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Orders of the Day — Defence

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th March 1966.

Alert me about debates like this

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [7th March]: That this House regrets that Her Majesty's Government have announced decisions in the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1966 (Command Papers Nos. 2901 and 2902) which will impair the ability of our forces to carry out the duties required of them.

Question again proposed.

4.8 p.m.

Photo of Brigadier Terence Clarke Brigadier Terence Clarke , Portsmouth West

I want to concentrate on the cancellation of the aircraft carrier programme. Ever since the present Government took office, 17 months ago, I have made speeches in Portsmouth and asked Questions in the House, but I have never received anything but an evasive answer about the carrier programme.

The Government knew very well from the beginning, even from the last General Election, that they were not to build any carriers. It is quite preposterous for the Secretary of State to go on recruiting people to join the Fleet Air Arm. There was an enormous advertisement in the week before he made his statement on the White Paper asking young men to join as airmen in the Royal Navy. Such an advertisement is misleading and makes people believe that they can have a career in the Fleet Air Arm, when, in fact, in 10 years, if a Labour Government are in power, we will not have a carrier. That is probably most unlikely and I hope that these officers and men will have a career in the Fleet Air Arm.

Land-based aircraft now being bought in the U.S.A. are no substitute for carriers, and the Secretary of State has been advised to this effect by his technical officers. His decision has caused the resignation of Admiral Luce and the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy. We have not yet been told about the Government's technical adviser, but it has been suggested that he did not agree with the Secretary of State.

Who told the Minister that we could do without carriers is not apparent to anyone except hon. Members opposite. The Minister, in replacing these carriers, has bought a lot of American aircraft on hire purchase and has put a lot of our own men out of employment, and these aircraft are to be paid for by a later generation. He knows that we have no dollars with which to buy them now. He knows the state of this country's finances so far as dollars are concerned. What the bill will be by the time these aircraft are paid for, no one knows.

Australia has bought some of these F111As and already the bill has gone up by millions. By the time we get the aircraft under hire purchase and have paid the interest they will have become very expensive. They will certainly be a great deal more expensive than these land bases that the Minister talks about. With a land base it is necessary to have at least a battalion of infantry and probably more to guard it. Where will the Minister get the troops? What a lot of money this will cost. For how long will we be allowed to sit in these land bases? If any one of the sheiks in an area where we get a base rattles a sabre a Labour Government will be out of that base as fast as they can go.

We are already leaving Aden. This will leave an opportunity for Nasser to take our place immediately, and I say here and now that Nasser will do that within a very short time of our leaving. It is quite disgraceful, after all the money that has been spent on Aden. It has cost us millions of pounds to instal married quarters and build harbours and storehouses for our weapons and equipment, and now we are to go away and, incidentally, break a treaty in doing so. It is quite disgraceful, and I am sure that the country, when it comes to 31st March, will remember what the Labour Government have done in the last few weeks and all the "lolly" that they have given out with both hands daily.

I should like to ask the Minister how many times he has been overseas during the war without an aircraft carrier for his protection. I went on three expeditions, to Norway, North Africa, and then Normandy. On each occasion I reckoned that I would never have got there if it had not been for the aircraft carriers and the air support that we had. I see the Secretary of State for Defence smiling. In Norway, we had no aircraft at all. We had no A.A. guns because the people at that time thought that it was out of range of enemy bombers. It was, in fact, out of range, but the enemy aircraft landed on frozen lakes, ferried up the ammunition and the bombs, and we were bombed within three days of landing at Narvik. We were luckily protected by a carrier; Spitfires were brought from England and were flown on to an air strip later. That gave us our cover.

I would remind the Minister who, apparently, is so keen on airstrips, that when we eventually evacuated Norway we had to crash all our aircraft on board the carriers. He will probably tell me that the "Valiant" went down in the process. It did, because land-based aircraft were put on to a carrier—aircraft which it was not intended to carry. We could not put up our own reconnaissance aeroplanes and that lost us a ship. Incidentally, we came back from Norway without any protection whatsoever, although we got bombed on the way back, as we did on the way back from Africa, too. It was only good luck that got us through. With a carrier we would have got through without any difficulty at all.

We are told that carriers are vulnerable to atomic and hydrogen bombs. That may be. So is an airstrip. So is everything else. But, at least, a carrier is mobile, and it can try to escape from the enemy and carry out its rôle of guarding the troops wherever they may be landing. I believe—and I am sure that I am right—that the carrier is capable of carrying a nuclear bomb. Is that why the Labour Party does not like it? Is it because it could carry a nuclear weapon that we are getting rid of the carrier?

The new Minister of Defence for the Navy is on record as saying that he is against all nuclear weapons. How can a Minister of State for the Navy, who is now in charge of Polaris, take the job when he does not believe in nuclear weapons? I should have thought he would have resigned long before the previous Minister resigned. I like him very much, and I hope that he stays there—just for a fortnight—but his conscience must be hurting him like anything if he does not believe in nuclear weapons and yet he is in charge of Polaris. Does not that worry him at all? He wrote a book in which he described himself as a very ordinary seaman. I suggest that he is a very extraordinary Minister of Defence to stay in office at all.

The Minister says that there is plenty of work in the dockyards for the foreseeable future. My worry is that I do not think that the Labour Party can see beyond its nose. I do not know what it calls the foreseeable future. How many apprentices are to be taken on in the dockyards, when in eight to 10 years' time the work will be cut down because there will be no carriers? We were to have a graving dock, but now we are not to have it. These are terribly serious things for the naval dockyards. Has the Minister given the matter thought, or are we to have the Prime Minister coming back some time between now and 31st March, when he sees that he is unpopular, saying that he has changed his mind? If he does so, and he gets back into power, which I do not think he will, he will say "April Fool to you. It is now 1st April and you are not to get any of those things I promised three weeks before the House rose."

I have made it perfectly clear that I believe this country will be in great danger if we follow the Labour Party's programme of getting rid of carriers. Even if it should get the Prime Minister a vote, I hope that he will change his mind and decide that he and the Secretary of State for Defence were wrong and that these carriers should not go.

4.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

I think that after the stage which we reached in our first day's debate yesterday there are at least four basic facts which have emerged about the Government's White Paper and their defence policy generally.

The first point seems to me to be that the Government's Defence Review and the decisions which have flowed from it were not required to stop any runaway train of defence expenditure. There was no runaway train. The Conservative Government's defence policy had been achieved year after year by expending a controlled and reducing proportion of our gross national product, and the same applied to our planned expenditure for the future. With the projected increase of £400 million at constant prices by 1969–70, the total would still have been within the same percentage range of the then expanded gross national product.

What the Government have done is not to stop a train which was out of control, but to take a deliberate decision to catch another train, to cut the proportion of the G.N.P. spent on defence to 6 per cent. by 1969–70. At the same time, however, they have not cut the country's commitments during the same period to a corresponding extent. That is what gives substance to our Motion. It is also what gives substance to the resignation speech of the former Minister of Defence for the Navy. The Secretary of State for Defence has so far utterly failed to rebut that case.

The second fact which, I think, has been established so far is that the reduction in expenditure is to be achieved not by cutting manpower, but by cutting equipment. This, too, gives basic support to the Motion which is before the House. To quote the former Minister of Defence for the Navy, a cut of one-sixth of the total budget represents much more than one-sixth of the budget for arms, weapons and equipment. It represents a very navy cut in military capabilities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 257.] The third basic fact which has been established is that, within our total defence power, the balance will be tipped more in favour of the nuclear component and against the conventional element. This is the exact opposite of what the Labour Party said was required and promised to do before the last election. We do not dissent from it, but the Labour Party has here utterly defaulted on one of the main promises it made to the country. Then the emphasis was on building up our conventional power at the expense of the nuclear. Now, in practice, we have the exact reverse. Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence did not even attempt to refute the case put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that the Government intend in future, under this White Paper policy, to maintain an independent British nuclear deterrent outside Europe.

The fourth basic fact which has been established is that there is still about £100 million worth of the Government's proposed total cut of £400 million which they either cannot or will not account for. Last August, the Secretary of State for Defence accounted for cuts totalling £220 million. He was not at all shy about explaining how those had been arrived at. Yesterday, he accounted for another £80 million, after some pressure from my right hon. Friend. That, he said, was attributable to stopping the carrier. Thus, he has accounted for about £300 million of cuts in all, but that still leaves £100 million, or no less than 25 per cent. of the total, to be accounted for. What are these cuts? Why are the Government so afraid to disclose them?

The ex-Minister of Defence for the Navy drew the attention of the House to the fact that …not all these things are specified in the Defence White Paper. In the case of the Navy, they are much wider than merely the cancellation of the CVA01, but they are not specified."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 257.] What are these cuts? The House and the country deserve to be told, and it is sheer hypocrisy for the Prime Minister and others to go spluttering about the country and the world talking about a great national debate on these matters while hiding under a carpet these basic facts about the nature of what the Government are doing. [An HON. MEMBER: "Open and frank."] "Open and frank" are the words, provided that one can get into the habit, as one has to do with this Government, or reading everything upside down.

In opening the debate yesterday, my right hon. Friend ranged over the whole subject of defence policy. He exposed in devastating manner the weakness, inconsistency and danger of the Government's proposals. In my speech, at the beginning of our second day, I shall concentrate on a much narrower front, namely, the vital importance, in our view on this side of the House, of Britain maintaining an independent capability in two senses. First, in the sense of maintaining a structure of forces and equipment which enables us as a country to play our chosen rôle in a wide variety of circumstances and areas of the world, which it would be rash to forecast, at least in detail, with too rigid a certainty too far ahead. Secondly, in the sense of maintaining an independent, industrial and technological capability to produce, if not all, at least a wide range of modern sophisticated weapons and equipment in partnership with our closest neighbours in Europe, without dependence on the United States.

Those are the two themes to which I shall address myself. They are what Britain needs. They are what Europe needs. In the long run, they are what the United States needs, as well. We believe that Anglo-American and European-American partnership are the essential foundations of peace and freedom in the world, but if that bond is to be strong, tough and enduring—this is the vital point which the party opposite seems entirely to ignore or to forget—if we and Europe are to give support to America as well as receiving support from America, the relationship in the long run must be one of real partnership and not of resentful subservience. We in Europe must not become military, industrial and technological satellites of the United States. But this is the very direction in which we are being led at the moment, willy-nilly, by the Prime Minister and the Government. We know it. Our friends in Europe know it and fear it, too. It is a trend which must be reversed, not only in our interests but in the interests of Europe, of the United States and of peace and freedom throughout the world.

Many people would agree that Britain's rôle in the world should be more and more a peace-keeping one. The White Paper assumes that Britain will not undertake major operations of war except in co-operation with allies. Many people might agree with that, too, if they could be given sufficient confidence in Governments' possessing the necessary clairvoyance to detect what is or is not a major war in embryo. But is the F111 plus the V-bomber and island base philosophy a peace-keeping concept? Is it not more a way in which to play an auxiliary rôle in someone else's major war? Does it really provide much independent capability? Is not the mixed land base and carrier concept much more in line with a peace-keeping rôle?

The Secretary of State for Defence cited the East African Army mutinies of 1964 as an example of the type of operation in which Britain might be involved. But was not the presence of a carrier close to the East Coast of Africa an important element in that operation?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Kettering

Will not we still have commando carriers of the type used in the Indian Ocean in the next decade?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

How do we give them cover? My right hon. Friend dealt with this very point yesterday. Could the same cover, had it been required either on the ground or by a commando carrier, have been provided by supersonic bombers from a base hundreds if not 1,000 or more miles away and able to spend perhaps only a few minutes over the target? An aircraft carrier was essential.

What about the application of sanctions against Rhodesia? Whatever we may think about the rights and wrongs of that, is it not a fact that seaborne aircraft are essential to supervise their enforcement at this very moment? Is it not possible that right hon. and hon. Members opposite at least may wish to do something similar in the 1970s in similar circumstances? How is this sort of thing to be coped with with F111s and V-bombers dashing about the place at supersonic speeds from land bases 1,000 or 2,000 miles away?

In his famous, or infamous, speech at Plymouth during the last election campaign, the Prime Minister laid much stress on the importance of stronger naval power and on the importance of mobility, and he made much play of the way our existing carrier force was overstretched. Was that speech of the Prime Minister just cynical, dishonest vote-catching in a naval dockyard town? The Government's present policy certainly suggests that the worst of all interpretations should be put upon it. I wonder whether the Prime Minister will pay another visit to Plymouth in this election and talk to the same audience. Incidentally, I wonder whether he will arrange for another message to be sent in his name to the ex-TSR2 workers and other aircraft workers in Preston. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) would like to know.

Or perhaps the Prime Minister's gimmickry is so superb that he is using it this time for patriotic reasons and not just to fool the British electorate. Perhaps the TSR2 has not been cancelled at all, and we may find in the next week or two, is to be brought out of mothballs and resurrected. If such a miraculous bit of illusionism could take place, I suppose that we on this side of the House would welcome it.

But if the Government's new policy is to become the order of the day and is to carry any conviction, there are at least two points on which we have no information at the moment and on which we must have some. First, what about a surface-to-surface guided weapon for use against missile firing ships? We are told in the White Paper that one is to be developed—in paragraph 2 on page 9 of Part I. But what is it, and when? It is not included in this year's research and development programme on pages 46 and 47 of Part II of the White Paper. Yet, as my right hon. Friend pointed out yesterday, it must take years, probably a decade, to develop to the production and service stage, by which time there will have been a gap between the cessation of the carriers and this weapon coming into service.

As to the second essential bit of information that we must have, we must be told something about the location of the land or island bases on which the strike reconnaissance aircraft are to be based and how they will be defended and maintained and at what cost. Unless we are given more details of this sort of thing it is impossible to form any judgment about some of the so-called reasoning which appears in the White Paper.

I turn to aircraft. I want to go straight to what the White Paper describes as the operational and industrial core of our long-term aircraft programme, namely, the Anglo-French variable geometry project. We strongly support this project, and we urge speed, the utmost speed; otherwise, the United States will beat us to it.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would convey this very strong message, which I endorse, to his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), because if anyone did anything to damage the project yesterday it was the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, which made the case for buying more F111s and threw everything but the kitchen sink at the variable geometry concept.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

As we all discover from time to time, it is better sometimes to think first and speak afterwards, and this is one of those occasions for the right hon. Gentleman. If anything has done anything to damage the project, it is the confusing, muddling, contradictory announcements that he and his right hon. Friend have been making about the project over the last year. I will give chapter and verse for it. There cannot be utmost speed until the Government of the day know what it is they want this aircraft to do and to be. How can our French colleagues have any confidence in them until they know that? They are in confusion, as was shown by the Press conference given by no less a person than the Chief of the French Air Staff as recently as 25th February.

What is the purpose? Let the House look at paragraph 8 on pages 10 and 11 of Part I of the White Paper. There we are told that the key to our deterrent power is the strike reconnaissance capacity from a distance. This has been, and still is, the rôle of the Canberra. But the Canberra, we are told, cannot safely continue after 1970. By the mid-1970s, we are told, the Anglo-French VG should begin to take over this rôle. The Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft is, therefore, now clearly presented as the ultimate Canberra replacement. But in his statement on 17th May, 1965—about 10 months ago—on the Anglo-French memorandum, the Secretary of State for Defence said, clearly, that the Anglo-French variable geometry project would be a replacement for some or all of the Buccaneer, the Lightning and the Phantom.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman intended to mislead the House, but he undoubtedly did by quoting the sentence incorrectly. The sentence to which he refers said that by the 1970s we intend that the Anglo-French VG aircraft should begin to take over this and other rôles. I repeat "and other rôles"; and the other rôles are the ones to which the right hon. Gentleman is just about to refer.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

That is interesting, and I will pursue it, but it does not invalidate what I am saying at the moment, that this is presented to the House as the ultimate Canberra replacement.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Among other rôles.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

We will examine these other rôles in a few moments, because, as I shall demonstrate also to the House, there is great confusion between the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend about the other rôles.

At that time there was not a mention of the Canberra in relation to the variable geometry project. That is an entirely different proposition. It is no wonder that our French friends, as I have just said and illustrated, are confused. But there it is. Whatever else it may be in addition—and I realise that there are the other rôles—the Anglo-French VG project is now presented as the ultimate Canberra replacement.

The interim Canberra replacement is to be provided in two parts, the first part by the 50 F111As and the second part, in the strike rôle only, by the V-bombers. Incidentally, as an ex-professional metallurgist I hope that the Government have considered sufficiently carefully the fatigue risks of these aircraft at this late stage in their life, flying in the very testing conditions of low level, and that they will not run into any trouble about them.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we benefit greatly from the low-level testing undertaken by the previous Government, which subjected the aircraft to infinitely more difficult conditions than those we anticipate for them in the rôle suggested.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

I am delighted to have that assurance.

It would seem clear from the White Paper that when this interim period is over the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft will replace the functions of either or both of the F111 and the V-bomber. But the Minister of Aviation last night said categorically that it would not be a replacement for the F111. He said equally categorically that it would be a replacement for the V-bombers. I would not be at all surprised if our French friends are surprised when they suddenly hear that the Anglo-French variable geometry project is suddenly being cast in the rôle of a successor to the Victor and the Vulcan. [Interruption.]

I may not know much about aircraft, but after what has been said in this debate I have a shrewd suspicion that I know pretty well as much as the right hon. Gentleman. He said that it was definitely to be a replacement for the V-bomber. It would seem, therefore, that the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft can, in the Government's mind, replace almost every fighting aircraft with one exception, and that exception is the F111A. I will come back to that in a moment. It can replace the Lightning the Buccaneer, the Phantom and the V-bomber. This is very curious.

Apart from everything else, what is the range of this aircraft to be? The original Canberra replacement was to be the TSR2, of long range. When the Government cancelled the TSR2 the favoured substitute was obviously the F111, and one of its most praised characteristics was its long range. Indeed, one of the technical arguments used, for example, against the alternative of the Spey/Mirage was its lack of range. The V-bomber, which is to share the interim Canberra rôle, also has long range.

All through, therefore, range has been emphasised as a key characteristic. But what is the potential range of this Anglo-French VG project? By comparison it is a small aircraft. We understand that it weighs about 40,000 lb., compared with the roughly 80,000 lb. of the F111. This means that its range must be about half that of the F111, or certainly not more than two-thirds.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

The right hon. Gentleman says that it is three-quarters. Its fuel carrying capacity must, of course, depend on what else it carries, in which case its weapon and equipment-carrying capacity must also be smaller. I admit that the range must be the function of the combination of the fuel it carries and the weight of weapons and equipment, but it undeniably has a considerably shorter range than any of the aircraft of the Canberra rôle which it is supposed to be replacing.

It looks to be essentially what the Government first said it was in explaining the Anglo-French memorandum, namely, a replacement for one or all of the Lightnings, Buccaneers, and Phantoms, rather than a suitable substitute for the TSR2, the F111, or the V-bomber force. It is a most extraordinary bit of agility to transform this aircraft and make it appear suitable for other than its original purposes.

But that is not the end of the confusion. If hon. Members will look at paragraph 14 on page 12 of Part I of the White Paper, under the heading "Fighter and Ground Attack Aircraft", they will see that We shall later be taking a strike version of the Anglo-French Jaguar in order to release Phantoms to replace the Lightning. So, according to the White Paper, Jaguars will replace Phantoms, and Phantoms will replace the Lightnings. But according to the Minister of Aviation, in his speech last night, Our intention is to use the VG aircraft to replace the Phantom in the strike role, releasing the Phantom from that role in order to replace the Lightning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1862.] These two statements seem rather difficult to reconcile. Perhaps the answer to this mystery can be disclosed to us tonight. This whole tale of mystery and imagination must be clarified.

I now want to say a few words about the F111, because the mystery that I have been talking about now affects the rôle of this aircraft as well. The categorical statement made last night by the Minister of Aviation, to which I have referred, that the VG aircraft is complementary to the F111 and is in no sense a replacement, clearly implies that there are some rôles which only the F111 will be able to fulfil once the V-bombers have gone. The House should be told what these rôles are. Are they long-distance reconnaissance rôles in Asia? If so, where and what are they? Are they to go to the borders of China, and so forth? Is another of those rôles a strategic strike rôle? Is this, perhaps, an independent British nuclear deterrent outside Europe? The House should be told what these special rôles are.

If the F111 has these unique rôles, which cannot be filled by anything else on the stocks, how can we get by with only 50 of these aircraft? Is this not inevitably only a first instalment? If that is the logical conclusion, or at least the likely outcome, would it not be far franker—to use a popular word—to tell the House of Commons so?

I now turn to the implications of the Government's policy for the aircraft industry. This is the other part of my theme—the vital need to maintain a technological capability independent of the United States. From the production point of view the aircraft industry now looks to be fairly well provided for for the next few years, but the list of aircraft at the beginning of paragraph 17, on page 12 of Part I of the White Paper, is mainly a hotch-potchery of obsolescent aircraft. For the one really advanced plane—I suppose that we can call it an advanced plane, although it is now five years since it first flew—the P1127, or the Kestrel, there is still no production order. No indication has been given the House as to how large that order will be, or when it will be placed. When are we to get that settled, and be given that information?

As for the major new projects for the future, the industry now has its joint share with France in the Jaguar and the VG projects. These are most welcome and valuable, and I want to make it clear that my hon. Friends and I agree about that. But, equally, we want to make it clear that they are not enough, on their own, to provide a balanced future programme of sufficient weight to ensure the maintenance of a substantial and technically advanced aircraft industry in this country. The Government are fooling themselves and the country if they think otherwise.

I want to put three further questions about future aircraft projects which the Government must answer. First, what is to succeed the American C130 as a transport aircraft? That aircraft is already becoming obsolescent. Secondly, what is to be the airborne early warning aircraft of the future—the successor to the Gannet? Thirdly, what about our new helicopter requirements? If those gaps were all to be filled by American aircraft it would be disastrous. We would not have the basis for a technologically advanced substantial aircraft industry for the future such as the Government claim to wish to see, and which we certainly wish to see.

Until those questions, as well as a number of those on the civil side—which we cannot discuss today—have been answered in terms predominantly, even if not entirely, of Anglo-European projects, the yawning vacuum created by the Government's cancellations last year cannot begin to be adequately filled, nor can we be said to be moving away from the danger of technological dependence on the United States.

From the national point of view the folly of the Government's "across the board" cancellations of last year is shown by the price that we are paying for not having the TSR2. Here I must correct the misleading figures given last night by the Minister of Aviation. He said that the capital cost of taking 50 F111As amounted to £190 million, made up of £150 million for the aircraft themselves and £40 million for cancellation charges on the TSR2.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) asked me to correct or confirm a group of figures, and I gave the figure of £190 million only in response to questions posed to me by him. The capital cost of the F111A has been given to the House of many occasions by my right hon. Friend. It is £2½ million basic unit cost.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

I only hope that when history unfolds we shall find that the new ceiling is £2·5 million and not £28 million. We will accept £2·5 million for the purpose of this discussion.

Photo of Mr Thomas Price Mr Thomas Price , Westhoughton

We should have some rough agreement on figures at least if we are to disregard ideas and interpretations. Let us have the figures right. Yesterday, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) addressed the House from the Front Bench on the basis of his own calculations, and quoted the figure of £5 million per unit. It was when he was shot down on that point that he began to wobble all over the place.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

The hon. Gentleman should be patient. I am trying to establish these figures. I accept that the Minister of Aviation had no intention of misleading the House, and I hope that I did not suggest that he so intended. But let us see where—if we are looking at the matter in total—the figures that we were talking about last night were false.

According to the Comptroller and Audtior General, the cancellation charges for the TSR2 will be not £40 million, but £70 million. In addition, £125 million was spent on the TSR2 prior to cancellation. One must add this total nugatory expenditure on the TSR2—in other words, £195 million—in order to get a full picture, and the total cost of obtaining 50 Fill As after having cancelled the TSR2 is thus not £190 million, but £345 million. That is a very different figure, and it explains to the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), if he divides that figure by 50, that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West knew what he was talking about.

Photo of Mr John Binns Mr John Binns , Keighley

Would the right hon. Member tell us what 50 TSR2 aircraft would have cost?

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

If the hon. Member will be a little patient, I will tell him.

