are progressively improving the ability of this force to take off at short notice, and the reaction times are already comparable with those formerly expected from fighters. We hope to reduce the times still further.
This, then, is the current contribution, the contribution now, and with the further developments in electronic devices and so on we are confident that that force is capable today and in the future of reaching its targets.
But, of course, nothing stands still in this question of defence. Therefore, the first step we take for the future is to replace the Mark I V-bombers with the Mark II, which are faster, have greater range and can fly higher. At the same time, it was obviously sensible to try to give the new aircraft a greater capacity by fitting them with weapons which could be fired some distance away from the target, a great deal farther than merely the capacity which the free-falling bomb provides.
It was foreseen that there would be developments in surface-to-air guided weapons available to the Russians that would make this necessary. That was why the Blue Steel project came into being—in order that we should have a powered and guided bomb which could carry on to the target and thus give the carrying aircraft a much greater immunity from counter-attack. This weapon can carry a megaton warhead and, therefore, it is a very powerful weapon. It has reached the stage at which launching trials are taking place from Mark I V-bombers, with development rounds produced on production lines. Matched against the defences which it will meet it is in the right time scale.
The right hon. Member for Belper has been trying to say that this does not exist, or it does not fit the time scale or is some kind of reinsurance against Sky-bolt. This weapon was in the picture and must remain in the picture, and this is the second step. The first step is the bombers with their free-falling bomb. The second is the Mark II V-bombers with stand-off weapons. As to the Blue Steel Mark II, it was not my right hon. Friend who cancelled it, it was myself. The reason was this. It was a completely new weapon, a new type of weapon. I agree that it would have had a quite different purpose, but its timescale—and here we come back to the same problem—was in the late 1960s, and when it was cancelled it was still only on the drawing board. I considered. therefore, that a weapon that could not be operational for perhaps seven or eight years was not one with which we should press forward at this moment.
Now, the right hon. Member for Belper says that we have reinstated it. We have not done anything of the sort. What we are doing is the normal sensible practice that one follows, for example, with fighter aircraft or bomber aircraft. Having made the first mark, one tries to improve its performance by developing its engine or lightening the airframe, or by other devices that step up the performance of an aircraft immeasurably in its service life. That is what we are now trying to do with Blue Steel, and we should be very stupid if we were not doing it. What I want to see is a steady improvement in the range of this weapon, which may therefore increase its value and validity and keep it valid over a rather longer time scale to meet expected improvements in enemy defence.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the 1957 White Paper his right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation said that the rôle of the V-bomber was very limited and he did not propose to provide a successor? Now the right hon. Gentleman is talking about Blue Steel, which is way towards the middle of the 1960s, to fit an aircraft which the Government have only now thought up, after it was perfectly clear that the policy of the Minister of Aviation was in a state of collapse.
This is another example of the way in which hon. and right hon. Members opposite either delude themselves generally or are doing this sort of thing for their own party political reasons. I am giving the facts about this weapon. The hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), with his knowledge of military affairs, knows perfectly well that V-bombers are valid bombers until the early 1970s.
Certainly. That is what the validity of the life of the Mark II was always intended to be, and we should be very unwise as a nation if we did not arm them with the best weapons we can provide. First, then, we have the free-falling bomb, then the stand-off powered bomb, and now I come to the air-launched ballistic missile, or Skybolt.
My hon. Friend is presumably asking me to comment on an article in a daily newspaper. I have seen the article. I can only tell him that no decision of that kind has yet been taken. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yet?"] I have said that no decision of that kind has yet been taken. I am not committing the future one way or another. I am saying that the article is not based on a decision that has yet been taken.
As to Skybolt, first of all, the Royal Air Force, I believe, very much contributed to the United States Air Force decision on this missile as its own operational requirement. Since that time, two years ago, a group of experts from the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Civil Aviation have taken part in an expert team which decided on the design of the missile. The aim—and this is clear proof of the viability of the project—was to ensure that no element in the system required for its realisation techniques which had not been proved in other tested projects, for example, other missiles. After 18 months' technical study, these techniques have been examined both by the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force and by the American Defence Department. The missile is not, as the right hon. Member for Belper implies, in a completely unformed state. Its final configuration is settled, and we are now negotiating an agreement to purchase it.
If the right hon. Member was interested in the missile, I am surprised that when he was in America he did not go to the Douglas Company and find out about it for himself. I visited the Douglas Company and saw the progress on this project. I was able to take my own experts with me and they were able to carry out a close technical assessment of it. What I am now saying about the missile rests on that information—the information we are now getting regularly from our technical team which is now integrated in the project. We have every reason to believe that Skybolt will be available when wanted, and we shall be able to fit it without any difficulty to the Vulcan Mark II. We have not yet reached a decision about the Victor Mark II, but the latest information which I can give is that Skybolt, I believe, could be fitted to this aircraft if we wished to do it. Armed with this missile, the Mark II V-bombers will be able to maintain an effective contribution to the deterrent until the early 1970s.
The argument of the hon. Member for Belper is that because we shall buy Skybolt from the United States our contribution to the deterrent ceases in some way to be independent. I cannot see the basis for the right hon. Member's view. The missiles once purchased will be our property. We shall fit them with our own nuclear warheads, carry them in our own aircraft, and have full control of them. That represents a clear continuation of the Government's policy to make an independent contribution to the deterrent. To use Skybolt as some kind of alibi for some major change in Socialist defence policy is for right hon. Gentlemen to delude their own party and to delude the country as well. It is on the basis of personal examination and a visit, which the right hon. Member for Belper could have made himself if he had wanted to, that I have made statements about a missile which is an essential component of the Western deterrent both for the Americans and ourselves.
What the Americans have decided is to put a very large number of millions of dollars into the development of this weapon. We are now negotiating an agreement to purchase it from them. [HON. MEMBERS: "When?"] The American Air Force has also disclosed requirements for large numbers for itself. The right hon. Member for Belper and I may differ—
With respect, the right hon. Gentleman and I may differ, but he must say the same thing twice. The American Air Force has not decided yet, nor has it been authorised yet to buy it. If it does not buy it, the weapon will not exist. In that case, how can the right hon. Gentleman say that he is going to buy it?
What I said—and I have been perfectly clear about this—was that the United States Air Force has disclosed a very large requirement for a very large number of missiles. That is what I was told by General Power who commands the force. We, also, have disclosed a requirement for, of course, a much smaller number of missiles. We are now negotiating a firm agreement with the American Government which will ensure us a supply of these missiles, provided that the missile works. [Laughter.] I have never tried to mislead the House in the slightest degree as to the position.
What I have said is that the missile is built up of tried components and that its configuration and production policy is settled, that the Douglas Company is associated with a very large number of other American firms working on the project and, also, that the first flying trials of the missile will take place early next spring. That is the point of decision, when we shall see whether the missile fulfils its performance or not. I have every confidence that it will, and as we only have to wait some six or nine months to see that, it does not seem to me a very great risk.
Are the Opposition going to change their policy again if Skybolt works or supposing that we develop it, because one of the advantages to us is that Skybolt will cost a great deal less than Blue Streak because the R. and D. cost is being covered by the Americans. Supposing that out of our spare resources we decided to diversify the deterrent and produced a missile as a partner to Skybolt which was entirely made by us, would the right hon. Gentleman then change his policy again?
That is for the Government to decide. I am only saying that the advantage in buying Sky-bolt is that it gives us this spare capacity. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will answer my question instead of trying to evade it by asking me questions. In that case, will the right hon. Gentleman change the policy of his party again? I do not think that he knows.
That is a perfectly fair position. I am saying that this is a possible thing which we can do, and I am asking the right hon. Gentleman whether that would affect his policy. The facts of the case are that throughout the piece the right hon. Gentleman has been trying to justify a change in his own policy by the misrepresentation of ours.
Let me give another example on the question of Polaris. The right hon. Gentleman wrote an article in a daily newspaper which gave a completely misleading picture of the situation regarding this weapon. He said, for example, that I had asked the American Government for Polaris submarines and had been refused. That, of course, is a completely garbled and incorrect account of what took place.
The Government have seen the possibilities of Polaris for a long time, and, thanks to the very generous help from the American Government, we have had an excellent liaison with them and have a naval officer in the United States solely for the purpose of keeping us informed of the technical advances and developments in this weapon system. Of course, I had general discussions with the United States Secretary of Defence, the American Chief of Naval Operations and the Commander-in-Chief of the American Atlantic Fleet as to how they propose to deploy these submarines and to operate them.
It was agreed that the very close collaboration which exists between the British and American Governments should be continued in this sphere. After all, we shall soon be launching our own nuclear submarine, though not, of course, of the missile-firing type, and talks are proceeding between both Governments as to how best to exploit nuclear submarines bath as hunter-killer of other submarines and as a missile-firing weapon system. But we are not at a point where we need take a decision so far as the Polaris weapon system is concerned.
Let me turn to the broader field'. It is still true that direct expenditure on the British deterrent represents only 10 per cent. of our total defence expenditure. In my view—as has been so often said in the House—if we brush that on one side and consider the broad field of our defence policy, it is not an answer to say, as right hon. and hon. Members opposite so often say, that all we have got for the expenditure of some £13,000 million is very little indeed. That is now the issue with which I wish to deal.
First, it is pretty poor thanks to all the devoted men and women who serve in the Armed Forces of the Crown. It is inevitable in these days that approximately half that sum goes on feeding, clothing and looking after the men and women in the Forces. Indeed, £800 million of the present Defence Estimates goes for that purpose. I must ask the Committee, is that money down the drain, or is it, in fact, the best insurance policy which this country could have at the moment against war starting? Whatever the Opposition may say in their struggle for political survival, I hope that it will not mislead the young men and women who are debating today whether they will make a career in the Armed Forces of the Crown. I hope that nothing which right hon. and hon. Members say will, consciously, be directed to trying to affect the results and the prospects of recruiting for our all-Regular Forces. There is, in my view, no more honourable or moral task that could lay in front of a young man today.
I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman winds up he will go out of his way to make it plain that the Opposition recognise, as do the Government, the need for recruiting all-Regular Forces and getting the right people at the right time. As to whether we shall get them or not, I shall only say this, because my right hon. Friend can deal more directly with the question of the Army when he replies. The broad issue is that the Navy has more volunteers than it can use; the Royal Air Force has an adequate flaw of volunteers to maintain its future force, and the Army, on its present recruiting trends, as I have said often enough, is in sight of its minimum target of 165,000 men. It is also clear that the Army would like to get more, and I hope that anything right hon. and hon. Members say will not make its task more difficult.
Coming to the question, very briefly, of some of the weapons which we are now getting—and which answers the right hon. Gentleman's claim that we do not get adequate equipment for these new forces—I will give the following facts: Sea Vixen—first squadron embarked in "Ark Royal" earlier this year; the N.A.39, an aircraft of outstanding promise, production order placed; the first Commando carrier "Bulwark", in commission; the first nuclear submarine will be launched in October, and the second is to be ordered this year. More than half the frigate force is less than Ave years old. Production order for Sea Slug placed. First G.M. ship was launched in June. The new F.N. rifle is in service and all infantry units have been supplied with it. With regard to the new field artillery, the 105 mm. pack howitzer, the first regiment will be equipped with this weapon in the present year. The new Sterling S.M.G. is fully issued to all units. With regard to the new armoured car Saladin and the new Ferret scout car, equipment will be completed by the end of this financial year and will be issued to all units. As to tanks, the Centurion is now being up-armoured and up-gunned and the main battle tank order will follow on that.
There are a great many other things that I could mention, for example, the first Vulcan 2 delivered this month. Then there is the Lightning, armed with Fire-streak, to be armed later with an improved weapon. First squadron forming. There is a vast list of other weapons, modern, efficient and tailored to suit the needs of our all-Regular Forces, which are now coming forward. They are not projects either in the past or the future; they are going to the Forces now. The money which is devoted to these tasks is, in my view, money well spent and the best insurance policy that this country could have in trying to keep the peace in a very dangerous and divided world.
As to the question of mobility, about the only thing with which I agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in his statement of policy was the point that our policy should have the accent on mobility. But, here again, what he claims is not the requirement at all. The whole policy in defence is to stockpile the heavy hardware near where one is likely to use it. Therefore, there is not the large requirement for carrying extremely heavy hardware about the world by air which the right hon. Gentleman assumes.
What we need particularly is a big tactical lift. We have now ordered 40 medium-range tactical transport aircraft, the AW.660, and the first aircraft will be coming in in 1961–62. Exercise Starlight, of which I saw part when I was in North Africa, was an exercise in which some 4,000 men, 200 vehicles and 200,000 lb. of freight were moved by air. That is the sort of problem that we have to face. For that we need a stockpile of the heavy hardware and a big tactical lift to carry the men and the lighter material. That is why the turbine-engined Whirlwinds and the advanced version of the Wessex, or the Bristol 192, are now coming forward. Again, we have met exactly the demand which the Services have thrown up and have asked should be met.
I now come to the question of N.A.T.O. and the medium-range ballistic missile. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there are very great problems to be faced by the N.A.T.O. Alliance. He mentioned one of them in his statement about fifteen fingers on the trigger. He said that it was very easy of solution. I am not sure that it is quite so easy of solution. Anyway, what I would say is that the British Government are most anxious to do all in their power to strengthen N.A.T.O. at this time. That includes meeting the quite proper request by General Norstad for modern equipment which can maintain the full vigour and strength of the shield and sword concept of the Alliance.
The difficulty is that, owing to the ingenuity and inventiveness of defence scientists, each missile is soon supplanted by something of greater range and greater carrying capacity. The Polaris type of missile is only the latest newcomer to the scene. No doubt in due course it will be supplanted or at least supplemented by others.
The point that I want to make is that the value of Polaris or of any other weapon of this type is a matter which must be discussed by N.A.T.O. through its own proper channels. It has its military committee and its complex of military advisers, and it has its political committee. N.A.T.O. itself must first decide through its own machinery what it wants, and that process has to take place before political decisions are made.
I should like to make another thing plain. As the Government understand General Norstad's position, it is that he is not seeking to acquire some new kind of strategic capability, which would be outside his present task. That is the Government's understanding of this position. His aim, I believe, is to keep a fair balance in his forces so that they may fulfil the task laid down for them in the shield and sword concept.
This does not, in my view, mean that every aircraft in N.A.T.O. will soon have to be replaced by missiles. The facts are that N.A.T.O. must make a proper detailed study of the place of each new weapon to see how it fits into N.A.T.O.'s current pattern—it is the pattern which has existed for some years—of defence against aggression. N.A.T.O., like every other form of defence, must change with the times. That is why the Government have decided to replace some of the Canberras in N.A.T.O. with Valiants. We thought it a more modern and better means of delivery of our nuclear weapons. It is an example of our recognition of the fact that N.A.T.O. must constantly change and equip itself with improved weapons. The point is that we shall do much harm to the alliance if we do not let it work out its problems in its own constitutional way.
I am not denying for a moment that the improvement of these new weapons does not present N.A.T.O. with great problems. On the other hand, if it is to fulfil its shield function as well as its sword function, it must have a balance of forces against what may be likely to come against it. I believe that these problems can be solved if N.A.T.O. is allowed to discuss them, as I understand it will, through its own proper channels. I believe that is the right way to face the difficult problem in that field. That is the Government's view. Whether it concerns the question of Germany, the question of Polaris or any other particular problem, it should be dealt with through the proper channels in that way.
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he means by "proper channels"? I am not clear about that. Is he implying that a decision, for instance, by this country and by this Government to take a certain view in the N.A.T.O. discussions would be out of order? I am not clear what he means when he talks about discussions through the proper channels. Does he mean that the British Government will be out of order to make up their own mind that there are political reasons why we should not introduce Polaris and say so before we get to the N.A.T.O. Council? Is the implication that we shall be out of order or somehow disloyal to the alliance by doing that?
That is not the implication at all. I am saying that before these matters go forward for political decision and before they go to the N.A.T.O. Council the proper processes have to be gone through within the machinery of N.A.T.O. I know that the hon. Gentleman, for example, knows that full well. There is a network of military advisers leading to the military committee, and there is the same organisation in connection with the political committee. These bodies have not yet had a full chance to study the requirements of these weapons. They must be given time.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a number of other N.A.T.O. Governments have also expressed views on this matter? Has not General de Gaulle said that he would not accept Polaris under certain conditions? Did not the American Defence Secretary make a large number of statements about American policy in this respect? And also about Germany's policy, although this was contested by Bonn? Surely in a situation like this when the matter has already entered into the field of public debate the Government are failing in their duty to the British people if they do not make their view known?
The fact that there is such widespread and ill-informed debate makes it much more difficult for N.A.T.O. to come to the right decisions. As far as the British Government are concerned, I am not going to contribute to the sort of thing that is going on.
What I have tried to show is as follows. First of all, we do not know where the Opposition stand today on this vital question of Britain's nuclear contribution to the deterrent strength of the West. I have tried to clarify the position. The only thing that I now think I am clear about is that they at least support the present nuclear capacity of this country. If that is so, I am glad. Whether they continue to support it in the future is, I understand, contingent upon what means of delivery this country may decide to follow. If that is so, that is, I suppose, as far as we can take it. It is at least something that they continue to accept the position today that Great Britain makes a nuclear contribution, and a very important one, and that they support it.
I have shown quite clearly that we have a clear plan through until 1970 to maintain our independent contribution to the nuclear strength of the West. I have also shown that when we come to more conventional weapons—if one can call any weapon conventional today—the flow of new modern weapons to the Forces is greater than it has ever been in our military history and that these weapons give us the mobility and the hitting power which we need for our all-Regular Forces.
