Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
In introducing the Air Estimates I will not attempt to cover all the ground surveyed in the Memorandum. I want, instead, to try to restrict myself to those points which have been the subject of controversy, or to those which are new.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), in his speech in the defence debate the other day, urged us to abandon the independent deterrent in favour of an increase in our conventional forces. The right hon. Gentleman was frank enough to tell us that he did not know the facts about the build-up of the V-force, but it is rather important that we should put a little more precision into his views on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the tapering off of the V-force, but I am not sure what he meant. Would he cancel the V-bombers at present on order and not yet entered into service? Would he cancel Blue Steel? Would he contract out of the Skybolt programme?
I know the difficulties in answering these questions when one is not in office and one has not the information, but I hope, all the same, that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) can enlighten us a little on this subject, for the policy of tapering off the deterrent is, I understand, only one leg of the policy. The other leg is the reinforcement of our conventional forces, and unless we can have a rough idea of the time-scale in which the right hon. Gentleman is speaking it is difficult to know what he means.
The V-bombers that we have on order, the Blue Steel that we have on order and our present plans for Skybolt will carry us well into the 'seventies. If this is something that the right hon. Gentleman accepts, there is not much difference between us. If, instead, he is urging cancellations or contractions, this is a very different story.
The right hon. Gentleman is adept enough in these matters to know that the difference is marginal. If we carry on to the end of the 'sixties, we are into the 'seventies.
This is not the occasion to dwell on the political or moral implications of the deterrent.
I thought the Committee would agree that this was an occasion far discussing the purely military aspects of the subject. The defence debate was the occasion for discussing the other aspects. The great bulk of the criticisms which were made—
What I was anxious not to do was to try to cover the whole field of defence policy. I think that traditionally these Estimates debates have been an occasion to discuss the Service aspects of the problem.
On a point of order, Sir William. I apologise to the Minister for interrupting him a second time. This question of order arose in a previous debate, and I think that it would be advisable if it could be cleared up at the beginning of this debate rather than that we should have varied points of order during each of the speeches.
It is quite true that in these separate Service Estimates there is a great deal of interest in what one might call the technical aspects of them, and it is also true that a great deal of the debates from year to year have been devoted to the technical aspects, but I am sure that we should all like to have your Ruling, Sir William, as to whether we are, in fact, limited to the technical aspects, or whether we are entitled to consider how far these Estimates, if the Government get them, would or would not help the Government to carry out the defence policy of which they form part. That seems to many of us the only interest that the debate has.
I am speaking further to the point of order. I was not seeking to limit the debate as far as other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are concerned. I was only saying that, from the Government's point of view, we judge that this is an occasion to discuss the technical aspects of the matter rather than the political and moral implications. If I carry the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) with me to that extent, I will go on with what I have to say.
Further to the point of order. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for intervening again. Nobody contends for a moment that the technical aspects could conceivably be out of order in the debate. The question is whether we are limited to them. I quite agree that the Minister, or any other hon. Member, may devote the whole of his speech to them if he wishes, but what I was putting to you, Sir William, was the position of the rest of us who are not so much interested in the technical aspects of the matter, but are much more interested in the aspect of the contribution to the security of this country. I should like to know whether we are entitled to deal with that aspect of the matter.
I think that I must now reply to the points of order which have already been raised. According to my understanding of what will be in order, I do not think that hon. Members will find themselves unduly limited when they come to make their speeches.
As I was saying, all I am trying to explain is the point of view from which I shall approach the subject. The defence debate was the occasion that my right bon. Friend the Minister of Defence and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation took to go into the broader aspect. Nevertheless, the defence debate also showed another thing, that the great bulk of the criticisms made of the independent deterrent, of Bomber Command, were geared not to its political or moral side, but to its effectiveness and military value. It is, I think, my duty to answer the charges, for they were nothing less, which were made against Bomber Command by right hon. Gentlemen opposite and my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones).
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to deal with one misinterpretation? No one attacks Bomber Command. The whole of the attack, which I hope later also to develop, is against the political heads of the Ministry of Defence and the Air Ministry. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not start this debate, as his right hon. Friend is so inclined to do, by trying to push proper political attacks on to his military advisers and on to the men in the Services.
The right hon. Gentleman questioned whether we could get off and asserted that it was absurd to believe that we could get through to our targets. These are criticisms of whether Bomber Command can fulfil the rôle which the Government have laid down for it. These are criticisms of the technical competence of Bomber Command to undertake the task that we have laid down. My duty, plainly, is to answer whether we can or cannot do this, and with this I would begin.
The right hon. Member for Huyton doubted very much whether Bomber Command, in the second strike rôle, could get off in time to escape destruction from Soviet deterrent forces. The Committee will realise that we have extensive dispersal facilities for Bomber Command at home and, indeed, abroad. We have also worked out very extensive procedures for maintaining Bomber Command at a high state of readiness. Soviet missile strength is, of course, growing very fast. It is much stronger than it was when I spoke to the Committee on this subject last year. Nevertheless, it is clear to us that at present, as we sit here, the main attack, if it came now, would be from manned aircraft. So long as this is the position, we can rely upon a reasonably long period of warning—several minutes. This is, of course, the situation today.
But the threat from missiles will grow. It will grow, I think, fairly rapidly. We are tied in, as the Committee knows, to the ballistic missile early warning system, and we should already get here, at present, a good deal of warning from the stations in Alaska and Greenland of a missile attack. When Fylingdales is completed next year, the chain of the ballistic missile early warning system will be complete. The ballistic missile early warning system should give us in normal conditions several minutes' warning of an attack. In the worst possible case—that is, if we were standing completely alone—it would give us as little as four minutes.
I agree that four minutes is not very long, but right hon. and hon. Members who have studied this matter know that Bomber Command has worked up to a point where its average reaction time to the receipt of a warning of a ballistic missiles attack would be about two minutes. We should, therefore, have two minutes in which to get clear of the danger area and away.
I gave way to the hon. Member because he was, until recently, responsible, on behalf of the Opposition, for Air Force matters. I am not prepared to explain here the exact details of our readiness or dispersal systems. I am sure that the party opposite would not wish me to say in public what these are.
When I say that we have brought the average reaction time down to two minutes, this is, of course, under realisticconditions. There would be no point in producing an illusory figure of this kind. I claim, therefore, on behalf of Bomber Command, that our capacity to react to aircraft and missile threat is keeping pace with the development of the missile capacity of the Soviet side. Later in the decade, we shall have a further advance.
I told the House in July about the Midas system, with which the Royal Air Force is co-operating. This system will enable us to detect a ballistic missile almost from the moment of launch, and should give another one to two minutes' warning time—it is too early yet to say exactly how much it will be—to Bomber Command.
I shall go on for too long if I keep on giving way.
The right hon. Member for Huyton was much more emphatic on the question of whether we would get through to our targets. He expressed the view that
it was absurd to think that, if the Soviets had really solved the problem of the anti-missile missile, we could get aeroplanes over the target with free-falling bombs. It is very important here to keep the time scale in view. Let us look at the situation as it is today.
The Soviets' defences have grown a great deal. They have supersonic fighters and reliable surface-to-air missiles. Indeed, some hon. Members may be inclined to think that the destruction of the U2 was evidence of this, but it is worth remembering that the aircraft had penetrated a very long way before it was destroyed. The task of air defence at the best of times is very complicated, particularly if one has to defend an extensive perimeter like that of the Soviet Union. One first has to find the aircraft on the radar, then to identify it, then to intercept it and destroy it.
At the best of times, as anyone with air force experience knows, this calls for a great deal of skill on the part of the pilot and of the missile team and a great deal of co-operation between them and the radar operators. It is not as if our V-bombers were, as was suggested by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), obsolescent weapons. At present, they are superior in altitude and speed performance to the great bulk of aircraft in service in either the Russian or the Amercian bomber forces.
We have fairly good estimates of these things.
The B 58 bombers in the American Air Force have a supersonic performance, but only a few of these are in service as yet. There are also in service a few Russian supersonic bombers, as was shown at the Russian Air Display last year. Both the Vulcan, and the Victor, and, indeed, the Valiant, are superior in speed performance to the great bulk of the bombers of other countries.
We have a good idea from our own and the American aircraft industry of what is possible at present. The hon. Gentleman should also remember that our V-bombers are equipped with the latest electronic counter-measure devices to jam and deceive enemy radar. How does this equation work out as between our defensive power and that of the Soviet Union?
The right hon. Member for Huyton attempted to lay down the law on this matter. He has no responsibility and no information. I can only tell the Committee of the conclusion we have come to, with all the information at our command, and cite, in support, certain evidence.
We have carried out a number of exercises pitting Bomber Command against both the United Kingdom air defences and the much more elaborate air defences of the North American continent. I have carefully studied the results. Of course, the defences will take a toll of the attacking aircraft, but, at present, all the exercises we have undertaken show that enough would get through to inflict unacceptable damage upon their targets. In support of this, I cite a very interesting article by Marshal Savitsky, who is at present in charge of the arm of Soviet air defences concerned, which was published in Red Star on 14th November last.
Marshal Savitsky gave a very realistic assessment of the strength of our bombers, and this is what he wrote:
… the Armed Forces of the Imperialist Powers are equipped with very formidable means of attack such as high-speed long-range bombers and stand-off bombs carrying atomic and hydrogen bombs. Not only do these fly at tremendously high speeds and at very great altitudes, but they are unaffected by bad weather. It should also be borne in mind that the enemy will do all in his power to protect himself from counter measures, making extensive use of electronic counter measures.
The marshal does not appear to think our V-bombers obsolete or even obsolescent. His article is very critical of Soviet air defences and cites several instances of shortcomings. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will look up that article. Clearly, the marshal is much less sanguine than the right hon. Member for Huyton about the efficiency of Russian air defences and has a great deal more respect for Bomber Command. Frankly, I am not surprised. He is a professional. He knows what he is talking about—and he would be at the receiving end.
I am assuming now that the aircraft are airborne, following the first strike, having taken off in time as I have just described. We are now on the second leg of the argument—whether they get through. If they get off, what the marshal says is perfectly true.
The first priority in the Soviet air defences, as we know, is the so-called "point defence", or close defence, around what they estimate to be our targets. Here, our aim, plainly, must be to reach the targets without coming into range of the point defences. It is for this purpose that we have ordered the Blue Steel missile. There have been several successful trials with Blue Steel at Woomera during the last few months, and I am able to tell the Committee that it will be in service this year.
After the development of point defence, we expect the Soviet to go on to the problem of area defence. It is against this that we have ordered Sky-bolt. The right hon. Member for Huyton told us that to attack Moscow we would have to fly over Smolensk, or at least the Pripet Marshes. I am glad to have the opportunity to correct him on this subject. There is no need to penetrate the Soviet defences at all to reach the target which he had in mind.
No. With Skybolt. Would the right hon. Gentleman be prepared to submit to correction on this point? I have no doubt whatever that the right hon. Gentleman was talking about Skybolt. Does he wish to press the point? I have the answer here. It may take a moment. I am sorry to delay the Committee in this way.
The right hon. Gentleman was talking about Skybolt. He said:
When I was in Washington, a few weeks ago, I heard some of the discussions about the prospects of Skybolt, and I doubt whether the Minister can say, with his hand on his heart, that there is any certainty that it will arrive.
Instead of bombs for delivery over the target we shall have stand-off bombs, which will be released some distance away from the target. If the target is Moscow, for instance, the bombs will be released over Smolensk or The Priepet Marshes."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 224.]
I am telling the right hon. Gentleman that that is not the case.
No, not now.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the reference which I have just quoted—which I think I have established to the Committee was inaccurate—cast doubts on the future of Skybolt. So has the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I am sorry that he is not present in the Chamber. Both right hon. Gentlemen intimated that Skybolt might not reach us. That is not the view in the Pentagon, or in the United States Air Force at present. No doubt hon. Members will have seen reports of the American President's Press conference, in which he explained that very large sums are being voted. The President said:
We are going to spend a billion dollars to equip our present force of B.52s with Skybolt.
I was myself in Los Angeles recently and I had the opportunity to go over the Douglas works and discuss with American experts the preparation of Skybolt. I am no expert, but I had with me experts from the Ministry of Aviation, the Ministry of Defence and the Air Ministry. I can tell the Committee that we came away convinced that Skybolt will be in service on time.
The Royal Air Force is associated with the Skybolt programme at every stage. We have already established its compatibility with the Vulcan Mark II. Several dummy rounds have been successfully dropped. A captive missile has been successfully fired and the first guided round is to be fired this year. Meanwhile, the programme for manufacturing the British warhead to fit the missile goes forward according to plan.
There was a great deal of discussion during the recent defence debate about the possibility of anti-missile defences. This concerns us directly, since we are embarking on the Skybolt programme. There is a great difference between the theoretical capability of knocking down a missile and the capability of doing it in practice. It would be necessary to intercept a batch of missiles arriving at supersonic speed and to distinguish between those which were decoys and those which were genuine warheads; and they would be coming in from all sides.
The cost and effort of such a task is immense. The deployment would inevitably be very slow and it might not be immune to counter-measures. This is not just my view. In support of it I can cite the view expressed by the American Defence Minister, Mr. McNamara, in which he said:
At the present time it appears to us"—
that is, to the United States—
that no amount of money can make possible an absolute defence of this country against the intercontinental ballistic missile.
No, I cannot give way.
I have to tell the Committee that the cost of the deterrent is about 10 per cent. of the defence budget. If it does what we claim that it does, that is not an excessive sum. The question is: does it give value for money? Here again, I wish to discuss the answer in the re stricted sense of purely military terms— the military value which it gives—
The hon. Gentleman raised that point at the beginning of the debate. In such Parliamentary debates as this we cannot cover every aspect of the subject. The defence debate was the occasion on which to make that point.
The right hon. Member for Huyton—I am sorry that he has left the Chamber, but he gave me notice that he would have to go—told us that the British deterrent would not add one iota to the strength and credibility of the Western deterrent. He had just come back, from Washington. The Leader of the Opposition was sitting beside the right hon. Gentleman at that time, and he also had just come back from Washing ton. I, too, have had the privilege of being in Washington recently. I con sulted the same political authorities, as did the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Huyton. Nothing was ever said to me to suggest that there was any change in the United States' attitude to the British deterrent—
I have consulted my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence and other colleagues since the defence debate, and they all confirm that nothing of this kind has ever been said to them. Therefore, I think that the Government are justified in telling the Committee that, so far as we know, the United States Administration still attaches the greatest importance to Bomber Command and regards it as a valuable contribution to the overall Western deterrent.
This is certainly the view of the Pentagon and the United States Air Force. After all, they are the experts on the subject of deterrence. There are many reasons for this and one of them comes from geography. It is the fact that geo graphically it is not possible to attack the United States and the United Kingdom without giving prior warning to one or the other. If a missile is launched first at America, and the enemy wait until impact before launching an attack on England, we should get a warning—
We get a warning, and Scotland as well.
If, on the other hand, an attack is launched on the United Kingdom, America gets a considerable measure of warning. Therefore, from the point of view of the United States Air Force it is a great advantage that there is a substantial element of the deterrent power on this side of the Atlantic. I can tell the Committee that Bomber Command is held in the very highest respect by the Strategic Air Command. It is regarded as an efficient force fully up to American standards in quality, and representing a major element of the deterrent power on this side of the Atlantic.
I cannot speak too highly of the confidence which exists between the Strategic Air Command and Bomber Command. There is very close consultation about plans, procedures, training programmes and intelligence estimates. The frankness, friendliness and mutual respect existing between High Wycombe and Omaha is, I think, a model of Anglo-American relations.
Much better than that. I do not think that any hon. Member would disagree when I say that the generals who command the Strategic Air Command are tough and hard-headed men. They would not work with us if they had the same sort of estimate of Bomber Command as the members of the Opposition Front Bench.
I wish that the right hon. Gentleman would desist from maintaining that if we on these benches exercise our proper function of criticising the Government, and the occupants of his office and his predecessors, we are doing something wrong. The right hon. Gentleman must be big enough to take it, and not try to push the responsibility on to the uniformed personnel under his command.
I cannot accept that. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite had criticised Bomber Command for moral or political reasons, I could understand. But they said that Bomber Command was ineffective. It was obsolescent—that was said by the right hon. Member for Smethwick. It would not get off in time, it would not get through to its target—that was said by the right hon. Member for Huyton. Its equipment would not arrive—that was said by the right hon. Member for Belper. These are criticisms of Bomber Command and the planning of Bomber Command.
I hope that I have said enough to show that Bomber Command does make a valid contribution to the Western Alliance, but that is not the only point. There is another question, which, I think, is just as important. Does it make a contribution to our national safety? We are approaching the period of what is called nuclear equipoise—'the period when the Russians can do the Americans as much harm as the Americans can do the Russians. We are not there yet, but we are very near to it. When this period is reached, the risk of deliberate aggression is very small, but there will be an increased risk of war by miscalculation.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who want to shelter behind the American deterrent without making a contribution ourselves must remember that they are asking much more of the United States than they have ever asked in the past. I myself have full confidence that the United States will stand by us in all eventualities, but, as the right hon. Member for Huyton said, we must look at this matter through Soviet eyes. Very well, let us try.
I do not think that it is very difficult to imagine circumstances in which the Russians might believe, in the period of nuclear equipoise, that the Americans would not come to our defence with all their deterrent power. The Leader of the Opposition forecast such circum stances two years ago. If this were so, if the Russians really thought that they could attack us without involving America, we should be, without nuclear power, in mortal danger—
So long as we can inflict unacceptable damage on any enemy, and this is the position today, there will be no miscalculation, and we shall be safe. It is precisely against the period of nuclear equipoise, against the danger which is approaching us, that the independent deterrent will most be needed. It will be the height of folly to cast away, or to shake faith in, the work which was done by Lord Attlee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) and others, and which has been built up over the years.
Is not the argument which the right hon. Gentleman is now advancing valid for all other countries as well as our own? Is it not, therefore, an argument for the possession of the independent nuclear deterrent by every other major power—France, West Germany, and so on—which we have assumed it was the policy of our own Foreign Secretary to try to prevent?
If it were in the interests of other countries to do this, they will not be deterred or persuaded from doing it by any surrender, abdication or abnegation on our part.
There is one other aspect in the speech which the right hon. Member for Smethwick made to which I think I ought to refer. The right hon. Gentleman proposed the abandonment of our nuclear power in favour of an increase in our conventional power. I am not quite clear what are the implications for the R.A.F. of this proposition, and perhaps the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park can tell us a good deal more about it when he speaks.
If we are to prolong the pause to the point of seriously contemplating limited war in Europe, which I understood to be the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, we should need not just more men, but more aircraft—lots more. We should need fighters, ground attack fighters, tactical bombers, and, as the right hon. Member for Belper suggested, some long-range bombers as well. If there is a nuclear attack, one strike is enough, but if there are conventional bomber raids, it will be a question of, "Fight, fight and fight again."
We must remember that we shall be attacking an Air Force which is 15,000 aircraft strong, and penetrating, or trying to penetrate, air defences which are prepared, not for conventional, but for nuclear war, and we must expect very high losses.
This will be a limited war, but, of course, we should have to attack the communications of the enemy, and we should not be able to limit it to Germany, as if it were a sort of Salisbury Plain.
We must expect high losses and face vast maintenance problems in sending out large numbers of aeroplanes every night for two or three weeks. We should have to have a front-line on the scale we had in the last war, and pay for it at present-day prices. I do not say that this is impossible, if we were prepared to make the sacrifices. What I do say is that we cannot get this and a bigger Army, too, for 10 per cent. of the defence budget.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick accused us, in the defence debate, of neglecting our duties to N.A.T.O., and I now want to say something about the contribution of the Royal Air Force to that alliance. Coastal Command is earmarked for the Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic, and so are the maritime forces, Gibraltar. The maritime forces in Malta are earmarked for the Supreme Commander, Europe. The whole of Fighter Command is assigned to the Supreme Commander, Europe, and so are the fighter squadrons in Germany. We have reinforced these since the beginning of the Berlin crisis by additional Javelins and by periodic detachments of Lightnings.
The reconnaissance squadrons in Germany and Malta are assigned to SACEUR. We have also assigned a powerful tactical bomber force to SACEUR. This consists of Valiant squadrons based in Britain and Canberra aircraft in Europe. Both are capable of being used in the conventional rôle, and, as the Committee knows, some of the Canberra world-wide force is now to be equipped with the French guided weapon AS30. The force assigned to SACEUR is in the nuclear fit, and they are in the nuclear fit because that is what SACEUR has ordered. The right hon. Member for Smethwick, if I understood him aright, told us that these aircraft were in the nuclear fit because we have too few ground forces. I have been making inquiries into this point, and I am advised that these aircraft would be in the nuclear fit even if N.A.T.O. force goals were met in full.
There is also the Canberra force, with an independent nuclear capability in support of CENTO. We have declared this force to CENTO, and we have repeatedly reaffirmed this obligation. It will be helpful to the Committee if the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park would tell us whether his party intends to abandon this deterrent element, because it would leave another large gap to be filled by conventional forces. In due course, we shall be replacing the Canberra with the TSR2. This aircraft is making good progress, and we expect to see the prototype flying next year. This aircraft will provide important support to the Army in reconnaissance and in the strike rôle, with both conventional and nuclear weapons.
