Before I call the Minister to open the debate, perhaps I might refer to the Amendment in the names of the hon. Members for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) and South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)—
That the Vote be reduced by 1,000 men.
I cannot forecast whether these hon. Members will be successful in catching the eye of the Chair during the debate, but if either of them does catch Mr. Speaker's eye he will have an opportunity to move the Amendment.
I beg to move,
That 95,500 Officers, Ratings and Royal Marines be maintained for Naval Service, for the year ending on the 31st day of March 1970.
No one can introduce the Navy Estimates to the House for the first time without being deeply conscious of the traditions and history of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines. For someone who represents and was born in a naval constituency such as Plymouth it is perhaps an even more significant occasion.
The standards of professional expertise and the spirit of service which runs through the Navy of today is such that holding this office I cannot fail to pay tribute to the men and women whom I am proud to serve in this House.
Navy Estimates for the financial year 1969–70 total £645·6 million. A straight comparison with last year's printed Estimates would not, however, provide a realistic comparison, since there have been a number of transfers between the Defence Votes, for example, the transfer of Office Services Staff to the Central Vote, the rationalisation of water transport, Service children's schools, and other small items. After these factors have been taken into account, there is an £8·1 million saving for the coming year over the last years original Estimates.
However, for reasons which were given to the House, we have during 1968–69 taken two Supplementary Estimates, a winter Supplementary for £15 million presented in November, and a spring Supplementary for £12·7 million presented in February. In addition, we took a small Supplementary Estimate last summer for £5,000 as a grant towards the cost of preserving H.M.S. "Unicorn". The comparison shown on pages 2 and 3 of Defence Estimates 1969–70, showing a total decrease of £23·1 million does not include the £12·7 million spring supplementary; a true comparison, taking this into account, would show a total decrease of £35·8 million.
To say that the shape of the Navy is changing is merely to state a truism which I think we accept. In reality, the Navy has no choice. It has to meet a new and challenging rôle in a world that is itself constantly changing.
Yet the basic decisions for the Navy's future have now been taken. It is, I suggest, a sterile exercise in political posturing constantly to look back. The challenge is to look forward and to learn from rather than vegetate in past controversies. We have now a clear definition of the future naval rôles and are working steadily to engender from this a feeling of stability both within the Navy and outside in its purpose and its strategy.
In professional ability at sea, in the quality of ships and their equipment, and, not least, in the industrial expertise necessary to build them, Britain has for centuries been the leading European maritime nation. We continue to possess a balanced Fleet—capable of matching the threat in quality if not in quantity: and by our own deployments in support of N.A.T.O., typified by our activity in the Mediterranean, our support for standing N.A.T.O. naval forces, and our contributions to N.A.T.O. naval exercises, the Royal Navy demonstrates our contribution to the N.A.T.O. Alliance and its ability to counter Soviet initiatives.
The future shape of the Navy is now clear. Aircraft carriers will phase out when the military withdrawals from the Far East and the Persian Gulf have been completed. The strategic Polaris force, apart from the nuclear-powered Fleet submarines building up, will then provide the main striking power of the Navy. Work is going ahead on the three classes which will form the main surface fleet: the frigates to succeed the Leanders, the destroyers to carry the Sea Dart surface-to-air missile system, and the cruisers to follow the converted Tiger class.
Later this year the Royal Navy will fake over responsibility from the R.A.F. for the strategic deterrent, and when that occurs the Polaris submarine force will constitute a unique European contribution to the strength of the N.A.T.O. Alliance.
My hon. Friend has referred to the Polaris submarines. Can he give us some information about the missile warheads? Will they be replaced by a more expensive kind, or are the old missile heads to be used?
As my hon. Friend knows, we have repeatedly made it clear that we have no intention of buying the Poseidon missile and have reserved our position on the question of the existing missiles.
As I have said, the Royal Navy will take over responsibility from the R.A.F. for the strategic deterrent, and when that occurs the Polaris submarine force will constitute a unique European contribution to the strength of the N.A.T.O. Alliance.
When the Harrier was first coming into service it did not make sense to think in terms of flying it off ships, because its performance in the vertical take-off rôle rather than with a short take-off, a rolling take-off, did not give it an adequate range/pay load. I do not think that anyone has seriously questioned that evaluation.
As my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Equipment has made clear, we have now decided to uprate the engine of the Harrier aircraft, and this will mean an enormous increase in its range/pay load, which makes it something worth looking at for flying from ships. We would not consider building ships specially for carrying Harriers, but if it turns out to be the sensible thing to fly Harriers from existing ships, either off the platforms that we are already planning to put into ships or off the "flat tops" of amphibious forces, we would certainly look at it. If it then made sense operationally and financially we would do it.
Can my hon. Friend make clear precisely what is meant by the uprating of the engine? As he knows, considerable problems of thrust are involved. I should like to know precisely what is being done.
It is not our practice to reveal specifications and capabilities of military equipment, but what is involved is an increase in the thrust of the engine, as I understand it.
As I recall it, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Equipment stated in his speech that the Government were considering flying Harriers not only off the "flat tops" of amphibious forces, but also off carriers. Do I understand from what my hon. Friend is saying that that is no longer being considered?
My right hon. Friend should not have drawn that conclusion. I said that if it turned out to be sensible Harriers could fly off the "flat tops" of amphibious forces—which are converted carriers—operating in the commando rôle. That is an option that we can look at. We have already tested the Harrier and a number of Answers have been given on the subject in the House. Harriers are capable of flying off not only "flat tops", but also "Tiger" class cruisers.
It is clear that we can easily fly Harriers off carriers, flying in a fixed-wing rôle if we wish to do so, but we have made it clear that fixed-wing flying from conventional carriers will be phased out at the end of 1971.
In saying that this is an option which it now makes sense to consider, it is worth pointing out that it will be some time before we decide, and this will in no way affect the announced decision to phase out fixed-wing flying from the existing carriers at the end of 1971. We would not plan in that case that the aircrew should be naval, because we think that the sensible thing to do is to have combat aircraft of this nature flown by the Royal Air Force.
This new construction and re-equipment programme will ensure that Britain's naval contribution to N.A.T.O. will remain second-to-none among her European allies. What the Navy now requires, and can look forward to, is a period of stability during which decisions can be translated into hardware and officers and men can get on with their task of refashioning the Fleet.
As a long-standing European and a strong believer in concentrating our major defence posture in Europe I should like to dwell a little on the naval significance of our retaining a residual world-wide capability, though without world-wide bases. The withdrawal from east of Suez does not mean that the Navy will no longer be seen outside N.A.T.O. waters after 1971. The Navy will still be ready and able to protect our dependent territories, the naval forces will be stationed in Hong Kong and the Caribbean. Ships are not dependent on overseas bases; with afloat support they can be readily deployed outside Europe to meet any threat to peace——
Can the Minister give any indication of the naval strength that might be held in Hong Kong and say whether it could reinforce Singapore in any depth—because Singapore's danger is only 12 hours away, whereas to reinforce in strength would take six weeks, and that would not be much good?
We have announced in the White Paper reinforcements for Hong Kong. The hon. Gentleman can draw his own conclusions as to the reply to the question that he has posed.
As I have said, ships are not dependent on overseas bases; with afloat support they can be readily deployed outside Europe to meet any threat to peace, and they will regularly exercise with our S.E.A.T.O. partners in the Far East. The survey fleet will continue its chart-making work in the areas that it has traditionally surveyed. Other ships will visit countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia to the extent that their N.A.T.O. commitments will allow.
I should also stress the continued importance attached by the Royal Navy to the protection of merchant shipping wherever it may be threatened. We are concerned not only with the protection of British merchant shipping by H.M. ships within the limits of our capability to do so, but also with the measures that should be taken by our merchant ships for their self-protection, the equipping of ships to meet attack, and the world-wide organisation for controlling merchant shipping in emergency.
The Navy Department has under constant review the defensive measures necessary to protect our merchant shipping at sea. Such plans include the rapid diversion of ships from threatened areas, convoy assembly, routeing and sailing. These techniques are exercised as frequently as possible.
I want now to turn to the question of recruitment and engagement, which constitutes the most crucial issue facing the Navy, for it is my profound belief that in the next few years manpower and not finance will threaten to be the major limiting factor. That is a subject about which the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) has already spoken—and very interestingly.
The Statement on the Defence Estimates makes it plain that large numbers of recruits with the right personal qualities remain a vital necessity if we are to maintain the proper balance of age and skills in the Armed Services, even though numbers as a whole are being reduced. The Statement also shows that during the past year recruiting has been well below what is needed. Officer recruiting in the Royal Navy in 1968–69 has been about 20 per cent. below the requirement and ratings and Royal Marine other ranks recruiting has been about 30 per cent. below requirements. This degree of shortfall is a matter of considerable concern; indeed, shortage of manpower is one of the most important problems with which the Navy now has to grapple. It is a problem which we are tackling in a variety of ways.
Hon. Members may well ask whether the Navy today is attractive enough to young men. I would remind them that it is a young man's Navy, with practically 80 per cent. of the ratings under the age of 30. I think it is attractive. Quite apart from trades which many of them learn, there is a stimulating and exacting job to be done. Despite the reduction in our overseas commitments, there are still many opportunities to visit and to operate in foreign parts. Whether acting in a representational or an operational rôle the sailor will encounter situations and experiences far removed from the routine of the everyday job.
As an illustration of the opportunities for travel that are open to naval personnel I should like to mention the case of one seaman whose papers I have studied. Since last October he has visited Madeira, the Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, Simons-town, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. He is now en route for Japan, via the New Hebrides, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and Hong Kong.
Obviously, not every sailor sees so much of the world in so short a time, yet there must be very few young men with even the opportunity for such an experience: this is the important thing——
As a former wartime member of the Royal Navy at a very early age who was not permitted to go beyond our own shores, I can well understand why our young people today do not wish to join the Royal Navy, the Army or the Royal Air Force. Does not my hon. Friend realise that they do not want war and are not prepared to go on accepting the method of war?
As my hon. Friend probably knows, the reasons for which people join the Services are many and varied. One of the interesting things is that, when asked, people often do not talk about war at all, but about such things as travel. One example is that they are interested in making friends. A recent survey has shown that 90 per cent. of those questioned thought that one could make friends in the Navy, which is a reason which may appeal to her intervention.
Following the withdrawal from east of Suez, travel opportunities will, of course, be somewhat restricted, but good will visits around the world will still take place and ships will still call frequently at ports in N.A.T.O. countries, the Mediterranean and the West Indies. For a rating, advancement is by no means confined to the ratings' ladder. There are all sorts of opportunities for the man with the right qualities to become an officer. It is probably not generally appreciated, even in the House, that, of every three officers now serving, one began as a rating.
Pay is now the subject of a standing review by the Prices and Incomes Board and I do not doubt that the results will give the Service man a fair reward for his responsibility, talents and way of life. The Board has studied the Navy at work at first hand and has received a wealth of evidence about all aspects of Service conditions. This evidence will include the results of a suvey recently done by the Board which will help it to assess the opinions of individual Service men. I very much welcome this kind of initiative.
We continue to do all we can to impove single accommodation and married quarters ashore, a point in which the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dame Joan Vickers) is particularly interested. We give assistance with house purchase for ratings who re-engage for long service and help with school fees. We are also very conscious of the importance of improving accommodation and habitability on board ship and to do this we have engaged outside industrial designers.
These matters all raise problems of cost and we have, therefore, to balance our priorities very finely, but the important thing is that we are open-minded and constantly searching for and introducing beneficial changes. In this context, the continued improvement in re-engagement figures is particularly gratifying.
The problem of the ratio of sea service to shore service continues to be of major importance. We are examining ways of keeping separation to a minimum and of reducing the need for men and for their families to move.
We are fully alive to the fact that the present length of engagement to which ratings are committed bears hard on some men now in the Services; and it may deter some would-be recruits. This poses a dilemma. We simply must ensure that the Fleet is fully up to strength with properly trained men prepared to remain available for some time into the future. And yet the ideal would be to allow complete freedom of choice to the individual. The two are incompatible and we have, therefore, to try to devise the best possible compromise. This is, of course, the background to the vexed question over boy entrants which I know causes anxiety to many hon. Members as it does, indeed, to Service Ministers.
All possible variations of engagement are being considered or reviewed as a matter of high priority. We have noted the introduction of a three-year engagement by the Army and, naturally, have considered the feasibility of an arrangement of this kind or some variation of it so far as concerns the Royal Navy. Other possibilities under examination include long engagements with one or more break-points possibly coupled to a period of notice; short engagements with options to opt at particular points for longer service coupled with a suitable financial incentive; and a number of permutations of similar arrangements——
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration has spoken about this a number of times and has agreed to continue examining the problem. We accept that this is a severe problem, but he has also said that to implement the Latey recommendation would have very serious repercussions on the manning of the Fleet.
Even the old style seven plus five year engagement is being reviewed again, so I hope that hon. Members will accept that we are examining this with an open mind. We cannot yet forecast what we may be able to do and I can go no further at this stage than saying that it is our aim to do something positive, if we can, without unacceptable risks to the manning of the Fleet.
Fleet support forms not only a major financial commitment—£319·5 million or 45·6 per cent. of the whole naval budget —but largely determines the effectiveness and operational availability of the Fleet. There is no need to reiterate the words of the Statement on the Defence Estimates. Immense care has been taken to explain the plan and its implications to everyone concerned in the dockyards. Individual copies of the relevant paragraphs of the Defence Estimates at the time of publication were distributed to all dockyard employees. The aim is to achieve this reorganisation without redundancies, but to do this I cannot stress enough the importance which we attach in certain trades to achieving retraining agreements. In any jobbing industry which inevitably has a varied workload it is vital to have a flexible work force.
We will consult the trade union representatives fully in working out detailed arrangements, and we are holding a symposium at Greenwich later this month which will be attended by representatives of dockyard management and the interested industrial and non-industrial trade unions. This is the start of a process of continued consultation——
This is a hypothetical circumstance. I am particularly hopeful that we will get the retraining agreements. But if we do not get them, we will have to have, in some trades, some redundancies, yes.
The nature of the dockyard task is by no means static. The steadily increasing complexity of modern ships and equipment offers a constant challenge to the dockyards and inevitably leads to certain changes in the required balance of trades within the respective yards. The most striking feature is the growing nuclear task which, within the next 10 years, will grow to a size comparable with the load of the aircraft carriers in recent years. There is no shortage of skills in the Royal dockyards and no doubt about their capacity to achieve the new tasks. They have served the nation extremely well and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so in the future——
On this subject, why is it proposed to increase the facilities available for nuclear work and refits in the Royal dockyards and simultaneously close them down at Cammell Lairds?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman should know that this is quite a different issue. Cammell Lairds deals with the new ship construction of nuclear Fleet submarines and S.S.B.N.s. The policy of his own right hon. and hon. Friends was to put nuclear refit work in the Royal dockyards. When the decision was made in 1963 to refit nuclear submarines, Rosyth was chosen by the party opposite. That was the policy in the past and continues to be the policy.
There is one major difference between the Royal dockyards and other industrial establishments, such as commercial ship-repair yards, and there is an even more marked difference between commercial yards just concentrating on new construction. Since the Fleet must be ready at all times to respond to an emergency, the organisation which supports the Fleet must have a like capability. It follows that the primary aim of the dockyards must be to maintain the fighting efficiency of the Fleet.
There are inevitably occasions when there is a clash between this aim and the desirability of organising the dockyards on commercial lines. There are frequent occasions when operational requirements demand that certain ships must be available to meet specific tasks and this cannot be achieved without adjusting the programme for the deployment of the dockyard resources in a way which commercial organisations would consider uneconomic. Subject, however, to this unavoidable constraint, our object must be to improve the managerial discipline and cost-consciousness which is essential to any modern and successful industry. The Government cannot urge the restructuring of private industry without setting an example within their own industrial sector.
Planning of the dockyard load has in recent years undergone considerable improvement as a result of reorganisation on functional lines under the general manager. We are beginning to benefit from the full effect of this reorganisation. The modern planning techniques are most advanced in the nuclear refit field, which has presented the dockyards with a challenge demanding major improvements in production and material control.
For the first refit of H.M.S. "Resolution", which starts in Rosyth in July, 1970, we are planning a very advanced system of project management with the assistance of a computer which should ensure that at all stages of the refit—from the ordering of material up to the completion of the work—the timetable is monitored in every respect.
In the field of capital resources, we are planning on a long-term basis not only for the modernisation of existing facilities of all kinds, but also for the rationalisation of the facilities in the dockyards as a whole to ensure that they are employed to the full. We are determined to reduce existing levels of waiting time.
I promised the House that after the dockyard review was completed I would look at the whole question of obtaining outside contracts or, as it is also called, repayment work in the context of filling in the work load. I have accordingly set up a two-man investigating team consisting of one of the D.E.A.'s industrial advisers, with experience of private industry, and a dockyard officer. They will report on the practicability of expanding our present repayment work in the dockyards and in the light of this will make proposals for any financial or organisational changes which they consider would be helpful.
The inquiry will not be published, as it is obviously a matter of internal management, but I thought it right to tell the House about this because of the considerable interest which hon. Members and others in dockyard constituencies have taken in this issue.
It seems that the Government change their mind every five minutes. On the eve of the issue of the new Defence White Paper, Members representing dockyards met the hon. Member and his colleagues and he stated that there was little possibility of private work being scheduled for the dockyards. It seems that he is setting up an inquiry merely to confirm a decision which he has already taken.
If the hon. Member had listened he would have heard me say that I was talking about repayment work in the context of filling in the workload. The problem is that we have waiting time in the dockyards and we have a varied work load. We need a flexible work force and a flexible load. Rather than having men standing by idly waiting for ships, it is far better for us to see what can be done—that is all I am saying. I have said that there are formidable difficulties, but we must see whether we can get work to fill in the load. It means no more than and no less than that. The hon. Member's constituents in Chatham will be grateful to hear that at last the situation is being looked at.
Typing the dockyards is a major decision, for it carries with it a number of restraints on the naval staff. We should recognise that. The principle has already been introduced for Polaris submarines at Rosyth and for Fleet submarines at Chatham. The basic idea is to arrange for all ships of a given type to be refitted in one dockyard or, in the case of large classes of ships, to nominate one dockyard as he lead yard. Decisions have already been taken to nominate Portsmouth as the type yard for guided missile destroyers and to nominate Devonport as the lead yard for the Leander class.
This policy cannot be fully implemented without a substantial injection of capital, but the benefits to be derived in the long term are considerable. In simple terms, Portsmouth in future will be responsible for the refits of the guided missile destroyers instead of the present arrangement under which several yards have to maintain that capability. This leads not only to economies in supporting facilities as a result of the concentration, but also to increased expertise and, therefore, to increased productivity of the labour force which specialises in this type of work. This, in turn, should lead to more rapid turn-round of the ships, with the consequential effect of having a greater proportion of ships available for immediate use at any time. In the long term this could lead to economies in ship construction.
It is this sort of calculation which we shall be increasingly using to justify increased capital expenditure on refitting facilities. As the cost of ships increases, so, in effect, does the cost of having them in dock or alongside. If the dockyards move towards an aim of minimum turn-round time, we can increase, in some cases quite dramatically, the operational availability of the ships.
Taking the management field as a whole, we are determined to give a greater degree of managerial autonomy to the general managers in the yards. In this field. Sir John Mallabar's Committee of Inquiry into the organisation, systems of control and accountability in large-scale Government industrial establishments will be particularly relevant, and we welcome it. We are, however, already looking at means of introducing a system of greater management financial accountability.
Finally, in the field of productivity we are aiming at the conclusion of a series of agreements, including the increased use of work study, to achieve a more effective use of working time, and we are having a further look at the existing incentive schemes with a view to their improvement. Productivity working parties have already been set up in the dockyards and are engaged in a series of factfinding exercises. Given wholehearted co-operation, I see no reason why substantial benefits for both management and labour alike should not accrue. The dockyards, I cannot sufficiently stress, are a modern technological industry, and we need to ensure that we offer wage rates which are sufficient to attract and retain the most highly skilled craftsmen in the neighbourhood.
This is the first time we have had a chance to debate the dockyard review, and it is important. In the course of the review, was the proposal ever contemplated that he should close one dockyard completely rather than gradually run down all round, as was done with the Royal Ordnance factories? If so, why was it rejected? We know that it has been rejected.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that all the options were looked at most closely and that this option was among them. We concluded that with three dockyards we could not manage the level of the work which we projected for the future. That is why we decided to run down in the way in which we have run down.
I am particularly conscious of the effect which the dockyard review will have on the economies of the two major dockyard cities of Portsmouth and Plymouth. There will be no major fall in the numbers of apprentices recruited for training and, as we have indicated, with the bulk of the reductions taking place after 1971 and by natural wastage, there will be time to adapt.
The Navy has constantly in mind the urgent need of local authorities for land, particularly in dockyard ports. It remains our objective to reduce our land holdings in conformity with the rationalisation process for shore establishments to the greatest extent that our operational and training needs permit. Far from the Navy standing in the way of the wider industrial development of these cities, it is in our interests to help it.
Hon. Members will have seen from the Statement on Defence that we have taken certain decisions about the future shore support of the Fleet Air Arm. When fixed-wing flying comes to an end, the shore training task of the Fleet Air Arm will be radically changed, and the main elements of the training required will be associated, on the one hand, with antisubmarine ships and submarines and, on the other, with the Royal Marine Commandos. Because helicopters are limited in range and speed, it is essential that the stations selected for the training task should be close to the main sea exercise areas in the Western Channel and to the commando and Army training areas in South-West England and on Salisbury Plain. That is why we have chosen Portland, Culdrose and Yeovilton as the long-term operational stations for the task.
But it means that we shall have no further requirement for Lossiemouth and Brawdy. The R.A.F. expect to take over Lossiemouth, and, as we said in the White Paper, the Army and the Royal Air Force are actively engaged in a thorough examination for the alternative use of Brawdy.
I cannot give any more indication than is in the White Paper, but we are urgently looking at the question of an alternative Service use for Brawdy.
This leaves two other Fleet Air Arm stations, Lee-on-Solent and Arbroath. The first houses the Air Electrical School, the Headquarters of Flag Officer Naval Air Command and 15 miscellaneous units which provide technical support of aircraft and ships. Arbroath houses the Air Engineering School. When fixed-wing flying comes to an end, the technical training task will be roughly halved, and it would be uneconomic and wasteful to keep two separate establishments going. We could combine the training schools at either Lee or Arbroath, but the miscellaneous units at Lee must be near the ships and aircraft which they support and so could not be moved.
It would be cheaper, both in running costs and in capital, to concentrate the schools at Lee-on-Solent, and this is what we have decided to do. I take this opportunity, however, to apologise both to the House and to the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) for an error which appeared in a Parliamentary Answer dealing with the financial calculations. I have written to the hon. Gentleman, although this does not alter the figure of £8¾ million as the saving quoted in the Defence Estimates.
I shall, of course, try to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to develop this point. In the meantime, would the Minister clear up one matter in the Estimates in relation to the capital cost of moving Arbroath to Lee-on-Solent, or vice versa? What allowance has been made in relation to the value of land at Lee-on-Solent which might be likely to be suitable for civilian development if the move were made to Arbroath?
That is a point of detail which I will try to cover when I reply to the debate.
In view of the slight difficulty which occurred over the financial costings, I would not like to make the position any more confused. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we are not hiding figures in this respect. Indeed, the figures were given to the other place before they were given to this House, much to the hon. Gentleman's annoyance, I appreciate, and, as I explained, what is at fault here is a Parliamentary Answer in which I did not explain the difference sufficiently well. I concede that I gave a misleading reply.
I cannot give that assurance at this stage, though we hope to make an announcement about the future of Fleetlands shortly.
Although we propose to close the air station at Arbroath, we are now actively examining the possibility of alternative uses for the station.
In the 1968 Statement on Defence we announced a phased programme of future changes in the Naval Home Command ashore. This year much of the programme will be fulfilled. In May, the retiring Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth, will be replaced by a flag officer. In July, Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth, will become the new Commander-in-Chief, Naval Home Command, with subordinate area flag officers at Plymouth, Medway and Spithead. Flag Officer, Medway, of course, already also holds the post of Admiral Superintendent, Chatham: and, similarly, Flag Officer, Spithead, will also do duty as Admiral Superintendent, Portsmouth.
I gather that the Minister had intended to give me some information about the question of the Plymouth Command. The first I heard about this matter was from the newspapers and on television. I had a message from him saying that there had been a leak and that I would be receiving a letter. I have not yet received it. If this was leaked, how did it happen, particularly since even the officers were not informed?