I have also shown that there is every chance of getting the volunteers that we need, and I hope that at least on that the whole Committee is agreed and is also agreed to support the general objectives of recruiting able and vigorous young men and women to the Armed Forces of the Crown.
I have shown as far as N.A.T.O. is concerned that it is the Government's view that there has been far too much vague and ill-informed speculation about what might happen in certain circumstances. It is much wiser to let the proper process of discussion and consultation go on in N.A.T.O. in order to try to solve the problem.
Lastly, I say this: I have tried to follow the policy which all of us on this side of the Committee try to follow—that is, to take a calm and objective view of the great problems that face us of defending our country; trying to present the facts; and trying not to twit the Opposition unduly on the position—the very difficult position—in which its leaders find themselves. That is a right course to take. But it is equally right that we should take every chance to rebut the false impression that, rightly or wrongly, or for their own reasons, they give of our state of military preparedness, because that today, as I have said, is the most dangerous thing that this country and this House of Commons can do.
I have shown that on the whole our weapons systems, our state of preparedness and the value for our money, stand up extremely well to any kind of examination. In the Sunday Times last week there was an editorial which was headed, "The Socialist Diehards ". I shall not read it all. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will with pleasure. [Interruption.] I will read one or two selections.
The Army had suffered three defeats in a row. The Commander gathered his officers about him. 'Perhaps', he said, 'our weapons and strategy are a bit out-of-date…We won the last battle but three, didn't we? So we can win again. Anyway, it is better to die for the old regiment than mess about with this new-fangled gear. It's dangerous out there in the twentieth century.' ".
It "is" dangerous out there. [Interruption.] I hope that the right hon. Member for Belper will not get too excited. He started very well today and I thought that a new mantle of responsibility had fallen upon him. Now he is proving true to type, as always. It "is" dangerous out there in the twentieth century. The Government and the country recognise it and that it will not be overcome either by fighting the battles of the past or by trying to twist the facts of the present, because I believe that we shall only get peace in the world, until we can secure disarmament, by being calm, firm and united in our determination to deter aggression and to be undisturbed by threats or propaganda.
I know that it is a difficult job, but we hope to go on shouldering it successfully, as we have done over the last years. The right hon. Member for Belper ended by appealing to his supporters in the coun- try. I shall not do that. I say, however, that I believe that in the task of honestly trying to be strong and vigorous and prepared in defence, in order to try and stop a war from starting, the Government have the support of the broad mass of the population of this country.
It is obvious what has happened in the Ministry of Defence. The right hon. Gentleman, in the absence of a convincing case, decided on the only alternative course—to twit the Labour Party on its defence statement. But we are not debating the Labour Party's defence statement.
We are attempting to debate the Government's defence policy, if indeed they have a settled policy. I am bound to say that I doubt if they have a policy.
It occurred to me, because of the frequent interjections, that we might have revised our procedure today. Instead of having a debate, we might have taken one of the Committee rooms upstairs and asked each other a lot of questions, because that is precisely what the right hon. Gentleman attempted to do. He was interrogating us. That is not the rôle of Ministers. They are there, presumably, for the purpose of answering questions put to them by Members of the Opposition.
The fact is—and I regret having to say this to the right hon. Gentleman—that his case was far from convincing. I doubt whether it convinced anybody on his own side. For example, when he found himself in a position of some difficulty he took refuge at once in appealing to the Committee to think of the young men who were serving in Her Majesty's Forces. Have we not done so in the past?
It was the Labour Government who introduced National Service, despite its unpopularity, and we retained it. It was the Labour Government who sought to stimulate recruitment. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman coming along with that sort of stuff. It appeals to nobody. It was obvious that he was short of valid arguments and he had to use an emotional appeal. I can assure him that everybody on this side, whatever our views may be on defence and defence organisation, on nuclear weapons and conventional weapons and the like, takes the greatest pride in the men and women in Her Majesty's Forces. That can be proclaimed from the housetops. Of course we do. They are serving the nation and are doing their duty. We are not discussing in this debate the men and women in Her Majesty's Forces except in relation to recruitment. I will leave that for the moment.
The fact is that if one examines the successive Defence White Papers that have been issued since the Tory Government were returned in 1951, one observes a series of vacillations, of changes in policy, and of difficulties which have presented themselves to the country and to this Committee—not that difficulties really existed but because the Government found themselves unable from time to time to make up their minds what line of policy should be adopted.
I could quote from the various Defence White Papers that have come before the Committee. There was one, for which the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Aviation was responsible, in which he postulated as clearly as could be that if we were attacked by conventional forces by the potential aggressor—namely, the Soviet Union—we would not respond with conventional forces but would use all the nuclear weapons at our disposal. It never seemed to occur to the Government what the consequences would be. I suppose that they have departed from that fantasy—or have they? I should like to know the answer to that question.
Is it still the policy of the Government, in consort with our allies, 'that in the event of an attack—either limited OT What they describe as a major conventional attack—we shall unleash all these horrible nuclear forces? Is that their policy? I doubt whether they retain a vestige of it at the present time. The fact is that they have not got a policy in that context. All that we have heard today is that we have the Thor missile and that it makes a contribution, and that we have a number of V-bombers, and that they make a contribution.
I took a note of what the right hon. Gentleman said. It mystifies me, because he said, "They can reach the target." Which target was he taking about when he spoke about Thor missiles and V-bombers as a contribution? Does he really suggest to this intelligent assembly—I presume that it is intelligent in the context of defence—that the Thor missile and the V-bombers, such as they are, are capable of reaching the target?
Which target is he talking about? Was he thinking of Soviet Russia? Surely, he does not intend to mislead or deceive the Committee. He knows very well that neither the Thor missiles nor our V-bombers carrying megaton bombs with warheads are capable of reaching the target. Heaven help them if they ever get near the 'target. [Interruption.] If ale noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) or the Minister, who is, presumably, better informed on these matters, has the information available and can demonstrate to the Committee what is likely to happen -when we seek to reach the target, I should be very glad -to have it. I seriously doubt that the right hon. Gentleman really means that the Thor missiles and the V-bombers, such as they are, with megaton bombs, axe capable of reaching the target.
We have been told that the Blue Streak fiasco occurred because of our apprehensions regarding the rocket missiles at the disposal of Soviet Russia. It seems to me that that disposes completely of the suggestion that the Thor missile or the V-bombers are capable of reaching the target.
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. What he is saying is extremely important. He has said it often before. Will he take it that we have, in fact, an independent nuclear striking force of immense power? If not, will he visit Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force, because things have changed a great deal sine his time?
The hon. Gentleman asks me that question and I will give him an answer at once. I do not believe anything of the sort. If anyone imagines that, by visiting Bomber Command, I shall be convinced that it is capable, with what it has, of reaching the target —I have some experience of being in the Defence Department, not only in recent years but from some way back—he is very much mistaken. I shall not accept that sort of thing. No doubt, there are some hon. Members who flatter their personal vanity by going to visit some of the air stations and being shown round the place, all properly whitewashed and stage-managed, and they come back and say, "We know that we are in a very strong position".
But this is a very serious debate. What may happen may have grievous consequences not only for this country but for the world. I wish to address myself to that aspect of the subject, which is far more important than the pettifogging stuff we have heard this afternoon. I have always believed, ever since I had any association with the Defence Department and, indeed, apart from that, even during the First World War and the Second World War, that a nation is entitled to construct some kind of defence organisation in order to provide a measure of security for itself. I have always believed that. I have never been a pacifist in that sense, nor am I now. I look at this subject of defence in a practical fashion, regarding it empirically, with no emotion about it, and it is from that standpoint that I shall address myself to it now.
Nothing disturbs me more—I speak with some vehemence about it—than to have to submit to the threats of Mr. Khrushchev. I say that quite deliberately. I wish we could respond. That is my temperament. I do not like these threats. I do not like being told every now and then that we are threatened with a rocket simply because we do something, whether it is right or wrong, in which we believe. I do not like it. The fact is that we are dreadfully weak vis-à-vis Soviet Russia.
And, of course, vulnerable. We are dreadfully weak, and I deplore it. I would like us to be strong. I do not like the way this country is now being denigrated in various parts of the world, particularly in the United States of America. I dislike intensely the idea that we have always to be subservient to the United States. I deplore the idea that we should be regarded as weak. I wish that we could stand up to potential aggressors. The fact is that we cannot.
The Minister of Defence said that we should face the facts. That is facing the facts, not talking about Thor missiles and V-bombers. What else have we? We are told that, perhaps, in five years, we shall have Skybolt. It is not certain. There was nothing certain about what the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon. If the Committee will forgive the phrase, it is "pie in the Skybolt". It is that sort of nonsense. We do not know, and there is nothing determinate about our whole situation.
Regarding the matter from that standpoint, I hope that the Committee will forgive me for saying that we want a new approach. What must that new approach be? Let us face the facts. It is all very well to say that we have an independent nuclear deterrent. But where is it? It is not the sort of thing the right hon. Gentleman was talking about this afternoon. Very well then. We have not got an independent nuclear deterrent, but we hope to have it by 1970. What is to happen in the meantime? What shall we say and what shall we do in the meantime? Something will happen between 1960 and 1970. It may happen in Berlin. Who can tell? I believe that that may well be the focal point of danger, and we must make up OUT minds what is to be done if something occurs.
We have not got an independent deterrent but we hope to have it some day. Perhaps it may come, or it may not come. We do not know. This is not good enough. [Interruption.] It is all very well for the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South to murmur. I do not expect everyone to agree with me. This is not the place where one expects everyone else to agree with what one says. If one expected that, it would not be worthwhile being here at all.
This is a debating assembly, for the most part, and that is what we are here for. I do not expect the noble Lord to agree with me. Indeed, if he began to do so, I should want to examine my own ideas. Of course, he believes that we have an independent nuclear deterrent. Let him believe it. He believes that we can stand up to Soviet Russia and can threaten Soviet Russia. We have the Thor missile and a number of V-bombers and, in five or ten years, perhaps, we shall have Sky-bolt, and a lot of other things besides, so that we can stand up to Russia. No doubt the noble Lord believes, also—I really must not argue with him—just as the Minister himself believes, that what we have or we hope to have in the next few years is a deterrent against aggression. I wish I could believe it. I frankly say that I wish I could.
I do not believe that Russia is deterred from an act of aggression against this country or the United States because we are a nuclear Power or the United States is a nuclear Power. I do not think that it suits the Russians' book to engage in war of that kind. I think that they are getting very much of what they want without it. Indeed, they are getting far more than they are entitled to, particularly in trade. The economic competition which is beginning to emerge now and which will emerge in a more intense form in the future is one of the great dangers confronting this country. The Russians are not deterred from sending a rocket over this country or from destroying people in this country or from destroying our bomber bases or the American bases simply because they think we can retaliate. Not at all. I do not believe that we have a nuclear deterrent, as it is called, whether an independent one for which this country is responsible or a so-called Western deterrent. I do not believe that it is in itself a deterrent. It is something else which deters Russia, as I have explained. However, I do not say that my view must be accepted, although that is my belief and I am as entitled to express my convictions as anybody else is.
I suggest a new approach. I come now to one or two of the statements which have been made. Some of the things which are said confuse me. I confess that I am confused about defence. Hon. Members on the other side of the Committee are never confused. I have given it a good deal of thought, but I confess that I am now confused by the whole question of defence.
Here are some of the things about which I am confused. For example, it was suggested in the course of the debate that the Government had Skybolt. They have not got it, and they are not likely to get it. What occurred to me was this. Suppose that they got it some day. Suppose that we are wrong. Suppose that in five years' the Government get Sky-bolt. What will happen? Can we accept that it will be an effective deterrent? I cannot, because I do not believe that it will. It will not make an effective contribution towards preventing war. That is what confuses me about this situation. Not only that. The idea that building up forces of that character will enable us to make a contribution to peace does not commend itself to me, not with my understanding of the situation. I say, let us make a new approach.
What should the new approach be? I suggested it in the course of the defence debate at the beginning of March, and it is this. It is obvious to me that we must now devote ourselves as assiduously and as effectively as we can, with all the forces at our command, and using all the influence in our possession, to promote negotiations in the direction of disarmament, or at any rate partial disarmament.
I bear right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite no malice. The mere fact that we do not agree with each other does not mean that we have to bite each other's heads off. If the right hon. Gentleman could convince me that we have something which would enable us to stand up to people who threaten us—I just do not like being threatened—I would welcome it, but I do not believe that we have. I regret that we have not. Because of that, I believe that we have to turn in another direction, and the direction in which we must turn is the one that I have indicated.
Now let me deal with the conventional forces. I would very much like to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) speak on this subject. He is very well informed on this topic. Time and again he has forecast what would happen about the conventional forces and about the difficulties of recruitment in the Army and Air Force, though not in the Navy. We know the facts now.
I am speaking now in terms of the defence statement issued by the Labour Party. May I say this in parenthesis. I do not agree with everything in that statement, but I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) that this is an attempt to consolidate opinion and to present an alternative to the absence of policy on the part of the Government. To that extent I welcome the statement, though it does not go as far as I should like. There are certain contradictions in it, but that is inevitable when one is presenting a line of policy.
How will we build up the conventional forces? We want conventional forces. That is now our policy. It is the Government's policy. I believe that the nation welcomes that policy, but how will we get these conventional forces? This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman made a statement about the Territorials. What nostalgic memories are conjured up when I think of the difficulties I had in building up the Territorial Army when I was at the War Office and at the Ministry of Defence. I did not interrogate the Minister. I left that to others, as indeed I had to because I was not called.
There are many men who have served the nation faithfully. Some were volunteers, some were pitchforked into the Territorial Army, and others had to undertake service under the National Service Act. That is now disappearing. The men who did their National Service had the liability to serve in the Territorial Army or the Reserve Forces. They served the nation well and we are now asking them to undertake another role. We are now asking them to undertake a more stern rôle and to fit themselves into the pattern of the Regular Forces where they will he equipped with better weapons.
I do not intend to make a song and dance on this question of weapons. We have had a lot of fuss about that. Nine years ago I went to Washington where negotiations were held to consider the new British rifle. Even now, in spite of the intervention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), on the wrong lines, we have not got the F.N. rifle available to all our Forces. When I think of that, I consider that we could make a desper- ate attack on the Government because of their misunderstanding of the whole defence position.
What do the Government propose to do about these men? Will they give them a higher bounty? What right have we to ask these men to serve at weekends and fit themselves into the pattern of the Regular Forces and make themselves available for service? In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman said in reply to a question, I know what will happen one of these days. We will have an Amendment to the Reserve Forces Act and be asked to agree that the men in the Territorial Army can be sent for service overseas without Proclamation.
I know what happened before when there was an emergency, or a supposed emergency. I know what happened to the Reserve Forces during the Korean War. I am not suggesting that men serve in the Forces only because of the remuneration they receive. Not at all. Nevertheless, it is important that consideration should be given to the money that these men will be paid. I think that something ought to be done.
I have read the Labour Party's defence statement. On the whole it is a considered and worth-while document. It is a document which the Government, instead of sniping at it, as the Minister did, should welcome. It is an advance on the present state of affairs. It says that we cannot regard ourselves as an independent nuclear Power, that we stand by the Western deterrent, and that we stand by N.A.T.O. I do not know if the Government noted that we have not abandoned the concept of N.A.T.O. I accept the defence statement, but I urge the Government, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and the people in the country, to devote more thought, not in the direction of defence, but in the direction of making it unnecessary to have any defence at all, namely, in the direction of disarmament.
We have our political differences, and we will continue to do so, but I welcome more than I can say what the Prime Minister said yesterday. He stood up firmly in his approach to Mr. Khrushchev. At the same time he welcomed the opportunity for further discussions. That is the way to act. That is the sort of thing we want. The more of it the better, because in the long run that is what will happen. I am certain that there is a growing demand in this country, if not for unilateral disarmament, for an end to this defence business.
One finds it everywhere. People who were addicted to defence matters have now turned their thoughts in the direction of disarmament. Although I believed in the need for defence, and indeed would be in favour of effective defence now if I thought that it was an adequate weapon against a possible aggressor, my mind has turned in the direction of the promotion of disarmament, which I think is now the right course to adopt.
Unlike the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), I welcome the statement which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War made about the Territorial Army this afternoon. The rôle of the Territorial Army has been a matter which has been under consideration for a long time, and rightly so, because in this swiftly moving arena of defence it would be wrong to come to rapid decisions over a 'body of that nature. I would like to hear my right hon. Friend, at a later date, go even further than he went this afternoon, and tell the House that he is prepared to lay before it at an appropriate moment legislation which will enable the T.A. to serve overseas when necessary, and particularly to take part in overseas exercises during annual training periods.
I also welcomed what my right hon. Friend said about the re-equipment of the T.A., and I hope that that will go forward even more swiftly. I suggest that it would be wise to give the T.A. some of our more modern weapons even before the Regular Army has been fully equipped with them, so that our Territorials can at any rate become accustomed to seeing them and judging their capabilities, if not individually practising with them.
I want to follow up some of the earlier remarks of the right hon. Member for Easington. I do not think he does justice to himself, the country or our cause in the world by decrying the rôle of the Royal Air Force at present—
—as a vehicle for Britain's own nuclear deterrent. If he really believes what he said I suggest that he takes a trip to America and seeks out General Power, the Commander of the Strategic Air Command, and ask him what he thinks about it. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Americans decry and denigrate Britain's attitude. If he asks General Power I do not think that he will get an exaggerated view of America's idea of Britain's contribution.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) is not here, because I also want to take up something that he said. I see that he is here, after all; as one of my hon. Friends has remarked, he has moved a bit to the right on the benches opposite. I am glad to see it.