I will accept the figure given by the Minister in winding up the debate last night—£450 million for 50 aircraft. That is the Minister's own calculation and I do not wish to dispute it. We thus have £345 million for the F111A and £450 million for the same number of TSR2s. For this difference of £105 million, spread over 10 years or more, we have disrupted the aircraft industry, we have given up very valuable technological fall-out and we have added a great burden to our balance of payments. We suggest that these penalties are far greater than the £10 million or less of savings per annum which have been achieved.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

The right hon. Gentleman made a serious allegation. He said that we have added to our balance-of-payments problems. I must infer from that that he does not accept the word of the American Government that they will make a full purchase such as I explained last night, or that he has no faith in the capability of British industry to sell the goods to the Americans.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

If the right hon. Gentleman is a little patient I will come to that before I conclude.

There are some remaining points which I want to make about the aircraft industry, because we on this side of the House want to press again three of the matters which I raised in the debate on the Plowden Report. The first concerns contract procedure, which is central to the problem of getting value for money and speed of decision. The statement on this subject by the Minister of Aviation last week showed deplorably slow progress. It is more than 12 months since he had the Lang Report in his hands. After more than 12 months the Government have just rejected one of its main recommendations and are only just getting round to serious negotiations with industry on another. This is deplorably slow progress.

The second point is the relaxation of security, which I raised in the debate on the Plowden Report. I said then that we in this country were burrowing about like moles. Let me say at once that this is not a party point, because I accept that the present Government are not using security more than other Governments have used it in the past.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

We have given more information.

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

I will even accept that in a limited way. Indeed, I hope that we may look on this as a House of Commons matter. Other points are bound to be in debate between us, but I particularly want this to be a House of Commons and not a party political issue. Why cannot we have our security arrangements relaxed to American standards, so that the British Parliament and public may join in informed discussion and constructive criticism to the same extent as our colleagues in the United States are able to do? I want to put again before the Government a plea that they should look at this matter.

The third point which I want to stress again, and which I raised in the debate on the Plowden Report, is controversial, particularly in view of today's publication: we reaffirm that we reject utterly the nationalisation, in whole or in part, of the aircraft industry. To embark on nationalisation in this moment of history, of all times, will cause endless delay and distraction just at a time when urgency and speed are important. I sincerely trust that if, contrary to all expectations, the Labour Party is returned to power, it will be as dilatory in carrying out that promise as, in this Parliament, thank goodness, it has been dilatory in carrying out its promise to nationalise steel.

Lastly, I want to say a few words about maintaining our general industrial capability. This is raised by the Government's policy as to how we offset the enormous dollar cost of the "Buy American" policy which they have been operating. We have no confidence in the Government's easy optimism about the practical effects of the assurances which they have obtained from the United States. Of course, these were given in good faith by the United States Government, but I have heard Ministers opposite say how difficult it is to convert an agreement which one can reach in Washington into industrial terms when the American industrial lobbies begin to operate in Washington.

This is not all. According to the right hon. Gentleman, last night, more than half of the commitment is to sell to third countries—not sales to the United States at all. This is not good enough. I hope that we should have got those third country sales in any event. We ought to offset a purchase of American equipment on this scale with sales to the United States, and nothing else should be acceptable to the House.

But even if the assurances were to lead to extra sales in the United States—and I emphasise the word "extra"; we must not take into account all our sales to the United States, for they are not negligible in any event—the nature of the goods sold is also extremely important. It would be fatal to the long-term interests of this country to import from the United States products of the most advanced technologies while we export in payment to the United States merely the products of old technologies, such as old-type, unsophisticated ships. It would also be fatal to pay by exporting not the products of our advanced technological knowledge but the very technological "know-how" itself.

The danger of this—and a direct result of the Government's aircraft cancellations—is now upon us. We see it in the setting up in Britain by the American Lockheed Aircraft Corporation of Comprehensive Designers Incorporated. This firm is seeking to recruit to work for Lockheed in this country several hundred of our aircraft designers, offering salaries about 30 per cent. above British rates and seeking to export the product of their design skills to feed the American technological effort. Here, indeed, is a brain drain with a vengeance. I was told only this morning that last week the British Aircraft Corporation lost 16 of its design team and that about three-quarters of them went into the service of Comprehensive Designers Incorporated.

In conclusion, my theme has been the maintenance of Britain's capability. We on this side of the House do not believe that Britain can "go it alone". We do not deceive ourselves with nostalgic dreams of past glories. We accept the desirability, indeed the inevitability, of interdependence. But we are determined that it shall be the genuine interdependence of allies and not the subservient relationship of auxiliaries. We know that this requires a steady advance towards the integration of Britain with Europe in economic, technological, military and political terms. If there is to be a healthy and lasting partnership with the United States, we have in modern conditions to mobilise the old world to redress the balance of the new.

We are convinced that the Government's present defence policies are, in practice, obstructing, not assisting, that vital progress. It is for that reason—in addition to the others so devastatingly propounded yesterday by my right hon. Friend—that we censure the Government with all the power that we can command.

5.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The Motion we are debating complains that the Government's defence policy will …impair the ability of our forces to carry out the duties required of them. In view of that phrase, I had expected—indeed, we had all expected—that we would have heard rather more from right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench about their assessment of those duties.

Missing from this debate has been any assessment, any description by them of what should be the foreign commitments and general position in the world of this country. And without that, of course, their criticisms of defence policy are a set of disparate pieces with no real force or compulsion in the argument. Indeed, any attempt to examine the question of what this country's position in the world should be was left by the Front Bench opposite to the Liberal Party, in the person of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who I am sorry to see is not with us this afternoon because I will be referring later to his speech.

Would it be unfair to speculate as to the reason for this omission in the argument? It may be that, after the speech which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made at Brighton some time ago, it was felt that his view about the position of this country in the world involved so sweeping a setting aside of any rôle for us in the area commonly described as east of Suez that there would not be agreement between him and his right hon. Friends if he pressed his own doctrine. At any rate, is not this silence so remarkable when it is known that there are these important differences of opinion among leading members of the party opposite as to what the duties assigned to our forces should be?

Still more remarkable, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence pointed out, has been the absence among the speakers from the benches opposite of any of the former Ministers of Defence. There were nine of them—nine discordant muses, each singing a different song. Three of them remain in the House, but not one of them has been chosen to call upon his wide knowledge and experience in order to help the House in assessing the Government's programme. It therefore fell to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West to open the debate yesterday and to apply his own military knowledge to the problem.

I am bound to say that it was not entirely equal to the task. It was very unfair of the party opposite to put him up on a Motion talking about the duties assigned to our forces when they know that he differs from many of them on what those duties should be and when he had not had the advantage that some of them have had; of being able to collect the military expertise through experience in office.

Thus it was that we found the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West putting forward the proposition that when one is able to reduce the number of men required overseas, it was, he argued, of no value unless one disbanded the forces—omitting absolutely the vital point in the whole planning of our defences; that it is essential to reduce the pressure put on the men today by having to spend too much of their time overseas. This getting rid of overstretch, as it is called, should be a major object of defence policy. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was not even aware that it was a necessary object of policy.

We have already had the argument about his uncertainties as to the cost of the F111A aircraft. Perhaps what the House has not noticed is that the right hon. Gentleman gave us yesterday figures of the comparative weights of the F111A aircraft and the variable geometry aircraft, which made the F111 five times as heavy.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Yes, for the variable geometry aircraft. The common multiplier is, I understand, no more than two, but the right hon. Gentleman was not aware of that.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Would the right hon. Gentleman say in what circumstances the weight of the new French variable geometry in the form the Government happen at the moment to be imagining it has yet been announced?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

It was announced yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman himself. He gave the figures for the two aircraft respectively as 80 tons—which, I am told, is about twice what it should be—and the other 15 or 16 tons, making a multiplier of five whereas a multiplier of something like two would have been accurate.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) got it right today.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) knows. The two of them, between them, must sort it out. Why was the party opposite not prepared to put up at least one of the three ex-Ministers of Defence they have available? Why is none of them even here this afternoon? To have put up two right hon. Gentlemen who disagree with each other on a simple point of fact is not treating the House seriously.

There was also the argument about the length of life of an F111 aircraft. That arose when discussing the question whether it was a replacement, or whether, after a certain number of years to come, we would have the variable geometry aircraft. It was painfully apparent during that argument that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was not aware for how long an aircraft normally remains in use. There was his further advice to us that if we decide to leave the Aden base we should not tell anyone about the decision. Setting aside for the moment the dubious morality of that advice, it should have been apparent to somebody who could have called on so many ex-Ministers of Defence to advise him that that was not a practical proposition; that if one decided that one would leave in 1968 one must begin to take, almost at once, actions which would make what one intended to do apparent.

Later in his speech the right hon. Gentleman referred to an aircraft carrier as being under construction, when it has not yet been put out to tender. Further, both he and the right hon. Member for Mitcham urged the complaint that we were concentrating too heavily on nuclear as distinct from conventional forces. In fact, the nuclear element in our arms expenditure, which is at present about 5½ per cent., will be about 2 per cent. by the end of the period under consideration in this review. Therefore, it seems that the Opposition, in presenting their case, for internal party reasons—

Photo of Mr Robert Carr Mr Robert Carr , Mitcham

Before the right hon. Gentleman proceeds, would he not agree, if the percentage which he has just given is the case—and I am not now arguing on that score—that that will be the position because the Polaris purchases will have been completed, but that it does not indicate any less dependence on nuclear weapons? Is it not the case that an important purchasing phase will be over when these things are in operation?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That is a different point from the one that was originally being made. The party opposite has come here not only keeping silent for internal party reasons on the question of what we want forces for, but has come singularly ill-briefed on the military questions with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence dealt effectively and with which he will be dealing again when replying to the debate.

If I may say this to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest, it is not everyone who can speak for one and a quarter hours and maintain an average of one major error every 10 minutes throughout the length of that speech. One is bound to ask why, with these qualifications, was he not one of the Tory Ministers of Defence?

I turn now to the questions of what are the foreign policy assumptions of defence—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I quite understand why hon. Gentlemen opposite do not wish me to pursue the line of argument I have been pursuing so far.

Let us now consider the great question which underlies the whole thing. What are the foreign policy assumptions that should underlie any defence preparations? There is one—

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

I am trying to follow the Foreign Secretary. Does he intend to argue today that in 1970 our defence expenditure will not be limited to the ceiling of £2,000 million originally fixed, but, instead, will be related to our world commitments and our world rôle? Is that what he will say?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I was about to answer that question. The very first point I want to make on the relation of foreign policy and defence is this. When considering foreign policy and defence there is a third factor one must immediately bring into the argument, namely, the strength of the country's economy. One reason why, when planning defence ahead, we must say, "This is the figure to which we intend to plan" is that, if we fail to do so, we will land ourselves in expenditure and be subjected to industrial stresses which will mean that our defence does not work out right, and that the general weakness of the economy and the consequent weakness of the currency prevents us from having an effective say in the councils of the world.

It is no good the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) shaking his head, unless he seeks to advocate that one should first draw up an ideal list of all the things one would like to do and all the weapons one would like to have and spend without limit. One must grasp the fact that the idea behind the Defence Review of a proper balance between what the country's duties are and what its resources are is central to the whole argument—

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain whether he is saying that the phrase "what the nation can afford" is not, in his view, a subjective assumption, but something absolute?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I have been trying to explain all the time that it cannot be an absolute. We have to weigh up the country's resources, its position in the world and the importance of not overstraining our economy. The figure we get at the end is the result of those three co-ordinates. But the point I make is that we have to get to a figure in the end. We have to make the decision. The weakness of the Opposition is that they seem to be arguing either that we should not have any figure to work to at all, or that even if one should it ought to be some other, unspecified, figure than that in the White Paper. That, I do not find convincing—

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

If the hon. Member has something to say, he may catch Mr. Speaker's eye later.

The record of the Opposition on this subject is not good. It came out in exchanges yesterday that they first estimated what the defence expenditure was to be in certain future years. Then they found that the expenditure was running away with their estimates, and then, even after that, they found that they could not spend the money, so they claimed credit for that. That meant an upset to the economy, because defence is not only a matter of money; it affects industries vitally important to exports. They caused all that industrial upset and have not, in the end, produced the amount of defence they planned to produce.

It is to get away from that situation that we have decided—and this is having taken all the factors into consideration—the figure for which it is right to plan. To plan for what duties? I should mention, first of all, our general duty in the world as a member of the United Nations. That includes, of course, in part, the particular commitment we have made of being willing to make logistic support available to the United Nations peacekeeping force.

But the matter goes much further than that. We are not only a member of the United Nations; we are a Permanent Member of the Security Council. The maintenance of that position is bound up with the assumption that we recognise ourselves to be not, indeed, one of the giant Powers in the kind of world we are now in, but one of the very considerable Powers in the world. I do not think that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, when he was pleading for a far more restricted rôle for us, had set that against our position as a Permanent Member of the Security Council of the United Nations.

I think, therefore, that we have to start—indeed, it is necessary both to start and end—by reminding ourselves that if we are not one of the great giant States that have emerged in the twentieth century we still are a very considerable Power, and must continue to discharge responsibilities commensurate with that status.

That, clearly, is not something that we can do alone. It was apparent from the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West that he did not really like allies at all—particularly, I am sorry to say, he showed a dislike for the United States. But his right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham saw the danger there, and began to move into a slightly more civilised frame of mind—

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

Yes, I was not applying the remark to the right hon. Gentleman, but to his right hon. Friend.

It will be agreed that we cannot perform our proper function in the world without allies; and that one of the things we must have account of in defence is our duties as a member of the Atlantic Alliance—

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

I am coming to that. I did say "one of the things". I shall be glad to talk of east of Suez—more glad, perhaps, than some of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends—later on.

I think that it is agreed that this country does, and ought to, stand foursquare by N.A.T.O.; and that we recognise that N.A.T.O. cannot be effective if it is merely an exchange of promises between Governments to give each other help in certain emergencies. It cannot be effective unless it has an integrated defence structure to which we contribute. But if that arrangement in N.A.T.O. was to continue, it was important to solve at any rate one problem—that of the foreign exchange costs of our forces in Germany.

I should remind the House that this Government have already made considerable progress in that direction. When this Government came in, there was only an agreement requiring the German Government to help as far as possible. We have already obtained an agreement which secured a definite figure of £54 million for 1966–67 and an immediate payment of £42 million on account of sums falling due at the end of this month. I stress that fact because we have had some advice from right hon. and hon. Members opposite as to how to strike bargains with allies. If we compare the bargain we managed to strike in the offset agreement with what the Opposition previously managed in that field it will be apparent that it would not be wise for us to go to them for advice on this topic.

I must add, however, that despite the offset agreement, we can say that it is right to maintain our ground forces in Germany at about their existing level provided some means are found of meeting the foreign exchange costs. The progress we made in the offset agreement is something that has to be carried further.

The other point I want to make about N.A.T.O. is that the size of the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe is a matter for the members of the allies to settle. It is open to us to remove forces from Europe temporarily to meet certain situations overseas, but it is in our interest and that of our N.A.T.O. allies that both we and they should know where we are. That was why it was necessary, as has been done in this review, to look carefully at our commitments elsewhere so that we shall know with more precision in the future than in the past exactly what is the part we can play in N.A.T.O. In regard to our N.A.T.O. commitments the object, and I believe the result, of the Defence Review is to establish more clearly and plainly what the commitments of this country are and to establish firmly our capacity to meet them.

I want to move further eastwards, to the Middle East. I believe that our main object of policy there should be the maintenance of stability. I want to illustrate that particularly in regard to the policy we have been pursuing towards small States in the Persian Gulf. There was, I think, good reason for anxiety—there is good reason for anxiety—that if, suddenly, British influence and responsibilities disappeared there we would have an extremely disturbed situation which might interrupt the flow of oil and which might be damaging to our economy and the economy of many other countries.

What we can do in that area to preserve stability admittedly is something that benefits not us alone. A number of other countries benefit from it and do not take part in the performance of the duty, but it benefits us to such an extent that it would be foolish for that or any other reason for us to throw the duty aside.

But, looking further ahead, this object of our policy that these States should progressively be more able to stand up in the modern world is partly a matter of getting them to co-operate more fully with each other. That they are now doing more fully than ever before. It is partly a matter of getting them to take part in the various agencies of the United Nations. That, I trust, we shall be able to do. We are in the process, as it were, of moving from a previous century to a newer kind of world. Our task is to see both that that movement is carried out and that we do not restrict it by mere lack of vision, but, also that we do not prevent it by running away and leaving a disturbed situation and a vacuum of power.

That is why the proposals concerning the Gulf are in the Defence Review, but if that is a purpose, the main purpose, of our policy in the Middle East, to help maintain such stability as will enable the peoples there to work out their own future, it is not and ought not to be an object of our policy, the prime object of our policy, to seek deliberately to take sides in disputes that occur in this whole Middle Eastern area. I think that it was a failure to grasp that that caused right hon. Members of the Front Bench opposite to try to link up the decision about Aden with events in the Yemen.

We are not concerned here with trying to provide a sort of confrontation to President Nasser. The direct question which those who speak of this matter in the way in which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West spoke of it have to answer is this—in what way does it help the position between the United Arab Republic and ourselves for us to try to maintain in Aden a base which we do not need for our own purposes and which the people there do not want us to have?

I do not believe that this makes sense on either a military or a political basis. I am bound to ask again, by what token does the party opposite imagine that it is qualified to give advice as to how to deal with President Nasser, because its actions caused him to be more hostile to this country than he had ever been before and, at the same time, gave him a position of greater prestige in the Middle East than he had ever had before?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

We are not going to accept advice from them as to how to handle this particular problem.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

The point in which hon. Members on both sides of the House are interested is the defence position of the State of Southern Arabia when it becomes independent.

Photo of Mr Anthony Royle Mr Anthony Royle , Richmond (Surrey)

Is it not true that President Nasser has broken off diplomatic relations with the present Government?

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

That is certainly so, yes. I do not quite see what moral the hon. Member is trying to draw. Is he suggesting that if we altered the content of the Defence White Paper and decided that we were going to stay in Aden this would promote the resumption of relations there?

Photo of Mr Ian Orr-Ewing Mr Ian Orr-Ewing , Hendon North

If the right hon. Member says that our decision announced in the Defence White Paper to leave Aden had no effect on Nasser, how does he explain President Nasser's speech at Cairo University on 22nd February, when he said, of Aden: There was an announcement today that Britain had decided to grant independence in 1968. Well then, we shall stay there"— in the Yemen— until after 1968.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

This is a matter for Arab politics.

I say again, does the hon. Member say that we ought for that reason to have maintained the decision to stay in Aden against our needs, against the wishes of the people concerned, and contributing nothing to better understanding between this country and the United Arab Republic?

I was saying that the point which I think interests hon. Members on both sides of the House is the position of the State of Southern Arabia when it becomes independent. We are anxious that it should be able to—

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

No. I do not want to take too long.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

No. I am not giving way. I want to make it clear—in any case I am in the middle of a particular statement which perhaps the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) had better listen to.

Hon. Members:

Oh.

Photo of Mr Michael Maitland Stewart Mr Michael Maitland Stewart , Fulham

In the negotiations which must ensue about this matter we shall seek to ensure that a reasonable proportion of the aid Great Britain will give will be spent on strengthening the Federal Regular Army and the Federal Guard. As an immediate measure we are arranging for the equipment of the Federal Regular Army with 81 mm. mortars. [Interruption.] I notice a surprising willingness now on the part of hon. Members opposite to discuss foreign affairs. That might have been better shown on the previous day, at the beginning of the debate.

I trust that if any of them catch Mr. Speaker's eye they will pursue the full implications of the criticisms they are now making, because the real implication of this is that Britain should try to exercise in the Middle East the position of an arbiter or controller which, if it ever had any merits, is certainly not an historical possibility today. It is that which the party opposite so consistently fails to realise.

Moving further East still, to the part over which most of the argument has been concerned, the Far East, I wish to refer to two of the things which the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest said at Brighton. They were very carefully worded, but, if they were more than platitudes or a philosophic essay, they point inevitably to the direction that this country should not have a rôle in that part of the world. For example, he says: However much we may do to safeguard and reassure the new independent countries in Asia and Africa, the eventual limits of Russian and Chinese advance in these directions will be fixed by a balance of forces which will itself be Asiatic and African. I believe that "Asian" is the word more commonly used today, but that was the word which I understand the right hon. Gentleman used. That can be set forward as a sort of general philosophic pronouncement, but if it means anything at all in terms of what was intended to be a major speech on defence the implication is that this is not something in which we can have a hand.

I think that we have to ask ourselves: is it maintained that what happens to Australia or New Zealand in the 1970s is something in which we in this country have no interest? It seemed to me that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, when he set forward his pronouncement about what our rôle east of Suez should or should not be, had never asked himself that question.

Then there is the second passage from the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West: We have to reckon with the harsh fact that the attainment of this eventual equilibrium of force"— that is in Asia— may at some point be delayed rather than hastened by a Western military presence. It begins by being a harsh fact. Later on it is something that may at some point be delayed rather than hastened. Does the right hon. Gentleman want a Western military presence in the Far East or not? That is the question which anyone reading this sentence will naturally have presented to him and he will not find an answer, but the implication is that the right hon. Gentleman is thinking in the direction of there being no military presence there at all.

If that is not what the right hon. Gentleman means, I think that the House now, and perhaps the people to whom the right hon. Gentleman spoke then, are entitled to have this rather elegantly phrased piece of philosophy more carefully explained to them. If the right hon. Gentleman is telling us that in his view there ought not to be a Western military presence in the Far East, and that was also the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, that is a wrong judgment. It is wrong for this reason above all: it is difficult to prophesy in advance what the situation in the Far East in the 1970s will be. What I am sure would be wrong would be for us to take a decision now which would make it certain that whatever was happening in the Far East then we could in no way influence it, and that is what not having an east of Suez rôle is. [Interruption.] I am answering the right hon. Gentleman's anti-east of Suez personality at the moment. I will come to his pro-carriers personality a little later on. It is very difficult, when dealing with the right hon. Gentleman, at the same time—in a theological phrase—to distinguish the persons accurately and not confuse the substance.

I say that it would be wrong for us to take a decision now which would mean that whatever is happening in the Far East in the 1970s we can have no influence over it. This means interdependence with our allies. It would be quite useless to suppose that we could play a rôle of this kind alone. I am sorry that in order to give some sort of tang to the rather heavy pudding with which we were served up yesterday an anti-American sauce should have been poured on it, and I was glad that the right hon. Member for Mitcham today to some extent modified this. But there are some Members opposite, and the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) is one, who recognise that we must work with allies. He is anxious that we should do so rather more and he spoke of the need of developing S.E.A.T.O. and of reconsidering our position with our allies in the Far East.

Not long after I assumed my present responsibility I attended the S.E.A.T.O. Conference, at that time being held in London. I hope that very shortly I shall be seeing the Secretary-General, and before long I shall be going to the next conference of S.E.A.T.O. held on the other side of the world, this time in Canberra. I would remind the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone that this is a continuing process of consultation with our allies in S.E.A.T.O. It may be that the opportunity will arise in the House for the right hon. Member to develop more fully in what directions he thinks S.E.A.T.O. ought to develop, but he is mistaken if he thinks that we do not realise that there is need for constant study and the keeping up to date of our policy with our allies in the Far East. The right hon. Member earned the gratitude of the whole House yesterday by speaking for only five minutes. If at some future time he is able to address the House on this matter it will be interesting to see what proposals he has in mind.

It is in connection with a rôle in the Far East together with allies that one has to consider the two instruments of policy about which there has been so much argument—the F111A and the aircraft carrier. I believe that while it would be absurd to talk about our pursuing a rôle in the Far East single-handed, it is also necessary that we should make it clear that such presence as we can put in is credible to our allies and will make them willing to take common counsel with us. The importance of the F111A, in my judgment, was that no alternative aircraft has been proposed which would have the effectiveness that would cause anyone to believe that we were serious about the rôle in the Far East with our allies if we did not have that aircraft. Conversely, if we decided that we would not have this aircraft that would be a decision wrong in one direction—a decision to give up being a considerable Power.

But a decision to keep carriers in the form put forward by the party opposite would have been an error in the other direction—that of pretending to a gigantic scale of resources and power that we cannot exercise. I say that, for this reason: in the arguments about carriers one thing which those who criticise the Government have failed to consider is the question of how many. If they are really to be worth having at all, we have to think in terms of five or six, and I do not think that that has been in the minds of all hon. and gallant Members opposite who have spoken about carriers. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke), whom we miss at the moment, when he spoke about carriers at the beginning of this afternoon's proceedings, had grasped quite how much is involved. It has to be said that carriers on the scale of five or six and a comparable enlargement of the rest of our defence budget would pose a quite impossible burden. If we were a very great Power which could manage carriers on the scale where they ended up with something like effective force, then it would be a sensible argument to advance. As it is, the weakness of the whole argument is that it involves pretending to be a giant.