Let me now turn to the problem of air transport. The Kuwait operation showed the power of Transport Command as it is today. The orders which we have placed, which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence has announced, show how this power will grow. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) expressed some anxieties in the defence debate about our heavy lift capability. He suggested that we might be well advised to buy or to hire an American freighter—the Globemaster, or something of that kind—to fill the gap until the entry into service of the Belfast.
We have thought about this very carefully. At present, we are in a fairly strong position concerning the deployment of equipment. We have stockpiles in Singapore, Aden and Cyprus and we can carry the equipment forward from those places with our Beverleys and Argosies. I think, therefore, that at present we can meet our requirements without a strategic freighter. But by the middle of the decade some of our equipment will be too costly to stockpile. I am thinking of the Bloodhound II, later versions of the Thunderbird and heavy Army equipment. For these we shall need the Belfast, and it is due to come into service in 1964.
There has also been some misunderstanding of our use of charter aircraft in Transport Command. This has been interpreted in some quarters as a sign of weakness in the Command. The position is as follows. Transport Command runs a limited number of scheduled flights, consistent with the requirement for training and exercises with the Army. It is our aim to keep it as far as we can as a spring coiled against emergency. The Transport Command force could not possibly be ready to meet emergencies if it were fully committed to routine duties. That is why the bulk of our trooping is done by charter. Even at Kuwait and in the recent British Guiana emergency we called in charter aircraft to help. This is the only way in which Transport Command can be maintained at full readiness for essential military operations, without, of course, large increases in establishment.
I wish to draw the attention of the Committee to a change in the organisation of No. 38 Group. No. 38 Group, as hon. Members will remember, is organised to give close support to the Army in the field in terms of transporting men and material into the battle area and within the battle area. We have now decided to put teeth into this formation. Two ground attack fighter squadrons have been assigned to No. 38 Group. The group will now be able not merely to support the Army in terms of supply, but to give it close combat support by attacking enemy ground forces and destroying enemy aircraft on the ground. Arrangements have been made for No. 38 Group, in major operations, to operate with Canberra bombers and reconnaissance aircraft.
The Hunter GA9 equipped with Aden guns and rockets still constitutes our major ground attack weapon, but by the middle of the decade, or soon after, we shall need a replacement for it. This should, we believe, have two characteristics; a vertical, or at least very short, take-off to enable it to conform to the kind of techniques developed by No. 38 Group and the Strategic Reserve: it will also need very high performance—probably supersonic performance—to survive above the battlefield of the future. I am thinking not merely of Europe, but worldwide.
There are two possible solutions to the problem of vertical take-off. One is that employed by the Hawker PI 127. This is powered by a Bristol Siddeley engine which first lifts the aircraft and then, by revolving the jet nozzle, propels it forward. The other is that of the Rolls Royce vertical lift engine, as exemplified in the experimental SCI, which lifts the aircraft, leaving it to other engines to drive it forward. It is still too early to say which of these concepts will be the final answer, but the PI 127 has been extensively tried and we are joining with the Americans and the Germans in taking a small number of these aircraft with the object of gaining the earliest practical experience of vertical take-off.
The advantages of vertical take-off are obvious enough. It is a great thing to be able to land where one wants to without needing an airstrip, but this carries other problems with it. One is to provide the refuelling, maintenance and ground control at the point where the aircraft is to land. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield was quite right when he said in the defence debate that we shall solve this problem only by trial and error. That is why we are taking some of these aircraft for evaluation.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will deal in detail with manpower questions when he winds up the debate tonight. I can tell the Committee that on this score the overall picture is good. We are satisfied that when we are on an all-volunteer basis we shall be able to meet our commitments. I draw the attention of hon. Members to the steady rise in the proportion of airmen on long-term engagements—engagements of nine years or more. By the middle of this year there will be 100,000 men on long-term engagements. That is about 84 per cent. of the total strength of the Royal Air Force. Another 12 per cent. will be on engagements of five to eight years. The crux of the manning problem is the recruitment of aircrew—pilots, air electronic officers and navigators. These are the cutting edge, the sharp end of the Service.
Last year, I had to tell the Committee that shortage of aircrew was the one dark shadow on the manning horizon. Had that continued serious difficulties would have loomed ahead for us. Our first priority over the last twelve months has been to recruit more aircrew without lowering the standard. I am glad to be able to report this afternoon that we have been successful in this. In the general duties branch we are still a little below the target for Cranwell. We need more recruits of high quality who, I hope, later will fill the command positions in the Service.
Recruitment from the universities has risen substantially. Last year, there were 57 aircrew commissions from the universities—the Committee will remember that we are dealing only with the problem of a few hundred men—and nearly all these came from university air squadrons. Candidates from the university air squadrons are of particular importance to us for two reasons. They have the academic qualifications necessary for high command and also, through their service in the university air squadrons, they have enough flying training to avoid the failures in flying which are so frequent a characteristic of others. I wish to salute the work of the university air squadrons and to pay tribute to the university authorities for the unfailing support they give the squadrons.
It is, however, to the direct entry that we look to fill the bulk of our aircrew posts. We had a bad beginning last year, but in the later months there was a sharp rise in recruitment to the direct entry. For the last four months last year we were getting almost all the pilots and air electronic officers we need. We had most of the navigators, also. The forward applications for the early months of this year show that the trend is being maintained.
I wish to express my thanks to hon. Members and all those who came to the Cranwell conference for the support they gave us in bringing young men to fulfil what I think is an essential purpose, and one for which there is a great need in the defence of this country and of our alliances world wide.
The Cranwell conference provided a number of new ideas of great value on which I have been able to touch in my speech.
I have tried, in the Memorandum, to give as much information as I could about our plans over this decade, but in the Air Ministry one must look at least ten years ahead, for it takes ten years to develop a weapon system. I therefore want to give the Committee some idea of the problems which we have to face and how we shall try to solve them when it comes to re-equipping the Air Force in the 1970s. It may well be that by that time disarmament will have relieved us of some of our burdens, but a Government cannot stake the safety of our people on their hopes in the same way as one might stake one's money on a horse.
On the contrary, I am trying to insure against the possibilities of failure.
I say frankly to the Committee that it looks to us as though the range of the R.A.F.'s tasks is unlikely to contract over the next ten years. We must face the fact, too, that the cost of research and development and of production will rise with more sophisticated and more complicated aircraft, and so will the cost of maintaining them and training pilots to fly them. How are we to be able to continue to discharge our responsibilities without presenting impossible Estimates to the Committee? How is the R.A.F. to keep in business in the 1970s?
We believe that with the introduction of vertical take-off we shall be able to save a good deal of money by achieving independence of complicated runways and other ground facilities. We also hope that this will give us greater standardisation with the Fleet Air Arm. We also seek, by introducing long-ferry ranges in our requirements, to be able to make do overall with fewer aircraft. In other words, if we can be sure of flying our aircraft from one end of the world to the other we need not position so many of those aircraft in different parts of the world.
But the essential problem which we must face is the rising cost of research and development and of production. At present, as we study this problem, there are 22 types of front-line aircraft in service. Bomber Command has the Valiant, the Vulcan and the Victor. Transport Command has the Britannia, the Comet II, and soon will have the Comet IV, the Belfast and the VC10. Could we make do with one basic type of aircraft for each task? It would be a great help if we could. Could we take this a stage further and make one basic type of aircraft do several tasks? For example, could one aircraft do air defence, ground attack and tactical strike? Or could a basically civil aircraft do maritime work and long-range transport.
That is nearer than some may think.
I cannot say for sure whether we can produce a multi-purpose aircraft, but it is along these lines that we have the best chance of solving our problems and of being able to discharge all our responsibilities without introducing impossible Estimates. If, instead of 22 different types of aircraft, we had only six or seven, the Committee can judge for itself the reductions which would be possible in research and development expenditure, the cuts which could be made in production costs and the economies which would become possible in training and maintenance.
It is fifty years this year since military flying began in Britain. When the General Staff went to look at the first precarious flying machines on Salisbury Plain they said that they thought they might have a marginal use for reconnaisance and communication. Since then we have seen what air power can do, and it is my belief that the next fifty years will see a much bigger revolution than the last.
My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield spoke in the defence debate about the importance of the study of space. I agree with what he said. I have just come back from a visit to the United States Air Force, where I was very impressed by the extent to which American Air Force leaders are already living in the space age. The American Staff College devotes about 15 to 20 per cent. of its teaching to space matters. Presentations at commands and lectures at the Air University no longer refer to the Air Force, but to the Aerospace Force.
What will be the military use of space? The use for communications is obvious, and we are already working in this country on the best way to exploit communication opportunities for military purposes. Reconnaisance is another use. I have already spoken to the Committee about the co-operation which we are undertaking with the American Air Force in connection with the Midas detection system.
But, plainly, communications and reconnaissance are not the end of the matter any more than they were the end of air power. A great deal of discussion is going on in the American Air Force, and I do not doubt in the Soviet Air Force, too, as to whether space can be used for anti-missile defence and for offensive purposes. Hitherto, there has been a tendency to consider space travel as something radically different from flying. It has been looked upon as a matter of missiles, rockets and satellites. But I am inclined to believe—and this is our view in the Air Ministry—that in the end it may prove more efficient and cheaper to link aircraft and space craft and to produce something which will be able to pass through the air into space and back again and be used several times.
That is the object. The X-15 aircraft has already flown at more than 4,000 miles per hour in the United States, and it is a first step in this direction. The Dynosoar programme may reveal other possibilities. I do not know. Our space activities in this country are still extremely tentative. We have done some work on communications. We are co-operating in the Midas project, we have a few R.A.F. officers working with United States Air Force on space matters and we have a small staff in the Air Ministry who are working whole-time on these matters.
The last thing which I want to do is to give the impression that we have embarked on a military space programme, but I have thought it right to share with the Committee the impressions which we have formed and to let hon. Members know how our minds are moving on these matters, because we cannot discuss the application of air power even up to the end of the decade without taking space into account.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman see that his whole argument today is driving him out of the air into space and bringing him right up against the problem of expense, which he is trying to evade?
I do not agree. The hon. Member is right in saying that space will be extremely expensive. It will be astronomically expensive. Before we can decide what is possible, we must study the question— [Laughter.] It is strange that hon. Members opposite laugh about the possibility of our doing something in space. They are always the first to denigrate any new achievement.
It is clear from the hon. Lady's intervention that she does not think that we can be successful on any national or allied basis.
The first step, plainly enough, is to study the problem and to see what can be done within our means and within our skills. We are making this study. Hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will have derived some comfort from the fact that Colonel Glenn, who carried out that remarkable flight the other day, was over 40. There is hope for some of us yet.
There is another lesson to be learned from the flights of the Russian and the American astronauts. Many people thought that the advent of the missile meant the end of the manned aircraft. It is already clear that this is not so. I believe that the same will be true of space flight. Basically, it is not possible to get more out of a missile or an unmanned satellite than is programmed into it at the time of launching. Man is the only computer who can change his flight plan in response to unexpected developments. Man is still the key to flexibility and surprise. Therefore, in all our thinking on these baffling problems I invite the Committee to remember what we in the Royal Air Force still believe is an essential truth, namely, that the human being remains the decisive element, whether in the air or in space.
We have surely just listened to the most extraordinary speech which has ever been made in introducing a set of Service Estimates. In the first part of his speech the Secretary of State for Air allowed his taste for party political polemics and his enthusiasm for nuclear war—he must be the only surviving disciple of the late Mr. Foster Dulles left in his analysis of the doctrines of massive retaliation—to take him rather far on an outdated policy. In the second half of his speech he got far away from anything that is practicable, as far as one can see in the Estimates that we have before us.
I could not tell from the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the over-40s whether he has some kind of ambition to be the first British cosmonaut. While his speculations of the possibilities of man in space were interesting, I do not think that he told us any of the reasons why he has come to the Committee today and asked for £550 million.
The right hon. Gentleman reminded us that this is the fiftieth anniversary of the RoyaJ Flying Corps. It is interesting to remember that its first functions were air communications and reconnaissance. In a sense, the wheel has turned full circle, if we interpret communications in its wider sense of mobility. In our view, these are the main functions of the Royal Air Force today. Our case against the Government—it is against the Government and not against the men in any of the Services—is that they have their priorities wrong.
Before I come to points on which I very strongly differ from the Secretary of State, perhaps it will be helpful to start by saying something which I hope he will agree with me. I want to pay a very high tribute to the efficiency and morale of the officers and other ranks of the Service. I have had the opportunity during the year to make visits to various commands in this country, in Germany and in the Far East. Any hon. Member who has visited the Air Force will share my wish to express our appreciation of the very high standard the personnel have attained.
In this context, I should also like to pay our tribute to the work done as described in the part of the Memorandum headed, "Errands of Mercy". We should be proud that in times of civil disaster the Royal Air Force has rendered tremendous assistance—for instance, in times of floods and famine in Kenya, Somalia, Tanganyika, and elsewhere. If I may add a personal note, I should like the Secretary of State to express my thanks and the thanks of the City of Sheffield for the co-operation that we had from Royal Air Force, Norton, at the time of the great gale damage in our city.
When the Secretary of State engages in political discussion on these matters, I hope that he will recognise that he must take political responsibility and that our attacks are directed against him and his colleagues in the Government. I hope that he will not seek to run behind the uniformed personnel of his Service.
We must be clear about this point. The Opposition are perfectly entitled to challenge us on the political or moral implications of anything we do. They are also entitled to say that the technical and military tasks which we ask of the Air Force are excessive. What they are not entitled to do is to say that the Air Force is ineffective in discharging those functions on its own account. This is what the criticism of Bomber Command has amounted to.
I know of no instance where a technical criticism of that character has been made. If it is suggested that in the present age some aero-planes will not get through, this is not a criticism of the crew. It is a criticism of the Government for putting a task upon them and a criticism of the aircraft they have to fly.
We are getting very close to common ground. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have said that these aircraft are obsolescent, and even, in some cases, obsolete, that they would not get off the ground and that we would not get through. I have said that this is a criticism of the effectiveness of Bomber Command. I tried to show that these aircraft are not obsolete, that they are not regarded by our enemies or potential enemies as obsolete, that they would get off, and that they would get through. I hope that this is all right.
The right hon. Gentleman is trying to put into our mouths opinions which would be highly irresponsible if we were to express them, because we do not have access to all the detailed information. It is on political grounds, which I hope to develop, that we base our statement that we should not seek to remain an independent nuclear Power.
Before I come to a subject I must deal with because the Secretary of State devoted so much time to it, but which I thought was a more fitting subject for the defence debate, namely, the strategic concepts, I want to say something about welfare and similar matters concerning personnel. I have been very struck by the very high standard of man management in the Royal Air Force. The other Services might well learn from the Royal Air Force experience in many of these matters.
However, although great progress has been made, a little more probably needs to be done, because the Royal Air Force today is a highly technical service. One of the things which I noted was the extremely involved technical work being done in maintenance and servicing by relatively junior low-paid personnel. If we are to get the right kind of man to stay in the Air Force, its conditions and pay must be brought as near as possible to a civilian standing. A man who has done eight hours work on highly involved electronic apparatus does not want to be told at the end of his day's work that he has to go and wash up the cups for the officers, which sometimes happens.
I noticed in many parts of the Service that extra work was being demanded of the technical personnel because of the make-do-and-mend attitude of the Minister. The Service was having to fly planes which were really too old, or which had passed their most useful life. This is particularly true, as I think the Secretary of State knows, in the Far East. There was a feeling in that command that they were at the end of the line and were rather forgotten.
Throughout the Service there is the feeling that there has been a lack of policy. The Government must make up their minds about overseas bases, and not give Commands tasks that can be fulfilled only if and when reinforcements are obtained. If the Minister would put his mind to those problems instead of to the problems of the 'seventies, on the one hand, and the problems of nuclear retaliation in the 'fifties, on the other, we would probably get rather more progress towards the sort of capability we want in the Royal Air Force.
I was pleased to note the great improvement in the married quarters position, particularly in Aden. I think that nearly all the notorious Crater quarters have been given up, but I hope that we shall be told something about the new points system that has been introduced for the allocation of married quarters. From what I can understand, it seems heavily weighted to the advantage of those who are very senior in rank and service. If men know from the very beginning of a two-and-a-half year period at an overseas station that they have no chance whatever of getting married quarters it is likely to be a great disincentive to recruiting. Under the old system, everybody seemed to get married quarters for some period of overseas service, but under the new system it seems most unlikely that that will apply to those of junior rank and with relatively junior service.
In spending vast sums of money on building in overseas bases, I wonder whether we have fully learned the lessons of Kenya and other places, where we have spent a lot of money and have then had to leave. Are we not building hostages to fortune in Aden? How long shall we be able to remain there? While we have overseas bases we want to provide adequate married accommodation in them; at the same time, we do not want to spend money that is due to go down the drain very shortly. An overseas tour is now usually two-and-a-half years. In one or two places, like Gan, where there is a short unaccompanied tour, there is extremely good morale. Has consideration been given to the practicability of having shorter periods of tour? In the Far East two years might be long enough, in any event.
We were glad to learn from the right hon. Gentleman that the recruiting position is rather better than we were led to understand last year. My own view, although this is a matter of controversy, is that all the talk about nuclear deterrence has reduced the recruitment of pilots. If one opposes the independent deterrent one does not discourage recruiting. On the contrary, if potential recruits see more and more planes in the Royal Air Force, and the Air Force doing more of its own transport work, and so on, they would be more likely to see a long and worthwhile career in the Service.
The Minister said very little about the technical trades. Shall we be able to keep pace, with the increasing complexity of equipment, in terms of technical personnel for maintenance and service? The recruitment of technical personnel might well prove to be a bigger problem than the recruitment of air crew. Perhaps we can be told something about that.
I was extremely disappointed—as, I know, Royal Air Force personnel will be—at the right hon. Gentleman's lack of reference to the pay position. Presumably with the Secretary of State's full approval, the Government have decided to defraud R.A.F. personnel of one year's pay increase resulting from the two-year review. I am glad, at any rate, that the right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to twist the English language, as one of his co-Ministers did, in an attempt to explain that to review did not mean to pay. When it is said that there will be a pay review in two years' time, it is assumed and understood that the consequence of that review will be the payment of any sum then found to be due. The Government's decision on pay will do more harm to morale and recruiting than anything else.
I hope that we shall not be told that there will be a great willingness in the Service to give up the increase for the sake of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the balance-of-payments position. Without wishing to take on the mantle of Dr. Gallup, I would be prepared to bet that a poll would show a ten-to-one majority in the Service in favour of having the money now; and that such a view would not be confined only to the lower ranks. I suspect that there might be an air vice-marshal here and there who would also take that view.
The job of the Government in an Estimates debate is essentially to defend their policy, to explain it, and to inform us, so that we may determine, now, the number of men needed, and, later, the amount of money to be devoted to the Air Force in the coming year, but in view of what the Minister has said one cannot avoid making some observations about the rôle of the RAF.
Our chief quarrel with the right hon Gentleman and the Government is that they have put strategic nuclear striking power as their first task—a strategic nuclear striking power represented by the V-bomber force and the Thor missiles. Although the right hon. Gentleman spoke eloquently and with great enthusiasm about the V-bombers, he said nothing whatever about the Thor missiles, and the only conclusion I drew from his eloquence was that he had given the best case I have so far heard for getting rid of the Thor missiles now.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the vulnerability of bombers if they could not get off the ground, and was indignant about such suggestions being made about the V-bombers. But the Thor missiles will not get off the ground; they are essentially a first-strike weapon—and a very provocative one. It is true that they may not cost very much to maintain, but the sum involved is still £4 million or £5 million a year. They are not our independent weapons; they are subject to Anglo-American control.
The right hon. Gentleman might answer some questions. He may find them distasteful but, after all, he gets the salary. Is there any reason why we should not get rid of the Thor missiles now?
The hon. Gentleman wants to ask questions before he answers any of mine, but I shall do all I can. The Thor missile is not necessarily a first-strike weapon only, as long as the threat comes from manned aircraft. It will become progressively vulnerable as the threat comes from missiles. As I tried to indicate, we are still in the phase where the manned aircraft threat predominates. Later, it will become necessary to phase Thor out, but we have not yet reached that point, and I should not like to forecast when we shall reach it.
Without having to read the Red Star I am sure that the Russian general staffs realise that they could knock out our missiles with such missiles as they have and use their manned aircraft for other tasks.
Another difficulty of the first-strike weapons is that they are provocative, for they feed the sort of propaganda that we are preparing to attack. What is the essence of the N.A.T.O. doctrines? I have not discussed these matters with President Kennedy, but I have the impression that he is putting all his money on the West putting, in its turn, all its money on a second-strike capability.
The truth of the matter is that the Thor missile has been a costly mistake, and that is not a reflection on the men who actually fire it. When I was in California last year our R.A.F. crews were carrying out test firing. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that S.A.C. was extremely impressed with the efficiency of the R.A.F. Perhaps I can convey that point of view in reverse.
On the question of V-bombers, I have nothing to add to what I said last year. On that occasion—and this is on the record—I said that in my judgment the V-bomber force was extremely efficient and that, in certain circumstances, it would get through. To my knowledge, no one is advising the Secretary of State to scrap the V-bomber force now. We want him to get rid of the Thor missiles and, when that is done, we shall give him some further advice. In any event, presumably the V-bombers have a conventional capability. I do not know sufficient about this to be able to assess their value in that rôle, but paragraph 59 of the Memorandum refers to this at the time of the Kuwait crisis, when the aircraft were held in Malta for a possible conventional rôle.