That might almost go without saying.
The right hon. Gentleman commented upon the Skybolt, and asked a number of questions about it. First, he asked whether it existed. When he talks about the existence of any modern weapon, what does he mean by existence? Before a modern weapon comes into production and full squadron use—I believe that that is the right expression in this case—it has to go through many processes. It starts with very rough sketch plans, being little more than ideas in the shape of diagrams on paper. From them follow the more detailed drawings.
From there we go to the prototype mock-ups, before even the prototype is started, and from there we go into production, before squadron service is finally achieved.
As the hon. Member opposite has said—in one of his rare moments of vision—very often it is then out of date.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman at what point in time he considers that one of these weapons starts to exist. I would add that he destroyed his own argument by making all these accusations about Skybolt's existence, when he said that nobody knew its shape or form. He asked whether we had bought it, and then he said, "We have only bought the right to share in its development." If its development is being proceeded with today the right hon. Gentleman must admit that it is already in existence.
I do not wish to argue whether I destroyed my own case; that is a matter for other hon. Members to make up their minds about. The weapon would obviously exist if we were sufficiently through the development stage, after research, for the engineering work to start. If engineering work was in progress I would accept all the arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman—but it is not in progress; the thing is still under development, and it can change many times in the process. After all that, it may still be dropped.
I take the right hon. Gentleman's point, but I think it is merely a question of shades of opinion. But it is very misleading to this House and the country, and to our allies, to put forward the case that we are buying a pig in a poke. Of course, there are doubts about all these things, as we know only too well, but the weapon exists; it is more than merely an idea.
In the Labour Party's booklet on foreign policy and defence great store was laid on the cancellation of the Blue Streak. The party opposite called it a fiasco. It is time that hon. Members opposite realised that matters of defence, and of weapons and equipment, are like the rungs in a ladder, while the stiles represent the time scale. Very often some of the rungs in the ladder are unsound, but if we discover that in good time no great harm is done, except in relation to the expenditure of money. The main thing is to see that through the scale of time we have, successively, a sufficient number of projects to bridge the technical gaps as we go along.
On many occasions I have listened to hon. Members on both sides of the House saying that we could overcome this problem by indulging in a sort of leap-frog process with our Allies. While they are taking a jump from one rung to another we could ensure the rung that they jump over. I agree with this point of view. If only that could be done we would be all the better for it, and we would probably have to spend less money in the long run.
I can take as an analogy the process which the Royal Air Force had to go through in years gone by. I refer to years gone by because hon. Members will understand more easily what I mean. Every project put forward for a new aircraft was not necessarily as successful as the Spitfire. Many had to be cancelled in the early stages, soon after birth. In those days we were dealing with a few thousand pounds; today, we are dealing with several millions of pounds. That is the big difference.
I have read the Opposition's booklet with some care, because I was interested to see where they would turn in their dilemma. Theirs is a case of any port in a storm. They have chosen the best policy, in that attack is the best means of defence. Most of the document is devoted to decrying what they claim to be the paltry efforts, or lack of effort, of the Government. But, heaven knows, they are faced with a tremendous dilemma—
—with 2½ million union votes for unilateral disarmament and only 1·8 million union votes against unilateral disarmament. I can appreciate the dilemma in which they find themselves.
With these appalling problems which confront us, people are apt to place a little too much reliance on the United Nations, the saving grace we all hope is going to save. There are far too many defects inherent in that organisation. To start with, there is the veto in the Security Council, and then something which no one has any idea how to overcome yet, namely, the fact that small irresponsible nations have the same vote and the same influence as bigger nations, and even not so big nations, which are experienced and public spirited.
More is the pity that the United Nations did not make up its mind a little more quickly one way or the other at Suez. The present issue in the Congo is an extraordinarily severe test for it, and, judged by present progress, I am delighted to see that it is shaping fairly well. It has acted quickly, although I gather that Mr. Lumumba has complained that it has acted far too slowly.
I entirely agree with the Labour Party's statement that regional alliances are likely to be more effective. Let us remember that N.A.T.O. is not the only one.
If the hon. Gentleman's question has any relevance to what I have said, I shall be delighted to sit down and let him ask it, but if it is of the sort of irrelevant remark which he has been passing in the last few minutes, then I am afraid that I must resist his request to intervene.
I am sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman takes that attitude because he agreed with the two interjections which I made. What I want to ask him is whether it would not be far better at this period in world history that he should say something in this important debate which would increase the prestige and power of U.N.O. instead of something which would weaken the power which it is trying to get. After all, it is not regional combinations which ultimately we want to try to get but a world authority with sufficient strength which will deter aggression completely.
I think that the hon. Gentleman must admit that what I have said commended the United Nations on its swift action in the Congo. I said that events up to date have proved that it is shaping well, but before that I pointed out two defects in the organisation which I think all honest men would agree are there and which are at the moment insuperable difficulties.
I should like to turn for a moment to the question of disarmament. The meetings on a nuclear tests agreement are at present the only channel along which we are likely to make progress. But if that fails, we must not commit Britain never to make tests again, because that would be dangerous. If there cannot be general agreement over no testing in the future, Britain must reserve her right to test these devices if and when she wishes to do so.
The real tragedy of this issue was the Soviet withdrawal from the Ten-Power Conference at a time when it seemed that some progress might have been made, despite the Summit failure of a day or two beforehand. But I feel that that was all part and parcel of the Soviet policy of blow hot, blow cold, what they themselves think must be an annealing process by which they will soften Western resistance and the resistance of free nations throughout the world.
I was extraordinarily interested to read the paragraph at the bottom of page 1 of the Labour Party's declaration on Berlin and Central Europe. I take the liberty of quoting the beginning of it:
The freedom of West Berlin is of vital concern and we must resist any proposal which threatens it.
I should like to learn from the party opposite what it means by that. Does "resist any proposal" mean resistance to the point of force in the defence of the Western sector of Berlin and under all circumstances—
Naturally, I cannot commit my own party, but under certain circumstances it might be necessary to use force in defence of the Western sector of Berlin. I do not think that we can put that right out of our minds. I hope that such a situation will never occur, but I can visualise that it might occur and that we might be honour-bound to use force in defence of our allies and eventually in our own defence.
These things are cumulative, as we know only too well from the days of Adolf Hitler, and I think that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) realises that as well as I do.
I now want to say a few words about the independent nuclear deterrent. There seems to be some very mixed ideas about what is meant by the word "independent". Because part, or even all, of a weapon is manufactured in another country, it does not necessarily mean that the user of it loses its independence to use it. That is the first point which we must remember.
It is not only a question of using it, but of obtaining it. If it is designed, developed and produced in another country quite outside our control legally and physically, how can it be said that we have independent control over it?
In a sense, the hon. Member is quite right. There is really no complete independence in these days, but what is the use of an alliance if we cannot borrow from each other's armouries? What is the use of an alliance if we cannot do that?
I put it this way. I would agree on every other thing but nuclear weapons. In the case of nuclear weapons, the whole case for having an independent deterrent was precisely to be independent of America. That being the whole case, it is a bit odd to say that it is independent when we have to borrow it from other people.
The hon. Member, as usual, looks at one tree and forgets that it forms only a little part of the whole wood. Shall we consider for a moment one particular weapon and take that as an example? Take Skybolt as an example, or any other.
I do not mind if it is a weapon of normal conventional artillery. The fact that one has it in one's armoury, no matter where it comes from, and the fact that one has sufficient ammunition to fire it and to continue to fire it until its purpose is fulfilled, makes it an independent weapon. There is no question of where it comes from. In the armaments trade people have been buying and selling, lending and borrowing for generations back, but that does not mean that they are dependent or independent. The mere fact that we have control over the weapon and sufficient control to be able to continue to use it as long as we want to do so makes it independent.
The hon. and gallant Member completely disregards the fact that the 106 mm. gun was supplied to us and to the Conservative Government on the specific undertaking that we would use it only for N.A.T.O. purposes, and, to their dishonour, the Government broke that undertaking. Do they imagine that the Americans do not remember that?
The hon. Member is trying to bring a red herring across the path. It is not a question of the terms of the control of the particular weapon. I would not say yea or nay to what he has said because I do not know whether he knows more about it than I do. That is irrelevant to my argument. The fact that we have a weapon under our control, even if we had stolen it, if we had sufficient ammunition to use and to continue to use it until such time as its purpose had been fulfilled, even if the ammunition were stolen, would make it an independent weapon. No one else could control its use, or prevent us from using it.
I want to give one more general example of that. For years Western European Union has been trying to standardise its armaments by buying, selling, lending and borrowing between the member nations. It has not got very far in that, but it has made some progress. The fact that it is doing that does not make the contributions to W.E.U. dependent or independent because the weapons are manufactured by or subject to royalties in other countries than those in the Union.
From there I go to the question of the United States position in this problem of nuclear armaments. To me it is quite unacceptable that the United States should be the only wielder of nuclear force in the Western Alliance. She may be the principal supplier of these nuclear devices. I for one, and I think many others on both sides of the Committee, would prefer that others in the alliance should also be capable of manufacture and supply of those particular weapons. Monopolies are never healthy in armaments or other business. It is equally unacceptable to me that the United States should be the only ally capable of launching nuclear weapons. It gives her a potential veto on defensive action, using nuclear weapons in Europe or by her allies anywhere else in the world. That means that Europe could be expendable.
It also means that other quarters where we have these defensive alliances could be written off by some future United States Government as expendable. I think that would be a very dangerous situation. I grant that in certain specific cases the United States already has the key to the cupboard where certain systems are concerned, but there is nothing to say that she has the key to all the cupboards and I should be very sorry to see such a state of affairs occurring.
From there I want to move speedily to the question of Germany—
I have given way so much and I do not want to prevent others getting in to the debate. I want to complete my speech.
I do not think for a moment that it is desirable, or would be acceptable to many people in Europe, that Germany should manufacture these nuclear weapons for herself, but I add a very big "but" to that. Germany within N.A.T.O., as one of our partners in this alliance, must have every appropriate weapon that is available.
In this, or in any other effective alliance, we cannot have first-class and second-class membership. We are all the same. Provided the alliance is strong and closely knit, no danger should come from that.
In that respect, one has to consider most carefully the position of the allied commanders. They are essentially international commanders and must never feel themselves to be subject to overriding instructions from elsewhere. We are emerging into this ballistic missile phase of warfare which confronts us with quite a different set of circumstances. This makes the position of the supreme allied commander in any theatre even more difficult. In years gone by, and even in the present time, piloted aircraft, whenever they have been dispatched on their missions, could for quite a considerable time be recalled; ballistic missiles cannot. That makes all the difference.
There are two essentials of control in this respect, the occasions on which these weapons are to be used and the targets against which they should be used. I think there must be two further limits: first, the lowest limit, the one to prevent some possibly trigger-happy military commander from pressing the trigger far too soon, and, secondly, a limit to try to avoid the other extreme. I can visualise in circumstances of broken communications a commander doing nothing because he has received no orders. Under these sort of conditions, blitzkrieg tactics could make a walkover and that would be equally dangerous.
I do not think that it is any good making categorical statements of policy on being the first or the last to use the H-bomb. I do not think that any good can come of that. When the first H-bomb explodes eternity will know that the whole policy of the deterrent has failed, and we shall not ourselves be long alive after that to recognise it. We must leave ourselves free in this respect, but we must all along understand that once we have reached the stage at which these weapons are likely to be used, our defence policy has failed.
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend entirely in what he said, as far as he went, about inter-continental ballistic missiles, but does he not agree that we might well draw a third conclusion—namely, that there is an even stronger case for our relying as much as possible in the future on manned aircraft rather than on inter-continental ballistic missiles?
I must say that I had some difficulty in discovering what the speech by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon) was all about, although in one particular I found myself in agreement with him. I do not think that the independence of a deterrent turns so much on whether we make the vehicle ourselves or whether we buy it from someone else; it depends on whether we have it. If somebody tries to deter me with a pistol, I do not know that either the freedom of his choice or its effectiveness on me will be influenced much by whether he made it in the back kitchen or bought it from a shop. But the hon. and gallant Member failed to observe where his argument took him, because he went on a little further to say that the Americans have the key to some of these deterrents and they have not to others. The Americans have the key, and whenever they have been in a position to have the key, they have kept it.
He went on to say that he would never agree to the Americans having complete control of this great weapon because then they might write off Europe. From the American point of view the approach is, "If we do not have complete control of this major deterrent, then the British can force our hand". They do not intend to have their hand forced. Our independence is a subtraction from theirs. It does not depend on whether we buy Skybolt or whether we do not. It depends on whether we get Skybolt. If Skybolt is an effective weapon, then I can assure him that we shall not get it. The Americans have an effective weapon in Polaris. It exists, and they have refused to let us have it. They have refused to let us have it precisely because it exists, and when Skybolt exists there will be a reason why we should not have it, too.
I thank the hon. and learned Member for making again a very salient part of my speech, but I do not follow him so far as to say that when weapons become effective in their development stage, the Americans always refuse to give them to others or to sell them to others. History is full of instances in which quite the reverse is true.
Let us make clear what the right hon. Gentleman did deny. He denied that the Americans had refused to supply us with a Polaris submarine. That is a very different thing. I challenge him to deny this: he asked whether, if we built a submarine, the Americans would provide Polaris to arm it, and the Americans refused. Will he deny that? It is not enough for the Minister to shake his head. Let us get it on the record.
I will put it on the record with pleasure. I have no wish to disturb the very close relations which exist between the Government and the United States Government or between myself and the United States Secretary of Defence. I therefore want to make it quite plain, as I have made it plain several times before, that I was not authorised when I left this country to make any bids or offers for Polaris missiles, in or out of submarines. I did not make any and therefore I was not refused, and I do not believe that the possibility of refusal existed.
If Polaris were available to the right hon. Gentleman, why on earth did he not buy it? This is a weapon which is in existence. It is a weapon ideally suited to our purposes on this island. It is a weapon which we can mount on submarines, which are well-nigh invulnerable. It does not have to be placed on aeroplanes moving in and out of vulnerable airfields. Above all, here is something which exists. Did my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Strachey) wish to intervene?
If my hon. and learned Friend will be good enough to look at The Times of 17th February he will see that it reproduces the statements made by the then Minister of Defence in the Press Conference in February last year. The then Minister of Defence seriously questioned the Polaris and said that it would be extremely costly, that it was unlikely to remain undetectable and that its movements could be closely watched by an enemy. We have never been told by the present Minister of Defence whether he stands by his predecessor's statement.
That was a statement made at a time when the Government were looking for an excuse for not getting Polaris. The true reason is that the Americans will not let us have it. If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, he was not authorised to buy it, it may be that the question of an American refusal was not reached, but the reality is that this was not available to us. It will not be available. Obviously it is not in America's interest to have us able to use atomic weapons independently of her.
In exactly the same way, it is not in our interest to see these terrible atomic and hydrogen weapons spreading into other nations. Every large member of the atomic club—we, although very junior partners, are still in the atomic club—wants to constrict the membership, constrict the independence, and limit the people who can take this tremendous decision.
The Americans feel exactly the same way and, not unnaturally, it is in their interest to keep the atomic decision within the West in their hands and nobody else's. That is the reason why we are to cease to have an independent nuclear weapon, not because we have bought it, but because we have not bought it and are not going to buy it.
I turn now to the Minister's speech. I do not know whether it was worse for its complacency, for its evasiveness or for its offensiveness. We have had eight Ministers of Defence, and after hearing the right hon. Gentleman today I hope that we have struck rock bottom. My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) said that the main blame for this situation rests on the Prime Minister. There is a great deal of truth in that. Certainly a formidable measure of the blame rests on the Prime Minister, but it goes further back than that. When this Government came to power in 1951 when the Korean War was on they inherited from us a defence policy. They scrapped that defence policy, not because they had felt it too large to be necessary, not because they had ever questioned its need, but quite simply because they recognised that they could not perform that defence programme in a peace economy. Under a free enterprise economy it was not possible to perform the defence programme which they inherited.
Having to choose between the controls and State interference necessary in a war economy or the safety of the country as they had recognised it, the Conservative Government chose their ideological preferences. They preferred to free the economy, the opportunities, and economic choice, at the expense of scrapping a defence programme the necessity of which they had recognised.
Peace eventually emerged in Korea. It might have looked as if they had got away with it, but in fact they had made a choice which has proved to be irrevocable. They have sacrificed the realities of defence. From then onwards they have not been much interested in anything except a façade.
That is not new. With decadent Governments and decadent peoples we have seen the realities of defence surrendered for their appearances. The armies of Mexico which Cortes met had trumpets, fireworks and terrifying masks. There was the same sort of thing in China in its decadence. Now again we are seeing the appearance of defence time and again being preferred to its reality. There is a bluff, a pretence, and a playing about with things like Skybolt and things which are supposed to terrify. But the realities—the rifles our soldiers need, the mobility, the effectiveness, faith and will of an effective force—have all been sacrificed to these vain appearances.
I turn now to the deterrent, or whatever it may be called. There are three quite separate conceptions. There is, first, the conception of counter-force. That is the power of the West to knock out the Russians before they can hit back. That was the basis of the American defence conception for a long time. It was the basis of U2, because if there is to be a counter-force policy it is absolutely essential that there should be continual reconnaissance to identify every objective that must be destroyed if the enemy is to be disarmed.