Our policy is that we should try to see this country in proper proportion and proper perspective, not pretending to a gigantic stature which we do not have, but by no means minimising the very considerable and great rôle in the world which we can play. That is a rôle to be played, I hope, very much in diplomacy and in conciliation, but it is a rôle which also has to be played by accepting defence responsibilities commensurate with our power, and that is what underlies the defence review.

We have the Opposition with no firm or united judgment among themselves about what our position in the world should be, no sound knowledge even of the military facts and possibilities and an unhappy attempt to disguise these deficiencies by unfriendly remarks about our allies. In view of that, I trust that the House will reject their Motion.

5.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

The shrill and querulous note of the eunuchs' advice dominated their counsels". So wrote the historian Gibbon about one of the less fortunate Cabinet meetings of the Byzantine Empire, and I am bound to say that the right hon. Gentleman's speech brought that quotation back to my mind. He spoke in lofty terms about discharging our responsibilities in the Persian Gulf and the Far East, but it is becoming increasingly clear that the policy outlined in the White Paper is a policy of abdication.

We are to get out of our main base on the Western side of the Indian Ocean in 1968; and it is emerging more and more clearly that when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence went to Washington and Canberra his initial bid was to get out of Singapore by 1970. The idea was to fall back on a flimsy screen of small islands from which not Britain would operate, but, which would serve as staging posts for the United States, or perhaps the United Nations. Fortunately, the Americans and the Australians were robust enough to kill his withdrawal from Singapore. Unfortunately, there was no one to speak for Aden in these matters.

The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary, until the publication of the White Paper, had done sterling work for the defence of British interests in the Middle East. He had worked very hard with the Minister of State to improve our relations with Saudi Arabia. He had stood by our commitments in the Persian Gulf. He had had the courage to allow his colleague the Colonial Secretary to suspend the Aden Constitution when the Minister of State was actually in Cairo. All this was very praiseworthy, but all the effort to build up stability in the Middle East is now sabotaged by the action of the Secretary of State for Defence in announcing the decision to withdraw from Aden. And it is to Aden that I want to turn.

We have in Aden today—for we have it still—the third most important port in the world, coming second only to London and New York in the turn-round of ships which go through it. There is a major airfield, an important refinery, very significant workshops, good accommodation—largely air conditions and built for the troops at great expense—excellent training grounds and, above all, a major stockpile which enables us to pack a heavy punch, if we should need to, anywhere in the western part of the Indian Ocean.

The value of the base has been proved more than once. We based our operations in Muscat on it. We organised the safety of Kuwait from it. We prevented the expansion of the three East African mutinies from it. The Secretary of State for Defence said yesterday that we did not need that base to carry out our commitments outside South Arabia. I wonder whether he is right. I do not know how without Aden he will be able to go to the help of our numerous Commonwealth partners in East and Central Africa. I am not quite clear how in a real emergency he will be able to help the Persian Gulf.

It is all very well to talk about reproviding facilities in Bahrein. If they were to be reprovided on anything like the Aden scale, the cost would be enormous. But even then, there are no training grounds in Bahrein, and anyone who has had anything to do with it will know the danger of sending unacclimatised troops to the Persian Gulf. We had to do it once for Muscat and we lost several lives in the process. Nor can we be sure of sending troops by air across the air barrier, for we have to have over-flying rights to do so, and anyone acquainted with the Kuwait or even the Jordan operation will know that those are not to be taken for granted. Small islands like Bahrein or Masira or others in the Indian Ocean can be a useful supplement to bases like Aden or Singapore. They can be likened to fixed aircraft carriers. But they are no substitute for real bases with their workshops, port facilities and important stockpiles. They have political problems, too, as the Maldive Islands have shown.

Can we afford to weaken Britain's military power in the Middle East at this juncture? The interests at stake are vast. I should not like to try to measure the value of the investments which we have in the Persian Gulf, whether the original value, the replacement value, or the future value. They must amount to several thousands of millions of pounds in the oil industry alone. Very important trade goes along with them. The Secretary of State said that we were concerned with maintaining stability. Of course we are, and unless stability is maintained, these interests can be in mortal danger.

Who threatens these interests? Is there any doubt in any of our minds that they are threatened by Colonel Nasser's régime and his allies? Let us have no illusions on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the present Egyptian Government is our sworn enemy. The other day I had the advantage of a talk with Mr. Heikal when he visited London. I would not normally speak of a private conversation, but he has written two articles about it himself in the Egyptian Press. I asked, "Are you going to stop shooting our friends and soldiers in Aden?". He said "No". I respect his frankness but let no one deny that these people are our foes.

Why did they go into the Yemen? What were they after? Why did they send 60,000 troops there? Is not the answer clear enough? They went there to subvert Saudi Arabia and reach through to the Persian Gulf and put their hands on the oil. This is the very real threat with which not only Egypt is involved. The Yemen operations, as both right hon. Gentlemen opposite know well, were closely supported by the Soviet Union. Soviet pilots flew many of the planes, both transport planes and in bombing attacks.

It so happened that the adventure turned sour on Colonel Nasser. The people of the Yemen rose up against the invaders and the other Arab States turned against him over it. The Algerian Government was changed. Only Iraq stayed with him and Iraq was committed to a war with the Kurds.

When he was Colonial Secretary, the right hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of State at the Foreign Office also played their part in weakening Colonel Nasser's position by standing up to him over the future of Aden. He found himself defeated in the mountains, isolated in the Arab world, unsuccessful in Aden and with American aid being cut. So he came, almost on his knees, to King Faisal and concluded the Jeddah agreement under which he was to withdraw his troops.

Now the Government are to save him, to get him out of the difficulty into which he landed himself. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of Colonel Nasser in terms of appeasement never used before the war. He asked why should we stay in Aden to make trouble for ourselves with the U.A.R? He will get no gratitude for leaving. Colonel Nasser's immediate reaction—the same night—was to say, "Very well we shall stay in the Yemen until the British go". The right hon. Gentleman would be very mistaken if he thought that the terrorism, mounted from the Yemen against us in Aden, was going to stop. On the contrary as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) pointed out yesterday, every day has brought new instances of terrorism since the White Paper was published.

It will not stop at Aden; it will follow the right hon. Gentleman to Bahrein. Already Cairo Radio is turning on the heat in Bahrein.

The right hon. Gentleman is not merely weakening our ability to defend the Persian Gulf by going out of Aden, he is actually increasing the ability of our main opponent to attack our interests in the Gulf. He is strengthening our enemies and strengthening the opportunities of the Soviet Union and the Chinese to back up the Egyptians in this adventure. Both Soviet and Chinese are in the Yemen today and they will be in Aden tomorrow if we go from Aden while the Egyptians remain in the Yemen. Make no mistake about it, it is the Egyptians who are going to fill the vacuum that we create.

Why are we going? We are told that it is to save money. The sums are not very large because we shall have to re-provide some of the facilities and pay many of the troops when we take them away. Nor is there any great pressure upon us to go. The local government wants us to stay—the Government of the Aden Federation. The Saudi Arabian Government have made no secret in any discussions, official or unofficial, that they would like us to stay. Our Persian allies want us to stay.

In so many of the post-war years in the Middle East we and the Americans have been on different sides. They have made many difficulties for us. This is not the case where Aden is concerned. I happened to be staying with the Aramco Oil Company last year and I found everyone there unanimous in saying that the British presence in Aden protected their interests just as much as ours. The Americans have learned something so far as the Persian Gulf is concerned. There was no pressure from them on us to go.

We shall save a few million pounds but not much when one thinks of the size of the interests and the trade at stake and what would happen to them if Nasser took over. We should remember what happened to British investments in Egypt before the Suez Canal operation and immediately afterwards. I do not want to dwell upon that, but we should also recall that the Shell Company installations were taken over only two years ago. Egypt's policy of confiscation involved not only British and French interests, but the interests of other Western countries.

Look at what has happened in Iraq. The oil company has not spent one penny on new development on the Iraq oilfields because of the restrictive policies adopted by Iraqi Governments since the 1958 revolution. Yet in every other oil-bearing country in the Middle East there has been enormous new investment. Why should Nasser or his Iraqi allies act any differently in the Persian Gulf, if they were to get there to the way in which they have acted in their own countries?

It is hard to find a parallel for the ineptitude which the Government have shown over the subject of Aden. But even worse than their ineptitude has been their dishonour.

The States of what used to be called the West Aden Protectorate sought British protection of their own accord. We did not conquer them or impose ourselves upon them. They came to us and asked to be protected. In 1959 we persuaded them to merge into a federation. They made it a condition then that the protection which had been extended to them individually should be extended to them collectively and that was done. In 1964 we discussed with the Federation the question of independence. The Federal Government said that it would welcome independence in 1968 or before, provided that we continued to extend protection to it after independence. This assurance was given on paper and signed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), then Commonwealth Secretary. I understand that shortly after this the leaders of the Federal Government saw the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition. I believe that he told them at that meeting that he would stand by any agreement they reached with the British Government of the day. [HON. MEMBERS: "What a hope."]

I further understand that after the present Government came into power the High Commissioner, Sir Kennedy Trevaskis assured the Federal Government that the new British Government—the Labour Government—would stand by the pledges given. We have good reason to believe that when the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence went to Aden in June of last year he also gave assurances on more than one occasion to the Ministers of the Federal Government that we would honour the pledges to which we were committed. I do not blame him for saying it—it is very difficult when one is asked "Are you going to keep your word?" to say "No." I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman gave the pledge. But the fact that he gave it is evidence that he recognised its existence.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

What I said to the Federal Ministers when I was in Aden in June is that we would honour our treaty commitments. I dealt with this in speaking yesterday. I also made it clear to them that we had no interest in staying in a base in Aden against the will of the local population. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, this is important. I gave this warning in case staying there involved us in using so many troops to hold the base that we would be unable to use troops from it. I also pointed out that we would wish to discuss the question of the future of the base with representatives of the Federation as a whole, either after the independent State came into existence or before.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

I am quite content that the right hon. Gentleman should confirm what I say—that he would stand by the pledges that had been given. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman sought to tell us that the only commitment we had was to a conference. He even went so far as to say that the commitment had been fulfilled by our unsuccessful attempts to hold that conference. Does this mean that the promise to give independence to Aden is not to be fulfilled because we have not held a conference about it yet? The right hon. Gentleman should remember that he is the Defence Minister of Britain and that British Ministers, of whatever political party, do not wriggle out of a commitment by weasel worded interpretations of this kind.

The commitment given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham is a clear commitment. It is not a commitment to a conference, it is a commitment on the one hand to give independence and on the other to maintain protection after independence has been given. I happen to believe that we ought to keep a strong base in Aden. The right hon. Gentleman has made it plain that he does not think that we need a strong base. For the sake of argument I am prepared to concede that point, but we can still maintain a presence there. We can maintain an airfield and certain facilities to enable us to discharge the commitment which we freely entered into with the Federal Government of South Arabia.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the local population do not want a base. As far as I know this is completely untrue. There is an answer to this from the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies who says quite categorically, in the OFFICIAL REPORT issued today, that since the White Paper was published the Federal Government have again asked us to maintain a defence agreement to protect them against external aggression. The right hon. Gentleman says that the people of Aden do not want us there. The newspaper reports, for what they are worth, have been saying very categorically that there is great disturbance and great anxiety at the news that we may be going. [An HON. MEMBER: "The news was welcomed in Aden."]

Not in the Press reports I was reading. Of course there has been some terrorism but the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale, when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies, and the hon. Lady the Under-Secretary have said time and again that the terrorism was foreign inspired, foreign organised, based in the Yemen, actuated by Egyptian radio, and was not local in origin.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

Would my right hon. Friend allow me a moment to supplement the point he is making, since both right hon. Gentlemen in their speeches declined to give way? As someone who has some experience of this matter, may I confirm what my right hon. Friend has said. When I was last in Aden, in the summer of 1964, every person I saw, not only in the Federation but in Aden, and of all political complexions, told me that they wished us to stay in Aden. They said it privately because they did not dare to say it publicly in view of the intimidation from General Nasser's henchman. That was their private opinion, and there was no exception among all the people I spoke to in Aden. I am sure it is still the opinion today.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

I can certainly confirm from my subsequent visit what my hon. Friend has said. The same thing was said to me by many regarded as opponents of this country.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it most deplorable that his hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) should have revealed private conversations which were obviously intended to be private for the very purpose which the hon. Gentleman gave, that it might lay people open to intimidation?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

It does not seem to me that my hon. Friend revealed any identities. Besides, when we are in a crisis of affairs like this, it is only right and fair that the House should know what opinion in Aden is and not receive a travesty of it from Ministers.

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence said that the kind of commitment which my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham entered into was not appro- priate to relations between independent States. I think that I understood the right hon. Gentleman aright.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

No. I referred to the treaties.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

The commitment to protect was not appropriate. But the fact remains that the Ministers of the Federal Government made it a condition of undertaking independence in 1968 that we should protect them—and no wonder. There were 60,000 Egyptian troops on their frontier, waging aggressive war in the Yemen, within less than 100 miles of Aden town itself. The Foreign Secretary talked about equipping the Federal Army with mortars. The Egyptians have MiG aircraft, tanks, 60,000 troops and Russian and Chinese advisers. What kind of balance of power is this?

The Secretary of State for Defence boasted yesterday that his Government were prepared to undertake unpopular policies involving even "breaking with old friends". He means in this case "ratting" on solemn pledges. It is no use the right hon. Gentleman wriggling about this. It is no use his trying to represent that the Government of South Arabia has changed. The Federal Government remains the same, with virtually the same personnel, nearly two years later. It is true that the Aden Government has changed. But Aden is only one State in the Federation. The right hon. Gentleman will be ratting on his pledges. He will be handing over our friends to the mercies of the Egyptians who have bombed the people of the Yemen and have murdered, raped and pillaged across the Yemen countryside.

The House cannot possibly leave the matter where it stands today, even if we are on the verge of an election. It is a terrible thing to weaken Britain's military power in the Middle East at this stage. But it is far, far worse to break our word. If the Government weaken our power, they will diminish our influence. If they break our word, we shall lose our friends altogether. We shall not only lose the confidence of our friends; we shall end by losing faith in ourselves.

The right hon. Gentleman is not the first Minister of Defence in our history to show ineptitude. We have had that before. But, according to my researches, he is the first British Minister of Defence to break a pledge and to bring dishonour on himself and our country. There is still time for him to repair the mistakes he has made. This House is a very generous body, even on the verge of an election. I am not concerned to score a party point on this issue. If the right hon. Gentleman, when he winds up, will tell us that he recognises that the pledge was made, that it stands and that he and his colleagues will consider seriously how best to honour it, then let the issue be set aside. But, if not, let us put the issue squarely before the people. They may not know much about the politics of South Arabia, but they know what it means to "rat", to "welsh" and to break one's word.

6.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

The right hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery) has proved, at any rate to his own satisfaction, that President Nasser is not only our potential but our active enemy. That is the case he has made out. I am bound to say that his case is cogent and, to some extent, logical. I want to venture a reply to his argument.

The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that, unless we protect Aden, presumably for many years to come, that territory will be at the mercy of President Nasser and the United Arab Republic. The right hon. Gentleman went further. He directed attention, and probably quite rightly, to the situation in Bahrain where there is a possibility of turbulence because of the efforts of President Nasser. We are therefore faced with two potentially dangerous situations—one in Aden and one in Bahrain—affecting the whole of the Persian Gulf and imperilling our vital oil supplies. That is the case which the right hon. Gentleman made out.

What is the answer to it? In order to protect Aden for many years to come against the forces at the disposal of President Nasser and the weapons available to him, which were mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, and in order to protect our oil supplies in the Persian Gulf against sabotage and treachery by President Nasser and some of his friends, we require in Aden, not a token force, not merely an airfield, but vast forces highly equipped for that purpose. With- out them it would be impossible to maintain our military position in those territories.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

Before I give way to the right hon. Gentleman, because he is anxious to intervene, I would remind him of another occasion when action was taken against President Nasser during the Suez crisis when our forces were much weightier and much better equipped than they are now. We had vast manpower at our disposal. Nevertheless, we failed. On that occasion, I ventured on a line of policy which differed from that of the rest of my colleagues because, quite rightly, in my judgment—I would not withdraw a single word of what I said then—I appreciated the possibility of an attack by President Nasser and some of the other countries available to him. Under our tripartite treaty, which remains in being, I called on the then British Government—not a Labour Government but a Tory Government—to use all their efforts to prevent President Nasser from committing an act of aggression against the newly formed State of Israel.

What happened? In the military sphere, why have we never published General Keighley's dispatches? Why not disclose the fact, available to some of us at the time and since, that it took six weeks after a decision was reached by Sir Anthony Aden, now Lord Avon, to dispatch forces because, before they arrived at the scene of operations, no landing craft were available and we were not in a position to undertake an operation of that kind? That was the situation then. And yet the right hon. Gentleman has been arguing, forcibly and apparently logically, that we should now remain in Aden and take precautions in Bahrain and in the Persian Gulf with such forces as are now available to us to deal with that possible menace.

I want to say to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues and to the House in general that if the intention is to contain President Nasser, we have quite a variety of containments in our programme.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Does my right hon. Friend recall that on that occasion the British Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defence Minister made statements in the House about the fact that they had not colluded with the Israelis, which have since been proved to be untrue, and, furthermore, that they broke a solemn pledge, having signed the United Nations Charter, in taking the action which they took?

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. What he has said fortifies my contention.

We now have a financial programme for military purposes which exceeds in small measure £2,000 million annually. With a new aircraft carrier or a number of new aircraft carriers, with the sophisticated weapons that the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) demanded during his speech this afternoon and all the aircraft which would be required to deal with operations by an aggressor or in confrontation in the future with Indonesia when President Sukarno recovers from his present troubles, it would not be £2,000 million but something of the nature of £3,000 million. There is no attempt on the part of right hon. Members opposite to deny this. If they were to do so, it would be a complete travesty of the facts of the situation.

I have wondered since the beginning of this debate what it is all about. What was the purpose of the debate? Certainly Aden is not an election issue. If we go to the hustings to argue that we should retain our base in Aden, I doubt whether it would mean the advantage of a half a dozen votes in any constituency, certainly not in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Preston, North, who cannot afford to lose any votes. I wish him no harm, but if he is absent from the next Parliament I shall bear it with fortitude. That is all I shall say.

What is the debate all about? I should like to say this to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). It appeared to me that yesterday he indulged in a series of trivialities that cluttered up a lot of metaphysical and abstruse abstractions, much of it incomprehensible to me. While the right hon. Gentleman was speaking, I reminded myself of my reading when younger about theological matters, strange as it may seem, when I learned about the efforts of the theologians of the period to prove beyond any possibility of doubt that six angels could dance on the point of a needle. The right hon. Gentleman, if he will allow me to say so, or even if he does not, is an example of atavism. He is a complete throwback to the Middle Ages.

Consider what the right hon. Gentleman was demanding yesterday. He was demanding that we should provide ourselves with sophisticated and modern equipment to undertake operations east of Suez in the Indian Ocean. Against whom? Who is the possible enemy? How are we to deal with an enemy if one emerges? Something was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs about the absence of past Ministers of Defence in this debate. I am not at all surprised, because if they had appeared we could have thrown in their teeth a variety of White Papers, all of which I have still in my possession, which prove conclusively that over and over again they had abandoned the conventional approach in military affairs in favour of the nuclear deterrent.

If there is any doubt about what I have just said, perhaps I might be permitted to quote from the White Paper—and there are many other White Papers—issued by the Minister of Defence in 1958. That White Paper dealt with the possibility of Russian aggression and attention was drawn to the fact, so far as it was known to be a fact, of the vast number of divisions at the disposal of the Soviet Union, vast numbers of aircraft and the like. What did the then Minister of Defence say to the House? It was this: The West, on the other hand, relies for its defence primarily upon the deterrent effect of its vast stockpile of nuclear weapons and its capacity to deliver them. The democratic Western nations will never start a war against Russia. But it must be well understood that, if Russia were to launch a major attack on them, even with conventional forces only, they would have to hit back with strategic nuclear weapons. The conclusion was drawn that In fact, the strategy of N.A.T.O. is based on the frank recognition that a full-scale Soviet attack could not be repelled without resort to a massive nuclear bombardment of the sources of power in Russia. In that event, the rôle of the allied defence forces in Europe would be to hold the front for the time needed to allow the effects of the nuclear counter-offensive to make themselves felt. The conventional approach was completely abandoned—it was sunk without trace—in favour of the nuclear deterrent. The assumption was that if those circumstances should arise, the nuclear weapon would be brought into operation. I am not arguing whether it would have been effective. I doubt whether it would have been, but that is irrelevant to what we are discussing today.

Now, however, we have an approach to the conventional weapon, a conventional content in our military approach. This is something quite different. Take, for example, the demand for an aircraft carrier. Does anyone really believe that an additional carrier east of Suez operating in the Indian Ocean would enhance our military prestige in that part of the world?

I will give the answer. The right hon. Member for Preston, North, apparently, is aware of it, although he ought to be. Between 1945 and 1951 a pact was agreed between the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Not with Great Britain. In the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact, in which the three countries agreed to make themselves responsible for defence east of Suez, we were not included. I protested at the time. I cannot divulge Cabinet secrets—that would be a violation of the Official Secrets Act—but I was against the exclusion of Great Britain. I thought we should have been included in that Pact, but we were not. Whether it was because of the decision of the United States or whether it was in agreement with Australia or New Zealand, I am unable to say. But that was the situation then, and it is the situation now. We have accepted certain responsibilities in that part of the world, but for the purposes of active defence against aggression, of whatever sort or kind, it was contemplated that Great Britain should not be responsible but that the United States, in combination with Australia and New Zealand, should be responsible, and that is the situation. Therefore, what contribution can we make unless, as I have ventured to say, we increase our military contribution from £2,000 million annually to £3,000 million at the very least?

I understand the position of the naval chiefs, and I can understand the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). I have had some experience of the Service Departments—from way back in 1929, and in 1947 to 1950, and as Minister of Defence onwards to 1951—and I know what they do. The Navy can get away with almost everything. It hardly has to ask: it is the silent Service. It gets what it wants, perhaps in a subterranean or a submarine fashion, but it gets what it wants, unlike the Army and the Air Force. The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) from the days when he was at the Air Ministry and wanted to get what the Air Force wanted, knows that, in contrast with the soldiers and airmen, the naval chiefs could get what they wanted.

I had experience of it when we promoted the three-year rearmament programme in 1950. It was decided to ask the Chiefs of Staff to take into account calculated risks and determine what the expenditure would be if we wanted to operate over a three-year period. They came along with a programme of £6,000 million, which we reduced to £4,750 million. Then we went out and the Churchill Government reappeared. What happened? The Churchill Government, a Conservative Government, reduced the figure from £4,750 million to a much lower figure. They thought that £4,750 million was too much. By the way, it was a ceiling figure, that £4,750 million, and even the lower figure agreed by the Conservative Government was a ceiling figure. It was a target figure.

I cannot understand all this hullaballoo which has been going on, this argument of the last day or so, about having a target figure when, in fact, every Service Department ever since I became connected with this House always has had a target figure. The hon. Member for Hendon, North, who was formerly also at the Admiralty, knows about these things. He is very well aware of them. What is all this talk about having a target figure? It is quite wrong. We have to proceed on certain assumptions. How can we tell what will happen in future? Of course we cannot tell what will happen in future, but, whether in the military sphere or the social sphere, we have targets, and I cannot understand why this should be used as a charge against the Labour Government.

What is all the row about? I venture to suggest that it is this. The Leader of the Opposition conceived the notion, no doubt in consultation with his colleagues—perhaps even without them—that it would be useful just before the election to have a defence debate. Why? Not because defence is reckoned to be a primary issue at the election. Of course it will not be, except, perhaps, in a few constituencies like Portsmouth, but not throughout the length and breadth of the country. The country is much more concerned about domestic affairs. Not that we are against promoting security. I know that some of my colleagues, whose integrity I do not doubt for a single moment, quite sincerely are against defence, but the Labour Party accepts the need for a measure of defence in order to maintain security so far as that is possible. But it was obvious what the Leader of the Opposition's intention was. It was to have a debate on defence in order to create something in the nature of an explosion in the ranks of the Labour Party. The Opposition seemed to believe that if the defence issue were raised we should be at loggerheads with one another, at one another's throats, all quarrelling with one another. But there has been hardly a word of protest. Of course there has not. This is a united party—and we shall be united at the coming election—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—in contrast to the disunity which is manifest on the other side.