Decisions must be made now about the future. Those decisions must be taken now for four, seven or even ten years hence and the proposition of my right hon. and hon. Friends simply is that there is no case, on military, economic or political grounds, for our seeking to remain an independent nuclear Power. I did not like the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. Aubrey Jones) when he called the bomber force a "decaying asset"; I prefer to call it a "wasting asset" because, unless great expenditure is incurred, it will not remain an effective force. That, I think, is common ground between us. Our case is that we should not seek to develop it as a nuclear striking force in the future.
I do not mind answering those sort of questions. As I say, although I have no responsibility for the Estimates I am willing to answer questions and perhaps the Minister, when we deal with this matter later, will be equally forthcoming when replying to my questions.
One can, of course, see an advantage here and, no doubt, this is why General Power spoke of the value of the British V-bomber force; the advantage of dispersal. General Power made this point in fact when I discussed these matters with him a year or two ago. But there is no other evidence, so far as I know, of anyone else in the N.A.T.O. Alliance having asked us to make this kind of contribution. Indeed, all manner of political and military authorities in N.A.T.O. have gone on record as asking us to make a different kind of contribution.
Her Majesty's Government have tried to back both horses. They talk about an independent contribution to the Western Alliance, but—and this is the point—one cannot have an independent contribution to an alliance. One cannot have control of something and stress its advantages as a national asset under a national command and, at the same time, say that this is being done within an alliance. If one is in an alliance one must play in with the other partners, and I know of no one in the N.A.T.O. Alliance who is asking us to make any kind of independent nuclear contribution.
Our case is that our priority should be much more on the conventional side. Presumably, since we belong to N.A.T.O., the British Government are a member of the North Atlantic Council—in which each member has a veto—and, presumably, we must subscribe to N.A.T.O.'s doctrines. If we had not subscribed to those doctrines we would have tried to do something about them. On military grounds, therefore, I cannot see any case for our having to remain a nuclear Power. On the economic side, I must ask more questions about the 10 per cent. which, since last year, has been the fashionable figure to mention when referring to the cost of the deterrent.
Does this 10 per cent. include all the research and development, not only for the bombers, but also with regard to Blue Steel and Skybolt? The Comptroller and Auditor General, in the current issue of the Civil Appropriation Accounts, stated that by September, 1960, Blue Steel had already cost £60 million. We have already heard remarks about £150 million having been spent on the development of Blue Steel—yet not one of these is available to the R.A.F. £150 million is very nearly 10 per cent. of one year's defence expenditure—and we do not even have one of these devices in the Service. Does this 10 per cent. include research and development?
The figure of 10 per cent.—and it is about 10 per cent.—is a peak figure and, indeed, when the time comes for buying Skybolt, the figure will be falling below 10 per cent.
We are bound to be sceptical about Air Ministry forecasts. When doing his homework the right hon. Gentleman should read the Estimates Committee's Report about the accuracy of the forecasting of the Ministry of Aviation and his Department. If he did a little more reading of this character we might have more interesting Estimates speeches from the right hon. Gentleman and a little less of the rather lurid nuclear war stuff with which we were regaled in the earlier part of his remarks. Perhaps my hon. Friends will be allowed to give the right hon. Gentleman a selected list of documents and literature he might read?
The right hon. Gentleman asked whether my hon. Friends and I would wish to cancel the Mark II V-bombers and the Skybolt orders. Does he really think that we can answer that question today? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to lay a White Paper setting out the precise terms of the contract he has with the Americans? He says that we shall pay nothing for research and development, but what are the terms of the contract? What are the break terms? What will we have to pay to the contractors for the Victor bombers?
The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors made a mistake about the Victor, because, as a result of Skybolt, he has had to cancel orders for Victors at great cost to the British taxpayers. Further, how much has been spent on modifying the Mark II Vulcans?
If the right hon. Gentleman is willing to answer, preferably by putting a document to the Committee—and this is where I show my willingness to reciprocate, although I shall understand if he cannot because it is a matter of security—then, after proper reflection, we shall be able to answer the questions which he so gaily put to us today in the polemical opening of his speech.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again. I thank him for giving way. I was interrupted once or twice during my own speech. He will understand the difficulties which we and all who have these problems face. If, on the one hand, it is said that we cannot judge at all accurately where we should introduce the cut-off, even including the Skybolt, and, at the same time, it is said that we ought to switch from the deterrent to the conventional, it is very difficult, if one does not know whether one is to do it in this decade, to say that it is constructive policy at all.
I have no hesitation in saying that we on this side of the Committee would do it a long time before the end of this decade. But the right hon. Gentleman is wanting to be precise—
On a point of order. I do not know whether or not this is a private argument which is going on, Sir Herbert, but I see that there are not 40 Members present, so, apparently, quite a lot of hon. Members are not interested in the debate. In these circumstances, I am very doubtful whether it is worth continuing the discussion.
I was coming to the major reason why I and my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the Committee have stressed the need for us to cease playing the rôle of an independent nuclear Power. One of the factors, undoubtedly, is what is called the nth power problem. I can think of no reasons which we can apply for wanting to have independent nuclear power which are not equally valid to other Powers of the N.A.T.O. Alliance—to France and, indeed, to Western Germany. One does not need to be too great an expert to realise the dangers of the increasing spread of nuclear power to more and more nations.
I have put forward many times in this Committee that we do not want all the members of N.A.T.O. to be nuclear Powers, nor do we want N.A.T.O. to be a nuclear Power in the third nuclear Power sense. What we need is to get joint political control of the whole alliance over the nuclear weapons in Europe, whether American, British, French or anyone else's. It is because the Government's policy makes it impossible to move towards joint political control that I think the independent nuclear deterrent should go. In the period of nuclear parity, or nuclear equipoise, as the Secretary of State called it this afternoon, the big problem is not that of strategic nuclear power; it is the exercise of the so-called tactical nuclear weapons.
I wonder why the Secretary of State did not speak a little more about Canberras in the 2nd Tactical Air Force and about the rôle of R.A.F., Germany. I was extremely shocked that the right hon. Gentleman, having previously referred to the desirability of Anglo-American co-operation, cast such grave doubts about the willingness of the United States to fulfil its treaty obligations. One of the points he made very strongly was that we must have this independent nuclear capability because in this period of equipoise the United States might let us down.
That seemed to me to be an extremely serious statement for a Minister of the Crown to make. Before one talks about this side of the Committee concerning Anglo-American relations, the right hon. Gentleman should get Anglo-American relations right on his side. If he is really worried, as I think he should be, about the danger of war by miscalculation, surely he is not contemplating that in those circumstances one would deal with such a situation by hydrogen thermonuclear weapons. Or is that his view?
The hon. Gentleman accuses me of having cast doubt upon the United States. I said in terms just now that I have no doubt that the United States will stand by us. I went on to say that we must look at these things, as the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) asked us to do, through Russian spectacles to see whether they might not miscalculate and think that the Americans would not stand by us.
In doing so, I was only doing what another right hon. Gentleman said. On 1st March, 1960, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said:
… if we got into the situation—it may be very hypothetical, but one has to consider these things—in which we had had a little difficulty with the Americans and the Russians were threatening us over some issue about which we felt strongly, I cannot help feeling that if the Russians knew that we had the power to inflict fairly serious damage on them it would be a factor that they would take into account."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1960; Vol. 618, c. 1138.]
There was nuclear parity in 1960 and my right hon. Friend, being better informed than the right hon. Gentleman, knew about it. There has been nuclear parity since 1957. Does the right hon. Gentleman really suppose that when the Sputnik went into orbit the Russians could not equally, or even more easily, have dropped a bomb on London, Paris, New York, Washington, or anywhere else in the world?
Quite frankly there is not, even as we sit here, nuclear parity, that is to say, the Soviet Union could not destroy or annihilate the United States in the same way as the United States could destroy or annihilate the Soviet Union. I think that quite soon there will be, but not yet.
The right hon. Gentleman is being extremely dogmatic. I do not believe, if I may put it in that form, that he really understands the concept of nuclear parity. It is not, surely, that each side, has to have the same number of bombs or the means of delivering them, but only that each side has the capability of doing immense damage to the other after being subject itself to a first strike. That, in my view, is the present position. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that that is not so, then he ought to go straight to General Norstad and many others and get them to review their policy, because, according to him, they are working on false assumptions.
To get back to the problem of miscalculation—and this is the interesting question which I wanted the right hon. Gentleman to answer—if there is a miscalculation by the Soviet forces, and if there is a limited conventional aggression in Europe, does the right hon. Gentleman suggest that it should be answered at once with nuclear weapons? That is the interesting question, the answer to which we are still waiting to hear.
Since the right hon. Gentleman appears to be the Government's strategic expert, it would be interesting to know whether paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper still remains Government policy or not. I put this question to the Minister of Defence in the defence debate last year, and he dodged it. He said that he would answer the following day and he did not. Since the right hon. Gentleman has done so much study on the subject, can he tell us the answer to this question?
I am not going to try to answer the whole question of our defence strategy. All I am saying is that we are safe from nuclear blackmail or nuclear attack—or, indeed, any other kind of attack, of course—so long as we have the power to inflict unacceptable damage on the aggressor.
I accept that completely. That is my personal reason for supporting so strongly the N.A.T.O. Alliance. If the right hon. Gentleman says that we have to have an independent power beyond what is at the disposal of N.A.T.O and the United States, he is coming back to the point which he has already denied, that he is questioning the willingness of the United States to fulfil its obligations. I accept that in those circumstances the United States would fulfil its obligations.
Would the hon. Gentleman clear up some doubts which are in the minds of several of us? The right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), who opened for the Opposition in the defence debate last Monday, gave his reasons for getting rid of the deterrent. I got the impression—perhaps wrongly—that the reason was not cost, but because hon. Members opposite object to it in principle. We are told it is not cost because they would have conventional weapons which would probably cost considerably more. If it is not cost, and if it is a matter of principle, they cannot have it both ways. Surely they can make up their minds now, without seeing a White Paper, or getting some information, as to when they would get rid of it. I think that they are trying to have the best of both worlds.
The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), who is a great expert on all air matters, is confusing the military and the political arguments. One can formulate the political argument without access to technical military information. It is on political grounds, the difference between the success and failure of the N.A.T.O. Alliance as an alliance, that we say it ought to go. On military grounds it may or may not be a good thing for three, four or five years. It is on the military case that we need the additional information.
On political grounds there is no case for us being an independent nuclear Power outside the requirements of the alliance. As I understand the requirements of the alliance, they are much more that we should contribute conventionally rather than in terms of nuclear capability.
All the talk that has gone on about the danger of the use of tactical battlefield weapons by the Army has rather ignored what, to me, is the most dangerous possibility of nuclear war, and that is the rôle of the tactical air forces. I was alarmed when I read in paragraph 46 of the Memorandum that the primary rôle of the Canberra force is low-level nuclear attack. Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that if, in response to a conventional ground attack by the enemy, a nuclear interdiction were carried out, we could still hold the war to conventional terms?
I agree that the actual duties of the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force are duties imposed on them by the Supreme Allied Commander, but what the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues should not forget is that SACEUR ought to be the servant of the political authorities and not their master. When SACEUR says that our forces have got to be on the end of the runway charged with nuclear weapons and prepared to engage in nuclear interdiction, we should ask him whether he really thinks that his doctrine of a pause can be maintained if, quite apart from the question of nuclear weapons on the battlefield, the first response of the Tactical Air Force is to be a nuclear response. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that we can avoid escalation and the full flight to all-out nuclear war?
On a point of order, Sir Herbert. I wonder whether you would be kind enough to indicate whether this is a purely private fight, or whether an opportunity is likely to arise for other hon. Members to join in sometimes?
I am only asking whether the Government have actually questioned the N.A.T.O. doctrine, which they are disregarding in terms of the N.A.T.O. doctrine with regard to the Army, but which they are very happy to accept as regards the Air Force because it fits their nuclear philosophy.
The Government's chief scientific adviser talks about the danger of the use of the phrase "nuclear interdiction" and he poses a question which, I think, is worth repeating. He says, "We can deter with nuclear weapons, but can we defend?" This is a question on which I would like the Government to reflect rather more than they have done so far. I apologise for having spent so long on this theme, but it was a challenge from the Secretary of State, and I did not want him to feel that we were not prepared to meet his challenge.
We attach far more importance, in terms of the rôle of the Royal Air Force, to the need for mobility, and this, of course, gives particular significance to the rôle of Transport Command. There is reference in the Memorandum to the Kuwait incident and to the tremendous job that the Air Force did on that occasion. What it does not say is that every single freight aircraft that could fly was engaged in Kuwait and that the Transport Command and, I suspect, even its civil contractors, could not have provided any other transport at all if there had been any other emergency at that time.
I very much endorse what the hon. Member for Macclesfield said in the defence debate, when he referred to the great weakness of Transport Command due to the fact that we have not got any strategic freight capability. I am not sure that before the Belfasts come along we may not have lost several overseas bases by that time; but, in any case, I am not sure that ten Belfasts will suffice.
Certainly, there is a serious gap for two or three years, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his hon. Friend's suggestion that he should do something to fill the gap meanwhile by leasing or making arrangements with the United States Air Force for a Globemaster, a C130 or a C133 preferably. He will not always find a situation like Kuwait where there are stockpiles to hand and a commando carrier conveniently in the vicinity. If we are to take mobility seriously, we must be prepared to move many more troops and much more freight than we are able to do at present.
On the question of trooping, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has studied the first Report of the Estimates Committee for this Session. It has drawn attention to a number of questions regarding the trooping functions of Transport Command, and I hope very much that the Report to which the Committee refers in paragraph 25, the inter-Departmental inquiry on the use of Transport Command, will be reported to the House. Perhaps when he replies tonight the Under-Secretary can tell us something about the progress to meet the demands of the Estimates Committee. If Transport Command got the additional aircraft, I am sure that it could take over and do just as well, if not better, the trooping functions which are at present put out to private charter.
I should like to see, as would the Estimates Committee, a higher proportion of the trooping done by Transport Command. I was a little alarmed to learn of the very small number of flying hours a year which Transport Command utilises its aircraft. A reconsideration of this matter might give Transport Command the extra capacity to provide for a larger proportion of trooping requirements.
I turn now to aircraft. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) will, if he catches the eye of the Chair later in the debate, develop this matter more fully. I was very much impressed by paragraph 16, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred with a fair amount of flourish—all the grand ideas about having multi-purpose aircraft, about having simplification and fewer types, about having aircraft which might be common to the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and so on. These are wonderful ideas, but why did not the Secretary of State and his predecessors think of them before? Why did they not think of them when the controversy about the Buccaneer and the TSR2 was going on? The trouble with the political officers of the Air Ministry and the defence Ministries generally during the last ten years is that they have always talked about pie in the sky, but we have not had the aircraft in the sky which the Service demands.
The right hon. Gentleman ought to pay very careful attention to the third Report of the Estimates Committee for this Session on the Supplementary Estimates on the estimating of airframe costs. Anyone familiar with the language of Select Committees understands that the moderate language of that Report is very strong Parliamentary language. It is nothing less than an indictment of the Secretary of State's Department and the Ministry of Aviation for their wild and inaccurate estimating.
According to the evidence of one witness, if they do not make these rather wild estimates the aircraft companies will not get on with the job. If they have an aircraft company which will not get on with the job, they should find another one. It is extraordinary that they should continue making arrangements outside the figures which are put before this Committee. I recommend every hon. Member to read the very short but searching third Report of the Estimates Committee on this subject.
Reading that evidence, I wonder what the function of the Ministry of Aviation is in all this. Apparently, it pays the contractors and then the Royal Air Force pays it. To the question: "What happens if the Royal Air Force will not take the plane?" the Ministry of Aviation witness replied that the R.A.F. would have to take the plane and would have to pay the Ministry of Aviation whether it liked it or not. What is the function of the Ministry of Aviation? Is this one of the reasons for the great delay and the tremendous number of modifications which take place between the placing of an order and an aircraft coming into service? The right hon. Gentleman should order the immediate investigation into procurement of aircraft which the Estimates Committee recommended.
There has been the very interesting but disturbing argument about the Dart Herald and the Avro 748. Does the Minister say that he is obtaining for the Service the aircraft best suited to the demands of the Service? If he is not fighting for the planes that the Service wants, if he is not fighting to obtain for the Service the pay to which it is entitled under a Government commitment of two years ago, what kind of Secretary of State for Air is he? These, I imagine, are the questions which everyone in the Royal Air Force is asking. Quite apart from all the talk about aircraft in the future and the space age, what is the Minister doing to obtain the planes that the Service needs now?
I was told by an Army colonel engaged in Air Force co-operation, with particular reference to the short-range aircraft, the Herald, Caribou, or Avro 748, "If they do not want us to get on with the job, they should say so, and we can get on with peace-time soldiering". These people believed that the Government were taking mobility seriously. If they are not, they should tell the men so, and then they can go back to polishing things, parades, and the rest of it. If the Government really want the Army to be mobile, with transport capability, they should do something about it and not just talk about the space age.
I hope that Ministers will not talk about the problem of cost. As we have been reminded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker), the Government have spent during the last eleven years the staggering sum of £16,000 million. Of that sum over one-third, £5,500 million, has gone to the Royal Air Force, and they are asking today for £555 million. What have they provided with the money?
They had more men and more planes in 1950 when the total bill was only £223 million. Even if one allows for the increased pay of a voluntary service—one of the omissions or miscalculations which the Prime Minister made in 1957—and if we allow for the increasing cost of equipment, it is an extremely sorry story.
On any count, the political heads of the Air Force have done a very bad job. The incompetence of successive Ministers, their indecision, their wrong priorities and, particularly, their muddle in the procurement of aircraft, mean that the highly efficient personnel of the Air Force have been prevented from making the maximum contribution which otherwise they could have made to the defence of the nation.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) will not expect me to answer his many questions. I have a few to ask myself, and I wish to be brief. I promise that I shall not take the hour which each speaker from the Front Bench has taken.
I find myself on common ground with a few of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman, and on these I shall touch as I proceed. I have spoken in almost all the Air Estimates debates of the last twelve years, and I note a very few colleagues who have, perhaps, been as constant. I am sure that they will agree with me that our continuing pride in the Service has not softened our criticisms when we thought them necessary. Equally, we have not been slow to praise when we have been encouraged by any worth-while innovation or when definite progress has been made.
Today, I feel that there are grounds for congratulation at the progress made during the last twelve months. Looking over the past twelve years, we have much to be thankful for. Today we see a modern, streamlined Service which plays its part in the defence of the free world and which has built up a considerable striking force, as is now realised even if there are some who are slow to acknowledge the fact. There has been a tremendous improvement in our equipment. The morale of officers and other ranks in the Service is very high.
There must be universal satisfaction that Britain is not at this time engaged in any offensive action. This is a happy state of affairs for which the Royal Air Force can take a share of the credit. Our readiness and our powerful striking force are at once a contributory part of the free world's insurance against attack and against war. We have faced up to our responsibilities and accepted commitments peculiarly our own. We contribute to the general defence of the free world, and we have the absolute responsibility in the vital areas of Aden, Singapore and Hong Kong. Even the Americans recognise that we are entirely responsible for these areas. We have borne the brunt of two world wars, twice standing alone, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) pointed out the other day. Yet we gladly make necessary sacrifices again to accept our full share of a massive responsibility.
What gives me especial pleasure, and I am sure much pleasure to others, is the peace-time use to which the Royal Air Force is directed. I refer to the errands of mercy and rescue operations which are not widely known throughout the country. They should be given greater publicity. Before Christmas I sought information from the Under-Secretary of State, and I was impressed by the extent of the aid rendered in various parts of the world. Some of these instances have, I am glad to say, been recorded in the Memorandum accompanying the Estimates.
I make no excuse for referring to some of these instances. We supplied urgently needed troops and stores to help in the British Honduras disaster. There was the movement of passengers and stores between Honduras and Jamaica and photographic reconnaissance of the Colony to facilitate the work of long-term construction. All these are worthwhile peace-time jobs undertaken by the Royal Air Force.
There was the dropping of food and supplies to the population of the flooded coastal areas in Kenya and the vast amount of assistance given to the beleaguered areas of Somalia where flooding also created a serious situation.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has just said that B.E.A. could have done all this. The Royal Air Force has been in existence for fifty years. If it has peace-time uses, let us make full use of them. I should like the members of the Royal Air Force to know how much this worthwhile work is appreciated by all who are aware of it.
I have said that I do not wish to speak at great length, and I now want to make only three brief points. I have made the first already, but we should never forget it. We have carried more than our share of responsibility in the past, but we have not shirked the necessities of today nor of the future. We possess a striking force of very great power, as the Secretary of State has confirmed.
Secondly, we rejoice that we are in sight of the all-Regular force—this after about twenty-two years. Conditions of service are much improved, and it is more widely recognised today than ever before that the Royal Air Force offers a fine, worth-while career to the young man seeking adventure and a promising future. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will say something about the improvements in general conditions of service, about the trades structure, and about married quarters and accommodation.
I repeat what I have often said, namely, that the greatest inducement to recruitment is the constant reminder and assurance that manned aircraft will be required for years to come. I express the opinion that manned aircraft will always be required, for in the ultimate decision the living brain and human judgment are required. I was glad to hear the Secretary of State's final remarks tallying with my opinion. How-over, perhaps it is not too much to ask that the Under-Secretary of State will once again stress the vital point that manned aircraft will be required in the years to come.