I appreciate the point being made by the hon. Lady. It was equally embarrassing for me to read on the front page of The Times a statement which was, basically, correct. Because of that, I decided to make an announcement. I took the courtesy of letting the hon. Lady know that I would be making a statement. I gave her that information as soon as I could. Because the information which was given was accurate, a statement, naturally, had to be made and we could not hold up making one. I agree that it was embarrassing and perhaps she will join with me in paying tribute to the service which the commanders-in-chief have given to Plymouth over many years.
Early next year the separate post of Admiral Superintendent, Devonport, will be abolished and the responsibilities will be assumed by Flag Officer, Plymouth. Finally, Flag Officer, Scotland and Northern Ireland will take over the duties of Admiral Superintendent Rosyth, when that post is abolished in 1971.
A great deal of the Navy's work does not hit the headlines, although it is no less valuable and equally demanding on those engaged on it. Most of these activities attract little attention. They call for long periods at sea and they are performed quietly and efficiently in the best traditions of the Service. I am sure that the House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the men who carry them out so well.
The House will wish me to begin by congratulating the Under-Secretary on his first introduction of the Navy Estimates, a task which I performed for five years in a similar office.
I recall that when I first introduced the Estimates the shadow spokesman said that after the 1959 General Election—which, at that time, was shortly to take place—I would no longer be in office. I will not say the same to the hon. Gentleman, because when it was said to me I found myself in office for another five years. I would not like to help the hon. Gentleman to that extent.
I appreciate the Under-Secretary's desire not to look back. However, I feel obliged to do so and particularly to recall the speech made by the present Prime Minister in the hon. Gentleman's constituency prior to his election. Perhaps that resulted in the swing which occurred on that occasion towards Labour. The Prime Minister spoke about the whole future of naval policy.
My hon. Friends and I naturally desire to see a period of stability, but can we expect one when we consider these Estimates and recent trends? For example, we see under Vote A the strength going from 95,000 men—the number we are now discussing—to 79,000 in 1973 and we must bear in mind the serious repercussions that this is bound to have on the strength and influence of the Royal Navy.
I could not help noticing that some of the phraseology used by the Under-Secretary was similar, particularly when he referred to dockyards—productivity and so on—to the phraseology which I used when I held his office. However, while the voice was that of Jacob, I could not help wondering if the hand was not that of Esau—though when a mistake involving £1 million has been made—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman admitted that a mistake had occurred—I could not help thinking that in my day Esaus were somewhat more careful. I was not caught in that respect.
Yes. The hon. Gentleman conceded that a mistake had been made. He was, therefore, caught.
I have been rereading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the two-day defence debate. I have been amazed at the manner in which the Minister of Defence, who I am glad to see in his place, tries to turn the various difficulties, changes and cuts which have occurred into virtues. He now makes a virtue of the necessity to do these things as a result of the economic mismanagement of the economy by the Government. We have always understood that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to stand up in the Cabinet in an effort to avoid cuts being made. It appears that, reluctantly, he has had to give way, no doubt because he believes that if one of his colleagues were appointed in his place the results would be even more disastrous from a policy point of view.
Everything that the right hon. Gentleman was saying in 1967 about our rôle east of Suez and in the Gulf appears not to have been valid. It seems now that he is claiming to have strengthened N.A.T.O.—although the figures we have been given are unconvincing—and the changes that have been made do not seem to support what the right hon. Gentleman has claimed.
On 25th September, 1964, the Prime Minister made what is now known in the United States as a "keynote" speech about the future of the Royal Navy. In Plymouth, the right hon. Gentleman said:
We believe, in the present condition of the world, that we need a stronger and more effective Navy.
He went on:
I wish the world were such that I did not have to say this, but I believe we shall need an expanded naval shipbuilding programme.
There must have been tremendous cheers in the dockyard when the right hon. Gentleman uttered those words. If the Government had managed the economy better, they could have achieved all those things, but one need only look at their record to see why that has not been possible. The appendices to the White Paper show clearly what has been happening as a result of their mismanagement.
Although the Prime Minister said on that occasion:
The Royal Navy is not adequats for our needs in the 1960s",
let us consider the position over the years. The operational Fleet in 1964 totalled 181. With each year it has gone slowly and progressively down, to 174, 183, 167, 161 and this year the figure is 134. That has occurred despite all that has been said about the need for extra conventional strength and an additional shipbuilding programme. We have 47 ships less in operational strength terms. I have, of course, excluded those under construction, referred to in the Annex I to the White Paper.
I could quote to the hon. Gentleman a series of statements made by leading members of the Government pointing out—they were, of course, in opposition at the time; I refer to the 13 years of Labour opposition—that it is not the function of an Opposition to say what they would do. It is their function to examine the Government's plans, suggest ways to improve them, and so on.
Our concern is that, even now, we do not know how far the present Government plan extends, because on page 56 of the White Paper we read:
… dockyard organisation … will match the reduction in the future size of the Fleet …
So, on present plans, we still have not yet hit rock bottom for the run-down of our operational Fleet.
The reserve Fleet was very large in 1957–58. That was, of course, a hangover from the wartime years. It was then said, and it was a change of policy, that henceforward we would not be able to keep a reserve Fleet which would be fully mobilised, the numbers would not be so great, but that we would keep it against accidents and breakdowns, and when we wanted to bring a ship temporarily back into commission or have another refitted. That policy seems to have gone rather far, because the run-down of the reserve Fleet is shown by the following figures. The number was 171 in 1964–65; 130 in the next year; 76 in the year following; 69 in the year after; 60 in the following year, and 60 this year.
When one looks at some of the ships which have now been put on either the sales list or the scrapping list, one sees ships like "Daring", completed in 1952—only 17 years ago; "Delight", completed only 16 years ago; "Grafton"—turning now to frigates—completed only 12 years ago; "Pelew", completed 13 years ago; and "Blackwood", completed 12 years ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), wrote a very interesting book called "Fifty Ships that Saved the World". Those were the 50 U.S. destroyers which were turned over to us 20 years after they were built and which turned a vital phase in the Second World War. I wonder whether we are running down the reserve Fleet too rapidly in order to save pennies? If we later have to reconstruct that tonnage, or buy it, it will mean an expenditure not of a few hundred thousands, but of millions.
I concede that coastal minesweepers which were built in the 1953–60 phase with mahogany double hulls and light alloy fittings probably might not last as long as other vessels, but they have been carefully stored. Are we right to run down the number, and either sell these craft or destroy them? The hon. Gentleman will probably agree that in subversive warfare these ships have been of great value. They are not only valuable in training personnel, but in getting into places during the Indonesian confrontation, they afforded very great support and contributed a good deal to our success there. I therefore ask the Government to look again at the scrapping programme.
In considering the balance of the Fleet, I start with the nuclear submarines and
remind the House that in the July, 1967, White Paper it was stated:
From the middle 1970s the main striking power of the Navy, apart from the Polaris submarines, will be provided by the growing force of Fleet submarines.
The Under-Secretary of State used the same term today "striking power". May we hear a little more about that striking power? Are the new torpedoes now operational? Is another missile now available? At the moment, these submarines are very valuable, but we do not believe that their power can be described, as the hon. Gentleman did, as "the vast striking power of these nuclear hunter-killers".
I turn now to the building programme. The Secretary of State for Defence is always anxious to refer to the plans we had when in office. I remember those plans very clearly. We planned to build one hunter-killer a year—their cost then was about £20 million each. When the Polaris programme came in we conceded that we would have to hold back, and there would be a hiatus of about five years. But we said that we would accelerate the programme after this hiatus, and try to make up for loss by building a nuclear hunter-killer every nine months and creating a fleet of 20 nuclear hunter-killers.
The Prime Minister thought that this was not good enough. He said:
The commitment to spend hundreds of millions on our all-American independent British deterrent"—
on that occasion, he left out the word "so-called":
has pushed back for five years the important programme of nuclear-powered hunter-killer submarines.
And then, with all the sincerity at his command, he stated:
Nuclear powered submarines we need.
What has happened? The programme has been cut. It is not now to be one such vessel every nine months. Perhaps we can be told to what extent it has been cut. Are we to have one every 12 months, or every 15 months, or every 18 months? Can we have some indication of the new plan? Has the fleet of 20 gone by the board?
And with equal success, because it unseated a Tory there and put in a Socialist, though with a narrow majority. The Prime Minister asked the Chatham meeting, "Why am I making this speech?" A wag replied, "Because you are in Chatham." The right hon. Gentleman knew where to make his speeches, and knew what their political result would be.
I turn now to what I believe to be an astonishing decision. We may hear more about it later today, and I am sure that hon. Members most affected by it will wish to take it up in this debate. I refer to the decision to concentrate all building at Vickers, at Barrow, and to concentrate all refitting in the Royal dockyards. The hon. Gentleman said that it was our decision to refit at the Royal dockyards. It is quite right to say that we had decided to refit Polaris submarines at Rosyth, it was a very expensive programme. I was told at the time that the Medway was too snaky and too shallow to risk the nuclear submarines, with their considerable draft. Apparently, the Medway is much less snaky or much less shallow, because it is to be used for refitting these very same hunter-killers. The hand of Esau has changed in that respect.
I do not contest the decision with regard to Chatham—the planning there has probably gone far enough to make it uneconomic to withdraw—but I wonder why the third dockyard should be Devonport. Would it not make more sense to use as a shadow building yard and as a refitting yard all those facilities at Cammell Laird which have been provided at virtually no expense to the taxpayer?
I still maintain that it would be better to keep the know-how and the availability of nuclear submarine shipbuilding at Cammell Laird's. Refitting could start now. After all, one year in four is a refitting year. If the work is going to Chatham, perhaps I can be told how much it will cost to provide those facilities there. Is it right to concentrate all the building in a monopoly yard, particularly a yard that has, as the hon. Gentleman knows, been strike-bound and beset by labour troubles for seven or eight months? In my day, it was thought most unwise for a period for the rest of the century when we would need to have a nuclear shipbuilding capability, which might eventually become a surface shipbuilding capability, to have that capability concentrated in a monopoly yard.
That policy also goes against a number of principles. First, the Government have laid down that they will be feeding work to the development areas, and one such area is Birkenhead, with 3·8 per cent. unemployment. It is not Chatham or the South-East, or even Plymouth. Barrow is a development area, but should it have a complete monopoly?
The second principle is that we should not increase public expenditure unless it is absolutely necessary. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made this point in the House only 10 days ago. But surely we will be spending further public money in equipping naval dockyards whilst these facilities are available at Cammell Laird's.
The Government wish—they are right in this and we support them—to encourage civil spin-off from armament programmes. If they maintain this capability in Cammell Laird's yard they have a potential spin-off for export purposes. I thought that one of the great features of this Government was to have competitive contracting and value for money. Here is a most expensive piece of armament—£30 million a time—yet they are not to have competitive tendering.
One of the lessons about competition one has learnt in Government is that if one keeps two firms going one has to share the work between them and then there is no competition between them. This is true of the airframe industry.
I concede some of that argument, but this is concerned with an evolving design. In fact the SSN07 is the first of a new design. We should have technical competition as well as price competition. Therefore, I ask the Government to look at this matter before destroying an admirably successful firm.
I come to the new construction of frigates. Last year this was referred to as Type 21. The Government asked Yarrow Vosper as a consortium to design nearer to commercial standards. At that time I think Australia was very interested, but from my knowledge Australia is now less interested. Yet there may be other countries interested in a similar type of ship near to a First XI ship but perhaps not up to the highest possible standard.
One advantage of this new design is that the complement would be between 170 and 190 rather than 265 at present used in frigates. This would be a tremendous annual saving. If we allow for one man afloat one man ashore, there would probably be a saving of half a million pounds in running costs and on training savings on top of that.
We approve of this venture and hope chat the Government will push it forward with zest. But they should please not let Bath ask for the kitchen stove to be built in because then the cost would escalate, delivery would be delayed, and when we got the vessels no one here or overseas would be able to afford to buy them.
I turn to the smaller ships. We are all interested in furthering the development of our Commonwealth partners. I am not talking only about east of Suez, although this is true of Malaysia and Singapore. Smaller nations with embryo navies cannot afford frigates of the Leander size, but many are beginning to buy fast patrol boats to undertake the guard duties which they need. It is sad that we have abandoned interest in this class because we may need patrol boats at some time. But also because if we are to achieve exports to emerging nations they will want to know if the Royal Navy has ordered some of these vessels. Keeping the knowledge of the operation of these boats can also be very important, as was shown in the last war. It would make a great difference to confidence if developing nations knew that the Royal Navy was keeping interest in the fast patrol boat alive.
Paragraph 27 says that cuts in the teeth will be matched by cuts in the tail. I wonder if this is so.
In making this point the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) opposed the running-down of support facilities parallel with the cut in the tail. I do not know what the reasons were for this. Perhaps the hon. Member will explain.
The Secretary of State jumped the gun a little: I am referring to headquarters. I noticed in Annex C, page 84, that £13·1 million two years ago on headquarters and outstations had jumped to £20·8 million. This cannot just be Parkinson's Law. I wish the right hon. Gentleman well in what he states to be the object, to cut the headquarters as well as the teeth, but I think he will find it difficult. I have not fallen into the mistake made by the Prime Minister of counting the number of Admirals, and the numbers of ships—he got both figures wrong.
I am worried about equipment. If we turn to table 3 in Annex C we see that there has been a cut of £10·86 million. That is a very substantial cut. Perhaps we might be told about "less expenditure on ammunition and general stores and more receipts from sales of stock". Does this mean that we are already flogging off reserves of ammunition and stock? I hope the Secretary of State will remember that we have progressively run down B.A.O.R. stores from 30 days to 10 days and now enough for only a few days of conventional war. This may not be true of the Royal Navy. We may have a period of minor war which could go on for a long time at sea without escalating and becoming land-borne. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at our stores and not to take risks with essential ammunition or stocks.
I felt sorry for the hon. Gentleman who introduced the debate, because he sits for a dockyard constituency. We are told that dockyards as well as other establishments would be tendering for outside work and that Sir Jack Mallabar would be looking into costings. I ask that the overheads should be fairly proportioned. It has been difficult in the past to measure like with like. I am sure that the Government would not wish to put their own shipbuilding and other engineering firms, on which we are dependent not only for armaments but for export trade, out of business by unfair competition from the dockyards.
I turn to personnel. I think it sad that this fell 20 per cent. short in officer recruiting and 30 per cent. in recruiting men. I liked the story about the recruit. If it had been quoted in my day it would have been described as "excessive turbulence" or "overstretch". He seemed to be revving round the world at a rate. In view of the difficulties, I wonder whether we are right in not asking for an interim report from the Prices and Incomes Board. This matter was referred to the Board on 26th October, 1967. This does not show much urgency in getting fair treatment for Service personnel.
Even so both right hon. Gentlemen will recognise that Servicemen are increasingly falling behind industrial workers. Average industrial earnings increased by 8·8 per cent. last year. There has been a considerable rise in industrial earnings. It is only right that this should be passed on to Service personnel who are not in a position to strike.
We are glad to hear that new methods are being examined. I think the right hon. Gentleman is right to look at a slightly shorter service both for ratings and officers. It has been wonderful to be able to rely on the seven plus five for so many years, but we have almost the only Navy in the free world which founds its contracts of service on this basis. We have to look at a shorter service. When these people get into industry they are tremendously welcome. They are well trained—I sometimes think too well trained, not for the national good but from the naval boat point of view.
The difficulty shown up in these Estimates is in respect of specialists. I wonder whether we ought to go in more for air transportation of spares replacement rather than repair and also to remember that we can fly spares to almost any part of the world in a couple of days, sometimes by making use of Transport Command. One can also fly out experts, whether they be Service experts based here or civilian experts from the manufacturers. All these things should be looked at in an effort to cut training costs and solve problems of shortages of technologists.
Finally, I come to overseas responsibilities. I think that both sides of the House, and the right hon. Gentleman especially, have been concerned at the growing activity of the Russians in the Mediterranean. In his Munich speech, the right hon. Gentleman said:
The use of ships for the Mediterranean squadron unsuitable for the 'marking' role, the maintenance of a small Naval presence at Port Said and Alexandria … and the deployment of ships to the Gulf and the Indian Ocean; all these are indications of increasing Russian awareness of the uses of sea power to influence political ends.
Later, he said:
The third problem is that of political influence of Russian naval power—"gunboat diplomacy", brought up to date, in which the ability to exert pressure matters a great deal more than the often very undesirable option of opening fire.
We echo that and are glad that the right hon. Gentleman took the advice we and others gave him and reinforced both Malta and the Mediterranean.
I was glad also that in the opening speech—and it was right to emphasise it—the hon. Gentleman said that our naval responsibilities are worldwide. It is too much emphasised and perhaps thought that we are coming back entirely to a European stance. The Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy, in July 1967, stated on page 7
The Navy will also continue to play a leading part in the maritime shield forces of N.A.T.O. and will be able to perform, for as far ahead as can be foreseen, a valuable peacekeeping function outside Europe by the un-obstrusive and flexible exercise of maritime power.
I urge that we should make as many of these visits as possible, not only for political ends but also because, by showing our latest ships, we are showing our industrial strength as well. This has a far from marginal effect on our ability to sell engineering and other products in export markets. The Foreign Office was among our keenest supporters for visits of this sort in my day and no doubt would be our ally today if the right hon. Gentleman wants to follow that policy.
I was also glad to hear Her Majesty's Government's list of overseas commitments, and I have one or two of my own to add. As I have said, ours is not just a N.A.T.O. Navy. First, we have a general capability east of Suez; secondly, we have in Hong Kong 7⅔ major units, many of them Gurkhas; thirdly, we have S.E.A.T.O. responsibilities and S.E.A.T.O. exercises; fourthly, we have exercises with Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand, with a big one to take place next year; fifthly, we have responsibility for residual colonies, and this has again been acknowledged today; sixthly, we are going to keep alive the Jungle Warfare School in Malaysia. We also have, as the Government have said, responsibility for training and supplying technical personnel and assistants all over the world to ex-Commonwealth countries and in places like the Persian Gulf. In addition, we have the Beira patrol, which I hope will not remain indefinitely, because it puts quite a strain on our ships and maritime aircraft. Incidentally, I was glad to learn that when any of the ships blockading Beira has a casualty a helicopter flies him to a Portuguese hospital in Beira, where he is well looked after. This shows the co-operation we are getting from our N.A.T.O. ally from the wrong end of that patrol.
The Secretary of State is always keen to say that opposition policy would involve a lot of extra money. I cannot accept that. We have said that we will contribute what the other powers involved—Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand—most need. We think that we can best contribute to this by keeping ships out there instead of having them shuttling backwards and forwards. I do not think that this would be unwise. They would presumbaly be unaccompanied and would have relatively short tours.
I did think that probably the most effective contribution would be a sophisticated air and a maritime force with floating support; of course, the maritime force would have commandos with it. The Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Gorton, has since said that they are to have a "forward" Australian policy, keeping 42 supersonic Mirages in Malaysia and keeping a detachment in Singapore. That side may now be looked after. We may, in those circumstances, not need a bigger sophisticated air force. This will possibly lead us to contribute mainly a maritime force.
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman is sincere—it may be just a debating point—when he says that it would cost an extra £300 million a year to provide ships for these purposes, including the seven rôles I have listed.
I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman is saying. If that is what he is saying, the cost would be less. Does he agree, speaking from the Government Front Bench, with what his right hon. and learned Friend said last week—that we should stop the run-down now? If we stop the run-down now it would cost, as I can easily prove, £300 million a year, quite apart from restoring the cuts made in advance. If the hon. Gentleman is not in favour of stopping the run-down now, then let him stop pretending something to the contrary and support the Government's defence policy.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman refers to us as the Government. He is anticipating the event by a year to 18 months, but we shall be the Government in due course. I am not prepared to put gloss upon gloss upon gloss. Time and again the Opposition have said, both through my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and through my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) what our policy is. There is no need to restate it again now. It can all be read in HANSARD chapter and verse.
I cannot give way again. I come back to the point that we believe that instead of shuttling ships backwards and forwards to carry out these exercises and visits which the right hon. Gentleman has himself announced it would be better to keep a small force out there according to the requirements of the local forces as they develop. I cannot believe that the costs would be anything like what the right hon. Gentleman claims.
The right hon. Gentleman finished last week by giving fantastic figures all of which I have not had the opportunity to check. It was an effort by him to persuade the 96 Left-wingers who signed a Motion asking for further cuts in defence not to abstain. He seems to have had some success, because only 30 did abstain in the event. He finished by saying that the Government were spending a larger percentage on the social services and that this was why they were cutting the defence forces. This, he said, was a Socialist policy which Socialism demanded, but I do not think that we all accept that.
One of the right hon. Gentleman's examples was classic. He said that there had been a 19 per cent. increase in overseas aid compared with 1964–65. But next day the Minister of Overseas Development, in a Press hand-out dated 6th March, said:
Whilst it is true that aid programmes, including ours in Britain, have in general shown an upward trend in money terms, they have remained steady or slightly decreased as a percentage of the rise in gross national product of the richer countries.
But if we look at British Aid Statistics for the financial years 1963–68, available in the Library, we find that in 1964–65 we spent £154·6 million on overseas aid and in 1967–68, the last complete year, £167·3 million. That is not a 19 per cent. increase but a 9 per cent. increase and, in the hands of the recipient countries, it is less today than they were getting in 1964–65 because of the devaluation of 14 per cent. I am afraid that perhaps other figures and costings which the right hon. Gentleman has given are just as "screwball"—I was going to say "dishonest", but that is an unparliamentary term.
The Opposition are always complaining that we use constant prices instead of current prices. When we use current prices instead of constant prices they complain that we use current prices and not constant prices. I come back to the question to which I have received no answer. Do the Opposition intend to stop the run-down? If they do, it will cost £300 a year more than our plan. If not, why complain about cutting the Forces?
I am very glad to reply, because it will act as a peroration The right hon. Gentleman said in November 1967 that as a result of the devaluation cuts of £100 million he was taking a risk, and he thought it was a justifiable risk, with our defences. Since that time we have had the massive invasion of Czechoslovakia, and therefore what was a risk then is a much greater risk today. We see from our recruiting figures that we are now 10,000 short of our requirements. Ought not the Minister to think again, to consider the points that I have made, and consider the rundown and the safety of our nation?
The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) has made a very interesting and characteristic speech in his usual pleasant manner. I agree with one or two of the things that he said. I agree, for instance, with the point that he made about the proposed Yarrow-Vosper frigate experiment. This is a very desirable experiment which has been discussed for the past 10 or 12 years, and which I have mentioned in previous Estimates debates. I believe it holds out the prospect of saving not insubstantial sums of money in the long run.
I am one of those who believe that the Government have done a very good job in defence, in having for the first time in many years brought the country's commitments into line with the forces which we can afford to support. The Government deserve credit for having done this, and I believe that the majority of people think so too. In their naval dispositions, the Government have also done well in the Mediterranean. Under the Conservative Administration we had very few of our ships in a vast area from the Atlantic to Singapore. We had every kind of commitment there, and very little ability to meet them. The hon. Member for Hendon, North spoke of the Government's policy necessitating running backwards and forwards. But under the Administration of hon. Gentlemen opposite any incident in the Middle East necessitated aircraft carriers steaming for three or four days before they could reach their destination. This was intolerable. The Government are managing to avoid this, and they are to be commended.
I am concerned with some of the effects of the changes which are taking place. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) will raise the question of what
will happen if the Condor closes, but I should like to refer to it because there is not doubt that it is a serious matter for the area. This is a development area, and it is a difficult area in which to attract new industry quickly. I should like to know what the Government intend to do about this to help Arbroath out of its difficulties. I do not know whether the Government had their tongues in their cheeks when they wrote in paragraph 27, page 6 of the White Paper:
We intend, however, to minimise any consequent economic and employment difficulties, which might otherwise interfere with the regional planning objectives of the Government.
I should like to know what proposals the Government have in mind.
We know that the Air Force is to go to Lossiemouth. I appreciate that I am probably addressing the wrong Minister and that I ought really to be asking the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, but will this mean a diminution in employment opportunities in the area? Large sums of money have been spent by the Royal Navy at Lossiemouth on married quarters and so on, and the local authorities have also been involved in considerable expense.
