Defence Policy 1970

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 1970.

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Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen 12:00 am, 19th November 1970

May I announce that I have selected the official Amendment standing in the names of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson) and those of some of his colleagues.

4.20 p.m.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

I beg to move: That this House approves the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970, contained in Command Paper No. 4521. The broad outline of the Conservative Government's defence policy was set out in our election manifesto, and the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy which we discuss today spells out in rather more detail some of the earliest steps that we are taking to implement the policies on which we were returned to office.

The manifesto spoke of our determination to stand by our alliances. It spoke of our intention to strengthen our defences. It condemned the unilateral decision of the Labour Government to withdraw British Forces from the Gulf and the Far East by the end of 1971. It spoke of our intention to propose a five-Power defence force in South-East Asia, and also to hold talks with leaders in the Gulf. The manifesto also deplored the destruction of the Territorial Army, and spoke of our intention to rebuild the volunteer Reserve Forces.

In rather more general terms, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in his introduction to the manifesto: Nothing has done Britain more harm in the world than the endless backing and filling which we have seen in recent years. Whether it be our defence commitments, or our financial policies, or the reform of industrial relations, the story has been the same. At the first sign of difficulty the Labour Government has sounded the retreat, covering its withdrawal with a smokescreen of unlikely excuses. We have a mandate for a new start, and during the recess we took the preliminary steps which the country has a right to expect of us on our being elected to office. We examined the defence programme that we inherited, and we have reviewed and altered the means by which we will fulfil our policies. We examined the state of the Armed Forces, and decided to strengthen them. We scrutinised the level of defence expenditure, and discovered that the published figures in Command 4234 for 1972–73 anti 1973–74 bear little relation to the real costs of the previous Government's own defence policies. We decided to settle the future levels of defence expenditure—by setting budget targets related to our commitments—both playing our part in the Government's overall review of defence expenditure and public expenditure, and providing a firm basis for forward defence planning.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The debate has been curtailed by prolonged statements beforehand. The right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of taking part in the debate, and I should prefer to advance in the course of my speech before giving way.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a fact that it is normal to start defence debates on Thursdays at about 5 o'clock? We are starting this debate much earlier than usual. The hon. Gentleman did not give way when he wound up the debate the other day. I hope that he will occasionally answer questions during this debate.

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

That is a matter between the right hon. Gentleman and the Minister. Mr. Speaker is not Solomon in these cases.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

I shall certainly give way as the debate proceeds, but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should look at the faces of his colleagues behind him before he presses the point too far.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his encouragement. I wonder whether he would explain just one matter. He said that the Government have fixed targets for the next three years in relation to the commitments on which they have decided. Can he say what our commitments in the Gulf will be after 1971?

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The right hon. Gentleman has already proved the point which I think was obvious to the House. I shall, during my speech, be referring very briefly to the Gulf, but in considerable detail to the defence budget, both of which are matters raised by the right hon. Gentleman in his intervention.

I should like to turn first to the strategic priorities. In broad terms, these are the security of the country, the honouring of our treaties and our responsibilities to our dependencies, and the protection of our overseas interests.

The security of the country, and Western Europe in general, lies primarily in the strength of N.A.T.O., and our major military contribution will therefore be to the Western Alliance, to N.A.T.O. and to Europe. Our proposals for giving a new impetus to defence coincide with the review which the Americans are making about the future level of their forces in Europe. I think that all the European members of N.A.T.O. are agreed that it would be very seriously damaging to the prospects of peace if America did less in Europe, and all are equally agreed that Europe herself should do more to take on her shoulders a greater part of the burden of her defence.

I shall explain in a moment the steps that we shall take to maintain and improve our military contribution to N.A.T.O. We have never agreed that our defence policies must be concentrated exclusively on N.A.T.O. Of all the wide range of possible threats to peace, it is by no means certain that the most likely is a European continental war. Of course, to say that is in no way to diminish the heavy weight of conventional and nuclear forces which are arrayed by the Warsaw Pact countries along the central front of Europe. It in no way derogates from the absolutely crucial political and military importance of maintaining a strong shield in central Europe. Nevertheless, I think we must recognise that there are growing dangers on the flanks. There are growing dangers to peace in the Middle East, and there are also growing dangers in the potential of the rapidly expanding Russian naval strength which gives it a flexibility of deployment that it did not have until very recently.

From the very outset we opposed the previous Government's unilateral announcement of the withdrawal of our Forces from Malaysia and Singapore by the end of 1971. It is here that so many of our interests lie. It is here that our help is welcome. It is here also, I believe, that a limited contribution, designed to complement the efforts being made by our Allies, has an effectiveness out of all proportion to the costs involved, and out of all proportion to the risks involved.

The House will remember that as recently as the 1966 White Paper it was said to be right that Britain should continue to maintain a military presence in this area. Within 18 months that policy had changed. Now it was planned to withdraw altogether from our bases in Singapore and Malaysia "in the middle 'seventies". Only a few months later, at the beginning of 1968, the position changed yet again. It was decided to complete the withdrawal by the end of 1971, and we were going to honour our obligations out of a "general capability" based in Europe. Also, there was the unilateral announcement that withdrawal from the Gulf would be completed by the same date.

I cannot say much at this stage about the Gulf. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has, in accordance with our undertaking at the General Election, appointed Sir William Luce to consult leaders in the area. When his recommendations are available, and the Government have considered them, we will take the appropriate decision as to how best the stability of the area can be maintained.

However, in July and August my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited the four Commonwealth countries, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, and discussed the five Power arrangements which we had put forward in Opposition. Our purpose is to establish a political commitment of a consultative nature which all the five powers would undertake which will relate to the defence of Malaysia and Singapore. I think that in this House we are all agreed that the bilateral automatic commitment of the Anglo/Malaysian Defence Agreement is no longer appropriate to the circumstances of today. The new arrangements, though, will not involve us in any responsiblity for internal security—any more than A.M.D.A. does. Our planned military contribution has been designed on this basis.

Largely it will be naval and air elements which for one reason or another our partners find it difficult or impossible to provide themselves—frigates or destroyers; Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft; Whirlwind helicopters and possibly a submarine. There will be a battalion group, including an artillery battery, which will form part of the Commonwealth ground forces. They will take part in multi-national training.

These forces, alongside the forces of the other four Commonwealth countries, will provide an effective fighting force to detect and resist external threats by land, sea or air. Their very existence—this is not the least important feature—will assist in the building up confidence and stability in the area. The arrangements for support and logistic facilities, are now being worked out by officials—but we plan to integrate them as far as we can with those for Australia and New Zealand. We do not in any way want to have a large British base in the area.

Our decision to play a part in the five-Power Commonwealth arrangements will diminish slightly the availability of these British Forces to N.A.T.O. This penalty is, however, far outweighed by the steps we are taking to increase the teeth arms we are making available to N.A.T.O.

Photo of Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne Mr Jock Bruce-Gardyne , South Angus

Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of the five-Power agreement, could he give the House a clear assurance that in no circumstances would the British troops on the ground in Singapore and Malaysia become involved either in communal conflict between Malaysians and Chinese or in a conflict between Singapore and Malaysia?

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The purpose of the arrangements is to establish a consultative agreement. In the event of such events happening, there would be consultation between the Commonwealth countries to determine whether this was an internal matter or whether it was external attack and subversion. But the very basis of the agreement is consultative.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

Could I put two points to the right hon. Gentleman? First, although this is a consultative undertaking, is it not a fact that when the troops are on the ground one has a greater commitment by far than a mere political consultation agreement? Second, he rightly emphasises that this is a limited force. Are we to understand that if it gets into trouble, it will not be reinforced?

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The reinforcement arrangements will be identical to those undertaken by the former Secretary of State for Defence, from whose policies, I believe, the right hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) disagreed, and on which he resigned office.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris , Aberavon

Would the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

No, I prefer to get on with my speech, because I have a great deal to say.

Before turning to the individual Services, I should also like to refer to one of the major problems which lies at the heart of our defence situation—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. I do not think that the noble Lord intends to give way at the moment; so I think the hon. Gentleman should not persist.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

I was referring, when the right hon. Gentleman intervened, to the serious shortage of manpower which we found on coming into office. We need about 40,000 recruits each year, and this does not include the number needed to make up the shortfall from the past. In 1968–69 recruiting had slumped to 28,000. In 1969–70 it improved, and we recruited about 34,000. But both last year and during the current year we are far from achieving a reasonable level, the level which is required to man these Services.

Manpower will be one of the most difficult problems to overcome, and the difficulties will steadily increase in the years which lie ahead, as a result of the raising of the school-leaving age, the extension of further education and various demographic trends. We will emphasise not only the crucial importance that we attach to young men and women serving the country in the Forces in the cause of peace: we will continuously try to improve conditions of life in the Services.

Last week, for instance, I announced the improved separation allowances. Many recruits to the Services are under 18—indeed, most of them are. I hope to announce very shortly our proposals for their engagement structures, which have been examined by the Donaldson Committee. As a country, almost alone in Western Europe, exactly 10 years ago, we decided to man our Services without conscription. If we are to man them adequately, we must correct the dangerous public impression that defence does not matter. We believe that the positive nature of the defence policies that we have announced will go some way towards correcting this impression.

I turn now to the individual Services, each of which has its special problems. In the Army, manning is the most immediate problem. The Army was engaged in the second phase of the rundown plans of the last Government, involving the amalgamation, disbandment or suspended animation of nine major units and possibly a tenth. This followed the first phase, which had meant a reduction of 17 major units. Sadly, the manning position has become so serious that it was impossible to reverse totally these plans.

The rundown plans were such that there was no scope for expansion—no plans to meet the unforeseen. Units were involved in constant movement, and training was being seriously affected. The situation in Northern Ireland has meant that units have had to be taken from B.A.O.R. and other essential tasks. We have given the Royal Armoured Corps, the Engineers and the infantry units involved in the previous Government's second phase plan an opportunity to remain units of squadron or company size. We hope that as it becomes possible to form additional major units those involved in this second phase will be the first to be considered.

Also, as part of providing manpower in the British Army, we have removed the uncertainty about the Brigade of Gurkhas. We shall retain four or five battalions, and from next autumn one of these will be stationed in the United Kingdom. It will be employed on tasks which would otherwise have been fulfilled by British battalions and so will reduce the strain on the infantry—[An HON. MEMBER: "Such as?"]—such as public duties, training, trials and that kind of undertaking.

As I said, we deplored the destruction by the Labour Government of the Territorial Army. We therefore reviewed their arrangements for the Reserves. It is of the greatest importance to have a reserve of trained and disciplined men, uncommitted to any specific task. The existing TAVR units have an important rôle. They are basically the reinforcement of the regular Forces, and B.A.O.R. in particular. We support them to the full and will assist them in coming up to their full establishment.

We will be raising, however, a new armoured car regiment—to fill a gap which exists in B.A.O.R. There will be few problems of recruiting for this. In addition, we will be building up an uncommitted reserve of around 10,000 men. These units will have the same call-up liability, the same combat dress as existing units. They will have modern equipment, although this will be on a lighter scale than the existing units, which are expected to reinforce B.A.O.R. immediately and to fight alongside regular Forces in Germany.

I now turn to maritime defence, where the two features which stand out are the basic change in the nature and deployment of the Soviet Navy and the weapons gap which exists in the Royal Navy. The past four or five years have seen the steady development of Soviet naval power to a degree that has markedly shifted the balance of power in the Mediterranean. I can perhaps show this by giving a few figures. Five years ago the average number of Russian naval vessels in the Mediterranean was three surface warships, three submarines and 10 auxiliaries. This year—admittedly at a peak period—it has been 24 surface warships, not three, at least 13 submarines, not three, and 24 auxiliaries, not 10.

But the deployment is not confined to the Mediterranean. Five years ago there were no Russian naval vessels in the Indian Ocean. This year there have been seven surface warships, at least four submarines and nine auxiliaries.

The House must not assume that this is a temporary phase in the development of Soviet forces. For example, they are building nuclear-powered submarines at a rate of about one every five weeks. The broad maritime picture is that from World War II until the Cuban crisis in 1962 the Soviet navy was mainly orientated towards the defence of its homeland. After the Cuban crisis there was a gap of about two years while the Soviet Navy reorganised itself to operate on the high seas on a more permanent basis. It can now be said that there is a permanent, or at least a semi-permanent, deployment in the Mediterranean, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the West Indies.

In passing, I would mention that this development, giving the Soviet forces greater flexibility, is not confined to naval forces. It is echoed in the development of infrastructure and airfield development. The main development of infrastructure which shows military intentions in the long term is that concerned with airfields. Another example is that in Egypt, Iraq and Syria the number of major airfields which the Russians could use has increased from 36 to 65 since 1967, and this includes the literally many hundreds of landing grounds which have concrete shelters for military aircraft and which are suitable for jet military aircraft operations. Development along these lines has taken place in South Yemen and Somalia, and the former British airfield disused in Socotra Island has now been renovated.