My third point is also related to recruiting and almost equals the attraction of flying as an inducement to service with the Royal Air Force. It concerns the activities of the Air Training Corps, which has this year celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation. Many will recall the presentation of the banner by the Duke of Edinburgh last month to celebrate the occasion. Many will also recall the distinguished association of the Under-Secretary of State who was prominent in its early days and who is one of the remaining founders in a fast-dwindling number. I know of his continued interest and natural affection for the movement; therefore, I should be able easily to coax some replies from him to the questions which I now propose to pose.
Is everything done to provide the best equipment possible? Are there any further steps which can be taken? What else is needed, and is it a question of finance? Are the cadets getting sufficient flying experience? Does the closest cooperation with the local R.A.F. stations exist? I am confident that money spent in this direction will be well spent and will show a good return.
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman remember the long fight in which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee participated to get decent raincoats for the Royal Air Force?
I well remember that. I think that that is covered by my reference to the great improvements which have taken place not only in the last twelve years but in the last twelve months.
Will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State tell us something about the Air Training Corp's recruiting record? I know that during the war there were nearly 250,000 cadets and that there is a fine record for gallantry among ex-air training corps cadets. I understand that the corps today numbers about 30,000 cadets and that the aim is to make entry a privilege for which boys will strive hard.
Perhaps the Minister would consider the formation of overseas squadrons. I am sure that there are many children of serving personnel in places such as Singapore, Cyprus and Aden who can usefully and happily be recruited to Air Training Corps overseas squadrons. Will the Under-Secretary of State give this suggestion consideration?
I now come to a parochial point. I have written to the Under-Secretary of State about the accommodation problem of No. 78 (Wembley) Air Training Corps Squadron in my borough. I am grateful for his acknowledgement of my communication, and I hope that his efforts will provide a satisfactory and happy solution for the young cadets in my borough. I am well aware that accommodation for the Air Training Corps is a difficult matter, but the Under-Secretary of State will agree that it is essential that members of these units must have their own accommodation if they are to prosper. I am confident that we must look more and more to these trainees. They are our hope for the future.
In conclusion, I make no excuse for quoting the written aims of the Corps. These are set out in the new Royal Warrant of 1947, and I imagine that they have not often been quoted in this Chamber. They are:
To promote and encourage among young men a practical interest in aviation and to fit them to serve their country in Our Air Force, its reserves and auxiliary, and also in Our Navy and in Our Army;
To provide training which will be useful both in the Air Services and in civil life;
To foster the spirit of adventure, to promote sports and pastimes in healthy rivalry; and to
develop the qualities of mind and body which go to the making of a leader and a good citizen.
Few will disagree with these aims. Many of our hopes lie in their fulfilment.
I agree with much of what the hon. and gallant Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus) has said. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee agree with what he said about the humanitarian work of the Royal Air Force. However, some of us think that there is no need to incur as much as £525 million for those services in this coming year. We pay tribute to them but feel that they might well be devolved on agencies specially devoted to that kind of work. I should like to refer again to the speech of the Secretary of State, who has just left the Chamber. I hope that is not his reason for leaving. I want to deal with one or two of the things he said. He said that the United States will stand by us in all eventualities. I do not think that there is any doubt about that statement.
Than the right hon. Gentleman went on to say what I have quoted—that the United States will stand by us in all eventualities. Unless someone is sent to alter HANSARD those words will appear in it tomorrow. I want in reply to quote this. It is taken from the examination which an American Minister usually undergoes when he is appointed to his office. When Mr. Herter, who was a Secretary of State in the former American administration was being questioned last year, he said:
I cannot conceive of any President involving us in all-out nuclear war unless the facts showed clearly we are in danger of all-out devastation ourselves, or that actual moves have been made towards devastating ourselves.
I think that statement of Mr. Herter's makes clear what most sensible people would assume to be the truth—that it is quite impossible for the United States of America, granted all the nuclear and conventional power that she has, to promise each member of N.A.T.O. that she will enter into any engagement which may concern her. The Secretary of State, Mr. Herter, has specifically divorced the President from any such promise. I carry this a little further. I quote from the OFFICIAL REPORT of 8th March, 1961:
'A reminder that Canadian forces might not always be available for the defence of Europe was given by Major-General Kitching, Chairman of the Canadian Joint Staff, at a luncheon of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in London yesterday.'
that would be on the 6th March, 1961—
The General is quoted as saying: 'Although so far we have produced fairly important contributions in Europe, I wonder how soon it will be before we have to turn more and more to our own backyard."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c. 593.]
I think it is quite clear that there are certain qualifications being placed by other countries, one an ally, another a member of the Commonwealth, on the type of commitments to which they are bound in their association or alliance with us.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Air went on to say something else which seemed to me to be committing us much more widely than many people in Great Britain believe, or, I think, have grasped. He said that our battlefield is not only Europe but worldwide. We still cling to those trailing clouds of glory that are slipping away from us. I think it was A. C. Benson in Elgar's famous setting who said, "God has made us mighty". But the Minister of Defence and the Secretary of State for Air are going to make us mightier yet, from even scantier resources than those with which we started. Not only Europe will be our battlefield; it will be worldwide. Per haps the Under-Secretary, when he comes to reply, will say something about these worldwide commitments. Will he tell us what are our commitments in North Borneo? What is the strength of our Air Force there? How many aircraft have we there, how many airfields and how many of them are equipped to take aircraft that can deliver the nuclear weapon? I understand that there are five. Why is it that at this moment the Government are anxious to try to get North Borneo, which is 700 miles away, into the Malayan Federation? We are anxious for one reason, that if we can get North Borneo into the Malayan Federation then—
I am very sorry, Sir Herbert, but it was a material point to my argument that it would strengthen our claim to have Air Force dispositions in North Borneo if it became part of the Malayan Federation. At that I leave it.
In another part of his speech, the Secretary of State said that we were safe from nuclear attack—the safety aspect is naturally put first—so long as we can inflict devastating injury on an enemy. It is small comfort to know the extent to which we can be safe. Even though the right hon. Gentleman was challenged from this side of the Committee, however, he ignored the question that derives from his statement: what kind of injury would be inflicted upon us by our enemy? That is an important aspect of the problem, particularly since it would seem that the defence which the Air Force provides is not complete. Evidently, no thought is given to the civil population. When one contrasts the size of this country with the size of Russia and understands the difference in the area of dispersal in the two countries, one realises that we must think of being safe in other terms than by nuclear defence.
The Memorandum begins by telling us that "The net total of Air Estimates for 1962–63 is £552,150,000." When we view a great sum like that, we think again of this preparation in another sense. We think of defence, whether it is defence in toto or defence as it concerns that particular part of the whole defence problem with which we are dealing today. Even the Under-Secretary, when he thinks of that sum being spent in the coming year, including not one commodity which can be consumed by the ordinary population, will realise that this sort of expenditure is the great inflator and that nothing ensures replacement so much as organised destruction or preparation for it.
Not at all. The fact is, as the hon. Gentleman will realise on reflection, that those wages are not being paid for the production of commodities which are consumable. It is in that sense that the great part of this sum which we are voting today helps in the creation of the inflation that we all seek to modify or to prevent. It is not confined merely to this country; it is going on to an even greater extent in America. It is happening in Russia, in West Germany and in France; and it is creating the world inflation which makes our attempt to solve the problem even more difficult than it normally would be.
I notice another interesting thing. In paragraph 2 of the Memorandum, we are informed that although the total strength of the Air Force has been reduced, the provision for Royal Air Force pay and allowances has increased by about £600,000. That is to say, with a reduction of 94,000 personnel, the income of the remainder has increased by £600,000. I hope that the Under-Secretary is not tying himself to the principle that the greater the reduction in numbers the more we shall pay.
Page 6 of the Memorandum deals with the rôle of the Royal Air Force. In paragraph 13 we read that
The Royal Air Force exists to deploy air power in defence of our national interests and in support of our friends and allies. In particular, it provides …
The Memorandum then details eight different purposes to which the Royal Air Force is committed. Among these are: to provide strategic nuclear striking power, the strategic airlift of men and equipment, long-range striking power against submarines, and so on. I wonder whether this force, which is diminishing in personnel and has been reduced by 94,000 during the past year, will continue to carry out this wide variety of duties covering the entire world. It has no fewer than eight different kinds of duty to perform.
If it were to happen, as is not impossible, that even half of that number of tasks had to be undertaken at the same time, I wonder whether, with its smaller numbers and its lack of completely modernised aircraft, the Royal Air Force would be able to undertake them effectively.
My right hon. Friend said something about the capacity of our bomber force, and he said that we had the finest bombers in the world. The hon. Member is asking how the Royal Air Force would carry out the rôles which are laid down in the eight examples. There are many other tasks besides these. The answer is that the Royal Air Force would do it by increased efficiency. Efficiency in the Air Force is increasing all the time.
It is nice to know that efficiency still continues to increase. I would have thought, however, that after ten years of Toryism and after, perhaps, not ten years of this dedicated effort against Russia, efficiency would have reached a peak. When will the Air Force become fully efficient? On the confession of the Under-Secretary, the Royal Air Force, on which next year we are to spend £552 million, is not yet efficient. That is the meaning of the statement that the hon. Gentleman has just made.
In paragraph 18 of the Memorandum, we come to a point which I raised earlier with the Secretary of State. We are told that he is thinking of another medium than air. He is
giving careful study to the military use of space.
I did not consider that the Secretary of State was very definite in his attitude. Russia and America have entered the
space element. We are giving it careful study.
If we are to think of the world in terms of a possible battlefield, the one thing that we must have is air supremacy. That is one of the purposes of the Royal Air Force. Surely, in the new world which is evolving before our eyes—the world which talks about the missile and the anti-missile, and the bomb; and the tomb which is to destroy the space vessels and their electronic equipment; the basic reasons for getting together at Geneva, and the basic reasons for the American decision to engage in testing—surely in that kind of world the Secretary of State would have realised that if, in the older world air supremacy was necessary, in the new one space supremacy is equally necessary? He is going so far; but he is not going far enough.
There is one limiting factor in the problem, which I tried to put to him, and that is the cost; the great expense. He is entering into a world—at least, he is dallying with the thought of entering into a world—in which he cannot compete. And he knows it; and so does the Under-Secretary of State; and so does the party opposite. Not so long ago a great ship was launched. She is on her trials now, the U.S.S. "Enterprise", costing £70 million, equipped with 100 vehicles, able to fire 100 million tons of TNT—from one ship. The nation which produced that ship is, on her military budget alone, spending today over £18,000 million—only on her military budget; and we are providing today £552 million. Obviously, in that sort of world there is no future for us, and the Under-Secretary knows it. If when he replies to the debate he is going to think of the problem in those terms, merely on the financial aspect, then will he tell us where our little nook will be in the world which America is preparing?
The hon. Gentleman said that I "appreciated this fact." I am hanged if I appreciate either the fact or the argument he is trying to make. What is he trying to say? Is he criticising the Estimates as being too large or too small? Is he saying that because the Americans' effort is so vast—and I agree that it is vast—we can do nothing at all and must leave it all to them? I will tell him what he gets for this, he and every other citizen of these islands—safety and protection from attack. When he talks about this £18,000 million being spent and the rest, I can tell him what he has got for it. Since 1945 and the end of the war until this moment he has been able to sleep in his bed and so have his family.
Of course he knows quite well that what I said is true, but he is trying and his Government are trying to live in a world in which they have no real place, for the simple reason that if one takes research and development alone, on which we spent last year £125 million—and we are doing an excellent job there—we find that when it comes to developing the results of our own research the cost is so great we cannot face it. The Under-Secretary knows that. So we try to bring in Germany, we try to bring in France, to finance the production and development of the weapons which are the product of the genius of our research scientists.
He knows that that is the limitation, and if he is going ahead along the lines which the Estimates indicate, then he simply becomes the stooge of the United States of America, tied hand and foot to her policies, forced to carry them out—as we shall be at Geneva—forced to support America in the decision which she has taken to go ahead with the tests; forced to give her the place to carry them out, and to take in return Nevada on her terms. These are the things we have to do. We can have no foreign policy of our own so long as we are beggars at another man's door.
Physical warfare either as an instrument of policy or of annihilation is speeding towards the dustbin of obsolete things, to keep company with witchcraft, cannibalism and other outgrown social institutions.
Those are not my words. They are the words of one distinguished in military affairs, Major-General J. F. C. Fuller, in his book, "The Conduct of War." What the Under-Secretary of State and the Secretary of State and the Government
today are doing in defence policy, in air policy, in naval policy, is what General Fuller has said:
speeding towards the dustbin of obsolete things".
That is the policy which tonight the hon. Gentleman will stand at that Box and try to defend, and he knows before he starts that it is indefensible. Because now we have reached the stage where no longer do our means match the end that we are wanting to achieve. War used to be a method of getting peace, or convincing people that we wanted to get peace—as a result of waging war. Now if war is waged—if it is waged—and we are alive to see the end we shall realise that the means with which we have equipped ourselves to wage war can only destroy the end which we set out to achieve.
Is that what the Under-Secretary of State says? Why, the mock warfare which was waged recently in West Germany by our own military leaders proved what I said just now. The casualties, the dead and wounded, were so great that no one could look forward to the deterrent as a policy we would want to see followed. Yet that is what the hon. Gentleman is asking for. He is shaping in these Estimates tonight the means which will destroy the end which everyone in this Committee really wants to see.
It is because of that fact that that policy stands condemned, not only here but in the minds of all sensible people outside, and I join in its condemnation.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) made an impassioned speech in which he spoke about "the dustbin of obsolete things". I cannot think of a phrase that more ineptly describes the Royal Air Force. I should have thought that this Service, of all the Services, dealt with things that were relevant to the future, and were not obsolete.
In which case it was a most inept quotation. I have listened with a good deal of interest to both Front Bench speeches. They were both divided in almost equal parts. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air spent a little more than the first three-quarters of his speech in dealing with equipment and techniques and hardware and the last quarter of his speech in dealing with manpower. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) spent the first quarter of his speech on manpower and the latter three-quarters on hardware and matters of equipment policy. I want to confine what I have to say to manpower. However important may be the techniques and however powerful the hardware in any Service, these are quite useless unless we have first-class manpower.
One of the important matters which we must look at in the R.A.F. in the next year or two is the question of manpower at a reserve level. The Service is deficient in reserve manpower compared with the Army. It gets by at the moment because it has the tail-end of National Service. This will remain for a little while, but after the National Service men have gone we shall be entirely dependent upon Regular forces. The Secretary of State and the Air Ministry are to be congratulated on the success of the recruiting drive, but if the Royal Air Force is to continue to make an impact on the nation and we are to have a force available for emergency, we shall have to go beyond reliance on a permanent force and have some form of reserve force.
As always in debates on defence matters, there have been many references already to nuclear war. In the event of nuclear war the question of reserve manpower would be completely irrelevant. The Secretary of State made it clear that in the time it takes to call a Count in the House of Commons we could be obliterated. I cannot think that even the Secretary of State for Air and the Air Ministry would be able to call up the reserves in the warning time available, which would be about as long as it takes to have a Division in the House. In nuclear war, therefore, an emergency pool for the R.A.F. or the Army or any other Service is completely irrelevant. But I think that there the wrong assumption is current in both parties today that if there is another war it will necessarily be a nuclear war. I believe that the deterrent is right because it is a deterrent and that the balancing forces on both sides all mean that a nuclear war is unlikely.
As this becomes borne in on all the great Powers it is possible that they will become more venturesome in the conventional field, and it is there that we must be strong. It is there that we require an expanding manpower and where a reserve force will be important. Power of hardware is of no avail without manpower behind it. The greatest reduction in manpower figures in the Royal Air Force—over 50,000 National Service men less as shown in the graph published in the Memorandum—has been the result of this ending of National Service. These men will disappear altogether very soon. What have we left? The Army is spending £20 million a year on its Territorial forces. The Air Force is spending less than £1 million on such auxiliary forces as there are in the Service.
I know that this is something which the Air Ministry has already looked at, but the main purpose of my intervention in the debate is to ask the Ministry to look at it again. It is important that we should not refuse to recognise that there is a problem here or that we should not say that we can do without the reserve forces because certain arguments are advanced that it is difficult to obtain them and to train them.
The strongest argument against the R.A.F. having a reserve force is that the Service requires men who are technically trained and it is difficult to train men part-time up to the required standard and to employ them on the high technical tasks that must be carried out in the Service. I ask whether this is really true. If we have aeroplanes, radar equipment and electronic apparatus used in the Service, then clearly there are technicians in the factories making these things. If they are making them, they must be competent to operate them. Is this not a field for recruitment? Is it not possible to secure a reserve force from among people who are already engaged in the factories to serve the R.A.F. Could we not recruit these men part-time and to be on call if required?
No doubt we shall be told that the Air Force would then be competing with the Territorial Army. The Memorandum states that the R.A.F. Regiment is short of men. Presumably they could be recruited from the available manpower but we are told that if that were done we should be competing against the Territorial Army. I suggest that the Secretary of State and the Parliamentary Secretary should look at this point again. A good deal of the power and influence of the Territorial Army is in the country areas and is concentrated largely in the county towns. The Territorial Army is at its strongest there and at its weakest in industrial areas.
Why should the R.A.F. have to compete against the Territorial Army in the Army's own areas? Why cannot the R.A.F. compete for recruitment in the towns and cities? Just as, during the war, towns and cities were set a target to raise funds to buy a bomber and the aircraft was named after the town or city, so a Royal Air Force auxiliary force could be named after a town or city. We could recruit in the towns and cities technical and non-technical people who might be interested in serving in the R.A.F. and the R.A.F. Regiment in an emergency. In the country areas the Territorial Army is not only a military force but very much a social force. This is a good thing. I know that a great many comments are made by people about the number of colonels, captains and majors in the country areas who are connected with the Territorial Army. But that is a great advertisement for the Army.
We have nothing comparable in the Royal Air Force. Despite all the recruitment that there has been through National Service and despite the large numbers of men who went through the Service during the wax, there are comparatively few who have the kind of pride in their rank that one gets in the Army sufficient to maintain their rank in civil life. I think it would be a good thing for this Service if there were some auxiliary force available and officers were encouraged to carry their ranks with the same pride as those in the Territorial Army.
Of course, there are great difficulties about establishing an auxiliary service of this kind. They should be overcome. The Parliamentary Secretary, who is concerned with manpower, ought seriously to ask the Air Ministry whether it cannot in the next year or two evolve some scheme which would provide a means of continued service for men who have finished their National Service in the Royal Air Force. This would provide a means whereby the Service would permeate the whole of our national life in the same way as the Army permeates through its own territorial forces.
If this is not done and an emergency arises, we shall not have the feeling for the Service which will encourage people to volunteer and serve it. In fact, if one takes the view that the job is too technical and, therefore, one cannot ask for recruits on a part-time basis, in an emergency we shall lose the very technical people we want.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wembley, North (Wing Commander Bullus) spoke about the A.T.C. I think that a great deal more encouragement could be given there. I said at the beginning of my speech that the Royal Air Force is the Service of the future. I know that the other Services have traditions which go further back than those of the Royal Air Force. Nevertheless, when we are talking in terms of space we are talking in terms of something which is the future. There is no denying that. Whatever may be done by this Government or any other Government about participation in space, it is bound to come.
I believe that as it gets cheaper we shall in ten or twenty years' time find ourselves involved in space as we are now involved in ordinary air travel. Therefore, the young people see this as the Service of the future. The R.A.F. should be careful that it does not cut itself off from the young people who at the moment, I think it is fair to say, have a great interest in this service by turning it into a Service without any part-time volunteers.
I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. K. Lewis) agreeing with what has so often been said by my hon. Friends and what is now, clearly, beginning to be realised more generally throughout the country, that when we talk of a nuclear war we are talking about something which would obliterate the whole country within a few minutes. It is good that in no speech from hon. Members opposite so far have we heard any contemplation of the possibility of Britain surviving a nuclear war.
I shall comment a little later upon the point that the hon. Member made about the possibilities of conventional or limited war, which was, indeed, the theme of his speech in so far as he was relating his remarks to the need for getting additional personnel in the Royal Air Force to take part in the event of limited war.
I want to speak particularly about our strategic striking power, which is one of the main themes of the Estimates and accounts for 10 per cent. of our defence budget. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will pay me the courtesy of replying to some of the remarks that I shall make. I do not wish to sound discourteous to him, but I remember that a year ago I asked a number of questions and made a number of comments but he made no reference whatever to them, valid though I believe they were to the debate.
I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) will agree with me when she recalls the circumstances accurately that I was given about 35 minutes in which to reply to a very long debate. I would not wish to be discourteous to her or to any other hon. Member, but I can give no guarantee that I shall be given sufficient time tonight to answer all the points raised by hon. Members.
I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for his explanation of the circumstances last year. I agree that he had very little time. I just wished that some of the very important points which were raised on this side of the Committee could have been dealt with in his remarks.
Last year hon. Members on this side of the Committee were accused of having too little respect for the desires for peace of hon. Members opposite. If I may risk repeating the obvious. I want to go over the points on which I believe there is no difference at all between hon. Members.
First, all hon. Members are equally anxious for peace and equally anxious to do whatever is necessary and right to protect and defend the lives of the people of Britain.
Secondly, we can all agree that nuclear weapons present an entirely new challenge not only to us but to the whole world. They do so for two reasons, and I believe that there is general agreement on this. The first reason is that they are qualitatively different in the extent of destruction which they can create. When we talk about one hydrogen bomb creating as much destruction as all the T.N.T. of the last war, we all recognise the qualitative difference. The second reason is—I think that this has become true of the country as a whole in the last six months—that everybody now recognises the genetic danger of nuclear weapons which mark them off as something quite different. We have never before had to consider how what we in the House of Commons were proposing to do would affect future generations as well as our own generation.