With the abandonment of the U2 after one came down and Eisenhower lost his nerve, "counter-force" conception has disappeared. It would probably have disappeared anyway, because the time in which either side could knock each other flat had probably gone. However, with the abandonment of the U2 "counter-force" went.
Now we come to the deterrent, which is quite different. The deterrent is that which remains after the other man has struck. Nobody is deterred by what he can destroy. He is deterred by what he cannot destroy. Thor forms no part of the deterrent. It never has. It may have had a rôle to play in the counter-force, but it can never deter, because the Russians have only to press a button and Thor disappears. It is within the range of their rockets. A near miss puts it out of operation. It is within the capacity of the Russians to put it out of operation any time they wish. That is not the deterrent. The deterrent is that which can survive everything that the Russians can do and then hit them.
Finally, there is the conception of the independent deterrent. As my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) pointed out, "independent deterrent" means nothing except independence of America. We are seriously being asked to believe that America proposes to give us that independence after we have lost it, after we have abandoned Blue Streak as something beyond our means.
Are we insane enough, are the Americans insane enough, are the Russians insane enough, to give a single extra person independence with the atomic weapon? Anyone who has the power to deny atomic capacity to another will exercise that power.
Those are the main points which I wish to make. We have requirements. We require a mobile force. The force of the United Nations has been congratulated for its speed. I am rather struck by the fact that Mr. Hammarskjoeld with his mixed bag seems to be able to move a jolly sight quicker than our integrated force did at Suez.
We require a mobile force. The Royal Air Force? This island is indefensible, and we know it. Do we seriously think that we are again in a world in which we cart wander round bombing places? The R.A.F. matters in so far as it can deliver troops M a critical position. The Navy? Do they really think that we shall have a prolonged submarine war, and that, if we did, we could conceivably win it? The Navy's rôle today is equally the rôle of delivering troops at a critical place where quick intervention is vital.
These are the rôles, and they are a single one. It is quite ludicrous to have three Services. We have passed into the phase where the whole thing ought to be a single Service. I shall, if I may, give an example of the sort of extravagance that this empire-building within the Services has built up. Before the 1914–18 war, and between the wars, our peacetime forces have been very much the same—a little smaller before 1914, a little more between the wars. But what of the administration? We had 6,000 civil servants in 1911, 43,000 between the wars, and 124,000 now. Those 124.000 civil servants do not include any productive people, such as dockyard workers and the like. This is straight administrative service—6,000, 43,000. 124,000.
I do not believe that this sort of empire-building, Parkinsonian extravagance is in the least necessary, or that it need occur. If, instead of looking for a pretence and a terrifying mask, this Government were getting down to thinking of what we really require in defence, without regard to how many marshals or admirals they had to sack, without regard to all the little private empires built up in the Forces, but seriously applying their minds to giving us the sort of force we require, we should have had occasion to be grateful to them. As it is, we have had years and years of waste, pretence, folly, incompetence and cowardice.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) was good enough to allow me to interrupt him, but he afterwards said something that suggested that he rather doubted my qualifications to do so. I would therefore start by saying that I consider myself fortunate to be able to intervene in this debate, because I have tried to study this great subject of defence for nearly thirty years, in war and peace, on active service and on the staff, and as a student at the Imperial Defence College. That does not make me an expert. The more we study these things, the more humble and diffident we become. I simply make the point that it is very difficult to understand this great problem unless there is a pretty sound background of study, which I know that I share with a great many other hon. Members.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) spoke very proudly of the Labour Party's declaration, "Foreign Policy and Defence". It is my intention to deal broadly with defence by making some comments on this declaration, which purports to cover, however thinly, the whole subject. It is right that this declaration should have some attention, because if one does not accent the Government's policy, the policy in this declaration is the only one with any chance, however slight, of coming in in its place. At the same time, I am perfectly aware that in the autumn it may be replaced by some even more asinine document. Nevertheless, it is all we have to go on at the moment.
It contains several examples of what might be called "draftsmanship," in that some of the more wildly contradictory statements are widely separated in the document. I want to begin with some of these. To begin with, in the section headed "Disarmament" it says:
in order to break through the deadlock a new British disarmament plan should be launched along the lines laid down last year in our joint declaration. 'The Next Step.'
Then, a good deal further on, occur these words:
We believe that in future our British contribution to the Western armoury will be in conventional terms, leaving to the Americans the provision of the Western strategic deterrent.
In other words, the first step in this initiative is the abandonment on our part of all effective armament. The attempt to exercise influence on disarmament is to be preceded by the scrapping on our part of the very force that gives us influence in the sphere of disarmament. We are to ensure the safety of Europe by the defection of the one European country that has a completely effective defence.
Having said that the Western deterrent is to be left to the Americans, the declaration goes on to say:
As for the smaller nuclear weapons which are now being developed for the support of ground forces, we believe that they too should continue to be manufactured exclusively by the Americans but deployed only under strict N.A.T.O. control.
Two paragraphs later it says:
We must also seek to obtain from the United States an undertaking that they will not use their strategic deterrent without the agreement of N.A.T.O.
So, having placed the entire burden of Western defence on the Americans, we now propose to dictate to them how they should do the job. If this ludicrous policy were adopted, the Americans might well listen to France, but they would not listen to us.
Then there is a further piece of cement for Anglo-American solidarity. The declaration says:
The arguments which the Government has used to show the vulnerability of Blue Streak apply with even greater force to the Thor missiles. We therefore continue to be opposed to the establishment of these missile bases in Britain.
A fine contribution to the Western Alliance, remembering that, as was very very rightly said in the Sunday Times last Sunday, these American bases are part of a joint defence system for the advantage of the entire Western Alliance. In parenthesis, I should like to reflect what my right hon. Friend said about Thor. Why on earth is it supposed that because Blue Streak was to be vulnerable in 1965, Thor is equally vulnerable in 1960? It is a typically sloppy piece of thinking, no doubt put in to please someone or other.
We now move further into the realms of make-believe when we read:
At present the N.A.T.O. armies in Europe are perilously dependent on nuclear weapons. We regard this as both wrong and dangerous.
A little further down, we read:
The new strategy would require that N.A.T.O. forces should be effectively equipped for conventional defence and in this task we must play our full rôle.
There is a national figure known as Colonel Blimp who, as a rule, I believe, gets less than justice, but one of his less attractive characteristics is that he wants to prepare for the next war with the weapons of the last war but one. In
that respect, the new Colonel Blimp is none other than the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), who, I am sorry to notice, is not in his place. Those of us who have tried all our lives to study defence had at one time a great respect for the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge and courage in these matters, but how he could bring himself to accept this drivelling nonsense passes belief—
No. Do not let the hon. Gentleman try to make me nervous; he will not succeed.
Conventional weapons indeed! Are they going to buy horses for the cavalry?
Thirty thousand horse and foot going to Table Bay.
That is the sort of thing—a not altogther inappropriate quotation, since there are some hon. Members opposite who apparently would sooner threaten South Africa than deter aggression from somewhere else.
There has been issued as a companion piece to the Labour Party's defence declaration this document which I hold in my hand—not one of the happiest products of Transport House and not one of which hon. Members opposite should be proud. It is a dreary mixture of slander and rather unfunny burlesques. But there is in the document a series of questions and answers which deal with one point among others. The point is made—and it certainly needed to be made—that since we already have a nuclear deterrent it would not at once be scrapped, but that it would merely be run down. That is a gross deception. Who is to be deterred? Who is to be impressed by a wasting asset like that? Who is likely to find the money to keep a wasting asset like that going? This declaration is just barefaced unilateral nuclear disarmament.
I know that the hon. Gentleman has certain views, and I will not now take up the time of the Committee to give my opinion of them. I cannot think why Mr. Cousins cannot swallow it—but then he is a purist in these matters. If in one's determination to pull England down one is an absolute enthusiast for betrayal, I suppose one cannot even swallow this document.
That is not a point of order for the Chair. I think the Committee has taken the hon. Member's point, but it is not a point of order.
If I excluded Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, I certainly apologise.
The Observer described this declaration as sensible; not exactly wildly enthusiastic praise, but praise from that quarter is suspect anyway. The Observer, to its credit, eschews expediency in favour of principles, but the trouble is that its principles are nearly all wrong.
I thank the hon. Member for giving way at last. He has at least proved to the Committee that he can read. He made great play of the proposal, in the policy statement from which he read, to bring our conventional forces up to better strength. He seemed to think that it was absolute nonsense, and that conventional forces are unnecessary. Is he unaware that one of the main problems that face S.H.A.P.E. and SACEUR is that the Western Alliance has nothing like the thirty divisions of conventional forces which it is considered essential to have to hold the line in Europe? Does he think that the people at S.H.A.P.E. and SACEUR do not know what they are talking about?
The hon. Gentleman has missed the point of what I was saying, no doubt due to my lack of lucidity. I was discussing whether it would be right for this country to have no nuclear force at all.
I should like to refer to six jokes back of the hon. Gentleman, when he was being funny about forces going to Table Bay. It seems that despite his long sojourn at the Staff College, he does not know that it was a Conservative Government which committed this country to maintaining four divisions on the Continent of Europe until the end of the century.
I was not at the Staff College—I was not clever enough. I went to the Imperial Defence College. I think the hon. Gentleman still feels that I am against all conventional weapons. What I am talking about is whether this country should base its whole defence on them.
I now want briefly to discuss what is the Government's defence policy. As I understand it, it stands on three pillars. First, it grasps the nuclear nettle. It recognises that a major war, if there were one, would inevitably become a nuclear war. It recognises that we can no more ignore the hydrogen bomb than in the past we could ignore gunpowder or aircraft or electronics. It recognises also that nuclear weapons have made war less, and not more, likely. That is the first pillar—to grasp the nuclear nettle without fear.
The second pillar is to cleave to the Western Alliance and to play our full part in it. The third pillar is that we shall seek peace and disarmament—and they are not necessarily the same thing—through strength, because twice in this century we have discovered the futility of seeking them through weakness. Of course, our forces must be balanced. In so far as it is possible to distinguish conventional forces from others, we need them for special commitments in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. There are fine careers for able, vigorous and adventurous young men in all three fighting Services. But the central part of our defence, without which all the rest would be meaningless, must be a nuclear striking force which, in spite of all that has been said on the benches opposite, we now possess with enormous power. I say that with absolute belief.
The necessity for this central part of our defence, the nuclear striking force, rests on three reasons, the first two of which, I think, will be accepted as axiomatic. First, if one is to defend oneself, one must equip oneself with the latest and most powerful weapons that one can afford. Secondly, we could not afford the vast armies, navies and air forces that would be necessary if we were crazy enough to confine ourselves to so-called conventional weapons and still attempt to make anything like the contribution that we now make to the deterrent. Thirdly, our possession of an independent deterrent gives us a great political advantage which it is essential to retain if British influence is to be maintained.
Much has been said about our not being independent if we have Skybolt. It is very easy to quibble with words in this respect, but let us get the matter in perspective. If we have Skybolt, one part of one of our weapons will be purchased from overseas. To that extent I accept that there will be a loss of independence. But may I remind the Committee that the United States of America is dependent on bases in other people's territories—bases, incidentally, which according to this declaration hon. Members opposite would like to deny them.
It is not a question of war or peace. It is a question of freedom or slavery.
Those who oppose nuclear armaments are so blinded by emotion that they simply cannot understand the theory of the deterrent. Even those who understand the theory frequently do not always understand the importance of operational control. I said on another occasion:
We know that Russia can demolish us. She knows that we, on our own, can inflict sufficient damage on her to make aggression not worth while, even if the United States are not involved."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March. 1960: Vol. 618, c. 1516.]
Defence is still the first duty of Government. Salus populi suprema lex. Unless we get it right, all our other efforts, individual and national, will come to naught. Unless we get it right, those who are young will not grow old in freedom. They may grow old without war, but they will not grow old in freedom.
I have ventured to quote some humble words of my own. I will finish by quoting something incomparably greater. The right hon. Gentleman whom I am now privileged to call my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), wrote these words:
Short of being actually conquered, there is no evil worse than submitting to wrong or violence for fear of war. Once you take the position of not being able in any circumstances to defend your rights against the aggression of some particular set of people, there is no end to the demands that will be made or to the humiliation that must be accepted.
It is because I believe that to be as true today as it was on the day it was written, because I believe it to be eternally true, that I urge the Committee to reject this attack upon the Government's policy with the contempt it deserves.
I find the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard) rather alarming, chiefly for the light it throws on the Imperial Defence College. If that College really believes that what is said in the Labour Party's statement is nuclear disarmament, then it is time that the Minister of Defence looked into what goes on there. It is really the equivalent of not knowing the difference between the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head), and most people in the House of Commons have learned, after some difficulty perhaps, to distinguish between them after being in the House for quite a short time.
The Minister spoke of the dangers in the world and he exhorted us to look round on them with calm, with reason, and so forth. Can he really think that the Government's defence policy is either lessening the dangers or protecting us against them? The Government's defence policy, over the years, has not been notable for its great calm, reason and coherence. After all, the world today is dominated by certain enormous powers, Russia, America, China soon, and possibly Europe. Quite candidly, we are not on that scale. Last year, the Americans spent £4,300 million on rocketry alone. That is the scale of their effort.
Is it really suggested that we should attempt to keep up with them? Of course not. Then what is suggested? What is suggested for this country which cannot supply rifles to its Territorial Army? The "exciting" statement made by the Secretary of State for War today was to the effect that one or two Territorial battalions might have a rifle to look at. If they were good, they might even be allowed to fire it, but there is no question of their being equipped with it.
I notice that the Government's language has changed during the various debates we have had. They used to talk about the British independent deterrent. They now talk about an independent contribution to the Western deterrent. I am not quite sure what the significance of that is. I hope it means something. What could it mean? The whole argument for a British deterrent used to be that it was independent. If we are now merely to make a contribution to a general Western deterrent, do we add to the strength of that deterrent? Is the possession by this country of Sky-bolt likely to make any great difference to the Russians? If our possession of Skybolt is in any case to depend upon our being given the essentials of it by the Americans, can it really be called an independent deterrent at all?
I entirely agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman. This seems to be the whole case for a Western deterrent. I absolutely accept his point, which, I think, is a devastating one for his own Government.
There is a sense in which we might make a contribution, the sense spoken of by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) in the debate on Blue Streak. He said:
I believe, therefore, in a contribution to the alliance in this sense—not a contribution in the sense of weight of hitting power but a contribution in technique, in thought. That is the kind of contribution which we have made in the field of nuclear warheads. I assert as a matter of historical fact that that has led to a tightening of the Anglo-American Alliance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th April, 1960; Vol. 622, c. 280.]
Just to interpose there, I must say, in reply to the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central, that I really do not believe that the French Government have greatly enhanced their prestige in the world by letting off some sort of nuclear device
in the Sahara, and I very much doubt whether the high influence of the Germans in the world is seriously impaired by the fact that they have not yet made hydrogen bombs.
In my view, therefore, we can make a contribution, as the right hon. Member for Hall Green says, in technique or thought, but I do not believe that we can make a significant independent contribution to the Western deterrent, and I do not believe that it is necessary.
I greatly welcome the conversion of the Labour Party to this point of view. When I advanced it some years ago, I got into rather hot water on this side of the Chamber——
Not from the more enlightened, liberal wing of the Labour Party, but from some of the die-hard members who were at that time dedicated to a different view. Now, the Opposition have abandoned that view, and I welcome the conversion, but I hope that it is firm and lasting. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition used to make out a very cogent case for a really independent deterrent, on lines which have been referred to today, that is to say, that we needed it, to put it candidly, to ensure that we were not abandoned by the Americans. On 1st April, 1957, he said:
I think it is as well to restate this. We felt that a situation might conceivably arise in which Soviet Russia might threaten us in some way or other and in which we then, faced with this threat, had to turn to some future American President and Congress who might—one cannot be sure of this—not be too well disposed to us. We might have to say to them, 'Will you now please threaten to use the ultimate deterrent? We have not got it.' Could we be sure in those circumstances that the American President and Congress would be prepared to risk the wholesale destruction of American cities merely to meet our point of view…?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st April, 1957; Vol. 568, c. 71.]
I regard that as a powerful argument, but, if it was a powerful argument in 1957, it remains a powerful argument today. I am not quite certain about the Labour Party's present position on this. Have hon. and right hon. Members changed their policy simply because the Government have not provided the deterrent? If, for instance, they had been in office and, as a much more
capable Government, they had produced an effective Blue Streak, or if, again, at some future date, the Government provide a satisfactory deterrent or if it becomes possible for countries to manufacture deterrent weapons within their capabilities, would the Labour Party say that Britain should have its own independent deterrent?
For my part, I say "No". I believe that the Western Alliance stands or falls together. I believe that the idea of each country defending itself within the Alliance is completely out of date. I do not believe that our contribution to the deterrent frightens the Russians, and I believe that our most useful contribution can be made in what are called conventional arms. I should like to see this country take a stand on N.A.T.O. being built up with conventional arms. Incidentally, I did not quite understand the Minister's view about this. He spoke as though we should not talk about N.A.T.O. policy until it had all been discussed through the proper machinery. Surely, the machinery will never start until Governments put forward proposals for it to consider.
In my view, the proposal we should put forward is that there should not be nuclear arms sited forward in N.A.T.O. but we should build it up with conventional forces to enable it to do just what the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central rightly says we should be able to do, that is to say, resist attack. If we have no means in Europe of resisting any attack from the East except nuclear weapons, there is a very grave danger that people will revolt against that and that such an attack will not, in fact, be resisted. It is because I should like to see N.A.T.O. in a position to resist attack by conventional weapons that I should like to see it armed in such a way that it can do so without relying entirely upon the nuclear deterrent.