I am also particularly concerned about the failure to recruit sufficient men. Last year, I understand from the White Paper, we recruited 5,000 men to the Royal Navy and this was not enough to meet necessary requirements. The strength of the Royal Navy is already below what is required and we are likely to have an accentuation of the problem that we have had for many years of finding sufficient skilled manpower to perform the necessary skilled duties. This must be so, because with the building of the Polaris and the hunter-killer nuclear submarines, we are embarked upon a programme which automatically demands large numbers of skilled men.
In the past a number of ships in the Royal Navy have not been fully manned and I imagine that at present a considerable number are under-manned. I may be wrong, but I should imagine that we cannot under-man nuclear submarines. One would certainly hope not. If that is so, the whole question of skilled manpower becomes increasingly important. I am glad that some of the re-engagement figures have increased although they are not high enough.
I want to use the rest of my time to flog an old hobby-horse of mine, probably at greater length than I have done previously, although I have flogged it from time to time at considerable length during the past 10 or 15 years. I believe the Navy Department must look again at this question of introducing a master rate in the technical branches. From the figures that I have obtained from my hon. Friend during the past two or three weeks and relating these to the wage scales in the Royal Navy, there is no doubt that the Royal Navy is at a definite disadvantage compared to the Army and the Air Force. According to Queen's Regulations, chief artificers and chief mechanicians are, for rank, command and disciplinary purposes, equated with chief technicians of the Royal Air Force. Superficially this seems fair enough, but in fact the chief technician in the Air Force has above him the ranks of staff sergeant and warrant officer. The function of the chief artificer is similar to that of a warrant officer. Yet the chief artificer continues to be equated with the Army staff sergeant in terms of rank. What is more important, pensions and various allowances are also related to those of the staff sergeant. Therefore, his pension is lower than that of one of W.O.II or W.O.I.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it really is time that the Ministry of Defence looked into the anomaly of naval men's pensions compared with those of the Army and Air Force who, having held rank for three months before leaving the Service, are entitled to pension, whereas Navy men have to serve in the ranks for two years before they can get a pension?
I do not wish to follow that. I am trying to make my own case for the technical branches and for the chief petty officers in the Royal Navy who, pensionwise, are worse off than warrant officers in the Army or in the Air Force. This affects quite a number of the allowances which are paid during their service as well as their terminal gratuity. As I have said over and over again in the House, it is high time that this was put right and something was done about it.
I do not want to go into this in great detail, but if we look at the rates of pay we find that whilst the Ministry of Defence equates the artificer, first class, with the Army staff sergeant and the Royal Air Force technician for pay as well as for rank and command, the chief artificer, although he gets more pay than the warrant officer class II or the flight sergeant, still has only the same rank and command as the staff sergeant or chief technician. I do not think that this makes sense. I cannot imagine that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State can imagine that it makes sense if he has examined it in detail.
It seems to me that one of two courses should be taken. The first possibility is to introduce a master rank into the Royal Navy. I understand that this is under consideration—at least, that was what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said in a reply which he gave to me last week.
The other possibility is a longer-term solution which might be a better one and should flow from the fact that we now have a Ministry of Defence and we are trying to co-ordinate the three Services. My suggestion is that we should look at the whole structure of the artificer branches in the Navy and the technician branches in the Army and the Air Force with a view to creating a common pattern between the three branches of the Services. This seems to me to be the long-term view which should be taken, and I hope that the Prices and Incomes Board will look at this.
The first course which I have mentioned is the possibility of introducing a master or warrant officer rank into the Royal Navy. If we were to make chief mechanicians, chief artificers and probably one-fifth of the remainder of chief petty officers into warrant officers, we would have 2·9 per cent. of the men in the Royal Navy as warrant officers. That would bring about a comparable position to that which obtains in the Air Force. The Army would be slightly better off. But it would, at least, bring the Navy more into line with the Air Force and the Army.
During all the years that I have raised this question, I have never been able to discover what are the arguments against it. I remember raising it in the House on one occasion when an hon. and gallant Member, a former admiral who frequently took part in our debates, told me that it was not possible to find suitable work for these people if we were to introduce this rank. I do not accept that argument, because they must already be engaged in work of a character that would be in keeping with the proposed master rate.
The second argument which has some-limes been used concerns the enormous difficulties which would be created in respect of messing and the like. I do not regard that as a tenable argument because, as I understand it, warrant officers in the Army and in the Royal Air Force share the same messes as sergeants and staff sergeants or flight sergeants. Therefore, I cannot see that any difficulty would arise in the Navy if this were done. I suggest seriously that it would be a further inducement to men to sign on.
It is generally recognised that the more men we can get to sign on for a further period of service, the greater good we are doing the Service inasmuch as we are obtaining the services of men who are at the point in their lives when they can best serve the Navy. They have undergone all their training, they have passed their examinations and obtained their certificates, they have had considerable experience in various ways on different ships and they are then at their best. If we can get them to sign on in increasing numbers, we are doing a useful job. This suggestion of mine seems to me to be one of the things that would induce men in the artificer and mechanician branches to sign on.
What is the present position? In the Royal Navy, a man becomes a chief artificer or chief mechanician, or chief petty officer perhaps—although I am not sure about the other branches—at the age of 30 or 32. He then has nothing to look forward to by way of improving his status before he gets his pension. Anything that we can do to give him an inducement seems to me to be a good thing, because it would offer him something.
We could probably also then consider—and this may have to be considered—still further steps to induce men to sign on for, possibly, longer periods than at present. That seems to me to be a possibility. I have mentioned all these things at some length because I hope that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench will consider them or, at least, ask the Prices and Incomes Board to do so.
Apart from the time when I was a Minister, I have taken part in most Navy Estimates debates but I have never yet heard really satisfactory arguments why this should not be done. I am sure that there is a good case for its being done. I do not want to overrate it, but I believe that it would be very helpful in providing an incentive to the men in the technical branches to stay on and it would, I believe, help in the difficult problem of providing the Royal Navy with the technical men that it requires.
This is not an easy problem. It is not a problem simply of wages. I have said before that when I have been round the Fleet, my experience has been that although wages count—do not let us be foolish and imagine that they do not—the complaints are not about wages. The hon. Member for Hendon, North probably had the same experience when he was in office that by increasing pensions and gratuities or offering various incentives of that kind, one could do far more to increase the incentive to men to stay on than simply by adding a few shillings a week to their pay. This is not a simple problem. In all branches of life today we are short of highly-skilled technical people and the Services are in the same position.
I conclude simply by asking my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to look at this question once again and to ask the Prices and Incomes Board, in its review, to consider either that a master rank should be introduced into the Royal Navy or, as I think would be better in the long run, that the work of these branches and their rates of pay should be sorted out so that we get a common, coordinated promotion structure and payments for the three Services. That seems to me to be both possible and highly desirable.
I am very glad to follow the right hon. Gentleman for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) who has always taken a very great interest in the Service, for which he was a Labour Party spokesman, and who has raised this afternoon a very important point, the question of pay and pensions in the Services. In an intervention I asked whether he thought it would be right and proper for the Ministry of Defence now to look at the anomalous situation in which a man leaving the Navy has had to have served two years in a rank before receiving pension for that rank whereas in the Army and the Air Force, I understand, a man has had to serve only three months in his rank. I hope the Minister will do his best to have this matter put right. I am sure that he will agree that it is quite wrong that there should be this discrimination.
The right hon. Gentleman also raised a matter upon which the Navy and the Defence Ministry generally should now be exercising their minds—the whole question of pensions. In the past, men often joined the forces because of the pension they would receive at the end of their service; small though it was, it was something on which to live. What is to be done in future about pensions for Servicemen, in view of the pension schemes which are being brought out for the civilian population? Certainly, unless the forces have an ultimate retiring pension which compares with the pension in civil life there will be no recruits at all, and I should like to know if the Ministry is giving consideration to this very important point.
I must refer for a moment to a comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing)—if he would be good enough to give me his attention for a moment—about Chatham Dockyard and the repair and refit and construction of nuclear submarines there. He will remember that on many occasions when he was a Minister I joined issue with him on this matter. I went into it in great detail. Chatham has a capability not only for refitting and repairing nuclear submarines but also for constructing them. Certainly, there is no problem about a waterway. Time has shown, I say with all respect to my hon. Friend, that my information was more accurate than his was, and I am very glad that this has been brought out
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) on this the first occasion on which he has appeared at the Dispatch Box during a debate on the Navy, and I wish him success.
However, memories, I feel, are sometimes good things, although politicians hate the public to have them and they loath their fellow Members of Parliament to have them. My hon. Friend pointed to some of the statements made by the Prime Minister, but failed to mention that Chatham was also the subject of promises which the Prime Minister made in a speech in 1964—with "great sincerity." He made promises we should never forget. I should think that of all Prime Ministers this country has ever had the present Prime Minister would be the one most loath to have his record of promises put alongside his record of achievement.
Nowhere, in the whole field of politics and administration has the performance of the party opposite been more discreditable than in the nation's defence policy, and nowhere is that more obvious than in that party's treatment of the Royal Navy, still almost certainly the most vital element in our defences, in the defence of these islands, and also to enable us to carry out our commitments, to our European allies and to members of the Commonwealth.
Fortunately, I take some comfort, although my hon. Friend apparently does not, from the fact that the Prime Minister is capable of changing his mind—even changing it back again. He said at Chatham on 29th September, 1964, that the nation needed much more naval strength. He made a blistering attack on Tory Governments for the way in which they had run the Royal Navy down. He said Britain would need a more effective and a stronger Navy.
I am glad to have support from the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). I am delighted. He is sitting in the wrong place; he would be very welcome over here.
The Prime Minister alleged in 1964 that the Navy had been run down to a disastrous extent. To use his own words
I wish I did not have to say this, but I believe we shall need an expanded naval shipbuilding programme.
He also said:
Nuclear missile-carrying vessels add nothing lo Western strength and simply mean more and more pressure from other countries to become nuclear powers.
The Under-Secretary of State said today that Polaris is unique in the European contribution to the strength of N.A.T.O alliance.
I wonder what the cause is of his saying that in view of previous statements by his party. Of course, the Prime Minister undoubtedly had to talk to the Americans when he became Prime Minister, and I have no doubt that the Americans had some very caustic things to say on his remarks about Polaris. What an interesting talk it must have been. It was one I should have loved to have attended. I wonder if the Prime Minister has changed his mind. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would tell us in due course why that so firm statement by the Prime Minister in 1964 about the uselessness of Polaris should now be so changed that the Under-Secretary now admits that it is of tremendous importance to the strength of the N.A.T.O. alliance.
The hon. Gentleman also said that we require more hunter-killers. I wonder why all that was said when, according to the Prime Minister, the situation was so dangerous and there is less need today for that strength. Is it now not equally dangerous?
We should all remember that all that was said by the Prime Minister just before the General Election of 1964, and it was said, as my hon. Friend pointed out, not in one dockyard, but in two—and as the Prime Minister said "in all sincerity"; and in areas where there are long traditions of loyalty to the Navy, areas where the livelihood of many people is affected by the Navy's interest. No doubt the Prime Minister remembered that most people in this country are patriotic and want to see our defences properly upheld, and I am quite sure that the Prime Minister ensured that those speeches of his should be beamed by every conceivable possible means to all the people in the length and breadth of the country for electoral purposes.
This is a very interesting theme which the hon. Gentleman is developing, but would he bear in mind that those statements he has quoted were made at a time when the Labour Opposition were quite unaware of the disastrous economic inheritance which it would receive from the Conservative Government.
So naive an interjection ill becomes the hon. Gentleman. At the time of the 1964 election the Prime Minister and others were saying that the economic situation was far worse than it was. The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that one.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr) left so rapidly after her intervention. She stood beside the Prime Minister when he made this speech on 29th September, 1964, and applauded it. Yet this afternoon, if we are to take any sense whatsoever from her remarks, she would like to see now the whole of the forces of this country abolished, and that would mean the closure of the dockyards.
Even as late as 3rd March, 1966, the Prime Minister categorically denied any reversal of the intention that the Navy shall be strengthened to perform its allotted tasks in the future. This was said in a letter to the then candidate and ex-Member for Chatham, Mr. Critchley. He went on to say that there was plenty of work for the dockyards. What was and is the allotted task? This afternoon we have heard references to the size of the Russian Fleet. The Russian Fleet is apparently a great danger. The tasks to which the British Navy might be committed is the destruction, or aid in the destruction, of the Russian Fleet. It is not so long ago that the Secretary of State for Defence made this perfectly clear, when he said that the Russian Fleet could be sunk within five minutes—I think those were his words. [An HON. MEMBER: "Two minutes."]—a few minutes, what is a few minutes? It is a very loose phrase.
I am sure my hon. Friend will have noticed that, in saying that the right hon. Gentleman was referring to warships. He was not mentioning submarines, because we do not know whether 10 Russian submarines are in the Mediterranean.
This destruction of the Russian Fleet would be so if they were nicely presented, so that we should be able to do it before they reacted. If that is one of the allotted tasks of the Navy, we at least know where we are on that.
If I may return to the dockyards, in the past there have been frequent restatements of the fact that there would be plenty of work to keep the dockyards busy. I need hardly say that most of those statements were made just before a General Election, but in July, 1966, the previous occupant of the Minister's position again stated that there was plenty of work for the Royal Dockyards in the foreseeable future.
Surely, the only real job for the dockyards is that of fleet support, and dockyard requirement must be the subject of strategic planning. It is not a matter of day-to-day changing, because the Fleet does not change from day to day and the Fleet requirement does not change from day to day. Since this Government has been in office, we have had five White Papers——
Yes, seven, and if one looks through them it can be seen how the Government have vacillated and have played See-saw Margery Daw with the defences of the country. They are completely unable to plan defence any further ahead than the length of their noses.
This incredible inability to settle on a defence plan and to keep to it must bring consternation to our allies, and to those who might depend upon us for their defence, and comfort to our possible enemies, not least the Russians. I hardly think that they were driven into a state of fear by the comment made a few days ago by the Secretary of State.
What does the Prime Minister say about this? How does he implement his promise to build more hunter-killers? On 16th January, 1968, he announced a slowing down in the rate of new naval construction, for example, in the nuclear powered hunter-killer submarines; and yet, as far back as 1964, he stated that this was the most important defence requirement of the country.
In Annex C, Table 2 on page 86 of the White Paper there is shown for H.M. ships, aircraft and weapons, new construction and repairs, a reduction of £16,794,000 over the 1968–69 Estimate for 1969–70, but that is not the whole story. The true figure is hidden by bringing in:
… partly offset by higher naval and civilian pay, increased provision for Selective Employment Tax, increased provision for contract repairs, mainly due to the commercialisation of Singapore Dockyard, increased credit repayments for Phantom aircraft and lower receipts.
What is the real cut, in honest terms, of ships, aircraft and weapons, new construction and repairs? I hope the Minister will tell us. It should be quite easy for him to extract and set aside the offsets which blur the real picture.
The White Paper shows only two Fleet submarines in commission, one on a refit and a fourth entering service in January, 1970. The next three are still under construction and it is hoped that the order for the eighth will shortly be placed. When and where? What is meant by shortly?
If I may help the hon. Member, the answer to his question is "Very soon". Negotiations are taking place with the company concerned, and we hope to place the order very soon.
If I may help the hon. Member further, he is, and he knows it, talking complete and utter nonsense. The position has been made abundantly clear in the White Paper. We hope to place the order very soon. As he knows, negotiations take place over a period of years, and it is hoped to bring those negotiations to completion very soon.
The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have admitted that they can place the order only with one company, which will eliminate competitive tendering. Why cannot they honestly come out now and say, if they know, when they propose to put this construction in hand?
The hon. Member must know, whether the order be placed with one company or with more than one company, that negotiations on price and on what is to be provided for the money take time. These negotiations are taking place, it is hoped to bring them to an end very soon, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand the position.
I hope very much that the order will be placed within a very short space of time, well within the period the hon. Gentleman is indicating. Negotiations have been going on for a period of time and it is hoped to bring them to an end. This is ordinary business practice.
"Weeks not months"; "Possibly by the end of the year". We really do not know. It is See-saw, Margery Daw again. We have a fantastic Government.
The Minister said that the Fleet must be strong enough to give adequate defence to our shipping. Is it? Will it be? Will seven nuclear Fleet submarines be able to give adequate defence to our shipping, or do we rely absolutely on the Americans for this, as for so many other things?
What of those who work in the dockyards? What is their future position? I and other hon. Members with dockyards in their constituencies, have received a letter dated 19th February from the Minister of Defence for Administration advising us that the total dockyard strength in the mid-1970s would be cut by 5,000 from the current total of 29,000, and that the cut would be shared between Portsmouth, Devonport and Chatham, while there would be a slight increase in Rosyth. On the night of the issue of the White Paper the Minister of Defence for Administration and the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy very kindly saw me and some other hon. Members for dockyard constituencies and answered Questions and explained the position a little more fully.
The question of turning the dockyards over to the construction of industrial equipment other than military equipment was mentioned then. The Minister said categorically that they did not think that it was possible, for obvious reasons, one of which was the first priority of the Navy. They could give no guarantee of deliveries and so on if the priority of the Navy had to impinge on contracts. Now we are told by the Minister this afternoon that two people are looking into this. I am very grateful that he has changed his views to some extent. I see that he is indicating that he has not, so he still does not believe that it is possible. If he starts off by saying that it is not possible, why have the inquiry? And if the inquiry is to mean anything, why not publish its report? He appeared to make it clear during his speech that he had no intention of informing the House of the result of that investigation.
If the hon. Gentleman is going to talk about the private meeting that took place downstairs, I am sure that he would want me to make it clear that the question about other production was asked by a Labour hon. Member for one of the Medway towns, who has been attacked for not being in the Chamber. I made it clear in reply that in principle there was nothing against extra work coming into the dockyards from outside, but I enumerated the difficulties. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy has now announced that we are to see if anything can be done. The report will be a management report, and it will definitely not be published.
I am sure that the bilateral conversation between the hon. Member for Gilliigham (Mr. Burden) and the Treasury Bench is mutually fascinating, but many of us would like to continue with the general debate.
Order. I also remind the House that a number of hon. Members want to speak. I hope that hon. Members will keep their speeches short, and that interventions will be as infrequent as possible.
I thought that the right hon. Gentleman rather implied a stricture when he said, "If the hon. Gentleman is going to mention the meeting that took place downstairs …". I remind him that we were asked not to disclose what happened there until after 11.30 the next morning, so there was nothing wrong in that.
Both Ministers said then that there would be a rundown in the number of jobs at Chatham of from 500 to 1,000, and that if productivity exceeded what they expected, this might be more. This has been confirmed categorically. They hoped to take care of this by natural wastage and retraining so that there would be no redundancy. The Minister has admitted this afternoon that unless this can be done there will be redundancy. Naturally, my constituents were very interested and anxious to know what has happened, and it was my duty to tell them exactly how they were affected, so I released the figures and information given by the two Ministers.
I was greatly surprised to read a report of a Press conference given by the Flag Admiral, Medway, on 20th February, the day the White Paper was released, in which he said of the dockyard labour force:
If it is to fall, it will not fall by more than 300 employees in the six-year period.
I do not wish to blame the Flag Admiral, Medway, in any way. He must have got that information from somewhere. But who is right? Is it the Flag Admiral, Medway? I am glad to see that the Minister indicates that it is not. It would be very difficult for hon. Members if they were not given the correct information by the Ministers.
I believe that the intention is to turn Chatham over completely to the repair and refit of Fleet submarines in due course, and that this work will be extended in the latter half of the 1970s to Devonport, while the Polaris fleet will be repaired and refitted at Rosyth. But what part of the labour force of the dockyards will be fully employed at any one time in carrying out the repair and refit of nuclear submarines? Is the Minister sure that there will be a sufficient workload going through the dockyard to keep them fully employed? What is the ultimate intended strength of Fleet submarines? What input is needed to keep Chatham and Devonport fully employed? The Government must have worked this out.
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, because I know that time is pressing. But it is inaccurate to say that Chatham will only be refitting Fleet nuclear submarines. It will also be doing some conventional work.
I am glad to hear that, because it answers the point I was about to put, namely, whether this was to be done.
There have been many interjections in my speech and I have given way a lot. This has caused me to take a little longer than I intended. However, I should point out that I think, legitimately, that it is utterly and completely wrong to leave the construction of hunter-killers and Polaris submarines entirely in the hands of Vickers at Barrow. It is wrong from a strategic and every other point of view.
I draw attention to a statement on the strikes at Barrow which appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1969; Vol 778, c. 323. From 9th September-it is a terrible record over the years—until that date, in 1968 alone 5,400 hours had been lost by the current strike which is now in its 35th week. I therefore ask the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to give serious consideration to the possibility of enabling Chatham to do this work. I should like to see the costings of turning Chatham Dockyard over to the production of nuclear submarines. The yard has a record second to none in the world in the construction of conventional submarines. I can assure the hon. Gentleman—and he could confirm it by a little investigation—that the men at Chatham are just as efficient and capable of absorbing the new techniques required in nuclear submarine construction as the workers at Barrow who got it from the Americans. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give this suggestion very serious consideration.
I hope that the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks, which will, I am sure, receive considerable notice in the more widely circulating newspapers in the Medway towns.
I ask my hon. Friend not to be discouraged from pressing ahead with the hunter-killer, the Fleet submarine, programme, as a result of the rather un-persuasive advocacy that we have heard from the other side. I ask him to take note that friends of the Navy on this side are equally concerned that this programme shall go ahead, and go ahead fast.
It is a great mistake to think of the Fleet nuclear submarine as simply a new kind of submarine. It is nothing of the kind. It is a totally new weapons system, completely revolutionary and capable of overturning all conventional ideas about naval warfare.
When I heard my right hon. Friend saying, correctly, that the Soviet Fleet in the East Mediterranean was vulnerable, I am sure that he did not have in mind that the Soviet nuclear submarines in the Mediterrannean are vulnerable. This is an entirely new naval phenomenon. I hope that my hon. Friend will take note of bipartisan support for a large nuclear Fleet submarine programme.
Will the Minister also look into the further question about the weapons that these nuclear submarines are to carry? We would like an assurance about the development and production of anti-ship torpedoes and also about submarine-carried anti-submarine torpedoes. I do not ask for any detailed information in this highly classified sphere, but I think that the Government should note that they will be held seriously to blame by informed opinion if they do not give the utmost priority to these matters.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his presentation of the Navy Estimates and also give a warm welcome to the new policy outlined in the Defence White Paper and to the rôle given to the Navy within our new defence policy.
I am glad that my hon. Friend emphasised that the flexibility of the modern Navy enables it, if required, to operate outside the N.A.T.O. area even without bases, other than those in Hong Kong, the Caribbean and in Britain. As occasion arises, it is possible to see great value in this. I hope, however, that neither he nor the Government will be gradually drawn by this consideration into accepting all the long list of commitments outside the N.A.T.O. area which were described earlier by the Opposition spokesman. Obviously commitments will remain after 1971 outside the N.A.T.O. area.
There will be Hong Kong and other residual ex-colonial and colonial commitments. There will be a possible commitment to the United Nations. There will be commitments for law and order in places; like Fiji. There will be commitments, which I hope will be accepted on both sides of the House, to contribute, if necessary—an unlikely eventuality—to the defence of the territory of Australia and New Zealand, if attacked. Nevertheless, in no circumstances should we be drawn into accepting commitments outside United Nations to military operations on the mainland of Asia or on the mainland of the Middle East. It is essential to keep out of those areas. I hope that my hon. Friend will make this clear.
It is surprising that, having decided to wind up our commitments after 1971 in the Far East and the Gulf, the future rôle of the Navy after that period seems almost as vital as before and, in some ways, more appropriate and more timely.
It has been established—no one doubts it—that sea power is of growing importance relative to air and land power in the cold and hot war conspectus. It has been proved over and over again in recent years—in Aden, Cuba, Vietnam, Rhodesia and many other parts of the world. It has also been established that the sea is still an excellent hiding place for strategic nuclear weapons. I welcome the continued success of the British Polaris project. I do not know why we do not call it an independent British nuclear deterrent. I have never attempted to disguise it. I think that the Government would do much better to come clean on this point.
Furthermore, the navies of the world have an increasing rôle to play in the growing electronic battle of intelligence and counter-intelligence. Because we do not hear much about it we should not say that it is of no importance or ignore its existence.
Finally, as everyone has said, the political importance of sea power is great and growing. It is notable that the Soviet exercise of sea power is being done without the use of naval bases. Over and over again we read in certain Conservative type papers about Soviet naval and submarine bases in the Red Sea, the Gulf or on the North African coast. They do not exist. It is the technological break-through of the modern afloat-support which makes showing of the flag, the political deployment of the Navy possible without naval bases today.