Thirdly, I believe that we all agree—at least, I thought we all agreed until I heard the hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford, and here I return to the point that he made—that there is a very great likelihood that any limited conventional war will become a nuclear war through the process of escalation. Perhaps I am wrong and it is still a matter of considerable controversy, but I thought that it was accepted that there was very great risk of that happening.
It still does not alter my argument. I do not necessarily agree that a conventional war would lead to a nuclear war, but if it did, we should still have to fight the conventional war.
I see that the hon. Member shares at any rate some of the doubts whether it is possible to avoid a nuclear war developing out of a conventional war, a point on which I seek to establish that we have general agreement.
In confirmation of what has just been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), I would draw the attention of the Committee to the Soviet Government's Note last August in which they issued a most solemn warning that any small war between the great Powers, even if it started with conventional arms, was bound to end in a full-scale nuclear war, because neither side would accept defeat, but would throw in more and more forces until the final catastrophe.
I am glad to have that confirmation from my hon. Friend. He will also agree that this has been confirmed on a number of occasions by remarks by right hon. and hon. Members opposite, by American generals, by N.A.T.O. generals, and, indeed, by our own generals.
The fourth point on which I believe we are agreed generally, as has been indicated in defence debates, is that Britain cannot survive a nuclear war, that we are totally vulnerable, and that any pretence of making civil defence into any kind of reality is almost nonsense, because, in such circumstances, it could only have a very marginal and doubtful effectiveness.
The final point on which we are all agreed is that the great urgency is to avoid war and to achieve multilateral disarmament. There is no difference of opinion on that whatever. Where we differ is how Britain should shape her policy in order to achieve these great aims. The difference between the two sides of the Committee is very narrow on this, but it is, nevertheless, extremely acute. The difference is between the belief that the British support for the nuclear deterrent and the general policy of the balance of terror is a policy which helps to avoid war, and the belief that it is one which is likely to contribute to the greater danger of war.
One of the most recent statements of Government policy on the justification of the deterrent came from the Foreign Secretary last week, when, in fair detail in the Glasgow Herald, he replied to a number of questions put to him by critics of his policy at a meeting which he recently addressed in Glasgow. What he said puts the policy as clearly as it has ever been put by any Government spokesman. He said:
If nuclear weapons ever have to be used they will have failed in their purpose, which is to stop war starting.
This is the general policy of those who accept the deterrent.
My first comment on that is that it seems to take no account of the danger of war by miscalculation, which the Secretary of State for Air himself mentioned today. It was also the subject to which I addressed myself last year. I shall not elaborate now, except to say that the development of nuclear strategy has reached a point when, in itself, it is producing certain dangers in which a war could start although nobody intended it.
After our debate on the Air Estimates last year, President Kennedy asked his Secretary of Defence to set up a special committee to look into the possibilities of minimising the dangers of war by miscalculation. This followed the publication of a report at Harvard University which set out these dangers in detail and examined them very clearly. These dangers are generally recognised to be growing in acuteness.
It was only yesterday that Dr. Kendrew, a part-time scientific adviser to the Minister of Defence, said in London that the dangers inherent in the carrying of nuclear weapons by aircraft and submarines had not been sufficiently emphasised He added:
However many safety switches you have … it is inconceivable, I feel, that with one thing or another there will not be simply an accident, one will go off, and, at this moment anyway, it is very hard to be sure that if one does go off it will not be misinterpreted and unleash much more than has been bargained for.
That conception bears out in many instances other things said during the last year. Here, we are at the point where we can no longer guarantee the prevention of war even if we believe that the nuclear deterrent is an effective way of preventing war breaking out. We are at the point where the weapons themselves, the elaborations and complications of strategy, the multiplicity of control and devices of responsibility, and the various errors that may occur create this very clear possibility of war by miscalculation.
One question which I wish to put to the Under-Secretary of State is this: does the budget that we are examining today include any scientific work being done in this country on minimising the dangers of accidental war? That is a very relevant point worth considering. The Foreign Secretary, in his interview in the Glasgow Herald, said of the question of tests—and in doing so gave the whole view of the Government on the balance of terror—
The danger of allowing a Communist country to get ahead in nuclear power is that
their policy includes the use of force. The temptation, therefore, to use quick victory might prevail.
We now know that the Russians learned a lot from their tests: so, if the Russians will not agree with us on a ban to stop all testing, we and the Americans must be prepared to make tests ourselves so that our power may balance Russian power.
It seems clear that the Foreign Secretary is there making two assumptions. Indeed, those assumptions were made throughout the speech of the Secretary of State today. The first is that we are seeking to deter a Russian first-strike. The second is that, because of this, and following from it, tests for our weapons are necessary in order to balance Russia's nuclear power. But what are the facts, so far as we in our humble capacity as Members are able to establish? Mr. McNamara told of America's nuclear strike force on the 12tih November last. I will summarise his list. He said that the United States had 1,700 intercontinental bombers, several dozen operational I.C.B.M.s, 80 Polaris missiles, 80 Thors and Jupiters, 300 nuclear-armed carrier aircraft with megaton warheads, and 1,000 land-based supersonic fighters with nuclear warheads.
On the 22nd October, his deputy, Mr. Gilpatric, said:
The total number of our nuclear delivery vehicles, tactical as well as strategic, is in the tens of thousands, and, of course, we have more than one warhead for each vehicle …
We have a second-strike capability which is at least as extensive as what the Soviets can deliver by striking first, therefore, we can be confident that the Soviets will not provoke a major conflict.
According to Professor Blackett, it is estimated that the total American stockpile is about 30,000 megatons, which is equivalent to 150 tons of T.N.T. for every man, woman and child in Russia. If that is the American capacity, what is the Russia capacity? Here, of course, we know next to nothing. We can only rely on the estimates of the Americans. The American estimates are, after all, what the Americans are basing their policy on, together with the West as a whole, including Britain.
The New York Times of the 20th November and 6th January gave an estimate of Russia's capacity, and to some extent the right hon. Gentleman confirmed the estimate when he spoke today. The New York Times said that Russia has 50 I.C.B.M.s, 150 intercontinental bombers and 400 medium-range missiles able to cover Europe, but not the United States. It estimated that there was a probable slight United States lead in I.C.B.M.s.
Members opposite may think that this is a very low estimate, but Professor Blackett points out that it would be politically suicidal for the Defence Department in Washington to run any risk of under-estimating Russian capacity because, clearly, it could not afford the political risk of doing so. Therefore, one is entitled to assume that the Defence Department believes the estimate to be correct.
One is inclined to ask what is the relevance of the British contribution to the nuclear deterrent in terms of the American capacity that exists at the moment, and whether it is correct, as was suggested by The Times correspondent in Washington last week, that one of the advantages of Britain retaining her own independent deterrent is so that it can provide a basis in years to come for a N.A.T.O. deterrent. If that is correct, it is a very different issue.
Let us be clear about it. If what is at issue is not the present capacity, but whether or not Britain should provide the basis for N.A.T.O. nuclear power in future years, there will be many who will have comments on that subject which might show the division to be rather different from the present ones which exist when we talk about an independent deterrent.
In this connection, I quote what Professor Blackett said in an article in the New Statesman:
Assertion that America possesses a second strike as strong as Russia's first strike thus buries officially the sedulously propagated fear of a rationally planned Soviet first strike.
In other words, if America can strike back more effectively than Russia can hit out in an aggressive attack, that completely destroys the idea that there should be any rational motive in Russia carrying out a first strike, but the Foreign Secretary's and the Government's case is based entirely on propagating this fear. What is talked about all the time in terms of the Government's case is the possibility of deterring a Russian first strike. What they are continuing to do is to propagate the
idea that there is a further need to take further steps to advance still more in order to balance the Russian nuclear capacity.
Does the Under Secretary intend to suggest tonight that American estimates as quoted in the New York Times of Russian capacity are totally inaccurate, so wildly beyond the truth, that the Russians are capable of delivering a first strike which could overwhelm the American second-strike capacity, or will he agree that the estimates on which presumably Mr. Macnamara is basing his judgment are accurate so far as the West knows them?
If so, we are not entitled to talk in terms of a rational Russian first strike. It is difficult to think of a rational first strike which would not be carried out. It would be madness to think that it could be carried out unless it was thought that they could get away with it. A great deal of nonsense is talked about this matter. It is dangerous and a wicked irresponsibility to seek to convince the British people on the basis of false arguments which are known to be false. In these terms it seems that there can be no possible justification for holding tests.
I wish to say a word or two about tests so far as they relate to our own nuclear deterrent and to the total Western nuclear deterrent in which our own deterrent is playing a part. The Secretary of State quoted Mr. Macnamara's remarks made on American television that the anti-missile missile was still pretty much of a non-starter, Mr. Macnamara went on beyond the point at which the Secretary of State quoted him and said that the Nike-Zeus anti-missile system was quite advanced, but had "serious weaknesses" and that they were such that it could not be placed in production at present.
Many of the defence correspondents in the Press, and many hon. Members, have been at great pains to convince us that the real necessity for the tests was that it had been established that there had been a vital step forward in the antimissile missile field. Yet we are told that so far as the Americans are concerned it is a non-starter. What, then, is the reason for tests? Other reasons have been put forward, one of which I found extremely
interesting. The Times correspondent said last week that among the tests which would be carried out would be a series of
Experiments in reducing the weight-megaton yield ratio for two strategic purposes. These are: to reduce the size of the delivery systems to permit greater mobility and protection to increase the penetration of the present systems. The latter would give the Minuteman and Polaris missiles more powerful warheads.
The writer went on to speak of the massive bomb which was tested by the Russians last autumn and the possibility that Russia might be manufacturing a bomb with an even higher yield and said:
the Soviet Union cannot be permitted to make quantitative advances in spite of the concept of overkill".
One of the reasons for this, as given by The Times correspondent, was:
Systems such as the Polaris are less accurate than could be desired, a fault that can be corrected only …
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Lady, but, although this debate is fairly wide, I think it an abuse to go into the question of American tests, particularly of the Polaris.
What I am seeking to discuss, Sir Robert, is the way in which our own independent deterrent fits into the picture of the Western deterrent. Our own tests in Nevada, and the object for which we have lent Christmas Island, are relevant to our judgment of what is present Russian nuclear capacity in comparison with our own nuclear capacity in terms of first and second strikes. I shall conclude this point, if I may be permitted, in about half a dozen words which will finish my quotation. The quotation ends by saying that lack of accuracy
can be corrected only by increasing the nuclear yield of the warhead.
This is highly relevant to the whole debate today. It means that we are going quite deliberately into developing with the Americans nuclear weapons with such an over-kill capacity that the damage they create can more than compensate for their lack of accuracy. So far, I have not been talking in terms of the morality of nuclear weapons, because that is an argument on which the individual
conscience can decide, but when we reach the point of developing an over-kill weapon deliberately to compensate for lack of accuracy we are talking of a morality which no church nor individual conscience could ever justify.
The tragic absurdity of the nuclear arms race in which we are engaged—and this is an arms race to which today's Estimates apply—has as a vital part seeking to deter a first strike which in terms of what is judged to be Russian nuclear capacity is mythical. At the same time, we have no intention of initiating a first strike. Therefore, it is absurd that we should not at some point—I suggest that this is the point, this year—begin to ask how far the arms policies on which our Government have based their Estimates are founded upon a fallacy which has been gaining momentum since 1951 and has never had the validity which has been claimed for it by Government spokesmen.
I was very glad to observe that a pamphlet on this question has been published by the Bow Group. I hope that at least one hon. Member opposite who will be speaking in this debate will discuss what the Bow Group has to say. I see one hon. Member opposite who, I think, may be commenting on it.
I am sorry, for I am sure the Committee would have welcomed comments by the hon. Member on what seemed to me a most interesting pamphlet. It put forward the idea of the non-nuclear club. If I may enlighten the hon. Member, the writer of the Bow Group article writes:
There is, however, one condition under which we might be prepared to see Britain give up her nuclear striking power: that is, as part of an effective world-wide agreement by which every country except Russia and the United States renounced nuclear weapons … it might be politic at a suitable moment for the British Government to give an undertaking to this effect, if by doing so the chances of successful disarmament negotiations were substantially improved.
The only difference between the Bow Group in this respect and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, of which I am a member, is that we say, "Let us start the process off". We believe that we can
spend many years inviting other people to join us in a non-nuclear club but that we could most effectively begin it as a real concern by saying, "Let us start the non-nuclear club, of which we shall be the first member."
No. I do not agree. The whole tenor of my earlier remarks was to show that there is no difference between the hon. Member and myself in this respect. I would not have said that three or four days ago, but, having seen the Bow Group pamphlet and knowing the hon. Member's affiliation to the Bow Group, I am inclined to think that there is much less between us than I thought earlier. Certainly, both he and I are equally concerned to defend the lives of the people of this country.
Perhaps the hon. Lady will agree with this: I am prepared to risk annihilation to avoid having to surrender while she is prepared to surrender to avoid the risk of annihilation.
This is the "Better Red than dead "argument, which is becoming a little wearisome in this controversy. At least, both the hon. Member and I seek to avoid the outbreak of war. I began by saying that we were agreed on one general point, and no hon. Member opposite challenged me—and it was that we all seek to prevent war from occurring in which nuclear weapons might be used.
I do not. But I believe that we are growing more and more dangerously near to the outbreak of nuclear war unless this nation comes to grips with the problem which confronts it and with the fact that it is within the power of the people of this country to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war, rather than to go on through the years living on the clichés of John Foster Dulles and of the artificial concept of first and second-strike capacity. The hon. Member is still living in days which are outdated in terms of the present military balance of power.
If the hon. Member wishes to make a speech later I shall enjoy listening to him.
I was hoping to say more about the tests and particularly about the zoning system, but it would be out of order. Those of us who believe that the time is long overdue when Britain should cease to be an independent nuclear Power look forward to the effective rôle which Britain could then play in promoting the agreed aims of our foreign and defence policy. We believe that Britain would be able to play a more positive rôle in achieving the multilateral disarmament if she were a non-nuclear Power than she can at the moment. We see Britain going into the critical disarmament negotiations at present as a nuclear Power, but with what clearly seems to emerge as a slightly different view on certain points of the negotiations from that of the United States—and yet, equally clearly, with certain deep moral obligations to support the United States' point of view in the conference hall and to work out whatever differences there may be.
On a point of order. This appears to be a purely propaganda speech which can gladden only the hearts of our enemies. What is the relevance of all that we have heard in the last ten minutes to the Air Estimates?
It has been ruled that the debate is fairly wide, because one of the things for which the R.A.F. exists is to provide Britain's strategic nuclear striking power. It is, therefore, a little difficult to confine the debate very closely, but I think that the hon. Lady has gone about as far as she should.
I hope that the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Farey-Jones) will listen to the whole of the debate and will try to separate clearly in his mind what are facts and what is propaganda. The trouble about the country's defence system over the last ten years has been that it has been clouded by propaganda and infiltrated too much by fear.
What I am saying is clearly relevant. Let us look at the consequences for this country of the abandonment of an independent nuclear striking capacity. It is not enough to say that we should no longer have nuclear weapons of our own without going straight on to consider what the consequences would be for Britain. I look forward to the realistic consequence of Britain being able to play her proper part in the disarmament negotiations, just as other Powers in the world are asserting their right to play a part despite the fact that they have no nuclear weapons of their own.
We believe that Britain could play a positive and essentially constructive rôle because of her technical background and her experience of having been a nuclear Power. I believe that with one or two other deeply concerned countries she would be able to put forward the kind of compromise proposals which would be acceptable to both America and Russia.
Instead of that, and because we are a nuclear Power, I fear that during the present negotiations we shall be limited in our capacity to express independently a constructive point of view. I shall be interested to hear from hon. Members opposite a justification of the fundamental effects of the whole policy of an independent nuclear deterrent, based on facts. I should be interested to hear whether any of them challenge the estimates which the Americans have put forward of their own striking capacity, their own second-strike capacity and the Russians' first-strike capacity.
I shall be interested to hear whether they say that there is still a need for nuclear tests in order to create a further balance of strength and to hear them justify their argument that it is only the independent possession of nuclear weapons which is likely to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war. Many of my hon. Friends and many more in the country believe that they are fundamentally wrong in their views and dangerously misled.
I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) will forgive me if I do not follow her into the highways and byways of her speech. I want for a short time to discuss one very important aspect of the Air Estimates-strategic transport.
I listened carefully to what the Secretary of State said about this matter. He was clear in his ideas about a multipurpose aircraft and the possibility of narrowing the variety of aircraft needed today. In my view we can expect this to be the future plan and trend, and we can expect that the ordering and requirements of the Services, in particular for strategic transport, will be considered more in terms of how the aircraft can be used for other purposes than purely in terms of taking our troops and equipment as quickly as possible from one place to another.
We see from the Estimates that there are twenty-two types of aircraft and that the suggestion is that the number should be reduced to a minimum of about five basic types which would serve not only the R.A.F. but, I believe, the air branch of the Royal Navy, too. When discussing questions of air transport I must declare a very special interest because the Belfast, the aircraft which has been ordered, is being made in Northern Ireland; ten of these aircraft have been ordered and the construction of them has commenced. But T want to go a little further into the policy involved. Having taken a decision that a transport aeroplane of the type of the Belfast should be ordered and that this type of aircraft should be used, we have to look a litle further and to see the importance of this decision. Ten aircraft of this type will obviously not be sufficient for the transport needs of the R.A.F. in the years ahead. In order to plan on a long-term basis, there will have to be a further decision about how many of these aircraft, or developments of this aircraft, are to be used.
It is practical to say that if a customer orders ten of an aircraft he has ordered too many not to order more and, if he has not faith in what he has originally ordered, he should not have ordered ten. This may not sound very logical, but on reflection it will be seen to be very logical.
The Belfast freighter has many potentialities. I want to draw attention to a few of them and say why in these Air Estimates we should be looking to the future not only of the R.A.F.S requirement but the way in which the R.A.F. orders can match in with the needs of the B.O.A.C. freighter transport, which is to be more and more the freight transport of the future. The Government should be examining ways in which the Belfast can be adapted, not only for the transport of men and equipment, but also for transport in civilian use.
It is interesting to note from the maps provided with the Estimates that the long hauls are very similar to those of B.O.A.C. lines. There are very similar requirements. The Belfast, with its developments and adaptations, which we know are being done at the moment—many different specifications are offered—provides and offers a wider service than any other aircraft in this type of work
I have some details of the various ways in which this aircraft can be used—not only for the transport of military personnel, but also for civilian transport. It is relevant for me to make a brief mention of a few of these. There are many different ways. The first is for troop transport. The Belfast can carry 147 troops and all their kit and gear in one jump. It can be adapted to become a double-deck troop transport and take upwards of 200 men. It can be a paratroop transport, taking two large groups of paratroopers, to be dropped in anything up to three sticks. It can be used for casualty evacuation and for the transport of many types of vehicles. It can be used for helicopter transport. It can move the standard Army trucks. It can be used for missile transport and for dropping heavy supplies.
Many people have denigrated this aeroplane and detracted from its usefulness. Many have thought that this is not the type of aircraft to be used, but its critics and detractors have faded away. I think that the only complaints now are about the delivery date. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) said that the aeroplane would not be available for three years. I assure my hon. Friend that we expect this plane to fly in 1963, which is not very far away.
This aeroplane has a very wide range. If it takes a tank, it has a range of over 2,000 nautical miles. It has a capacity of refuelling a receiver aircraft with 10,000 gallons at a radius of 1,850 nautical miles. It can refuel 5,000 gallons in a radius of 2,700 nautical miles. This all goes to prove that the manufacturers and developers are not sitting down and adopting the attitude, "We have an order for ten of these planes. This is enough to keep us going temporarily but not enough to excite us into developing new uses for the plane".
The design and development of this plane have been very interesting to watch. Today the designers are not only thinking about other ways in which it can be used, both for military and civilian use, but also how it can be adapted for short haul.
People may ask why there are not already commercial orders, especially orders for export. Many of us know the difficulties experienced by the aircraft industry. It is very hard to carry export orders, because the financing of the industry is not as satisfactory as it might be. However, there is great interest in the 'plane, although no commercial concern will commit itself until it see the 'plane in the air.
It is in the interests of the company and of the Government that these orders should be carried out as soon as possible. It is not sufficient for the Government to say, "This is the aircraft on which we have decided. This is the type. This is our policy. This is the way in which we intend to move our troops and equipment quickly from one place to another when we require to do so in emergencies". Are the Government looking ahead? Are they considering what further needs they will have for transporting troops to strategic places, when they will place the orders, and what will be the long-term line?
Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State give us some indication of what the future policy will be? Are we to get what we believe to be an economic necessity, namely a further order for the Belfast freighter? Will it be in the foreseeable future so that the company concerned can go ahead and plan accordingly? These things work in anything up to seven-year cycles, from the time of thinking about and designing a 'plane to getting it into the air. We spent many years deciding which type of aircraft was to be used. This held the whole thing back longer than was good for the country. I hope that there will be a quick decision to reorder and look at the different lines of development of the Belfast—one for the short haul and one for the long haul. They could be used by B.O.A.C. and civilian airlines. I hope that we can have some idea about the Government's thinking on this. I hope that we shall not come up against a stone wall—" We have got them. This is what we are doing". We hear plenty of that, but we never hear enough of what the Government are going to do long term.