We must have that as well. We must have a Western deterrent which deters, we hope, the ultimate nuclear war. But there is always the danger that one may have in the Middle East or Europe a situation in which conventional war breaks out, and it would be disastrous if all that the West could do in that situation was either to threaten or to drop nuclear bombs.
I now wish to say a word about disarmament. I believe that defence and disarmament are linked. I accept the position that we want to maintain a nuclear balance overall and within that to try to scale down armaments and make some practical advance in mutual disarmament. I do not believe that there was ever very much hope of an overall agreement about disarmament being reached at Geneva. I do not think that the political conditions for it exist. What we ought to be looking at is practical work in which the experts gradually get together and in which at any rate some fields of the present competition in armaments are tackled and some of the tensions perhaps relaxed. I attach great importance to keeping on with the negotiations over nuclear tests.
Incidentally if there is any difficulty about the constitutional position of the Americans in this matter, as I understand there may be—that is to say, by the Constitution of America they may be unable to allow the Russians to see the nuclear devices which they wish to explode underground to find out whether the tests can be detected—why do we not offer to have some of the tests in the Commonwealth?
I believe, too, that the Government should look again at the various proposals for disengagement. It is impossible for any back bench Member to say in detail whether this or that is possible, but the general idea of some disengagement in Germany should not be allowed to disappear entirely from our ken.
Lastly, there is Berlin. Berlin may not be a matter for disarmament, but it is a very dangerous spot in Europe. Whoever it was who asked the question whether we would defend Berlin was wittingly or unwittingly, touching a very delicate nerve, because as time goes on—I say it with regret, but it ought to be said—there will be less and less inclination to fight for Berlin. Therefore, I believe we should try to associate in some way the United Nations with the situation in Berlin. Otherwise, if we allow it to drift on, the position will become less and less realistic. My own fear is that we may reach a position in which Berlin falls, so to speak, simply because the West is no longer prepared to maintain it. I do not want that—I wish to make this clear—but I believe that that is the ultimate danger.
I welcome the movement which has taken place in opinion in this country. I would draw to the attention of the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central the curious fact that not only is the view that this country cannot compete in major nuclear weapons with Russia or America held by the Observer, really a respectable paper—in spite of the views propagated about it at the Imperial Defence College it is an intelligent paper—but this policy is supported to a great extent by The Times and the Economist. It is also supported by at least one ex-Minister of Defence and one ex-Minister of Supply. I must warn the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central that he is sitting over a very dangerous subterranean movement in the Tory Party. If he is not careful he will be found still defending the British deterrent while the Tory Party has folded its tent—
I find myself in agreement with one or two of the points made by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I should like to examine them in detail a little later in my speech. Meanwhile I hope he will not think I am paying him an excessive compliment when I say that I think his party has a better shadow Minister of Defence than the Labour Party.
There are one or two subjects about which I will not talk. I will begin by enumerating them. The first is rockets, because I think that enough, or possibly even too much, has been said on that subject already both in the House of Commons and outside it. The second is the defence policy of the Labour Party, because I do not think that until after the Labour Party Conference has been held we can really tell what that is, and possibly not even then. I noticed that the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) was also very careful to keep off it.
What I am going to talk about is what I think really matters—namely, conventional forces, the men on the ground, because I am convinced that that is what we really need and what matters most of all.
In 1958, the Government proclaimed in their White Paper that we were poised between total war and total peace. I believe that assumption, on which our defence policy has been based for the last three years, to be totally erroneous. It seems to me that there is at the present time very little likelihood of total war—and I am very glad of that—and no chance whatever of total peace. I think that what we can look forward to—if that is the word—is a long period of cold war. Surely that must by now be clear to almost everybody. Surely that is clear from everything that is happening in the world today—from Cuba to the Congo.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister wrote a letter to Mr. Khrushchev in which he said that he could not understand what Mr. Khrushchev's purpose was. It seems to me that Mr. Khrushchev has thrown some light on that already. He threw some light on it when he said the other day:
We will make the imperialists dance like fish in a frying pan.
I want to see the Red Flag flying over the whole planet with my own eyes in my own lifetime.
Judging by the applause from my constituent sitting opposite, I am afraid that he is not going to vote for me after all.
Mr. Khrushchev talked a great deal about competitive co-existence, peaceful co-existence and so on. I am sure that that is what he wants. What is interesting is his own definition of it as given to a Soviet audience at Novosibirsk not long ago when he said:
Competitive co-existence means the continuation of the struggle without war.
Mr. Khrushchev thinks of it, quite rightly, in terms of "the struggle", and that is how we should think of it. When it comes to divining what his purpose is. there is no doubt about it. We are told out of Mr. Khrushchev's own mouth that that is his purpose.
I believe that that is the threat that we have to face, a threat of continuous and ubiquitous subversion and infiltration; of constant military, economic and political pressure; a threat of brush fires being fanned by what the Prime Minister has called "the wind of change" into a burning, fiery furnace. If we are to stand up to that threat and hold our own against it in the world, what we need is not so much rockets or missiles as adequate conventional forces—men on the ground.
The question we should ask ourselves in this Committee today is: Are we going to get the men we need? That is the question that some of us on both sides of the Committee have been asking anxiously for the past three years ever since the Government announced their intention of abolishing conscription. I was amused at the righteous indignation of the right hon. Member for Belper at the belated discovery that there is something the matter with the Government's defence policy, a policy which the Opposition Front Bench have been supporting loyally for the past three years in spite of the persistent and I would say enlightened criticism from the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and a number of us on this side of the Committee.
Quite frankly, I do not believe that we shall get the men we need. The Army bears the brunt of the cold war. That is something we should never forget. Three years ago or more, when the strength of the Army was in the region of 400,000 men, it was decided after long deliberation by the Hull Committee, under General Hull, and consisting of a lot of highly qualified experts, that the lowest figure to which the Army could be safely reduced, if it was to fulfil its commitments, was rather over 200,000 men.
That figure was brushed aside by the new Minister of Defence and the strength of the Army fixed quite arbitrarily at 165,000 men. That figure was arrived at in one way and one way only. It was nothing more than an optimistic guess at the number of men that we might, with luck, be able to raise by voluntary recruitment. It was not what was needed but what could be got. I do not pretend to have any particular knowledge or to speak with any particular authority on this subject, but I was impressed by
someone who could speak with perhaps more authority than anyone else in this country, Field Marshal Lord Harding. He referred to that occasion in another place last week as
The grave mistake that was made in 1957."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 13th July, 1960; Vol. 225, c. 219.]
That was in April, 1957. By February, 1959, two things had happened. First, it had become clear to those concerned that 165,000 men was nothing like enough, and, secondly, that the Ministers concerned, in a fit of optimism or possibly of wishful thinking, had come to the conclusion that they might, if lucky, be able to raise a few more men.
And so the target, or ceiling, was raised to 180,000. It was still, as I would point out, not the number needed to fulfil our commitments, which was, as we know, 200,000 or more, but it was a figure which once again, with luck, could be got. So far as I know, and it was confirmed as recently as March last by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, that figure of 180,000 still remains the target. But then Ministers have been optimistic all along. Ministers even offered as much as 10 to 1 on their getting the recruits they needed. Ministers have been offering to eat their hats if they did not. My advice to Ministers, particularly to the Service Ministers, is not to offer to eat their hats, which may very likely turn out to be bowler hats, and indigestible bowler hats at that.
Meanwhile, in order to make both ends meet, the Government have been frantically cutting down on their commitments and skimping or only half meeting their obligations. Everywhere oversew—as anyone who has any connection with the Army must know—units are under strength; platoons, companies, battalions, brigades and so on, all lamentably under strength, with all the additional strain on the men which that involves.
Everywhere spells of duty abroad are being extended. My right hon. Friend asked us in his speech to think of the men and women in the Forces. I would ask him 'to think of the Royal Horse Guards. After spending three years in conditions of great stress and strain in Cyprus, they came back to this country, only to be sent back again immediately to Where they bad come from. Meanwhile in Europe our contribution has been reduced from its original level and now is to be reduced again still further.
What possible basis could there be for such a policy? Presumably it is based on the assumption of the 1958 White Paper of total war or total peace. On the prospect of streamlined nuclear forces, including, presumably, that nebulous article the independent British deterrent, serving all purposes simultaneously. It was based, I suppose, on the prospect of early liquidation of most of our imperial commitments. Finally, and strangest of all, it was based on the prospect of early success art the Summit.
In fact, things have turned out very differently indeed. First we have been left behind, and badly left behind, in the rocket race. The idea of an independent British deterrent has been jettisoned by the Government. Some of our overseas commitments, it is true, have been liquidated, but only some. What it comes to is that even when we are trying to liquidate commitments it is very much harder to negotiate from weakness rather than from strength. Meanwhile, we have today the example of the Congo to give us a hint of what may well lie in store for us in Africa. Finally, the Summit Conference on which so much store was set was not a success but a most resounding failure.
In my view, the failure of the Summit does not, in fact, change anything. It certainly does not bring the hot war any nearer, just as the success, or apparent success, of the Summit would not have really made any difference to the continuation of the cold war. We have to realise that Russia's dislike of the hot war, a very understandable dislike, and Russia's equally understandable liking for the cold war and her desire to see us, as Mr. Khrushchev would say, "dance like fish in a frying pan," are constant factors in the world situation and likely to remain so for the rest of our life time.
What I believe recent events should have done is to cast some badly needed light on the facts of the situation and to make clear to everyone, or almost everyone, how completely unfounded is the assumption on which the Government's defence policy is based, namely, the assumption of total war or total peace, and to make clear to everyone that the time has come for a reappraisal,
however agonising, of our defence policy. As Lord Salisbury said in another place last week, it is indeed
a queer moment..to be disbanding our best troops."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 13th July, 1960, Vol. 225, c. 233]
What seems to me to make such a reappraisal of our defence policy all the more necessary is the deeply disturbing character of the latest recruiting figures. Despite all the pay increases—and the latest pay increase has had, as the hon. Member for Dudley knows better than I do, little or no effect on recruiting—despite all the assurances of Ministers that everything was going to be all right on the night, despite 'the cries of "defeatist" at any suggestion that things were not going too well over the last three years, it seems all too likely that even the miserable figure of 165,000 will not be reached, let alone the more optimistic figure of 180,000 or that of 200,000 which we all know is the only one that corresponds to reality.
Minister may continue to be optimistic, but the experts—the generals, the soldiers, the people who have made a lifetime's study of these things—are not. I draw attention once again to the letter, which already has been mentioned in this debate, from General Poett, which was recently reproduced in a leading article in The Times. I also draw attention once again to the recent speech in another place by Lord Harding.
This unsatisfactory recruiting trend is not altogether surprising. We are always being exhorted not to say anything that will upset or interfere with recruiting. Honestly I do not believe that most of the speeches made by back benchers in the House of Commons have much effect one way or the other on recruiting. What has much more effect upon it is what is said in the country and in the House by Members of the Government.
For the last three years, until one is sick of it, the talk has been of nothing but rockets and "streamlined nuclear forces." That is extremely bad for recruiting, because the subjects of this propaganda see the armed forces as nothing more than boffins pressing buttons. To the ordinary, healthy young man, that is not an attractive prospect. That is why the recruiting figures, not only for the Army but also, I believe, for aircrew, are not at all good. What we need—I repeat it once again—are men on the ground, trained soldiers in sufficient numbers to fulfil the duties that they are called upon to fulfil and units and formations that are up to strength and properly equipped. That is the direction in which the Government's sales talk should be directed.
To sum up, I do not believe that we can be sure of getting even 165,000 men. I did not much like what my right hon. Friend the Minister said when he expressed his opinion that we were "in sight" of the minimum requirement. One can see something a very long way off before one gets to it, if one gets to it at all. In any event, I do not believe that 165,000, or even 180,000, is anything like enough. The figure of 165,000, when it was fixed, assumed a drastic reduction of our troops in Germany and a quiet time everywhere else. But neither of those expectations has been fulfilled. The Government cannot now possibly reduce our N.A.T.O. contribution and Africa is anything but quiet.
I make no apology for referring once again to the speech of Field Marshal Lord Harding. He is a man who speaks with more authority than anyone else. He has served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff, and no one is more closely in touch with military opinion at all levels. What he said was needed was an army 200,000 strong. I profoundly believe that to be true. I also believe that there is only one way in which to get that number of men, and that is by selective conscription.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War gave some encouraging news about the Territorial Army, and I was delighted to hear it. I was delighted to hear that it was to be reorganised. I played some small part in reorganising the Territorial Army some years ago. I am also delighted to hear that it is to have better equipment. That is very good news. Nevertheless, I still do not think that this is in any way an answer to the manpower problem. What is needed is troops to hold positions. I do not see how that can be done by men who have ordinary careers and professions to pursue. If a man works at a gas works or as a plumber, how can he sit for three years in Cyprus? Nor, for that matter, can such men replace Regular troops for long periods in this country.
I hope that in saying that the only answer to this problem is a return to a measure of conscription, I may be wrong. I do not like the idea of conscription either from the general point of view or, indeed, from the military viewpoint. If, however, that is the only way in which we can get the troops that we need, we must face up to it.
And so I conclude by calling on the Government to repeat, and, if necessary, even to honour, the pledge which they gave in 1957, when they said that if voluntary recruiting failed to produce the number of troops required, they would resort once again to some form of compulsory service.
The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) has posed the other side of the dilemma of this country if it assumes that it must remain on a preparation-for-war footing against one-third of the world. Whereas the nuclear deterrent strategy is insane and suicidal, the hon. Member's remedy of relying on conventional forces to deal with the winds of change is impracticable and mistaken. I do not believe that the people of this country would stand for the idea of any form of conscription in order to use conscripts to put down revolutionary movements in other countries. I am certain that there would be a violent revolt against that from this side of the House of Commons.
I speak as a representative of those, who are already in a large majority in the Labour Party, who reject the nuclear deterrent strategy to which both Front Benches adhere. From my point of view, the difference between the two Front Benches on the issue of defence is like nothing so much as the old definition of the difference between a psychotic and a neurotic. The psychotic is certain that two and two make five. The neurotic suspects that two and two make four, but he cannot bear the thought. The Government cling to the nuclear deterrent strategy and delude themselves that we can be a nuclear Power taken seriously by the United States and, therefore, have something to say in the alliance.
For what the Americans think about that, I refer to the Observer of 17th April which contained a report from Washington summarising the opinion of the Pentagon, the Atomic Energy Commission and the experts on defence in Congress—that is, the U.S. brass-hats and power politicians. What they said about us was that they had always thought that our attempts at being a nuclear Power independently were a sop to our national pride and a tribute to our past. Nor would there be any sense in our trying to share in an overall Western deterrent, because we were too small, too near the scene of activities, would get no warning, and would all be wiped out by fall-out. "The best thing", said a Pentagon general who was quoted, "you can do when we no longer need British territory for our strategic air command bases is to cease being a target, because that is all you can ever be."
Parallel with that report there was another one in the U.S. News and World Review as to what the Americans think of our status as an ally. The report said that we were outsiders in Europe, where the balance of power is now held by Bonn and Paris, and a junior partner of the United States in world affairs. The United States has more wealth and more military power than all her allies combined. She has bases in their territories and supreme command of their forces, and as regards a good many of them, through the Mutual Security Programme, controls the pursestrings.
In those circumstances, naturally, the United States will take all the vital decisions unilaterally. If there is time we may be consulted, but mostly there would not be time. And of course when matters of life and death are involved the United States will put its own interests first and treat her minor allies as expendable.
It is no use blaming the Americans for that. That is the harsh logic of power politics. That is exactly how we should behave if the position were reversed. N.A.T.O. is not a charitable institution or even a democratic institution. It is a military alliance and a power-political combination, where the country with most of the power decides on the policies.
The Government refuse to recognise these facts. I understand that. The Tories are a little old-fashioned and a bit hazy as to what century they are living in. Most of them still see Britain clad in the shining armour of a first-class world power. The few who have noticed that this is not 1860 but 1960 have an emperor's clothes complex. They cannot see that the emperor is down to his G-string and that even the G-string has got a bit frayed.
Their idea of defence is chasing someone else's pie in the sky. That is what the Skybolt project amounts to. Nobody knows what the next United States Administration will do. It cannot be bound by the present Administration. The one thing we do know is that, whether the Republican or the Democratic candidate comes in, he is pledged to a greater defence effort than before, which means that the United States Air Force will get priority with Skybolts, if and when available, and we shall be lucky if we have any by 1970. The whole thing is hypothetical and remote in the extreme.
There are three facts, three awful realities, which really should be recognised. The first is that nuclear weapons embody the fact that man's malign genius has at last developed greater destructive power than his own capacity to survive. As a result, for whatever reason nuclear weapons were used, their use would be the greatest conceivable evil in any possible circumstances. The Government have paid lip-service to this idea. They have, if I may say so, come relatively clean about it, a sort of political off-white, appropriate to Ministers using the wrong deterrent. They have said in the 1957 Defence White Paper and in the pronouncements of subsequent Defence Ministers that as there is no defence against nuclear weapons it is essential to prevent war from ever breaking out, that once it has broken out we are sunk: "We are dead anyway". But instead of drawing the correct conclusion from that, which is that it is literally vital to have a policy for making peace, for putting an end to the mortal danger of the nuclear arms race, they say, "We are going to prevent war by preparing for it".