It is a happy thing that, as our ships withdraw from the Far East and the Persian Gulf, they are able to play a vital part in forwarding our foreign and defence policies in Europe. On the whole, the Government seem well aware of these factors, but there are one or two points of detail about which I should like to ask reassurance from my hon. Friend.
The surface construction programme side of the Navy is good. The training, though it could be increased further, especially in relation to Europe, is also good. But I want an answer on the hunter-killer submarine along the lines that I have indicated. I want a serious answer about the rate of construction and the number to be constructed and an assurance that the utmost priority is being given to torpedoes of both types for the new vessels.
I turn, now, to another matter on which I should like an assurance. May we have an announcement about the future of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich? There have been endless delays and changes of mind about this college. It seems that the Government have abandoned their previous hair-brained ideas for using the Naval College for civilian purposes. There is an overwhelming case for maintaining the college for defence purposes, and particularly for naval purposes. When shall we know the answer, and what will it be?
Perhaps I might be forgiven for asking for a little further information about the aircraft carriers. Did I understand my hon. Friend aright? Did he say that the Government had ruled out any possibility of flying Harriers off carriers?
We have not ruled it out. We have said that this is an option which could be done. We have said that we stick to the policy of phasing out conventional fixed-wing flying at the end of 1971.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that assurance. When he said that he ruled out fixed-wing flying, he did not mean to rule out Harriers. Now we know that the Government are considering the option of changing from Phantoms to Harriers, and perhaps not phasing out the carriers at all. This is the position. I thought that there was a certain reluctance on the part of my hon. Friend, for understandable reasons, to confess that in practice the Government are keeping open the option of not phasing out the carriers. We changed from the Bucanneer to the Phantom in the case of the "Ark Royal", and now may be we shall change from the Phantom to the Harrier, but the Government have given up what was once their policy, that of phasing out the carriers.
That is a travesty of what I said. What we have said is that the present aircraft carriers represent a flat top. There are a number of options which we could use for these ships in the future. We have not made any decision about these ships. I could enumerate the options available. One of the things that we are looking at is whether we should keep going the commando carrying capability. This is one of the options that we can consider, and my hon. Friend's intervention is really a travesty of what has been said.
After listening carefully to my hon. Friend, I stick to my interpretation, which is that the Government have not ruled out the possibility of using Harriers on carriers, and therefore they have not ruled out the possibility of keeping the carriers up. I make this simple point, and perhaps my hon. Friend will answer the following question when he replies to the debate. If we may need aircraft carriers after withdrawing from east of Suez, should we not certainly have needed them if we had decided to stay there? I should like my hon. Friend to reflect on that one.
That leads me to my main rather controversial point. I think that the new defence policy, which I have praised, is welcome, but I think that the machinery of defence planning needs to be reviewed in the light of the serious delays and mistakes which have been made before reaching this new policy. After all, the Government were still firmly committed to their old east of Suez policy during most of 1967. I see that on 28th February, 1967, the Secretary of State was asked:
Can he then assure us that the difference between the critics and the Government is one of timing: that the Government have decided to leave Singapore, the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, and that the difference between us is one of timing? Will my right hon Friend make that clear?
My right hon. Friend said,
I cannot do that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February 1967; Vol. 742, c. 396.]
Later still, on 27th July, 1967, the Secretary of State was asked:
Does the 1975 budget … include provision for the continuance of our presence in the Persian Gulf and for the continuance of our obligations under the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty?
The Secretary of State replied:
Yes. In both cases it includes it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th July, 1967; Vol. 751, c. 1004.]
Thus, the Government were still clinging to their old policy in the middle of 1967, and this disproves the suggestion made the other day by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration that the Government would have changed their policy long before had it not been for confrontation. We know that confrontation ended in July, 1966, a year before the time we are talking about. There is no question about that.
I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I well remember those times, including the Prime Minister's oration.
Today, the Government's old policy has very few supporters. The view was strongly supported by the Prime Minister that we should maintain a major presence east of Suez for upwards of 15 years on a £2,000 million defence budget, and should require the Navy to undertake these huge commitments without aircraft carriers, but that view is now generally recognised to have been dangerous folly. Unfortunately, however, the Prime Minister is never so persuasive as when he is wrong, and his great speeches in favour of east of Suez have completely brainwashed hon. Gentlemen opposite. We now have to listen to the Prime Minister's mistaken views being regurgitated, though far less eloquently and persuasively, by leaders of the Opposition, and this is a most painful experience.
In fairness to the Opposition it must be said that their east of Suez policy is more realistic than the Government's old policy. The commitments they envisage are more limited. The defence budget of over £2,000 million is accepted by them honestly, though they do not give a figure; and they pay at least lip service to the importance of seaborne air power. But this policy too, like the Government's old policy, is misconceived, and whether or not the Conservatives win the election it is the most certain thing in the world that this policy will be discredited, and in due course abandoned, just like the Government's old policy was, and for much the same reasons.
One further excuse that we can make for the Opposition is that they do not have any great machines of defence planning at their beck and call. Indeed, I say without discourtesy that when listening to their speeches I doubt whether they have even one well-informed defence adviser at their disposal. It is harder to forgive the Government for their mistakes in view of the tremendous machinery of planning that they have at their command, and what worries me is that the Government show no awareness of the need to review the machinery of defence planning in the light of the mistakes which have been made.
The more realistic policy contained in the Defence White Papers of 1968 and 1969 might well have been contained in the Defence White Paper of 1966. The policy had been formulated then. It had been urged on the Defence Council, and on senior Ministers. Why did the wrong answer emerge from the original Defence Review, and why did the Government stick to the wrong answers for so long?
Would not the hon. Gentleman concede that any planning organisation finds it very difficult to make long-term plans if the basic philosophy of defence changes every six months?
We are talking about basic principles and philosophies of defence. They were carefully stated in the defence review which ended at the beginning of 1966. As the wrong answer came out, and as the Government continued with the wrong answer for two years, I am asking whether they should look at the machinery of central defence planning to see whether there is anything that can be improved.
I cannot give way now.
The two wasted years about which I have been talking were bad years for the Services. They were years of tension and insecurity. They were years when solemn pledges were given to our allies overseas, pledges which were retracted very quickly. They were years during which, on the most conservative estimate, this misjudgment of nearly two years extra presence east of Suez must have cost the taxpayer about £400 million.
Admittedly, changes have been made in the machinery of defence planning—but all of them in the wrong direction, towards further centralisation, more rigidity and the suppression of unorthodox ideas. This is inevitably a by product of the further reduction in the powers of the Service Departments. Not only have the Service Ministers gone; the Deputy Chiefs of Staff have gone as well as the Permanent Under-Secretaries. It seems a little ironic to me——
I am sorry. I must get on. This change in defence planning seems ironic. Since the Navy Department has been proved right and the Defence Council has been proved wrong the powers of the Navy Department have been cut and the powers of the Defence Council have been increased. Indeed, one could go further. Since the Prime Minister's defence policy has been abandoned and the Navy Minister's policy accepted the post of the Navy Minister has been abolished and the culprit himself has been banished into outer darkness.
Is this logical? Would it not be right to examine the machinery of defence planning as it now exists, in the light of experience? I do not suggest that major decisions ought not to be taken at the top; of course they should. But there is a danger that the machinery of defence planning will become so centralised, rigid and autocratic that vital decisions may be taken without their being exposed to dissenting arguments produced powerfully at a lower level. There are plenty of able Ministers inside and outside the Ministry of Defence, but without planning officers at their behest how can they stand up to the orthodoxies of the men at the centre? Even in the old days that was hard enough. Although centralisation and rationalisation have been inevitable and welcome in the Departments, we must not let them go too far. There must still be room for the powerful expression of heresy in the machine.
I am delighted at the parting support of my hon. Friend.
There is also a need, in considering the direction of defence, to keep alive a feeling in the Armed Forces that there are Ministers specifically responsible for understanding and championing their point of view in all defence decisions. The interests of Servicemen often need protection against the pressure of the Treasury, against the demands of the overseas Departments, and against all kinds of political pressures—because politicians do not always look at defence and Foreign policy decisions from the point of view of the men who may have to carry them out.
A purely centralised direction of defence has many advantages, but there is a limit to what computers can do. They cannot create loyalty. They cannot create courage on the battlefield, and there is no sign that they can produce recruits, as things stand now. In all these questions there is much to be said for personal leadership and respect for Service traditions. We should not overlook their importance. Heaven forbid that Servicemen should ever feel that they have been sent into battle by bureaucrats.
However, none of my criticisms should detract from the first point I made, namely, that the basic defence policy of the Government should be welcomed There have been costly delays. There has been much zigzagging from one side to the other, but in the end the Government have come up with the right answer But it has been in spite of rather than because of the new centralised machinery of defence planning. This machinery requires a long, hard, cool look. There is much that is still wrong. Above all, there is still a lack of confidence among Servicemen which needs to be overcome
The right hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) has touched on many controversial matters in respect of which we should be bound to agree with him. He will no doubt have noticed that he received more applause from hon. Members on this side of the House than on his own.
One point he made was of special concern to me, as one who spent a lifetime in the Fleet Air Arm, namely, the final demise of flying—at least fixed-wing flying, or shipborne fixed-wing flying—with the Navy. I had begun to doubt the finality of this, and it seems that the right hon. Member for Woolwich, East unearthed one or two points which bore out some of my recent views.
The Fleet Air Arm may have been sentenced to death, but I am convinced that it is impossible for any Navy to do without one. I remember that we had many controversies in the House about the future of the Fleet Air Arm, notably in connection with the new construction in the aircraft carrier world. I have been checking up our debates in HANSARD and I see that in 1962 and 1963 I was giving no support to the idea of one of these flat-out Fleet carriers of great size. I was advocating a carrier of considerable size, capable of taking assault forces with vertical take-off fighter protection and helicopters or other forms of vertical takeoff transport. Those things existed.
It was a long time ago that I maintained that they would be perfected by the time a ship had been built, and it looks as though it is coming. The announcement about the improved Harrier gives us ground for supposing that we shall have at least non-rotating flying bodies taking off from afloat and in my view they will be coming off what we now know as aircraft carriers, even if we are not building any at the moment.
I recently went round a dockyard and I admired the number of stalwart-looking vessels that remain, mostly in the hands of leathernecks but still seaworthy. So long as their boots have not gone through the flat decks we should still be able to fly things, off the upper decks. If fixed-wings are supposed to be phased out in a little over two years' time we shall still be flying some fixed-wing aircraft off some of the carriers that remain.
At this; point we come up against the remark made several times in the course of recent defence debates, namely, that the Royal Air Force will be doing all the fixed-wing flying. I am probably the only Member here who served in aircraft carriers when Royal Air Force characters flew the aircraft. All I can say is that the R.A.F. chaps should start going to sea pretty soon if they are going to do any operations with the Navy.
I must remind the House of the incredibly gallant attacks made by a squadron of Hampdens on a flotilla of old destroyers steaming out of Harwich to try to intercept the battle-cruisers "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau" when they were going up the Channel. Those old destroyers were saved only by the equally gallant intervention of a squadron of ME110s. We can see that happening again in future if we do not get the R.A.F.—I have no gripe about the colour of their uniforms—going to sea as well as flying with the Navy long before these two years are up.
If I am not mistaken the "Ark Royal" will be coming out of Devonport, after a £33 million refit, at the end of 1970. Apparently she will come out at the end of 1970, only for aircraft to stop flying off her at the end of 1971. This is a most startling piece of Socialist economics, which takes my breath away more than any of their other efforts up to date have succeeded in doing. I cannot believe that this new "Ark Royal" will cease to fly aircraft off within one year of her commissioning. There is something extraordinarily phoney about this. No doubt the hon. Member who I understand is to reply, and who represents Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen), will be able to enlighten us on this matter.
On the subject of ships, there is still much to refer to in the rousing speech which the present Prime Minister made at Devonport in 1964. The most striking quote is the one about the numbers of ships, the fact that the Conservatives had allowed the Navy to be run down to 100 operational ships. The figures given in a reply to my hon. Friend the Royal Marine from Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), however, showed that the numbers of operational ships dropped from 181 in 1964 to 144 in 1969, including all training and trials ships. But what is more alarming and what spells imminent danger is the fact that the number of reserve ships, the long refits and conversions and modernisations, the ships which are to be made operational, has dropped in the same period from 170 to 60. This is absolute suicide, and the Government will never be forgiven for that.
While on the subject, and being a dockyard Member, at least representing the naval side of Portsmouth Harbour, I must also remind the House, in regard to Portsmouth Dockyard, of a sentence which has been quoted before and a commodity which was referred to on the television only last night. When the Prime Minister-to-be made this speech, which removed one Conservative Member from every dockyard town and replaced him with a Socialist Member—including the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton—the right hon. Gentleman said:
I believe, and I state this with all the sincerity at my command, that I believe the reappraisal of the defence policies, with our emphasis on the rôle of the Navy's regular job, will provide better security, better assurances for the future, than the vacillations of Tory defence policy.
The future was dated from 27th September, 1964. Let us look at the position now, in March, 1969.
In October, 1964, the men employed in Portsmouth dockyard totalled 12,9()8; on 1st April, 1966, the number was 12,220; on 1st October, 1967, 12,013: on 1st October, 1968, 11,779. Now, in this White Paper—reinforced by the comment that I have recently been given, in the company of many other citizens, at Admiralty House in Portsmouth—we are told that, by 1975, the number employed there will be down to 8,000. That is a fall of 5,000 men from a total of 13,000, a drop of 38 per cent. for which this Government will have to take the responsibility. That is what the Prime Minister called "All the sincerity at my command".
Probably the most vexatious matter is pay. There have been some extraordinary goings-on since this Government came in. They need not wonder that they are not getting recruits. They have dodged any increase of pay, as they admit, by the device of putting it to the Prices and Incomes Board, and, since the last increase, in April, 1966, the index of average industrial earnings in manufacturing industry has risen by 144 per cent.——
I was about to say that there was what the right hon. Gentleman referred to as an interim increase of 7 per cent., which still leaves them 7 per cent. behind and still losing money relative to their industrial neighbours. This is not the way to treat men. That is just an attempt to hide behind the skirts of Aubrey Jones.
Then there is this extraordinary questionnaire which we have heard about but which we are not supposed to have heard about. There is something curious and shifty about the way this is being done, and I want to know why. I put a Question down to the right hon. Gentleman on this subject exactly a week ago but have not had the courtesy of a reply before this debate. I did not mind this, because I had not expected it. I thought that we would have it after the debate.
This questionnaire is very odd. It comes apparently from the Prices and Incomes Board. It is strictly personal and confidential. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to answer it? I see that he is just going out. I thought that he might be interested. It is strictly personal and confidential and asks the views of the men, who are not allowed to consult their officers or anyone else when answering it. The Minister himself, before he left this Chamber, has talked about the concept of a military salary in which would be grossed up all the emoluments which might be called fringe benefits. Who is he trying to fool? The claim is that this is to demonstrate the comparability of salaries. Why bother? He will not get any more men by "phoney" salary comparisons. I understand that the questions are loaded. The Minister has returned Does he now have the answer?
I went out to check, because the hon. Gentleman said that he had not had a question answered. I find that it was answered and it was put on the board for him. I understand that he has an arrangement with the board that they should not give him answers but put them in his post. He will therefore find this one is his post.
I asked this morning it it had been answered and there was no record of it in the Library and in fact it had not been answered. I have not the answer to this, but perhaps we will have an answer at the end of the de bate——
Perhaps I might explain again. The answer was put on the board in the normal way at 3 o'clock today, before this debate started. The hon Member has a private arrangement with the board to put all things there in his mail. It is his own fault that he has not received it.
I have been in the Chamber since 3 o'clock without leaving Surely that is enough. I had Questions down this afternoon, and I did not leave the Chamber since 3 o'clock, so even if I had been able to go to the board I would not have been able to receive it. Surely, with a week in hand, it is a discourtesy that there should have been a last-minute attempt to plant an answer in the hope that it would not be claimed in time.
The questions in this questionnaire have been loaded towards the answer which the Government apparently want. That is certainly the view of my informants. In any event, it will obviously not be difficult to persuade the sailor to accept a money allowance and the privilege of living out. Many of the Jaunties will be killed in the rush to get ashore, where they can live in their clubs, Aggie Weston's, or even more cosy establishments.
In that case, why are the Government building barrack blocks, when they will be empty? We will have to pay men extra to live in them. The men will jump at the money and be off. That is all right for the bachelors, but what about the married men—and they marry pretty young? Unlike civil servants, who always want to obtain uniformity with the uniformed men, or policemen or council officials, married sailors live at home very little of the time. They must keep up two houses, just like hon. Members.
It is not much fun for those men who have obtained that money to pay for two places at once, because we understand that they will be expected to pay for their accommodation. The young sailor will face worse problems than have so far been put before him. He will have to pay for a home for which he cannot obtain a mortgage as well as for accommodation in his ship or whatever it may be. Happy Jack will not think much of that one.
The House ought to realise that this idea is far from new. I must take the House back to 1919, when the Jerram Committee suggested that sailors' pay should be increased, and to 1923, when the Anderson Committee tried to calculate the equivalent of the emoluments which sailors and soldiers received in their Service surroundings and by that means succeeded in proving that sailors were better off than were men ashore and in getting the pay reduced in 1925 for new entrants.
I have here a book written by Captain Russell Grenfell called "The Men who Defend Us", published in 1938. In it we see the findings of Sir Alan Anderson's Committee that the sailor received total emoluments greatly more than those of the agricultural labourer and somewhat more than those of the engineering labourer in the figures of the day, which of cause are not very similar to present figures. The Committee concluded that the sailor and the soldier were similarly placed.
At that time the value of the food and accommodation the equivalent of which the sailor was expected to receive was 23s. a week. I have done a little arithmetic. I have discovered that the cost of living has risen since then by a factor of 3·41, so that the 23s. per week of that time is £4 a week now. That is the sum which the sailor can be expected to receive as emoluments equivalent to his accommodation and food. This means, in the words of Russell Grenfell,
that for a hammock and a seat at a mess table, the State has been charging the bluejacket exactly four times the amount that it has been allowing the farmer to charge one of his labourers for a whole cottage.
It remains, however, to be considered whether it was just and proper to make any charge at all against the Service man in respect of the food and accommodation he received. There would seem to be a good case for charging the Service man for his food. As a married man living at home, he would have to pay for his food. If the State gives him his food in his ship or his barracks, his family budget is obviously lightened by that amount. The charge for food seems therefore a legitimate one. This conclusion is borne out by the treatment of the police in the same manner. If the policeman is given his food in police barracks, a deduction, also of about 12s., is made from his pay.
That was the position for the sailor. An officer was assumed to be paid about £150 a year in respect of his accommodation. If we apply the 341 per cent. increase in the cost of living, we have exactly £500 a year, which the officer is deemed to be receiving in the equivalent of accommodation—not food, because he pays for his own food. That is a very heavy charge. Russell Grenfell makes this very legitimate point:
To charge the naval officer and the bluejacket for their accommodation on board their ships means that in war time they are being charged for living on top of 700 or 800 tons of high explosive which enemy agents are doing their best, sometimes successfully, to blow up; and that when they go into action they are paying rent for their portion of the battlefield.
That is a legitimate comment. That book was published in 1938. In another book, entitled "Service Pay", Captain Russell Grenfell ran through the history from that point. He said:
The Government accepted the Anderson Report and proceeded to act upon it … The pledge given to the Fleet in 1920 that the 1919
increases would be permanent was thus violated … The outcome was that a new lower rate of pay was determined for all men who should join the Army and the Navy after a certain date in October, 1925.
As the inevitable Socialist economic troubles set in, there was an economic collapse, and the May Committee was set up in 1931 to try to appraise what economies should be made. From that, it will be remembered, arose the mutiny at Invergordon. That is the unpleasant story of the last attempt to hoodwink people into believing that they were receiving extra money by way of services.
It had not changed very much. I think that it was 1s. a day at Trafalgar, and it was more or less the Queen's shilling at the end of Victoria's reign and up to the First World War. The hon. Member had better ask his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Commander Pursey) who, I believe, served in the Battle of Trafalgar.
I have outlined the last effort to introduce this policy. Again the Government are trying to fool the men. This time, I think, we may take it that there is no thought of mutiny, because this time they are voting with their feet, as was said of the Russian Army. We find the reasons in this policy which explain the recruiting figures. Officer recruitment is 20 per cent. below requirement and men recruitment is 30 per cent. below requirement. Only three qualified doctors joined the Navy in the course of a year. I believe that the Navy is less able to fill its ranks voluntarily than at any time since the days of the press gang.
I appeal to the Government: "For heaven's sake lay off this flannel. Give the men more pay and stop making smoke." There is no doubt that the Government correctly fit the words of Abraham Lincoln. They fooled all the people some of the time, and they fool themselves all the time. They may have fooled some of the Navy with the Prime Minister's notorious prospectus in 1964, but they will not fool the men in the naval ports. They should pay them and not mess about.
I am glad that at least the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) brought us down or up or along from the consideration of broad strategy, weapons strategy and the Prime Minister's famous speech to the welfare and pay of the men in the Services because, as I see it, that is one of the most important concerns which we in this House ought to have on this occasion. Although he is not here at the moment, I must add my congratulations to those already offered to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box to present the Navy Estimates and on the clear, sensible and at least plausible, if not convincing, content of his speech. Out of courtesy to him I deliberately use the ambiguous "if not".
I want to raise one matter which was touched on by my hon. Friend. I am not quite sure whether what he said about it means that he will not be able to say very much more about it this evening. He said that my right hon. Friend will go on looking into the question of the Latey Committee recommendation about which I interrupted him. I was glad at least to hear that. Indeed, that recommendation in my view was just as strong as the other two recommendations of the Latey Report. It ought to be accepted and implemented, and there ought to be an optional break at the age of 18, probably, in the 12-year service for which 15-year-olds are sometimes—not always, but sometimes—foolish enough to sign on without fully realising what they are doing. There has been a very slight concession in respect of six months instead of three months at the beginning of the service, but the Latey Report recommended the age of 18 as the age for the option.
The Under-Secretary quoted my right hon. Friend as saying that to accede to this request might have serious repercussions on the manning of the Fleet. I do not understand this reasoning, and I will willingly give way if my right hon. Friend will explain how he reconciles that statement with the other statements which we often hear from Ministers about only a small minority of men serving in the Navy being reluctant Servicemen. We are told that the overwhelming majority of 15-year-old entrants settle down happily and that only a few wish to leave. If the latter statement is correct, how could acceptance of this request lead to serious manning repercussions?
I have always maintained, as I still do, that only a small number of men in the Forces are actively trying to get out. However, if we made it easy for them to leave—if we said that any Serviceman could just go—there would be a considerably greater number of people who are now loyally serving the time for which they have committed themselves who would start looking for opportunities for employment outside the Services.
If life in the Navy is as attractive and stimulating as many sailors no doubt find it and as the Under-Secretary says it is, I do not see why there would be a rush to get out.
On this, there are two other questions I wish to raise with my right hon. Friend and to which I hope to receive a satisfactory reply. First, why is this insistence on men serving their full time not necessary in the police, another disciplined force? I admit that police recruitment is not all that it should be and that some forces are undermanned, but any policeman can leave at any time. There is no compulsion on him to stay in the force, although I appreciate that there are obviously disadvantages in being in the police as there are in being in the Armed Forces.
My second point concerns an argument which has occurred many times before and which will go on until the Government accept the Latey recommendation. Does not my right hon. Friend think that since so much publicity—the matter has been raised in Parliament and in the newspapers, by the N.C.C.L. and others—has been given to the fact that when 15-year-olds sign on they are signing for 12 years, this is a hindrance to recruitment? Before this fact was fully realised people probably thought that youngsters could sign on but buy themselves out a little while later. It has now been well rammed home to them that they must stay for the full 12 years unless there are strong compassionate or other grounds. Is not this a positive disincentive to recruiting, and might not this have some bearing on the fact that Navy recruiting has been badly down in recent years?
A constituent of mine came to see me at my "surgery" at the town hall in Barking when he was on the run from the Navy. He was aged 18 and had deserted at least three times before. Obviously I had to advise him to give himself up; indeed, I escorted him personally to the local police station, a distasteful task, there to await a naval escort. In doing so I promised to take his case up with my hon. Friend's predecessor, and I am glad to say that eventually the man was released.