I shall not repeat what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has said about the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West but I am bound to say that it was my impression some months ago when he made that famous speech about military expenditure, military requirements, that he said that it seemed to be unnecessary to occupy in a military sense territory east of Suez. I thought he really meant it. That was my impression. Perhaps he did mean it. Perhaps it is difficult to understand the right hon. Gentleman. I have sometimes thought so myself. However, that is my impression.

I will tell him what may appear to him very strange. Some of my colleagues—my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon) sitting beside me and two or three others—approached me, as Chairman of the Parliamentary Party, and asked that I should do what I could to arrange a debate on precisely the subject which they thought the right hon. Gentleman was interested in, namely getting out from east of Suez. He said we were spending too much—that is what I think the right hon. Gentleman said—and that we do not require to be there. Let me deal for a minute or two with that. Whether my right hon. Friend is right or wrong, whether the right hon. Gentleman opposite is right or wrong, is at the moment irrelevant.

What is the situation in that area? We talk about the possibility of some further confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia. I have sometimes wondered whether that is really likely. In any event, it seems less likely than it was some months ago. I do not think President Sukarno is in a strong enough position to engage in active confrontation with Malaysia. Besides, if there were in any case a further confrontation is it not the responsibility in large measure of New Zealand and Australia? Or can it be—I merely ask the question—that Australia is not so keen to engage in military confrontation with Indonesia? For, after all, there are 100 million potential customers in Indonesia, and it would be rather more to the advantage of Australia and its people to persuade Indonesia to buy Australia goods and manufactures in return for imports from Indonesia, to engage in peaceful affairs, in a peaceful atmosphere of co-existence, than to engage in a military confrontation. Strangely enough, though a battalion of Australian troops has been sent to Vietnam I am not aware that a great deal has been done by Australia in relation to the confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia—a squadron of aircraft, perhaps two squadrons of aircraft, but not more than that.

I feel keenly about the situation there and I will tell hon. Members why. Last week one of my constituents, a soldier, in the Durham Light Infantry, was killed in Sarawak. It was desired to bring his body back home, but, of course, the War Office could not agree to that, for reason which are well known to me. He had a brother there, in the same regiment. Two of my constituents were there. One was killed and the other brought home on compassionate leave because of the condition of his parents. So I am interested in what is going on out there.

The right hon. Gentleman was speaking about Aden as if the situation there was peaceful, with hardly any turbulence. Every day there is sabotage. Bombs are thrown, and almost every day someone associated with the British Forces is treacherously murdered; members of their families are ill-treated and sometimes disposed of in the same fashion. It is no use pretending that it will be easy for us in Aden.

I make no apology for speaking at this length, because I had to listen yesterday to a speech from the right hon. Gentleman which lasted 1¼ hours. That seemed to me to be going a bit too far.

On the subject of commitments, surely the right hon. Gentleman is not so naive as to think that this is the first time that any British Government have defaulted on their commitments. I cannot argue with any great knowledge about whether this commitment was legal and constitutional and one which must be maintained for ever. I do not know, and I will not go into that. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman was right. But let me tell him that there was a time when Anthony Eden, now Lord Avon, agreed as a member of a Conservative Government that we should commit four full divisions to N.A.T.O. I thought at the time that it was stupid. I had to point out that while we were to be committed to four full divisions, the French were not committed to anything. I have always been suspicious of the French in their relations with N.A.T.O., and now General de Gaulle has decided to depart altogether from N.A.T.O., except in a kind of loose association, I think that my attitude about the French defection from N.A.T.O. has been vindicated.

That is what happened. Four divisions were to be committed to N.A.T.O. But have we had four divisions there since? Of course not.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

I will finish my sentence, and then the right hon. Gentleman can intervene. We have about 50,000 men there now, and now and again we take them out because we require them elsewhere. There was a definite treaty signed and sealed, and it has been broken time and again. There is no reason why a treaty, in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time, should not, if necessary, be modified and even broken.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

Surely the right hon. Gentleman, with his encyclopædic knowledge of these problems stretching back over many years, will remember that we obtained the consent and the approval of our partners in the Western European Union when we ran down the number of troops in Europe below the promised total.

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

I am not arguing about that. The right hon. Gentleman may be right. It may be that we have to rely upon the terms and content of that agreement. But I would say that when a time comes and we have not the resources, circumstances may change and the commitment become impossible. In the light of what the right hon. Gentleman has himself argued about the menace of President Nasser, with his huge forces and vast array of weapons possibly gained from Chinese or Russian sources, the sooner that we get out of Aden, the better I shall like it.

If there is to be further trouble east of Suez or in the Indian Ocean, it seems to me that we shall have to ask the United States, with Australia and New Zealand to implement the pact they agreed upon between 1945 and 1951. I am not suggesting that our rôle should be abandoned completely in that part of the world. Of course we are concerned about Singapore and Malaysia. We accepted that commitment, and we have to stand by it. We are standing by it, with 50,000 troops there. What more do right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite want?

In any event, one more aircraft carrier will not make much difference, any more than one swallow makes a summer. It is merely a gimmick on the part of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Their intention is quite clear. It is to create an explosion in our ranks, whereas, in fact, all they have been able to do is to produce a damp squib.

6.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian Orr-Ewing Mr Ian Orr-Ewing , Hendon North

I am delighted to follow the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). He has probably attended twice as many defence debates as I have, and I am sure he will remember that we always have a defence debate at the beginning of March. Just because the Prime Minister has decided to have a General Election, we should be going back on our duty to the nation if we did not devote two days to discussing this revolutionary White Paper on Defence which has come before us. Perhaps he is thinking too much of the forthcoming election when he suggests that the debate has been fixed to secure a division within his own ranks.

I should have liked to discuss the position of the aircraft industry, in which my constituency is considerably interested, but I know that there are a number of hon. Members who wish to speak and so I shall confine myself to the two subjects of Aden and the aircraft carrier.

When the Foreign Secretary opened the debate today, I was interested to hear him refer to Aden and say that he wanted stability in the Middle East, implying that somehow our evacuation of Aden would secure that end. One of his themes was that we were not wanted in Aden, but that has been completely exposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), my right hon. Friend for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and my hon. Friend for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher). It is quite clear that the majority of people in Aden want us there to give them security after they have become independent.

The second argument that the right hon. Gentleman used was that we do not need Aden, and that worries me particularly because I am concerned about repercussions in the Middle East from the lack of stability arising out of the decision which has been announced.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to our troubles in Aden, and he mentioned the murders that occur daily. Every one acknowledges that the bombs and the murders, in particular the murder of the Speaker, are incited from Radio Cairo, from Nasser and from across the border in Yemen.

The build-up of Egyptian forces in the Yemen has been mounting over the years. In 1962, Nasser had 3,000 troops there, at a time when the United States said that they would give official recognition to Republican forces in the Yemen if Nasser withdrew his troops. He agreed to withdraw them. However, by December, 1962, the build-up had reached 17,000. By the spring of 1963 it had reached 25,000; by 1964 it was 55,000; and today it is 68,000. I venture to wonder what would happen if we had 68,000 troops fighting in someone else's country. I imagine that the debates in the United Nations would be unending.

Those are the two standards of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) spoke some years ago. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North said, in the summer of 1965, the Egyptian troops were in real trouble, having suffered an ignominious defeat. King Faisal was approached, and an arrangement was made between King Faisal and Nasser at Jeddah that there should be a cease fire. Nasser agreed at a subsequent 25-a-side conference in November of last year to start to withdraw his troops, and it was agreed that they would be gone within ten months of last December, which would take us to September 1966. But not one single solider has left the country.

Now we have given an injection of life into that discredited dictator, lifting him up from the dust and giving him an excuse to go back on agreements. Yet, somehow, the Foreign Secretary has the effrontery to come to the House and say that it adds to stability in the Middle East. I cannot imagine that any nation in the Middle East thinks that this decision is acting in favour of stability.

What is so interesting is that there was an immediate reaction in Egypt. There was the usual leak in the national papers, I think in an article by Chapman Pincher. I could understand the Government's difficulties if they had not been so vociferous about the leaks which came from our Government. I remember the Prime Minister, in what we did not think was a characteristic speech, making a personal attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North calling him an incompetent and incontinent Minister. Those were the days when we had not learned to understand these personal abuses which the Prime Minister has made such a characteristic feature of his régime. The Government have not succeeded in preventing the leaks. If anything, they have increased, and we learned in the Daily Express of the 16th February that Aden was to be evacuated. I believe that this was a last-minute panic measure to try to get down to the budget which they had fixed.

Curiously enough, the next day Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer, the U.A.R. Vice-President, made a speech in which he said that as a result of this decision they were going to prolong the stay of the Egyptian forces in the Yemen, and this was confirmed by Radio Cairo on the 19th.

We then had the quotation to which I referred in an intervention, when, on the 22nd February, the day on which the White Paper came out, President Nasser, speaking at Cairo University, said of Aden: There was an announcement today that Britain had decided to grant independence in 1968. Well then, we shall stay there"— meaning the Yemen— until after 1968". The Foreign Secretary thinks that the decision to go is adding to the stability of the Middle East, when in fact exactly the opposite is the truth.

The Government have provided the Egyptians with an excuse to go back on agreements with Saudi Arabia which would have added to the stability of the Middle East. It cannot be in our interests to have 68,000 of Nasser's troops on the borders of Aden, and the sooner they go the better. This blood transfusion which has been given to Nasser may make it more worth while for the Communists, probably the Russians, but it may be the Chinese, to back Nasser further. The tanks which he uses in his invasion of the Yemen are Russian. The aircraft are Russian. The napalm bombs are Russian. The high explosive and chemical bombs are Russian. The bazookas are Russian, and he has many Russian technicians and advisers to help with his troops.

Some people may wonder how it is possible to sustain an immense force of 68,000 troops in an under-developed country, where communications are poor. Perhaps they have forgotten that in recent years Russia has built a formidable deep water port at the southern end of the Red Sea at Hodeida, and that alongside the port there is a modern airfield. If we evacuate Aden, I presume that we will also evacuate Perim, the old coaling station at the south end of the Red Sea. If the vacuum which we create in Aden is not filled by Nasser and his backers, there will be in that area a ready-made deep water port which could form a useful base for the communist world. They have always wanted a base on the bridge between the Middle East and Africa so that, when they got the chance, they could stoke up the anxieties, the sabotage, and the subversion which is taking place all over Africa, and which is adding to the confusion in that desperately unhappy continent.

Over the years Nasser has shown that he can control the Suez Canal at will. Despite constant resolutions by the United Nations, he has denied the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping, and he is still doing so. Why, therefore, should we offer to evacuate our base at the southern end of the Red Sea and make the whole passage of the Red Sea through the Suez Canal even more vulnerable?

I am not casting my mind back to the nineteenth century. I am not one of those who think in terms of the nineteenth century. I am being realistic when I say that the trade of the free world, and, incidentally, the military and logistic supplies to all our troops east of Suez, needs to go through the Suez Canal and through the Red Sea. Can it therefore be in the interests of the international trade of the Western nations to evacuate Aden and leave a vacuum, and leave this Russian port of Hodeida which could easily be manned up and become a thorn in the side of the West?

There was an alternative route, at least for oil supplies, which was secured as a result of the Israel's Sinai campaign. That was the route which passed Aden and Perim, up the Red Sea, through the straits of Tiran and up to Akaba, where the pipelines could be enlarged to carry oil supplies to Mediterranean ports. This is a useful alternative, but this, too, would go if we handed over this linch-pin, this position at the southern end of the Red Sea. It will go if we rat on our undertakings to that part of the world.

I believe that Nasser is the Dean of Overseas Adventurers in the Middle East. I believe that he is militarily discredited, and I think that it would be very unwise indeed if the Government did not, as my right hon. Friend suggested, think very deeply, even at this late stage, about the evacuation of Aden, because it must cause trouble. As Nasser's prestige went down, so tension in the Middle East was going down. We were beginning to get an element of modus vivendi and relative peace between Israel and her Arab neighbours. This decision will give new life to Nasser, and will, I am sure, add to instability in the Middle East.

I want now to deal with the other argument used by the Foreign Secretary and by the Minister of Defence, namely, that we do not need Aden. Apart from our treaty obligations, which are very considerable, can they really say that we do not want Aden? If we have considerable troops committed east of Suez, and if we have Singapore at the eastern periphery of this area, do we really not want some sort of base at the western end of this vast expanse of ocean? Can we really afford to give up an area which is a base not only for the Army but for the Royal Air Force and for the Royal Navy? It has workshops and underground armament stores which stretch deep into the hills of Aden. It has facilities for re-victualling and restoring our ships. Can all this be given up with any safety at all?

It was amazing to hear the Minister of Defence say yesterday that in spite of all the troubles in the past we were apparently not going to have trouble in the future. Every time he says that he can bring troops back from the Caribbean, or from East Africa, he is putting a bigger load on the Royal Navy. The Navy cannot operate east of Suez, or support an Air Force or Army, unless it has a base of reasonable proportions from which to operate, and I do not believe that it is economic to try to provide a base at Bahrain. In Aden there are air-conditioned barracks, workshops, radar defence, and in fact everything that we need. Why bow down to appease the terrorists who are being stimulated and activated by Nasser?

I ask the Government to think again, even at this late stage. Let us make two conditions about moving out. Let us say, first, that we will leave Aden if the local people want us to do so. This would be after a fair and not a biased vote. Secondly, let us say that we will leave Aden if its retention is not essential to meet our commitments east of Suez. I believe that under both those headings it will be found that we should stay there.

I propose now to say a word about aircraft carriers, because this is the big issue in this debate. I am not a dyed-in-the-wool, blue water, type. I was in the Royal Air Force for six years. For two years I was Under-Secretary of State for Air—and I am glad to see my successor in his place—and then I spent five years on the Board of Admiralty, answering for the Royal Navy in this House. So I should be able to be reasonably objective about the issue.

My biggest concern is the atmosphere of quarrelling created between the R.A.F. and the Navy. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said, this arose because of the £2,000 million target. This was fixed as an immovable and un-negotiable target before commitments were considered. It instantly started quarrels as to how much each Service was to get within the target.

During my seven years in the two Ministries, it was my desire, perhaps unsuccessfully fulfilled, to try to draw these two great Services together and not to divide them in quarrelsome conflicts of this type. I had this hope because I was fortunate enough to serve with Admiral of the Fleet Sir Caspar John. He was the first Fleet Air Arm pilot to become First Sea Lord, and his personality and ability confirmed me in my hope that perhaps this would be an appropriate time to draw the two Services together, particularly as Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Thomas Pike headed the R.A.F. and he was a good friend as well.

I hoped that the time was propitious because a new generation of aircraft carriers was contemplated. We were thinking about designs. Moreover, we were coming to the phase of the vertical take-off aircraft and thought that possibly a common aircraft for the Navy and the Air Force was feasible. For these very good reasons, as well as for reasons of sentiment, I hoped that we would see the two Services drawn together. Unfortunately, the common aircraft, the P1154, fell by the wayside. The operational requirements of the two staffs became too divergent and it was decided that the P1154 would be used by the R.A.F. and the Phantom by the Navy. This was unfortunate, but operational requirements must take priority.

I remind myself, however, that the Phantom was developed in the United States for the U.S. Navy, and it was only some good head-bashing by Mr. Robert McNamara that forced the U.S. Air Force to accept it, for it was loth to do so. It has the Phantom now, however, and I understand that it is delighted with the aircraft. If we are to have a common aircraft in future, there will have to be tough dealing by the two Service Ministers and the Defence Secretary if such an aircraft is to be accepted by both Services.

Then we considered the size of the new carrier. It was clear, at least in my mind, that the Buccaneer would be the last aircraft that we could afford to develop specifically for one Service, particularly for the Navy. Our production requirements were too small to justify the costs specifically for that task. The question arose of buying United States aircraft.

Of course, the American carrier fleet is so very much bigger than ours. The largest units are the ships of the 84,000-ton Forrestal class. They are far bigger ships than we could afford to operate. We realised that we might find that their aircraft were more suitable for their own carriers than for ours. Alternatively, therefore, we could develop a joint aircraft for the use of both the Royal Navy and the R.A.F.

I was mindful of the fact that other nations had small carriers and were looking for suitable aircraft for them. The Dutch have a carrier and the French have a carrier force, including bigger vessels, the 31,000-ton Clemenceau and Foch. The Indian Navy has the Vikrant and Australia has the 22-000-ton Melbourne. Canada has the similar Bonaventure. All these nations were feeling some financial pinch and looking for aircraft to operate from these relatively small carriers which would be cheap, economic and effective.

Of course, I recognise that a large carrier is more efficient. It can have a much bigger punch. It is more economic. On a value analysis, I am sure the choice would fall on a bigger carrier. But I always feared that in going for the best we might lose the good—and I also had in mind that there might at some time in future be a Labour Government and that that Labour Government would go in for defence economies as they did in the 1929–31 period. I felt, therefore, that a smaller carrier would have a better chance of survival, and even at this stage I urge the Government to re-examine the proposition to see whether it is possible to have a smaller carrier, perhaps of about 35,000 tons. But why does the Minister of Defence for the Army laugh?

Photo of Mr Gerald Reynolds Mr Gerald Reynolds , Islington North

I laugh because the hon. Gentleman is putting exactly the argument that I put to him when I was in Opposition and he was responsible for the Navy on this Front Bench. He then tore me to ribbons. Why has he changed his mind?

Photo of Mr Ian Orr-Ewing Mr Ian Orr-Ewing , Hendon North

I said at the time that there was no question that a 53,000-ton carrier would be best but that it would be expensive, and that in view of the estimated cost we might have to accept something less than the best. That is a perfectly logical argument.

I come now to the question of developing a jet aircraft suitable for a carrier of this type. That leads on to the Anglo-French swing-wing aircraft. I wonder whether this cannot be produced as a common aircraft for the Navy and the R.A.F. and used from our existing carriers, at least the bigger ships. Would it not also be useful to bring the aircraft forward from the forecast date of 1975? There seems to be no sense of urgency about it—although it is difficult to find any sense of urgency in any aircraft programme by the Government. The French say that they will produce the aircraft in 1972–73 for their own use. If they can produce it for themselves in that year, why cannot we have it earlier than 1975?

I want to reinforce my plea for the carrier by mentioning some of the uses to which such a vessel is put. Do the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary believe that we are thinking in terms of five or six carriers? There have been innumerable incidents—the Minister of Defence for the Navy has quoted me a list—since the end of the war when our forces have been involved.

Since the end of the war, British troops have been involved in 41 incidents. In the last seven years, there have been seven such incidents in which they needed a carrier to cover their operations. In 1958, a British carrier supported United States operations in the Lebanon. In the same year, our troops in Jordan were getting carrier support. In 1960 carriers operated against the rebellion in the Aden Protectorate, flying most valuable sorties. In 1961 and 1962 there were threats to Kuwait and carriers were involved. In 1962, also, we started the anti-piracy patrols off Indonesia and here again a carrier was used. In December, 1962, the armed rebellion against the formation of Malaysia broke out and again a carrier was used. In 1964 a carrier was again used in response to a call for help by President Nyerere.

In each of these incidents, a carrier proved absolutely invaluable. How is it that the Defence Secretary seems to think, with all the uncertainties and restlessness in the world, that by 1975 we shall never be called on again to have a military operation in which a carrier will be needed?

I shall not use the full arguments for a carrier because they were so ably put by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East and anyone can look up his speech. I have heard it said that, somehow, a strip of concrete can be substituted for carrier. But this involves not just 2,000 or 3,000 yards of concrete. A successful land air base must have land systems, lights, sophisticated navigational aids, radar defences, anti-aircraft defences, armament workshops, electronic workshops, ground defences and all the infra-structure necessary to support them, that is to say, the personnel, the feeding arrangements, the barracks and accommodation, the hospitals and all that is necessary. All these facilities are wrapped up in a carrier. As the Americans have found, if one is fighting a counter-insurgent war, as they are in Vietnam, it is very much easier to defend a carrier standing off the coast that it is to defend an air base which may be surrounded by Vietcong, mortars and suffer sabotage from plastic bombs.

For all these reasons, I believe that we are right to support a carrier, and I hope that when the Secretary of State winds up in his second speech—perhaps he will be given notes, since he is not here—he will think seriously again about evacuate- ing the Aden base and again consider the future of our carrier programme.

One of the serious and disastrous casualties was the First Sea Lord, and I should like to add my tribute to what was said by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East. The Board of Admiralty, after most careful thought, came to the conclusion that an extra carrier was necessary—not five or six, but one extra carrier—to carry us through to the end of the 1980s, by which time we might have vertical take-off aircraft and the present form of carrier might be outdated.

The Government should think again about carriers and come to the Box this evening and to say that they will think about the future of the Aden base.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I must remind the House that 30 or 40 hon. Members, who have been sitting right through the debate on both days, wish to speak. I hope that hon. Members who are called will remember that.

7.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

I hope that the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) will forgive me if I only indirectly and later on refer to his speech, as I want to raise some rather wider issues.

Listening to this debate, as to previous defence debates, I thought that it seemed to be largely a contest between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, with the big black crow of nuclear annihilation spreading its sable wings unnoticed over their busy little heads. The framework of this defence debate should have been, but has not been, what the Prime Minister, then still Leader of the Opposition, said in September, 1963, at Scarborough: The strength, the solvency, the influence of Britain, which some still think depends upon nostalgic illusions or upon nuclear posturings—these things are going to depend for the remainder of this century to a unique extent on the speed with which we come to terms with the world of change. I think that we are failing to do that.

This whole defence debate and the Defence White Paper are shot through with nostalgic illusions and nuclear and world military power hankerings and posturings. We are failing to keep pace with our changing world. There is a difference of degree between the two sides on this, as on other things, but I wish that right hon. Members on my own side of the House were a little more forward looking than they are.

The most depressing thing about the debate is the assumption on both sides that we shall go on indefinitely, for years and years, with the greatest, costliest and deadliest arms race in history. It will not work out like that. I remember vividly what a very great statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, said about three years before the last world war. On 23rd April, 1936, in this House he said: I cannot believe that, after armaments in all countries have reached a towering height, they will settle down and continue at a hideous level…and that that will be for many years a normal feature of the world's routine. Whatever happens, I do not believe that will. Europe "— today, we would say, "the world"— is approaching a climax…Either there will be a melting of hearts and a joining of hands between great nations which will set out upon realising the glorious age of prosperity and freedom which is now within the grasp of the millions of toiling people, or there will be an explosion and a catastrophe the course of which no imagination can measure, and beyond which no human eye can see."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd April, 1936; Vol. 311, c. 339.] That is the perspective in which we ought to see this arms race. The emphasis should be on how to end it and on how to reach agreement with the other side. It has been said again and again in our Defence White Papers that there is no such thing as defence of this country against a nuclear attack. The only defence is to prevent a war breaking out and the only way to prevent a war breaking out is to reach a settlement on outstanding issues with the other side.

The idea that one can prevent a war breaking out by piling up more and more weapons and getting ready to use them at the drop of the hat is an exploded fallacy of which humanity has had too much tragic experience to repeat today, when nuclear weapons have made it literally deadly.

Nevertheless, there is a residual difference, say 10 per cent. difference, between the two sides—to the advantage of this side of the House. On this side, at least, the Government have become dimly aware at long last of the impact on our economy and on our social services of defence expenditure. They have put a firm ceiling on that expenditure and made a beginning on cutting military commitments. The ceiling is still much too high and the cuts in our commitments are much too small. But at any rate this compares favourably with the idea of the Opposition, which, so far as I can understand it, is that the sky is the limit in defence expenditure and that we must stick to all our commitments, regardless of the impact on the economy or the social services.

There is another difference. We have at least laid down in the Defence White Paper that defence should be the servant and not the master of foreign policy. This is a very important principle. So far, it has not been applied, but at any rate it has been stated on this side whereas the other side is equally clear that war preparations come first and peace comes next to last.

I would refer to the statement by the Leader of the Opposition on 14th December, when he asked my right hon. Friend: Will the Prime Minister now give an assurance…that the measures necessary for the nuclear defence of the West will take priority over other political measures, such as the obtaining of a non-proliferation agreement?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1965; Vol 722, c. 1082.] The right hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Soames), in the defence debate on 20th December, took the same line. This means saying that we must get on with strengthening the military alliances, even though that means sacrificing the chances of reaching agreement with the other side which could obviate the necessity for the alliances by bringing about disarmament and political settlement. That seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse or standing reality on its head. It is a thoroughly wrong and pernicious principle.

I welcome the ceiling of £2,000 million, calculated in terms of 1964 prices, but the Government themselves have admitted that that is nothing like enough. On 26th October, 1964, within 10 days of taking office, the Government issued a White Paper on the economic situation which pointed out that, even if and when the increase in the gross national product reached 4 per cent. a year, the resulting revenues would not be sufficient to pay for the economic and social programme of the Government and that, in order to find the necessary means to pay for that programme, we should have to spend less on unproductive purposes such as armaments and more for socially and economically productive purposes.

In other words, the Government said in 1964 that we should have to go below the level of £2,000 million, calculated at current prices, that year, in order to pay for our social and economic policies, even after we had achieved a rate of increase of 4 per cent. a year in the gross national product. We have achieved only 2½ per cent., and yet the Government have abandoned the idea of going below the £2,000 million level and have taken modest pride in the fact that they have succeeded in pegging the budget at that level calculated on 1964 prices. In present money prices it has risen, as it did last year.

That is the vital fact, and the pressure of it will be felt increasingly as the year wears on and as the years wear on. We shall have to go further in this respect—much further—and we shall have to make corresponding cuts in commitments.

The reason why the burden is so intolerably heavy was given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence when he was in Australia recently. It is that we are spending nearly as much of our gross national income on defence as are the Americans; we are spending 7·1 per cent. to the Americans' 7·7 per cent. We are spending twice as large a proportion on our defence budget on overseas military commitments as are the Americans.

These are staggering facts, and the reason for them was stated quite clearly on 16th December, 1964 by the Prime Minister when he said: The problem we are facing derives from the fact that alone in the world—apart from the United States and the U.S.S.R.—we are trying to maintain three rôles. There is the strategic nuclear rôle. There is our conventional rôle within N.A.T.O….and there is our world rôle…. The last was our east of Suez rôle, which the Prime Minister, rather optimistically as it turned out, went on to say: no one in this House or indeed in the country will wish us to give up or call into question."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1964; Vol. 704, c. 421.] It has been called into question pretty vigorously by a large part of the Labour Party, by the Liberal Party and by a considerable section of the Press.

He went on to say that this world rôle, east of Suez, accounted for our presence at the top table and our influence in world affairs generally. Frankly, all that it has done so far is to earn us a seat under the top table in Washington and a raspberry in Moscow. The more we try to make ourselves a world military Power, the more we become politically a negligible quantity, because we are achieving this pretence only at the cost of total subservience to the United States. That is not winning us any plaudits or any prestige.

Why are we taking this line? Why have the Government, in effect, gone back on the principle which they laid down in the Defence White Paper that defence must be the servant of foreign policy? Take the case of Western Germany. In 1963 it was declared twice in the House that it was the unalterable policy of the Labour Party in all circumstances to refuse to accept any share by Western Germany in responsibility for taking decisions on the use of nuclear weapons, as well, of course, as "no German finger on the nuclear trigger". That, it was said, was because it would prove an insuperable obstacle to reaching agreement with the Soviet Union on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other matters.

We then reversed that policy. Ever since we have been tinkering with the idea of finding some way of admitting Germany, either formally or really—we should like it to be formally and the Germans would like their hands on the hardware—in spite of the fact that precisely the consequence predicted has duly presented itself and it has made impossible an agreement with the Soviet Union. The reason for all that was to try to preserve or to strengthen N.A.T.O. We have here a clear case of sacrificing policies on which we could reach agreement in order to preserve the military alliance, which in that way is becoming an end in itself.

We find the reason for this in the Defence White Paper which reads …we regard the continuation of the North Atlantic Alliance as vital to our survival. If that is so, or if the Government believe that it is so, naturally they have to sacrifice everything to that consideration. But the price which we have to pay is total subservience to the United States.

We have had a good deal of talk on both sides of the House to the effect that we want to be allies but not auxiliaries. I have no use for military alliances or power politics, but at least I understand the rules of the game, and the whole point is that in a military alliance the ally which has nearly all the military power takes the vital decisions. The United States has 98 per cent. of the military power in the alliance—the nuclear power—and the United States takes all the life and death decisions single-handed, because the use of nuclear weapons requires a decision in a matter of hours, sometimes even minutes, and there is no room for consultation between allies. One ally must take the decisions, and that ally is the United States. Those are the facts of the situation, and it is unrealistic to the last degree to go on saying that we must stick to this alliance come what may but to pretend that we can have any independence in that situation. We cannot have it, we never have had it, and we never shall have it.

The price which we pay for that subservience is to abandon our own policy for making peace. This has been shown in Europe. I have given one example, and another is the shelving of policies of disengagement and of creating a nuclear-free zone. The Labour Government came into power with a mandate to carry out a policy in Europe on which we could easily have reached agreement with the Soviet Union. Our proposals were within negotiating distance of those of the Soviet Union. We have abandoned those policies and created this deadlock, which keeps our troops in the B.A.O.R. and prolongs and perpetuates the arms race, in order to preserve the alliance. If anybody else sees any sense in that, I certainly do not.

The worst feature of the situation is that on this basis we cannot do more than temporarily check the rising defence costs. After all, Conservative Governments have more than once tried to hold down defence costs and these have inexorably burst the bounds imposed upon them and gone on increasing. We cannot take part in a race and mark time, and we cannot stop this arms race unless we put something in its place besides subservience to the United States in an alliance in which we are very much the weaker Power.

We find part of the explanation, I think—and it illustrates what we are up against, not only this Government but all Governments—in the terrifying fact about the arms race that it engenders its own momentum. One gets a vast body of assumptions, traditions, vested interests, machinery, jobs and plans all running on and on so that in the end, as Lord Chalfont said in a television interview the other day, it becomes self-perpetuating and an end in itself.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence gave vivid expression to his realisation of this in his speech in the Defence Debate on 3rd March of last year when he began by saying: …taking over responsibility for Britain's defence policy last October was like being pitchforked into the cab of a runaway train."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 1328.] Even at that he was flattering our position in the arms race and in the alliance. The real position was stated by President Johnson's adviser, Mr. McGeorge Bundy, in the Sunday Times of 4th July, when he said: In the final analysis, the United States is the engine of mankind and the rest of the world is the train". That reduces us to the rôle, at best, of passengers and, at worst, of being in the baggage van. At any rate, we are certainly not in the cab. The most terrifying thing is how people get used to almost anything. We are just rolling on and on in this condition of helplessness—in this vast and terrifying piling up of the means of destroying the whole human race over and over again, with nobody really bothering.

The First World War is where I came in, so to speak. I am one of the few hon. Members left in the House who saw active service in that war. I was so impressed by what I saw and heard that I studied the history of how we got into it. I was also, as a League of Nations official in Geneva, able to study how we gradually muddled into the Second World War. The overwhelming impression I got was of the helplessness of statesmen, working on their own assumptions and traditions, not being able to get on top of the situation but being impelled by blind forces which they could neither understand nor control—rather like the phrase in Hardy's The Dynasts:Spirit of the Pities:Why prompts the Will so senseless—shaped a doing? Spirit of the years: I have told thee that it works unwittingly As one possessed not judging. Somehow we must get on top of this and not allow the situation to go on and on until our fate overtakes us and we have the auto da fe of the human race by its leaders. We have been on the wrong track since the end of the war, because then we went back to the exploded fallacy that the balance of power is the way to preserve peace. This is where it has led us today—and tomorrow it may land us in a world war.

The alternative is, of course, the one that was stated in moving and dramatic language at the close of the last defence debate when, winding up for the Opposition, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said that the only answer to nuclear weapons was a world authority based on moral principles acceptable to the peoples of both sides. He added that collective security in the traditional sense, disarmament agreements and so on, were good but not enough.

The foundation of that world authority is the United Nations and we must put our energy, will, purpose and policies into transferring the mutual relations of the great Powers from the balance of power, as expressed in the rival military alliances, to their common obligations, purposes and principles in the U.N. Charter.

It should be remembered that the U.N. Charter was not drafted by idealists or cranks but by the world's leading statesmen in the light of the experience of two world wars. As the United Nations Secretary-General has repeatedly said, the only thing wrong with the U.N. is that the leading Governments refuse to use it, to take their stand on their obligations in the Charter, to conduct their policies in accordance with its principles and purposes and to use its machinery. This is where we should make a start. We should subordinate military alliances to the obligations of the Charter, as we are pledged to do under Article 103 of the latter. That would immediately open the way to drastic cuts or sharing of our defence costs and commitments.

If one takes the U.N. Charter seriously and interprets it honestly one must start by saying that the Charter rules out the use of force or the threat of force as a means of imposing one's will in a dispute. And that, of course, rules out negotiating from strength, which is how defence is understood under N.A.T.O. and the other military alliances. It also means that one does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, even under the guise of defending them against Communist subversion or against so-called indirect or internal aggression, infiltration or whatever it might be called. A lot of phrases have been invented to justify armed intervention in the internal affairs of countries. But if one takes the U.N. Charter seriously, one must rule out that kind of activity, which is the only realistic course today, because once one starts on policies which are not in accordance with the Charter there is no end to them.

We must apply the principle laid down in the Defence White Paper that defence should be the servant and not the master of foreign policy. That means that we should not abandon our policies for making peace for the sake of preserving our military alliances. On the contrary, we should remember that in N.A.T.O. the collective defence obligation is not unconditional and unlimited but applies only in cases of unprovoked aggression.

We have a perfect legal and moral right to tell our allies that unless they come to terms with us on a basis of negotiation with the other side and so long as they pursue policies which we regard as provocative, we will bring home our forces in B.A.O.R. and demobilise them. We should not allow S.H.A.P.E. to be exported from France and brought to this country unless we have got our allies to agree with us on a basis of settlement in Europe, because it is intolerable that we should have policies on which we could reach agreement with the Soviet Union which would enable us to wind up both the Warsaw and N.A.T.O. alliances and bring home our forces, but that we must keep our forces there at vast expense merely to underwrite the refusal of our allies to agree to a basis of settlement which we consider reasonable. We must put this to them, remembering that we could do it and, at the same time, be acting in accordance with the U.N. Charter and on our own principle of making defence the servant of foreign policy.

In the Far East we should make it clear that the American war in Vietnam is contrary to the U.N. Charter, as undoubtedly it is. We should also say that we stand for working out Far Eastern settlements through the U. N., with China in her place in the Security Council, and that we will have no truck with American policies of so-called containing Communism or China, because those policies involve the use of force contrary to the Charter.

We should be giving an active lead in seeking political settlements on that basis. The moment we took that kind of independent line we would be in a position to seek settlements, such as a conciliation between India and China, the Maphilindo solution of the Malaysia-Indonesia confrontation and the winding up of the Singapore base. Similarly, in the Middle East it is not for us to try unilaterally to ensure stability.

Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence posed the question whether our military presence east of Suez would be of value. His words were: …whether…Britain by her military presence outside Europe can…make a useful contribution to peace and stability in areas which are in the throes of revolutionary change…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1780.] Frankly, I have the deepest suspicion of the use of the phrase "peace and stability" in that context. It is the new euphemism for trying to prop up reactionary Governments against which their own populations have turned. I agree with what Aneurin Bevan said long ago—that it is not Britain's business to put down revolutions or fight Communism in other people's countries. It is also contrary to the Charter.

Labour's policy, and it is a reasonable and sound policy, is that we should look to getting our oil out of the Middle East and our tin and rubber out of Malaysia by ordinary commercial arrangements, and not by force or threat of force. Any peace-keeping to be done should be done by an international police force set up through the United Nations. But we cannot do that until we have reached political settlements that will transfer the relations of the Powers to the Charter and wind up the rival alliances. We cannot have it both ways—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he will respond to the appeal I made. There are many hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate.

Photo of Mr Konni Zilliacus Mr Konni Zilliacus , Manchester, Gorton

I was coming to my peroration, Mr. Speaker.

What we should stand for, and that is our world rôle, is to be the first major Power to repudiate the incalculable risk of H-bomb power politics and take the calculated risk of basing its international relations on the Charter, giving a lead for peace, and finding unity of purpose with the whole Commonwealth through the Charter, because the Charter is the only treaty that binds us all together in a common code. We are no longer a first-class military Power. But we could be a first-class political Power and a first-class force for peace, and I hope that in the great national debate that is now to take place on these issues, that will be the image of Britain's purpose and position in the world which will gain the suffrages of our people.

7.34 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

We all recognise the sincerity which the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus) brings to his speech on defence each year. If I differ from him in thinking that we are likely to be able to effect a great peace-keeping activity by operating from a basis of absolute military incompetence, he must accept that a great many other hon. Members also think so. If that were possible, I think that the United Nations, or India or some other country which has no military capability, would have been able to effect the changes which the hon. Member so sincerely—as we all do—wishes to see.

My complaint against the White Paper on this occasion is that after the fanfare with which it came out—and we have been looking forward to it now for almost 18 months—it raises more doubts than it gives answers. In the first place, it raises the doubt whether the forces we are to have will have the ability to perform the tasks which the Government will lay upon them. I say that, first, because of the reductions in armaments announced, in terms, in the White Paper. I say it in the second place because of the reductions which are concealed by the White Paper—and of which, indeed, we might not have heard at all had it not been for the speech of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). When one hears also from him of a cut of one-sixth which will fall only on the "teeth" arms—and that is quite apparent if one looks at the tables at the back of Part II of the Defence White Paper—one must feel that the efficiency of our Armed Forces will be most seriously reduced by the proposals before us.

Thirdly, I agree that the precipitate decision to abandon Aden—and as that has been so closely argued this afternoon I shall not go into any detail now—must diminish our capability of performing our tasks in that part of the world. There was at one time some suggestion that islands in the Indian Ocean might serve some purpose—might substitute, to some extent, for the facilities we were about to lose in Aden. That, if ever persisted in, is a ridiculous assumption.

I understand that the chief island in the British Indian Ocean territories so designated for defence purposes is Diego Garcia. Diego Garcia has a maximum height above sea level of about 5 ft. For three months of the year it is subject to hurricanes, for another three months it is flooded, there is no fresh water, and it is mainly a mango swamp. It is obviously not a very desirable or easy place on which to put an important base. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) has also pointed out that any sort of base must be quite elaborate—a mere concrete strip is no good. The other island, Aldabra, is occasionally more than about 5 ft. above sea level—the sand sometimes drifts to 50 ft. There, again, there is no fresh water, and no anchorage. It is not a desirable base.

The Defence White Paper has also cast most serious doubts on the willingness of the British Government to fulfil tasks which we nevertheless have. The Government's decision shows an unwillingness to support Aden. Paragraph 15 of the White Paper states categorically that whilst we are willing to play some sort of part in Europe we do not intend to stay there unless the exchange costs are met—by which I suppose we mean that all the exchange costs are to be met by our allies.

This is a most extraordinary position to take up; that we shall incur no expenditure whatever across the exchanges for our forces there—which admittedly serve our purpose, otherwise we would not have them there. Are we to pay nothing at all? If that is the intention, I very much doubt whether our allies will readily agree. We know the difficulty we have had so far in getting agreements on these lines.

It is a very unfortunate statement, I think, because one of the ways in which we can get closer to Europe is by a sharing of military capabilities and responsibility. Using the military position to get closer to Europe is most important at the present time, and I believe that the pronouncement in the White Paper that we are prepared to stay in Europe only whilst our allies are prepared to pay our bills, must limit once again the possibility of this Government, at any rate, drawing closer to Europe.

Paragraph 19 casts most serious doubts on our willingness to take part in any operations in the rest of the world. We have said that we will only take part in operations with allies in certain conditions, which can easily be imagined to be those in which we are operating very closely with the United States. We will now be operating, as has been said by my hon. Friends, more or less as an auxiliary to the United States. Do we really keep our military forces for that purpose? The United States is our greatest ally, and I wish to keep that position, but only political union can justify the complete abandonment of control for our defence policy. I do not believe that our forces ought to be raised, or kept, for a policy like that.

What sort of forces do we want? We want forces which can exert military power in any part of the world where our trading interests are threatened and which can protect our trade. These we must have as a world trading Power. What sort of forces can do that? We must not assume in trying to choose the type of forces we want that we shall for ever have to be in the east of Suez area. The phrase, which I believe was coined by the present Prime Minister, has rather bedevilled our discussions on this White Paper. We want forces flexible enough to operate in any part of the world without large fixed bases, which I concede are necessary at present in that part of the world.

They ought to operate preferably with allies, but if necessary without. I do not think we ought to lose sight of the fact that the purpose of a military force is to fight. The Navy is not a sort of ferry service for the Army. Nor is it a flag-showing extension of the Board of Trade. Nor are our troops a sort of uniformed force of probation officers who go round teaching developing countries how to behave. In the last resort our forces must be able to win battles.

I am prepared to believe that an extra aircraft carrier to add to our fleet may not be for ever necessary. It is a technical question from time to time of the weapons we should have to achieve a fighting force. I do say, however, that on the evidence put before the House today the carrier is the answer, not only for today but for tomorrow. It may well be that the situation will change, but so far as we can see at the moment by depriving ourselves in the 'seventies from having a carrier force we are depriving ourselves of forces which can have military influence.

Assuming that when the time comes the carrier force is worn out or is no longer useful in the conditions of those days, what is being done to replace it? We heard from the Secretary of State yesterday that there were movements towards a small surface-to-surface missile. Clearly a missile is the next step, but why did he use the adjective "small"? How small is it to be? Rival fleets have surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 200 miles. If the missile is not one with at least near that range it will not be much good. As we have made practically no progress with surface-to-surface missiles—the practical difficulties of which are well known—it seems that we risk having a huge gap in defence after carriers are not used and before we have our own missiles which can protect our naval vessels which I take it we shall still keep.

So we shall have a missile when we can invent it. To guess and hope that it will be efficacious before we have taken any step to fill that gap is taking risks with the defence of this country which no Government ought to take. I do not see that the Fills can perform a rôle of flexibility which at the moment a carrier can. Of course I see their usefulness, and it would be desirable from the purely military point of view to have both, but they cannot fulfil a police rôle, nor can they maintain a military presence such as the carrier can.

In the situation which we may be in during the next decade we may find them very limited in their capability to fulfil a rôle of any size. Even if we build up a base on some of the islands to which I have referred, I believe that operating from those islands to the mainland of Asia would be comparable to trying to stop the Anzio landing from Biggin Hill and having no other landing place in between those places. That is not sensible.

We have had discussion about how much these aeroplanes cost, but there is no doubt at all that they cost a great many millions of money. I am told that today fast modern aircraft are being shot down with comparatively primitive weapons in Vietnam. If we have an aircraft costing £5 million or £2½ million —although I believe they will cost much more—that is too much money to put into one weapon of defence. We had better keep it in the garage and polish it. If it is to be shot down by a rifle bullet it is not a very useful weapon to employ.

The White Paper does not provide forces to carry out the tasks appropriate to this country. The spirit of the White Paper is unfortunate. It does not devote itself to the interests of defence, nor even define those interests with precision. It sets out to save money. That is a desirable thing in some Government While Papers, but it is not the theme which should run through a White Paper on Defence. Of course we are all interested in saving money, but that that should be the theme of this White Paper is wrong.

All our forces are under strength and all our commitments are kept. We have given notice that we shall not wish after a short time—and that we shall not be able to so so—to fulfil our commitments. We confess our weakness but at the same time, at the behest of our most powerful ally, we have bought colossally expensive aircraft at very severe cost to our own industry. It seems that these aircraft can be used, because of their great value, only in a nuclear rôle, which I do not think we would want them to fulfil. At the same time the White Paper insists that conventional forces shall be cut down.

As a result I believe that our forces will be more inefficient than they are now. The White Paper gives no impetus or opportunity to join Europe which in the long run is essential to the military status and safety of this country. These proposals do great damage to our own industry. This Government have caused great harm and will cause a great deal more if they are allowed to go on. I hope that the House will reject this White Paper.

7.47 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Binns Mr John Binns , Keighley

I wish to speak about the Defence Review in rather more general terms than we have had so far. We have had a tremendous amount of criticism from hon. Members opposite, but that criticism has been confined to fairly narrow channels. We have heard much about strategy and very little about economics. It is about time that this House and the country began to realise that the defence problems which face Britain at the moment are just as much economic as strategic.

In this Defence White Paper my right hon. Friend has at last dealt with both those problems in a most purposeful manner. I start by congratulating him on the best Defence Review the House has had for a long time. For the first time in this White Paper a Minister has been prepared to get to grips with the unpalatable decisions which need to be taken if we are to fulfil the main objects set out in the first paragraph of the White Paper. None of us on this side of the House would, I am quite sure, disagree with those objects, which are: to relieve the strain imposed on the economy by the tremendous cost of the defence programme we inherited from the previous Government, and to shape a new defence posture for the 'seventies more in keeping with what the country can afford.

We would be wise to try to recognise clearly what the exercise was that the Government instructed the Minister to carry out. This was not an exercise in unilateral disarmament. This Government have always argued against disarmament on a unilateral basis. This does not mean that the Government are not fully committed to world disarmament, because of course they are. Indeed we can claim to have the one Government in the world which has appointed a Minister for Disarmament who is at the constant call of any Power or group of Powers prepared to come to a conference table and discuss methods of disarmament. Furthermore, he spends most of his time trying to probe and create opportunities for this kind of exercise.

Although I appreciate fully the desires of some of my hon. Friends to cut our commitments and to reduce the defence expenditure in a far more drastic manner than the Minister has been able to achieve in this Review, I find myself forced to agree with my right hon. Friends in the Government that the only way to bring about the cuts in arms expenditure which all of us would like is on a multilateral basis by international agreement. The purpose of the Review is set out clearly in Chapter I. It is to put the future defence policy of Britain on a sound economic basis. My right hon. Friend is the first Minister of Defence who has tried to do this. I would say in answer to the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) that one of the reasons why we have had to wait for so long for this Review was that we had to wait for the findings of the N.E.D.C., which set the target for the gross national product over the next ten years, before a decision could be made as to what percentage of that product should be allocated to defence.

This is where my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) absolutely misses the point of the Defence Review when he argues that it is wrong for the Government to fix a target of £2,000 million before deciding what our defence rôle should be in different parts of the world. It is the duty of any sound Government to decide what it can afford to spend before it embarks on any spending spree on new and costly weapons. If hon. and right hon. Members opposite had adopted this attitude when they were in power I believe that tremendous savings could have been made in defence expenditure and the hundreds of millions of pounds would not have been spent on rocketry projects which were abandoned before they left the ground and. in many cases, before they left the drawing board.

Once a decision has been taken on what a country can afford to spend, there is room for argument on what commitments we shall retain or abandon, and in fixing our military role the Minister has been most realistic. He has left us in a position to fulfil our commitments to N.A.T.O. and other alliances and at the same time make the splendid contribution which we are making to United Nations obligations in different parts of the world. My right hon. Friend states clearly in the Review that it is the major aim of British policy to help the United Nations to take on more and more responsibility for peace-keeping in years to come.

Our commitments to N.A.T.O. had to be brought within the financial limits set by the Government and this entailed serious thinking. I had to do some serious thinking about it, in particular because it meant that we had to consider the position of the British Army of the Rhine. While my right hon. Friend has decided that we should maintain these ground forces on the Rhine at the existing level for the time being, he has wisely added the proviso that this is dependent upon some means being found to meet the foreign exchange costs of this force.

Perhaps the greatest criticism of the Review, from both sides of the House, has been of its attitude towards our commitments east of Suez. Here again I think that my right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I believe that hon. Members opposite would agree, when he says that it is in this area that the greatest danger to peace may lie in the next decade, and if peace in this area is to be threatened it is almost certain that some of our Commonwealth partners may become directly involved. For this reason it is not easy to abandon all our com- mitments in the area, as some of my hon. Friends would like us to do. I should dearly love to join in the call to abandon all our commitments east of Suez, but when one reads the White Paper and one thinks about it common sense must prevail.

I am forced to the conclusion that my right hon. Friend has done the right thing when he says that we will not abandon all our commitments, but that we will not enter into any further commitments and that we will not become involved in any conflagration in this area in future unless it is under the auspices of the United Nations or has tremendous support from our allies. I am also satisfied, having read the White Paper, that it is the Government's intention to carry out a phased disengagement in that part of the world, and that that is the only way in which we can withdraw.

Chapter 3 of the Review deals with the equipment of our forces to meet the commitments which I have mentioned, but for me the White Paper deals adequately with the part which the Navy will play in the 1970s. It is not my job tonight to argue the case for or against having another aircraft carrier. I am sure that that will be dealt with in the Government's reply to the debate. But the replacement of the Canberra aircraft gave me cause for serious thinking, and until I read the White Paper I had a sneaking regard for the Spey/Mirage aircraft. One must accept the argument in the White Paper, however, that this aircraft, neither in performance nor in delivery dates, can fill the bill. If that argument is accepted it is only sound common sense to buy a limited number of Fill As from the United States. The arrangements made by the Government to cover some of the dollar costs by reciprocal exports justifies this decision. My support of this decision, however, is based firmly on my right hon. Friend's promise that by the mid-1970s we shall have some of the Anglo-French variable-geometry aircraft and that we shall bring them into operation.

I have come to the conclusion that this is perhaps the best Defence White Paper ever presented to the House, but this does not mean that it does everything that I should like to see done, and I would commend to my right hon. Friend one or two issues on which it might be beneficial to have some second thoughts. First, the integrated Ministry of Defence seems to be increasing its staff at a rather alarming rate. Already, it boasts more staff than the former three Service Departments put together, and it is costing about £30 million a year. Perhaps the Minister would care to have a closer look at this and make sure that there is no empire-building going on in his Department. My right hon. Friend might also do a little streamlining among the top brass of the Services. The latest active lists show that we have 73 admirals, 121 generals and 98 air marshals. I do not think that it would be impertinent to suggest that the same methods be adopted for the Services as were adopted for the railwaymen, which was simply that when one cut down operational services one had to cut down on staff. The Services lists look a trifle top-heavy for the streamlined defence set-up envisaged in the White Paper. I think that there is room here for a little selective pruning.

Finally, I ask my right hon. Friend to look again at the position of the British Army of the Rhine. Does he feel absolutely convinced of the need to keep this force at its present strength? Even if his proviso on foreign exchange is met, the maintenance of this force creates a considerable amount of manpower stretch. I think that it would be advisable to cut the force quite drastically, particularly in view of the recruitment difficulties which the Services are now experiencing.

Finally, I believe that no one will dissent when I say that real world power and authority in this day and age depend as much on economic stability and expansion as upon military efficiency. The White Paper tries to line up both. Our military effectiveness is brought into line and made dependent upon our economic growth, and I am sure that this is the road to true greatness for this country.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Nigel Fisher Mr Nigel Fisher , Surbiton

I do not altogether agree with the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Binns) in his emphasis exclusively upon the economic aspect of the Defence Review. It is certainly one very important factor, but it should not be considered to be the only factor.

The Government have made two fundamental errors in their Review and many important consequential ones. The first was to announce what they were going to spend on defence—the arbitrary figure of £2,000 million—before the Review had begun and before they had decided what they would spend it on. The second was to base their whole policy on this financial requirement, irrespective of their existing commitments and undertakings.

Defence policy must be dependent upon foreign policy and cannot be dictated solely by economic policy. If so, I should have thought that the first thing to do was to negotiate a genuine integration of the alliance and to work out with our friends, especially the Americans, the appropriate defence responsibilities of each within the framework of our joint foreign policy objectives. I have the authority of the First Secretary of State for this proposition, for in 1962 he said in the House that if one was directing one's policy according to one's purse, it was almost certain that the policy would be wrong.

I want to speak only very briefly and on only one aspect of the Defence Review—the withdrawal from Aden, of which I have some personal knowledge because of my responsibility, under my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), for the undertaking given to the Federation of South Arabia by the previous Government. My right hon. Friend and I signed the Report of the 1964 Conference on behalf of the British Government and we agree at that Conference to work out with the Federal Government, which, after all, is responsible for the defence of the Federation, arrangements for retaining the base and for assisting in the defence of the Federation after its independence in 1968. I do not quite understand the position of the Secretary of State for Defence. Does he regard that undertaking as a scrap of paper to be torn up in order to save money?

I want for a moment to go back to the reasons why the Federal Government of South Arabia considered that we were fully committed—not only the previous but the present Government. In the summer of 1964, when Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said: Aden must be held as an important base both for communications and as a centre for peace-keeping operations. Whatever measures are necessary to this end must be taken. A month later, he said: We need Aden as an essential centre for peace-keeping operations in a wide area around it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1964; Vol. 696, c. 1405.] When the new Government had taken office, I wanted to make sure that they still upheld the view which the right hon. Gentleman had expressed and so on 30th November, 1964, I asked the Secretary of State for Defence what the policy of the Government was towards the retention of the Aden base. He replied that it was the policy of the Government to retain the base. In a supplementary question, I said that this decision would be very welcome to the people of Aden and South Arabia who recognised that while we had strong strategic reasons for wishing to remain in Aden and for retaining the base, they also had very strong economic reasons for wishing us to do so. In his reply to that supplementary question, the right hon. Gentleman said: I believe that this is indeed the case."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1964; Vol. 703, c. 10.] Of course it is.

In an intervention earlier, I mentioned that when I was last in Aden, in the summer of 1964, everyone told me that they wanted us to stay. Of course it was not said publicly, because of the pressures from Nasser, from Egypt, and from the so-called Movement of Liberation in the Republican Yemen and because of the terrorism which even at that time was an intimidating factor. But everyone said this to me privately, even the nationalist politicians in Aden.

Yet the Government base their whole case for withdrawing from Aden on the proposition—and they are not very specific about whether they are speaking of Aden State or of all the Federal States—that the people do not want us in Aden. I assure the Minister of Defence for the Army, who is doing me the courtesy of taking a few notes to give to his right hon. Friend, that that is not the case. It is an inaccurate and misleading version of the views of the people in that part of the world.

During the same month, November, 1964, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham pointed out yesterday, our High Commissioner in Aden was authorised to assure the Federal Government that the British Government would honour our commitments in South Arabia and, as has already been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), in June, the Secretary of State for Defence himself repeated this assurance in Aden. On 2nd February, this year, only a month ago, the right hon. Gentleman said in Australia: We have no intention of ratting on any of our commitments. We intend to remain, and shall remain, fully capable of carrying out all the commitments we have at the present time in the Far East, the Middle East and in Africa. So, over a period of 18 months, the commitment to South Arabia was made absolutely clear and it would indeed be difficult to find an obligation so fully underwritten by successive Governments.

Yet, in his statement to the House on 22nd February, the right hon. Gentleman claimed that in withdrawing from Aden he was not defaulting on Britain's commitments to her allies and partners in the Commonwealth; and he excused himself for that betrayal of the Federation—and that is what it amounts to—with the ridiculous assertion that our undertaking had been given to a government in South Arabia which had now ceased to exist. I do not know what relevance that is supposed to have. In any case, as we all know now, it was quite untrue, as the right hon. Gentleman was forced humiliatingly to admit in a personal statement the following day.

This is a pathetic but also a disgraceful story of bad faith. As the Daily Telegraph pointed out in its leader of 23rd February, it is a cynical contradiction of the right hon. Gentleman's own claim that his defence savings have been effected without defaulting on commitments to our allies.

I should like to put a few questions to the Government. Do they now accept any obligation of any kind to South Arabia, even without retaining the Aden base? If so, do they realise that the distance from Bahrein to Aden by the most direct route is 1,000 miles? Do they think that they can sustain the Federation against an attack from the Yemen at that range? Will the Government go on paying, as we have done hitherto, for the Federal Army, or do they think it right to launch South Arabia into independence without adequate defence against external aggression? Do they realise that this policy means that President Nasser, who is not a friend of this country, will now remain in the Yemen and will take over Aden when we leave in 1968? He has already said so. Do the Government realise that four years fighting by the Royalists in the Yemen will now be thrown away and that President Nasser will be presented, on a plate, with a glittering prize, much more glittering than the Yemen, which he has not earned and to which he is quite unentitled?

Is it for this sort of policy, now revealed by the Defence Review, that British soldiers lost their lives in the Radfan? I saw them fighting there two years ago. Is it for this that British soldiers are now losing their lives in the streets of Aden? Did the right hon. Gentleman realise that this policy would inevitablv mean the breakup of the South Arabian Federation and the complete betrayal of our friends there who trusted our word? Were all these factors taken fully into account before deciding on this aspect of defence policy?

To sum up the right hon. Gentleman either deliberately defaulted on a clear undertaking to South Arabia, given by my right hon. Friend and myself in 1964, or he took an absolutely major policy decision, without even bothering to ascertain what our existing commitments were. Those are the only two alternatives with which this House is faced. In either case, in my submission, he is unfit to occupy his high office. But I do not call for his resignation at this time, the British electorate will see to that on 31st March.

8.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Kettering

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) referred to our use of Aden after independence and put many questions to the Minister. I, too, shall be putting questions to the Minister about what happens after we leave Aden, but they will not be the same questions. I want to refer to two points which the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) raised. He referred to the fact that Nasser had issued a statement saying that he was keeping his troops in the Yemen because of our White Paper. The hon. Gentleman said that that was the fault of the White Paper and that Nasser would proclaim that it was a victory for himself.

Anyone who knows what is happening in the Middle East today knows that Nasser is keeping his troops in the Yemen because he does not dare to bring them home. If he did, it is likely that he would be looking for a villa in Switzerland, Guinea or Mali. That is the reason. It has nothing to do with our White Paper. We have a great deal of power, but not as much as that. It is quite simply because these troops have been defeated and grown increasingly hostile to Nasser's régime.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the drawing together of the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. He spoke of the many years which he had spent on the Air Council and the Board of Admiralty. I spent some years on the Air Council, too. There do not seem to be sufficient signs of an integration of these two services. The fact that they are not close enough is evidenced by the resignation of my right hon. Friend for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). If there had been this integration he would surely not have felt such a particular responsibility for the Royal Navy. I regard that as a sign that all is not as well as it should be in the integration of the Services, certainly in the Ministry itself.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) ended with a plea for economic, political and military integration with Europe. I am all in favour of economic and political integration with Europe, but I am extremely worried about military integration, especially as he referred to this in the context of it providing a balance to the United States. He referred to bringing in the Old World to redress the balance of the New. Some explanation is required when this argument is used on the Opposition Front Bench at a time when N.A.T.O. is so much under attack by General de Gaulle. Since 1949 all British governments have consistently followed the policy of standing for the integration of the armed forces with all our allies, including the Canadians and Americans. At the various meetings, such as the W.E.U. and the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians Conference, it has been only the French delegates belonging to the Gaullist party who have not advocated the integration of all military forces in N.A.T.O. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Warbey) asked the Secretary of State for Defence: wonder whether my right hon. Friend would say why we should engage in any military operations at all in Asia in the 1970s. The Minister replied: I will say very simply. If the capacity to engage in small-scale military operations can prevent large-scale disaster, as undoubtedly it did when we intervened under the previous Government in East Africa in 1964, it is well worth a people with any sense of international responsibility paying something to be able to do it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1782.] The operations in 1964 were a successful small-scale intervention which undoubtedly prevented a large-scale disaster with great loss of life. I want my right hon. Friend to say something about what would happen in the next decade if we were again asked by Commonwealth African Governments to protect them. It has been said that if we gave up the Aden base we could not again provide the troops required at short notice, as we did two years ago. I believe that we can, but I would like to hear the Minister explain it. Apart from the economic and political considerations which have been made as to why we should give up the base, there is a sound military one, but I should like to be satisfied about it and hear it developed.

Is it not a fact that the new generation of R.A.F. transport aircraft and the Strategic Reserve of the Army in Britain make Aden unnecessary? The results are something like this. If we assume that it took X hours to transport a battalion group to Kenya from Aden two years ago it would take less time to transport a similar group to Kenya from the United Kingdom when we have left Aden. This would be so even if we could not fly the direct north-south route and had to come in either west to east or north-east to south-west. In other words, if we begin to think in terms of a Strategic Reserve in Britain, highly mobilised with very fast big modern R.A.F. transport, do not we get this result?

A lot of hon. Members and people outside have been speaking as if the Navy will cease to exist. Besides having a Strategic Reserve in Britain ready to move and with a capability to move, will not we have a very mobile Navy with Royal Marine Commandoes? The chitchat about the carrier seems to have blinded many people to the fact that commando carriers capable of landing Royal Marines by helicopter will be available to do it just as they did two years ago. Is it not a fact that they will be available to do this job in similar conditions to those which prevailed two years ago in East Africa?

Photo of Commander Anthony Courtney Commander Anthony Courtney , Harrow East

Is not the fallacy of the hon. Gentleman's argument the fact that the commando ships—they are not known as carriers—do not carry fixed-wing aircraft and, therefore, are unable to provide their own air cover?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey De Freitas Mr Geoffrey De Freitas , Kettering

That point was raised earlier in the debate. I am assuming that the conditions would be similar to those which prevailed two years ago. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State purposely qualified the matter. He referred to small scale military operations to prevent a large scale disaster. I am not suggesting, and he was not suggesting, that this type of equipment could be used in anything more than a small scale military operation to prevent a large scale disaster. After all, everybody recognises that a small scale operation did succeed in similar circumstances in 1964.

To sum up, although we are a European power and our destiny lies in Europe, we cannot overnight forget our imperial past. For the ten years after independence, we have a duty to these new African countries, our former colonies, to protect them if they ask us to do so and if that involves only a small scale operation to prevent a large scale disaster. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to answer this question: in the next decade, would we be able to repeat what we did in a similar operation two years ago?

8.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Glyn Mr Richard Glyn , North Dorset

The hon. Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) made a number of extremely interesting points, at least one of which was important. I want to repeat his question to the Secretary of State about whether the new generation of transport aircraft enables us to be sure that a strategic reserve force located in Europe, probably in Britain, could carry out tasks such as dealing with an emergency in East Africa—a task which was successfully achieved in 1964.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether, despite over-flying limitations, which I am sure he will agree are likely to become more acute, the new generation of transport aircraft could carry a battalion group to the East African or Aden area. I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider whether that would not be sending a boy to do a man's job. The essence of these actions is that they should be quickly successful, and I think that it would be extremely ill advised to launch less than a brigade group on a task like that, or, if one battalion were launched, it would be unwise to do so if the rest of the brigade group were not available at very short notice.

The point about the Aden base is that it is more than a base. It carries reserves of heavy equipment, tanks, guns, antitank weapons and transport. The question which should be answered is whether a brigade group, with all its heavy weapons and equipment, could be carried by the new generation of transport aircraft, and, if so, what would a new generation of transport aircraft cost? To carry that amount of equipment, ammunition and fuel would need a great number of very big aircraft, which would cost a great deal. Even then, at the last minute, a change in over-flying restrictions might leave us with the alternatives of intruding upon another country's air space against its wish or not carrying out our commitment.

Attention has been focussed upon this debate not only because it is the last clash before the General Election, but also by the extraordinary circumstance of the joint resignation of the senior Minister for the Navy and of the First Sea Lord. It is, I think, the first time in living memory that two such resignations have come together on a point of principle in opposition to the declared policy of the Government.

We all admired the gallant personal statement of the former Minister of Defence for the Navy, from which I propose to quote one sentence, with which, I think, both sides of the House will be in entire agreement. Speaking of minor operations, the hon. Gentleman said: Nor can we be sure that the minor operations which we undertake alone do not escalate…we do if they do escalate? Either we can withdraw and leave in the lurch those whom we have gone to help, which would be dishourable, or we can ask our troops to go on fighting…the resources necessary to enable them to get victory, which would be more dishourable still."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 261.] That principle was stated with regard to small incidents outside Europe, but I suggest that the same principle applies entirely to N.A.T.O., to Europe and to B.A.O.R. This country must never place our troops under an obligation to fight in circumstances in which we have not given them the equipment and material to enable them to win. In other words, we must not order them to fight when we have so neglected equipping them that they are certain to be defeated.

I turn now to a statement made by the Secretary of State for Defence on 16th December. He had been talking about the Soviet nuclear capacity, and he said: …we know that the Soviet Union has 735 medium-range ballistic missiles targeted at this moment on targets in Britain and on the Continental members of the Alliance, as well as thousands of smaller-yield, shorter-range nuclear weapons. By the latter, the right hon. Gentleman must have referred to what are sometimes called tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons.

Talking about B.A.O.R. the right hon. Gentleman went on to say: …these are facts, not theories: if both sides use tactical atomic weapons, we should need about 50 per cent. more men in N.A.T.O. in order to fight for more than a few days against the Soviet forces; but, if neither side use nuclear weapons…That would mean at least twice as many men as N.A.T.O. has at present"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 1592.] If those words are given their ordinary meaning, they prove that our forces in B.A.O.R., equipped as they are at present, cannot hold back an attack by Soviet forces for more than two or three days.

Of course, the same problem affects every N.A.T.O. nation involved in European defence. It affects all our allies, and our allies are meeting this problem in two ways. Some of them are increasing their conventional reserves; some of them are re-equipping with better tactical nuclear weapons. Some are doing both. We alone, as far as I am aware, of all the N.A.T.O. countries with any major defensive task in Europe, are doing neither. We are not only not increasing our reserves, but the Government's policy towards our major reserve, the Territorial Army, has had the effect of entirely disheartening and dispiriting it and therefore making it altogether less efficient.

Also, their policy, if carried out, will have one very serious effect. It will make it virtually impossible for this country to build up a large conventional force again, if that were to be required for any reason. A modern unit, be it a battalion, a regiment, or what you will, is an extremely complicated team of technicians who have not only to be individualy trained to a very high level but have to be brought to work together—like a football team or a great orchestra. If that is not done they will not be effective in battle.

The best way in which a new unit can be created is by forming a cadre from an existing unit, and the cadre has to have very high-class people, mostly recommended for promotion, and must include technicians and specialists in every skill which the unit has to have. Quite candidly, with our present commitments and with our present Regular force I do not believe there is in the British Army a single Regular unit which, with its present commitments, could throw off a cadre adequate to form a new unit. Of course, if we have four or five years something might be done but not in two or three years. It would take ten years to restore the Territorial Army to its present level.

The Territorial soldier is a well-trained soldier. One has only to remember 1938 when suddenly, the Territorial Army was ordered to double its size and the Territorial Army units had to be split. Those split Territorial units were fighting surprisingly soon and surprisingly well.

I am sorry that the Minister of Defence for the Army is not with us at the moment, for had he been I think he would have confirmed that a battery of Territorial artillery took part in a N.A.T.O. exercise last autumn when it astonished the regular forces of America, Germany, Turkey and other N.A.T.O. countries which had the utmost difficulty in believing that these Territorials were not regular soldiers. This unit, like many others, of our Territorial Army is quite up to the standard of training of the forces of some of our N.A.T.O. allies, whose armies consist, very largely, of short-term conscripts.

So, instead of doing as other of our allies are doing, instead of strengthening our reserves and building up our tactical nuclear capacity, this Government have done the reverse in both cases. I asked the Secretary of State for Defence about nuclear weapons for B.A.O.R. on 28th February. He told me they had three, the entirely obsolete Corporal which, he says, is being withdrawn this year without replacement, the Honest John, and the 8-inch howitzer, both almost as old as the Corporal, although the right hon. Gentleman says that they will continue in service into the 1970s. Long before that they will be quite the oldest and least battle-worthy tactical nuclear weapons in the whole of N.A.T.O. But we were going to have a new method of delivering a tactical nuclear weapon to protect B.A.O.R. That was one of the requirements for the TSR2, which was designed partly to fill that gap which the previous Government saw was going to occur.

The present Government have scrapped that new modern system of delivering a tactical nuclear weapon. They are scrapping the old Corporal not a day too soon, and B.A.O.R., of all the forces in N.A.T.O., is going to have to hang on with virtually no reserves and with these obsolescent methods of delivering tactical nuclear warheads which, incidentally, are American-owned and which we cannot use without their consent. The TSR2 would have had a British nuclear weapon which we should have been free to use without reference to the Americans. That is the position in which the British Government have put our troops in B.A.O.R.

There are other hon. Members who wish to speak. I do not wish to detain the House, because I have made my point. I just want to ask the Secretary of State for Defence to say whether the Government have any plan to introduce a new tactical nuclear weapon for the defence of B.A.O.R. on the lines which all our N.A.T.O. allies are advancing, or whether I am right in thinking that they are going to hope that these obsolescent weapons—Honest John and the howitzer—will continue to be battle-worthy into the 1970s, as was indicated to me in an Answer on 28th February.

If that be the case, then I say that the Government are doing exactly what the ex-Minister of Defence for the Navy said Britain must never do. They are asking our soldiers to fight without giving them the necessary resources to enable them to win. In other words, they are ordering them to fight in circumstances where the Secretary of State for Defence himself said they cannot possibly hold out for more than a few days. That is quite the most shocking admission that I, for one, have ever heard from the Government benches.

8.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I would not presume to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Sir Richard Glyn) to the full extent that I might, because I have never pursued a military career and could not challenge some of his propositions. However, as an engineer, I recognise straight away that the building up of a force quickly in this modern age is far more difficult to do than it was 50 years ago.

My only experience of the Army was obtained between 1912 and 1917. By 1917 I had become a bombardier in the school cadet corps of the Royal Horse Artillery. We had beautiful uniforms, some splendid Irish cobs, and some nice little field guns and limbers. We had a wonderful time during the First World War, and the only consolation that I had about the war ending when it did was that I was told that a subaltern's expectation of life in France was two and a half hours, and that, as a result of the war ending, I could hope to reach the age of 65, which I shall do in a short time.

That was my only experience of the war, but one thing that I have learned is that the technological development of engines of war has been such that there is no individual nation in Europe, including ourselves, with a wide enough industrial base to be able to engage in war as a sovereign nation. I believe that it is impossible. This is one reason why I hope that before many years have passed I shall see Britain merged into the Common Market. I want to see a united Europe by which we can defend our European civilisation from a European base.

I recognise that we have to take the F111 to fill a serious gap. I do not want to blame anyone for this decision, because I do not believe that our technological base is strong enough to enable us to equip modern armies. To think of competing with the Americans is out of the question. It is a pity that our co-operation with France did not begin 10 years ago. Had it done so, we might not today have had to take the F111. We might have had an Anglo-French service which could have sustained us.

I remember the arguments over the FN rifle and the Swedish anti-tank gun. Our industrial base is not large enough to meet all our needs. During the First World War our agricultural base was too narrow, and we nearly starved. During the last war our industrial base was too narrow, and we had to depend on land-lease. Europe must learn this lesson. If Germany, France, Britain, Belgium, Holland, Italy and the other nations of Europe are to have viable economies and are to be a strong defensive force against any outside force, from wherever it comes, they can achieve this only by unification. This is why I am so keen on Britain going into the Common Market.

I represent a constituency and live in a part of the country where shipbuilding is the major industry. The Navy is of great concern to us all who live near the Clyde. I suppose that no Britisher lives more than 100 miles from the sea. Our naval traditions go back over 1,000 years, and I suppose the Navy is in every man's blood. We would not be true to ourselves if we did not have some nostalgia for the Navy. During the 15 years that I have been in this House I have heard squabbles between the admirals and the brigadiers, but I am sure that in the smoking room afterwards they have all recognised the great service which the Navy provides.

I am shocked when I read Press reports and hear extracts from speeches in the House to the effect that, because we are not going to build this aircraft carrier, the Navy is finished. In his 1958 White Paper, and in his speech in the House on 26th February, the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) made it clear that aircraft carriers—which at that time, with their aircraft, would cost more than £100 million each; and they would cost a lot more now—could no longer fulfil the rôle that we would expect of them in any part of the world. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman still holds that view, but the Tory Party manifesto does not agree with him. Eight years ago the right hon. Gentleman said that the aircraft carrier was "cut". The Tory Party manifesto says that if the Tories are returned to power they will build it.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

If the hon. Gentleman looks into it more carefully, he will find that the context in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) was speaking was the hypothesis of the carrier as a base for the strategic bomber.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

That may be so. But I do not know how the concept of a carrier in the Far East could be any other today. I am surprised that, according to the Opposition, the situation has so changed from the day when the right hon. Member for Streatham could rule out carriers on grounds of the expenditure of £100 million. He said that it would be too expensive an instrument for the tactic for which it would be used. I do not think that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has added anything to the argument posed by the right hon. Member for Streatham with the statement that the Conservatives, if returned to power, will build a carrier.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that the discussion today is about a carrier not as a base for the launching of strategic bombers but as the means of having strike and interceptor aircraft.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

I presume, in the context in which it was discussed in 1958, that it could have been used for the same purpose then. Surely the carrier was ruled out then because of expense, no matter what purpose it was to be used for. It is easy to say that it would be built for a different purpose now, but I do not believe that that purpose will ever be necessary.

The defence agreement between the United States, Australia and New Zea- land is such that I do not believe that it will be necessary for us to provide a carrier for the Far East for strike purposes. If conditions arose calling for the use of such resources, I am sure that, as a result of the agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the United States, they too would be drawn in.

I do not believe that our shipbuilding or aircraft industries form a big enough base for such a concept. British industry is short of skilled men and technicians. We still have a deficiency in the balance of payments. On every side the cry goes up that we are not earning our living in the world. The more we put our energies into sustaining an industrial base designed to defend us against all possibilities of war, the more we weaken our capacity to build the technology and science that we need to earn our living.

I do not believe that we should live in the second half of the 20th century on the idea of indulging in military or naval or air research and development for military purposes, inheriting a sort of overspill from Europe in the process. That sort of thing happened in the past but it cannot be done today.

We must make a great drive forward in our civil industry. That is vital in order to sustain our standard of living. No one would like more than I to sustain a wonderful defence system to protect Britain. I am old enough to have a nostalgia for "Rule, Britannia" and all that. I can understand that romantic idea. But we cannot do it in the second part of this century. Our competitive position has been gravely weakened because we have tried to do too much. We have been too generous to our allies by making too big a contribution.

I feel that my country, which I love—I think most of us do—is making a contribution greater than in the past and I have reached the stage when I feel that that contribution is weakening our capacity to earn our living. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will hold the same position in the next five-year Parliament, because he is one of the best and most effective Secretaries of State for Defence that I have heard in the 15 years that I have been here. I hope that he will continue to ensure that, in our contribution to the defence of Western civilisation and culture—this is what is entailed: not just the defence of this island—in our defence White Papers in the years to follow, we shall make it clear to our friends that we will give them all we can in help and assistance, but that we shall not bankrupt ourselves in the process.

If we carry on and try to act defensively or to arm ourselves in the manner which we have done over more than 100 years, the diversion of our scientists and technologists into that work and away from our commercial industrial services will be such that we will not overcome the serious trade problems with which we are faced.

8.56 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Hay Mr John Hay , Henley

The debate which is now moving into its final stages is the last major clash—apart from any repercussions of the contretemps of the Minister of Works this afternoon—that we shall have in this Parliament. At this late stage, I do not want to detain the House with any detailed examination of the arguments on the White Paper, except to say that what is at stake between the two sides of the House is an entirely different concept of the problem of defence. I understand that the Government and the party which supports them take the view that defence should be regarded from the point of setting a target in cash and then making sure that the commitments and the equipment with which our Service men have to discharge those commitments are trimmed to fit.

On the other hand, we on this side take the view that we must look first at our commitments and make sure that our Service men have the equipment to discharge the obligations which are voluntarily assumed by the country or which have been imposed upon it by its geographical position, its history or its economic obligations.

I do not want to go over our various commitments. It has been apparent from the debate that the major part of our commitments is in the area east of Suez. This is not new: it has grown up over the years. That area is, of course, a highly expensive area in which to operate, and is a very long distance from this country. I believe that we are wrong—certainly the Government are wrong—to regard the discharge of our obligations and commitments in that part of the world as something which must be kept below a certain fixed ceiling.

It is a matter of record that our expenditure on defence during the past 10 years or so has fluctuated between 8 per cent. and 6½ per cent. of the gross national product, but what has not been said in the debate is the extent to which the gross national product itself, of which defence spending is a percentage, has grown. In 1951, the gross national product of this country was £13,000 million; in 1964, it was £29,000 million. If one assumes that the share of the G.N.P. taken by defence is an average of about 7 per cent.—in fact, in the last year of Conservative Administration it was substantially less—that works out at about 14s. 3d. per person a week. Yet every person, statistically, spends approximately 18s. 1d. per week on drink and tobacco. I therefore hope that even at this late stage I may put these figures to the House to indicate that the whole question of defence spending and whether we adjust it up or down by a fraction of a percentage should be kept very much in perspective.

I wish that I had had the opportunity of speaking earlier because I should have liked to say a good deal about the major decision of the Defence White Paper—the decision not to proceed with the building of the new aircraft carrier. In his resignation speech the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) set out very fully the various reasons why this country in the years ahead must have the flexibility and the strike ability and the protective ability for the remainder of the Fleet which only an aircraft carrier force can provide.

In that speech he pointed out to the House how the alternative of land bases is not a suitable and satisfactory substitute. No mention has been made in the debate—I do not know whether the Secretary of State will deal with it in his winding-up speech—about the cost which the Government propose to incur in respect of providing the bases from which the air strike of the F111As will be deployed. We should very much like to know how much the Government will have to spend in the years ahead to do the job which would be done by the carrier force which they are murdering.

I deprecate very much the Government's decision about the aircraft carrier, not least because I am certain that the effect upon the morale of the Fleet Air Arm will be very bad indeed. It is all very well for the Secretary of State to say, as he said yesterday, that the motto for the Fleet Air Arm henceforth will be "Business as usual." Does he have any conception whatever of the conditions under which members of the Fleet Air Arm work and live in the aircraft carriers east of Suez? If he does, he should understand that, with no future ahead of them except a slow lingering death by 1975 or thereabouts, many, if not most, of these able young men will put up with these conditions no longer. They will not see their future relegated to the realm of helicopter ferry pilots. They want to see a Navy of which they are proud having an important rôle in the years ahead.

May I ask a question about the Admiralty Board? The hon. Member for Woolwich, East resigned and the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir David Luce, felt obliged to retire prematurely at great personal expense and loss. But the hon. Member who now occupies the post of Minister to the Navy is here, and I ask what was the view of the remainder of the Board of Admiralty. We have had no indication whatever why the hon. Member himself decided to remain in office. If he were privy to all the decisions and the arguments, I should have thought that he would have resigned with his political chief. Instead of that, he remains in office and moves up to the first position of Minister for the Navy. I hope that in his winding-up speech the Secretary of State will tell us what was the view about this of the remainder of the Admiralty Board. With so grave a decision having been taken, one would perhaps have expected that the whole of the Admiralty Board would resign. In fact they did not. I can understand that the Service members felt that they had a duty to discharge, but I should like to know about the position of the hon. Member who is now Minister for the Navy.

Photo of Mr Joseph Mallalieu Mr Joseph Mallalieu , Huddersfield East

Like every other member of the Navy Board, I put the single Service case for carriers as hard as I could, along with the Minister who was my predecessor. But I take the view that these decisions cannot be taken on a single Service basis. The whole point of having a Minister of Defence is that this should be decided on a national basis. It has been done, I accept the decision, and so does the Navy.

Photo of Mr John Hay Mr John Hay , Henley

The Minister has expressed his point of view, but it is one with which I could not agree. Fortunately, he need not put up with it for very long because I have no doubt that he will not be in that position for long. And when, after 31st March, we form a Government again, I assure the nation and the Navy that, having ordered all the long-lead items for the aircraft carrier, we can reverse this decision and put right the grievous wrong that has been done.

9.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

The debate has been taking place on an Opposition Motion regretting …that Her Majesty's Government have announced decisions in the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1966…which will impair the ability of our forces to carry out the duties required of them. Having listened to the debate these two days, I feel that the Motion should commend itself to the House in general. I certainly hope that it will commend itself to the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), because the impairing of "the ability of our forces to carry out the duties required of them" was, I think, the main theme of the statement which he recently made to the House. I hope, therefore, that we shall have his support. Certainly the charge that "the ability of our forces to carry out the duties required of them" has been impaired has not been answered by any Minister who has so far taken part in the debate. The Foreign Secretary made a rather perfunctory speech this afternoon, and the Secretary of State for Defence made a rather frivolous one yesterday. Neither of them endeavoured to reply to this fundamental criticism that the decisions which the Government have taken and announced and the decisions which they have taken and apparently not announced together are impairing "the ability of our forces to carry out the duties required of them". The Foreign Secretary gave a review of our commitments. I agreed with much of what he said. He rightly stressed the importance of N.A.T.O., and I particularly agreed with him about the importance of maintaining the integrated command structure of N.A.T.O. Over the next few years this is going to be of the greatest importance. There are threats to N.A.T.O. which we must recognise, and they must be combated.

It will be generally agreed that the structure of N.A.T.O. must be changed, because in the years since it was first formed there have been two basic changes; first, there has been a change in the relative economic strength of the European and North American partners to the Alliance, which should be recognised in the shape and form of the Alliance, and, secondly—but no less important—the threat to the Western world, which has been contained in Europe largely by reason of the existence of N.A.T.O., has shifted from Europe to Asia. It will, I believe, be generally agreed that this shift in the area of threat should be recognised in the structure of the Alliance and in the contribution which the various allied countries make to the well-being, health and strength of our Alliance.

To that extent, I agreed with what the Foreign Secretary said. Where I did not agree—where I fundamentally disagree with him and his colleagues—is on the question of Aden, which was raised today most strongly and eloquently by my right hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. J. Amery), my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) and my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher). I say seriously to the Foreign Secretary that he is totally underestimating the effect on British interests of the announcement made about Aden in the White Paper.

I speak with a little personal knowledge of this subject. I was in the Middle East when the White Paper appeared, and I can tell the Foreign Secretary without any doubt at all that this announcement of our withdrawal of our forces from Aden caused alarm to our friends there and caused joy to those who are less friendly. This announcement cast serious doubt on our ability—and, more important, on our willingness—to maintain our commitments to support and help our friends in the Middle East. A Government spokesman in this debate has rightly emphasised how important it is for us to maintain our position in, for example, the Gulf, but when we make this announcement about Aden in the way we did we cannot fail to undermine our own position in that part of the world.

It is really no good talking of building up forces in Bahrein as an alternative—no good at all. The base in Aden, the facilities there, the stocks there, have enabled us to operate when necessary and highly desirable in the national interest in Muscat, Kuwait and East Africa, at the request of people there and in the interests of this country. We cannot possibly hope to do the same things from a base in Bahrein. This, surely, is a military fact that cannot be overlooked.

The second point is that the threat to our interests in the Gulf is not purely military but political as well, and signs of weakness, signs of hesitation, signs of running away from commitments—above all—on the part of Her Majesty's Government are bound to undermine our position in the Gulf. That has already taken place. We find proof of this in the first reaction from Cairo. Cairo Radio straightaway said: "We've won. We said the British would go from Aden, and now we have won." All the people I have met in the Middle East during the last week or so have asked, "Do you realise what a propaganda weapon your Government have given Cairo Nationalists?"

The second reaction was that Nasser announced that he would stay in the Yemen until 1968—just at a time when his aggression there had been brought to a standstill, and when there was a real hope of settlement there, and a real hope, throughout the Middle East, I am quite certain, of an Egyptian withdrawal from the Yemen. All this has been brought to an end immediately, clearly and definitely, by the Government's White Paper and their announcement on Aden.

More serious, possibly, than that is the breach of the undertaking given. This subject has been mentioned once or twice, and I hope that it will be answered by the Minister this evening—because I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that his answer yesterday was wholly inadequate. At the Conference held in 1964 with the Federation of Southern Arabia, the following agreement was reached. The White Paper—Cmnd. 2414—states: The delegates asked that Britain should agree to independence for the Federation, while continuing thereafter to assist in its defence. They requested that as soon as practicable the British Government should convene a conference for the purposes of fixing a date for independence not later than 1968, and of concluding a Defence Agreement under which Britain would retain her military base in Aden for the defence of the Federation and the fulfilment of her world-wide responsibilities. The Secretary of State announced the agreement of the British Government to this request. Nothing could be more clear, nothing could be more definite. And it is this commitment from which the Government are now attempting to resile.

The Secretary of State made a miserable attempt to deal with this problem. Of course, he did not really understand it anyhow; he had to explain that in a statement some days ago in the House. He tried to explain it on two grounds. The first was that the only commitment of Britain was to convene a conference. This was a quibble wholly unworthy of a British Cabinet Minister. If our commitment was only to convene a conference and the conference failed, what has happened to independence? Is that on? No date for independence? I am sure the Minister himself knows perfectly well that the argument was unworthy of him and was wholly incapable of carrying any conviction whatever.

Secondly, he asked, "Would we, the Opposition, remain in Aden against the wishes of the local people?" That is the reddest of red herrings. The point is that they want us to stay there and we are committed to stay there if they want us. The answer given by his colleagues shows that the Federation of Southern Arabia is asking us to stay to defend them. This Government have unilaterally announced Britain's determination to disappear from Aden willy-nilly in 1968, wholly regardless of the commitments we have made. I say, therefore, that the change the Government have made in their policy towards Aden is a breaking of Britain's pledges and a damage to British interests throughout the Middle East which will have far-reaching and very serious consequences indeed.

I turn now to the actual defence proposals. I think the major error the Government have made is to fix a ceiling of expenditure for a particular year, and to fix it definitely and to hold to it as if it were the Ark of the Covenant. This has been well described a little while ago when it was said that: …it is not our defence needs that are directing our defence policy. In the main, it is cost. It is money and economics. It has been emphasised everywhere that if one is directing one's policy according to one's purse it is almost certain that the policy will be wrong."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 315.] That was said a little time ago by the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. I think that for once he was right.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Mr Robert Maxwell Mr Robert Maxwell , Buckingham

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

The right hon. Gentleman has given way. I hope the House will allow the hon. Member to speak.

Photo of Mr Robert Maxwell Mr Robert Maxwell , Buckingham

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Since the former Administration did not fix a ceiling on expenditure and its policies were a failure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—why does the right hon. Gentleman now object when this Administration say that we must fix our defence expenditure equal to the amount that we as a country can afford?

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

I thought I was quite safe in giving way to the hon. Member. It is quite wrong either to say that economics can put a limited and definite ceiling on defence expenditure or to say that defence expenditure must be met regardless of the economic consequences. We must have balance in these matters, precisely what the party opposite is failing to do. It is very sensible to set a target as we set a target on defence expenditure. [An HON. MEMBER: "And never met it"] We never met it? We reduced year by year the percentage spent on defence. The Chancellor has spoken about the runaway train and runaway defence expenditure—

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

The Prime Minister says "hear, hear". He has not been in this debate and does not know what it is all about. Does he realise that for several years past under Conservative Government the percentage of the national product spent on defence has been going steadily down? He does not realise; he is asking.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I realise that the then Conservative Prime Minister in 1956 talked about reducing military expenditure by £700 million, but two years later they set a target which, if they had remained in office, would have been exceeded by £900 million.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

That is a pretty poor one even before a General Election. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] The fact, which the Prime Minister made no attempt to deny, is that under the Conservative Government the proportion of national income spent on defence was going down. The right hon. Gentleman does not try to deny it, because he dare not. It is true.

This Government set themselves a target of reducing expenditure on defence by the equivalent of £400 million in real terms in 1969–70, and the mistake which I think they have made and which has become quite apparent recently is, first, in fixing such a rigid target and, second, in applying it to a particular year. The result has been, firstly, that the savings which they claim are to a large extent illusory, and, secondly, that the results of the savings which they have made have been to damage our forces, to impair their efficiency and to deal a very serious blow to the British aircraft industry. These are the consequences of their policy.

Let us look at the £400 million savings which the Secretary of State tells us about. I hope that in winding up the debate tonight he will specify how this total of £400 million is arrived at. He has not done so so far. He produced £220 on 5th August, and for the remaining £180 million—

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

£80 million on the carrier.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

Perhaps the remaining £100 million will come in the right hon. Gentleman's next speech.

On these figures, the biggest saving which he claimed in his August statement was the buying of American instead of British aircraft. I have to say frankly that we do not accept the Government's figures. They have been weaving a cocoon of figures. This is the whole problem. My right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. C. Carr) made it quite clear that in the case of the F111A the only saving is about £10 million or £11 million a year, which by coincidence is exactly the same amount as the additional cost of the Civil Service since the Government came into power. The dollar cost is a very serious matter. The Defence Review says: We have taken steps to ensure that the foreign exchange cost of the F111A will be fully offset by the sales of British equipment. I do not believe that a more inaccurate statement has ever been contained in a Government Paper. It is absolute nonsense. In the Statement it is said that the offsetting of this cost, which I think is 725 million dollars, will arise when British firms will be able to compete without discrimination. They will have the opportunity to tender for the construction of naval auxiliaries to the value of some 50 million dollars". Is this ensuring the payment?

The whole gaff was blown yesterday by the Minister of Aviation. He gave the whole show away. He said that the total dollar cost over the period would be 725 million dollars and he added: …we have the argument of the United States that it will over the period buy directly British equipment to the value of 325 million dollars…"— That is completely in conflict with the White Paper. One says that British firms will be able to tender, and the other says that the United States Government have guaranteed to buy 325 million dollars worth. Which is right? I hope that the Secretary of State can tell us. The other 400 million dollars will apparently arise from American co-operation with us in sales to third countries, at least of a kind similar to that we have recently arranged with Saudi Arabia…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1861.] The offsetting of 725 million dollars of American aircraft purchases can be done only if we sell an additional 725 million dollars' worth of British equipment which we would not otherwise have sold. The sale to Saudi Arabia of 400 million dollars' worth is a great triumph of a British industry in competition with the Americans, not co-operation with them. We will sell British aircraft across the world if they are what the world wants at: prices the world will pay, and no amount of American co-operation will make any difference. The argument of right hon. Gentlemen opposite is the most bogus I have ever heard, even from the present Government. I must ask the Sectary of State in his reply to make it absolutely clear how he can justify the statement that we have taken steps to ensure that the foreign exchange cost of the F111A will be fully offset by sales of British equipment. In other words, he must show that 725 million dollars' worth of British equipment will be sold abroad which would not otherwise have been sold. He has not got a chance of proving that.

In his other economies in August there was the cut of the fifth Polaris submarine, offset, I would guess, by putting into the programme of additional hunter-killers. I do not know how much the offset is. There was also £20 million on the Territorial Army, and already part of that has been eroded. How much more will be eroded before the election campaign is over we do not know. Then there was £35 million which he would save through rephasing; as he said, very honestly, the sort of thing which happens in any year. Finally, he was to save £20 million by not paying for the American aircraft which are to be delivered in the year. This is a very strange form of economy. He will merely pay more interest and someone else will be allowed some years later to pay for them—it will not be him, but that, of course, is another matter.

So much for the £220 million of economies. What about the remaining £180 million? This is a matter on which the House is entitled to a very clear and definite statement from the right hon. Gentleman. How is this £180 million reached? The right hon. Gentleman said yesterday rather casually that £80 million would come from the ending of the carrier programme. Surely he will specify how that £80 million is reached. What is involved? What are the other economies?

In his statement the other day, the hon. Member for Woolwich, East said quite clearly that other cuts had been planned by the Government in the Defence Estimates which were not included in the Defence Review. What are they? Do they amount to £100 million? The hon. Member for Woolwich, East knows what they are and the Secretary of State knows what they are. Why should not the House know what they are?

What is the right hon. Gentleman's forecast of manpower? In August he was saying that to reach the total of economies which he had in mind there must be a smaller total of manpower in the Services. Yesterday he said the opposite. Yesterday he made it quite clear that any reductions in manpower in some parts of the world would be compensated be additional availability in manpower in the home reserves or elsewhere. Which is true? In August he said that there would be less manpower and yesterday he said that there would be no less manpower. What is the figure on which the Government are working and what targets do they have for the strength of our Forces in 1969–70?

The more one looks at these economies of £400 million the more apparent it is that the first £220 million of economies which were announced are bogus and the more it is apparent that the Government are unwilling in any way to disclose the effect on our Services and our defence of the further economies which they are planning but which are not included in their Defence Review.

The question of the carriers is, of course, a major issue in a debate of this kind, and I hope that the Secretary of State will today answer the arguments about the non-availability of carriers which have been put forward from many sources. There was the argument very cogently put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Powell) about the need to maintain over ships at sea, or ships on offensive operations, continuous, intimate and effective air cover, which can be done only over a relatively small area by aircraft operating from shore bases.

There are many points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East in his statement. He gave four major reasons why carriers are essential for operations east of Suez. If the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with my right hon. Friend, and with his right hon. Friend, perhaps he may agree with the Prime Minister, who said in his speech at Plymouth during the election—[Interruption.] I wonder if he is going to go back to Plymouth this time. He dilated about the importance of the aircraft carriers and what a pity it was that we did not have more of them. He promised a big, expanding naval building programme. I hope the Secretary of State will answer the Prime Minister if he will not answer his own colleague or my right hon. Friend.

Turning to the F111s. There are to be 50. What are those 50 to be used for? About ten of that 50 are to be for training anyway. What is the rate of obsolescence, the rate of write-off? How can this force of 50 aircraft begin to perform the tasks that the staffs have envisaged in the past will need 100 to 150 aircraft? Where will they operate from? How will one get the sophisticated electronic and radar environment which is quite essential for the operation of modern aircraft of this kind?

The Secretary of State has not begun to explain, but he must explain how this force of 50 aircraft will operate, how it will be credible in modern circumstances. What is intended for the variable geometry aircraft? We learn now it is to replace the Lightning, the Phantom and the V-bomber. It really is a most remarkable aircraft if it can perform all of those functions at the same time. What about the successor to the C130 or the future of the airborne early warning aircraft? What about the new helicopter programme? None of these things have been mentioned during this debate, yet the Government are asked to reply to a Motion which says quite clearly that the effect of their policy is to impair the ability of our forces to carry out the duties imposed upon them. There has been no attempt whatever to reply to that argument.

This is the last major debate of this Parliament, so it might not be inappropriate to finish up with one or two references to the election plans of the party opposite in this matter of defence. Last time they said that they would embark upon a new initiative in the realm of disarmament. What has happened? We have a Minister of Disarmament, an admirable man, and one can say fairly of the noble Lord that the only disarming thing about him is his personal manner. He has achieved nothing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap"]

We were told that the hon. Members were going to abandon nuclear weapons. The Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy was very strong about having nothing to do with nuclear weapons. This has not happened. We still have the deterrent and we still have the independent deterrent. They have no chance of internationalising it with the A.N.F. in Europe. Who they are going to internationalise it with east of Suez I cannot imagine. We were told that they were going to place emphasis on building up the conventional forces, and on more naval building. Exactly the opposite has happened. All of these things were said about disarmament at the election, about nuclear weapons and about conventional forces. The whole way through the performance of this Government has been precisely the opposite of what they led the electorate to expect in this matter as in all other questions. That is why I move.

9.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I hope that the House will give me leave to speak again, because I have been asked a large number of questions both from the Front and back benches of the party opposite, and I would like to reply to as many as I can. Inevitably the debate has been influenced by the knowledge of an impending election, and a number of party points have been made on both sides. I do not complain about that. I thought that we had a first-rate knockabout speech from the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), and I imagine that after the election many of his hon. and right hon. Friends will be putting up the sticker: "Don't blame me, I voted Maudling."

It is worthwhile, if we are to treat this problem with the seriousness it deserves—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—to remind ourselves that we are discussing the most vital element in our national life, the key not only to our foreign policy, but perhaps to our survival and to that of the world as a whole. In deciding, as we have been deciding in the Defence Review, how our forces are to be organised and equipped in the 1970s, we have to try to look 10 or 20 years ahead. I do not deny to the House that this is a difficult and chancy business. May I take just two examples. In 10 years, China will have a population of 1,000 million, and probably a massive nuclear capability. But none of us can say today what will be China's relations with ourselves, with the United States or with the Soviet Union.

Take a major problem for Britain in defence and foreign policy—Indonesia. This country has become a major military Power in the short space of three years through the supply by the Soviet Union of items of equipment which are more advanced than any we possess. But we cannot be sure whether the Soviet Union will continue to supply Indonesia with this type of equipment, and we cannot be sure what Indonesia's policy will be towards us or her neighbours in 10 years. Yet some decisions must be taken by a Government, and by this Government now, whatever ceiling of defence expenditure is decided on, if we are to have forces appropriate to support any rôle by Britain in the world in 10 years' time.

The Foreign Secretary today gave a general account, and was quite honest about the uncertainties in his account, of how we on this side of the House see Britain's rôle in the world in the 1970s and the part which armed force should play in supporting that rôle. The only thing which I would add to his account is that the Government recognise the capital importance for Britain of organising very much closer co-operation with the Commonwealth overseas in defence than we succeeded in organising at any time in the last 15 years. I hope that the Opposition, or most Members opposite at any rate, will welcome the progress made by Her Majesty's Government in the talks which have recently been taking place in Canberra with the Australian and New Zealand Governments in this field.

Against this background of the rôle which Britain has to perform, I have to work out with my colleagues what sort of military operations are likely to make political sense in the 1970s, and then I have to work out with my advisers in the Ministry of Defence what sort of forces and weapons will be appropriate for those operations. I can do so only if I try to make a detailed picture of specific operations in specific places against specific enemies armed with specific weapons. I confess that this is itself an extremely difficult and chancy business, but there is no other way to get value for money. If we are not to spend more than we can afford and get less than we need and fail to play as large a rôle as we could and should in world affairs, we must tackle the defence problem of forces and equipment in this way.

I think that one of the differences between the Government and many who have criticised them during this debate is that many people, quite rightly, have great feeling and strong emotions about certain types of military units and about certain weapons, be it the carrier or F111A aircraft. But no Government with any sense of responsibility to the British people can afford to treat any weapon or type of unit as a sacred cow.

We must always test the value of a particular weapon or unit against whether any operational situation is likely to arise in which it will be indispensable. If such situations are unlikely or can be avoided, that weapon or type of force is not good value for money. This means a fundamental change in many of the habits which have been common in Governments of all parties in the past in deciding upon weapons. It means, for example, that we must give up the idea that the right weapon is always the best which the state of the art can produce at any particular time.

We were criticised earlier in the debate for cancelling the HS681. That aircraft, when finally produced, would have had a remarkable short take-off and landing performance. The fact is, however, that when one looks specifically at the operations which might have to be carried out, one finds that airfields have been multiplying like rabbits all round the world, and that one does not need this type of capability. One can, therefore, afford to buy three aircraft for the price of one HS681 and get those aircraft five years earlier than we would have got the HS681. I ask the right hon. Member for Barnet, because I know that he takes these problems seriously, to recognise that, by buying the Hercules transport aircraft, we have enormously increased the capability of the Royal Air Force in a way which could not have been done or afforded if we had kept to the programme of the previous Administration.

The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) made a thoughtful and moderate speech this afternoon in which he dealt mainly with the further aircraft decisions which have since been taken. I will try to answer some of the points that were made by the right hon. Gentleman and which have been repeated by the right hon. Member for Barnet.

I was grateful for the kind words of the right hon. Member for Mitcham about the enormous increase in the amount of information about aircraft performance, price and numbers which the present Government have given in their White Paper this year. This is the first year in which the House has been given any figures of performance, price or numbers of future military combat aircraft. It has made the argument a great deal more worthwhile and relevant, and I shall try to increase the amount of information which is given to the House in future.

A great deal of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was based, however, upon a genuine misunderstanding about the enormous increase in performance and flexibility, particularly range and pay-load, which is offered by the next generation of aircraft which we are now buying. It is a fact that the next generation of aircraft like the F111A, the Phantom and the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft will be able to fulfil a much larger number of rôles than any of their predecessors. This means that it is no longer possible to talk about one of the new aircraft as simply a replacement for one existing aircraft. It can be a replacement, not for one, but for three or even four.

The Phantom, which the last Government decided to buy for dollars and without getting any offset agreement with the United States when that decision was made, is an aircraft with a superb performance as a fighter-interceptor, as a strike aircraft and in ground support. Let me tell the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) that the Phantom aircraft can give ground support to troops operating 200 miles away from its base with a very substantial continuous air patrol capability—not, as the right hon. Gentleman tried to suggest yesterday, simply across the Thames or across the Channel.

Like the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) I participated in several combined operations during the last world war. With the Phantom, it would have been possible to give support to the landing at Salerno from bases in Sicily or North Africa. For that reason and, because of the enormous capability of the F111 aircraft in range and payload, we concluded that many of the features which made the carrier indispensable in the past made it no longer so indispensable now.

A word about the F111A and the number we are buying. The first question we had to decide when we tried to form an estimate of what our military tasks would be in the 1970s was whether we needed an aircraft at all with the degree of sophistication of the TSR2 or the F111A. We decided we must have some—not, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mitcham suggested this afternoon, simply as a contribution to an integrated allied force, although, indeed, they would be particularly useful in this capacity since both our major allies in the Far East, Australia and the United States, are also to be equipped with the F111A—but essentially as a conventional deterrent against intervention by others in peacekeeping tasks which we were carrying out. In the reconnaissance rôle the F111A can give us early warning of an enemy's intentions, and the importance of that was well illustrated by the fact that warning of the military build-up in Cyprus two years ago was achieved by aerial reconnaissance and the Americans' warning of the Russian missile build-up in Cuba was achieved in the same way. This is the first requirement—reconnaissance. The other requirement—the strike rôle—is to deter the enemy's intervention by ensuring he knows we have the capability, if needed, to destroy his offensive forces.

But the question was, how many, with these peculiarly sophisticated capabilities, with vastly supersonic speed at high level, with supersonic speed at ground level and with a sophisticated nav-attack system, we were likely to need in the part of the world where we might face this type of problem, namely, the Far East. We came to the conclusion that we did not need the 158 aircraft—the TSR2—which were in the programme of the last Government and which would have cost £1,200 million and that we could manage with 50 F111A at £280 million. I am talking now about what is called the functional cost over 10 years; namely, the whole of the production, research, and development costs, spares, servicing and operation. We came to the conclusion that we could use the V-bombers for strike against less well defended or less distant targets. We concluded this on the basis of the most careful working out of specific scenarios of conflict in specific areas, which is the only way in which one can these days manage to calculate these requirements accurately.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

In dealing with the cost of this aircraft would the right hon. Gentleman say what the overall cost of the three different American types will be over 10 years with spares?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I will see how far I can get with that later on, but I must be allowed to make my own speech in my own way. I shall spend my speech largely answering questions which have been asked.

A number of questions were asked, and also by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Barnet about where these aircraft will be based. Essentially, most of these aircraft will be based in Singapore. We intend putting our main bases in the Far East so long as we are able to retain them on conditions which are acceptable to us. If we are required to leave Singapore—if it does not make sense to stay there—then, of course, we shall keep them in Australia. We shall also keep some Fills in Britain, partly for training, and partly in order to be able to rotate their aircrew properly. But I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that, in addition to the main base where these Fills will be kept in the Far East, we shall also have minor bases in Bahrain, Masirah and in Gan, and if we are working with the Australians, in Darwin and the Cocos, which will give us extraordinarily wide coverage of the whole Middle East and Southern Asia and East Africa. In addition to that, since these aircraft have an extremely good short take-off performance from rough airfields, there are very few parts of the world through which we would not be able to stage and from which we would not be able to operate them in case of need.

I want now to say a word or two about the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft.

Photo of Mr Enoch Powell Mr Enoch Powell , Wolverhampton South West

Before leaving the F111A and the question of a purchase limited to 50, could the right hon. Gentleman indicate upon what annual wastage he is working in forecasting his requirements?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I cannot indicate that. What I can tell the right hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] I am being asked questions by the Opposition to which they always refused to provide answers when they were in power. I am trying to answer those questions so far as I think it is wise to do so in the interests of the security of our forces.

These aircraft will enable us to maintain three or four squadrons, depending on how we propose to operate them. Of the 50, there will be three or four squadrons, and half of them will be able to operate for reconnaissance, if we so wish, and it will only take six hours to put a reconnaissance pod into an aircraft which is otherwise required for strike.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Please let me get on. [Interruption.] I was interrupted 40 times in my speech yesterday, and I do not propose to be deflected from answering questions which have been put to me by further interruptions tonight.

Turning to the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft, on which I was asked many questions, that can be used both for interception and for strike. But the best indication that I can give of its performance is that, although it will weigh only about half as much as the F111A—not one-fifth, as the right hon. Gentleman said yesterday—it will have three-quarters of the range with its maximum payload. Again, for obvious reasons, I cannot go into more detail on the exact range and payload.

Now I pass to the issue which has been the main one in the debate, the question of the carrier programme. One hon. Member reminded us today that the Prime Minister said two years ago that our carrier force was overstretched. He was right. But at that time we had a force of five carriers. Today we have a force of four, which will reduce very shortly to three, and it will be inoperable altogether by 1975 unless we build one new aircraft carrier.

I ask the House to face the facts on the carrier programme. Three carriers are all that we can afford through the 1970s, and, as I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman is not proposing that we should have a force of more than three. He is proposing to build one new carrier. In fact, the Navy could not man more than four carriers in the 1970s—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense"] That is the view of the Admiralty Board. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] It is the view of the Admiralty Board that we cannot man more than four carriers in the 1970s.

It appears that very few right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken the trouble to reflect on what I said yesterday. I pointed out that the operational performance that one gets from a three-carrier fleet in the Far East, which is the only part of the world where it is necessary even under existing conditions, is very limited indeed. But the cost is enormous. The strike capability of one of the carriers, which will be the only carrier in the Far East for some of the time, is only seven Buccaneers—the equivalent of three F111As. But the cost of the force is £140 million a year.

All that the Opposition are suggesting is that they would build one more carrier, but that would only extend the life of the force by five years to 1980. It would cost £500 million extra over the next 10 years, and would only give us any operational return from 1973 to 1975.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

No. I was asked several questions—

Photo of Dr Wyndham Davies Dr Wyndham Davies , Birmingham, Perry Barr

Will the right hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Member should know by now that if the hon. Member who has the Floor does not give way the hon. Member who wishes to intervene must resume his seat.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. If the hon. Gentleman cannot contain himself, I shall have to ask him to leave the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I was asked several questions today and also by the right hon. Gentleman yesterday, about what provision the Government were making to increase our conventional capability. Let me reply to that. First, the Royal Navy is getting a tremendous new range of ships. I listed them in my speech yesterday, and, indeed, they are in the White Paper. The Royal Air Force is getting the largest injection of new aircraft that it has had for about 15 years. The Army is getting the Chieftain, new artillery, new armoured personnel carriers, lightweight rifles and equipment for the Far East; and, to answer the right hon. Gentleman, it now has 180 helicopters, which will increase to 300 in the next two years.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The figures for this were given in a reply to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden), and if the right hon. Gentleman takes the trouble to read that Answer, he will see what nonsense he is talking.

When our tasks are reduced as we have planned to reduce them, these forces will be able to do all the jobs that we shall retain, without the overstretch from which our forces have been suffering in recent years. To summarise the capability of our forces, we shall be able to carry out all our treaty commitments, particularly those for N.A.T.O., CENTO and S.E.A.T.O. To answer my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas), we shall be able to carry out a large range of peace-keeping tasks like that in East Africa two years ago, entirely on our own, while maintaining a powerful deterrent against intervention by others while we are carrying them out, and we shall also be able to make a powerful contribution to allied operations if we so decide.

The House cannot complain that we have not given it a clear picture of our capability and our tasks, but the Opposition has given us no picture whatever of what they think we ought to do, or what forces we should have to do it with, or what they will cost. It was staggering to me that the Opposition should have chosen to put up the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West and the right hon. Member for Mitcham to cover exactly the same ground in two speeches last night and this afternoon, but to put up nobody to talk about Britain's rôle in the world and our defence forces in the Far East.

When the Opposition asked for this debate, we hoped and expected that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) would spell out what he meant by the speech he made at Brighton, what the answers were that he thought were implied by his question; but all that we got from him was a carefully ambiguous statement about the Opposition's intentions on Aden and Chauvinistic anti-American propaganda, which is the only consistent thing in the right hon. Gentleman's defence policy since I first discussed it with him in 1954, when he was in favour of leaving N.A.T.O. and concentrating on helping the French in Indo-China.

Photo of Mr Reginald Maudling Mr Reginald Maudling , Barnet

Before the right hon. Gentleman finishes talking about Government policy, will he answer the important question about the £100 million of additional defence cuts not specified in the White Paper?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I will. All the cuts that we make in tasks except in the Far East will not lead to any reduction in the total amount of equipment or manpower that we have in the Forces; but, as I indicated yesterday, we plan, when confrontation is brought to an end—and I agree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman recently on this—that it must be a major objective to reduce the level of our forces in the Far East to that once planned by the previous Government before confrontation began; when we are able to reduce our deployment in the Far East to that level—we shall make further reductions in equipment and manpower which will save the additional £100 million. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot at the same time tell us that it is impossible to take any decisions about the size or equipment of our forces in ten years' time and ask us to define in public precisely how we expect the size of our forces and their equipment to develop. I confess frankly, that although we know precisely how we plan to cut our tasks, we cannot be certain that we shall succeed. Nor could any Government be certain.

I will give the House an example. The previous Government planned their defence policy in 1962 on a concept of intervention which will be familiar to the many ex-Defence Ministers opposite. But, in fact, that concept did not foresee the fact that we would be engaged in operations in South Arabia, Malaysia and Cyprus in 1965. We believe that it is essential to leave some scope for a variety of possible adjustments in our Forces. The additional saving of £100 million represents only 4 per cent. of the total budget—4 per cent. of our total capability.

Let me now turn to the position taken up by the Opposition.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

We have had nothing about policy from the right hon. and hon. Members opposite. We have had no indication of what their planned expenditure would be. [Interruption.]

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. This has been an orderly debate so far. I hope that the Opposition will give the Front Bench of the Government the same attention that was given its own speaker.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Mr. Ted Lead bitter:

Chuck him out.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I know that the Opposition do not want to hear this, but the country will. We have had no indication of what they would spend on defence in the 1970s. [Interruption.] But we have heard that they would build a new aircraft carrier. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Emanuel Shinwell Mr Emanuel Shinwell , Easington

And the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) wants to be Prime Minister.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Both sides of the House are letting themselves down.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

A new carrier would cost £500 million over the next ten years. In other words, over the next five years it would cost the whole of the £250 million that the right hon. Gentleman said his new manifesto proposals would add

to taxes. The defence proposals alone of the Opposition would cost four times as much as the cost they attribute to the 131 items of expenditures they have put forward in their manifesto. I ask the House to reject the Motion.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Mr. William Whitelaw (Penrith and The Border) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put. [Interruption.]

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. From now on any demonstration is against the Chair.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly:—

The House divided: Ayes 283, Noes 297.

Division No. 39.]AYES[10.0 p.m.
Agnew, Commander Sir PeterCooper-Key, Sir NeillGurden, Harold
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Cordle, JohnHall, John (Wycombe)
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Corfield, F. V.Hall-Davis, A. G. F.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Costain, A. P.Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)
Amery, Rt. Hn. JulianCourtney, Cdr. AnthonyHamilton, M. (Salisbury)
Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)
Astor, JohnCrawley, AidanHarris, Reader (Heston)
Atkins, HumphreyCrosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir OliverHarrison, Brian (Maldon)
Awdry, DanielCrowder, F. P.Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)
Baker, W. H. K.Cunningham, Sir KnoxHarvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)
Balniel, LordCurran, CharlesHarvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyCurrie, G. B. H.Harvey Anderson, Miss
Barlow, Sir JohnDalkeith, Earl ofHastings, Stephen
Batsford, BrianDance, JamesHawkins, Paul
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonDavies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)Hay, John
Bell, Ronaldd'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Dean, PaulHeath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.Hendry, Forbes
Berkeley, HumphryDodds-Parker, DouglasHiggins, Terence L.
Berry, Hn. AnthonyDoughty, CharlesHiley, Joseph
Biffen, JohnDouglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir AlecHill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)
Biggs-Davison, Johndu Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHirst, Geoffrey
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelEden, Sir JohnHobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Black, Sir CyrilElliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Blaker, PeterEmery, PeterHopkins, Alan
Bossom, Sir CliveErrington, Sir EricHordern, Peter
Box, DonaldEyre, ReginaldHornby, Richard
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.Farr, JohnHornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardFell, AnthonyHowe, Geoffrey (Bebington)
Braine, BernardFisher, NigelHunt, John (Bromley)
Brewis, JohnFletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)Hutchison, Michael Clark
Brinton, Sir TattonFletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)Iremonger, T. L.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir WalterFoster, Sir JohnIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Brooke, Rt. Hn. HenryFraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Jennings, J. C.
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead)
Bryan, PaulGammans, LadyJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Buchanan-Smith, AlickGardner, EdwardJopling, Michael
Buck, AntonyGibson-Watt, DavidJoseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Bullus, Sir EricGiles, Rear-Admiral MorganKaberry, Sir Donald
Burden, F. A.Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)Kerby, Capt. Henry
Buxton, RonaldGilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Kershaw, Anthony
Campbell, GordonGlover, Sir DouglasKilfedder, James A.
Carlisle, MarkGlyn, Sir RichardKimball, Marcus
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertGodber, Rt. Hn. J. B.King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Cary, Sir RobertGoodhart, PhilipKirk, Peter
Channon, H. P. G.Goodhew, VictorKitson, Timothy
Chataway, ChristopherGower, RaymondLagden, Godfrey
Chichester-Clark, R.Grant, AnthonyLambton, Viscount
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)Grant-Ferris, R.Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Gresham Cooke, R.Langford-Holt, Sir John
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)Grieve, PercyLegge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Cooke, RobertGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Cooper, A. E.Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)Litchfield, Capt. John
Lloyd. Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)Orr-Ewing, Sir IanSummers, Sir Spencer
Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Osborn, John (Hallam)Talbot, John E.
Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Longbottom, CharlesPage, John (Harrow, W.)Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Longden, GilbertPage, R. Graham (Crosby)Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Loveys, W. H.Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Teeling, Sir William
Lucas, Sir JocelynPercival, IanTemple, John M.
McAdden, Sir StephenPeyton, JohnThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
MacArthur, IanPickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir KennethThomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Maclean, Sir FitzroyPike, Miss MervynThomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)
Macleod, Rt. Hn. IainPounder, RaftonThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon. S.)
McMaster, StanleyPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochThorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter
McNair-Wilson, PatrickPrice, David (Eastleigh)Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Maddan, MartinPrior, J. M. L.Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Maginnis, John E.Quennell, Miss J. M.Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Maitland, Sir JohnRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterTweedsmuir, Lady
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestRedmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martinvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Marten, NeilRees-Davies, W. R.Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Mathew, RobertRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir DavidVickers, Dame Joan
Maude, AngusRidley, Hn. NicholasWalder, David (High Peak)
Maudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldRidsdale, JulianWalker, Peter (Worcester)
Mawby, RayRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Walker-Smith., At. Hn. Sir Derek
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Robson Brown, Sir WilliamWall, Patrick
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Walters, Dennis
Meyer, Sir AnthonyRoots, WilliamWard, Dame Irene
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Royle, AnthonyWeatherill, Bernard
Miscampbell, NormanRussell, Sir RonaldWebster, David
Mitchell, DavidSt. John-Stevas, NormanWells, John (Maidstone)
Monro, HectorSandys, Rt. Hn. D.Whitelaw, William
More, JasperScott-Hopkins, JamesWilliams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)
Morgan, W. G.Sharples, RichardWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Shepherd, WilliamWise, A. R.
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesSinclair, Sir GeorgeWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughSmith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Murton, OscarSmith, JohnWoodhouse, Hon. Christopher
Neave, AireySmyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir JohnWoodnutt, Mark
Nicholson, Sir GodfreySoames, Rt. Hn. ChristopherWylie, N. R.
Noble, Rt. Hn. MichaelStanley, Hn. RichardYates, William (The Wrekin)
Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir RichardStodart, AnthonyYounger, Hn. George
Onslow, CranleyStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Studholme, Sir HenryTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. McLaren and Mr. Pym.
NOES
Abse, LeoChapman, DonaldFloud, Bernard
Albu, AustenColeman, DonaldFoot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Conlan, BernardFoot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Alldritt, WalterCorbet, Mrs. FredaFord, Ben
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Cousins, Rt. Hn. FrankFraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)
Armstrong, ErnestCraddock, George (Bradford, S.)Freeson, Reginald
Atkinson, NormanCrawshaw, RichardGalpern, Sir Myer
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceCronin, JohnGarrett, W. E.
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Grossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.Garrow, Alex
Barnett, JoelCullen, Mrs. AliceGinsburg, David
Baxter, WilliamDalyell, TamGourlay, Harry
Beaney, AlanDarling, GeorgeGreenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Bence, CyrilDavies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Gregory, Arnold
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodDavies, Harold (Leek)Grey, Charles
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Davies, Ifor (Gower)Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Binns, JohnDavies, S. O. (Merthyr)Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)
Bishop, E. S.de Freitas, Sir GeoffreyGriffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)
Blackburn, F.Dell, EdmundGrimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Blenkinsop, ArthurDempsey, JamesGunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Boardman, H.Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnHale, Leslie
Boston, TerenceDoig, PeterHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurDonnelly, DesmondHamilton, William (West Fife)
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.Hamling, William (Woolwich, w.)
Boyden, JamesDunn, James A.Hannan, William
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Dunnett, JackHarper, Joseph
Bradley, TomEdelman, MauriceHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Bray, Dr. JeremyEdwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Hart, Mrs. Judith
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Hattereley, Roy
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)English, MichaelHazell, Bert
Brown, Hugh, D. (Glasgow, Provan)Ennals, DavidHealey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)Ensor, DavidHeffer, Eric S.
Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, w.)Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur
Buchanan, RichardEvans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Fernyhough, E.Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)Holman, Percy
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesFitch, Alan (Wigan)Horner, John
Carmichael, NeilFletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Carter-Jones, LewisFletcher, Ted (Darlington)Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Mellish, RobertShort, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)
Howie, W.Mendelson, J. J.Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Hoy, JamesMillan, BruceSilkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Miller, Dr. M. S.Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Molloy, WilliamSkeffington, Arthur
Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)Monslow, WalterSlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Hynd, H. (Accrington)Morris, Charles (Openshaw)Small, William
Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Morris, John (Aberavon)Snow, Julian
Jackson, ColinMulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (SheffieldPk)Spriggs, Leslie
Janner, sir BarnettMurray, AlbertSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Jay, Rt. Hn. DouglasNeal, HaroldSteele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)Newens, StanStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Stonehouse, John
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)Stones, William
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Norwood, ChristopherStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Oakes, GordonStross, SirBarnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness)Ogden, EricSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Jones, Dan (Burnley)O'Malley, BrianSwain, Thomas
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)Swingler, Stephen
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Orbach, MauriceSymonds, J. B.
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Orme, StanleyTaverne, Dick
Kelley, RichardOswald, ThomasTaylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Kenyon, CliffordOwen, WillThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Padley, WalterThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)Page, Derek (King's Lynn)Thornton, Ernest
Leadbitter, TedPalmer, ArthurThorpe, Jeremy
Ledger, RonPannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesTomney, Frank
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Pargiter, G. A.Tuck, Raphael
Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)Urwin, T. W.
Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Parker, JohnWainwright, Edwin
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Pavitt, LaurenceWalden, Brian (All Saints)
Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Peart, Rt. Hn. FredWallace, George
Lipton, MarcusPentland, NormanWarbey, William
Lomas, KennethPerry, Ernest G.Watkins, Tudor
Loughlin, CharlesPopplewell, ErnestWeitzman, David
Lubbock, EricPrentice, R. E.Wellbeloved, James
Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonPrice, J. T. (Westhoughton)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
McBride, NeilProbert, ArthurWhite, Mrs. Eirene
McCann, J.Pursey, Cmdr. HarryWhitlock, William
MacColl, JamesRandall, HarryWigg, Rt. Hn. George
MacDermot, NiallRankin, JohnWilkins, W. A.
McGuire, MichaelRedhead, EdwardWilley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
McInnes, JamesRees, MerlynWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
McKay, Mrs. MargaretReynolds, G. W.Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Rhodes, GeoffreyWilliams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)Richard, IvorWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
McLeavy, FrankRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
MacMillan, MalcolmRoberts, Coronwy (Caernarvon)Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
McNamara, KevinRobertson, John (Paisley)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Mahon, Simon (Bootle)Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras. N.)Winterbottom, R. E.
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Rodgers, William (Stockton)Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)Woof, Robert
Manuel, ArchieRose, Paul B.Wyatt, Woodrow
Mapp, CharlesRoss, Rt. Hn. WilliamYates, Victor (Ladywood)
Marsh, RichardRowland, ChristopherZilliacus, K.
Mason, RoySheldon, Robert
Maxwell, RobertShinwell, Rt. Hn. E.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mayhew, ChristopherShore, Peter (Stepney)Mr. Sydney Trying and Mr. Lawson.