Therefore they call nuclear weapons deterrents and they call the nuclear destruction strategy a nuclear deterrent strategy. Of course, these are misnomers, misleading the country into thinking that if we pile up arms and get ready to use them at the drop of a hat we are preserving peace, "preventing" war. On the contrary, this policy produces a situation where sooner or later there will be a war, even when nobody wants to go to war, a situation where any diplomatic incident might turn into a catastrophe, into atomic annihilation by accident.
When we are told that we should go in for these brush fire wars to put down revolts and revolutions I counter by asking, should we have intervened in South Korea to put down the revolution there? Should we have intervened in Japan when Mr. Kishi was thrown out? Or should we have intervened in Iraq or in Turkey or in Cuba? We were right to say, "We will not intervene in the Congo". We were right to send troops only through the United Nations at the request of the Government in the Congo, and to exclude the troops of any of the great Powers or of any State with any colonial possessions.
Military power is quite irrelevant to dealing with the problems presented by the forces of social and colonial change in the world, and the price for being part of this set-up, part of the nuclear deterrent strategy, is complete subservience to the most powerful ally and annihilation without representation in defence of policies over which we have no control and with which we disagree. That is so whether or not we pretend to be a nuclear Power.
The leaders of my own party for a long time shared with the Government the delusion that on the strength of an output of nuclear warheads about 3 per cent. of that of the United States, and with no means of delivering them except obsolescent bomber forces, we could somehow share in the control of N.A.T.O. I am glad that that delusion has been abandoned by the leaders of my party. But as a result they have impaled themselves on the other horn of the dilemma. Because now they also are talking about more reliance on conventional forces. I do not believe that we can enlarge conventional forces without spending still more on armaments and without having some form of conscription. And I am quite sure that the people of this country will not stand for that. It would certainly be political suicide for the Labour Party to attempt to put that over.
The other aspect of this policy is that we are now invited to stay in N.A.T.O. on the basis of the United States having the monopoly of nuclear weapons. But only a few months ago, as late as 1st March, in the defence debate, the leader of my own party said that on that basis we should be in a position of helplessness and of unilateral dependence on the United States and unable to resist American policies being thrust upon us with which we disagreed and that could land us in war. That is in any case the position, whether or not we go on with the Government's policy of deluding themselves that we are a nuclear Power.
Whether or not we accept the position that we cannot be and are not a nuclear Power, the price of remaining in the American alliance, of remaining a loyal supporter of N.A.T.O., is complete subservience to American purposes and policies and the utter impossibility of carrying out any policy of our own.
A very good example of that is the recent communication from the Prime Minister to the Soviet Government, in which he uncritically accepted the American version of what had happened over the RB.47. He endorsed it immediately. He said that the Americans were never within 30 miles of the Soviet coast. But, after all, the Americans said a few days before that that they did not know where the plane was or what had happened to it. So that they obviously did not know its position or whether it was or was not within 30 miles of the Soviet coast.
The only thing we know about it is that the American version to the effect that this plane was on an investigation into electromagnetic disturbances in the Arctic zone was completely untrue. If that is all it was doing, it could have flown between Spitzbergen and Norway or between Spitzbergen and Iceland, instead of skirting the Soviet coast.
It is quite clear that this was some form of military reconnaissance mission. The Prime Minister virtually admitted that. He went even further. He alleged that if they had even flown over Soviet territorial waters it was wrong to have shot them down. But after all, a Soviet fighter had told them to land. They would not do it. The U.S.A. had had fair warning about what would happen to reconnaissance planes doing this kind of thing. I do not like these kinds of methods. I do not like Mr. Khrushchev borrowing a leaf out of the late Mr. John Foster Dulles's book and threatening massive retaliation with nuclear weapons at times and places of his own choosing, to deter minor aggressions with conventional arms. I think that that is wrong and that it is dangerous. But we cannot condemn it so long as we stick to the nuclear deterrent strategy and justify the Americans.
Yes. He said that long ago. He said it in the case when Mr. Dulles was threatening war over Quemoy; when pressed by the Leader of the Opposition to say that we were opposed to this kind of thing he said that it would be better to be wrong with America than to be right and stand alone. It is quite true that the Prime Minister is prepared to pay any price whatever in subservience to the United States for remaining in the alliance. He kids himself or tries to delude the people that he can be a mediator, a sort of fixer, between the Soviet Union and the United States, on the basis of sitting in the pocket of Uncle Sam. He cannot do it, unless he is prepared to stand on his own feet—and that goes for the Labour Party as well.
The only realistic policy is to say that we part company with the delusion that we can or should make or possess nuclear weapons, that we intend to clear out the American bases here, and that we will apply to the military alliances the principle that we will not be committed to war by allies who refuse to come to terms with us on how to make peace. That is not pacifism or isolationism. It is a policy of taking our stand on the United Nations Charter, which is based on the assumption that the permanent members of the Security Council have a common interest in peace.
The Prime Minister a year ago in Moscow paid lip-service to that idea and said that we had a common interest in peace. The first step in such a policy is to put a stop to this murderous nonsense of the nuclear deterrent strategy so far as we are concerned. The second is to put forward our own proposals for a settlement. The third is to be ready to negotiate on them with the U.S.S.R., whether or not some of our allies come in, and to bring any agreement reached before the United Nations General Assembly for approval as a basis of settlement The fourth is to say that, if and when the Soviet Union accepts our proposals for peaceful settlement as a basis of negotiation, any ally who refuses to negotiate on those terms can no longer claim to be the victim of unprovoked aggression under N.A.T.O., C.E.N.T.O., and S.E.A.T.O. and therefore is not entitled to British help. This is a policy on which we would gain such prestige and bargaining power in Moscow and Washington, and in public opinion all over the world. as to enable us to give an effective lead for peace.
I have waited a long time, but it has been worth waiting if only to say a few words in defence of the Labour Party policy. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) today put forward the case that he did, and made the plea that he did. I know only too well the agony that men whose lives have been devoted to the cause of peace must feel 'when they are brought face to face with these horrible realities. But we live, and if we are to survive we must face the facts of the world not as we would wish them to be but as they are.
It is a commentary on our affairs that I am the second successive speaker from this side of the Committee and there is a complete absence of hon. Members opposite. I do not regard that as any slight upon myself, although there is plenty of excuse because I have had many opportunities of speaking on defence and I shall say many things that I have said before.
The first fact that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have to face is that the policy announced in the 1957 Defence White Paper has failed in every detail. The country, the Government and the Labour Opposition have to face it. We on this side of the Committee have faced fairly and squarely the fact that the 1957 White Paper is finished. The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) made a point which I have often made myself, that the foundation of the policy, the first paragraph of the 1958 White Paper, can no longer be defended.
The idea that the world stands poised between total war and total peace is disposed of. One has only to look at the world—at Cuba, the Congo, Mr. Khrushchev's speeches, the happenings with the U2 and the R.B.47. These certainly show that we are nowhere near total peace. We have to accept that. Hon. Members opposite, for a variety of reasons, cannot bring themselves to do so. It would not be so bad if that were true only of back benchers. The Minister of Defence made a speech today which politically could be justified, because he was probing all the time at what he thought were the Labour Party's weak spots, but which from a defence point of view was tragic.
The right hon. Gentleman has invented a gimmick of his own. Presumably, he has been reading Mr. Priestley on experiments with the time-scale and he has got stuck with the time-scale. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman were here now, because one can learn from the look on his face when one says these things. He applies the time-scale of Blue Streak to every piece of hardware, but when we want to apply it to manpower and we ask whether the winning post is 1963 he keeps absolutely mum. There is not a word from him. The right hon. Gentleman has come to the office a little late. He has net had the advantage of serving in the Army. Unfortunately for him, he served in the Navy and that is not a substitute. The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard) has also obviously missed that experience and he has clearly not read the 1957 White Paper. Does he not know what it says about the V-bomber?
It was not my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper or my hon. Friends who said that there was net to be a successor to the V-bomber. It was not my hon. Friends who said that there was to be no successor to the fighter. It was not my hon. Friends who said that they were putting all their money on Blue Streak. It was the Minister of Aviation. It was he who committed the Government to the production of an atomic force. He said that we did not need V-bombers any more.
I agree that in their sphere they are powerful engines of destruction, but they are not quite as powerful as the hon. Member for Norfolk, Central would have us believe, even though he attended the Imperial Defence College. There are 200 V-bombers, and 100 of them are Valiants which are pretty old by modern standards. In any case, even if they are of the Mark II type and capable of doing their job they would still not be 5 per cent. of American atomic potential.
I need not labour the point. I have a quotation here which I think sums up the Government's atomic policy, the whole spectrum of the atomic philosophy. It is from a very gallant soldier whom the Secretary of State for War knows very well. General Cowley made a speech to the Royal Institute in November, and may I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on defending him? If rumour does not lie, the late Minister of Defence was after his blood and he tried to stop him becoming Master-General of the Ordnance, but he is now the Master-General.
Let us see what he said about the atomic philosophy, and this is not a year but eight months ago. He put it into verse which reads:
I also have a plan to spend a thousand million pound
To buy some guided missiles and hide them in the ground,
And then to clearly paint on each 'These things must not be used';
No wonder that our citizens are getting so confused.
That is the description by a distinguished Service officer given to the most distinguished Service audience in the country—so distinguished that I was not even admitted. He is still serving in a key position. That is what he thought. The poor chap got himself in a jam, became, like so many hon. Gentlemen on the benches opposite, at least in the early stages, he was a man with a high degree
of integrity and he had been reading the staff papers.
He first put forward for the approval of the Secretary of State for War a synopsis, and later, of course, his lecture was also submitted for inspection. The right hon. Gentleman doubtless read it, and approved it, and nobody thought that there was going to be any row because General Cowley's views were taken from current policy papers although it was not politically convenient to say so. He had known for a long time that Blue Streak was a dead duck, but, needless to say, with a General Election coming along the Government had not the guts to say so.
In November General Cowley came along with his verse and with his philosophy based on the simple fact that this country could not be an independent nuclear Power, and that, in the kind of world in which we live, if one runs into an atomic stalemate one is still left a long way on the side of hell, away from peace: The hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire was absolutely right. One has to fall back on one's own conventional forces.
The second point of the Minister's case was on equipment. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman was watching me at that point. I got excited because if at this stage a right hon. Gentleman, a member of the Cabinet holding a senior defence post, gets at that Dispatch Box and starts to give a list of equipment which includes the Sterling, the F.N. rifle, the Salad in and the Saracen and the like, at least he knows enough about me to know that I know that that means that some civil servant away in the dungeons has been asked to produce a list, and the Minister of Defence has not a cat in hell idea of what it all means. He just reads it.
Here, again, let me read something else, something which I have read to the House before, and I rely again on the authority of a serving officer. The report is not a year old. Again I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman because he has heard all this before. The Director of Munitions and Stores said:
The equipment to fight a war exists in the form of war Reserves.
Unfortunately at present we have no plan, anti therefore, no war Reserves to implement it. This needs some explanation. Plans have been forwarded. But in the strictly practical
sense a plan is no more than a piece of paper or an attitude of mind unless it can be translated physically into the stores, vehicles and ammunition necessary for its execution. This has not happened. For several years no decision has been made by the Ministry of Defence and Treasury which will enable equipment to be brought to bring our Limited War Reserves up to the level necessary to implement the latest tactical and strategic doctrine. It follows that the means to fight a Limited War are confined to what can he retained from the residue of an incomplete re-equipment programme which was stopped several years ago. This process is officially known as 'living on our fat'. We are not even supposed to make up deficiencies in Unit War Equipments from maintenance as this would mean earlier buying for peace maintenance. All operations, including Suez, have had to he equipped by improvisation using out of date, incomplete mobilisation packs and feverishly making scaled issues from stores left over from the last war. In relation to its small size and large commitments the British Army must be one of the worst equipped in the world. Yet the Treasury continues to urge us, with loud cries, to avoid over-insurance. It is rather like advising a starving man to avoid over-eating.
That was a statement made by Brigadier Fernyhough, the then Director of Munitions and Stores, and I have read to the House before. It means that that assurance from General Cowley and Brigadier Fernyhough destroys two points in the case made by the Minister of Defence.
Now let me turn to the third point. I could not make this point until the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Aviation arrived. I am glad that he is now with us. I gave him notice this morning that I had something to say about him, because if ever the House of Commons took to itself impeachment, it would impeach him, not because he is wrong—because in this game no one can be sure that he is right—but because he knew at least a year ago that both the recruiting programme and Blue Streak were out, and he continued to gamble with public money and with the defence of this country even though he knew that he was following policies that were bound to fail.
We have had some interesting utterances by the right hon. Gentleman and I propose to weary the House with one or two of them. He made this speech at the Royal Tournament. It was reported on 4th June, 1958. He there offered to lay 10–1 that he would get his recruits—then 165,000. Later on that year he made another speech at the Conservative Party Conference at which he said—I
need not add to loud and enthusiastic cheers—
This is largely the personal work of our leader and Prime Minister.
There we are, he and the Prime Minister, in happy combination, committed to this great defence policy which has failed.
Later on in his speech he said, "We are not suckers". Needless to say this was also again received with loud cheers. I ask my colleagues, particularly those who served on the Betting Bill, what they think of a man who wants to lay 10–1 on getting his recruits when the odds are at least 20–1 against. If he and the Prime Minister are not suckers, will somebody lead me to one?
We have been told over the months and over the years that the figure of 165,000 would be achieved for certain. A year ago when recruiting looked to be getting better and the Government were faced with the need for raising the establishment—after all we need to remember that battalions in Cyprus were asked to undertake active operations with establishments of only just over 600 men and the Secretary of State for War said that establishment had to be raised to 800—the figure that was then required was 182,000. We have been reminded today that Field Marshal Lord Harding gave a figure of 200,000. The right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) also referred to a figure of 182,000.
As recently as 12th November the Secretary of State for War said:
I can still give a confident answer to that question. I believe that the beginning of 1963—I base my thought on the evidence that we have had now over two years of the new terms of service—will find us with an army with a strength of at least 165,000 all ranks, which was the target set in 1957…we can fill the gap between our old target of 165,000 and our new one of 180,000."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November. 1959; Vol. 613, c. 624–5.]
There we were, last November, being told that the new target was 180,000, and that the right hon. Gentleman was confident of getting it. Then we had the present Minister of Aviation making a speech—which he was kind enough to send to me this afternoon, for quite another purpose. It is a hand-out of his speech of 29th June. He then said:
Our target for our future Regular Army remains unchanged at 165,000…".
He was hedging then. He knew by that time that he was faced with complete failure.
The story moves to last week, and here again I must draw the hon. Member's attention to a very curious thing. The Secretary of State for War made a speech at a luncheon of the Army League—another distinguished gathering—in which, for the first time, he admitted that the Government were not going to get their recruits. He said that they would not get 165,000 on 1st January, 1963. He went on to tell the gathering what was needed in the cold war—and I agree with every word he said on that. He then went on to outline the worldwide deployment to which our troops are committed—and again I agree with every word. But the point is that he knows what the consequences of the failure of his policy means. He also knows that the Government could never have sold this policy to their back benchers but for the existence of paragraph 48 of the 1957 White Paper.
On 22nd June of this year I asked the Minister of Defence—an honourable man—if the Government still stood by that policy. My right hon. Friend asked the same question this afternoon, and I ask it again now. We now have the Secretary of State for War admitting that we are not going to get the 165,000. He said that we should get it later in 1963.
In that case I must read what the right hon. Gentleman said at the luncheon to which I have referred. He said:
This is a grave and vital task and I would like now to say a few words about the sort of Army we need to fulfil it. The target which the Army has been set is to reach a voluntary strength of 165,000 by 1963 when the last National Service man will have left. In the view of the Government this is the figure which will enable the Army to meet its commitments as we now see them. But this would not be sufficient in the long term, for it could not provide that stability which is necessary for a peacetime Army dependent on volunteers. And so we have the higher target figure of 182,000. Let me tell you what the recruiting situation is now. Projecting forward the present trend of recruiting figures, we will reach 165,000 in the early days of 1963.
That is not 1st January.
As I pointed out, one of the gimmicks of the Minister of Defence is to refer to the time scale. If any question is raised concerning any hardware we must ask ourselves whether it will fit into the time scale. It was not I who tried to fit 1st January, 1963, into the time-scale. It was the Government, and they must now admit that their target will not be reached by that date.
Again I will go out on a limb and prophesy what will happen. There is a new force at work in the recruiting field. I am as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman that the target should be reached, but it is clear that, for the first time. a pay increase has not produced the necessary increased rate of recruiting, and the Committee needs to remind itself that the last National Service registration was in the early days of 1959. That being so, if the removal of National Service has removed a feeling of urgency from our young men, next January the rate of recruiting will fall still further. In view of the collapse of the Government's policy, down to the very last detail, surely it is now up to them, if they have to admit that they will not get the necessary recruits, to honour Paragraph 48 in the 1957 White Paper, which enabled them to get it through three years ago.
This has been an interesting debate. I hope that the Secretary of State for War will answer the extremely important question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg).
I want to broaden the scope of the debate. I do not think I can do better than start with some words of the Prime Minister which the whole House applauded yesterday. He said in his letter to Mr. Khrushchev:
If the present trend of events in the world continues, we may all of us one day, either by miscalculation or by mischance, find ourselves caught up in a situation from which we cannot escape."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 255–6.]
All of us felt that those words went to the very root of the problem with which we are confronted.
Most of us agree that the main responsibility for the trend to which the right hon. Gentleman referred lies with Mr. Khrushchev and the Governments which preceded him.
