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Vote a. Number for Air Force Service

Part of Orders of the Day — Air Estimates, 1962–63 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1962.

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Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan 12:00 am, 12th March 1962

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?