Defence

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 1967.

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Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire 12:00 am, 27th November 1967

One would think from the speeches of the Opposition that this was the first occasion on which defence cuts had followed an economic crisis. I well remember the crisis of 1931 when the then predominantly Conservative Government proceeded to make very drastic cuts in the Armed Forces, succeeding so magnificently that they had a mutiny in the British fleet at Invergordon. I hope that when the economies are worked out, as I hope they will be worked out, there will be no undue hardship to the men serving in the Armed Forces, no repetition of Invergordon.

It is surprising that hon. Members opposite should get so excited about defence cuts. They do not seem to realise that the predominantly Conservative Government made cuts in 1931. I am old enough to remember and I think that the soldiers and sailors in the Invergordon Mutiny were right to take direct action, a thought which, of course, will horrify hon. Members opposite.

The economic crisis has come and it has forced the Government again to consider defence cuts as a contribution to facing the crisis caused by devaluation. My right hon. Friend painted such a glow ing picture of the results of these defence cuts that I was surprised that he had not advocated devaluation two or three years ago, because devaluation seems to have been a splendid thing from which we will gain in defence expenditure and in defence policy.

I want to consider the position of other countries now regarded as our main competitors. Are we not faced with economic war or competition with countries which do not have this colossal burden of defence expenditure? Western Germany cut her defence expenditure without devaluation, and nearly every other country in the Common Market has a lower percentage expenditure on armaments than we have.

In August I visited Japan, a country defeated in the last war and the first to suffer atomic bombing. There is a booming economy in Japan and practically no defence expenditure. There is some, but nothing on the lines of ours.