The Belfast is a very manoeuvreable 'plane. It can be used in many areas without great cost. It can be used on a wide variety of airfields. It has great advantages. It would be of great help to those engaged in its manufacture if the policy of the Government could be made clear. I very much hope that Northern Ireland will have further orders. This will help us and, we believe, help the Government enormously in keeping our strategic lines open and in ensuring that we are still able to get our troops speedily and safely to where we want them to go.
I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) will forgive me if I do not follow her into the rather specialised field which she covered with a knowledge far greater than mine. I shall deal with the broader aspects of our so-called strategic nuclear deterrent policy. I shall first deal with the cost. The Air Estimates call for the expenditure of £552 million. This would be too much even if it were a sound strategy, which I do not believe it is.
I draw attention to the statement in the Defence White Paper that the
total claims on our resources "—
of our armed forces should be—
consistent with the maintenance of a sound economy …
These Estimates, the Army Estimates, and the Navy Estimates which are to come add up to a sum which makes excessive claims on our economy and is not compatible with our economy remaining sound.
In this connection I recall, because it is very apposite to the present situation, the remarks of the present Minister of
Aviation when he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 23rd January, 1958:
… For over twelve years we have slithered from one crisis to another. Sometimes it has been a balance of payments crisis and sometimes it has been an exchange crisis, but always it has been a crisis. It has meant a £ sterling which has sunk from 20s. to 12s.
Previously, the right hon. Gentleman had said:
… for twelve years we have been attempting to do more than our resources could manage … we have sought to be a nuclear power … and with large … conventional forces in the Far East, the Middle East and the Atlantic at the same time…. At the same time we have sought to maintain a Welfare State at as high a level as—sometimes at an even higher level than—that of the United States of America."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd January. 1958; Vol. 580, c. 1295–6.]
In point of fact, the Welfare State in the United States is very rudimentary and unevenly developed—but I say that merely in passing.
The right hon. Gentleman resigned at that time because the Government refused to make a slashing reduction in the social services; they preferred death by a thousand cuts. We have just escaped another such cut for fear of the political consequences—
I thought I said, "So far"; if I did not, I should have done.
The Secretary of State referred to the Opposition's alternative policy of relying more on bigger and better conventionally armed forces and less on nuclear weapons. That policy, of course, would cost at least as much as, if not more than, the other, and would involve the return of conscription. In the matter of our nuclear deterrent strategy and our defence policy generally, or the alternatives to a nuclear deterrent strategy, both the Government and the Opposition are wilfully blind to the plain economic consequences of their policies. They are dodging an issue that sooner or later they will have to face—the choice between attacking the Welfare State or cutting the defence budget. They must face the issue at some time; if not before it will catch up with them at the General Election.
There is no way of solving our economic problem within the framework of our existing defence commitments. The only solution to the problem is to revise our existing defence commitments on a scale necessitating a fundamental revision of our foreign policy and the assumptions on which it rests.
What is it for which we are being asked to cripple our economy by paying out these huge sums of money for our Army, Navy and Air Force? In these Air Estimates the main emphasis is on the need to maintain the pretence—which does not convince anyone but the Government and a few of their followers—that Great Britain can be a nuclear Power on a scale which will be taken seriously by the United States, the Soviet Union or anyone else, although our present output of nuclear warheads is only about 2½ per cent. that of the United States.
The Government showed considerable emotion when my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) pointed out in our recent defence debate that the United States do not take this claim seriously; that they are, in fact, rather irritated by it and wish that we would not encourage other Powers to go in for nuclear weapons but would agree to leave the monopoly in the hands of the United States. The Government's emotions were so great that they reminded me somewhat of what happened in Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, when the little child discovered that the Emperor's superfine robe did not exist and that His Imperial Majesty was riding around in the raw.
There is nothing new in all this. As long ago as 4th August, 1959, what was then still called the Manchester Guardian published an interview with Senator Hubert Humphrey, one of the new Administration's leading men and an intimate of President Kennedy. The Senator said quite bluntly that in the American view Britain's attempt to be a nuclear Power was ridiculous—he used the word "ridiculous"—and that because it encouraged other countries to try to acquire nuclear weapons it was also both "undesirable and dangerous".
That is the American view, and that was rubbed in still further by the Washington correspondent of the Observer in a despatch published on 17th April, 1960. I know that all this was quite a long time ago, but the situation
has not changed. Indeed, it has become more markedly what it was under the old American Administration. The Observer's correspondent said that he had conducted an inquiry among the Pentagon generals, the Atomic Energy Commission and Congress defence experts. He wrote:
The conclusion of U.S. military experts seems to be … that an independent deterrent for Britain is a relic of the past and a sop to national pride. 'We have thought so for some time',—
said a Pentagon General:
'What you can afford … if you went it alone just would not mean much. Nor does it really make much sense for you to own part of the over-all Western deterrent…. Britain is too vulnerable. It is so small an area it could be completely destroyed by fall-out. As soon as the U.S. Strategic Air Command can rely on missiles and does not need British bases … it may be best for you to stop being a target, which is all you could ever be.'
Judging by that, I do not think that we can win friends and influence people with our pitiful pretence that we are a great nuclear Power.
As part of that pretence, the Defence White Paper makes great play with the V-bombers. It says:
The efficacy of our deterrent will … be maintained throughout the 1960s by using our V-bombers and fitting them with stand-off weapons, Blue Steel in the first instance and later Skybolt.
Blue Steel is what I call a local standoff weapon. It is supposed to enable us to lob bombs at targets without being right over them, as one needs to be with free-falling bombs. But the bomber must penetrate the air defences of the country that is being subjected to that treatment. Skybolt has a longer range. But how do we know when we shall get it, or whether we shall get it at all? I understand that Skybolt is to become operational in 1965 if all goes well. But even after that, the United States Air Force would have the first call on it, and it is not clear when any of those weapons would be available for the Royal Air Force.
The Government, of course, are extremely optimistic about this; as optimistic as they were over Blue Streak, before that proved to be a failure, and as optimistic as they have been all along in their estimates of the cost of some of these expensive nuclear gadgets, which have cost twenty, thirty or even fifty times more than was estimated.
The Memorandum on the Air Estimates states:
The development of the Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile in the United States is making good progress. So is the associated British programme for the modification of the Vulcan 2 to carry Skybolt.
The Minister said that his visit to the United States of America had convinced him that things were going swimmingly in this respect—
The hon. Gentleman may choose to believe that, but in a moment I shall tell him why he is wrong, and I shall give him reasons for scepticism and caution in accepting those rosy views and cheery assurances.
In the Observer yesterday there appeared a despatch from Washington saying
High level Pentagon sources are saying that Britain may have been 'oversold' on Skybolt, the stand-off nuclear missile with which the British Government hopes to equip R.A.F. bombers by the mid-'sixties.
One of the principal advisers of Mr. Robert McNamara, the Defence Secretary, said this week that it was not yet proved that absolute accuracy could be obtained from a nuclear missile launched from the side of a fast-moving high-level platform. He predicted that we should know better by the end of the year whether Skybolt was a dud—perhaps not even then.
The Observer defence correspondent added the note:
There has been nothing but trouble about and with Skybolt since the idea was first mooted, and there has been tremendous lobbying for and against its development. The latest estimated cost of developing it is £160 million—more than twice the original estimate—and it will be fitted to only one of Britain's V-bombers, the Vulcan Mark 2, and to the long-range version of the American B52H, only 130 of which have been ordered by the U.S.A.F.
If the American Air Force wins its fight for the development of a strong force of B70 supersonic heavy bombers, its interest in Skybolt will tend to diminish. The B70 is not designed to carry Skybolt.
This morning's newspapers report from Washington that Senator George Vincent—who, up till now, has been one of the strongest supporters of the President-has launched a vigorous campaign in the Senate Armed Services Committee for tripling the amount of 180 million dollars the President has assigned for producing the B70 manned jet bomber. If that comes about the Americans will not display a very enthusiastic interest in Skybolt.
That is something which the Administration does not want. It is described as part of a successful revolt against the Administration of the old alliance of Right Wing Republicans and Dixiecrats, and it is said that that is likely to continue. It corresponds to the powerful Air Force and aeroplane industry lobby in the United States. If I were the Government in Britain I really would not place too much touching reliance on the Americans developing Skybolt by 1965, or any other time.
I have dealt with the cost and the illusory character of this "defence" policy. I now turn to what, according to the Memorandum, this money is required for.
The Memorandum states, firstly, that the R.A.F. in Germany is to support N.A.T.O. by low-level nuclear attacks. Of course, that links up with—it is the air arm or the nuclear attack arm of—the general defence policy of N.A.T.O.I pointed out when we discussed the Army Estimates—I do not wish to weary the House by repeating but merely refer to what I said—that, in fact, N.A.T.O.'s so-called defence policy is directed to armed intervention against risings in various countries.
I also pointed out that such a policy was not defensive but interventionist and tantamount to aggression in violation of the Charter. By adding low-level nuclear attacks or any other kind of nuclear attack to conventional operations we are dead certain that outside interference in an internal upheaval will immediately escalate into a full-scale nuclear war. The Memorandum states:
that is, the R.A.F.—
the main nuclear striking force in support of CENTO.
I pointed out in the debate on the Army Estimates that under CENTO we are committed to armed intervention in Middle Eastern countries when there are popular uprisings against the reactionary and dictatorial Governments there. If we are to do any nuclear bombing of any sort in such situations, not only will such action be of unparalleled barbarity, but it will bring about a full-scale nuclear war.
This is what Mr. Dulles wanted to do over the war in Viet-nam at the time of the siege of Dien Bien Phu. I am glad that Mr. Eden, as he then was, told him bluntly that if that happened and Ghana were brought in—as she undoubtedly would have been—we would not take part in fighting China. Under CENTO—and under similar obligations in S.E.A.T.O.—this is the kind of thing we are preparing to do with our nuclear forces, not only at the risk of starting a nuclear world war, but also with the absolute certainty that the population of this country would then be exterminated.
What makes it worse if possible is that we cannot start these things ourselves, even if we wanted to. These alliances are run by the United States. A Government Front-bench spokesman today referred to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition on 1st March, 1960, in which he claimed that we must have nuclear weapons of our own in order to be independent of the United States and to be able to face emergencies by ourselves if the United States let us down—an argument which, I am glad to say, my Party has since, very sensibly, abandoned. It never made much sense. Today it makes utter nonsense. However, for some reason, the Government stall sticks to that idea.
In that same speech the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that Britain's position in N.A.T.O., without nuclear weapons and with America having the monopoly, was one of such unilateral dependence and subservience that we could not carry out any policy which was at variance with that of America, and America could commit us to war for policies with which we did not agree.
That is the position in N.A.T.O., whether or not we pretend to be a nuclear Power. The most extraordinary reason advanced by the Secretary of State for the Government's nuclear deterrent strategy—or their so-called strategy—was that this policy would impress both the Russians and the Americans that we were able and willing, if necessary, to go it alone and that this, presumably, would increase our bargaining power. Let us remember that all of this is on the strength of a 2½ per cent. production figure and of a bomber force which is obsolescent unless and until we get the American Skybolt—which is, anyway, a rather doubtful proposition and in any case, at the best, cannot take place until 1965 or later.
If one analyses that position one finds that it suggests that in some dispute with the Soviet Union the Americans might think that we were wrong. It would mean that they would advise us to change our line and accept some kind of compromise, negotiate and settle our differences by peaceful means. No doubt the United Nations would take the same line. But the Government's fanaticism would be so great that they would rather involve the people of this country in a nuclear war than abate their intransigence. They would rather do that than accept the civilized procedures for settlement urged on them by their allies in accordance with the United Nations Charter to which we are pledged.
Yes; that we must be able to fight alone if the Americans let us down. The point is that the Americans would only let us down if they thought that what we were doing in any particular dispute was wrong. Does the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) think in some cloud cuckoo-land fashion that Mr. Khrushchev, after telling his farmers how to raise more corn, is suddenly, when enjoying a spare half-hour in Moscow, going to press the button just for the heck of it?
There is no such thing as a war coming like a bolt from the blue. There is always a dispute, a period of disagreement, about something or other, and it seems that the British Government would be prepared to bull ahead and risk the annihilation of the people of this country and start a war rather than agree to a compromise during the period of argument which would be agreeable to the United States and in accordance with our obligations as a Member of the United Nations.
Of course he did not. But that was the upshot of his argument. He has never thought the matter through. One cannot take the Government's words seriously. They are not meant to be taken in that way. The Government are proceeding by the momentum of mental inertia. They cannot think in any other terms than preparing for war and power politics, because that is the tradition.
I will come to the hon. Gentleman in a moment. The Secretary of State had the grace, however, to admit that the danger of war by what he called "miscalculation" increased as the arms race proceeds. Miscalculation applies to both sides, and not just to one. And apart from miscalculation, there may be the risk of accident, a technical or administrative accident, for an error can occur in either field. There was a technical error when the moon rose somewhere over Ultima Thule, off Greenland, and set off atomic air raid alarms. Then a communication line broke down, so that they could not send the call-back signal. There was quite a flap at S.A.C. headquarters before the matter could be straightened out. That was a technical error. An administrative error is when a subordinate misinterprets or disobeys an order because he thinks he knows better than his superior, like when French officers dropped bombs in Tunis unknown to their superiors.
A further example is when the American Secretary of State for Defence, Mr. James Forrestal, went off his head while on holiday in Florida and rushed into the night shouting "The Reds are coming" when a fire alarm went off. He had resigned the week before through nervous strain and the press button system had not been developed as it has been today. But I should hate to think of the possibilities there are today in that direction.
When the Under-Secretary tells us, in the midst of the greatest arms race in history, When we are piling up deadly weapons that could destroy humanity thirty times over, and getting ready to use them at the drop of a hat, that this ensures our safety and enables us to sleep in our beds, I must say that I find it difficult to find any language to express my feelings fit to be used in the precincts of this House.
A few moments ago the hon. Gentleman said that our nuclear capacity in this country was absolutely useless. Now he is trying to make our Mesh creep and our blood curdle by suggesting that we should not sleep because of the fearful things that may be done with it. He cannot have it both ways.
The hon. Gentleman might have realised that when I am talking of the arms race I am talking primarily of the race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Because we are part of the defence effort, and because we are through N.A.T.O. an expendable base and a political satellite of the United States, we are liable to annihilation without representation at any moment, if and when that race touches off a nuclear holocaust. This extraordinary way of preserving the peace must end in annihilation, for—make no mistake about it—what we prepare for in this world is what we get in the end.
I should have thought that after the experience of two world wars, the one thing that people would understand would be that we cannot preserve peace by preparing for war, and that those who argue that the arms race keeps the peace because there has not been a war since the last one, are really reasoning on the level of the Gadarene swine which told its companions as they proceeded at a gallop to the steep places "Well, at any rate this proves that the way to keep from falling into the sea is to keep going." That is about the level of the reasoning of those who say that if we only step up the arms race sufficiently, we shall preserve the peace, and that the fact that there has not been a war since the last is due to the arms race.
Of course it applies to both sides. But I would point out that the Soviet Union reduced its defence budget substantially, cut down its effectives by 2,200,000 and took unilateral action to stop tests. To say the least, it did not get any encouragement from the West. Nobody deplores more than I do the fact that the Soviet Government resumed tests unilaterally and broke the moratorium last autumn. I said what I thought about that on 18th October, and I told Mr. Khrushchev what I thought about it. But two blacks do not make a white.
He was convinced, as I told the House, on exactly the same power political grounds that we accept in this country, that he was being pushed around by Western war preparations and rocket rattling, that they were getting tough with him and that he had to get tough with them. On the same reasoning, if we now go in for further tests the Russians will go in for more tests. We say that we are not far enough ahead in nuclear striking power. We do not claim that the Soviet Government are on the same level as we are. The United States Secretary of Defence McNamara on 3rd March said that the Americans still had a powerful strategic lead over the Soviet Union, but that they might lose the lead unless they resumed tests.
The doctrine of the balance of power as a way to preserve peace, particularly when it takes the form of the so-called nuclear deterrent strategy, is a doctrine that I repudiate altogether as an exploded and murderously dangerous fallacy. The so-called nuclear deterrent strategy is a nuclear destruction strategy, because so far from preventing war it makes certain that sooner or later, unless the policy is abandoned in time, there will be a war, by accident or design, even when neither side wants to attack the other and both sides believe they are fighting in self-defence. That is what happened in the last two balance of power and arms race wars, and that is what we are heading for again unless we can learn the lessons of the past.
The Secretary of State for Air seemed rather put out and took us up when some of us laughed at his statement about trying to explore the possibilities of space for military purposes. Frankly, I laughed because the contrast between that point of view—what one might call the political development of humanity and particularly of our rulers—and the infinite possibilities afforded by our growing command over the powers of nature was something so tragi-comic that one had to laugh if one did not cry. What do these possibilities mean? They mean that if we do not stop hating and fearing and relying on exploded and barbaric fallacies, and thinking in terms of slaughtering our fellow men rather than of abating our fanaticisms, then all these great powers will be prostituted and used to our own undoing.
I believe the whole attitude of the Government is a betrayal of our people. It is treason to civilisation and a blasphemy against humanity. I loathe and detest the whole of this defence policy, and particularly the madness of the so-called nuclear deterrent strategy.
I think that I can say that I disagree with just about every word that the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) uttered, together with practically everything that he quoted and, I think, everything that he implied. In so far as he was talking about the British deterrent, I shall follow him to some extent in the course of my speech.
Perhaps I may declare an interest, which I have declared before, in that I am connected with a company which manufactures aircraft. I am not sure whether I should not declare another interest, because during the defence debate the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in an interjection, implied that no Air Force officer could possibly say anything sensible about defence. It was also said from those benches—I have forgotten who said it—that the Royal Air Force had a vested interest in the deterrent.
If, for a moment, either of those rather extraordinary statements could be taken seriously, I must declare an interest in that I was an officer in the Royal Air Force for about twenty years, and that is an interest of which I am proud. I shall be brief, dealing with only one aspect of the Air Estimates and one aspect of my right hon. Friend's Memorandum, that is to say, the British strategic nuclear force comprised by Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force.
The objections to our having a British strategic nuclear force can be put into three categories: first, the moral one, which, in order to be coherent, would have to follow the argument that it is wrong to defend oneself at all; secondly, the political one, which is based on the rather strange idea that one gains political influence by retreating; thirdly, the operational one—the one I wish to deal with—which is based on the view that our deterrent force is no use operationally.
It is quite clear from the three speeches which came from the Opposition Front Bench during the defence debate, and it was made quite clear by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) this afternoon, that the defence policy of the Labour Party is now unilateral nuclear disarmament. There was a certain amount of hedging. It was said that Labour would not at once dismantle or throw away our nuclear deterrent; it would let it run down or decay and then abolish it. One might well say that the policy of allowing something to run down until it was useless and then abolishing it is probably the worst solution of all and is not quite honest. I am tempted almost to believe that, perhaps for electoral purposes, the party opposite is trying to face both ways.
However, leaving that aside, the reasons for the view advanced by the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) were the worst possible reasons. Speaking of the Western nuclear deterrent, he said:
As I have said, we on this side take our attitude to the British deterrent on grounds of cost, use of resources, and the effect on our alliance and our influence in the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 70.]
On those considerations, according to him, his party takes its stand. But the first consideration in these great matters of defence is surely the safety of our country, and this is not one of the factors to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
However, we can be quite clear at least about this, that the Opposition do not support our nuclear strategic force. I suggest, with respect, that it might be more honest to come out clearly and say that they would abolish it straight away rather than say that they would let it run down and then abolish it.
I disagree with almost everything my right hon. Friend the Member for Hall Green said, and I disagree especially with his view that the strategic nuclear striking force is no longer any good and ought to be dismantled forthwith. I cannot help it if he was once a Minister of the Crown, of even was personally responsible for ordering some of the equipment involved. I can only say that what he said on this subject was deplorable and absolutely wrong.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that three of the architects of the present policy, the right hon. Member for Hall Green, who ordered the independent deterrent, my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who was one of the architects of N.A.T.O., and Field Marshal Montgomery, the strategist of N.A.T.O., have all changed their minds? Why is not the hon. Gentleman liberal enough to change his mind?
I am gratified by the hon. Gentleman's intervention. However, I am making my own speech, and I am not responsible for the aberrations of the three distinguished gentlemen to whom he has referred.
It is always distressing when the Armed Forces of the Crown are denigrated in this House. In this matter of Bomber Command—when I speak of Bomber Command I speak of the British strategic nuclear striking force—what has been said to its detriment in this debate and in the defence debate is utterly unjustified and wildly wrong.
It is, perhaps, invidious to single out one Service—though we are discussing the Air Estimates—and invidious to single out one part of one Service for praise, but I believe that this honourable House and the British people should take great pride in Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force. It plays an essential part in the defence and safety of this country and the defence of the West. We should rightly take great pride in that body of men and that force. Their courage, skill, training, morale and leadership are all superb. Their equipment is first-rate; and they are ready.
I was a bomber pilot during the last war. Although I believe that we did our best, it is true that in the early days we had a great deal to learn. Of the practice as opposed to the theory of strategic air power, then in its infancy, we bad a great deal to learn. We took two ox three years before we became a really effective force. The position in the Royal Air Force and in Bomber Command today is very different. They are ready with immense power, even without the assistance of the United States. Hon. Members who denigrate Bomber Command and who suggest that our nuclear striking force is obsolete or no good should find out something about it. Then they would take pride in it.