It is the events which preceded that release that I wish to raise. On giving himself up he was tried and sentenced to three months in detention quarters. Before that, however, he was, at my request, seen by a psychiatrist, although it happened to be a naval psychiatrist. I know nothing about this psychiatrist and I must not cast any aspersions on him.
I said that I knew nothing about this man. I will only say that he seemed to give my constituent a somewhat perfunctory interview.
When my constituent was taken for that interview with the naval psychiatrist he was escorted in handcuffs, which would seem an inauspicious prelude to a confidential psychiatric interview. Handcuffs rarely help to relax the mind. He then served his three months in quarters and, again at my request—I give full credit to my hon. Friend's predecessor for arranging this—he was seen by another psychiatrist, an independent civilian one, after which I was astonished, though delighted, to receive a letter from the then Minister in very different terms from those which he had originally used. After the first psychiatrist had interviewed my constituent my hon. Friend's predecessor wrote saying that there was nothing wrong with him and that there was
… no mental disorder which would render him unfit to continue in the service.
There followed a lot of smug "bull", and then:
I think this young man should be given another chance to prove himself.
It went on to say that this man—who had already deserted three or four times—would
… on release settle down to a useful career in the Navy.
That was absolute balderdash.
I was delighted, after the second interview, with the civilian psychiatrist, to receive a totally different letter from the then Minister, which said:
I have now seen the second opinion. It indicates that there has regrettably been some deterioration in this man's mental state since he was first seen by the naval psychiatrist. It seems very possible that it is unlikely that this young man will ever become a useful member of the Service. In these circumstances I have decided that it is in the best interests both of the Royal Navy and of"—
that he should not be held to his engagement and I am approving his discharge as temperamentally unsuitable for a naval career.
It took a lot of pressure and nagging of the then Minister to get that second psychiatrist's opinion. That useless sailor might still be wasting public money serving in the Royal Navy and deserting from time to time, having to be tried and sentenced on each occasion. Is not this a futile procedure? I recall my hon. Friend's predecessor once saying in effect, "We do not want to keep unwilling sailors in the Navy." I hope, therefore, that the Minister will urgently reconsider this matter. I could show him a great many letters from Servicemen, and he has probably already seen some from the National Council of Civil Liberties and other hon. Members on both sides of the House who have shown great interest in this subject.
If there was any deterioration in my constituent's mental condition between the two psychiatric interviews, one can only attribute it to what he was doing between the two—when he was serving his sentence in detention quarters. I am not altogether surprised that that led to some deterioration because I went to see him there—there was some difficulty about that; I will not go into that now—one Saturday afternoon when I happened to be in that part of the country.
This young man told me, "I am glad that you have come on a Saturday afternoon because on Saturdays we have to do two tasks." He explained how he was locked up in his cell from 12.30 midday until 8 o'clock the next morning, a grim way to treat any detainee or prisoner. I wonder if the Navy detention quarters are far behind even our civilian prisons in their conditions in that respect.
I questioned him about the two tasks. He raid, "On weekdays we do one task. but on Saturdays we do two to keep us occupied while we are locked up." Questioned further about the "tasks", he told me that there were three progressive elements. The first—this sounds incredible in 1969—is picking okum. The second is plaiting it into what are called sennets—an appropriately archaic word—and the third is turning them into matting. I do not think that these are particularly constructive or useful employments for an active, lively teenager who wants to get out of the Navy and get into a decent civilian job.
I hope that when my hon. Friend replies he will enlarge on his recent and I must say I thought rather encouraging answer to a question of mine and say that the conditions or the general set-up of naval detention quarters are being reviewed and will be very thoroughly gone into and, I hope, improved.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wishes to present a fair picture to the House and will agree that a great deal of good is done to some people who serve time in detention quarters, which counterbalances some of the unfortunate experiences his constituent appears to have suffered.
No, I cannot agree, because I have no evidence of it. If I were to give a totally balanced picture to the House I would have to seek out a lot of evidence from constituents which I have not got, and then it would probably take me 34 minutes, which is the length of time taken by one hon. Gentleman opposite, and I want to finish quickly now. I do not wish to be discourteous to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I have not enough evidence to give a totally balanced picture. But I should be surprised to hear that it did any good to anyone to pick oakum in a cell for all that time—but it may do some good to some.
I hope that when my hon. Friend replies he will not revert to his slightly euphoric manner and give us another of those papers which have come into his hands, carefully selected, about the seaman who has whizzed round all the world's glamour places in a year. It was very skilfully presented, but it rather reminded me of those advertisements for the Royal Navy which I also hope will be stopped—and which are also published in a boys' comic and are therefore obviously aimed at the 15-year-old—headed: "It's an all-action life in the Royal Navy". There follow three pictures, one showing youths playing a guitar, one showing a youth saving a goal at football, and one seeing the world by sailing in what appears to be Hong Kong Harbour. If this is a fair picture of what life in the Royal Navy really is, I shall be surprised. I hope that my hon. Friend will not subscribe to it, but will put a stop to that nonsense also.
I listened with considerable interest to the comments of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) as I am sure all hon. Members did. I have a brother who is in the Royal Navy, and some of the experiences which the hon. Gentleman has described of one of his constituents do not seem to relate themselves very closely to the sort of experiences that my brother has described. Obviously, as the hon. Gentleman said, there are different facets to all these questions.
I want to devote my remarks to what is very largely a constituency problem. I can fairly say that my constituency stands to suffer more from this year's Defence White Paper than does any other constituency. That is because in paragraph 30, chapter 8, it is announced that the Royal Naval Air Station, H.M.S. "Condor", situated in my constituency, is to be phased out. The Under-Secretary of State also referred to this fact.
The consequences of this step for my constituency and for the Burgh of Arbroath are grave. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) referred to this. The closure of H.M.S. "Condor" might mean the loss of 5 or 10 per cent. of the total population of the area, with a correspondingly disastrous loss of rate income, a corresponding large surplus in the housing programme—for which the Scottish Office must certainly bear a great deal of responsibility—a corresponding loss of Exchequer grant, and a catastrophic loss to the commercial community in the Burgh of Arbroath and the surrounding area.
I will not elaborate on this subject tonight because I believe that there will be other occasions on which to do so, and also because I have never subscribed to the view that a naval establishment should be retained or maintained as an adjunct to regional development policies, let alone as an adjunct to social welfare. A naval establishment, or any other defence establishment, must stand on its own merits, on what it can contribute to our defences, or not stand at all. My case is that on defence grounds, and on defence grounds alone, the Government's decision is entirely wrong.
I should first clear up one point lest the Under-Secretary should be tempted to refer to it. I have never made any secret of the fact that I am among the small minority of hon. Members on this side who broadly accept the logic of the Government's decision to withdraw from military bases east of Suez. That does not mean that I accept the way in which it is being done, but I accept the broad logic of the decision. But I do not accept for one moment the argument that it is because of the Government's decision to withdraw from east of Suez that the requirement of naval engineer artificers of the servicing of fixed-wing aircraft for the Royal Navy is to disappear. The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), in a most attractive speech, managed completely to demolish the connection between what the Government intend for the Fleet Air Arm and the decision to withdraw from east of Suez. To that extent, he did my work for me, so I hope that the Under-Secretary will not throw that argument at me.
I attack the Government's decision about H.M.S. "Condor" on a variety of grounds. I believe that the reason for it is quite simple: it is all a question of this totally artificial budgetary ceiling on defence expenditure which has been plucked out of thin air by the Government for the delectation of their supporters below the Gangway. I do not for a moment accept that artificial ceiling, because I believe that the defence of the realm must be a prior charge on our resources. In so far as the decision to close this naval air station results from that arbitrary decision, I do not accept it.
In any case, even within the context of that ceiling, the decision is must dubious. The argument is that from 1971–72 fixed-wing flying in the Navy will fade out and the requirement for naval personnel to service the machines will also fade out. It is on that basis that the Government have sought to justify their intention to amalgamate the Royal Naval Air Stations at Arbroath and Lee-on-Solent. As the hon. Member for Woolwich, East very clearly established, this whole decision to phase out fixed-wing flying in the Royal Navy is under reconsideration. We are coming to the point, quite clearly foreshadowed by the Under-Secretary, when the Government intend to use Harriers for flying from what he prefers to call "flat tops", but which a mere layman might prefer to call aircraft carriers.
We understand that in the Government's view these aircraft will be flown by R.A.F. personnel. How are they to be serviced? Is it to be by R.A.F. personnel on naval aircraft carriers? Does this decision make sense? I believe that when the time comes it will be found that as the Harriers are to be flown from so-called "flat tops" the need will persist for the sort of personnel at present being trained by H.M.S. "Condor". Consequently, the decision will be seen to be wrong.
If one accepts—which I do not for a moment—the Government's ceiling on defence expenditure and the phasing out of the need for naval artificers to service fixed-wing aircraft, I still believe the decision reached by the Government has been wrong. If one accepts those premises, which I do not, the choice comes down to one between closure of H.M.S. "Condor" at Arbroath and H.M.S. "Daedalus" at Lee-on-Solent.
The Government justify their choice of H.M.S. "Daedalus" at Lee-on-Solent rather than H.M.S. "Condor" at Arbroath on two grounds, logistical and financial. This decision was set out by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, in another place on 12th February in answer to Viscount Muirshiel. Lord Winter-bottom said:
… the rotary-wing flying rôle of the Fleet Air Arm will be moving down almost totally to the West Country, and I think the noble Viscount will agree that it would be unwise to place a training station at one end of the country and a flying area at the other. This, in fact, would be bad logistics."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 12th February, 1969; Vol. 299, c. 418.]
Is it proposed to move H.M.S. "Condor" to the West Country? It is not, unless Portsmouth has been moved to the West Country. How much flying is done at H.M.S. "Condor"? So far as I am
aware there is none at all in connection with training work. I think the same applies to Lee-on-Solent. Far from there being a clear logistic case for moving H.M.S. "Condor" to close proximity with the future helicopter activities of the Royal Navy, I do not believe there is a case for this at all.
On the financial aspect the Under-Secretary explained in his opening remarks that there had been an error in the Answers he has given me in HANSARD. I entirely accept his apology in the spirit in which it was offered. But this leads to an absolutely fundamentally different conclusion from that which the Government have drawn. The Government have said in another place, and confirmed in this House, that the total saving from amalgamating the two stations would amount to £1·2 million per annum provided it was done by moving H.M.S. "Condor" to Lee-on-Solent.
I asked what saving would there be if H.M.S. "Daedalus" moved to Arbroath. The answer I received on 19th February was that it would be £200,000 a year. I received a letter from the hon. Gentleman today from which it is clear that the actual saving by moving H.M.S. "Daedalus" to Arbroath would not be £200,000 a year at all: but £1 million a year—in other words, virtually the same, within £200,000—which is well within the margin of error currently emanating from the Department—as the saving which would be achieved by moving H.M.S. "Condor" to Lee-on-Solent.
In his letter to me correcting the figures this morning the hon. Gentleman suggested that we should drop the question of running costs as perhaps there is not so much in that and concentrate on the question of capital costs. He seeks to establish that it would cost approximately £1 million more to concentrate at Arbroath on capital costs alone. He admits that the detailed costings have not been done and he also says that these also are subject to a fairly wide margin of error. He could say that again. So far as I can see, no allowance whatever has been made in the calculation of capital costs for the value of land at Lee-on-Solent which might be released for civilian development purposes if the concentration took place at Arbroath rather than at Lee-on-Solent. Equally no allowance has been made for the additional cost which would occur from the search for alternative uses for H.M.S. "Condor" to which the Government have committed themselves. He may say that this is not a matter which will be carried on the Navy Vote, but this is another expenditure for the taxpayer which should be taken into the total sum.
My conclusion is that the Government's costings in this matter are bogus from start to finish. If anything, it will prove more costly to accommodate H.M.S. "Condor" at Lee-on-Solent than it would be to accommodate H.M.S. "Daedalus" at Arbroath, and conceivably more costly than to leave both stations where they are and continuing to function.
I hope that in his reply the Minister will clear up a matter relating directly to H.M.S "Condor". That is the question of what the Government see as the date for phasing out. In the Government's planning the year we have been given is 1971–72, but there are rumours in the area that the run-down is to start next autumn. This makes the whole problem far more urgent. I should like some clarification on this point.
I turn to the broader considerations involved. The decision to close down H.M.S. "Condor" and to concentrate at Lee-on-Solent conforms to a pattern which is not a new one. One of the most striking examples, I say in fairness, occurred under the Conservative Government, when the torpedo establishment on the Clyde was moved to the inevitable place, Portsmouth. Yet the torpedoes themselves continue to be tested at Loch Long. In the White Paper there is the decision to close down Lossiemouth for the Navy and to hand it over to the Royal Air Force. Lossiemouth at least has the assurance of future use, but here again the Navy is being withdrawn from Scotland. This, I believe, is part of the pattern. What sense does it make?
The Under-Secretary and other Ministers have referred to difficulties over recruiting Do they believe that the Navy's efforts to recruit in Scotland will be assisted by the gradual withdrawal of every successive naval unit established in Scotland so that people in Scotland cannot possibly see what the life and work of the Royal Navy is from one year to the next? Does this help recruiting?
I agree that the Government are proposing to expand facilities there, but how long will the Navy stand for that? Over the years, the pattern has been gradually to move naval bases and facilities away from Scotland. What sort of sense does that make in time of war? How does it compare with the principle of dispersal of defence units in war? One of my hon. Friends said to me the other day that it often looked as if the Navy were planning to fight the Napoleonic war all over again. Looking at its conduct in recent years, one cannot entirely reject that proposition, but I have been wondering whether it is not perhaps that it has been listening to too much propaganda from the Foreign Office, which is expecting "Boney" de Gaulle to land on the cliffs of Dover at any moment. It is time that the Navy realised that it is not going to fight a Channel war against France.
But I acquit the Navy itself of such old-fashioned calculations. I think that the explanation of what has been happening and of this latest decision is simple, but still not creditable. I have a younger brother in the Navy and I have close family connections with it. I do not think that there is any doubt that the Navy finds it much more convenient to concentrate its activities in and around the Portsmouth area because a very large number of naval personnel happen to have their houses there. I believe that it comes down to a matter of convenience, particularly the convenience of senior naval personnel.
The Under-Secretary of State and the Minister of State, Scottish Office, have been extremely courteous and considerate to me and to my constituents in discussing this matter with us over a long period of months. I want to pay tribute to them for that, but I do not believe that they were able to influence, or ever stood a chance of influencing, the decision which the Navy, in my belief, took many months ago—on no other ground basically than that of the personal convenience of senior staff.
I do not believe that this decision makes sense in terms of defence and of recruitment. I think that the financial figures are bogus. I question whether this decision on concentration will even stand up as the Harriers come into service and I reject the Government's budgetary attitude
That case con firms the pattern I have been talking about even further. I do not believe that this is the sort of basis on which the Navy should formulate its decisions. The time must come when Ministers have to remind certain naval personnel that they must bear in mind other considerations.
The decision to run down and close the Royal Naval Air Station at Arbroath is a tragedy for the area and a great mistake from the Navy's point of view. In 25 years and more, H.M.S. "Condor" has had admirably good relationships with the Burgh of Arbroath and the surrounding area, which reflects great credit on both sides. I think that the Navy will regret this decision, which is utterly wrong, and I hope that, even at this late stage, it will be reconsidered.
The more assiduous readers of today's Order Paper may have noticed that, in company with my good and hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I have been trying unsuccessfully to move an Amendment to the Naval Estimates. It is no doubt difficult for the uninitiated to realise the quaint and rather bizarre habits to which the House is prone at moments like this. I am sure that my hon. Friend has exercised his customary self-restraint in limiting his demands to a reduction of a mere 1,000 men. I must admit at once that I have no interest at all in reducing the strength of the Navy by 1,000 men. But I wished to express, and it had to be in a form appropriate to our Parliamentary ritual, my great dissatisfaction and disquiet at one particular decision to which I want to devote most of my remarks. This is the decision, made public in recent weeks, that the shipbuilding yards of Cammell Laird in Birkenhead will henceforth be denied all contracts for building and the future refitting of our nuclear submarine fleet.
I make it clear that, like hon. Members opposite who have spoken—not least the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne), whose remarks I am happy to follow—I, too, have no wish to see defence contracts let out on grounds that are other than those made necessary by defence requirements, and it is in the terms of defence considerations and cost considerations that I wish to speak. But first, I want to refer to two matters which are perhaps not altogether remote from the main problem I wish to discuss. The first has been referred to on a number of occasions—the decision, or perhaps the ambiguity of the decision—on the future use of the Harrier.
Some months ago, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to see this dramatic aircraft being put through its paces and I am sure that all of us who were there on that early morning came away convinced that it is indeed a revolutionary concept in future aerial warfare. Like some hon. Members on both sides who have spoken, I am sceptical about the likelihood of an aircraft carrier upon which tens of millions of pounds will have been spent by the early 1970s suddenly vanishing from the seas. I put it to my right hon. Friends that the time is really coming when we need to be a little more realistic in our forward thinking in this respect.
There does come a time—it might even be argued that this applies in the case of the rather belated decision to cancel the TSR2—when a decision to cancel a project effects relatively few savings and might lead to far greater expenditure in other directions. I would have thought that, in considering the Harrier and all that it implies, we should also consider not only the advantages of this type of plane using the aircraft carrier or other suitable types of vessel but the fact that this plane may well be having to function between a vessel at sea and the nearby coastal area, where airfields may have been put out of action as a result of the type of engagement we saw exemplified in the six-day war. The Harrier has the enormous advantage that we can have available a high-performance combat plane capable of both landing and taking off without the need for the conventional airstrip.
My second general prefatory remark concerns another revolutionary development—indeed, a whole range of revolutionary developments—involving underwater technology, towards which we are surely moving. Some weeks ago, again in company with hon. Members on both sides, I was fortunate in being able to visit the oceanographical exhibition at Brighton The point was made to us that so far relatively little work has been done in the technology of underwater vessels, but that, nevertheless, the great range of scientific research work now taking place on an immense scale, not least in this country, is bound before long to pose important questions of technological priorities. Indeed, this is important if we are to have the technological payback from the scientific research which is now being undertaken and which undoubtedly will expand rapidly.
One of the projects which I naturally looked at with interest was the underwater concept which Cammell Laird is helping to pioneer. The S.B.V., yet to be named, I understand, is a vessel capable of giving support facilities to divers working for long periods at substantial depths on the Continental Shelf, and it is obvious that in the years ahead for civil purposes, in terms of mineral exploitation or even the growing of suitable aquatic plants under water, there will be immense importance in a vessel of this character.
But I should have thought that from the military standpoint one could not ignore the potential implications of this type of vessel. Vessels which can lurk on the sea bottom at depths of many hundreds of feet, which can provide facilities which have obvious military implications, ought to have some urgent appraisal by the Government in their military technological expenditure. This will undoubtedly have a fall-out in civil work also.
It is therefore appropriate that, having referred briefly to one of Cammell Laird's pioneering ventures, I should now turn to the main point of my speech. The decision to cease placing contracts for nuclear submarines—and by this I mean Fleet submarines, the hunter-killer submarines—at Cammel Laird's at Birkenhead was a decision which surprised the whole of Merseyside, including myself and other hon. Members representing constituencies likely to be affected.
There are one or two points which I should like to put to the Minister in the form of questions to which I should like answers this evening if possible. The decision was announced on 19th February, in the rather discreet form of an Answer to a Written Question which had been tabled by the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden). This was the first intimation that I had, and I suspect that the majority of hon. Members of this House had, that a decision had been taken. There was certainly no implication that the decision was one which had been taken many months earlier. However, as Press conferences followed and as further elaborations of this decision proceeded, it seemed that the decision had been arrived at by the Government at least 12 months earlier. In the Liverpool Daily Post there is a report of a Press conference in which my hon Friend the Minister of Defence for Equipment referred to the decision having been forwarded to Cammell Laird in February. 1968. I am not sure precisely what happened then, and I should like what happened in subsequent months to be clarified.
At the same Press conference it was also stated that Vickers were not informed explicitly of this decision. It was a decision which intimately affected them because they were to be the monopoly supplier of nuclear submarines. The trade unions were certainly not notified at that time; nor were they to know anything about it for another 12 months. That fact was confirmed to me this afternoon when I and other hon. Members had an opportunity to meet a large deputation of shop stewards from the firm.
Hon. Members representing constituencies already facing severe unemployment in this area knew nothing of the decision. The North-West Regional Economic Planning Council knew nothing of the decision, because in reply to a Question that I put to the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs on 26th February the clear inference can be drawn that he had not hitherto written to notify the Chairman of the North-West Regional Economic Planning Council of the implications of this decision.
In an Answer that I had this evening from the Department of Employment and Productivity in reply to a Question seeking clarification of the estimated effect of this decision in terms of unemployment on Merseyside I discovered that
No estimate has been made at this stage as no pending redundancies arising out of the Government's decision have been notified to my Department.
I accept that, of course, but nevertheless I would have thought that when a decision is made which is likely to affect several hundreds or even thousands of key men on Merseyside, many of them highly skilled and specialised craftsmen, it would have been the normal procedure to have had some discussion with all these people who are likely to be affected more or less adversely.
I find it rather odd that the firm should apparently have been given this information so far in advance and yet for 12 months no one else seems to have known anything about it. Was there any understanding with the firm that this was private and confidential information? I would have thought that the circumstances in which the decision was announced left a great deal to be desired. It is not normal to announce decisions of this sort in somewhat half-hidden Answers to Written Questions.
There is no mystery here. This was an Oral Question which had a Written Answer because it was not reached. I think that should go on the record.
I appreciate the point that my hon. Friend has made. At times I must admit I am not sure of the distinction myself, having been waiting till 7.45 this evening for an Answer to an oral Question that I tabled to the hon. Gentleman's Ministry and which has not yet appeared on the Members' letter board. I take the point that the Question was asked with the intention that the matter should be ventilated publicly. I regret that it was not reached that afternoon, because undoubtedly there would have been a number of extremely startled supplementaries following the Answer.
It is probably rather purposeless going over the history of events such as these, but I feel that the point must be made that this, on the face of it, is not the way in which Government should be conducted. This is not the way in which the confidence of people working in the area is likely to be obtained, and I hope this will not be the pattern of the future.
Turning to the merits of the arguments themselves—this surely is what concerns us most—here we are, dealing with defence procurement and as a House of Commons we are under considerable difficulties. There is so much secrecy and confidentiality, perhaps of necessity, about the sorts of cost calculations which must have swayed the Government's decision that it is rather hard for us to ascertain the strength of the reasoning involved.
If I may take one or two examples to show the ambiguities with which we are confronted, we read on page 75 of the Defence Estimates for 1969–70 that the "Renown", one of the Fleet ballistic missile submarines built at Cammell Laird, is estimated to cost—this is the estimated building cost—£39,950,000. "Repulse", on the other hand, built at Vickers, is estimated to have a building cost of £37·5 million—nearly £2·5 million less. That is the sort of contrast which immediately evokes questions of comparison. One would like to know the reasons for this apparent substantial discrepancy, but I very much doubt whether the House of Commons will be able to establish in detail the reasons for the discrepancy, certainly at this stage.
However, there is an asterisk followed by the words:
Unit cost, i.e. excluding costs of certain items (e.g. aircraft, first outfits).
This is not a comprehensive list because we have those maddening little letters "e.g." in front of the items quoted, and therefore it is not at all clear what is included in this substantial sum of money which each submarine has cost.
We have even more puzzles on the cost of Polaris, because in general, although the figures have varied, estimates of cost of £50 million, £52 million and £55 million per submarine have been quoted. If, however, we look at the latest edition
of Jane's Fighting Ships which I have been able to get, we discover that according to this highly authoritative publication the cost was
originally officially estimated to be £15 million each, excluding missiles, and £70 million each total.
The discrepancy between that estimate of £15 million per submarine and the cost of nearly £40 million which has been given in the Defence Estimates is staggering. One suspects that there must be a misprint somewhere. If there is not a misprint, clearly we are not comparing like with like or there has been a degree of escalation in certain respects which was completely unforeseen and to which we are entitled to seek explanations.
One must, therefore, accept that in asking questions about the Government's decision-making in defence, one is up against the insuperable obstacles posed by security requirements. I only hope that security requirements are not used, as they could be, in a situation like this to mask underlying incomprehension and foolishness in the decision-making.