But can we be sure that we on this side of the world have no responsibility for the general trend which has dominated world affairs in the last ten years or so? I cannot escape the feeling that some military decisions, either taken by N.A.T.O. as a whole or by our own Government, have played their part in setting the general style of world policy which we all deplore. I do not believe that responsibility for these decisions lies with any original sin of the soldiers. The basic failure of Western policy is that we have not related our military decisions to their political context. The responsibility for this lies the whole time with the politicians, not with their military advisers. The politicians of the Western countries in the last ten years have increasingly abdicated their real duty to military technicians whose job is not to take decisions nor to decide ends but simply to advise on the best means by which to reach those ends.
One can see very easily the reason why we have fallen into this predicament. It has often been said in the House that military decisions must be taken five or even seven years before they can become effective. The result is that Governments are always finding themselves in a situation in which their freedom of action is limited by military decisions which were taken five or seven years before because the only hardware they have is that which they decided to get long ago.
In summing up, I do not want to deal with the technical arguments against the Government's defence policy, although, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) pointed out, the fact that this Government have spent over £15,000 million since they first won office in 1951 without providing the capacity to carry out even a minor operation of war is something which deserves the highest censure which this nation can offer against it. The burden of my complaint will be that our defence policy has not been governed as it should have been by our political aims and that in fact in many respects our defence policy is making it impossible for us to carry out our political aims.
I should like to concentrate on two major political aims to which I think all of us in the House have often given security must be the Western Alliance to which we belong. It is impossible for any one member of that Alliance to achieve security by itself. In other words, we must seek our military security in interdependence and not in independence. My charge against the Government in this respect will be that the defence policies they are adopting are going to wreck the political solidarity of the Western Alliance, which is the first bulwark on which we rely for our security.
It has often been said in the House, on both sides—I remember a most moving passage in a speech by the Minister of Aviation when presenting a defence White Paper a few years ago—that there can be no absolute or total security in the atomic age by pursuing an arms race against one's enemy. The only absolute security any of us can hope for in these days is through some form of agreement with our enemy, an agreement which we all hope will take the form of general and complete disarmament. My second major charge against the Government's defence policy is that it has worked against the mutual confidence which is a necessary precondition of reaching agreement between ourselves and the Soviet Union on disarmament, and that it has immensely increased the physical difficulties of ever imposing any effective control on the armaments of both sides.
Much of this debate has centred on the Government's decision to try to buy a missile, which does not yet exist but which has already been given the name of Skybolt, from the Americans and on the Government's refusal to state their position on a proposal made by General Norstad for supplying another missile, which does exist, called Polaris, to the European members—I believe to the Continental European members of the Western Alliance. As I understand it, the Government's case for buying the Skybolt missile is that Britain can no longer hope to produce the whole of an effective deterrent system for herself and, therefore, she must buy the most costly and complicated component of her deterrent system from the United States.
I do not want to deal with the practical problem, to which my right hon. Friend devoted much time, of whether or not Skybolt will ever exist, whether if it does exist we shall be able to buy it, and whether, if we are able to buy it, we shall be allowed to use it without the Americans keeping control of it. I am absolutely convinced that my right hon. Friend is right in suspecting that the answer to each of those questions is No, or that the answer to the first is No and, therefore, the answer to the other two will never arise.
I want to concentrate, not so much on the practical feasibility of the Government's policy on Skybolt, but on its political wisdom. As my right hon. Friend said, it is quite obvious that the favoured military position which Britain has been accorded by the United States inside N.A.T.O. for the last eleven years is not going to last much longer, if indeed it has survived to this moment. It is certain that by the time the missile called Skybolt is actually available, if it ever is—that is to say, on the Government's most optimistic estimate, by about 1963—it will be absolutely impossible for the United States to give us this essential component of an atomic deterrent system unless they are simultaneously prepared to offer the rest of their N.A.T.O. Allies missiles to meet their strategic demands.
I challenge the Secretary of State for War to dispute this. There is no question whatever that even if it is not the case today, by 1963, if the Americans give us a missile, they will have to agree to give other missiles, perhaps not the same one, to any of their N.A.T.O. Allies who demand them. The result of this will be a tremendous incentive to all the other European countries who produce their own atomic warheads. France has already done so, but she lacks an effective delivery system, as she will unless she gets missiles from the United States.
Germany, Belgium and Italy are already capable of producing their warheads and may well have started to produce them by 1963. The only disincentive to the independent production of atomic warheads in Europe is the irrelevance of those warheads unless one has an effective delivery system, and if Britain breaches the dam on this issue and forces America to offer delivery systems to her Allies, then it is as certain as the night follows the day that three or four, if not more, of the other European countries in N.A.T.O. will then decide to go ahead with producing their own warheads and to try to produce for themselves their own independent deterrent, as the Government call it.
If six or seven other members of N.A.T.O. all have the power, independent of an Allied decision, for that is what an independent deterrent means, to start total thermonuclear war against the Soviet Union, I suggest that the N.A.T.O. Alliance will disintegrate, because membership of the Alliance will then confer far more risk than security on all its members. The result is that the Government's aim of political solidarity in the North Atlantic area, the basic political principle of interdependence which the Government claim is the basis of all their policy, will be utterly destroyed, and that, of course, provides the answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond)—why is it that, instead of talking about an independent deterrent, the Government have started to talk about an independent contribution to the Western deterrent? It is because the Government are conscious of this danger and are anxious by some sort of semantic jugglery to discourage the European countries from following the precedent which they themselves are setting.
Let us look for a moment at the wisdom and military necessity of a European contribution to the Western deterrent or a British contribution to the Western deterrent. The deterrent forces of the Western Alliance are the only part of the Western Alliance Forces which need no reinforcement by anyone at all, because nobody can deny that the deterrent forces possessed by the United States are, and are likely to remain, perfectly adequate for their task of deterring Soviet aggression on the Alliance.
It is rumoured that the Government are thinking of buying 200 Skybolt missiles from the United States as a contribution to the Western deterrent. Let us look for a moment at the forces which the West already disposes under the control of United States administration. There are over 2,000 long-range strategic bombers; two wings of tactical bombers; four aircraft carriers, all carrying atomic-armed aircraft; fourteen wings of nuclear-capable tactical fighters; operational Atlas missiles along America's West Coast; an operational squadron equipped with Snarks; two cruisers and five submarines equipped with Regulus I; and four operational squadrons equipped with mixed Matador and Mace Missiles. Is anybody suggesting that with America already in possession of this type of strategic fighting force there is any need whatever for a contribution in this field from any of her Allies?
Moreover, if we add, to what the Americans have, the further strengthening of their deterrent forces which they have planned—I will not go into the details although I think they were recently listed in an interesting paper by the United States Defence Department—nobody can deny for a moment that the deterrent force of the West is more than adequate for its basic purpose of deterring deliberate aggression against the West. Why on earth are the Government planning to make a contribution to this type of deterrent force? Let us look at the cost of it to Britain.
The Daily Telegraph, a newspaper which cannot be expected to be deliberately unkind to the Government, has estimated that these 200 Skybolts by themselves are likely to cost £25 million. I remember a time when the Minister of Defence told us that the Sea Slug missile for the Royal Navy would cost £2 million. It has already cost £40 million and we have not yet got it. The Minister is very interested in time scales and extrapolation. If we have the same experience with Skybolt as we had with the Sea Slug, it will cost us £500 million before we even have aircraft to put it into.
It is not just that going in for this sort of deterrent system is a waste of money. It is a positive danger to the Alliance, because if we insist on having an independent contribution or an independent deterrent,—call it what you will—we cannot oppose the supply of similar missiles to other members of the Alliance.
This is the real reason why the Minister of Defence, who hates the Polaris project probably as much as we do, feels himself not in a position to say anything against it, because if we are getting Skybolt from the United States how on earth can we say that the United States should not supply Polaris to the rest of its allies?
It is no good the Government saying, as the Prime Minister said the other day, that the Polaris problem is not an urgent problem and will not arise for five or six years. The Minister of Defence knows full well that the decision on Polaris must be taken this summer. He knows also that, if the decision is taken this summer, the Polaris missile will be deployed in Europe within two years. This is the missile with a range of 1,500 miles, which can carry an atomic warhead more destructive than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Most of these missiles would be based in Western Germany. No one, not even General Norstad, has the slightest idea of how they are to be controlled. One of the most dangerous things inside N.A.T.O. at present is that again and again the N.A.T.O. Council takes a decision to put armaments on the ground—sometimes very destructive armaments indeed—without first getting watertight agreements on how the use of those armaments is to be controlled.
What is the reason which the Government or N.A.T.O. have put forward for the Polaris project? The official argument put forward by General Norstad himself is lunacy, yet it was repeated this afternoon by the Minister of Defence. The official argument, to which the Minister of Defence gave his assent as an argument, is that before long the tactical air forces at present under N.A.T.O. command will be incapable of penetrating Soviet anti-aircraft defences and therefore we must replace them with these 1,500-mile missiles.
I accept that correction, but the Minister maintained that we should have to have some missiles to replace some aircraft. That is my point.
There is an essential difference between aircraft and this type of missile in a so-called tactical rôle. First, aircraft can fly short distances or they can fly long distances. Secondly, they can carry conventional bombs—smoke bombs, if you like—and they can carry nuclear wea- pons. But a missile of the Polaris type is essentially a long-range missile. In fact, this missile is being recommended entirely on the ground that it can hit targets at and beyond Moscow inside the Soviet Union. Moreover, this type of missile is useless unless it is armed with a nuclear or thermo-nuclear warhead.
It is absolutely impossible to reconcile a Polaris missile strategy for N.A.T.O. with the declared aims of N.A.T.O. strategy. If atomic bombs are dropped round Moscow in what the Minister would call a tactical rôle, it completely rules out the whole of N.A.T.O.'s military purpose, because it makes total war absolutely inevitable from the word "go".
Quite apart from the fact that some of the forces controlling these missiles might decide to fire them at Moscow itself rather than at airfields round Moscow—I cannot conceive any way whatever of preventing these eventualities—I do not believe that anyone in the House thinks that the Soviet Union would submit to the bombardment of a large number of military targets deep inside its own territory without responding with an all-out thermo-nuclear attack on the whole Western Alliance.
In this case, what happens to the N.A.T.O. concept of forcing a pause if there is a local attack in Europe? What sort of pause will there be once Polaris rockets start dropping their atomic warheads on the Soviet Union? Of course, it may be that the real reason for Polaris is to produce all-out war. In that case, why should we be putting a lot of strategic weapons in Europe? Why not rely entirely on the overwhelming thermo-nuclear retaliatory power already in the Strategic Air Command, outside Europe altogether? The plain fact is that the proposal for putting Polaris in Europe has no military justification whatever. In fact, it contradicts every basic concept on which N.A.T.O. strategy has been based for the last ten years.
Much worse than that, I think, is the fact that to place these missiles physically all over the territory of Western Europe, as General Norstad proposes and as the Government are prepared to permit, would mean a tremendous increase in political tension. One thing I have never been able to understand about Western military policy is the assumption that the West can always do something to strengthen its military position without the Soviet doing something to counterbalance that. It is as certain as night follows day that if N.A.T.O. distributes these missiles under national control, or under collective control, all over Western Europe, the Soviet Union will respond by taking similar steps in Eastern Europe—and the Soviet Union may find it impossible any longer to withstand Chinese pressure for Chinese thermo-nuclear weapons.
Let hon. Members just imagine the situation that will develop when these hundreds of missiles are deployed on both sides of the Iron Curtain in Europe, with all the tremendous temptation for pre-emptive attacks—because the great danger of these deterrents is that they must be fired before the enemy missile gets there, but also before one can ever be certain that the enemy missile is ever going there. Does anyone in the Committee or outside it think that the security of the West will be advanced if there are hundreds of trigger-happy soldiers scattered all over Europe on both sides of the Iron Curtain, in the most explosive political area in the world?
The plain fact is that this proposal is not only politically appallingly dangerous, but militarily totally unnecessary. The extraordinary thing is that the same General Norstad who makes this proposal, and Lord Montgomery who preceded him in high military rank there, have said again and again that they do not think that there is any serious danger of large-scale deliberate Soviet aggression in Europe and that, anyway, the existing deterrent pattern of Western strategy is perfectly adequate to prevent all-out war. Incidentally, I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) was extremely important and convincing in this respect.
The real danger in Europe, and we all know it, is not the danger of the large-scale deliberate Soviet attack on the West but of a local conflict developing, perhaps out of a spontaneous rising of discontented people living in Eastern Europe, as happened in Hungary, in Poland and Berlin, perhaps out of miscalculation. In other words, the danger of a conflict arising essentially in a situa- tion to which deterrence is irrelevant, because deterrence as a strategic concept depends entirely on the person being deterred being a rational person in control of a rational Government. We cannot deter a rising in Hungary by having atomic weapons in Britain—or in the Soviet Union for that matter, as has already been proved. What is really vital is that N.A.T.O. should have forces that are capable, if that type of conflict develops, to stop it without recourse to atomic war.
As many Members have already said in this debate, the biggest single weakness in British strategy and in Western strategy is the lack of efficient mobile forces for putting out local conflict without recourse to atomic weapons. The trouble is that the Government and N.A.T.O. are sacrificing this in a wild-goose chase after weapons like Skybolt and Polaris which are totally irrelevant to the real danger but which create all sorts of new dangers of their own.
I must say a word here about the present weakness of the N.A.T.O. forces in the conventional field. I do not know if the Minister of Defence read a very interesting article, I think in this morning's Guardian, by a Swiss general of infantry, a neutral observer if ever there was one about the shocking state of N.A.T.O.'s conventional forces. He said they were short of tanks, armoured transport, airlift, rockets and radar.
The Minister of Defence was being a little unworthy of himself when he suggested that when we on this side of the Committee or, indeed, his hon. Friends point out the weakness of the West in conventional weapons, we are somehow discouraging recruiting. I would remind the Minister of Defence that his colleague on his left, the present Minister of Aviation, before he became a Minister of Her Majesty's Government, once did this country a great service in the defence field. It was when he was a young officer in the British Army in 1939. He came to the House and spoke of the appalling state of armaments of the British forces which were just on the point of being sent to battle against Hitler. I tell Her Majesty's Government that the real guilt and blame lie not with those who point out the weakness of the forces' armaments but with those who send young men into battle hopelessly ill-equipped for the task which they are given to perform.
I do not want to spend any longer on that matter. I would just say this. We have had a lot of sneers from the benches opposite during this debate about the absurd defence policy which my right hon. Friend and I have been putting forward. I would point out that this policy is also supported not only by the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire but also by a previous Conservative Minister for Defence, the right hon. Member for Carshalton (Mr. Head) who has just been banished to Nigeria in a mink-lined bowler hat, and by a previous Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, the right hon. Member for Flint, West (Mr. Birch); and, most important of all, our defence policy is supported by the Democratic Party in the United States with which the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence may soon have to deal.
I must conclude my remarks with some more general reflections. Even if all these arguments which I have deployed were of no importance whatever, the decisive argument against the Government's defence policy is that it is making a disarmament agreement infinitely more difficult to achieve and more difficult to control, although it is admitted by all of us on both sides of the Committee that a disarmament agreement is the only real road to security in the modern world.
It is a sad reflection for all of us that more than once in the last ten years it is the West which has taken the initiative in the arms race. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, it is the West which first adopted the policy of massive retaliation which is now being taken up by Mr. Khrushchev. I agree that there were reasons for this—I am not denying it—but what I am saying is that it takes two to carry out an arms race and we are both involved in it at the present time.
What I am appealing to the Government to do—and I do this in no party spirit whatever—is to reflect before it is too late, to take into account the fact that if our defence efforts are to serve any useful purpose in the modern world they must make disarmament easier and not more difficult. At the present time, as I have shown, our defence efforts are making it infinitely more difficult even to start negotiations with the Soviet Union. Moreover, the Government seem to have given up their disarmament effort in some respects for the sake of getting Skybolt from the United States. This is the fundamental reason why my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will divide the Committee against the Government's defence policy at half-past nine.
I look forward to taking up some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) later, if I have time, but I must first deal with a matter which was put to me by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), by the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) about the manpower situation in the Army. The right hon. Member for Belper quoted several remarks that I had made during past months and years about the figure we expected to achieve by way of all-Regular recruitment in 1963 onwards. He said that he thought there were discrepancies in what I had said and that I was not, perhaps, being altogether forthright. I assure the Committee that it is no lack of desire to be forthright which has brought about a discrepancy, and I wish to explain how it arises.
The only way in which one can form a view about what the manpower of any Service will be two, three, four or five years ahead—as we have tried to do over the past years—is to take, first of all, the existing number of Regular soldiers serving in the Army at a given time and also the rate of recruitment during the past twelve months, projecting that forward for the years ahead. One then arrives at a certain figure. Obviously, I have been at great pains never to be too precise about 1,000 here or there, because a matter of ten more or less, literally, in a month during the past year will, when projected forward over four or five years ahead, make a considerable difference.
The recruiting story is that it was good for the year April, 1958 to March, 1959. There were various reasons for this. The Grigg Report was an important factor, and so, of course, was the very considerable pay increase given to the Forces at the time. A decline set in in April, 1959, or thereabouts. In my view, there were two principal factors contributing to that decline. The first was that the number of young men in the country at the age at which they join the Army was lower then than it will be for many years to come. Secondly, it was a period of considerable disturbance in the Army brought about by the amalgamations and disbandments which went on during those months.