For 10 per cent. of our defence expenditure we have a priceless asset in Bomber Command of the Royal Air Force. It is a credit to all those who have contributed to building it up. Moreover, this deterrent of ours is credible. It will get off in time. It will get through the enemy defences. It will hit the targets today with free falling bombs.
Of course, there will never be any lack of defeatists. I recall that there was a great deal of defeatist talk about how the Royal Air Force, in the early days, would be able to deal with the Luftwaffe, but that turned out all right in the end.
As to its credibility for the future, we have heard that this year the stand-off bomb, Blue Steel, will be coming to Bomber Command to be fitted and used on the V-bombers and that about 1965 the great American weapon Skybolt, the long-range stand-off bomb, will be in the service of Bomber Command.
Not only is it effective and credible, but our independent force has the great admiration of our American allies. The right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson), who, I am sorry to say, is not in his place, laboured his contention during the defence debate that none of the top defence people, as I think he put it, in Washington had any time for or anything good to say about our contribution to the Western deterrent. I cannot help whom he talked to, how long he stayed in Washington, or in what kind of glorified circles he moved, but I am quite certain that he was wrong. Those of our American allies who know, have the highest regard for our nuclear capacity, and, like us, regard it as a vital factor in the Western Alliance.
I have, therefore, thought it right to do what I could to correct some of the tendentious, highly inaccurate and almost wicked things said in denigration of this great force, of which we should be proud and, indeed, of which we are proud. I conclude by congratulating my right hon. Friend on the achievements of the Royal Air Force, on the plans which he has for it, and, in particular, on the British Strategic Bomber Force.
I beg to move,
That a number, not exceeding 153,000, all ranks, be maintained for the said Service.
My hon. Friends and I are adopting the traditional and proper method for expressing our opposition on grounds of principle to what the Government propose in the expenditure of the money under Vote A.
First, I should like to clear out of the way a misapprehension, if it still exists in any quarter. When an Amendment of this character is moved, or when hon. Members wish to vote against the Estimates under consideration, sometimes attempts are made to suggest that they are proposing the abolition of married quarters for those in the Royal Air Force, or opposition to errands of mercy on which the Royal Air Force may have been engaged, or to every item in the Vote. That is the gross and imbecile charge which is sometimes made against those who table Amendments like this one. But anyone who has studied the procedure of the House of Commons knows that this is the method by which hon. Members who are opposed on fundamental grounds of principle to a major part of the Government's proposals express their opposition.
This debate, coupled with the debate on the Defence White Paper generally, is incomparably the most important subject which the House of Commons has to discuss. The defence of this country, the way in which nuclear weapons may be used and their association with foreign policy matters are incomparably the most important questions which confront us. But no one would believe it judging by the number of hon. Members who have attended this debate.
I protest, as I did when we were discussing the Army Estimates, against the manner in which the House of Commons thinks it fit to discuss matters of such importance of this. It is an utter disgrace that a maximum of about 20, 30 or 40 Members—that is putting it generously—should be present to discuss matters of such major significance. Of course, one reason for it is that there is not to be an official Opposition vote against what we are discussing, about which I will say more later. But, whether there is a vote or not, it is utterly deplorable, and a reflection on the way in which the House of Commons is conducted, that so few hon. Members should be here to discuss matters of such significance.
The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central (Mr. Collard) has been a member of the Royal Air Force. I can well understand that those who have served in the Royal Air Force or have been associated with it, like the Secretary of State, who has studied the technical proficiency of the Service for which he is responsible, should be very proud of that association. It is a very natural feeling for a person to have. They are proud of the technical skill and of the human courage displayed by its members.
I do not wish to say anything which would insult the susceptibilities of hon. Members who feel that way. But they must understand that people like me also have susceptibilities in this matter. Our imagination suggests to us—and we think we can prove it—that the operations in which the R.A.F. would be engaged would be operations of mass murder such as it is almost impossible for the human mind to conceive. In the nuclear world, it would be mass murder undertaken for revenge, if the deed ever had to be done.
I know that that is not the whole of the argument. There is also an argument concerning the deterrent, to which I will come later. But it is the fact that the business in which the R.A.F. would be engaged if ever the operations which have been described took place would be the mass murder of innocent people on a scale almost impossible to conceive. That is what we are discussing. The circumstances in which such operations might be brought into play concern matters of such grave consequence that they should be debated very seriously.
It is not a question of anyone denigrating those in the R.A.F. It is a question of considering the realities of what we are debating. The hon. Member for Norfolk, Central jeered at the Opposition Front Bench. It is not my job to defend the Opposition Front Bench—I do not suppose that it would wish to be defended by me very much—but he attacked my right hon. Friends by saying that it was derisory to talk about defence in terms of cost.
If that is how the hon. Gentleman feels, he should take the matter up with the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister's great boast in 1957, when he started on the defence plan which is now collapsing, was that he would get defence on the cheap—or, at any rate, not on the cheap, but cheaper than we had had it before. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman has any complaints on that score, he had better take them up with the Prime Minister.
I should like to deal with the central argument presented by the Secretary of State for Air. Before I do so, however, I should like to put some questions to the right hon. Gentleman. The first concerns a matter which has been raised already, namely, the Thor missiles. The answers which the Minister gave about the Thor missiles were quite perfunctory. These missiles are still in existence. If a critical war situation arose, their presence might be of major significance.
In the autumn of last year, the Prime Minister had discussions on whether there should be mobilisation over Berlin. The Government were very wise to decide against it. But they considered it. The fact that they considered it, and if we came nearer to the brink than we have been would have to consider it again, prompts the question: what is the position about the Thor missiles? The Secretary of State seems to be quite content with the position. I imagine that they will be removed eventually and, therefore, he is not worrying about them very much. But a war situation might blow up at any moment. According to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), these are provocative first-strike weapons. I think that they are, but if the Opposition think that they are provocative first-strike weapons they should vote against them.
But what the Secretary of State says is even more remarkable. He says that they are not necessarily first-strike weapons only. That is a remarkable phrase. It reminds me of the reply in Tono Bungay, when the hero was discussing with Uncle Ponderevo whether the Tono Bungay medicine could do any good, and Uncle Ponderevo said, "How can you tell that it will never do anybody any good?" It seems to me that the Secretary of State's phrase that these are "not necessarily first-strike weapons only" is equally round-about. It means that they are partly first-strike weapons, does it not? If they are, then the Russians would be justified in saying, "They are first-strike weapons. Those weapons are there to hit us first." That is what "first-strike weapons" means. What right have we to have in our country nuclear weapons that can only be used first?
The right hon. Gentleman says that any weapons can be first-strike weapons. Does he claim that the Thor weapons are not more likely to be used as first-strike weapons than, say, Polaris? The great claim made for Polaris is that it is a second-strike weapon.
The Minister must not be so parochial in his views on Service matters. He must read what his right hon. and hon. Friends have said. They claim that Polaris is much better than Thor because it is a second-strike weapon. The right hon. Gentleman, though he did not say it, knows that it is primarily a first-strike weapon. The words that I have quoted do not rule out what I am saying. What right have we to have in this country nuclear weapons that can in certain respects only be used as first-strike weapons? We have no right to do so at all. Not only have we no right to have them, but it is utter madness.
These are the most magnetic magnets for attack that we have. If we had a critical situation in which the Russians thought that the only possibility was to hit first they would go for the Thor missiles, because their only purpose would be to strike first. Therefore, whatever the right hon. Gentleman's arguments about the deterrent generally and other issues, I think that we should get these out of the country as quickly as possible. They do not protect us. There is no safety in having the Thor missiles. They do not serve any useful purpose whatsoever and they are, in fact, extremely dangerous.
I will, but I cannot say everything in one word.
The hon. Gentleman asks what about the second-strike capacity of the Thor weapons. Personally, I do not have any faith that they have a second-strike capacity. That is one of the few things in which I am in absolute agreement with my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, because they do not think that it has any second-strike capacity at all. Even if, as the hon. Gentleman apparently claims, the Thor missile has some second-strike capacity, it does not alter the fact that the Russians would be bound to regard it as predominantly a first-strike weapon, which is the point which proves the argument that I was presenting.
The hon. Gentleman supposed in the first part of his argument that it had a second-strike characteristic. Supposing that we were to put all the Thors in second-strike service, so to speak, and none in first-strike service, must we get rid of them all because they would not be used first, like the Polaris?
I do not want to repeat all that I have said. The fact is that it is extremely improbable to most people who have ever looked at this matter to think that the Thor could be a second-strike weapon. I say that because we could not get it into operation quickly enough.
The hon. Member says, I do not know, but I have as much common sense in the matter as he has. If these Thor missiles are so capable and such good second-strike weapons, why are the Government getting rid of them? Why are they being cleared out? Why not furbish them up?
I have repeatedly said at this Box that so long as the threat is predominantly from manned aircraft, where the warning time is considerable, the Thor weapon is a perfectly effective second-strike weapon. When the threat comes from missiles, where the warning time is much shorter, then, of course, its value will diminish. Therefore, while I have said that at some point we will phase out the Thor missile, we are not yet in a position to say what the right timing will be. At the moment, it constitutes a valid deterrent in the second-strike rôle.
I do not believe that it constitutes a valid deterrent in such circumstances. We had this argument a year ago and the Minister has not improved in the last twelve months on this point. Does he think that what will happen is that a manned aircraft coming across with a nuclear bomb will be detected sufficiently quickly, that it will be possible to send off a Thor missile as a second strike when the Government would have to give the order to fire the Thor missile before the bomb had been dropped by the aircraft coming over? If that is the proposition, that the Government will give the order to fire the Thor missile when they see the plane coming over but before the bomb is dropped, that is extremely dangerous. That is one of the reasons why a first-strike weapon is so dangerous.
The Minister, who knows everything, claims that he will know what is coming over in the aeroplane, but he will not know. Yet, before he knows, he will be able to give an order to send off the Thor missile. On common-sense grounds that argument can be dismissed. I am sorry that I have spent such a long time on it, but whatever other arguments we have, I hope that these Thor missiles will have been cleared out of the country before we have the next Air Estimates debate.
I should also like to ask the Secretary of State questions about the tests in Nevada. In the debate on the Army Estimates, we asked whether the expenditure on any of these tests was included in those Estimates, but we were told that it was not. Therefore, we would like to be told by the Secretary of State how much is included in the Air Estimates for the Nevada tests. What further tests of a similar character do the Government propose to have, how much will they cost and for what purpose will they be of any use?
I hope that the Minister will not get up and say that he cannot tell us the purpose of the Nevada tests on grounds of military security, because if they have been effective, as we are told, the more that the Russians are told about them, the better. The more they know of the effectiveness of our brilliant inventions in these tests, surely the better. I hope, therefore, the the Minister will tell us clearly the purpose of the tests and what he has been using them for.
The main argument of the Minister in his speech today, however, was to try to rebut the claim made by my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench during the recent defence debate that the independent nuclear deterrent was no good The Minister has made a powerful case. He says that the warning system will work, that the aeroplanes will be able to get into the air in time, that they will be able to go right across Europe successfully and that they will be able to penetrate the Russian defences and to deliver the bombs. The whole operation, says the Minister, can and will be successfully carried out. He is convinced of it. According to his claim, technically there is no flaw in the argument.
The Minister also says that not merely is that the state of affairs today, but such a state of affairs will remain for, possibly, the next ten years or, at least, the next eight years. He tells us that that will happen despite all the developments that may take place in Soviet defence systems. All this has been taken into account by the Government and their experts in the Ministry. Therefore, they are convinced that we have an infallible, workable deterrent, not merely now, but throughout the next ten years. That is what the Minister has claimed. It is most remarkable.
It is true that the right hon. Gentleman put it in slightly less boastful terms than he did last year. This year, he tells us that at the end of the whole process the Royal Air Force will be able to inflict unacceptable damage upon the Soviet power. Last year, he said that they would be able to cripple Russian industrial power. I do not know whether there is any significance in the slight change in the terms. I do not make anything of it, although it is good that the Minister should be slightly less exaggerated in his language. That, however, is the Minister's claim. It is an extraordinary one.
The Secretary of State does not quite seem to realise what he has proved. It is like the thirteenth stroke of the clock; it casts suspicion on all the others. Consider what the right hon. Gentleman has proved. All this is to be done for £200 million a year, a figure which is not to be increased. The Secretary of State is not merely a military genius—he is a financial wizard. For £200 million a year, the country can have for the next ten years a deterrent just as good as the American deterrent, because it is not possible to have a better one than the right hon. Gentleman has described. So, for £200 million, clever little Britain will achieve what the Americans achieve with an expenditure of one hundred, two hundred or five hundred times that amount. That is the Minister's remarkable claim.
Moreover, we are told that the poor, misguided Americans, who do not know much about these affairs and who waste a lot of their money on rocketry in an extravagant manner, must have a fresh round of tests to discover whether their deterrent is any good and to keep up with Russia. But not us. We can do without the tests. It has nothing to do with Nevada. Does the Minister say that the Americans will come along and give us all the secrets of their tests as Christmas Island? That would be very convenient, no doubt, but it is not what the right hon. Gentleman said in his speech. Moreover, it is contrary to American law. So I do not think that it is likely to happen.
The Minister has made an amazing claim. I do not believe it. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman believes it. I am sure that he is sincere, but he is one of the diminishing band who believe it. Even the Minister who started the operation has abandoned it. More and more of them have abandoned it. It has taken us a little time to get my Front Bench hon. Friends round to this point of view, but they are coming round to it. The Secretary of State need not imagine that he is leader of a great band. He is one of a diminishing number of little nigger boys on this aspect of the story. Or maybe he is Casabianca.
We say that it is contrary to all common sense that we should be able to get for £200 million a successful deterrent which the Americans can get only by their vast expenditure. The Minister still believes it, however, and I dare say that there are experts in the Air Ministry who still believe and will go on believing it for a while. My prophecy is that in two or three years' time the Government will come along and will wrap it up as much as they can, but they will have to declare, "We have discovered after detailed examination and advice from our experts that it would be too expensive for Britain to go into the whole of this new missile age. Therefore, we cannot seek our defence that way and we have arrived at agreements with the United States or N.A.T.O. to protect us in some other fashion."
The Government will wrap it up and say that that is what they thought all along. That is what will happen. Just as my hon. Friends have been converted, so we will convert the Government Front Bench to this part of the argument. The Secretary of State need not think that he has all the facts on his side. He must show how we can do so much with so little compared with what the Americans spend.
Suppose, however, that we granted the Minister's argument. Suppose we admit that his claim to have a successful independent nuclear deterrent is true and that we will have it for the next ten years. I would still vote against his Estimates, because this independent nuclear deterrent would not be protecting this country or guarding its safety. It does the reverse. Hon. Members opposite describe always the power of our own military forces, but they never give the country an adequate account of the incalculable risks which they run and which the country is courting, risks such as the country has never before undertaken.
The existence of nuclear bases on our soil, whether they are the Thor sites, the American nuclear bases, or the Polaris or other missiles, means that if there is a nuclear war, this country will be wiped out. There is no doubt about it. Therefore, we have to balance against these huge incalculable risks the supposed advantages of our attempting to be a nuclear Power.
The Secretary of State gave us part of our case, because he admitted that if the arms race continues a bit further and we get what he called an equipoise of power, or the nearer we get to parity, the greater the danger of miscalculation. I could not help feeling that that phrase almost slipped out from the Minister. If it did not slip out, I am gratified to hear it. I should like the Under-Secretary of State to expand on this, because it is the first time in the House of Commons that a Minister has admitted what has been admitted widely elsewhere: that is, the possibility of a nuclear war by miscalculation. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) raised the question in the last Air Estimates debate, but she did not get an answer from the Minister. Time and again, she has asked that the Government should explain to the public the dangers of war by miscalculation.
The Secretary of State, who admits that he has said it deliberately, tells us that in the next two or three years the more nearly we get to an equipoise in nuclear power the greater becomes the danger of a war by miscalculation. That was the most interesting and significant remark in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. If it is true, he owes it to the House of Commons and to the country to make a much fuller explanation of exactly what he was saying and what he means. Some of us have been saying for years not only that there is danger of nuclear war, but that there is a real danger of war by miscalculation, but we have been pooh-poohed.
If it is true that there is a danger of war by miscalculation, the presence of nuclear bases is one of the reasons why our country would be utterly destroyed. Therefore, we have to take the two factors together. We have been saying for years that there are dangers of miscalculation. Some of the scientists outside have said it. The Minister of Defence has usually dodged it, but the Secretary of State for Air has slipped it in as an aside today and has promised that at his next opportunity he will expand much more fully what he means.
We have now the support—in a very serious statement, I would have thought—of Sir Robert Watson-Watt. I know that he will be denigrated now. We have had much resort in this debate to the word "denigrate"; we were told we were denigrating the Royal Air Force. We have not denigrated the Royal Air Force. What we are denigrating is the policy for which the Royal Air Force is being used. However, I have no doubt that we shall now have the denigration of Sir Robert Watson-Watt, because Sir Robert has been saying things which are disturbing to Ministers.
I do not know whether the Government's opinion of Sir Robert Watson-Watt has altered since he played a leading rôle in helping to save this country in the last war, but he is certainly a greater authority on radar than the Secretary of State. What Sir Robert said when he came to this country the other day was:
If another Siberian meteor of 1908 were to fall on Britain, America, Russia or their friends, what are the odds that there would be a retaliatory strike? Twenty to one or more. And, of course, there is the miracle of radar. It's true that the football-field-sized radar at Thule, in Greenland successfully located the rising moon which—which its guardians promptly reported as an assumed missile. And this was only one of a few hundred wild-goose chases due to radar—not, of course, to my beautiful and infallible invention, but to the poor humans who have not yet been successfully immunised against human error.
This is the greatest authority, probably, on radar in the world. Yes, I see the Secretary of State purses his lips. I said that he would do it. I knew that Ministers would do it. Now that Sir Robert Watson-Watt is saying something inconvenient to them we shall see that Ministers will denigrate him. They will say, "He is out of touch. He does not know any more".
Personally, I prefer Sir Robert Watson-Watt as an authority to Field Marshal Montgomery. I think that my hon. Friend had better stick to Lord Montgomery, because he sometimes changes round in an afternoon.
But what do Ministers say now about Sir Robert Watson-Watt? It is not a very satisfactory answer for the right hon. Gentleman to say that Sir Robert does not really know about these things. I would back Sir Robert's judgment against the advisers of the right hon. Gentleman and the advisers of the American Administration, because all of us know that scientific advisers on many of these matters are not able to speak out unless they are going to leave their service altogether. So I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to treat more seriously the statements which Sir Robert Watson-Watt has made on the subject.
The hon. Member spoke as though I had said something denigratory about Sir Robert Watson-Watt, but we have not done so, I have not done so, and I had no intention of doing so. The hon. Member has taken his view and outlook on this question by what he regarded as a pursing of my lips.
Before my hon. Friend replies, may I ask him to consider, since he is dealing with the danger of war by miscalculation, that he can dispense with the evidence of Sir Robert Watson-Watt, for if there is one thing which the Government have demonstrated to conviction it is their supreme capacity for miscalculation.
Yes, well, I am not only discussing the Government's capacity for miscalculation. I do not think that the Government would wish to use these instruments in a manner which produces a war. I am not accusing them of that. What I am saying is that the Government pile on these risks to the nation in all the nuclear bases they permit all over the country, irrespective of the fact that no matter whether the nuclear war were to be by miscalculation or not it would involve the complete destruction of this country.
Moreover, as has already been stated, the Government in certain circumstances are themselves prepared to use nuclear weapons first. That is still the official policy of the Government. Why do they not repudiate that? That is partly the meaning of the Thor missiles and partly the meaning of the Government's declarations, in the White Papers, which they have not repudiated, that they would use nuclear weapons in certain circumstances against conventional attack. The Government should abandon these ideas. They should repudiate these ideas if they do not wish these charges to be made.
The country is put in a position of unimaginable danger. We are more vulnerable than we have ever been. We are utterly defenceless. It is useless for the hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Critchley) to interrupt my hon. Friend and say, "I am in favour of defending my country." This is not defence. Whatever it is, this country is defenceless, so we had better discuss it in proper terms.
Then it may be argued—I shall not argue it at any length—"Ah, but this is a balance of terror which protects us." I do not believe in a balance of terror, and more and more people are revealing that there is no such thing as a balance of terror. The Prime Minister himself has expressed this and President Kennedy, over the H-bomb tests, has exposed it.
They call it a balance of terror because that sounds as if it were something in which on both sides we were involved equally, but what the Government want, what the Western Powers want, what they are insisting upon by their tests, is this: they always want an enormous and substantial lead over the Russians in nuclear power. That is not a balance. That is what they are insisting upon, that is what they are doing when they insist on these new tests.
That is why the Government have lied to the House of Commons on the subject. One of the worst features of the whole of this argument is the manner in which the Government lie to us, and this can be proved, easily proved, on a number of occasions.
To take an example for only the last few months. I remember very well how the Government protested strongly about the Russians' round of tests, as we protested. The Prime Minister said that the Russian round of tests was a political act. that this was done for political reasons, that it was a terroristic act. This was the charge made against the Russians for carrying out their tests. We said—I said it myself in a speech when we discussed those tests—that the reasons they had were military reasons, because that made the most sense. The Government said, "No." They thought they knew better. All their experts were telling them that the reasons were terroristic.
Now we are told that the whole reason why President Kennedy is having the new tests with the support of the British Government and, I am sorry to say, of the Opposition Front Bench, is because the Russians have made a clear military advance. The other day the Labour Party spokesman from the Opposition Front Bench said, "We have only just discovered that the Russians did it for military reasons."
So we had the Government lying to us when talking about the Russian tests. They said the Russians did not do it for military reasons. In fact, they did it for military reasons, and everybody ought to have known that. It is an arms race in which we are engaged and not a balance of terror.
What the Government are doing is asking us to approve in this White Paper, including particularly the money for the Royal Air Force, is a policy for speeding ahead as fast as possible with nuclear tests and the arms race for sustaining weapons which, if they are ever used, will involve utter destruction for our country. They are asking us to engage in a military policy, which, far from strengthening us, will weaken us in international affairs.
The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) was complaining on this score, and some others have said that we must have our independent nuclear deterrent because this makes us independent of the United States. It does the very opposite. When we buy our weapons, and particularly when we make our defence system dependent on getting Skybolt from America, far from making us independent it makes us more and more dependent on the United States. We are so dependent on the United States for our defence now that we have no elbow room to move in international affairs.
The Americans know that we have to come down on their side. They know that in the end we always have to agree with them. It is bad enough to have the Prime Minister doing it but worse to find the Leader of the Opposition now doing the same. They have to go over there apparently to agree with American policy. The sooner we wipe away this enveloping idea that the balance of terror will save us the sooner we will come out and look at this great issue more sanely.
It is because, under this Vote in particular, nuclear weapons for the Air Force constitute the central feature of the whole of the Government's nuclear policy that some of us say that we must vote against it. It must be done on the Floor of the House of Commons. It is here, in this Committee, that hon. Members must discharge their duty and be answerable to their constituents. They cannot be answerable anywhere else because they operate elsewhere behind a shield and a cloak.
Indeed, the Opposition Front Bench should be voting against the Government if they are so passionately against the nuclear deterrent. If the Government's whole defence policy rests upon it, and the Opposition Front Bench are so passionately opposed to it, why not vote against the money for it? That would show that they were in earnest. They would then have the benches in this Chamber full and people would think this was a serious debate, but as long as the Opposition Front Bench treat a matter of this kind in derisory fashion nobody will take their defence policy seriously and, after that, nobody will take the House of Commons seriously. This is why some of us will vote tonight against this utterly evil, lunatic and dangerous policy on the part of the Government, and we ask hon. Members opposite to join us in that vote.
On a point of order. You ruled that it would be out of order, Mr. Blackburn, for my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. M. Foot), and, therefore, any hon. Member, to comment on the attitude of the Labour Front Bench to the V-bomber force. Obviously, I cannot ask you for your reasons, but I should have thought that it was within the rules of order.
Further to that point of order. With great trespect, I do not think that it is possible to get out of my hon. Friend's question just like that. It is clear that V-bombers are a major part of the debate. How can we conduct a debate about V-bombers unless we can comment upon and answer arguments used from any part of the Committee? You cannot protect the Labour Party in that way.
I do not intend to spend much of the time of the Committee in talking about the nuclear deterrent, but there is an observation which I should like to make because the debate, in so far as it has been on the nuclear deterrent, appears to have been on the assumption that the potential enemy from the Russian point of view is always America and never Britain.
I am not going to discuss the justification for this view, but I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that Germany entered the last war with 58 submarines, to the best of our knowledge, and that now, to the best of our knowledge, the Russians have a submarine fleet of 450 vessels. I know of no country other than Great Britain which is vulnerable to attack by submarines in a conventional war—and they are conventional submarines. Therefore, I think that it is a reasonable inference that Russia, being prepared to devote a very considerable proportion of her arms expenditure to the construction of conventional submarines, regards this country itself as a serious potential enemy, quite apart from her views about America.
This brings us to the question of the independent deterrent. As my right hon. Friend stressed, what matters is not whether we trust the Americans to come in in the event of this country only being attacked. What matters is whether the Russians believe that the Americans would come in or not; and that is a very different question. Every time anyone in this country, particularly anyone in a responsible position, casts doubt on the likelihood of the Americans coming in in the event of this country being attacked, all the more necessary is it for us to have a nuclear deterrent of our own so that the Russians can consider those speculations quite irrelevant.
That was the context in which my right hon. Friend, if I understood him correctly, brought up the subject of the possibility of a war by miscalculation—that is, that the Russians might be led to believe either that we had not a deterrent that we were intending to use or that the Americans, if we did not use it, would not come in on our side. It seems to me that this is both a relevant and an extremely important observation to make.
It is clear from speeches on both sides of the Committee that the Russians are not necessarily convinced of the inevitability of America springing to our defence if we should be attacked. I should have thought that that, on its own, conclusively proved the need for an independent British deterrent.
But this is not the line which I wish to pursue, because it will doubtless be pursued at considerable length during the rest of the debate, as it has been earlier.
Why should the hon. Gentleman think that the Russians are going to attack us when the story is that they are just about to order £7 million worth of artificial silk from this country? In those circumstances, why should they destroy this country?
I did not say that they were going to; I said that they might. Presumably, if they did not think that. they might, they would not be building 450 submarines—for they are extremely expensive things to build. Also, a submarine warfare is not something in which one is successful within one or two weeks. It is a fairly protracted process. However, this being an aviation debate, I do not want to go off on to a side track on submarine policy.
The subject on which I should like to concentrate for a few minutes is that of aircraft procurement. I see that it is estimated that in the coming year we shall spend £143 million on the procurement of airframes and aero-engines and spares. It seems to me that one can order equipment for one of four reasons, and when the decisions are taken it is extremely important to know for which of the four reasons they are being taken.
The first reason is because there is a Royal Air Force operational requirement. If one orders an aircraft exclusively from that point of view, one will most probably get equipment ideally suited for the R.A.F., but, by the same token, far from ideally suited to anybody else. That does not mean that it is not a good aircraft, but that as there is no prize for second best for somebody else's operational requirements, we just do not sell it abroad.
The second reason that one may order equipment for the Royal Air Force is because, although it meets a substantial proportion of the domestic requirements, it also meets requirements of some foreign country, probably a member of N.A.T.O. or possibly a Commonwealth country.
The third reason is that, although it does not ideally meet the specifications of the Royal Air Force, it gives great assistance to a firm in an industry which is making a significant contribution to the export market which, without that assistance, would collapse.
The fourth reason is frankly political—where there is heavy unemployment in an area, the Government place the order not because of the technical merits of the aircraft but because of social and political policy.
I can conceive circumstances where any one of these four reasons would be justified, but it is extremely important to define in our own minds in each case the reason on which we are working, because then we can make sure that we are placing the order for the reason which is most relevant in this context. If we get our reason in the wrong context, it will be extremely expensive.
The Avro 748—which many of us used to know as the "Aviation Traders' Accountant" when we first saw it flying—is in the fourth category. It is a political aeroplane. It meets many of the requirements of the Royal Air Force, and the Government's decision to buy it was the right one. To have decided otherwise would have been a gross breach of trust with the Hawker-Siddeley Group, and, indeed, with its competitors—the Vickers Group—which did not seek the order. The Government induced aircraft firms to contract into two groups, having announced that they would not place any more orders until these firms did so. All except one firm joined one or other of the two groups. It would, therefore, as I have said, have been a gross breach of trust with the Hawker-Siddeley Group and the Vickers Group to have placed this order with the one firm which did not carry out the national policy.
On balance, it was a right decision, but that must not blind us to the fact that it is an expensive decision. It is more expensive than the alternative decision for a number of reasons. One reason is that another engine will have to be developed, which would otherwise have been unnecessary. Secondly, it is likely that the unit cost will be higher than in the case of the Dart Herald. As long as we are clear as to which of the four reasons I have mentioned was uppermost on this occasion, it is a fair decision to have made, however.
My third reason was that of assisting export of other products. Today, we have two large aircraft manufacturing groups of firms which have successfully sold civil aircraft since the war and which are in receipt of orders for military aircraft. We have two large engine firms, both of which are of considerable volume, but only one of which has sold civil jet engines since the war. The other is also a subsidiary of one of the two aircraft groups.
Sooner or later, if we are using our equipment purchases as a means of rendering the aircraft industry able to export—as a means of keeping it a com petitive industry—we have to ask our selves this question. However many orders we place, not primarily because the aircraft we are ordering meet the specifications the R.A.F. wants, but for the reason that we want to help the firms concerned to remain competitive, is there ever to be enough business either in terms of domestic, civil demand or—
With respect, Mr. Blackburn, a very large element of the total revenue of the aircraft industry is the £143 million appearing in Vote 7 in the Estimates which we are debating.
I was hoping that it would not be considered out of order to mention this because the manner in which this £143 million is spent can be one of a number of things. It can give the Royal Air Force the aircraft it wants. It can promote exports of British aircraft abroad. H can promote the N.A.T.O. use of British-made military aircraft as well as the R.A.F. use. It can tone down pockets of unemployment. What I think extremely unlikely is that it can do all four of those things at the same time. That is why I think it extremely important that we should draw up our order of priorities.
If we consider the item which one could broadly call assistance to exports, we have to ask ourselves the question which I had reached when you intervened, Mr. Blackburn. Can British domestic civil and military demand, and foreign civil and military demand ever provide enough work for even the two major combines into which the British aircraft industry has drawn today? If we say "Yes there is a large enough market", we have to ask ourselves: what is the total amount of money which these firms must have under Vote 7 in order to allow them to remain in this competitive position? If we have not got that figure we cannot decide whether we can afford to allow them to have that amount of money.
I therefore think that this is a fair question to ask. If we decide that the answer is, "No, there is not enough work, looking into the foreseeable future "—ten years ahead—for two large combines, we must decide which we are to support. If we endeavour to support both of them with an inadequate amount of money we shall achieve no value for the money except to protract the agony of their dying.
Having arrived at 1962, a year in which civil business is declining immensely and where we are expecting to see the number of military aircraft also decline, it would not be out of place in this debate to consider what I have endeavoured to generate—the implications of military expenditure on the domestic aviation industry. I have confined myself to speaking about airframes, but, of course, the most outstanding characteristic of the industry from the point of view of exports over the last decade has not been aircraft, but aero-engines, of which the figures speak for themselves. Until I was elected to this House I was connected with a firm of aero-engine manufacturers.
Whether it is for civil or military aircraft is not the question, because all this money comes from the same Treasury, but, if the Government decide to back with public money a project which we hope will sell abroad in the aero-engines sphere, the Government are also left with two large groups. One of them has never sold to a single airline a single jet engine, and the other has met with outstanding success, which increased even in the last year over the preceding year; indeed, it has increased every year, which is unlike the situation in any other industry in the country of which I can think. I merely express the view that it is extremely unlikely that, if we back with public money something which no airline has even been prepared to back with its own private money in the purchase of a jet engine, we have taken the right decision.
I should like to repeat yet again the four criteria for placing orders which are encompassed by the £143 million in Vote 7, because they are of major importance. The first is to provide equipment which the R.A.F. wishes to have to meet its own operational requirements. The second is to compromise between the requirements of the R.A.F. and the military requirements of other Powers abroad, whether in the Commonwealth or in N.A.T.O. The third is to assist the manufacturer to export another product, not the one which the Government have ordered. The fourth is political or social reasons.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will give us his observations on how public money can most profitably be spent, under Vote 7, in particular, with specific reference to those four criteria.
I apologise to the Secretary of State for Air and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) for not having been present earlier in the debate, but I had a long-standing engagement in my constituency to talk about defence to the Dudley Rotary Club where, I might add, the attendance was many times the size of that in the Committee. I will not press that point much further. I always intended to come here and to try to speak in the debate, but it would be churlish indeed if I did not apologise for my absence during the opening speeches.
I understand that the Secretary of State did not mention R.A.F. manpower, and my principal reason for returning to the House is to speak on that subject. It is a characteristic of the Government's defence policy—Army, Navy and Air Force—that if they have any success to announce the public relations officers make quite sure that it is known. It is the oddest thing that since the Defence White Paper was published I have been able to find no reference in any speech on either side of the House and no comments from any political commentator, and nothing on television or radio about the lamentable failure to reach the R.A.F. manpower target.
In 1958 we were told, when the 375,000 figure was broken down, that the R.A.F. manpower target was 135,000. I took leave at the time to challenge the possibility of that number being recruited. I challenged it in debate after debate, both in quantitative and in qualitative terms, and I was told that all was well and that we should get the 135,000. It may well be that the target which was fixed by the Government—not by me—to be achieved by 1st January, 1963, has been changed by the passage of events. Let me remind hon. Members that according to the 1957 White Paper there was to be no successor to the V-bomber. At that time, Blue Streak and Skybolt were away in the distance. As far as we knew, Blue Streak would succeed and would be an R.A.F. responsibility. There were to be no further generations of fighters. On that basis the manpower figure was fixed at 135,000.
When I opened the Defence White Paper I naturally looked at Annex 1. To be honest, I looked first for the Army figure. But I found that for 1st April, 1963—not 1st January but four months after the winning post—the figure which the Air Force estimated to get was 132,600. In other words, they are nearly 3,000 short of the target. I have no doubt that the Under-Secretary tonight, in accordance with the Government's accepted formula, will say that the number they want at 1st April, 1963, is 132,600 and that for special reasons, which have been discovered only recently and which they have spoken about with a muted voice, the fact that there will be a shortage of almost 3,000 next year is of no account. The Government will say the shortage is of no importance. I am an insufferable bore when I remind the Committee of what has been said by Government speakers in defence debate after defence debate since 1957. No word of the change in manpower targets has been leaked to the Press, although one would have thought that the capable journalists and B.B.C. commentators who sit aloft would have spotted the change. But, spotted or not, no one has mentioned it presumably because to whisper it would cause embarrassment in the Ministry of Defence and it would mean no more easy hand-outs.
They are not only short in the Air Force; they are also short for the Navy. We were told that the Navy was home and dry and was to get 88,000 on 1st January, 1963. The Navy will have, so the Government estimate, 87,800 on 1st April, 1963, so it too will be short of its target. So the Government admit two of the Services will be short of their targets. Next year we shall not worry about the spring double. It will be the spring treble. The Government will have failed to reach all three targets, but at the moment the one which is in the public eye is the Army, and the Government have put up a smoke-screen of pretence around Army manpower.
I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us later why the Secretary of State did not inform the Committee in his speech today why the figure in Annex I of the Defence White Paper is the best of all possible figures and, that 132,600 has been after all the secret target at which the Government aimed ever since the 1957 Defence White Paper.
I want now to refer to the very able speech of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). The Air Force cannot fly without aircraft. One of the major achievements of the 1957 Sandys policy has been the ruin of the British aircraft industry. I will not go too far with the hon. Member in his four points. I shall not enter into any controversy about the respective merits of the Avro 748 and the Dart Herald. In my judgment and that of my friends, they have one thing in common—they are both horrible aircraft. But the Air Force has taken forty Avro 748s and the Herald has lost. It is true it ought to have lost because the Herald manufacturers have not played the game according to the rules.
The Government have—I will not say followed the hon. Gentleman's four points—but have havered between the two. They have havered between the military necessities, on the one hand, and what I call the soup kitchen policy, on the other, of which the perfect example is the Belfast. If the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations had operated outside in the commercial field and tried to run the line that he ran in connection with the Belfast, he would have gone to the Old Bailey. He came down to the House of Commons and tried, first, the line that this was the civilian version of the Britannia. Its name he said was the Britannic. The only similarity in fact was the name. The Britannic, the military counterpart of the civilian Britannia, sounded nice. I well remember the day when the House fell for it in an enthusiastic way—to take the Britannia, so it was said, was an act of genius. The fact that the two aircraft had different wing positions and that the only similarity was the name began to penetrate after a while, so the name game was stopped and the Britannic was renamed the Belfast.
It was taken, and probably rightly taken, in order to sustain the fortunes of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland. It succeeded for that purpose in the last general election. As long as the country accepts the principle that the political needs of the Conservative Party take priority over the needs of the Air Force, who am I to quarrel with that policy?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the Committee. He said that the wing was totally different. Does he realise that one of the reasons why the first of these aircraft, now called the Belfast, will be flying this time next year is that it is using exactly the same wing and tail section as the Britannia? Would the hon. Gentleman like to indicate what other aircraft he suggests would meet the requirements of the Army as well as the Belfast?
It has the same wing section, I know. Of course, it had something in common, apart from the name. But the real test is that we were told that this machine was to sell in the civilian market—it has not, and it will not. It is to that that I want to turn.
One of the odd characteristics about the Government, and this is an extension of what I have said earlier, is that they ring the bells for good news but when the news is not so good they keep rather mum. In the defence debate on 5th March, the Minister of Defence said:
The best test is the judgment of other countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 56.]
That is a fair test, and I am sure that the Under-Secretary would not dissent from it. Other countries' estimates of the capacity of this aircraft are a fair test. We have had our successes. The Bloodhound and Bloodhound II have sold in great quantities, and I have no doubt whatever that one or two of our other missiles will also sell, but it is to aircraft that I want to turn.
What do other countries think about our aircraft? In our recent defence debate I spoke of competitions, and I instanced twenty-eight competitions for various categories of aircraft—competitions in which we had not succeeded. I thought that we ought to succeed in some. What put me on to this was the description given by the Secretary of
State for Air a year ago of the Lightning, when he said that it and the Bloodhound
… are the best weapons of their kind for air defence in the world."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 8th March, 1961; Vol. 636, c. 489.]
This year the Lightning has proved itself to be in the forefront of contemporary fighter design. Over the years we have had some success in this sphere. The reputation founded by the Spitfire and the Hurricane has been carried over to the post-war world and the Hunter, for example, has been sold to many countries. So let us look at what has happened to our efforts to sell our modern fighter aircraft.
Before looking at the details I want to refer to what was said by the Minister of Aviation on the second day of our defence debate. He referred to my having spoken of competitions and said:
… I was rather worried when he talked the other day about competitions in Europe. I asked my colleagues what were these competitions in which we had taken such a beating and I discovered that there was none."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 247.]
The Minister of Aviation is a competent man and an ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, so needless to say that remark raised a dutiful titter from the serried ranks behind him. It was great fun; I had talked of competitions, but the right hon. Gentleman's Department had said that there were no competitions, so I was talking nonsense. The Minister had all the facts at his fingertips.
Since then, I have profitably spent my time. I have been going into these competitions. It is little wonder that we have not succeeded if the Ministry of Aviation does not know what is going on in this highly competitive world that centres round the sale of aircraft. The Minister does not even know that competitions take place. Perhaps I have used the wrong word. Maybe I should not have called them competitions. I have learned the word "competition" from hon. Gentlemen opposite as being the way in which individuals or corporations or countries engage in combat with one another to get orders. Perhaps the Minister of Aviation was thinking of competitions in terms of what happens at a Conservative fête when they nobble the results to make sure that the egg and spoon race is won by a child whose parents have donated a big cheque to party funds.
I have never known the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) to be short of words, even the wrong ones. Would the phrase "high-pressure salesmanship" help him?
Yes, I do not mind using that term. I would have thought that the Minister of Aviation would have been concerned about this type of high-pressure salesmanship and what happens in this direction in order to sell British aircraft. Why did he say that he knew nothing about these competitions? I propose, therefore, to bore the Committee by giving the details of the competitions, the names of the countries, the names of the aircraft and the dates when the contracts were placed in each case. Perhaps these details will help the Minister to bring his records up to date, for it is lamentable that he does not know these facts of life.
In 1959 we sold 173 combat aircraft. In 1960 the figure was down to 71, and in 1961 we sold 21. We sold 77 non-combat aircraft in 1959, 48 in 1960 and 40 in 1961. In 1959 we sold 89 civil aircraft, 55 in 1960 and 59 in 1961. In the realms of used aircraft we sold 91 in 1959, 62 in 1960 and 41 in 1961.
When the Government announced these figures, true to form they found one figure which was up their street and, accordingly, the Parliamentary Secretary stated that he was glad to note that in 1961 sales were up in value over 1960 and that the number of civil aircraft was up both in numbers and value. I would have been delighted if that were true about the whole story, but the reason that 1961 values were up on 1960 was that the Vanguard produced by Vickers was so hopelessly behind that it should have been delivered in 1959 and 1960. It was, in fact, delivered in 1961—and the Parliamentary Secretary can take any credit he wants from that. The competitions, or, if the Parliamentary Secretary wants to call them, sales by high-pressure salesmen—
That is correct—on which the Parliamentary Secretary rests his case represents a field in which the Government assert we are supreme, it must be remembered that on these sales in the last analysis rests the quality of our aircraft. We now have a fighter aircraft called the Lightning which, the Secretary of State has said, is the best in the world. So Switzerland had a competition and became engaged in the vortex of high pressure salesmanship and takes the French Mirage, the contract for which was signed in December, 1960. Australia, which for years has taken British aircraft—generation after generation of them—also takes the Mirage and that contract was signed in December, 1960.
Canada takes the American F 104, contract signed in August, 1959. Italy takes the F 104, contract signed July, 1960, and Germany takes the F 104, contract signed August, 1961. South Africa takes the French Mirage, contract yet to be signed, Japan takes the American F 104, contract signed August, 1961, the Netherlands take the F 104, contract signed August, 1961, Belgium takes the F 104, contract signed August, 1961, India take the Mirage, along with Israel, and, in both cases, the contracts have yet to be signed