If Vickers have proved to be more efficient in the supply of these highly specialised Fleet submarines surely that is a matter which could be established unequivocally. It may well be that Vickers are more efficient. All I can say is that in the Answers to Questions which I have so far tabled in an effort to clarify distinctions like this, no such hint has been given of any substantial discrepancy.
There are mysteries to which I am bound to refer because they have certainly received great publicity on Mersey-side. There was the occasion two years ago when the then Minister of Defence for Equipment came to the yard and severely criticised the completion process of the Polaris submarine then under construction. On the other hand, it has also been said—I have no reason to believe that there is not at least some truth in this—that part of the explanation for the delays which undoubtedly existed in that contract were not due to the firm itself. Indeed, bearing in mind that it had 800 subcontractors and was dependent upon certain key supplies of materials being sent from Vickers, it is, perhaps, hardly surprising that in such a vast, complicated and unprecedented venture as the Polaris contracts, delays occur.
The problem of establishing the cost which the taxpayer should rightly be asked to meet in paying for a Fleet submarine is a problem which the House should consider. Again, I sought to establish what criteria would be used. I was told that there would be full equality of information, which is very welcome. Nevertheless, one is bound to ask whether, if two yards exist both of which are spurred, at least to some extent, by the stimulus of competitive tendering, it is not more likely that each yard will act as a check upon the costs of the other. Is it not fairly obvious that if we want to devise adequate and effective cost yardsticks, it is much easier to do this where we have two yards side by side attempting the same sort of job, bringing to it their various skills, expertise and enthusiasm, than by having one yard cushioned by the knowledge that for all time it will be the monopoly supplier? I do not like monopolies on principle. There is a great danger here of confusing whatever arguments there might be in favour of public ownership with the argument that we should give some sort of monopoly status to a firm which is providing equipment for defence purposes.
I would put it this way, too. It may not be in the long-term interests of Vickers as a shipbuilding yard to have this emphasis upon naval contracts placed upon it. It may well be that a few years from now, Vickers will be facing, perhaps to an even greater extent than Lairds at the moment, the same problems arising from the withdrawal of what appeared to be safe and secure naval contracts.
There is also the argument, which was touched upon in an intervention during an earlier speech, that it is unwise to put all our eggs in one basket, to have all our nuclear expertise being applied to one yard, where, let us face it, the record of industrial disputes during the last 12 months or so leaves a great deal to be desired. One must mention the figures—because, presumably, they were considered and then discounted by the Government in reaching their decision. During the lifetime of the Labour Government Vickers has experienced losses of more than 230,000 man days due to industrial disputes, while the number lost to Cammell Laird's in similar disputes, involving more than 5,000 man days each, is precisely nil. In other words, for the last four and a half year Cammell Laird's has been working remarkably successfully and equably and the labour disputes of the past, which were, undoubtedly, a difficult legacy for the yard to bear, have, fortunately, become a thing of the past. It is not very encouraging to the morale of men who have been pulling together in this way in recent years suddenly to be told that they are losing their right to contract nevertheless.
In fairness, it must be said that if the decision was taken in February, 1968, that was before the succession of disputes which have paralysed Vickers during the last 12 months. That in itself, however, might be an argument for suggesting that reconsideration of the decision is now called for.
The effects of unemployment in the area are, of course, difficult to forecast at this stage. I must emphasise the point made by the hon. Member for South Angus that it is not the object of defence contracts simply to provide employment for the sake of it. Nevertheless, we have on Merseyside a very high rate of unemployment, traditionally speaking. Indeed, this explains its development area status. Despite that development area status and the considerable injections of public money into the area in recent years, the unemployment rate is not far short of 4 per cent.
If to that are to be added some 3,000 more jobs which are at stake—these are figures which have been argued by the firm at least; I would be interested to hear of any other figures which might be estimated—clearly that will make the position much worse and is bound to involve not only a considerable increase in the rate of unemployment, but a sad loss of the particular skills and expertise which the naval contracts in nuclear submarines have brought to the area.
The point has also been made that there will be problems of national security in the future if only one yard does this work. That argument, however, can be overstressed because, clearly, the circumstances of all-out nuclear war in the future are likely to be such that there will be no opportunity for one, two, three or any other number of yards to function for more than a few minutes after the outbreak of war.
On the other hand, we have to consider whether, in the years ahead, it is likely that the forecasts of war being inevitably nuclear will be borne out by events. It is not necessary for me to restate the proposition tonight, but a considerable body of opinion has recently suggested that limited war, using conventional weapons, is, if anything, now more likely rather than less likely under the nuclear umbrella. In those circumstances, where Fleet submarines might well be of considerable use, it would appear to be valuable to have these reserve facilities for nuclear submarine building available at a yard where they have been painfully and expensively built up.
What is, perhaps, even more serious, to my way of looking at things, than the decision to cease placing contracts for these submarines at Cammell Laird's is the announcement, which followed a few days later and which I first saw in a Press interview, that refitting work also will not be made available to Cammell Laird's in the 1970s. Although I am not clear how many Fleet submarines we intend to build, one has to bear in mind that the number which we shall be building in the years ahead is likely progressively to decline. There is an argument in naval circles that it is not the right priority we should be stressing in our naval building programme. At all events, Cammell Laird's has built up expertise, at some expense, involving £2½ million by the firm, supplemented by another £1½ million directly invested by the Government, and could at relatively little increased cost provide adequate refitting facilities, even if the new building work which the company was hoping to be able to tender for is not to be made available to it.
I can understand that there is a dilemma here. We have heard arguments, quite rightly, from hon. Members who represent naval dockyard areas, and, clearly, we must seek economics of scale. But I wonder how far it is sensible to go on ploughing public money into those yards when that work could be done in yards where these facilities are already available.
There is a further point to bear in mind. It may well be said that the decision to invest in the dockyards is sensible in that this would provide steady and secure employment in the years ahead, but at the same time it must be borne in mind that those dockyards are not likely to be embarking on any massive programme of commercial shipbuilding, and therefore, whatever technological spill off there is from naval contracts it is not likely immediately to be available to the dockyards for use in commercial ventures. At yards such as Laird's, however, one could have this immediate marriage between the naval and civil programmes.
There are many more points to be made by hon. Members who represent Merseyside constituencies, many of whom wish to speak, and I am conscious that I have already trespassed on the indulgence of the House in developing several points at length, and so I will finish now with one particular point which is one of great anxiety to us. It is known that within a few weeks the Hunt Committee's Report will be published, and there are strong hints being dropped in all sorts of quarters that it will involve the de-scheduling of Merseyside as a development area or a drastic cut-back in the amount of Government aid which it has hitherto been receiving.
Whatever may be the merits of that argument in terms of grey areas and priorities, it is surely a little extraordinary that at this moment when the morale of this conurbation is so tested the decision making is done in what I am bound to say is a somewhat surreptitious way. It is the very thing which makes many of the workers in the industry feel cynical. They have put this to me and to others both this afternoon and in the last few days. It makes them very cynical, and suspicious about the future. I hope that it will be possible for the Government, if not to reconsider the question over the placing of contracts for the building of these submarines, to reconsider very urgently the refitting programme, and also to consider—and this would require a speech in itself, but I shall content myself with a sentence—the advisability now of helping the yard to invest its skill and expertise in the nuclear propulsion of surface ships.
In the short time available a number of hon. Members still wish to speak in the debate, so I hope that hon. Members will curtail their remarks as much as possible.
I rise with mixed feelings to follow the able, informative and yet depressing speech by the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks). I would have liked, having before the Summer Recess initiated a debate on submersibles and the control of the ocean floor, to have followed him in some of the suggestions he made in the earlier part of his speech, but the reason why, after having been a Member of this House for over 19 years, I rise for the first time to take part in a debate on the Navy Estimates is the effect of the Government's decision on Merseyside, to which the hon. Gentleman devoted the main part of his speech. That decision is indeed vital to Merseyside.
The hon. Gentleman put forward a number of questions to the Government. He asked about the cost of the submarines. He suggested, in one part of his speech, that because the cost of a submarine from Cammell Laird's yard was considerably greater than that of a submarine from Vickers' yard that was one of the reasons for Cammell Laird having now been taken off the list. But am I not right in saying that the second submarine was cheaper than that which was made by Vickers? Possibly the Minister, when he replies to the debate, will confirm this. Will he also confirm that the delays in the construction of the submarine in Cammell Laird's yard was due to delays at Vickers?
I agree of course that one does not want to have too many yards, too many units, dealing with naval work, but there is a great deal of difference between having a superabundance of yards and creating a monopoly. A monopoly seems to be made both for strategic and economic reasons—and technical as well, of course, and the technical reasons are bound up with the others. The strategic reasons are obvious and I shall not go into them.
The economic reasons divide into two. The hon. Gentleman has already mentioned the possible fall-out that there is from defence expenditure. America has experienced that in a major way with her defence expenditure, which has benefited industry very much indeed. It seems to me that the Government have entirely forgotten this aspect, and that they have also forgotten the danger of industrial disputes, too.
On 20th February the announcement was made. Would the Minister say when the decision really was made? Was it a year ago? If so, was the board informed? If the board was informed, was it muzzled? If the board was told, why not the staff and all the labour force? They have got their own lives to live; they have got to make plans for the future just as much as the company.
This seems to me a perfect example of the arrogance of the present Government. They make decisions; they keep them secret; they do not consult this House in any way; therefore they get themselves into an impossible position from which they cannot retreat, and they cannot change their minds, without ignominy. They have had to do it on many occasions. I hope they will not do so again.
Let us consider the facts. Out of a total turnover at Cammell Laird, which has varied very much from year to year, the average amounts to about £13 million; of that, the naval work over the last five years amounts to £5½ million or 43 per cent. In 1967 it was as much as £12,720,000 out of £19½ million or 65 per cent.
Consider the capital investment which the company has been led to create by the promises—or the indirect promises, anyhow—of the Government. In the last five years £2½ million, nearly, of capital has been invested in improving the shipyard to provide equipment for the handling of naval contracts, and the Government themselves have invested £1½ million. Let us consider, too, that the company has allocated, out of a yearly average of capital expenditure of about £¾ million, £438,000 to equip itself to handle the highly technical naval contracts to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) referred. Some 60 per cent. of the capital invested over the past five years has been entirely for naval projects.
It is the human side that worries me. Cammell Laird employ 8,000 souls. There is a danger of the Government, by their decision, putting 3,000 of those out of work. To compare the proportion of the direct-labour force engaged on naval work to the total direct labour force, 260,000 direct hours each week have been worked, approximately 180,000 of which are concentrated on the three submarines under construction. Almost 70 per cent. of direct-labour resources and approximately half of the staff are engaged on naval work. That is the size of the problem created by the Government's decision. By the summer of this year, possibly by June, there will be a surplus of outfit trades, that is to say, plumbers, fitters and electricians, amounting to 2,500 should the company be left with no nuclear submarine orders. The company employs specialists on technical aspects of warship construction, especially on nuclear work, who deal with items such as health physics, quality control, testing and tuning weapons systems.
It is not as if the company has not a good record in industrial relations in the last few years. As the hon. Member for Bebington has said, their record compares very favourably with that of Vickers in Barrow, where the days lost amount to five times those lost on Merseyside.
Seventy per cent. of the direct labour forces are involved in naval work. By the Government's decision, and by what I count as something much more worrying, the decision not to give the refits to Cammell Laird, all these people are in danger of losing their jobs. How dangerous that can be, for political and for many other reasons ! I sometimes think that the Government have taken leave of their senses. It surely would be common sense to concentrate on having competition between at least two companies, and not to rely on a monopoly.
Many centuries ago when we had an arrogant King in charge in Stuart times, on the scaffold after a trial very near here the Earl of Strafford said: "Put not your trust in Princes." Merseyside—the company, the employees—have put then-trust in this Government. They have now found that that trust has been betrayed by this Government. There are those who will not lose their heads, although the Government appear to have done so, and will probably lose their seats later on.
Every day 50 per cent. of the labour force of Cammell Laird cross the Mersey. They come not only from the constituency of the hon. Member for Bebington and the constituency of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Dell); but from all the Liverpool seats, and I notice that the hon. Members who sit for Liverpool are conspicuous by their absence. They come also from Bootle and from a very wide area. No doubt when they vote at the next General Election, and even earlier at the coming municipal election, they will take note of this senseless decision of Her Majesty's Government.
I will try to respect your dictum, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and make a brief speech. I will deal exclusively with the dockyard review, and, I hope, make my hon. Friend a little happier. During the past three hours he has been subjected to complaint, grievance and recrimination, and I will try to strike a happier note.
The dockyard review was taken in two ways; first to work out the most effective and economical dockyard support for the Fleet, and, secondly, to plan a dockyard organisation to match the reduction in the future size of the Fleet and in naval support as a whole.
Reviews which involve the loss of jobs are bound to be worrying. In my constituency, employees in the dockyard and traders in the Dunfermline, Rosyth and West Fife area are all concerned about the outcome of this review. I sympathise with the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) who finds himself with the prospect of a large part of the economy of Arbroath being affected by the closure of the air station. The Rosyth Dockyard has been fortunate in the review. It is the only dockyard to increase its work force, and this is very gratifying to the people in the area, particularly those in Rosyth.
However, the Scottish Nationalist Party supporters in the Rosyth and Dunfermline area are disappointed at the outcome of the review, as they had hoped to make party capital out of any reduction in manpower. The Scottish Nationalist Party, through the voice of the prospective constituency Parliamentary candidate, only last week forecast a bleak future for Rosyth. The party says that the nuclear submarine refuelling and refitting section of the yard is being run down. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will answer this.
Will my hon. Friend also say whether the efforts of the Scottish Nationalist Party to achieve self-government in Scot land are likely to influence future policy on Rosyth Dockyard? One thing, Mr. Gourlay, I think is apparent——
If my hon. Friend will allow me to intervene, without commenting on what he said, it may help my hon. Friend if I say that 40 per cent. of naval orders in the last five years have gone to shipbuilders in Scotland, and it is a very proud record for Scotland.
Thank you. Arising from the fact that we have a nuclear section in Rosyth, the nuclear propulsion of ships could be very useful to Scotland as a whole in the future, and that is a very important thing.
That is a very long time away.
There is also the question of wages and conditions in the dockyard, which is mentioned in the White Paper. A productivity deal is promised for many of the personnel. I hope that my hon. Friend will get on with this very quickly, so as to help all the skilled, semi-skilled and others in the dockyard. This is important.
A few outstanding grades remain who require to be upgraded. The apprentice group instructors went some way towards what they sought only two years ago, but they have not been quite satisfied. The non-craft chargemen are desperately seeking upgrading, and the surveyors of stores are also seeking upgrading. I hope that these three categories will receive the Minister's attention very soon.
I understand that certain people will be brought up from England to the Rosyth area, and we require a number of houses for them. I have tabled a Question to the Minister, put to me by one of the small burghs in my constituency, asking that the Admiralty recognise certain workers as key workers. This is very important, because it is the only way in which certain skilled people moving across the country can get housing. There should be arrangements with local authorities and other housing agencies to give them houses. That is the only way to keep skilled workers in Rosyth Dockyard. Quite a large number of workers are leaving the dockyard because outside industry is much more attractive. If we want to make the dockyard a success we must have well-paid and well satisfied personnel there.
As a non-regular contributor to defence debates, I am all the more sorry that I had to miss part of the debate today after the opening speeches from the Front Benches.
We all welcomed unreservedly in last week's debates the passage in the speech of the Secretary of State for Defence in which he paid tribute to the men and women of the Armed Services. I should like to thank the Department for the arrangements it makes for hon. Members to visit naval establishments and ships. I have had hardly any contact with the Navy since I served for a few years during the war. It was an entirely unspectacular period of service, but it left me with great affection and admiration for the Navy. When I was with the Portland Squadron last autumn it was the first time for more than 20 years that I had had a chance to see the Navy at sea. Although a great deal has changed, one found the same efficiency, pride in professional skill and adaptability. In this, the Navy can teach many lessons for many areas of civilian life.
I remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman also spoke last week of the
dedication of the men and women of the Services, but this dedication is clouded by doubts about the future. This is where we politicians come in. As I said when writing to my naval host after my visit last autumn,
The politicians must try to match the standards that the Navy sets.
I should like to say more than time allows, so I shall try to keep to one or two main points, as other hon. Members want to speak.
I have one question under the heading of strategy and equipment. In previous debates on the Navy there has been much concern, certainly on this side of the House, about the Government's apparent contentment with relying on air-to-surface missiles carried by helicopters for the defence of our surface ships. The Minister of Defence for Equipment talked last week about attending the launch of the first Sea Dart guided missile destroyer. He said that in addition to the Sea Dart's surface-to-air capacity, it also had a surface-to-surface capability. May we be told tonight how significant this may be, and how much it may alter the balance of defence of surface ships compared with complete reliance on missile-carrying helicopters?
My other point under the same heading is the serious concern I feel at the lack of prominence in defence discussions of the threat from submarines. In our debates here and in public awareness of defence matters a great deal has been said recently about the Mediterranean, east of Suez and the Polaris submarines, but relatively little is said on the absolutely vital problem of protecting our maritime trade against submarines. We are told that Russia has 375 submarines, including more than 50 nuclear submarines. In the Atlantic, even when we allow for the effort of allied Powers, which we hope we should have alongside us, our numbers of anti-submarine vessels have fallen to a dangerously low level. I know that we are restricted by the awful problem of expense which we face over the whole defence field. This must limit the number of ships, but I should like to join in the welcome given by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) to what is said in the White Paper about the discussions going on about a newer, less expensive and smaller frigate designed by Yarrow-Vosper. I hope that with something of this kind we can by the middle 1970s at the latest build up our anti-submarine strength to a much more impressive level.
My only other comments are concerned with recruiting. The Government have admitted that this is bad. It is mentioned in the White Paper, and if I have read the figures correctly the key figures—those for male recruits to the Royal Navy—have fallen by no less than 35 per cent. between 1965 and 1968. Given this, the Government's attitude still lacks urgency. In the debates last week and this we have heard much too much about the reasons for the falling off in recruiting and far too little about the Government's remedies.
There are five steps to which I wish they would pay more attention. First, we need a new attitude by Government spokesmen, with less obeisance to their friends below the Gangway and less pride in withdrawals and economies and much more positive and robust talk about the vital rôle of the Forces such as we heard for all too short a time during the Secretary of State's speech last week.
Second, we need a better understanding by the public of what is involved in modern service life. The Minister of Defence for Administration spoke last week about the extra £1 million on publicity this year. This is fine, but can we be assured that out of this the inland areas will not be forgotten? It is easy to have Navy days at the ports, but cannot more be done to take the Navy to the public inland by means of exhibitions and special events of that kind?
Thirdly, and related to that, can we not do more to try to develop links between individual ships and towns? I know that this is done to some extent, but I believe that much more public interest could be generated. For example, if a particular inland city like Cambridge had a warship attached to it or adopted by it, at intervals the captain of the ship could write some account for the local newspaper which would tell people what was going on. At present, there is a sad lack of news about the Navy in inland areas such as the one I have instanced.
Fourthly, I hope that we can have greater support for the Sea Cadet Force. I take a little encouragement from the apparent rise in expenditure under the Navy Estimates on cadet forces. I hope that this is a sign of more good things to come in future, because this is a sphere where all possible support by the Government is necessary.
Fifthly, I hope that we can have more done—I should think at very little extra expense—to tell our schools about the Navy's current and future activities and prospects.
Summing up, I believe that, even granted the basic premises behind the Government's present defence policy, which I do not, the main weakness in their presentation this year is their failure to face up positively enough to the recruiting problem. Unless they treat this matter with more urgency and greater imagination, they will prove themselves even more guilty than they have already been of gross mismanagement of our national defences.
Had the Defence Secretary been here, he might have given a somewhat ribald laugh at the remark of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) when he spoke of his obeisance to his hon. Friends below the Gangway.
I should like to follow the hon. Member for Cambridge in two respects. First, in the example that he set in the unselfish length of his speech and, secondly, on the very important point that he raised about submarines.
As my hon. Friends know, I have always been an open supporter of the Polaris concept.
But I welcome the fact that we are not going ahead with a Poseidon multiple war headed re-entry vehicle.
I should like to draw to the attention of my hon. Friend and, though him, of the Defence Secretary the every real problem of the emplacement of nuclear weapons. One of the most urgent matters which we have to discuss is the real possibility of the establishment of nuclear silos within the next generation on the North Atlantic ridge. I hope that the negotiations now going on at Geneva will cover the question of the fixed emplacement of nuclear weapons on the sea bed.
It is all very well for defence correspondents and indeed the Defence Secretary to argue that the movable vehicle will always be more dangerous than the emplaced nuclear silo. But there are considerable doubts about it. Certainly this is a subject for the most urgent negotiation, first, with the United States and then, I hope, at Geneva.
Following the example of the hon. Member for Cambridge, I will confine myself to one point, namely, page 27 of the Defence Estimates, Vote 4, on the work of the hydrographer and the hydro-graphic services.
I argue that the Navy should become far more involved in the development of the ocean environment and the development of the marine sciences. I was very hopeful when my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen), opening the debate, referred to the changing rôle and the changing shape of the Navy. I should like to see the shape of the Navy changed in the way that many hon. Members would like, including the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) who opened a debate last summer on this subject. It could be argued that this is not really the business of the Fleet; that the business of the Fleet is defence, not the development of the marine environment. I will confine myself to three comments.
First, in a limited way the Hydro-graphic Department, under Admiral Ritchie, has done excellent work which is the envy of many other Navies in the world—and on shoestring resources.
Secondly, we really ought to reflect on what the American Navy has been doing. If there is any doubt about this, the Third Report of the American Marine Sciences Council demonstrates the extent to which the State in America is becoming involved now to the tune of 500 million dollars, and a great deal more through the use of the Navy in the development of the ocean environment.
Thirdly, the Russians are using their Navy for the same purpose.
I should like to see a coherent British marine science development programme. After a great deal of reflection, I have changed my mind about the people who ought to run it. I used to think that it should be run from the Ministry of Technology, but no longer.
I think now that there are overwhelming reasons, both in terms of Whitehall, and of Ministerial responsibility, why the Navy Minister and the Defence Department should be responsible for coordinating the British Marine Science Programme. It is partly that they are to do with the sea, and do not have all the other distractions that come naturally to other Departments. When I talk about other Departments, I remind the House that 16 Departments of State are involved. First, there is the difficult question of law, which involves the Attorney-General, and indeed the Foreign Office. This really is urgent. Industry comes to us and says, "When are you going to do something about regularising the maritime law?".
Then there is the responsibility of the Ministry of Technology, the Department of Education and Science, which are well-known and into which I shall not delve for time reasons, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Scottish Office which perhaps does not have the major interest which some of us might think they should have. There is the Board of Trade, the Department of Employment and Productivity, the Ministry of Public Building and Works, the Ministry of Transport, and the Ministry of Power with all sorts of responsibilities for the development of gas and oil.
I take just one example of how this subject does not fit into departmentalisation. This is the responsibility of the Ministry of Overseas Development, and I give one short concrete example. Those who went to the oceanography exhibition at Brighton last month, the first of its kind in the world, where great credit was due to the organisers, saw the possibility outlined of a ship that would cost £375,000, to be used for desalination purposes, producing about 60,000 litres of water each day, which would serve 12 different communities, giving 12 litres to each individual in those communities, at a cost of 0·825d. per 12 litres.
That is obviously a desirable form of development, and the question is, who is going to undertake it? I am not sure that it is realistic to ask private industry to undertake it, at least not without a certain amount of coverage, and it occurs to me that it is highly desirable that the Navy should undertake this kind of task. Therefore, both for Whitehall reasons, and for reasons of common sense, I hope that the Prime Minister will reflect on these matters rather than go the whole hog and set up a Ministry of Ocean Affairs, as Commander Ranken has per-suadingly argued, I am not for increasing the number of Ministers because it might not be very realistic now.
There is one concomitant. Just as with Operation Military Aid to the Civil Community and the Army, as I think my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army will be the first to agree the good work of Op M.A.C.C. on land should not come off the Defence Budget, so equally there is a strong argument for saying that if the Navy is to undertake the industrial work of the development of the ocean environment it should not be subject to the Defence Vote. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows that I have put forward a plea for a change—I shall not say on his behalf, because he does not need me to argue for him—because from the point of view of the Treasury it is right that if we are to undertake these schemes, they should not come off the Defence Budget.