Looking back over the past months, it seems now that recruiting is levelling out. Again, I ask the Committee not to invite me to be too precise because the figures upon which one bases one's calculation are inevitably somewhat fluid, and one cannot be too precise about what the position will be two-and-a-half years from now. But the best forecast I can give, on those assumptions, taking the number of men in the Regular Army at present and the rate of recruitment over the past twelve months, which have not been good months, that is to say, May. 1959, to May, 1960, is in accordance with what I said at the luncheon the other day to which the hon. Member for Dudley referred. The forecast is that we shall reach 165,000 in the early days—I mean early days—of 1963. If I am asked whether it will be 165,100 or 164,800 on 1st January, I really could not say, as I am sure the hon. Member appreciates. The best forecast which can be made on the figures available is that, in the early days of 1963, we shall have achieved an all-Regular Army of 165,000.
I have been visiting a number of recruiting offices round the country lately and discussing with those who are responsible for recruiting what can be done to help. I think there are two things. First of all, as the Army shrinks, fewer people will, of course, be in contact with it. It is important that we should carry the Army to the people. We should have more units visiting different areas of the country, having marches, tattoos and the like, carrying the Army to the public. Also, since every hon. Member hopes that we shall achieve the target necessary to fulfil our commitments. I would ask hon. Members when they visit their constituencies to talk about the importance of recruiting to the Army and encourage recruitment into it. I hope and believe that they will be forthcoming. The Territorial Army was referred to by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells (Lieut.-Commander Maydon). I am confident that the reorganisation which I announced earlier in the day will give a considerable invigoration to the Territorial Army which has been looking forward, and in some cases looking forward anxiously, to the reorganisation which it knew perfectly well was inevitable.
There were three main causes for its anxiety. The first was that the rôle of the Territorial Army had not been restated since the reorganisation of the Regular Forces to fit the nuclear age was announced. Secondly, the Territorial Army realised that its units were geared to a strength of 300,000, which was not a realistic figure. Thirdly, the growing discrepancy in equipment. As equipment came into the Regular Army, it had the effect of a greater discrepancy between the standard of equipment for the Regular Army and that for the Territorial Army, which was entirely of last war vintage.
I believe that this reorganisation will give a greater sense of purpose to the Territorial Army for a number of reasons. First, its units will be at a better establishment. Secondly, it will be reorganised on a realistic basis of brigades instead of divisions. Thirdly, it will be better equipped than it has ever been before.
The right hon. Member for Easington asked me a specific question about the bounty to the Territorial Army. We are not intending to alter the bounty arrangements for those who serve in the Territorial Army. Indeed, the fact that there has been this increase from 70,000 in 1957 to 120,000 today shows, I think, that there is not much wrong with the terms of service of the Territorial Army. It shows that, even in the situation through which it has been going these past few years, with the anxieties that it has had to live with, the Territorial Army has still been able to attract volunteer recruits at this satisfactory rate.
There is another point put to me by the right hon. Member for Easington which definitely needs answering for the record. He said that he believed that in the not very far distant future we should find it necessary to give a pre-proclamation responsibility to the Territorial Army. If that were so, it would obviously be in the forefront of the minds of those who were considering joining the Territorial Army. I should like to assert definitely that we have no intention at present of so doing.
There is one more point mentioned by the right hon. Member for Easington to which I must refer. He said that neither the V-bombers nor the Thor missiles were able to reach their targets if required so to do today.
The right hon. Gentleman said that they would be unable to reach their targets. He asserted that they could not He did not make the point that they could not get off the ground, that they would be knocked out beforehand. He asserted that the V-bombers and the Thor missiles would not be able to reach their targets. For the record I must assert that that is absolutely incorrect. I cannot understand on what basis the right hon. Gentleman could have decided that that was so.
That was not the question which the right hon. Gentleman asked. There are a variety of targets. He asserted that the V-bombers and the Thor missiles could not reach them. That is not so.
An important contribution to our national defence thinking in recent times is the new Labour document to which the right hon. Member for Belper referred—and he made quite a bit of it at the end of his speech. There are many statements in it which we believe to be totally unrealistic. This is not the time to go into them in detail, but I should like to concentrate on the first paragraph which sets out the premises on which the whole policy of the Labour party towards defence now rests.
I must get on. I shall talk about Skybolt.
I believe these premises to be utterly false. The first paragraph reads as follows:
Two events—the break-up of the Summit Conference and the cancellation of Blue Streak—combine to create a new situation demanding fresh decisions by the British people.
To take the first proposition—
May I make it quite clear? There has been a very long case deployed against the Government. Many questions have been asked. I am wondering why, after only ten minutes of his speech, the right hon. Gentleman has now decided to answer no more of them.
I have answered a good many and I shall be coming to a good many more.
To take, first, the proposition that the break-up of the Summit Conference would demand fresh consideration of our defence policy, surely the broad approach to this period of uneasy peace and cold war, which is being forced upon us, must be a firm and resolute defence posture while striving to reach agreement on disarmament and points of friction between West and East. What would be quite fatal would be to alter our main policies from day to day, according to whether Mr. Khrushchev growled or smiled. The one thing that would really encourage Mr. Khrushchev to continue to play the hand by blowing first hot and then cold and never coming to the point of agreement would be if he thought that by so doing he could disrupt the defence arrangements of the West to the extent that the Labour Party are now suggesting. I am sure that in his wildest dreams Mr. Khrushchev never thought that his action in Paris would lead the party which is the alternative Government in this country to publish a document advocating that we should opt out of the deterrent.
Now for the proposition that the cancellation of Blue Streak should lead to this fundamental reappraisal of our deterrent policy. Our view is that this is equally fallacious because it is a serious confusion between means and ends. Blue Streak was not a policy in itself but a weapon designed to implement it. For reasons that are well-known in the House—this was thoroughly debated earlier in the year—further development of this weapon was cancelled, and we have instead a firm understanding with the Americans to purchase from them one of a number of missiles which they are developing and which we believe will be available to us in the middle 1960s.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper has made much of the fact that the missile—Skybolt—does not at present exist. It would not be any use to us if it did exist because if it existed now it would be out of date by the middle 1960s. [Interruption.] We do not wish to add to the contribution that we can make to the deterrent as of today. What we wish is to be able to add to the contribution that we shall be able to make between 1965 and 1970. Today we have our independent deterrent with V-bombers and the free-falling bombs, to be followed by Blue Steel, which will give the V-bombers some years of extra life. Military advice is that this will be a credible deterrent up to the middle 1960s. What matters is not whether the deterrent rests in a particular weapon of a particular name, be it dug into the ground or carried under the sea or in the air. What matters is that it shall be an effective deterrent and that we maintain our deterrent power.
Members of the Opposition seem to rest their case against Skybolt on what seems to be, for some reason, their fervent belief that Skybolt will prove to be a failure. That is a very pessimistic assumption on which to pin a policy. In the nature of things today, with all the rapid progress that goes on in the scientific world, the strategic weapon which is to be credible over the period of, say, from 1965 to 1970 must and can only be in a state of development between 1960 and 1965.
I agree that the Americans have many eggs in their strategic nuclear basket and that we cannot afford this, but they have every intention of producing Sky-bolt for their own armoury apart from ours. All the information that we receive leads us to believe that they will be successful. I fail to understand what are the arguments that have been put to the right hon. Member for Belper to lead him to believe that Skybolt will not be an effective weapon.
The other point of which the right hon. Gentleman has made a great deal concerning Skybolt is that once we have it, we will no longer have an independent deterrent. The right hon. Gentleman has no ground for saying that. We are buying from the Americans a delivery system on which we put our own warhead. It fits into our own V-bombers. We believe, and the Americans realise—the right hon. Gentleman is the only odd man out—that that will be as independent a deterrent—
—as will be Blue Steel, which will be manufactured in this country, in exactly the same way as a gun which we buy from abroad and for which we make the ammunition at home is entirely for our own use wherever we will. It is an entirely independent deterrent.
Where the right hon. Gentleman did not make himself sufficiently clear was whether he thinks that we should opt out of the deterrent because he fears that Skybolt will not work or will not be an independent deterrent from our point of view; or whether, even if he became satisfied on both points, as he will as the years and months go by, he would even then suggest that we should not take advantage of the arrangements that we have made with the Americans and fix our own warheads to the missile and arrange for it to be fitted into our V-bombers, so as to continue the effective life of our V-bombers and thus be able to make our own contribution to the deterrent in the further years ahead.
Over the past few years, we have felt very much for the right hon. Member for Belper in all the defence debates. The right hon. Gentleman has affirmed and reaffirmed his belief in the deterrent policy and in our national policy of making an independent contribution to it. He has striven hard to prevent his party from ignoring the military facts of life with which we have to live. The right hon. Gentleman was fighting a rearguard action which might, perhaps. have been successful had the Labour Party won the last election and, therefore, had to deal in realities instead of suppositions.
The tide of unilateralism was, however, building up fast against the right hon. Gentleman and he has now had to fall back to an unprepared position on ground not of his own choosing and pronounce a cockeyed policy which I doubt very much whether he thinks, any more than we do, is worth the paper on which it is written.
It is anybody's guess how long even this will last. Great were the right hon. Gentleman's hopes that the form of words so carefully chosen would satisfy that considerable element of his party which yearns to bury its head in the sand of pacificism. But having since realised what will happen in October, he no doubt wonders what will be the fate of this document at the party conference. Time will tell. It certainly does not seem to have got off to a very propitious start.
I now have to throw away a lot of good material.
Of course, the country knows why the Labour Party is now proposing that we should cease to make a contribution to the deterrent. It is not because Blue Streak was cancelled. Nor is it because the Summit Conference in Paris did not take place. It is simply because of the increasing inability of leaders of the Labour Party to carry their rank and file with them in policies which they believe to be right. Evidence of this can be seen in the numbers of trade union leaders and their followers who are climbing on to the wagon of unilateral nuclear disarmament when, in the nature of things, they have not been able to study the complicated ramifications of defence problems to the same
There is a quotation from happier days which I must read to the Committee. It is a quotation from some years back:
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 by a potential disturber of the peace possessing not only these weapons but also overwhelming force in what are called conventional weapons. As long as this great disparity remains, unilateral disarmament is folly. It is equally foolish to suggest that these weapons will only be used if an aggressor uses them first. It is in the knowledge that in the last resort these terrible weapons will be used that makes them an effective deterrent.
That forms part of the resolution—the right hon. Gentleman knows it—of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party in 1955.
It represented then, and it represented up to this year, the views of the leaders of the Labour Party, and they know that it is still the right policy for today. They have certainly failed to make out a case for such a radical reversal of policy which is contained in their new document. This new policy is not in the best interests of the country, and we are convinced that the vast majority of the people utterly repudiate it.
|Division No. 142]||AYES||[9.28 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Blyton, William||Cliffe, Michael|
|Ainsley, William||Boardman, H.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Albu, Austen||Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Boyden, James||Cronin, John|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Crosland, Anthony|
|Awbery, Stan||Brockway, A. Fenner||Crossman, R. H. S.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice|
|Baird, John||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Darling, George|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Brown, Thomas lnce)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)|
|Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Davles, S. O. (Merthyr)|
|Benn, Hn. A. Wedgwood(Brist'I, S.E.)||Callaghan, James||Deer, George|
|Benson, Sir George||Castle, Mrs. Barbara||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Blackburn, F.||Chapman, Donald||Delargy, Hugh|
|Dempsey, James||Kenyon, Clifford||Robens, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Diamond, John||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Dodds, Norman||King, Dr. Horace||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Lawson, George||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)|
|Driberg, Tom||Ledger, Ron||Ross, William|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Short, Edward|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Evans, Albert||Lipton, Marcus||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Fernyhough, E.||Loughlin, Charles||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Finch, Harold||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Fitch, Alan||McCann, John||Small, William|
|Fletcher, Eric||MacColl, James||Smith, Eills (Stoke, S.)|
|Foot, Dingle||McInnes, James||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Forman, J. C.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mackie, John||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McLeavy, Frank||Steele, Thomas|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Mahon, Simon||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Ginsburg, David||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stonehouse, John|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfield, E.)||Stones, William|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Manuel, A. C.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John|
|Gourlay, Harry||Mapp, Charles||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Grey, Charles||Marsh, Richard||Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mason, Roy||Swain, Thomas|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mayhew, Christopher||Swingler, Stephen|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Mellish, R. J.||Sylvester, George|
|Grimond, J.||Mendelson, J, J.||Symonds, J. B.|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Millan, Bruce||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mitchison, G. R.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hannan, William||Monslow, Walter||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Moody, A. S.||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Morris, John||Thornton, Ernest|
|Healey, Denis||Mort, D. L.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Moyle, Arthur||Timmons, John|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Mulley, Frederick|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Neal, Harold||Tomney, Frank|
|Hilton, A. V.||Oliver, G. H.||Wade, Donald|
|Holman, Percy||Oram, A. E.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Holt, Arthur||Oswald, Thomas||Warbey, William|
|Houghton, Douglas||Owen, Will||Watkins, Tudor|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Paget, R. T.||Weitzman, David|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pargiter, G. A.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Parker, John (Dagenham)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.)||Whitlock, William|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Paton, John||Wigg, George|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pavitt, Laurence||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Peart, Frederick||Willey, Frederick|
|Jeger, George||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Popplewell, Ernest||Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Prentice, R. E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Probert, Arthur||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Proctor, W. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, s.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Woof, Robert|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Rankin, John||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Redhead, E. C.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Reid, William|
|Kelley, Richard||Reynolds, G. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. J. Taylor and Mr. Howell.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Berkeley, Humphry||Bullard, Denys|
|Aitken, W. T.||Bevins, Rt, Hon. Reginald (Toxteth)||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Bidgood, John C.||Burden, F. A.|
|Allason, James||Biggs, Davison, John||Butler, Rt. Hon. R.A(Saffron Walden)|
|Alport, Rt. Hon. C. J. M.||Bingham, R. M.||Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. D. Heathcoat (Tiv'tn)||Bishop, F, P.||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Black, Sir Cyril||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bossom, Clive||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Balniel, Lord||Bourne-Arton, A.||Channon, H. P. G.|
|Barber, Anthony||Box, Donald||Chataway, Christopher|
|Barlow, Sir John||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Barter, John||Boyle, Sir Edward||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)|
|Batsford, Brian||Braine, Bernard||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||Brewis, John||Cole, Norman|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. W. H.||Collard, Richard|
|Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.)||Brooman-White, R.||Cooke, Robert|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Cooper, A. E.|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Bryan, Paul||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Cordle, John||Jennings, J. C-||Profumo, Rt. Hon. John|
|Corfield, F. V.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Costain, A. P.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ramsden, James|
|Coulson, J. M.||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Joseph, Sir Keith||Rees, Hugh|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Critchley, Julian||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Renton, David|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kershaw, Anthony||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Curran, Charles||Kimball, Marcus||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kirk, Peter||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Langford-Holt, J.||Roots, William|
|Deedes, W. F.||Leather, E. H. C.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Leavey, J. A.||Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Leburn, Gilmour||Russell, Ronald|
|Doughty, Charles||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. Alan||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|du Cann, Edward||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sharples, Richard|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lilley, F. J. P.||Shaw, M.|
|Duthie, Sir William||Lindsay, Martin||Shepherd, William|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Linstead, Sir Hugh||Simon, Sir Jocelyn|
|Eden, John||Litchfield, Capt. John||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Elliott, R. W.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Longbottom, Charles||Smithers, Peter|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Longden, Gilbert||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Fell, Anthony||Loveys, Walter H.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Speir, Rupert|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||McAdden, Stephen||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Freeth, Denzil||MacArthur, Ian||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||McLaren, Martin||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gammans, Lady||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||Stodart, J. A.|
|Gardner, Edward||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Gibson-Watt, David||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||McMaster, Stanley R.||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Talbot, John E.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maddan, Martin||Taylor, sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gough, Frederick||Maginnis, John E.||Taylor, w. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Gower, Raymond||Maitland, Cdr. Sir John||Teeling, William|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Temple, John M.|
|Green, Alan||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Marlowe, Anthony||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert||Marshall, Douglas||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Marten, Neil||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Thomton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.J|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mawby, Ray||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Turner, Colin|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Mills, Stratton||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Montgomery, Fergus||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hay, John||Morgan, William||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Vaughan-Morgan. Sir John|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Nabarro, Gerald||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hendry, Forbes||Neave, Airey||Vosper. Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Hiley, Joseph||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Noble, Michael||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Nugent, Sir Richard||Wall, Patrick|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Watts, James|
|Hobson, John||Osborne, Cyril (Louth)||Webster, David|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Holland, Philip||Page, Graham||Whitelaw, William|
|Hopkins, Alan||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Partridge, E.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Peel, John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Percival, Ian||Wise, A. R.|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Peyton, John||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Wood, Rt. Hon, Richard|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Pilkington, Capt. Richard||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hurd, Sir Anthony||Pitman, I. J.||Woollam, John|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pitt, Miss Edith||Worsley, Marcus|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Pott, Percivall||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Jackson, John||Price, David (Eastleigh)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|James, David||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Mr. E. Wakefield and|
|Colonel J. H. Harrison|
Question put and agreed to.
The CHAIRMAN then proceeded forthwith to put severally the Questions, That sanction be given to the application of the sums temporarily authorised in respect of Navy, Army and Air Services [Expenditure]; and that the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the several Classes of the Civil Estimates, including Revised Estimates and Supplementary Estimates, and the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for Revenue Departments, and in the Navy, the Army, and the Air Estimates, including Supplementary Estimates, be granted for the Services defined in those Classes and Estimates: