Orders of the Day — Defence (Air) Estimates, 1967–68 (Vote a)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th March 1967.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 14th March 1967

Or to the Labour Party. The argument will be put to the Labour Party, "Look how we are reducing these enormous sums spent on defence." I see that in hard cash the net decrease in the Air Estimates this year is only £60,000. That is not very much. If they go on doing this until the next General Election, they will not be able to say that they have reduced the Estimates very much.

It does not impress me to be told, "Look what the Tories would have done". I criticised Tory Estimates throughout their thirteen years. The TSR2 came in for considerable criticism. I aimed a few bombs at it myself. If the Tories had been in power, they would also have faced this financial and economic crisis and would have had to reduce expenditure somewhere—perhaps on the TSR2, perhaps somewhere else.

The Air and other Estimates have been going up considerably year after year, and one of the main results has been the economic crisis. The Government have been spending too much. I wish that I could be convinced that this Government have any clear purpose of disarmament. The Minister for Disarmament recently put it off to the dim and distant future. But the economic crisis will continue, and I cannot see that those who have produced the general plan of which these Estimates are a part will effectively have reduced the Estimates by 1970.

Then, of course, there will be an outcry from people who want houses, education, advance factories and hospitals, who will say, "You must cut this enormous expenditure." When they analyse these Estimates, they will get no sign that the Government will reduce them.

I remember when five of us were thrown out of the Labour Party because we voted against the Tory Estimates. But, in the defence debate, 62 Labour Members abstained. An increase from 5 to 62 is a considerable percentage in which I rejoice, and I forecast that this revolt will go on until by 1970 there will be very different Estimates. Otherwise, this House will be full of Scottish and Welsh Nationalists, with a big protest vote against this extraordinary expenditure.

What are the arguments? The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) is all in favour of the TSR2. The Government are all in favour of the F111K, and the Liberal Party are all in favour of the French variable-geometry aircraft. Let us examine these one after the other. We can rule out the TSR2, because in five years' time it will be so obsolete that no one will want to go back to it—[Interruption]. If the Government are going back to the TSR2—