I should like to headline a concrete action programme of what some of us think ought to be done. It is easy to talk in general terms, and I think that the cause of the development of the ocean environment has suffered somewhat from too much generalisation, from people talking in far too vague terms.
I have 10 points to put forward. First, I should like proper progress chasing of the Greenwich Conference, at which industry and the Forces were represented in March of last year. I should also like some progress chasing of the Brighton Conference.
Secondly, I should like my hon. Friend's Department to be represented at the presentation that is being given at the Ministry of Technology this Wednesday and Thursday by B.A.C., Hawker Siddeley, Lintott and Vickers, where they will outline what they think ought to be done. My hon. Friend ought to make sure that his Department is represented at this presentation.
Thirdly, there should be some joint development techniques with private firms in respect of the development of the ocean environment. The experience for doing this properly already resides in the Department. The Defence Department has had considerable success in its joint adventures with, for example, B.A.C. in respect of Rapier. Leaving aside the question of exporting Rapier, I am saying that the expertise for this kind of joint development already resides inside the Ministry of Defence and should be used for the purposes of the Hydrographic Department.
Fourthly, an action programme is called for with N.E.R.C. on the whole question of coastal pollution. I shall not take up time discussing this matter. The Third Report of the United States Marine Sciences Council outlines what should be done in this matter.
Fifthly, on the rather unglamorous subject of gravel production, which is important enough to our economy although it may not sound startling, there should be a joint discussion with industry about the ways in which the Navy can help.
Sixthly—and I have given warning to the Department and to my hon. Friend about this—my hon. Friend should soon go down to Alverstoke, one of the most famous establishments of its kind in the world, where techniques of really deep diving have been worked out in just as advanced a way as with the Scripps Institute in the United States or at Woodshole. It is not enough simply for the research department at Alverstoke to say to industry, "We will answer your questions". Industry wants representatives there not for a day but for a week or two, so that they can become aware of the right questions to ask.
I wish to quote briefly what was said about Alverstoke by Professor Bishop in his article on ocean engineering. He said:
By contrast the Merchant Navy has no work of any description. Furthermore, there
appears to be no feedback from the Royal Naval Research to the Merchant Navy.
The contrast is drawn both with the R.A.F. and the Army. I am of the opinion that the good work done at Alverstoke is not made sufficiently available to British industry.
Seventhly, there is an urgent need to go into the whole question of Naval architecture. There are nine full-time professors of ship design in the University of Tokyo but there are very few doing this work in Britain. Perhaps that fact is reflected in some of the difficulties being experienced by our shipbuilding industry at present. I have a concrete suggestion to make. In the Defence White Paper reference was made to Shrivenham. Having been to Shriven-ham I know the value of Shrivenham scholars, and I would have thought it was sensible to argue in terms of a marine engineering course at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham. Perhaps the Minister would give some thought to that suggestion. Furthermore, I should like to see a tie-up between marine engineering and the development of oceanography. I should like to see the kind of link in the Navy, as that suggested in the White Paper, between the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and a university as yet unnamed. This is the direction in which we ought to be going.
Eighthly, the Navy should provide a number of ships for ocean research, and, though on uncertain ground, I would suggest the boom defence vessels have a rôle. Ninthly, I am a little hesitant for fear of being greeted with ribaldry, but I would have thought that underwater tourism should be the concern of the Navy.
Tenthly, I hope that when my hon. Friend goes to the United States he will make it his business to talk to the Secretary of the American Marine Science Council, Ed Wenk, and Senator Claiborne Pell, who was here the week before last and with whom a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House—including the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home)—had detailed discussions, and who has pioneered the cause of the marine sciences in the United States Senate.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary made points about the problems of manpower being more difficult than finance. I sincerely believe that, if the Navy were switched sensibly and, as far as possible, in keeping with legitimate service and fighting requirements, to the development of the marine environment, this sort of career would ease his manpower problems rather than exacerbate them.
I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) into the realms of the ocean bed, although I admire his expertise.
The White Paper appeared to congratulate itself on the fact that the budget for this year is £5 million less than that for last year but there is no reason for congratulation when we are still spending such a large sum on defence and such a high proportion of our gross national product—a sum which we patently cannot afford. I am particularly alarmed that the decrease should be only £5 million. If ever there were a year in which one would expect a big reduction it is a year in which there was a curtailment of a whole rôle of defence, that east of Suez. As we cannot see any signs of a big reduction, we can only assume that next year's defence figures will prove what we all know, that defence is a runaway train and that it is rushing us headlong into bankruptcy. If I am wrong and there is a reduction next year, I shall be delighted.
The Polaris programme and the expenditure on it are a misuse of Government funds. It defends no one from anything. It is immoral in its intrinsic nature, because, apart from the risk that it brings to everyone living around the boundaries of Holy Loch from various types of accident, it is asking mankind to risk world suicide. It should never be in any part of the United Kingdom, but I wonder why it was sited opposite the dense population belt of Scotland. Two million people live within a comfortable radius. They believe that it would never have been sited on the River Thames. These nuclear armed vessels, described in the country of their origin as "city killers", can kill many millions of people and could possibly destroy a considerable part of an enemy's nuclear armament.
But the protection that they give against a holocaust depends on the country using them being the first to strike, and heavily enough to destroy or paralyse all the enemy's nuclear capacity. Otherwise, the inevitable massive retaliation can bring only total disaster. The existence of these vessels and the United States base at the Holy Loch make it more than probable that, if a nuclear exchange ever took place, the whole Clyde region, including Glasgow, would be totally devastated.
This is an immoral action by continuing Governments, and war involving these weapons can only mean mass suicide. Their abandonment would save a great deal of money and would show that the British Government were the first to rid themselves of a criminal illusion which is shared by other countries.
Nuclear weapons are often nuclear targets, and Scotland very much resents being target No. 1. I have spoken in 55 or more constituencies in Scotland in just over a year—not to audiences of my party but to large public audiences, sometimes in the South. I have always put this, point of view wherever I have gone in Scotland. Although the audiences were by no means my supporters—on the contrary, depending where I spoke, they were either Tory-biased or Labour-biased—I found the reaction to my point of view about this type of weapon and its situation in Scotland one of approval, very often with resounding cheers.
I turn to weapon accumulation. The House would recover its sanity if tonight we urged a reduction in weapons. I am saying nothing new when I remind the House of the massive danger to mankind in the huge increase in the stockpile. I am ashamed that I am in a legislature which is increasing this stockpile to any extent. I regard as a most evil and alarming philosophy the pronouncement made recently by the Secretary of State that the German and British Governments are working together on the development of a N.A.T.O. doctrine for the initial use of nuclear weapons in a number of physical situations. I find it strange. How long ago was it that we were fighting the people we are apparently to be partnering in what I can only regard as a wicked enterprise?
My party has rejected membership of N.A.T.O. in its present form and participation in any kind of nuclear programme, except for peaceful purposes. This is not a matter over which I can be laughed at by any man of honour, because it is a policy based on principle, and principles must still be respected in the House. Despite the fact that my party has grown because so many people have turned to it from other parties, and despite the diversity of view brought to it, there has been surprising unanimity when considering whether Scotland wants any part in this kind of programme now or in the future when she has regained her independence.
The White Paper claims that N.A.T.O. has a unique value as a deterrent to war. Between 1959 and 1969 there has been a massive increase in weapons, and yet we did not stop or affect events in Czechoslovakia or other problems which have arisen in the world.
I am against the increase in the naval budget which is sought tonight. I cannot see that it is a deterrent in any respect. I am sad that we are rushing or sliding into a nuclear strategy which clearly has been proved by events not to be successful. It is immoral, because we cannot afford to allow people to die as they are dying in Scotland of malnutrition and cold.
In my submission we cannot afford to pass this Vote because we cannot afford the increase which is being asked in an already disgracefully large slice of the national spending.
We would favour a navy which concentrated on defending us, for instance in defending our fishing, and in fishery protection. We should base our naval defence very closely on that of Norway. Without going in detail into the matter, I trust that that answers the hon. Gentleman's question.
Spending on Polaris used to be a matter which divided the two major parties in the House. Today, with a few shining exceptions, it is a subject which appears to unite them. To the disgrace of Labour hon. Members, it is now a question of which twin is the Tory. Is the Minister aware of the effects of the Government's Polaris policy on those parts of the country where Polaris submarines are situated? Is he aware of the views of the S.U.P. on this issue? I should like to think that the wishes of those who live in the places where Polaris submarines are situated have an effect on Government policy, but I fear that I cannot have that belief. If these weapons are to be situated in the United Kingdom, why must they be placed in an area where 2 million people live uncomfortably close by? I am against siting them anywhere, and I therefore cannot support the Government in this matter.
In the few moments at my disposal I will refer to some matters which arose earlier in the debate.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have made passing remarks about the Beira patrol. While there are differing views in the House about the policy which necessitates the existence of this patrol, hon. Members who, like me, have advocated this policy greatly respect the way in which the Royal Navy has carried out its duties on behalf of the nation.
The Minister's encouraging remarks about future Government policy towards outside work and increased scope for tendering for this work by the dockyards will be welcomed in communities such as the one I represent. This opportunity, even if limited, to tender for outside civil contracts will combat the problems of waiting time and will assist the overall efficiency of, and help to create a dynamic atmosphere within, the dockyards. It will be particularly welcome in areas such as my constituency.
There is to be a 20 per cent. reduction in job opportunities and bearing in mind that these are to be on the activities of what is by far the largest employer in the area, what steps have been taken for there to be full consultation with the local authority about the implications of this and, more particularly, what steps have been taken to involve other Ministries, such as the Department of Employment and Productivity and the Board of Trade, in these consultations and in talks about the problems which will follow?
We in Portsmouth are looking forward to the review of N.A.T.O. naval forces which is soon to take place. As we are streamlining the dockyards and introducing a new atmosphere of efficiency, we have a great opportunity now to encourage a wide cross-section of employees in the yards to witness this naval review. This would, certainly psychologically, be of great benefit because it would help them to see exactly the full scope of what they are servicing.
In connection with dockyards and the presence of the Navy in Portsmouth, I trust that the Minister will take note of the increasing amount of semi-official and friendly co-operation that exists between the expanding Portsmouth College of Technology, soon to become a polytechnic, and the Navy. I have been encouraged to hear about the various ways in which, particularly in terms of marine and geological research, the Navy has been assisting the college. I hope that this sort of fruitful co-operation will be encouraged wherever possible by the Ministry of Defence.
At several points in last week's debate, and this was directly relevant to the present debate, we heard of problems of recruiting within the Services. In this respect, the Navy seems to have greater difficulties than are experienced by either the Army or the Royal Air Force. I am quite convinced that one of the problems is that of married life for ratings. Is the Department doing any research into some of the social problems faced by young naval wives living alone, sometimes for fairly prolonged spells in fairly isolated communities? What measures does the Ministry intend to introduce to deal with some of the difficulties that have resulted from that problem? If we tackle that difficulty, I am sure that we could make a definite contribution towards creating that atmosphere of reassurance which would encourage recruiting.
I should have liked to have followed the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), as I very much appreciated his suggestions with regard to the future of oceanography, especially as the R.N. Hydrographie School is in Devonport. I should like to thank the Minister for a letter I have received dealing with the Marine Sciences and stating that a report will be available very shortly, I am sure that this report will be of great use.
I, too, offer my congratulations to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) on his speech. He spoke of quality rather than quantity of the Royal Navy, and the hon. Member for West Lothian referred to naval arcitecture. I am not at all sure that we are not spending too much on the quality of ships and not enough on quantity. Ships are getting intensely complicated, but I should have thought it equally easy to sink a ship of quality as any other, and I should like to see more ships.
I should like to clear up a point about the aircraft carrier. The hon. Gentleman will have seen in our local paper mention of plans of the future rôle of H.M.S. "Eagle". The statement was made by the captain to the crew of 2,000 attending the ceremony. He said that there had been no basic change in plans to phase out "Elagle" within three years, and expressed surprise at the House of Commons statement that the Government were thinking of using vertical take-off planes. His remarks probably arose from what appears in coloumn 356 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of last week's defence debate, which may have given some indication of a change of policy.
I should like some information about the 60 Sea King anti-submarine helicopters which I understand were to have been ordered in 1966. Was there an idea that these might have been intended to fly from the carriers? and if so has there been a change of policy?
I was rather sorry to hear the hon. Gentleman say that the dockyards might be available for prepayment works, as this would be very degrading. Proper naval work should be available for the dockyards. Prepayment work is not satisfactory.
The question of productivity is mentioned in the leaflet issued to the dockyards, but nothing is said about a review of pay. That is necessary if we are to increase productivity. As it is, a number of unskilled people are taking home a basic wage of about £12 a week, and even skilled men are taking home only £18. I do not think anyone should have to work overtime in order to get a living.
We are told that there should be a full work load for the dockyards, and I hope this will be so. In paragraph 40 on page 56:
In the longer term, substantial dockyard support will still be needed; for the new, more advanced classes of ship and submarine which will enter the Fleet in the next ten years require even greater skills and work of even higher quality than in the past.
If in Devonport we are to have Leander-type frigates we should like to know if we are to be allowed to build one as has been done in the past. I gather that South Africa would like to buy a number of these frigates for £6 million each, and that would be a good thing not only for the dockyards but for other firms in the country. We are also told in the leaflet that greater authority would be given to general managers. We should like to know how general managers will fit in with the new High Executive. Perhaps we could be told what his salary is to be and from where he will work.
We are also told that there will be replacement rather than repair work. Will replacements be made in the dockyards or given to private firms? I gather that the number of apprentices will not be reduced but we are still waiting to know more about the Dockyard Technical College. It may be necessary to have some established personnel made mobile. I should like to know whether those in existing dockyards will be allowed to go to Rosyth before people are recruited from outside.
What has happened to civilians employed in Singapore? We are told that 300 United Kingdom civilians will be made redundant by April, 1969. Are they to be found jobs in the dockyards in Britain? I gather that there are 4,900 civilians in jobs in overseas naval bases. Will there be jobs for them in Gibraltar or Malta?
It is regrettable that the number of Royal Marines has dropped. There are to be 30 centres overseas for training. Will they be allowed to do part of their training abroad? In Plymouth we are very sorry to lose a number of men of the Royal Marine band who served us so well in the past. On page 103 there is reference to a great deal of scrapping of ships, I wonder whether that is necessary. We have sold one to Nigeria and another to Malaysia but there is nothing stated about the amount of money that was obtained from the sales of these ships.
No one in the debate has mentioned the women's services. The numbers in the W.R.N.S. are also dropping, and I do not see how they can continue to be recruited if they do not have overseas service. Will the hon. Gentleman in winding up the debate say what fresh opportunities there will be for them in the future? One service which has kept up its numbers is the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service.
At the Royal Naval Engineering College at Manadon excellent standards have been maintained and that is extremely important. We have an excellent hydro-graphic school at Plymouth. Oceanographie surveys are needed for war and peace, and for submarine and antisubmarine warfare and for food potentials from the sea. What progress has been made with regard to Sir Frederick Brundrett's foreword in the first issue of the magazine Hydraspace, in November, 1967? He wrote then:
The oustandingly able men connected with N.E.R.C. will certainly do their best, but they cannot do what the nation needs for two reasons They have too much on their plate and no authority in the essential field of development.
The order of business is not a matter for the Chair. I understand that the practice is varied from time to time, but that is a matter for the Government. This debate must close tonight at 10 o'clock because there is no suspension Motion on the Order Paper which would allow us to carry it on after that hour.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am greatly disturbed by your observation. This is one of the most important Votes to come before Parliament and it requires the fullest discussion. One of the experts on the matter, and one who has been proved so correct in so many debates of this nature in the past, has not been called. He is my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), whom some of us would like very much to hear, since he is one of the few people who have been correct in the past. It is only just that he should be heard on this occasion.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has for many years—indeed, many generations—been the tradition of the House that on the occasion of the Service Estimates an opportunity should be given to move a reduction of 1,000 men in the strength in order to show opposition to the Vote. In this debate we have not had the opportunity of moving that Amendment, and it has not been moved. I submit that this is a grave breach of the traditions of the House, which have all along allowed an hon. Member to move a reduction of the Vote by 1,000 men in order to show his disagreement with the policy of the Government.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Edwin Brooks) did not move that the Vote be reduced by 1,000 men, but surely that did not preclude the other signatory to the Amendment from doing so. I submit that it is a grave injustice to the House and a departure from precedent not to call the Amendment.
Mr. Speaker indicated c early at the outset of the debate that, while he was not selecting the Amendment, if the hon. Member who had his name to it caught the eye of the Chair it would be in order for him to move it. The hon. Member for Bebington was called but did not choose to move the Amendment and, therefore, lost his opportunity. I am afraid that he lost it for the hon. Member for South Ayrshire too.
In spite of the views of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), I think the House will agree that we have had a pretty wide-ranging debate on the Royal Navy, dominated rightly by the dockyards and to a lesser extent by the Government's decision to shut certain naval airfields and to concentrate the building of nuclear submarines at Vickers.
From my point of view the main interest in the debate is that for the first time after three years many of the demands made by the Opposition now appear to be under consideration by the Government who had rejected them rather rudely in past years. I refer to the possible future of the aircraft carriers in the 1970s and the possible use of vertical take-off aircraft with the Fleet. However, I shall come to those two subjects in detail later on.
I want to start by referring to the rôle of the Royal Navy. The House may recall that last summer on 17th July, I asked the Under-Secretary whether he would define the rôle of the Royal Navy in the 1970s and, as reported in HANSARD, he replied:
The main rôle of the Navy will be to play a leading part in the maritime defence of the Atlantic Alliance.
He virtually repeated the same thing today. A glance at the history book will show time and again that the defence of the home base is but one of the rôles of the Royal Navy. We are an island people and we live by seaborne trade. Defence of sea communications is today as vital as at any other time in our history because geography does not change.
When challenged in the exchange to which I have just referred by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) the Under-Secretary, rather lamely I thought, replied:
The Navy of the future will be able to operate at sea for a long time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th July, 1968; Vol. 768, c. 1404.]
This reply to me sums up the faults of the Government's naval policy. Because of internal party political pressures and because of the desire to hold on to the Left-wing vote in the country, they take risks with the country's security. Their leaders know this is true but they will not or cannot do anything about it. Hence the unfortunate platitudes, shifts of policy and the wriggling which have done so much harm to the morale of the Service.
In the same exchange, when questioned by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the proposed rôle or capability of the Royal Navy east of Suez, the Under-Secretary referred only to one specific commitment—the Beira blockade. This again illustrates the mentality of the Government who were prepared to disregard the sea lanes in the Indian Ocean on which our lifeblood depends and yet to concentrate on blockading the port of an ally small enough to be bullied without much danger, for the purpose of preventing oil reaching Rhodesia which the whole world knows is pouring in by every other route.
In terms of cost-effectiveness, I wonder whether the Under-Secretary has worked out how much it has cost the British taxpayer to close down the Umtali refinery, for that is all that has been achieved. "Cost-effectiveness" trips off the tongue of the Secretary of State. How much good will does this futile blockade cost Britain in South Africa, whose ports are so essential for our shipping?
Let us consider the rôle of the Royal Navy in the Atlantic Alliance, because both parties agree that this is a key rôle for the Navy—not necessarily the only rôle but certainly a key one. When the Government first came to power they inherited a planned force for this purpose. This consisted of five Polaris submarines backed by long-range strike reconnaissance aircraft, the TSR2. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) pointed out, there was a programme of frigate replacements year by year. There was a programme of one hunter-killer submarine which was to be laid down every nine months except during the building of the Polaris submarines. These vessels, the Under-Secretary will agree, are of particular importance in the Atlantic.
There was also a small British Fleet in the Mediterranean and an assault squadron, which was later deployed east of Suez. The Fleet was then based on Malta and the British Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean was the naval C.-in-C. of N.A.T.O. and commanded in the Mediterranean. That was the position that the Government inherited.
When they came into office, first they cancelled one Polaris submarine, which made a little financial saving but immediately rendered the whole of our deterrent less credible because we could not guarantee two vessels always on patrol. Now they are scrapping one of the two depôt ships, which was specially converted for the use of those vessels in 1962, apparently without replacement. I hope that when he winds up the debate, the Minister will say whether that vessel is to be replaced. Surely, it is wrong that these submarines should be tied to Faslane, particularly in war time.
While on the subject of Polaris submarines, I should like to know whether the Minister can confirm, as, I believe, the Secretary of State stated to the Press, that these submarines will be fitted with multiple entry warheads. I know that the Poseidon will not be obtained from the Americans, but I understand that the Secretary of State made it clear in the Press that the Polaris A3 missiles supplied to our submarines have multiple warheads and, therefore, have a good chance of getting through an anti-missile barrier. I would like to have this confirmed and to have it said in the House if that is correct.
We were told in the statement of July, 1967, that the hunter-killer submarine, apart from the Polaris submarine, was to be the main striking power of the Navy. The value of these submarines, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) said today, was praised by the Prime Minister in more than one of his more famous or infamous speeches. In spite of that, however, the rate of building of these vital submarines has now been reduced, apparently, to one every 18 months, which is exactly half the rate of building under the Conservative Government.
I shall not enlarge at length on the fact that all nuclear submarines are now to be built in one yard, because this question has been well expounded by the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney). Apart from the problem of monopoly, from a strategic point of view this is surely a thoroughly bad decision. It is what worries the House more than anything else. Although we may save money, is it sensible strategically to concentrate all nuclear submarine building—a vital weapon of war—in one yard?
I asked for an assurance last year that the hunter-killer submarines were fitted with modern torpedoes, but I received no answer. The Mark 31 torpedo is referred to in the Statement as an antisubmarine torpedo. This year, the Mark 24 is not referred to. Am I to take it that it is now in service? Can the Minister say what has happened to the studies which were referred to last year by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Equipment when he said that the Government were making a study of submarine-launched anti-ship missiles? This point was also raised today by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. May hew). It is, as, I am sure, he and the House would agree, of vital importance.
These submarines are excellent vessels, probably the best submarines which the Navy has ever had, but they will not be effective unless they are fitted with thoroughly modern anti-submarine and anti-ship weapons. That means that they must have torpedoes with decoys and other devices. I hope that at least we can be assured, without giving away confidential information, that unlike "Dreadnought" when she was first put to sea, these vessels have modern torpedoes and that even more modern under-surface-to surface missiles are being prepared for use by them in the future.
After they came into office, the Government in their wisdom decided to bring to an end the tenure of the British Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, whose flag had been flown in Malta for 250 years, and to withdraw his Fleet and, at the same time, terminate the use of Malta as a base. This, as the House will remember, led to an undignified row with the Maltese Government and public opinion in both countries forced the Government to slow down their withdrawal. How glad they must be now, because today, three years later, the Mediterranean is important again. British ships are to return to the inland sea to protect the flanks of N.A.T.O. Once again, Government planning has proved faulty. The penalty for Britain, however, is that we no longer hold the post of N.A.T.O. Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean. We no longer have support facilities, which have largely gone, in Malta and we have lost the confidence of the Maltese Government to a quite large degree. All that, I submit to the House, was quite unnecessary.
The new importance of the Mediterranean was due to the Czechoslovakian crisis and to the strengthened Soviet fleet in that sea. The Secretary of State points out that this Soviet fleet could be sunk by land-based air power, but surely this claim is based on a false hypothesis. Surely no Soviet fleet would undertake warlike actions in the Mediterranean until it had adequate air support from—shall we say—Algeria, the U.A.R. and Syria. It has the use of air bases in those countries, and surely commanders ashore would not be so foolish as to move into acts of war at sea unless they had adequate air cover.
Maybe it has no actual bases there at the moment, but there are certainly Russian aircraft in Egypt, and Algeria is moving closer to an alliance with the Russians. I do not think the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I was saying. I was saying that no Soviet commander would use a fleet in the Mediterranean for an act of war until he was assured of air support—based, presumably, on North African bases, because that is where the Soviet has potential allies. I put it that way so as not to hurt the hon. Gentleman's susceptibilities about the Arab nations.
However, I point out to the House that we had air control over the Mediterranean in the Second World War only after we had secured control of the North African coast, though, of course, we fought for local air superiority from aircraft carriers which enabled us to fight the convoys through to Malta. I would remind the House of one operation in the Second World War towards the end of 1943 when we sent an expedition to recapture the Dodecanese. As we had complete air superiority from land bases in the Mediterannean, no aircraft carrier was thought to be necessary. In that operation the Navy lost four cruisers, 10 destroyers, and 10 other vessels sunk or badly damaged; the Army lost 4,000 men, and the Royal Air Force lost 115 aircraft in trying to provide cover at long range. The operation was a failure.
I ask the Minister to reflect that a carrier can maintain local air cover with two aircraft airborne and four at two minutes' notice, with one squadron of 12 aircraft. From a shore base 250 miles away, to maintain the same six aircraft airborne over the given convoy or given area at sea he will need some nine squadrons. Thus, surely, it is clear which is the most cost-effective and I hope the Minister will reflect on this—when he reads it, because I can see he is not listening to what I am saying.
I turn to the flanks of N.A.T.O. and the need for amphibious forces to protect the flanks of N.A.T.O. in the Mediterranean and off the North Cape. Exercise "Polar Express" ran into snags but demonstrated the mobility of helicopter-borne commandos. One must, however, note about this exercise a report which stated that the N.A.T.O. forces were shadowed by a Soviet Kresta class destroyer which
could have wiped out the entire force with her 350 mile range SSM".
This again demonstrates the importance of providing air cover, a lesson we forgot to our cost in the Norwegian campaign during the last war.
I should like to give the Secretary of State full marks for his support of amphibious operations and the Royal Marine Commandos. I am sorry he is not here to hear me say something nice about him, but he very courteously sent me a note that he could not be here for the winding-up speeches. Their use was again demonstrated in exercises off Queensland, where, I understand, the absence of any helicopter gunship was commented upon by American observers who realised from their experience in Vietnam how very vulnerable troop-carrying helicopters can be without any armoured protection for the troops. This again is something which we should think about both in the need for protection in troop-carrying helicopters and the need for gun ship support for helicopter-borne commando landings.
I only hope also that the Secretary of State will soon begin to appreciate that the southern flank of N.A.T.O. does not lie in the Mediterranean, it lies at the Cape, and that amphibious forces, the commandos and air cover may well be required to operate jointly off the Cape as well as off Australia.
To summarise, we agree with the Government that our key contribution to the Atlantic alliance are the submarines, both Polaris and hunter-killer. We agree that we must contribute surface ships to integrated N.A.T.O. forces in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Where we part company is in their failure to recognise the essential importance to our island people of sea communications in the general sense.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said
Surely for us, more than any other country in the world, the keeping open of our trade routes is vital to our survival."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 258.]
True, we have allies, but the Government seem to have forgotten that we are one of the only N.A.T.O. partners that can be starved out in a conventional war at sea, or that by visibly losing control over overseas communications in peace our trade and our investments could wither away.
The Government tell us that we must export or die, yet 90 to 95 per cent. of our exports travel by sea. They must know the latest figures, that 1,270 British ships are at sea every day, together with a further 1,062 in various ports in the world. Yet they never refer to sea communications. They close their eyes to the growth of the Soviet mercantile marine, which increased from just under 9 million gross registered tons in 1965 to over 10 million G.R.T. in 1966 and to about 11½ million G.R.T. in 1967, and whose trade movements by sea have more than doubled in the last five years and who, incidentally, have also 4,000 trawlers at sea which give them excellent intelligence of all the oceans of the world. Do the Government really think that there is no threat to our sea trade? Yet there have been 80 incidents since the Second World War in which British Forces have been needed and used; and our trade, our invisibles and our investments would have been affected if these forces had not been available.
Surely, also, the conditions of nuclear stalemate which exist today encourage the "middle Powers" to take aggressive action. "Middle Powers" today have missile firing FPBs and submarines, and could be a considerable danger to our trade routes unless they can be policed. Above all, pressure can be exerted upon us at sea without the risk of a global war. Who is going to risk nuclear war to save British trade? But, if Britain's trade goes, Britain starves. These are facts of life, but the Government seem to be very coy in facing up to them.
The Secretary of State has said that the reason why the Soviet fleet is in the Mediterranean is to exercise political pressure. I am sure that he is right, and what a great dividend it has paid the Soviets. A Soviet fleet is also in the Indian Ocean showing the Red Flag throughout the area. When the Royal Navy was in the Indian Ocean, India ordered her warships from us. She has now ordered four submarines, six escort vessels, six M.G.B.s, a submarine support ship and auxiliaries from the U.S.S.R. Surely, if the presence of Soviet warships is politically advantageous to the U.S.S.R., the absence of British warships is politically disadvantageous to Britain.
Finally, may I refer to a remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers). With the Canal shut, the Cape route is vital to the West, and to Britain in particular, and 90 British ships a day pass or use South African ports. Yet no reference is made in the Statement to the Simonstown Agreement, or to any assistance to the South African Navy. The trouble with the Government is that they blindly ignore the facts of life if they do not fit in with their preconceived policies, and that is our charge today.
This stubbornness is nowhere more manifest than in the realm of ships and equipment. I have already referred to the cutting of the Polaris and hunter-killer programme. The carrier is another example. To date, the story has been that fixed-wing aircraft must go, and that therefore the carrier must go, even though there are another 10 years' life left in the three remaining vessels. I am glad to see that this position is being modified. Similarly, it has been said that because helicopters are essential for anti-submarine warfare they must be used for the defence of shipping, and that therefore fixed-wing aircraft or surface-to-surface missiles are not needed. Here again, I am glad to see that the Government are beginning 1o change their policy.
There are three basic sets of Soviet surface-to-surface missiles at sea. The FPBs have the Styx missile, with a range of up to 20 miles. The Krupuney and Kildin class destroyers have the Strala missile, with a range of 100 miles, and the Kresta and Kynda class destroyers have the Shaddock misile, with a range of up to 300 miles. All of these could be transferred to "middle Powers". Yet, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) pointed out, the weapon we are supposed to use against them is the AS 12 dangling from a helicopter, which has a range of 7,500 yards. Navy Department Ministers have repeatedly claimed that it could neutralise an FPB. We are told that its range is longer than that of the short-range antiaircraft guns fitted to those vessels. But the Government have always refused to say how we would neutralise Soviet destroyers armed with missiles. There are now 33 of them. I suggest that they can be neutralised only by fixed-wing aircraft which, if the Fleet Air Arm really goes, may not be available in the Atlantic and will not be available in the Indian Ocean.
I should now like to refer briefly to some points about hardware. First, Ministers have implied that H.M. ships can protect themselves against missiles by their own missiles. Yet our guided missile destroyers can engage only one target at a time with Sea Slug. For effective defence ships should be fitted with a 4CR missile system, such as Sea Cat, yet our frigates have only one. They can defend themselves against one missile attack, but if two come they cannot split their weapon.
That brings me to the new destroyers. Type 82 H.M.S. "Bristol" and Type 42 are both armed with Sea Dart, but, unlike contemporary American and Russian destroyers, are not double-ended, so presumably they can engage only one target at a time. Can we at least be assured that they will have Seawolf or some other short-range missile in adequate numbers to protect themselves from a simultaneous attack? That is of very great importance for the future.
I understand that the Frigate Type 21, designed by Yarrow-Vospers is that referred to on page 35 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates. It is a small ship designed to fill the gap until the replacement of the "Leanders" arrives. I understand that it will be replaced by the Type 22. Can the Minister say when the first of these larger frigates can be expected?
Finally, there is the question of the new cruisers, which were first mentioned in February, 1966. What will be their rôle? Will they really be missile armed helicopter carriers, as are now being built by the Russians, Italians and French, or, better still, will they operate the super-Harrier, which has operated off the Italian "Doria" and "Dulio"? Are not the Government being forced to examine the whole concept of a flat-top operating vertical take-off aircraft, which we have suggested in Estimates debates for the past three years? This was the point of view expressed by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East and my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett). I hope and believe that it will be found to be correct.
I believe that before the end of their term of office the Government will have to provide vertical take-off aircraft operating from both land-based and sea-based and sea-based platforms, as the Minister came very close to admitting today. I hope that he will deal with this in winding up as there is still some confusion.
I believe that only with balanced maritime forces of ships, commandos and seaborne air can we exercise maritime power and switch our forces from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean or Pacific, where they are needed to assist our friends and allies. I do not believe that we shall be of much value as friends and allies unless we can do this.
The cost would be small. It would be much more valuable to build flat-tops operating these aircraft, for example, than a modern cruiser, which will cost about £30 million each. It can be done. We have been advocating it for three years, and it looks as though we are breaking through. I hope that in winding up the Minister will tell us a little more about these factors.
In conclusion, the statement on defence underlines the dangers ahead in the world of the 1970s. It shows that the Warsaw Pact powers spend twice as much on defence as we do in N.A.T.O. Yet each year the Secretary of State comes to the House and rejoices in the fact that he has managed to cut the defence bill.
The right hon. Gentleman has tried to maintain a reasonably balanced Navy, but unless he modifies his present plans he will fail in the vital task of protecting our sea communications.
There are three basic needs: adequate anti-missile protection for our ships, the provision of both modern torpedoes and anti-ship missiles for hunter-killer submarines, and the need to retain with the fleet a sea-based air component operating V/STOL aircraft probably from flat-tops. I believe that if these three factors are conceded by the Government they will not only be able to maintain British prestige in the Atlantic alliance, but—as important—will be able to safeguard British communications throughout the world.
I beg to ask leave of the House to speak again.
We have had an interesting debate. The subjects have ranged widely. We have covered the construction of the future fleet, the dockyards, the important dockyard review which has taken place, and the announcements of it. We have touched on Fleet Air Arm support and the decisions affecting various Fleet Air Arm stations. We have had a lively discussion on the strategy and rôle of the Navy.
I noticed that the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) paid his characteristic tribute to the Royal Marines, which I reciprocate. In these debates I think that perhaps there is a temptation for us not to take enough note of the Marines.
The hon. Gentleman has also talked about the European strategy. I must say that I do not detect any major difference between the two sides on this matter.
He also drew attention to the importance of the Mediterranean and the naval flanks. He has drawn attention to the build-up of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. I do not think that we on this side could be attacked for disguising the figures about the build-up of the Russian Navy. I remind the House that this is no recent venture, though we have tended to notice it much more because they have moved into the Mediterranean. The Russians have been a major maritime power now for some 10 years. The hon. Gentleman also drew attention, by quoting the exercise "Polar Express", to our Northern flank. It is important that we should remember this.
I found it amusing that a lot of his speech was devoted to the Simonstown Agreement and the Beira Patrol. I will not follow him, in the short time available, into all the matters that he raised. However, I will try to answer some of the many questions which have been put. I hope that hon. Members on both sides will accept that I cannot possibly hope to cover all points, but I will take note of them and write to hon. Members. I hope that they will be satisfied in that way.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice asked about the new fleet depôt ship we were considering building until about a year ago. This was also mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) in the previous debate. At that time we decided that the sort of ship we had in mind would be too large and complex for a defence posture concentrated on Europe. We, therefore, set out to find how we could best provide a satisfactory but less expensive way of augmenting our support facilities. Such a scheme is gradually evolving from our present deliberations. Although we have not gone far enough yet for me to give details, I can say that the many operational advantages of an afloat maintenance support capability are being very fully taken into account.
Much has been said during the debate about carriers and their ability to operate Harrier type VSTOL aircraft. This point was raised by many hon. Members. I cannot reiterate enough that, as the Minister of Defence for Equipment made clear in the Defence debate last week, there has been no change in the Government's announced intention to phase out the aircraft carriers from their present fixed-wing flying task as soon as the military withdrawals from the Far East and the Persian Gulf have been completed in 1971. We have also made clear that any Harrier type aircraft which it might be decided to operate from ships in future would be likely to be operated by R.A.F. crews. Because of other points which have been made, I should add that all the Harriers at present on order are going to the Royal Air Force.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the Minister, on 4th March, concerning carriers, said:
No decision has been taken about the future of these ships after that date."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 357.]
That is, after 1971. So is it not a fact that the options remain entirely open?
That is exactly what has been said. I confirm that that was said, and it tallies with everything that I have said in the debate. I think that both sides of the House are tending to split hairs on this issue.
The hon. Member for Hendon North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing), and many others, including, particularly, my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) spoke about nuclear fleet submarines. The hon. Member for Hendon, North asked me to say what rate of building the Government are planning, and what size force we aim ultimately to achieve. As the hon. Gentleman knows it is not the practice for the Government to disclose information of that kind, and I am surprised that he asked me to divulge it.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East that the nuclear fleet submarines are a prime factor in the naval re-equipment programme, and this has been fully recognised in successive statements in defence debates. The issue is, in essence, how much of our resources it is right to allocate to this highly important component of the future fleet, and how much to the building up of classes of service ships which we shall be introducing into service. It is essential that a wise and proper balance should be struck.
I have two comments to make on what has been said. The first is that when the carriers are phased out there will be a substantial force of six or seven nuclear fleet submarines in service. This was brought out in the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy in 1968. The second is the perhaps obvious point that now that the Polaris construction programme is approaching completion Vickers Barrow will have capacity, should circumstances change or the need arise, to build fleet submarines at a greater rate than we have been placing orders.
I propose, now, to say something about nuclear Fleet submarines, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Hendon, North, by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East, and by many others. The nuclear fleet submarines already possess an effective strike capability, but we are not overlooking the question of improving their armaments. The hon. Member for Haltemprice mentioned the question of submarine launched anti-ship missiles. Further progress will be made this year with studies into ways of improving the effectiveness of submarine launched anti-ship missiles, which were referred to in the Supplementary Defence Estimates of 1968. I cannot say anything more than that. The importance of this is well appreciated. The anti-submarine capability of the nuclear fleet submarines will be increased when the new Mark 24 torpedo comes into service. This torpedo, which was listed as a major development project in the 1968 Defence Estimates, is in production and is undergoing acceptance trials.
I should like now to say something about the recently announced decision that future orders for nuclear submarines will be placed with Vickers Barrow. My hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) made his case in a most reasoned way. I cannot say that for some of those other cases that we have had to hear. The first thing to be said is that the decision to make Vickers the lead yard for nuclear submarine construction was made by the previous Administration.
I have heard suggestions that Cammell Laird's were only recently informed of this decision to concentrate production. This is not the case. When the decision was reached in February, 1968 the top management of Cammell Laird were at once informed. The Government were concerned that, because of the employment repercussions the firm should have the greatest possible length of time to seek to make what alternative arrangements it could. Hence the decision was transmitted to them. At no time did the Government require or request that this decision should not be publicised. It was for the firm to decide, as a matter of management, on the further transmission of the decision. It is wrong, therefore, to suggest that Cammell Laird's were not given the maximum warning of the decision. As the work on nuclear submarines is likely to continue until about the end of 1970, the firm has been given nearly three years in which to find other work, and it has been assured that it will be given every opportunity to tender for other naval work.
I should like now to say a few words about the merits of the decision——
I shall not give way. As I was saying, there was a period of some years during the construction of the four Polaris submarines, and the continued production of fleet nuclear submarines, when there was ample work for two firms.
The building potential of the Polaris submarine is, however, now coming to an end. The Prime Minister announced in January, 1968, that there would be a reduction in the rate of fleet submarine building. Shortly after that we concluded that the reduced programme was sufficient to keep only one firm economically employed. We took this decision with reluctance, but keeping two yards open, as some people suggested, would have involved unacceptable extra cost to the future programme that would have resulted from duplication of the special skills and resources required to build those boats.
I realise that it would help if I gave the House more details about the future build rates of fleet submarines, rather than leaving hon. Members to make their own evaluations, but it has never been our practice, on security grounds, to release such information. But there is a strong case for concentrating on one yard. The choice between the two firms of Vickers and Cammell Laird was made simply on the ground that Vickers had a clear lead in design capability and experience. It would not help if I were to attempt to compare the performance of the two firms. We regard both firms as highly valued shipbuilders, but as a customer with all the relevant information available to us we have made a straight commercial decision.
We realise that both firms are in development areas and we appreciate that the loss of work on nuclear submarines would be unwelcome in either case. I have been glad to note that Cammell Laird has been successful in obtaining substantial orders for merchant ships, and on the wider question of employment within the Merseyside area many thousands of new jobs are likely to arise over the next few years through new factory building and other manufacturing developments.
As to the question of refits, to which the hon. Member for Hendon, North drew attention, the party opposite decided in 1963 to refit fleet submarines at Rosyth. When the decision was taken to build Polaris the refitting submarines plan had to be changed and in 1965 the Government chose Chatham for nuclear refitting. There have been arguments between hon. Members opposite on the merits of that decision. At no time was Cammell Laird ever considered as a possible nuclear refitting yard.
As for warships other than nuclear submarines, Cammell Laird will continue to be invited to tender for orders within its capability and will win orders on which it sumits the lowest satisfactory tenders, according to the usual rules.
I shall not give way, because I owe it to many other hon. Members who have been here throughout the debate and have made interesting speeches to give them as much information as I can.
The hon. Member for Hendon, North asked particularly about fast patrol boats. He wanted to be sure that the Navy was still interested, particularly since its interest was an important factor in exports. I agree with him, and I am happy to give him the assurance that the Royal Navy at present operates three fast patrol boats of the Brave and Dark classes as aids to training and tactics in anti-fast patrol boat operations. These boats are rapidly approaching the end of their lives and they will be replaced in 1970 by three new anti-fast patrol boat training craft. The order was placed with Vosper's in December, 1968. The ships will have a "new Brave" hull form, developed from the Brave class and from Vosper's own fast patrol boats. Modern hull structural techniques have been employed and two Rolls-Royce Proteus gas turbine engines an; fitted which will produce a top speed in excess of 40 knots.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburg, East (Mr. Willis) drew attention to the need for a rating at warrant officer level. This has been suggested on a number of occasions in the past few years. As I told my hon. Friend in reply to a Question on 19th February, we have just made another full study of the whole subject. It underlines the fact that it is desirable, in principle, to introduce the rate of warrant officer, but a number of practical aspects have to be clarified and resolved. I hope to be in a position to make a statement about this in the next few months. There are problems which we must accept. We want to go ahead as rapidly as practicable, but there are many ramifications. I am anxious that decisions should be reached quickly, but I cannot go further in giving information to the House. The hon. Member has championed this cause for many years.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) mentioned the question of the Latey recommendations on boy entrants in February last year, and he asked particularly whether we thought that the widespread publicity given to this has had its effect in a reduction in boy entrants. In all honesty, we have not been able to make any such judgment and I doubt whether we will be able to. He also drew attention to the R.N. detention quarters. The Admiralty Board decided last year to examine the system at Portsmouth Detention Quarters and appointed a working party, chaired by a Flag Officer, which has carried out a full study of the establishment. As a result, a number of changes will be made, including the introduction of educational periods in the timetable, more opportunities for association and conversation between detainees, better and more varied food, more frequent visits by relatives and a number of other minor changes. I am also considering the nature of the tasks which he mentioned and the amount of time for which anyone is confined to his cell. We are determined on progressive changes and I will let him know later how things turn out.
The hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) mentioned Arbroath and argued his case on a number of grounds. He challenged the logistic arguments for making our decision and claimed that the value of the Land at Lee-on-Solent should be taken into account in estimating the cost of combining the two training centres at Arbroath. I must stress that it is not usual to take into account the residual value of the land in assessing comparative costs. This is mainly because we offer vacant sites first to other Service Departments, then to other Government Departments and then to local authorities, so that it is not possible to assess a realistic value. We are now going through that very exercise in an attempt to find an alternative use for Arbroath.
However, even if we included the value of the land at Lee-on-Solent, we should have to include the value of that at Arbroath as well. Whereas, at the former, our continuing need to use the airfield would prevent us from selling more than a small fragment of the whole in the case of Arbroath, we can take credit for the whole value of the site. The balance might well turn out to the disadvantage of the hon. Member's case. I am not saying that it would, but am merely pointing it out. As to the date of closure, the intention is that the training task of H.M.S. "Condor" should gradually transfer to Lee-on-Solent in the autumn of 1970, being completed in 1971.
Many hon. Members spoke for dockyard constituencies on the dockyard part of the Estimates and raised many issues. We are going to have discussions at dockyards in the debate on the Votes on Account and I hope that we will be able to take up then many of these points. But I was particularly grateful for the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Hunter). He asked me to comment on a statement that he heard, that the nuclear docks at Rosyth is being run down. I do not know where that rumour has come from but I am happy to deny it and to thank
A number of hon. Members have mentioned the growing importance of oceanography and ocean technology. This is frequently recognised in the House. As hon. Members know, I think, I am extremely sympathetic to this. The Royal Navy undoubtedly has a contribution to make here, but, unless other financial arrangements are made, it cannot be expected to be funded against more relevant defence research within the Defence Estimates. However, on a whole number of defence issues, we have tended to lead the way, and we are prepared to use our facilities to the full. I hope that hon. Members will accept that I shall be ready to consider any suggestions over this whole field and see if the Navy can make a financially more effective contribution to ocean technology than we are doing at the moment. But there are severe financial limitations.
|Division No. 113.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Coleman, Donald||Ford, Ben|
|Alldritt, Walter||Concannon, Donald||Garrett, W. E.|
|Anderson, Donald||Conlan, Bernard||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Dalyell, Tam||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davies, Rt. Hn, Harold (Leek)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Davies, Ifor (Cower)||Hannan, William|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Beaney, Alan||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hattersley, Roy|
|Bence, Cyril||Dobson, Ray||Hazell, Bert|
|Binns, John||Doig, Peter||Hooley, Frank|
|Bishop, E. S.||Driberg, Tom||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dunn, James A.||Hoy, James|
|Booth, Albert||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Boyden, James||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hunter, Adam|
|Brooks, Edwin||Ellis, John||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||English, Michael||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Buchan, Norman||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Faulds, Andrew||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Cant, R. B.||Finch, Harold||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Judd, Frank|
|Lawson, George||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Slater, Joseph|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Mortis, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Small, William|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lewis, Ron (Cartisle)||Moyle, Roland||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Lomas, Keneth||Ogden, Eric||Tinn, James|
|Loughlin, Charles||O'Malley, Brian||Urwin, T. W.|
|Luard, Evan||Oswald, Thomas||Wainwright, Edwin (Deame Valley)|
|McBride, Neil||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McCann, John||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Park, Trevor||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Pavitt, Laurence||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Manual, Archie||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Mapp, Charles||Pentland, Norman||Woof, Robert|
|Marquand, David||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Richard, Ivor||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Mentlelson, J. J.||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Mr. Charles R. Morris.|
|Millan, Bruce||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mr. Winifred Ewing and|
|Mr. Emrys Hughes.|
|Lawson, George||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Slater, Joseph|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Mortis, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Small, William|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lewis, Ron (Cartisle)||Moyle, Roland||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Lomas, Keneth||Ogden, Eric||Tinn, James|
|Loughlin, Charles||O'Malley, Brian||Urwin, T. W.|
|Luard, Evan||Oswald, Thomas||Wainwright, Edwin (Deame Valley)|
|McBride, Neil||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|McCann, John||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Park, Trevor||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Pavitt, Laurence||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Manual, Archie||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Mapp, Charles||Pentland, Norman||Woof, Robert|
|Marquand, David||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Richard, Ivor||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Mentlelson, J. J.||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Mr. Charles R. Morris.|
|Millan, Bruce||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mr. Winifred Ewing and|
|Mr. Emrys Hughes.|
|Division No. 114.]||AYES||[10.9 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Alldritt, Waiter||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Harman, William||Molloy, William|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hattersley, Roy||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Bonce, Cyril||Hooley, Frank||Ogden, Eric|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||O'Malley, Brian|
|Boyden, James||Hoy, James||Oswald, Thomas|
|Brooks, Edwin||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Hunter, Adam||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Buchan, Norman||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Cant, R. B.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pentland, Norman|
|Coleman, Donald||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Judd, Frank||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Comlan, Bernard||Lawson, George||Richard, Ivor|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Davies, Ifor (Cower)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Slater, Joseph|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Lomas, Kenneth||Small, William|
|Dell, Edmund||Loughlin, Charles||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Luard, Evan||Tinn, James|
|Dobson, Ray||McBride, Neil||Urwin, T. W.|
|Doig, Peter||McCann, John||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valfey)|
|Driberg, Tom||Mackintosh, John P.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Dunn, James A.||Maclennan, Robert||Watkins, David (Corsett)|
|Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Manuel, Archle||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Ellis, John||Mapp, Charles||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|English, Michael||Marquand, David||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Woof, Robert|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Finch, Harold||Mayhew, Christopher||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mendelson, J. J.||Mr. Joseph Harper and|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||MiIlan, Bruce||Mr. Charles R. Morris.|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Newene, Stan||Mr. Winifred Ewing and|
|Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Mr. Emrys Hughes.|