Against this background, the former Government's plans left our Navy with a serious weapon gap. Their 1966 White Paper recognised the need for a surface-to-surface guided weapon for use against missile-firing ships. They had originally planned, back in 1966, to phase out the carriers in the mid-1970s and to provide the Navy with surface-to-surface missiles. But, unfortunately, the plans were altered. The carriers were not to continue after 1972, and there were no firm plans to provide a suitable weapon. We have decided, subject to satisfactory negotiations—about production-sharing, among other things—to adopt the French missile Exocet. This is well advanced in development. We intend to introduce it into service as soon as possible and to fit it widely in our surface ships.

Photo of Dr David Owen Dr David Owen , Plymouth, Sutton

Would the noble Lord make it clear to the House, contrary to the impression he gave when answering Questions on a previous occasion, that negotiations were commenced with the French Government in 1969 and that this is the outcome of the policy of the previous Government?

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The hon. Gentleman has made that point before in the House and I have denied it. There have been discussions between the Navies about possible weapons, but I authorised the negotiations with the French Government and there were no negotiations taking place when we were returned to office.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris , Aberavon

Would the hon. Gentleman make it quite clear to the House that, even though he may well have authorised actual negotiations for production of Exocet to ensure that our Navy has it, for a considerable period right back to 1969 there had been a substantial number of negotiations and discussions between the Navies authorised by my right hon. Friend and by myself to ensure that every avenue was explored to see that, if this weapon was suitable for the Navy, we should have it? He has given a quite wrong impression to the House.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The right hon. Gentleman is getting very excited. I do not think I have given a wrong impression to the House. It is true that there were discussions between the Navies. There were no negotiations at all that had been authorised by the then Government, and no firm plans were made by them. If he wants to claim such credit, I am aston- ished not only that there were no firm plans to introduce surface-to-surface missiles but that no arrangements were made with British industry to encourage it to provide such a weapon which was suitable within the time scale we need.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

No, I will not give way.

We have also decided as part of the improvement of the Navy to extend the planned life of the aircraft carrier H.M.S. "Ark Royal", recently refitted at very considerable cost under the last Administration. We intend to retain her in service, flying fixed-wing aircraft, until the late 1970s. During the years ahead her Phantom and Buccaneer aircraft will add greatly to the weapon capability immediately available to our naval forces at sea. Where speed of response is essential, they will complement the support which will be provided by the shore-based aircraft of the Royal Air Force. The aircraft for "Ark Royal" will be provided from total numbers already planned, and will be flown in the main by Royal Navy aircrew, with Royal Air Force aircrew participating as necessary.

In the light of what we know about the widespread use in other navies of surface-to-surface missiles—and our own deficiency—the last Government's decision to do away completely with fixed-wing aircraft carriers was, frankly, incomprehensible. Having just spent over £30 million on refitting "Ark Royal" to become one of the most powerful naval ships in the world, their decision seemed to verge on lunacy.

We considered whether we could continue H.M.S. "Eagle" as well. But she would need a very expensive refit to fly Phantoms. Equally significant would be the demands on the Navy's manpower, which would have meant unacceptable penalties. H.M.S. "Hermes", the third fixed-wing aircraft carrier, is to be converted to the commando ship rôle to replace H.M.S. "Bulwark". "Ark Royal" will be available most of the time, and when she is in dock her aircraft will normally be available to operate from shore bases.

When we announced our decision many of the questions seemed to assume that "Ark Royal" would be operating alone. In practice, of course, she will be part of an Alliance which is operating other carriers—and an Alliance which has repeatedly asked us to continue with this particular naval rôle.

We intend to introduce into service as quickly as possible the new cruisers, which will be able to operate V/STOL aircraft if further studies show this to be worth while, and also other classes of new ships and new weapons which will together provide the Royal Navy with its striking power in the late 1970s.

Turning to the Royal Air Force, the main problem is not shortage of manpower so much as the shortage of aircraft. I do not intend to dwell on the successive cancellations — TSR2, Anglo-French Variable Geometry, F111—even though these have led to gaps which have had to be filled on a "make-do" basis. For example, it has been necessary to extend the ageing Canberras in the strike rôle in R.A.F. Germany while the Buccaneer force builds up.

Compared with 1964, the front line is smaller by a quarter and its combat element by one-third. I quite accept that a crude comparison of numbers can be misleading, but the quality of Warsaw Pact aircraft has also improved. On the central front the Warsaw Pact air forces outnumber those of N.A.T.O. by about 2 to 1. We have therefore decided to form four extra operational Jaguar squadrons. This will be achieved within the original purchase of 200 Jaguars, but the majority will now be of the operational variety.

This range of decisions—on "Ark Royal"; on Exocet; on the new armoured car regiment; and on the Jaguars—will produce a substantial improvement in both the quantity and quality of our N.A.T.O. contribution. I believe it right we should do this—both in the interest of our own defence and in the light of the agreement reached on 1st October by European Defence Ministers to strengthen Europe's contribution to the Alliance.

We have always believed it is up to the European members of N.A.T.O. to do more to share the common burden of defence as they become more prosperous. We welcome the readiness of our European allies to make their own contributions, and we have been anxious to play our full part even though we already spend a larger share of our national wealth on defence than many of our allies. The increased force contributions to N.A.T.O. which I have described to-day represent a very real response to President Nixon's recent call for the Europeans to strengthen their military contribution to the common defence.

I come to the effects of the new policies on the defence budget. When we entered office we found major discrepancies between the forward financial allocations for defence that the former Government made in their White Paper on Public Expenditure (Cmd. 4234) and their unpublished long-term costings of the defence programme. These are now published in our White Paper.

Defence has, of course, to be looked at in the light of the general economic picture and one cannot possibly exempt it from any overall review of public expenditure. Defence is always the basic responsibility of government, but no one would argue that it should avoid a vigorous overhaul at a time when all other domestic expenditures are being reviewed. Equally, though, it is not right arbitrarily to fix a ceiling and then systematically cut the programme to keep it within the allocation regardless of the actual requirements of defence. That is what happened for instance in the 1966 White Paper when an arbitrary ceiling of £2,000 million was fixed at 1964 prices. This is what Procrustes did when he chopped off the feet of his guests to fit his bed.

What we have done is in complete contrast. We have examined our future defence programmes, chosen new priorities, and made decisions about the allocations required to finance them. As the White Paper says, our defence budget targets are consistent with the estimated cost of the revised programme. Had the Opposition been elected, they would have had to choose, even on their own defence programmes, between increasing their publicly-announced allocations or making very considerable savings on their unpublished costings. The costing of our programmes and our policies has resulted in a figure which is somewhere between the two.

The defence budget target for 1971–72 will be the same as in Cmnd. 4234. In 1972–73 and 1973–74 it will be higher, but still less than the costings. These reductions from the costings will, of course, mean some adverse consequences for the Services which we would much have preferred to avoid, but they will not mean the cancellation of any major projects now on order and they will not affect the ability of the Services to meet their planned commitments.

It may be helpful to the House if I explain in more detail the nature of the savings we will be making. In part, the savings reflect the normal annual scrutiny. This is a normal process, and I have no doubt that the former Administration would have come to similar conclusions. The remaining savings we have made involve cuts or deferments of projects of lesser priority.

We have decided not to pursue the idea of purchasing the C5 transport aircraft. This was under consideration as a possible replacement for the Britannias. This is a very substantial contribution to the savings. Precise detailed decisions on the remaining deferments have not been made. Nor need they be at this stage. What we have done is to satisfy ourselves that savings of the required amounts can be achieved within certain fields of activity without serious damage to operational capabilities.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Will the hon. Gentleman publish his own long-term costings for the next five years so that we can see by how much they exceed the target which was fixed? Could he say what is the figure in his long-term costings for the replacement of the Jaguar aircraft which are no longer available as trainers?

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The costings in the immediate future are close to the defence budget targets already published in the White Paper. It would not be and has never been the practice to publish long-term costings, as the right hon. Gentleman knows.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The savings are likely, though, to include reduced expenditure on, for example, the improvement of communications equipment, and there may be some deferment of purchases of vehicles. Some savings will come from the deferment of basic research and some savings will be achieved in the works programme. These mainly will involve the deferment of building in this country—for example, some barrack rebuilding and the modernisation of workshops, stores and technical facilities. We do not intend to make any cut in the building programme for married quarters.

I began my speech by referring to the undertakings given in the manifesto. I believe the House will approve the first steps we have taken to implement these undertakings, strengthen our defences and recreate the volunteer Reserve Forces. Defence is not, however, just a matter of decision-making; it is not just a matter of printed words in a White Paper. It is the creation of a will and determination in the country—an awareness that all social advance depends on our ability, alongside our allies, to defend the freedom we have in this country.

As a Government we will constantly emphasise the high value we attach to the Forces and the services which they render in the cause of peace.

I believe that the House as a whole will look on our defence policies spelt out in the White Paper within the constraints on manpower and money which we inherited from the previous Administration as being sensible and in the interests of the country. I also believe that the country will recognise our defence policy as indicative of the high value which we place on the Services.

5.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: noting that the Government in direct contradiction to its election promises is now imposing a budgetary ceiling on defence expenditure and is proposing to spend a declining portion of the gross national product on defence while undertaking additional and unnecessary military commitments East of Suez and elsewhere, therefore regrets that Her Majesty's Government are ready to raise expectations amongst our Commonwealth allies without providing the means to fulfil them and are creating new uncertainties amongst the armed forces by announcing increased expenditures within a fixed ceiling without indicating where the compensating economies are to be made. That Amendment was drafted without knowing what the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) was going to say, but there was little fresh information in his speech which would entitle us to alter one jot or comma.

This is the first defence debate in this House in a new Parliament under a new Government. It is, therefore, bound to concentrate primarily on how the new Government's defence policy differs from that of their predecessors and, indeed, from their pre-election promises.

Although that is bound to be the main theme, I recognise, with my hon. Friends who have their own Amendment on the Order Paper, that the most important theme for any defence debate ought to be disarmament and the prospects for enabling the resources at present spent by mankind on warfare to be diverted to human welfare. However, I believe that the only effective way to disarmament and détente is by international agreement on mutual reduction of arms.

The prospects for progress in European security look a good deal brighter than for some time. We all watch with anxiety the fateful Strategic Limitation Talks which are at present joined between the Soviet Union and the United States; but I am also thinking of the agreements between the Federal German Republic and the Soviet Union and Poland which have taken place recently, the talks which are taking place on Berlin, and, indeed, the improved prospects for a European Security Conference which would be able to get down to the real problems of détente and European security. It is by making progress on these matters that we have the best hope of lifting the appalling burden of arms expenditure which rests on humanity at the moment.

I return to the Opposition case against the Government's White Paper which is set out in the Amendment. It can be summed up in this way. In Opposition the Conservatives attacked the Labour Government for a policy which carried out economies in defence to the point of endangering the security of the nation. They have now adopted broadly both the principles and the costs of the policy which they denounced so vigorously during their years in Opposition.

The noble Lord did his best to present the differences in a most attractive form, but they are largely window-dressing, and in part, though not entirely, rather dangerous window-dressing. I can understand the Minister of State and the Secretary of State in another place wishing to turn their backs on the extravagant criticisms which they made in Opposition, especially as they have now very much turned a somersault. We bitterly resented the kind of attacks which alleged that, because we reduced defence expenditure to bring it squarely within the economic resources of this country we cared less than the party opposite for the security of the British people and for the contribution which our defence policies could make to world peace.

I suspect that at least one important group of people was not taken in by these attacks—the general body of the Servicemen themselves. At the end of his speech the noble Lord paid proper tribute to the Servicemen for whom he has Ministerial responsibility.

But the Services need a good deal more than rhetoric if they are to know that they enjoy their proper status in society. The Servicemen know that they owe the biggest improvement in their financial status to the revolutionary innovation of a military salary which was carried out by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey).

The noble Lord mentioned recruiting figures. The striking feature is that under my right hon. Friend, in the period between the military salary being launched and the General Election, there was a notable improvement in recruiting figures of about 27 per cent. Since the party opposite came into office that improvement has seriously lapsed. I do not know whether it is cause and effect, but that is the fact of the matter.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Bradford West

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under the previous Administration there were more resignations from the commissioned ranks of the Forces than for almost any other period since the Second World War, as is evidenced by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell) and, if I may say so, myself? I have put down a Question, which will be answered shortly, to elucidate that fact.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I wait with interest to see whether the hon. Gentleman, having resigned because of the Labour Government, will now return to his commission because of the policies of the new Administration. I shall have something to say to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell) later. I hope that we shall hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman in the debate.

We are entitled to point out that the attacks which were made—many were personal attacks on the integrity of my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State for Defence—carried the full authority of the then Opposition Front Bench. Indeed, the present Prime Minister, in a foreword to a pamphlet by two hon. Gentlemen, wrote: It has always been characteristic of Socialists in this country that they put the defence of the Realm near the bottom of their list of priorities. The priority which the Government now give defence within the national economy as set out in the White Paper is very much the same as that adopted by the Labour Government. There is even the curious attempt to claim that the Conservatives are making even greater economies—running down defence expenditure even more than we did—because they are reducing the long-term costings of the Defence Department. I leave my right hon. Friend to deal with this matter in more detail in winding up. I content myself by saying that this claim is nonsense. It is utterly bogus. It ignores the process by which all Departments are compelled, year by year, to bring their exceedingly speculative long-term projections into line with the Government's published public expenditure targets. The noble Lord gave his case away when he resolutely declined my right hon. Friend's invitation to publish his long-term costings and said that it was never done. There is always a gap between the private long-term costings of Departments and public expenditure targets of Governments. That is all there is in that point.

Let us look a little more closely at the schizophrenia between the defence policy of the Conservative Party in Opposition and the Conservative Party in Government. One of the most solemn principles of the Conservative Opposition was that Labour's policy of fixing a ceiling to defence expenditure was an act of national immorality. The test of military need was to be paramount. To try to fix a figure in advance was the real sin against the Holy Ghost. I cannot count the number of times we have heard this from the bench opposite, and the noble Lord—I do not know whether he realised it—came close to repeating it in his speech.

In 1968 the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who was then defence spokesman, said: We believe that the fundamental error of the Government that is the Labour Government— has been to base their defence planning on a fixed financial ceiling and on that alone. That is our fundamental objection to the Government's policy. The next year, in his own inimitable way, the present Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said: Defence expenditure cannot be contained within any arbitrary fixed percentage of the g.n.p. Either we are adequately defended or we are not. The present Secretary of State during the election campaign used these words: It is all very well to boast of cutting defence—that put my right hon. Friend in his place—the job of a Defence Minister is to satisfy himself as to Britain's security. But when the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Defence in another place stated the Government's defence policy as distinct from the Shadow Government's defence policy on this issue he used these words: Of course, defence has had to be considered as part of the general economic picture, and it would have been quite wrong to have exempted the defence programme from the exercise to reduce Government expenditure, especially when such painful cuts were being inflicted in other areas of the economy. I congratulate the Government on the velocity of their X rate of conversion. Seldom can a Secretary of State for Defence have changed his electioneering posture so quickly after arriving in office, although one cannot compete with the Prime Minister, who was going to put a ceiling on prices as decisively and directly as the Secretary of State was going to remove the ceiling on defence expenditure. It is a remarkable discovery the Government have made that the figures that will provide this country with the defence it needs are the exact figures they can operate to after they have made whatever economies they can make. This was the old Conservative philosophy which was exposed by Lord Head in a recent letter to The Times, in which he pointed out in relation to some controversies of the past that the Conservative Government first got an actuarial calculation as to what the likely recruiting figures would be and then solemnly decided that the figures of the expected national need for recruitment exactly coincided with the actuarial computation. That is what the noble Lord did this afternoon.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

The Minister is saying that the Government intend to proceed with exactly the same share of the g.n.p. as the former Labour Government; but the cost is rising at precisely £100 million a year in cash terms, just as it did under the Labour Government, and that is precisely what many of us are strongly objecting to.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I realise that my hon. Friend has reservations that are common to either party in office, and I look forward to listening to his speech if he has the good fortune to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, later in the evening.

For my part, if all the Government had done was to suffer a conversion to our defence policies, I might have contented myself this afternoon with embarrassing them with the warmth of my felicitations and left it at that. The trouble is that the Government have imposed a Labour ceiling on defence expenditure while pretending, as the noble Lord did this afternoon, to keep their election promises to increase defence expenditure. That is the main gravamen of our charge against them.

It is well known in this House that an occupational skill that is required is the ability to ride two horses at once, but the noble Lord has taken on the task of riding three horses at once, one of which is going in directly the opposite direction to the other two. First, there are to be no major programme cuts; secondly, a number of new and expensive commitments in manpower and equipment are to be added; thirdly, the defence budget is actually going to be reduced. That is the Government's claim. How is it to be done? We received no enlightenment this afternoon as to how these magic mathematics were to be completed. If the Defence Secretary can perform this financial miracle, the quicker he takes over the Treasury the better for the country.

Let us look in more detail at some of the proposed new undertakings. I divide them into three broad categories; those that we can regard as arguable, some of them a matter of judgment; those that are plain silly; and those that are positively dangerous. In the arguable category I would include the decision to negotiate with the French for Exocet. I accept what the noble Lord says about the Ministerial authorisation and the formal opening of negotiations, but a great deal of the groundwork was done by the Labour Administration, and I think he will accept that. We naturally will want more information about the costs, and I think the House would like to know particularly whether this would be done at the expense of anything else, or whether it might mean economies in research on underwater weapons. I hope that the House can be enlightened on that.

The decision to cut out the C5 is a matter of judgment. A Labour Government facing the task of reconciling the long-term costings to public commitments would have been bound to consider that, just as the Conservative Government have done. Also, the decision to strengthen the operational element of the Jaguar is a matter for professional judgment. It obviously helps our contribution to N.A.T.O., as the noble Lord said, and if it can be done without reducing the quality of our advanced training, then it makes sense; but we want some more reassurance on that aspect. We need a great deal more information from the Government about what will take the place of the Jaguar trainers and how effective it will be.

The level at which the Gurkhas should be retained during the next decade again is a matter of judgment, both for the military planners and for the Government of Nepal. It would be utterly false—and the noble Lord did not make this claim, although I have heard it made—to say that the Conservative Party by winning the election had saved the Gurkhas. All they have done is to decide to have a few hundred more Gurkhas than there were under the Labour Administration. It is not at all clear exactly what the Gurkhas who come to this country will do. As the noble Lord said, they will do the things that soldiers do in this country, and he mentioned some of them. Presumably, they will not be used in the back streets of Belfast. I suppose more probably they will be used at the front gates of Buckingham Palace. Is that the proposition?

Regarding the decision to build up an uncommitted Territorial reserve of 10,000, I believe that the judgment of the Labour Government remains right about that and that the Conservatives are wrong. The case for reorganisation might be summed up as "fewer—but better". The volunteers as organised by us are better equipped, they make a more effective contribution to collective defence through N.A.T.O., and for the first time Territorial volunteers in this country were put by the Labour Government on a fully equal professional footing with the Regulars. What the Government are offering with their extra 10,000 is second-class soldiering. They will have a less good weapon—a lighter weapon the noble Lord said—

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

This most certainly is not the case. They will have the same call-up liability and the same combat dress. They will have a lighter weapon but certainly not an inferior weapon. They will have a lighter weapon because their rôle will be different. They will be an uncommitted reserve.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I pray that I am proved wrong about this, and I hope it will be a consolation to those who volunteer that they will wear the same combat dress even though they have a lighter, less effective weapon. "Lighter" is perhaps the polite way of saying it.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The units will be on lighter deployment. They will have the most modern self-loading rifles but will not be equipped with anti-tank guns or weapons which have a reinforcement capability in B.A.O.R.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

It puzzles us that they are to have lighter weapons and less training liability—I put it as neutrally as possible—and a rôle that is completely undefined. In these circumstances I conclude that this is done for reasons of local Tory politics and not for serious national defence reasons.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

The right hon. Gentleman is very welcome indeed in his new respon- sibilities in the Front Bench, because I have always considered him to be an honest man. However, if in his first speech on defence he makes derogatory remarks about our Territorial and Reserve Forces he will begin to be a very great disappointment in the responsible job he now holds.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has made many derogatory remarks about this side of the House in the course of defence debates.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will listen to me—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that he must not do that.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will contain himself. I have the highest respect for him. I would not dream of suggesting that he is other than an honest man, even though his views may differ radically from my own.

My claim was that the Labour Government had given the Territorial volunteers for the first time full equality with the Regulars. I said that because we were proud of the rôle that the Territorial volunteers play as part of our Armed Forces. I am not attacking the volunteers. I am attacking the Government—I may be wrong and I shall be happy to be proved wrong—for giving these 10,000 uncommitted reserves second-class status compared with the rest of the volunteers.

As to the question of the "Ark Royal", I say straight away standing here for the first time in my present position that I think that this question is arguable. I do not think that it is possible to be dogmatic. We spent more than £30 million on a major refit not so long ago, though I think that it is worth remembering—the noble Lord, who has seen our long-term projections, will probably know this—that we were seriously contemplating running the "Ark Royal" with greatly reduced manpower as a commando carrier. That is one of the possibilities we considered was open to us.

On reflection, I think that the Government have failed to make their case for keeping the "Ark Royal" fully in service as they are doing. A national carrier force of one does not make sense. The Government have said that the "Ark Royal" will be operational for only two-thirds of the time. I think that that is an optimistic calculation. The calculation when we were in government was that it needed three aircraft carriers to ensure that one was on duty all the time.

Even if the two-thirds' calculation is right, it means that during the next decade there will be roughly three years in the decade when we shall have no aircraft carrier. Aircraft carriers are greedy of manpower. I find it difficult to understand the Government's statement that they can take this decision and not have an effect on naval manpower in other ways—not have to put other vessels into mothballs. The Government must be taking a very optimistic view of the way the recruiting figures will go. I hope that they are right, but I think that they will have to admit to the House that they are wrong before this story ends.

I turn from what I describe as the arguable to what I describe as the simply silly. I refer to what I consider to be the saga of how the Government, like some young Lochinvar, have come galloping down to save some famous regiments—I almost said from a fate worse than death, but I notice that the 3rd Carabiniers and the Royal Scots Greys, faced with the Government's rescue plan, have decided to have none of it. They have decided to give up their separate identities and to amalgamate in a new regiment. They prefer death to dishonour at the hands of the Government.

The best witness to the sheer fatuity of the Government's plan is the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West. When the plan was announced he was quoted as saying this: This is a military nonsense, of course. A company of infantry is, by definition, not a self-supporting organisation in any sense. In the House the other day I listened with great interest when the hon. and gallant Gentleman told the noble Lord this: I understand that there are no officers at Sandhurst, or going to Sandhurst, earmarked for commissioning into the Argyll and Suther- land Highlanders."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th October, 1970; Vol. 805, c. 403.] Exactly. That is the reality.

Perhaps the hon. Member who replies to the debate will tell us what the latest figures for the special recruitment campaign for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are. A few weeks ago my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) put the figure at one. I am interested to know whether it has increased since then. The opportunities for a percentage increase of great size are very considerable, in the face of that figure.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman's aim—his legitimate aim—was to save a famous fighting regiment. I think I am right in saying that he rashly persuaded his constituents that this was official Conservative policy. I can only conclude that he now knows in his heart as a soldier that, although he has successfully stormed the citadel of a parliamentary seat, he has lost his military campaign.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I turn to what I believe to be the dangerous part of the Government's strategy—the decision to leave British forces on the ground in Singapore.

Perhaps before deploying my case here I may put in a preamble which I do not think needs saying. I am sure that everybody in the House knows the excellent rôle that British forces have played over the years as a peace-keeping force in many different parts of the world. My criticisms do not arise from any illusions about that. Nobody who has held the post of Commonwealth Secretary can be in any doubt at all about the kind of peace-keeping rôle that British forces play, often under conditions of great difficulty.

Our objection to the forces being maintained on land in Singapore is stated in our Amendment—that it raises the expectations of our Commonwealth allies without providing the additional capacity to meet these expectations if that becomes necessary.

This is not a case of formal commitments. I accept what the noble Lord said about the redrafting of the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Treaty, though I should be glad of information as to how far the Malaysian Government have now agreed to it. This is not a case of legalities but of realities. The Government say that they would exclude involvement in the internal security of Malaysia and Singapore but would consult with their allies about other contingencies. What is the likeliest other contingency? It is not, I think it would be widely agreed, old-fashioned identifiable external aggression across frontiers with conventional arms.

The present Foreign Secretary put the matter very clearly last March when, on a visit to Malaysia, he said in Kuala Lumpur that guerrilla infiltration was the type of aggression Malaysia was most likely to face". He said that the Conservative Party would like to see Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand contribute troops to "a Commonwealth counter-insurgency force". I presume they are now engaged in that. Therefore, I listened with great interest to the pertinent question asked by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) about what would happen in certain contingencies. He and the House noted, that he got no assurance at all.

This kind of counter-insurgency problem is precisely the kind of problem that led to war in Vietnam and from small beginnings dragged the Americans into a major conflict, and there are very real anxieties about this.

It is very hard to draw the line between purely internal trouble and trouble that is fomented internally by people infiltrating across frontiers in that part of the world. If there are serious internal troubles—we must all pray that they will be avoided—it is almost certain that it will be claimed that subversives from outside are whipping them up.

What are the British troops on the ground and the British helicopters to do then? Are they to stand idly by? If they do that, there will be a much greater sense of betrayal and disillusionment than if they had not been there on the ground and the decision could have been taken by a British Government in the absence of that commitment on the ground. If they go in to help, they may be taking on something similar to the counter-insurgency Britain faced a decade or so ago in the colonial days in what was then Malaya and which needed British troops to overcome it on a scale that the Government are not for a moment dreaming of being willing to provide.

If the Government really meant business about this they would be facing up to extra expenditure on the scale calculated by my right hon. Friend in the last defence debate. But of course, they do not mean serious business. Far from being of real help to our allies, what they are proposing is frivolously raising their expectations without providing the means to fulfil them.

Photo of Captain Walter Elliot Captain Walter Elliot , Carshalton

The right hon. Gentleman will agree that the late Government accepted the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement. His argument seems to be that because under that agreement our forces were in this country that would be very convenient so that we could dishonour the Treaty. Would he deny that that is what he meant—and affirm that they would have honoured the Anglo-Malaysian Agreement?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The hon. Gentleman is discussing two different things. The Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement was something that we inherited. We honoured it during our period of office, and we gave due notice, which the present Government are now taking up and continuing, that we wished to see it replaced by a consultative agreement. That is the position on that. If the hon. Gentleman studies my words carefully tomorrow he will realise that I was not saying what he believes I was saying. I was putting what would be widely regarded in the House as a real problem.

There are some other questions to be asked about the east of Suez proposals in the White Paper. It is only last January that the Prime Minister, on television—he denied across the Floor of the House to me that he said this, so I checked up, and I find that it was on the "Man in the News" programme on 17th January—put the cost of a Conservative east of Suez presence as £100 million, plus or minus. Now, we have a figure of £5 million to £10 million given to us and we are entitled to a much better explanation than we have had so far for this gap.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

Would the right hon. Gentleman read to the House the actual text? Has he got it?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I will ensure that it reaches the noble Lord during the course of the debate. It is in my papers there, from which I was quoting—

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I will read it when I wind up.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

One of the reasons, undoubtedly, is that the £5 million to £10 million figure represents only the difference in expense of having troops in the Far East rather than in the European theatre. That may be part of the explanation, but we should look at the implications of this. This means that there will be no extra forces, as a result of this changed pattern of deployment, to deal with the problems of rotation and presumably of extra leave which soldiers who have served in the Far East require. It seems as if we are getting back to the bad old days of giving soldiers, airmen and, no doubt, sailors double duties. The Secretary of State in another place was quite explicit that there would not be any extra forces to deal with this.

Let us consider the implications. It means that the Conservatives are doing nothing to increase our defence effectiveness. After attacking us for years for letting the defence shop run down, they are doing nothing to increase the stock inside that shop. All they are doing is moving some of their material from the European shelves of the shop into the Far Eastern shop window. That is what is happening.

They are telling their Far Eastern allies that they are prepared to do far more for them than the Labour Government were prepared to do, with Nimrods and frigates and the men on the ground, but they are simultaneously telling their European allies that our allocation of forces to N.A.T.O. will be reduced by only one battery of Royal Artillery. The rest, we were told in the House the other day, will remain allocated to N.A.T.O. "at rather longer notice". That seems to be a particularly delightful and delicate military euphemism for forces which are across in Singapore and, "at rather longer notice", assigned to N.A.T.O. The same forces are simply being spread thinner, our Servicemen, I am afraid, are being over-stretched. I fear that we will end by disappointing our allies at both ends of the European-Asian axis.

The noble Lord made a great deal of the increased assignments of material—Jaguars and so on—to N.A.T.O., and that is very welcome of course to our N.A.T.O. allies. But I notice that his noble Friend the Secretary of State seemed to be in a position of great isolation at the last meeting of the European members of N.A.T.O. precisely because, despite these things that he has done, he has left himself without the kind of flexibility which one needs in relation to the kind of problems which are developing on the N.A.T.O. front, and which the noble Lord described very clearly.

Finally, there is the great Gulf mystery. The Government have published a White Paper setting out their defence expenditures with ceilings for the next four years. They have announced their commitments in various ways, but they have failed to tell us what they are going to do in one of the major areas of change, in terms of their pre-election policy—that is, what they are going to do about the level of Forces that they will maintain in the Gulf and the kind of commitments that they will have.

The noble Lord said that he would speak briefly about the Gulf, and that was a massive exaggeration. He tells us that in the Gulf no final discussions have yet taken place about the British rôle in the future. I will take the consolation that, since this has not prevented the publication of the White Paper, with its budgetary ceilings, this means that the main outline of Labour's withdrawal programme is likely to stand.

This is certainly the course which most corresponds with the realities of the situation—I visited the Gulf myself a few weeks ago—and with the situation that the last British Government created by their decision to leave. The new Government will face reality if they decide broadly to carry out the programme that we laid down. I know the difficulties and I do not under-estimate the time-scale of persuading the Gulf rulers to co-operate in providing a viable political structure there. It would be good for their peoples if they did so, and good for the stability of the area.

I would also add that, post-1971, Iran will be the residuary legatee, in effect, of our historic naval rôle in the Gulf. Both Iran and Bahrain deserve to be congratulated for their courage and statesmanship in coming to the agreement that they did and solving their long-standing territorial dispute, with the help of the United Nations. It is important to continue that progress in Iranian-Arab co-operation in other parts of the Gulf.

Photo of Peter Tapsell Peter Tapsell , Horncastle

When the right hon. Gentleman says that Iran will be the residuary legatee of our naval rôle in the Gulf, is he certain that the residuary legatee will not in fact prove to be the Soviet Union?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

I think that I will stick to the words I used. This is a hope which I believe will be shared on both sides of the House.

This has necessarily been a narrower defence debate than the one we have on the main White Paper, which will no doubt take place in February. I have concentrated on how the Government's post-election policy differs from their pre-election promises. In one sense, the glaring gap which is undoubtedly there between promises and performance is a good thing for the nation. It means that the Conservatives have had to come to terms with the same painful realities of Britain's changed world position that we had to.

It was largely common ground among many in this House, not that Britain should not be in different parts of the world, but that Britain had to have a foreign and defence policy which came squarely within her economic resources. The decisions arising from this had to be followed through. Whatever remains in Singapore, or whatever the Government finally decide to do in the Gulf, it remains true, I think, that the historic act of withdrawal on which the Labour Government decided will be carried through in effect in all major respects.

In March of this year, my predecessor as Shadow Defence Secretary was forecasting the need to spend more on defence than the 5 per cent. of the gross national product planned by the Labour Government. Now they have recognised basically that we were right and that a defence policy has to stand within the economic resources of the nation.

But the Conservatives have adopted the substance of my right hon. Friend's defence policy while persisting in maintaining the shadow of their election promises. To do this is not only dishonest but dangerous. It is unfair both to our allies and to our Servicemen. It is unfair to our allies because it raises their expectations, as I have tried to argue. It is unfair to our Servicemen, because it creates new uncertainties about where the economies will fall which will have to be made to pay for the window-dressing in Singapore, the regimental mess of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, or the drill halls up and down the country, in which the new more lightly-equipped, less heavily-trained reservists will perform. There is a big gap to be filled. The noble Lord did not fill it at the end of his speech.

We shall have to ask many more questions to get the information. We have been given no real details on how it is to be filled. I gather that one-quarter is accounted for by the C5 cancellation, but the other three-quarters remain very much a mystery, except for the rather forbidding information that the standard of barrack accommodation for the single Serviceman is likely to suffer a bit as one of the economies.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the historic decision to leave the Persian Gulf. Is it not true that that was made for short-term economic reasons, not reasons of strategy?

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

In arguing that it was made for economic reasons, I think that it was made for long-term economic reasons in recognition of the basically changed position of Britain in the world. For that reason, I was arguing that, whatever is left, the main details of that historic decision by the Labour Government will stand.

Those in the Services, like hon. Members, are entitled to know the real defence price being paid in the White Paper for these expensive political gestures—because that is what a number of them are—by the party opposite.

It is for those reasons that I move the Amendment.

5.42 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Colin Mitchell Lieut-Colonel Colin Mitchell , Aberdeenshire West

I am most grateful for the opportunity to intervene in the defence debate with my maiden speech.

I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) about the previous Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), for whom I have a great personal regard.

In a maiden speech in a debate like this, it is normal to be non-controversial, although I must admit that after some of the slight goads that were coming my way from the right hon. Member for Dundee, East I might possibly be slightly critical. I have, indeed, come to praise my hon. Friend the noble Lord and not to bury him.

It is customary to speak of one's predecessor. Those on the Liberal Bench will share with me knowledge of the high regard in which James Davidson was held in the West Aberdeenshire constituency and wish him well. At the end of his parliamentary career he wrote a series of articles in our local newspaper, the Press and Journal, which were headed: "It's a Dog's Life". On reading them, I felt that the problems of being Member for Aberdeenshire, West were slightly more complicated than I had at first thought when adopted as candidate.

There is a little local jingle which I can translate from the Doric as follows: The river Dee for fish and tree,The river Don for horn and corn. If hon. Members analyse that, they will be able to see the full spread of our scenic splendour and our rural and modern industries. Farming, of course, is as well known as anything that comes from Aberdeenshire. There are rural estates, forestry, food processing, distillers, paper mills, textiles, and light engineering industries. There were more of those before the very sad closure of the loco works at Inverurie last year. There are our famous educational and research services to agriculture, and tourism and sport, those by-products of the Highland scene.

I am having a quick gallop through West Aberdeenshire, having taken the equestrian lead from the right hon. Gentleman, who mounted my hon. Friend the noble Lord on three horses and then went galloping away himself. Our main problem is that our development potential depends very much on encouraging outside investment and, above all, stopping the migration of our people. One of the saddest things about West Aberdeenshire—indeed about North-East Scotland, as my colleagues who represent those parts of the world will bear out—is that our immediate aim is to retain our population in the area. It is declining at a rate of over 2 per cent. a year, and unfortunately people are still migrating.

I find it a great honour to represent the constituency. With my own wide-ranging interests, one of which is defence, I hope that I can make some contribution towards its general good in the years ahead.

I turn now to the debate. The strategic priorities in paragraphs 4 to 6 of the White Paper are fundamental to our defence thinking. The "schizophrenic" has been used of the French. But, of course, the schizophrenic people are the British defence planners, who, since the time of the Spanish Armada 400 years ago, have been trying to combine the ability to have a force on the continent of Europe and also have a maritime, and in modern times a maritime-air, capability across the oceans of the world. That is what a great deal of our argument is about today and has been over previous years.

As one who has watched defence debates from the outside, I follow a pattern through them all, whichever party is in power, which seems always to come up against that schizophrenic attitude of the British. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving me that word, because I was rather stuck to know how to describe it. It has bedevilled British strategy, and the triangular relationship of strategy, force levels and budget in modern times has made it more difficult. I congratulate the Government on the ingenious enterprise with which they have dealt with it in the White Paper. It does not mention that we must keep a capability for nuclear, conventional and counter-subversive warfare. But the outcome of the White Paper, I think, is to broaden and improve those capabilities.

Of course, it carries a calculated risk, but calculated risk is inherent in any military posture. We must accept this. Sniping criticisms about the calculated risks are not justified, because such risks are fundamental when one is discussing capabilities and military forces, whichever side of the House one belongs to.

On the question of strategic priorities, no one will welcome the fact that we are remaining east of Suez more than the Services themselves. We see posters. We hear high-ranking officers talking about recruiting. But if we go down to what I call "Jock's eye view" we find that the majority of young men join the Services for travel, adventure and excitement, and this White Paper offers quite a lot of that in the years ahead.

I now turn to Europe and N.A.T.O. Since 1967 we have pursued the strategy of "flexible response", which is based on the assumption that we have an assured nuclear response which proves our willingness to escalate. I am sure that we were all interested today and yesterday to read in The Times the remarks of the Secretary-General of N.A.T.O., because he is obviously in the very dangerous position of being wedded to a tactical nuclear posture, hoping that nuclear "bargaining" will work. That is possibly the outcome of an academic scenario which reflects political and psychological considerations in N.A.T.O. rather than facing the true military facts of life. The consequences of tactical nuclear weapons can only be strategic. When we consider that the payload of one B52 strato-cruising bomber is now equal to the sum total of all the explosives ever exploded in the world since gunpowder was discovered, we begin to understand why, when people talk about strategic nuclear warfare and tactical nuclear weapons, half the time they are completely outside anything which approaches reality.

What we need if the credibility of the deterrent is to be proved—and I know that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East has said this countless times—is, paradoxically, strong conventional forces which prove our will to fight. Therefore, I am examining the White Paper to see whether the Government are producing those. And, of course, we are. One of the best ways is the splendid expansion again of the Territorial Army. I got the point very quickly from the right hon. Gentleman about identifying the Territorial Army with the wrong sort of image. Only one thing matters for the T.A. We must give it a rôle and publicise it and recruit on something which appeals to the modern young man and woman, something which is up to date. If we do that and present it as a form of voluntary national service, there is no reason why the figure of 10,000 cannot be reached and exceeded in the years ahead.

We all know that the position of our ground forces in the Central Sector of N.A.T.O. is very difficult, because their rôle is still unresolved. The force levels are still too small, and the debate still turns on whether N.A.T.O. strategy is stressing deterrence or the strategy of fighting the war. I am sure that we shall return to that point many times in tonight's debate.

Queries arise over N.A.T.O. and Europe from the White Paper. We have already heard about the future U.S. force levels, which are likely to start declining from June of next year. Is my hon. Friend convinced that there are sufficient infantry in B.A.O.R., particularly with an ever-increasing commitment in Ireland? I will not be drawn on my favourite subject of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders tonight, because I must be non-controversial.

Is my hon. Friend also sure about another and slightly less well-publicised problem, if there is sufficient spares backing for the armoured regiments in B.A.O.R.? We have heard stories that may point to the contrary, of a very definite shortage of spares backing, of cannibalisation, and of tanks and A.P.C.s not being there in sufficient numbers.

Concern with the flanks raises an important strategic point connected with the decision to go for the multi-rôle M.R.C.A. 75. Those who have studied aircraft statistics will know that it has a severely limited range and flight refuelling capacity. It does not meet our requirement for long-range strike and reconnaissance capability from bases in the United Kingdom. If that is true, surely we should be paying much more attention to the problem of the Middle East in terms of what our air power will be able to do there if we go for the M.R.C.A.? We have not gone for our own TSR2, or for the F1–11 or the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft.

I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman that the Soviets are outflanking N.A.T.O. in the maritime sphere. It has been happening for years. But Russia is here to stay and it is here to stay in the Mediterranean. Possibly in a few years it will be the dominant outside power in the Mediterranean. I wonder whether there is anything we can do to stop that, short of going to war, and I do not think any of us want to do that.

What we should do from the point of view of our own defence capabilities is to consider this in terms of overflying and air routes, which are becoming precarious, particularly over Arab and African countries. Are we, therefore, going for the right kind of aircraft? I am very disappointed that more interest is not being shown in the question of cancelling the C5, which is the jumbo, long-range aircraft. I can understand the reason, which is that that will save us money. But shall we be left with enough aircraft to carry our reinforcements and soldiers across the Mediterranean into the Indian Ocean and the Far East if we do not have the overflying rights which we have been used to having up to now in Arab and African countries?

To pass on to the Persian Gulf, obviously everyone welcomes the discussions with the Union of Arab Emirates. The point about those is that I fear they are almost bound to fail. Despite some of the soft and nice words about the negotiations and the activities of Sir William Luce, those of us who know the Persian Gulf reasonably well are slightly cynical that this will work out. If that is true, it is surely vital—and here I cannot support my noble Friend more, because of the example of Aden of which I had a great deal of personal experience—that we do not leave a vacuum.

The Russians will not fight to go into the Persian Gulf; they will sit back. They have commercial interests, they are very "hedgy". They will not fight, but if, as in Aden, we get out of the Persian Gulf, they will automatically fill the vacuum because there is no one else to go there. If we can afford a few thousand British soldiers, sailors and airmen sitting out in Sharja, Bahrain and all these places in the Gulf, let us do it. They like doing it, it is not all that expensive, the sheikhs like paying for it and whose game are we playing if we do not go there? I must declare a personal interest in this matter because a few months ago, before the change of Government, I was seriously considering having private contract personnel to go there. There was no financial involvement!

Going further East into the Indian Ocean, last night the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) and myself debated at Grays Inn this whole question of arms for South Africa. In this terrible "strategy versus ideology" conflict which goes on and on, all I want to say is that the Soviet rôle of world expansion is based both on a fighting navy and a merchant navy and that oceanic strategy demands control of the key points, the entrance and exit places on the trade routes.

One interesting point which arises from this, and which I have not heard debated in the House, or amid all the furore that goes on and the letters that fly between the safari-ing Archbishop of Canterbury and the Prime Minister, is that half the population in the area of the Indian Ocean is Indian. If we are not to leave them to be influenced by the Soviets, surely this is a good opportunity for us to be trying to arrange some sort of mutual defence pact so that we may encourage some peaceful solution based on a Naval presence. These are easy things to throw out but they might be picked up by the Front Bench.

Finally, I turn to South-East Asia. I welcome the five-Power defence arrangement as others have. I, too, query paragraphs 8 and 11, the political commitments of a consultative nature, because I would like to see how that is written down on a piece of paper for the local commander who has to put it into operation. What does he do if fighting breaks out in Singapore, internal security troubles, and he is asked to intervene? When the Borneo confrontation began, it started in exactly the same way in Brunei. The Royal Marines, the Queen's Own Highlanders and the Gurkhas were flown in one Sunday morning from Singapore to stop the beginnings of a revolt and that developed into a campaign lasting for years.

There must be a naivete on both sides of the House, or someone has not picked it up, because surely if we are to be sending units to the jungle school as we say in the White Paper, they can obviously help as a jungle-trained reserve although stationed in Europe, Ireland or Salisbury Plain. That is an ability to reinforce this one battalion group sitting in Singapore. We will have a reserve capability. The argument should really turn on whether we will use it. These contingency plans will undoubtedly help to curb friction in an area in which there are inherent multi-racial communities with a great deal of friction.

As I read them, the assumptions on which this defence policy is based are likely to prove more than usually fallible and that is no fault of the Government. Certainly if we strive for flexibility and retain mobility and plan force levels accordingly we should be able to work a very reasonable defence posture in the years ahead.

There is one aspect which has not been covered, that of counter-subversion, the dangers of a weak and ideologically subverted Britain offering a temptation to Communism. This is something that I would have liked to have seen the White Paper saying had been referred to the Ministry of Defence for study because I believe that the day will come when the British Army, particularly, will be concerned with counter-subversion on the ground in this country.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

It is already doing it.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Colin Mitchell Lieut-Colonel Colin Mitchell , Aberdeenshire West

It is already doing it, in Ireland. There are the problems of what is described in these trendy times as "urban terrorism"—and I have been a bit of an urban terrorist too in my time! The Ministry of Defence would be well advised publicly to take advice and this House would be well advised publicly to discuss some of the techniques which they will require, because they are tough techniques. They are difficult to put into operation and require good commanders and leaders. Let us now, for once, think ahead to something which is coming our way.

May I join with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Dundee, East about the Fighting Services. They are the salt of the earth and the effect of these defence debates is far wider than we in this Chamber sometimes realise. I know how avidly people read them and discuss them in canteens, messes and discussion groups throughout the British Services. I plead, on this one occasion of a maiden speech, when I am not shouted down from the other side of the House in supporting the Government's White Paper, for a highlighting of the gratitude and admiration which we all have, on both sides of the House, for the men who follow the profession of arms. If nothing else is worthy of note in what I have said this afternoon, I hope that that point will be well received.

6.5 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

It is, indeed, a great pleasure to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell) in his maiden speech, which I found to be not only informative but amusing. Although it is the practice not to be controversial, I am sure that no one on this side of the House would object to him being controversial with his own Front Bench. There must be many things in the White Paper which he regrets. Even though he says he comes to praise the noble Lord and not to bury him, I would advise the noble Lord that the hon. and gallant Member has a lean and hungry look and he should beware in future.

One of the few consolations of sitting on these benches, I thought, was that we would probably have a Government which would implement some of the defence programmes which I had been advocating over a number of years. I must have been rather naive to think that that was possible. It appears that what is said in opposition by either party is certainly not carried out when that party becomes the Government. The criticism I levelled against my own party, on frequent occasions, was that it appeared that defence programmes were based purely on economics rather than on what the country felt was necessary for its defence.

I could never understand why in one year's White Paper there was an emphasis upon the necessity of keeping Forces in the Far East when in the following year's White Paper it was said that it was no longer necessary to keep them there. I can only come to the conclusion that such views are guided by economic factors. I have a very grave suspicion that the defence policy being put forward by the Government is motivated primarily by economic considerations.

It is unfortunate that we debate these things in public. It does not do the Forces or the country any good to make party points on matters so vital as defence, but this is what happens when we debate this in public. There are many things which hon. Members on both sides of the House have in common on defence affairs. It is those points which are more important than the ones about which we disagree. My main criticism of all I have heard today is that there has been no general philosophy as to how the defence of Europe would be conducted. Unless we know this, we do not know what we have to plan for in the matter of reserves or whether reserves are necessary.

I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) because I take a different view as to what might be a possible outcome of a conflict in Europe. I believe that today there is no doubt that the Eastern forces have a tremendous preponderance of ordinary, conventional weapons and that we are in a position of inferiority in equipment as well as being in a position of moral inferiority. This is because in any future conflict we have imposed upon us the burden of deciding whether to use nuclear weapons. This is not a decision which the Eastern forces have to take. Their conventional forces are strong enough to win a war without the use of nuclear weapons. I was looking for some guidance over Government thinking on this.

I do not believe that a full-scale war will break out in Europe by design, on either side. The greatest danger lies in war breaking out by mistake, by misinterpretation of events by one side or the other. What happened two years ago in Czechoslovakia has reinforced my conviction, held for a number of years. It was in many ways fortunate that Czechoslovakia did not decide to resist. Can we imagine the consequences if guerrilla fighting had gone on with possible support from Yugoslavia? It may have been that the Russians would have decided at some stage that Yugoslavia would have to be dealt with. Could we have sat idly by and done nothing about that?

This is the situation that we would be in because it is not possible, with our forces, to match the conventional forces of Russia. We have no reserves upon which to build a second army. I stress the need for reserves because a nuclear war could come by mistake.

I also believe that if there is the ability over a period of stress to build up conventional forces we might ward off a conflict altogether. I would like to know what Government thinking is about this, whether they agree with the previous Government that from the word "go" nuclear weapons would be used. This is important not only from a morality point of view but also from the point of view of what one does about reserve forces.

My criticism about the present White Paper is to do with the return to the Far East. I am not saying that many observations made today are not correct, that we have had a restraining influence on many events which have taken place out there and which could have broken out into greater dimensions. It is, however, important to remember two things. When dealing with coloured nations, the presence of white troops in those territories is a breeding ground for those who wish to gain power in that country, as Communists or anything else. They have only to point to the fact that white forces are there to obtain tremendous power in their attempt to overthrow the local government. It is a retrograde step for these people to see white troops prominently in their country.

Secondly, we should never put troops into a position which means that we cannot reinforce them at a time of need. They become hostages to fortune. One of the lessons in the last war was that it is no use having an army in a certain position, no matter how many forces there are, unless those forces can be reinforced. The Japanese were defeated, not because their outlying empire had been overrun but because their forces could not be reinforced since we had naval and air superiority in those areas. This is a lesson which we must learn. We must make up our minds which area we would in no circumstances allow to be overrun if it came to a conflict.

I do not believe that that is so concerning Malaysia. It might well be that if we established a defence position on the Thai isthmus which would be possible to man, there would be sense in it. But the situation in the Far East will not improve if there is a South Vietnamese peace treaty. We should not think for a moment that that is where the conflict will stop. It will merely open up another battleground somewhere in the Far East, possibly in Thailand. I am particularly concerned about what our obligations would be if Thailand were invaded. Would we have to send in troops, just as America has sent in troops, and get them bogged down in a war which could never be won?

I regret that we are sending troops back to the Far East. They will merely give an impression of being able to do something which, when it comes to the crunch, they will not be able to do. This country can be defeated only in one place, and that is in Europe. We lost a battle in the Far East when Singapore was overrun, but we did not lose the war because we kept the home base. To dissipate our Forces when they are at a minimum, as they are today, into areas which are not vital to our defence is a mistake.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the home base depends upon sea communications. If they are cut, the home base goes, or starves.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

I would subscribe to that. But I cannot for the life of me understand how the cutting of our sea communications in the Far East will topple the home base provided we have a source of supply from America. This is one reason why we could be defeated, but there are alternative means of supply. I cannot think of anything that we get from the Far East that we cannot get from somewhere else.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

The hon. Gentleman has given parallels from the Second World War. Would he not agree that more up-to-date and more appropriate parallels could be drawn from the jungle war in Malaysia and the Indonesian confrontation, which were both significant victories for peace in the Far East brought about by the presence of British Forces?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

I began my speech by saying that we have done many things which are a credit to this country and possibly kept down a conflict which could have become larger. But this is not what we must decide today when we have a Government who are looking for economies, just as my party when it was in government was looking for economies. It is no good talking about a shortage of manpower, with our vital defence being in Europe, and sending troops to the Far East. This is a dissipation of effort. We must decide what we can do and do it, and the other things must take pot luck.

It is very disturbing that the Russian fleet is sailing into the Indian Ocean, because the Russians are gaining a tremendous amount of influence. But I do not think that it constitutes a military threat because the Russians would be in exactly the same position as the Japanese empire was when air and sea power did not rest with them. They knew what position they were in when they could not reinforce their forces in Cuba. They had to get out from Cuba. That is the situation in which they would find themselves in the Indian Ocean, which is a sphere of influence, and politically this action is against us. But I do not view it as a military threat. The Government are using it as an excuse for supplying arms to South Africa, and I do not think it holds water.

We must honestly face the manpower situation. One hardly dares to breathe the word "conscription" in this country. Certainly politicians dare not breathe it. But members of the public breathe it. Not all the people think that conscription is a bad thing. I am not advocating conscription. I do not think the regular forces want conscription because we cannot have an efficient Army with conscription, which I think is accepted on both sides of the House. Here I pay tribute, after voicing much criticism, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East. I know from practical experience that, man for man, the fighting strength of the Armed Forces today is better than it has even been, and my right hon. Friend should take considerable credit for that.

But there is a desperate shortage of manpower with which someone will have to deal in the not-too-distant future. Are the Government prepared to take all the steps necessary to deal with it and, if need be, reimpose conscription to bring up the Forces to the required strength, even if people serve for only a certain amount of time in reserve Forces? That might be as vital as having them in the regular Forces. It is easy to evade the issue and say, "We hope to get more manpower". But if we do not get more manpower, it will be for the noble Lord the Minister of State to take a decision. All Governments have burked taking a decision in the past.

I turn finally to the question of the Territorial Army. I am rather surprised at the figure of 10,000. I am in a territorial association, and I can only think that this is the highest figure which the Government feel can be obtained. I am not surprised. We cannot play fast and loose with people in the reserve Forces and expect them to come flocking back at the drop of a hat. We dissipated a fund of good will for the Forces when my party was in government. But cutting down the Territorial Forces we not only weakened our ability to deploy in the case of need, not necessarily in Europe but in other parts of the world, a conventional force upon which we could build our reserve Forces, but we lost the good will of many people who for years have served in these forces.

There will be difficulties unless, as the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West said, we give them a sense of purpose and make a unit feel that it has some purpose. Do not let us raise units and send them to fire-fighting stations to do A.R.P. drill for their summer camp. That is not what people join the reserve Forces for. They join not because they want to be in the Army necessarily but because they want to play their part in the defence of their country if a war breaks out, and they want to be assured that the unit into which they go will be a teeth unit and not a fire-fighting unit. I am not disparaging the fire service; I am merely pointing out the mental approach of people in going into the reserve Forces.

Where are the drill halls for the people who are left? This will be a serious problem. In the last three or four years many of them have been sold. In my constituency there is a hall in which there is a fire every other fortnight caused by vandals who break in. It has been left for two or three years, and now there is hardly anything of it because it has been set on fire so often. It does not follow that because there is a unit in a headquarters more volunteers will go to that headquarters. The enlistment areas must be scattered throughout parts of the country which are not catered for by the reserve forces. This will mean building new drill halls, or at least places where people can train. This will not be cheap. The noble Lord has to face the fact that it is no good trying to do it on the cheap. If he tries to raise Forces in certain areas merely because there is a headquarters there, he will find that he will not get them. That is another problem to be looked into.

In conclusion I have heard of people paying lip-service to a pre-election promise, but nobody with any military knowledge could possibly support keeping one aircraft carrier without one in reserve which is capable of being called upon at a moment's notice. This is paying lip-service to what the Government said when they were in Opposition. It is unrealistic. If it came to the crunch, something might have happened to that one aircraft carrier, thus giving an illusion of strength which does not exist.

I have a great respect for the noble Lord. I think he tries to be honest when giving his impressions in the House. It will be difficult for him to fight his own Government to get money for defence. I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Aberdeenshire, West will find it much easier in the Crater than he will to make a crater on the Front Bench of the House for the things he wants. I am sure that in his heart he knows that the programme put forward today by his noble Friend gives commitments which we are incapable of carrying out. Either those commitments must be cut or greater facilities for raising Forces must be provided. The Government have that choice before them.

6.22 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham

I am honoured to be addressing the House for the first time as the representative of the electors of Buckingham. I follow a Member well known both inside and outside the House, who was a very good and assiduous constituency member. In his own colourful way, he made certain that the constituency and its problems never passed unnoticed. Whether I emulate him or not, I can assure the House that I have no designs whatever on the Chairmanship of the Kitchen Committee.

No constituency in this country is more affected by the pressures of modern life than Buckingham. Two of the sites for the third London Airport threaten my constituency. This causes great anxiety and hardship to a large number of people. In addition, it stops major planning decisions from being taken. The vast majority of my constituents are bitterly opposed to the selection of an inland site. I hope that it will not be long before the Government can relieve them of this threat. In addition, the entire site of the new city of Milton Keynes lies within my constituency. This is an entirely new concept of a planned urban development involving some 250,000 people. Although this is the first attempt, in this country at any rate, to achieve anything approaching a settlement of this magnitude and, although the difficulties which face us are immense, I am certain that, given the resources by the Government, this concept can produce something really exciting in terms of modern living.

It may seem that these characteristics have no connection with the subject we are discussing. However, defence is of vital interest to every citizen. It is also inescapably bound up with the prosperity of the country. No development, however exciting, can have any hope of success unless it takes place in a Britain which is both safe and prosperous. Therefore, I am glad to be making my maiden speech on this occasion.

I strongly support the majority of the proposals contained in the White Paper, particularly the improvement in our N.A.T.O. commitments, the proposals for strengthening the Royal Navy, and the expansion of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve. This last proposal I find particularly welcome, and with many other hon. Members, I see it as providing an additional disciplined reserve force for the defence of this country, and for responding to national emergencies of whatever kind.

The success of the proposals in the White Paper depends very largely on getting the necessary manpower to operate the weapons which they are proposing to employ. I wish the Government well in their endeavours to improve the popularity of the Services and make them competitive with civilian occupations.

In the Services, as in many other walks of life, the career structure is every bit as important as the pay and conditions. That part of the White Paper which highlights a shortage of officers in both the Army and the Royal Navy is indicative of this. Young men today feel that there is no future in a Service career and that they may find themselves high and dry at a relatively early age in life, without the prospect of getting further employment.

One way to enhance the status of the Services, particularly as regards the officer entry, is to ensure that every entrant, if he does not come from a university, has the opportunity of obtaining a university qualification during the course of his career, either at a Service university or a conventional establishment.

In defence, any Government has two major responsibilities: the defence of these islands and the protection of our trade and commerce. Everything else is secondary to those two major aims. As many hon. Members have pointed out, the former means playing a major part in strengthening the defence of Western Europe through the N.A.T.O. Alliance. It also means working in ever increasing co-operation with our European allies in the development of weapon systems. That is why I was pleased to see in the White Paper the reference to the Exocet missile co-operation with France. The latter requires the deployment of modern naval forces with a strong carrier element until we are confident that VTOL aircraft are both feasible and effective in operation. Today we have heard a lot about the Russian threat. This threat seems to have outclassed anything we have seen since the war. It is predominantly a naval threat to our lines of communication and must be resisted by our naval forces in all parts of the world.

It is shortsighted to suppose that we can continue spending a greater proportion of our gross national product on defence than is spent by our major competitors. That is all the more reason why we should make certain that our effort is concentrated where it can be most effective. Nothing could be more fatal at present than to try to do too much with too little.

This brings me to the proposals for east of Suez and the Opposition Amendment. I find myself in a somewhat unmaidenly position. I am in opposition both to the Amendment and to a certain extent to the proposals contained in the White Paper. I reject the Amendment mainly for its hypocrisy. I know that one should not be controversial in a maiden speech, but it is clear now that the proposals of the last Government involved a commitment without a presence.

I listened to the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) saying how much he decried the fact that we on this side of the House, certainly during the previous Government, tended to say that the then Government put defence at the bottom of the list. When I read the second Amendment on the Order Paper and see the number of people who have signed it, it seems that there was a certain amount of truth in that accusation.

At the same time I criticise the proposals in the White Paper because they are advocating the wrong kind of presence and an ill defined commitment. An arangement of this sort needs two things to make it work. First, the parties concerned must have complete trust in each other. Second, the protected must believe that the protector has both the power and the will to enforce that protection when the time comes. I accept that following the recent visit of the Secretary of State for Defence to South-East Asia this element of trust is vastly improved, but I am doubtful still about the ability of this country, even in conjunction with our allies, to meet and resist effectively a major, or even a relatively minor, confrontation in these areas.

To do this successfully must, it seems to me, mean reinforcement, yet we are told that the presence will be severely limited. Without reinforcement this commitment becomes incredible, from the start. As against this, a naval and air presence would protect the major frontiers of Malaysia—we are talking about Malaysia now; it would secure the vital sea routes in the area; and it would produce a commitment which was both understandable and limited.

In the Gulf the decision obviously has not yet been taken, but my personal experience of the area—I was there just over a year ago—leads me to hope that a different course will be followed. Whatever one may think of the manner, the appalling manner, in which the decision to withdraw was taken by the previous Government, it gave great impetus to the formation of the Federation of Arab Emirates. Any hesitation now on our part would produce a welcome excuse for the rulers to put off taking some very difficult decisions.

There are many other ways, of assisting the economic, social and military development of this area than by keeping a resident force of British troops in Sharjah. From a defence point of view, the best answer lies in a naval and air presence in the Gulf, which would provide an adequate protection for our oil supplies—oil supplies, incidentally, not only for this country, but a large proportion of the supplies for the N.A.T.O. Alliance as well—the enlargement of C.E.N.T.O. to include these States, and the creation of Federal Armed Forces around the nucleus of the Trucial Oman Scouts who have been so successful in maintaining the stability of the area up to now.

The whole art of defence planning is to prepare for the unexpected, and I believe that the Government have made a good start in producing a modern and effective defence system for the 'seventies. I hope that they will think again before committing us to a land-based—and I emphasise land-based—presence east of Suez. I hope that they will rely instead on a maritime and air strategy which has stood this country in such good stead in the past and which, I am sure, can provide the true defence answer for the future.

6.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) on a most talented and independent maiden speech. The hon. Gentleman employed a pleasant and forceful style which I am sure will be greatly appreciated by the House in the days and months ahead.

The hon. Gentleman told us that he represents the new town of Milton Keynes. It has many problems, and the hon. Gentleman will have many problems in looking after this new town's problems, and I wish him well in doing so.

As the House will have noticed, there is on the Order Paper another Amendment signed by 91 of my hon. Friends. It does not need great skill to deduce that these Members come from left, right and centre of the benches on this side of the House. Indeed, their view that there should be a real and drastic reduction in arms spending is the official view of the Labour Party. It has twice taken this view at its annual conference, and I assure the House that it is a highly popular attitude among the general population, as several public opinion polls have shown.

We feel that the arms burden is too heavy for Britain to bear if we are to promote the living standards of our people. This year the military budget costs each man, woman and child 15s. 10d. a week, or £3 3s. 4d. a week for a family of four. This is the chief cause of what economists like to call "the English sickness", the fact that for 20 years we have been slipping back economically compared with other nations.

British troops in Germany, and strung out across the world, as they still are all the way to Singapore, cost the United Kingdom £270 million a year. Only the United States among Western nations carries a similar burden. West Germany actually receives currency on deficiency account at the rate of £150 million a year. As Mr. Fred Catherwood, Director General of the National Economic Development Office, has said: If you take what we pay out and what the Germans get, that is a difference of £420 million a year between the Germans and ourselves. That goes a long way to account for the difference in performance between West Germany and ourselves. I think that we should all agree with that. He might have gone further and mentioned Japan. Her share of the gross national product devoted to the military forces is only 0·9 per cent., and it is this which has enabled her to win the worldwide trade battle.

Moreover, the Government are misleading the public in the statement that we have had this week. They know that people want more money spent on their social services, and less on arms, so they attempt to appear to be keeping the former up and the latter down. Let us consider these misleading figures in this defence statement. The target of £2,300 million of arms expenditure by 1974–75 will mean, in terms of £ s. d. that by that date as prices rise, we shall be spending £400 million a year more than we are spending this year, or about £2,700 million a year. I had this worked out by a statistician, not being a statistician myself. That is an odd way of reducing spending.

On the other hand, when the Government increase expenditure on some part of the Health Service they state with a great flourish of trumpets what the cash increase will be, knowing that in real terms the increase will be smaller, or even non-existent. The Government cannot have it both ways. They must treat arms spending and other spending in the same way.

Let us take two examples of where major savings might be secured. We have been told that the aircraft carrier refit will cost £50 million. When it comes to arms spending, I suppose £50 million, more or less, does not matter very much. Apparently it means little. But let us take a much more serious item—military research. This year the Government are spending the little sum of £220 million on military research. Contrast that with the £14 million a year for medical research, and virtually nothing on housebuilding research. There are reasons for fearing that this expenditure on military research is about to be increased.

I challenge the Minister to deny—I profoundly hope he will—that the missiles deployed by the Polaris submarines are to be replaced by far more sophisticated and vastly more expensive missiles. I ask him to tell the House and the country how much that little lot will cost. Second, will he answer the question that he has so far refused to answer: does he intend to have a fifth Polaris submarine built? If so, will not that cost, with its missiles, roughly £70 million?

In what I am now going to say, I do not wish it to appear that I am speaking for all the other 91 signatories of this Motion. I am speaking for myself, although I know that these views are shared by some others. It is seldom that what might be called "fundamentalist" views are held in this House. On the question of arms spending, I am a fundamentalist, because I ask: why are we spending this vast sum?

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

I am coming to that point. If the question is ever asked, the reply is—to preserve our country's security, presumably because there is a fear that the Red Army will invade us. I believe that this is fantasy. I do not like some of Moscow's policies, any more than I like some of Washington's. I am neither for America nor for Russia. But the idea that either America or Russia wants to invade the other side is nonsense, and it is dangerous nonsense.

The noble Lord today based much of his case on the build-up of the Soviet Navy in the Mediterranean. I dislike this as much as he does; but what about the presence of the United States Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean? Why did he say nothing about that? Both sides are building up their forces, not because they want war or because they want to invade each other, but through fear of each other. Vast arms programmes will not bring security. We could quadruple our military spending and completely bankrupt ourselves—we are not doing badly in that direction—and we still could not prevent a nuclear missile landing on our country.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, in his view did the Russians invade Czechoslovakia because Czechoslovakia had been building up forces against them, or did they invade Czechoslovakia because it served Russian interests to invade Czechoslovakia? Would not the same apply if we were in the same weak position as Czechoslovakia?

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

A fair question. The invasion of Czechoslovakia, as my hon. Friend knows, I have condemned both publicly and privately. It was done, in my view—and this was partly the cause of it—because there was a weakness, an opening to the West. I do not think, however, that that was the major reason. I think that the major reason, which I condemned, was that the Kremlin feared that if the liberal tendencies spread too far in Czechoslovakia they would encourage those tendencies in their own country.

But my hon. Friend should not quote that to me, because if one is going to condemn, as I do what happened there, then the same, if not worse, has happened in the American invasion of Vietnam. What I am saying is that neither side wishes a Third World War, but that both are so frightened of the other that they are building up their forces, subjectively defensively but objectively offensively.

It is this fear that is bankrupting the world and not merely weakening the Big Two. It is preventing the use of resources for helping the hungry and for providing what could be a rapid and remarkable rise in living standards. There is a fifty-fifty chance that it may yet take mankind over the precipice. I am not a pacifist—although I do not feel insulted if some people call me one—but I would rejoice if the Government announced that we were cutting our colossal arms budget by one-third and devoting £800 million to solving our other problems.

Why not? To misquote an English poet: It would ring the bells of Heaventhe loudest peal for years,If Governments lost their sensesand people asserted theirs. The more we increase our Forces, the more we encourage the same process in other countries. We should cut this vicious circle of one country always waiting for the other to cut first.

What could we not do with an extra £800 million a year? It would solve the problems of the Conservative Government. We could start to build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land.

Now for a gentleman who wants to move in the opposite direction, Signor Brosio, Secretary-General of N.A.T.O., speaking the day before yesterday. He is 74, and may soon retire. I wish him a long and healthy retirement, but I hope it will be soon and I hope that this Government will tell him so. What he said this week will make for more serious tension in Europe and greatly increased military spending. His ideas should be abhorrent to all who genuinely seek peace, and I hope that the British Government will say so.

He asked for three things. Quoting from the 10-page official text, they were: (1) An annual increase of 5 per cent. in arms spending in each year in real terms of all N.A.TO countries. That is a good start. (2) The selective and limited use of tactical nuclear weapons would not be deferred until our conventional defences were in a desperate position. In other words, we should use them very early in the proceedings. (3) The pouring of cold water on proposals for a European security agreement. What a prescription for disaster. Nothing is more likely to strengthen the hawks against the doves in the Kremlin. For the sake of mankind, I say to Signor Brosio, "Go."

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that Signor Brosio's proposals were put to a recent meeting of the North Atlantic Assembly in The Hague, and that they were that each country should spend at least 5 per cent. of its G.N.P. on defence, and that that was carried overwhelmingly?

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Yes, I have read that statement, too, but what I have said is absolutely accurate. He also said—I have the text here—that each N.A.T.O. country should each year increase arms spending by 5 per cent. per annum in real terms.

As regards our troops east of Suez, despite the noble Lord's statement today, the maintenance of British troops there could land us in another Aden situation. I very much welcome what was said by one hon. Member opposite. Everyone was glad when we came out of Aden—the British soldiers, their families and the local population. Do we want another such crisis? Having a small number of men there would be of no value should a serious situation arise. It would merely ensure that bigger numbers of British lads in uniform would be dragged in.

One hon. Member opposite referred to the situation in the Persian Gulf and said that the British troops there loved it, and that if we came out of the Gulf it would be bad for recruiting. I have been in the Persian Gulf, and I have spoken to many of the lads there. I can assure hon. Members that while some of the top officers like it, because they have their wives there, for the ordinary private soldier it is a most disagreeable station—we all know the temperature and so on—because they are there for a long period without leave elsewhere, and they are unaccompanied by their wives. The sooner the private soldier gets out of the Persian Gulf, the better he will like it.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I think that the hon. Gentleman has misled the House. I have also just returned from the Persian Gulf. He gave the impression, did he not, that officers have wives there and that the other ranks do not? In point of fact, the other ranks do nine months' service in the Gulf without a return home or 13 months with a few weeks at home, and only those officers or other ranks who are there on staff or similar jobs for two years are allowed to have their wives with them.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Precisely, but the hon. Gentleman will find that what I have said is absolutely correct. The ordinary Serviceman there at private level is unaccompanied, and this is one of the most disagreeable features of life in the Gulf.

America is reducing the number of her troops in Europe, and she is acting sensibly to do so. There is no need for her to keep them there. All we other members of N.A.T.O. are expected to increase ours. Why not reduce them instead, just as America is doing? Rather we should aim for an early agreement with the Warsaw Pact countries for a substantial mutual reduction of forces. This is in the interests of both East and West and is, therefore, a realisable objective. If two men are having an argument, clearly if one wants to settle it, the best plan is to find one objective which it would be of profit and interest to both of them, to secure. The fact that both East and West could reduce their expenditure in this way could provide grounds for a settlement.

Lastly, I should like to consider what the Chancellor of the Duchy said at the W.E.U. yesterday. For many of us, one of the basic objections to entry of the Common Market is the fear that some, though not all, of the powerful forces backing entry see it as an economic basis for a military pact; that is to say, N.A.T.O. They want to strengthen the latter vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact Powers, instead of aiming at a reduction in the military preparations of both sides. In other words, they want to use it as a move in the Cold War and in preparation for military war.

The Chancellor's words yesterday give the game away: Once Britain has joined the Common Market the whole setting for defence co-operation and co-ordination between her and the Six will be transformed. He continued: There is a very close connection between economic integration and the effectiveness of European defence. In the future, as the unity of Europe spreads and deepens, defence will also have to be included within the same framework of unity. Clearly, the Minister intends to use the E.E.C. for military purposes.

Further, when we asked the Prime Minister recently about supplying military nuclear information to France, he said that it all depended on whether this was provided within or outside N.A.T.O. We should be against it, whether inside or outside N.A.T.O., since it would be a deliberate violation of the non-proliferation treaty, both in the letter and in the spirit.

I conclude by appealing to the leaders on both sides of the House to forget their shibboleths and use some common sense.

6.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Julian Critchley Mr Julian Critchley , Aldershot

The hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) is a much respected figure, but he will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments through to their conclusion. He is a well-known neutralist, indeed an old-fashioned neutralist, and this is a debate about how best we should be defended, not about whether or not we should be defended.

I wish to make only a brief contribution to this debate, but before I do I should like to say something about the man I succeeded at Aldershot, Sir Eric Errington. He first came to this House in 1935 and he was elected Member for Aldershot in 1954. It was not long before he established an enviable reputation within the constituency and that was reflected by the affection and regard in which he was held by friends on both sides of the House.

To come to the subject of the debate, the White Paper is both welcome and familiar. It is a skilful shuffle of the same old pack of cards. Its theme is economy. As ever, we are to have miniskirted defence policy. However, not everything that is revealed is worth a second look. The strengthening of the Air Force in Central Europe is welcome indeed, in the form of the Jaguar aircraft. The retention of the "Ark Royal" for service in the Mediterranean and Middle East is equally welcome. The increase in our Army Reserves is both modest and sensible, and the east of Suez policy, now it has finally been revealed, is even more modest and even more sensible.

What would give rise to anxiety however is the rundown to 350,000 men, women and boys in the British armed services by the mid-'70s. By 1975 it is calculated that the Army, and particularly the infantry, which is already under strength, will number only 150,000 men. The minimum figure long declared to be necessary, is 175,000.

This Government, like their predecessor, are prepared to run risks on this particular matter. In looking at Britain's interests, I believe it is clear that N.A.T.O. and the defence of Europe must have first priority. Recently we have increased our contribution to the Alliance by the commitment of the United Kingdom Mobile Force, by larger naval forces in the Mediterranean, by an additional Harrier Squadron in Germany, and by 6 Brigade which is to return to Germany. But the point surely is that these forces, when added together, are little more than the Canadian Brigade which is in process of withdrawal.

The threat that hangs over N.A.T.O. is the prospect, indeed the inevitability, of the withdrawal of United States forces in 1972 and 1973. From a military standpoint we cannot afford the withdrawal of a single American soldier. Yet if a sizeable withdrawal were to take place from the Seventh Army, for example, a withdrawal of up to 100,000 men, the consequence would be to erode the will to resist among the European members of the alliance. If, on the other hand, the withdrawal is a marginal one, 9,000 or 10,000 men, this in its turn would have several consequences. The first consequence will be to thin out allied conventional forces in Central Europe and make it more likely that we would have to have resort to nuclear weapons that much more quickly. That is one consequence of a minor American withdrawal. The second consequence would be to persuade the Germans to increase their reserve forces—they have a million trained men in reserve. So the Germans might fill the gap.

These two alternatives have all sorts of serious implications, which I need not spell out to the House. Nor is it sensible to think that the French will come to our rescue by deciding, General de Gaulle having died, that the French divisions in Germany, and the French Army in France, should be allocated within the N.A.T.O. structure. I think that is extremely unlikely.

I am anxious to avoid weakening Allied forces in Europe, not because I fear Soviet attack across the frontiers, but because a weaker N.A.T.O. would not only weaken Soviet inhibitions but would weaken Western resolve. A figure of 25,000 men may not seem very many; but it was for the want of a nail that the shoe was lost.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

I am pleased to be able to follow the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) because I believe that at one period he was a constituent of mine. As I always endeavour to represent the views of my constituents in this House, I was encouraged to learn that he, too, feels that the presence east of Suez is modest, and to that extent I reflect his views. Because I find myself very much in opposition to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), if the hon. Member for Aldershot will forgive me I will put my argument in my particular way and will come to the points he has raised.

I should like first of all to refer to a sentence on page 3 of the 1970 Defence White Paper which says: The Government are determined … to make good as far as possible the damage of successive defence reviews. It is typical of the small minds that have now taken over the Ministry of Defence that they felt it necessary to include that sentence in the White Paper. It must have given them intense pleasure after some six years of verbal lashing from my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) to have the opportunity to include it. I would have made no reference to it, but for the fact that it enables me to use it as a peg to hang a tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East because this is the first time for six years that we have had a defence debate in this House without his being the Secretary of State for Defence.

No doubt the hon. Gentlemen who have taken over the Ministry of Defence will receive from their Service chiefs and civil servants the wholehearted co-operation and loyal service which it is the tradition of British civil servants and Service chiefs to give to their masters. But it is fair to say that few if any of them were consulted with any degree of regularity on British defence policy before they reached their present Ministerial offices, and I have little doubt that when the time comes for them to lay down their jobs the position will revert to what it was before they were appointed to their ministerial positions.

I contrast the position of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East. He is no longer backed up by military and Civil Service machines, over which he has presided for six years. He is stripped of the trappings of office, but I believe that anybody interested in the solution of strategic political and military problems as they affect the Western Alliance for many years will find it worth their while to beat a path to my right hon. Friend's doorstep to get his advice and guidance. They may not take any notice of it, but they will certainly feel it appropriate to get his guidance on many points. It is also a measure of the depths to which the Conservative Party has sunk, in a field which they used to regard pre-eminently as their own, that they themselves will never fulfil that sort of rôle.

I turn to the Defence White Paper and to the subject of the position east of Suez. I have spoken on this subject several times in the past few years since I have been a Member of this House. I wish to sum up my thoughts by saying that I believe the Conservative Government by producing this White Paper have killed any presence east of Suez as a subject for effective political controversy in this country. What we have been offered is not a presence east of Suez, or even an appearance, but only a fine trace. I can say with political impartiality these things because I am on record in a number of defence debates as saying that, in certain circumstances, under certain conditions, there should be a British contribution to the defence of British interests in the area east of Suez. I am on record as having said that on a number of occasions.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

In the House of Commons. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will do me the honour of reading my speeches in past debates, he will find that I am on record as saying these things.

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

I always thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman read my speeches. I was prepared to argue for this policy in spite of the fact that it was not popular on my side of the House. In fact very few of my colleagues were prepared to agree with me. I was encouraged to carry on arguing because of the contributions by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite and the thought that when they came back to power there would be a substantial return east of Suez. For example the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), speaking in this House on 4th March, 1969, referred to the presence east of Suez and the forces that will be sent there and said: That force would be present on the spot to do what a general capability cannot do; that is, avert trouble before it becomes serious."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 259.] When we bear in mind that there are about 500 hard-core Communists in South Thailand and that the accepted ratio of regular troops to defeat them is about 10 to 1—and that is only one problem that they face—we get some idea of the size of force being alluded to.

Then that great Captain Manqué when Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Bexley, said on 5th March, 1968: … what does concern me is that Europe as a whole, with all its wealth and riches, is playing no part, or almost no part, in the outside world. I have always hoped that Europe would come to a position in which it would recognise its responsibilities and that, when it did so, Britain would have kept open for it the opportunities to exercise those responsibilities. But it is those opportunities for the future which Her Majesty's Government are now in the process of liquidating.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1968; Vol. 779, c. 259.] They were vague, sweeping words designed to identify the mainstream of history, and one was led to feel that possibly the forces that would be committed east of Suez would be of a size commensurate with the oratory being deployed. But if ever there is to be a return east of Suez by British Forces the time is now. Yet all that the Conservative Party can produce after all its labouring over the past years in the area east of Suez is five frigates, a battalion, a battery, an air platoon, four Nimrod aircraft and—this is heady stuff—a subtle hint of even a submarine being made available.

What right hon. Gentlemen opposite have done is the military equivalent of sending about five loaves and two fishes without providing the parallel supernatural power that is essential for success under these circumstances. Why have they taken this course over the past couple of years? We are all familar with the military and industrial complex mentioned by President Eisenhower and among the many complexes among hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite is a military complex.

We should not think of it in terms of being a sinister general staff. However, on the benches behind the right hon. Gentleman and throughout their party heirarchy in the country the ranks are littered with retired military officers all in key positions. They form possibly one of the most powerful political pressure groups on the party opposite when it is in opposition and when the Tory Party is deprived of the patronage it exercises in government.

These gentlemen have had to be strung along over the past few years. The grim realities had to be kept away from them. The way it was done was for this rather vague and generalised language to be used. When one looks at the matter one finds that any textual construction could be placed on the language in regard to the British commitment east of Suez once the Conservative Party won the election. But the context in which the language was used was designed to encourage the belief that there would be a substantial return of British forces east of Suez if they won the election.

Photo of Mr Julian Critchley Mr Julian Critchley , Aldershot

The hon. Gentleman may be right in his definition about how this was played. But does he agree that the Labour Party did the same thing from, say, 1963 to 1965 about the so-called future of the British independent nuclear deterrent?

Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North

That is an entirely different subject. I will not be drawn away. I do not entirely agree with the hon. Member for Aldershot. I am glad that he has moved to Aldershot and that I am no longer in a position of having to represent him in this House.

One of the most significant features about the debate is that the right hon. Members for Hexham, for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden) for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) are not speaking from the Front Bench opposite. All these right hon. Gentlemen have been the defence spokesmen for the Conservative Party over past years. They would all have had to spend the first half of the debate, had they been here, eating many of the words which they used in previous defence debates in the last two years.

Many hon. and hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite have paid tribute to the Government for the contribution which they have made to British Forces east of Suez in the White Paper. It does great credit to their party loyalty, but I am convinced that in their heart of hearts they know that they have been betrayed by their own Government. The situation now is that the British soldier east of Suez will be very much like the Yeti—occasionally footprints may be seen in the jungle, perhaps from time to time spoor will be discovered; but the sight of your actual British warrior east of Suez will in future be so rare that it will give rise to doubt even amongst the informed, perhaps particularly amongst the informed, about the existence of the beast at all.

That is why I say that the Government have come down on the side of the decision taken in January, 1968, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East I may regret it. I find it possible to argue with one great party, but I find it impossible to argue with the two major parties in the land when they are in agreement. I shall not bother to refer to east of Suez again unless the attenuated forces which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have committed to the Far East find themselves in one of those dangerous situations which my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) has already warned the House they might find themselves in. In that case, I shall be prepared to intervene, because all Members of Parliament must look after the safety of the members of the British Armed Forces who are called upon to do dangerous and difficult work on behalf of the nation. But, as far as I am concerned, the east of Suez debate is dead.

7.13 p.m.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

It is a pleasure to congratulate several maiden speakers today. In my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell) the House is fortunate to have a new recruit with such up to date and expert knowledge of the Armed Forces.

Despite an earlier altercation, I welcome the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) to his new "shadow" responsibilities. We all understand that he was in great difficulties today trying to avoid, in military terms, being outflanked by the 100 odd—I repeat "odd"—hon. Members on his Left wing who signed their own separate Amendment. Perhaps this accounted for some of the rather strange things said by the right hon. Gentleman.

I welcome the White Paper in general, and in particular two points in it. The first is the assurance of a worth-while military presence east of Suez. I do not understand why the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) was so scathing about a military presence east of Suez when the Government which he supported quite manfully stood up for a presence east of Suez against their own Left wing for about the first two and a half years of office and then, in what can only be called a squalid piece of horse trading over prescription charges, threw the coin over and said, "This is unimportant. There is no need for forces to be there at all." I remember phrases in their White Papers such as: No country with a sense of international responsibility would dream of abandoning such a rôle without knowing who was going to take it on. The second point I welcome is the sentence in the White Paper, to demonstrate the importance it attaches to defence and the high value it places on the Armed Forces and the Government's intention to: enhance the rôle of the Armed Forces in the community". This will go a long way to overcome the present manpower difficulties to which all speakers today have referred. It is certainly a welcome change from the attitude of the previous Administration.

I see two flies in the ointment. The first is the defence budget. I believe that the Government should not be boasting about making savings on the previous Administration's programme. If, as the White Paper says, the maintenance and improvement of our military contribution to N.A.T.O. remains the first priority of defence policy, we should heed Signor Brosio's words on Tuesday when he said, Britain and all other European members of N.A.T.O. should increase their defence budgets by 5 per cent. a year to match the growth rate of Communist armed forces". I remind the Minister that this is a Government which, in other matters, believes in setting good examples!

The second fly in the ointment which I detect is that the Government are only trying to fool themselves if they believe that one aircraft carrier is sufficient for our purposes. Of course, H.M.S. "Ark Royal" is a most useful and efficient ship. But the recent collision between the "Ark Royal" and the Russian destroyer shows how easily a single ship can be put out of action through no fault of her own.

In this morning's Press we read that in any case H.M.S. "Ark Royal" is having to return to Devonport for modifications of her catapults and arrester gear.

The White Paper says that Labour's plan to phase out the aircraft carriers in 1972 would have created a serious and dangerous gap. I agree. But the Government's proposal to reduce that gap with only one ship is inadequate. I believe that instead the Government should certainly keep H.M.S. "Eagle" in commission, even though she is unable to fly Phantoms, and even if this involves paying off other ships.

I emphasise that I am not arguing for aircraft carriers for their own sakes but merely from practical experience of the absolute need for organic air—in other words, air support on the spot and on the dot when at sea.

I also emphasise that this need for seaborne aircraft is applicable within the N.A.T.O. area, and does not refer only to further needs to protect our sea communications in other parts of the world.

To say, as the White Paper does in paragraph 17, that the Royal Air Force will assume responsibility for providing fixed-wing air support for the Royal Navy from shore bases is absolute nonsense, for the simple reason that the shore bases are not available. The Government, and anybody with a schoolboy atlas in his hand, must know it.

This leads me to what I believe to be the basic failure in the defence planning of successive Governments over the last decade and which it is regrettable to see continued in the White Paper—that is the failure to realise the absolute importance of protection and surveillance of our sea trade routes.

Those who wish to reduce defence spending—as the Left-wing Amendment today does—often claim that Britain's economic health is now more important than defence considerations. We have heard this point cogently argued by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). But this argument fails to recognise that our economic health depends entirely upon imports of raw materials and upon exports of finished goods, over 95 per cent. of which go by sea to various destinations all over the world.

One trouble is that in any defence debate the discussion is always escalated to consideration of a situation of declared war rather than facing the facts of the present day—the situation of confrontation below the threshold of declared war. Nobody likes to contemplate war—I certainly do not, having seen enough of it—but I believe that declared war in present circumstances is an unlikely event. The real threat is the one which President Kennedy vividly described as being nibbled to death in conditions of nuclear stalemate". It is on the trade routes of the world that this nibbling is most likely to occur. This comes from the fact to which so many hon. Members have referred today—that Russia's build-up to an enormous oceanic navy puts her in a position to harass and interrupt our trade wherever and whenever she wishes to do so.

Instead of reading out a list of statistics showing how Russia's surface fleet and submarine fleet have grown over recent years, I would ask the Minister to look at the diagrams showing Soviet naval activities year by year over the last decade. These are set out in the "N.A.T.O. Letter" of September 1970. In case the Minister has not got a copy of it I can hand him one. I invite the Minister's attention to page 6. Perhaps I might also invite him to the unusual procedure of passing a spare copy across the table to his opposite number—

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

Order. This is becoming a little indecorous.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

I regret any indecorousness, Mr. Speaker. However, it occurred to me that the publication had not been read by some of the Opposition—certainly not by hon. Members who signed the unofficial Amendment this afternoon.

The diagrams in the "N.A.T.O. Letter" show more vividly than any words how the Soviet fleet would be in a position to interrupt British trade and the trade of the West as a whole if at any time it wished to do so.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

I think that everyone would be sympathetic with the need to protect British trade. But is the hon. and gallant Gentleman seriously suggesting that we can protect it on the spot? That is the point. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman works it out in relation to the number of nuclear-powered Soviet submarines capable of attacking trade all over the world—in the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, everywhere—it is not practicable to try to protect our ships on the spot. The reaction, therefore, must be to bring pressure in some other area—for example, blockading the Baltic or the Dardanelles—but not to station naval units all over the world in the hope that they may be at hand if our trade is attacked.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised this point. It enables me to emphasise what I was saying a few seconds ago which he perhaps did not understand. I am talking about a confrontation situation where there is no question of submarine attack. I am talking about confrontation with the Soviet Navy, which could harass and interrupt our trade without any declaration of war and without any actual attack.

This situation was reproduced exactly at the time of Cuba, when President Kennedy was able to out-stare the Russians simply because he had minute-by-minute information from seaborne aircraft and knew exactly what the Russian ships were doing. In other words, we must be able to exercise surveillance over our trade routes to prevent war—not to fight war. I stress that. Hon. Members must not fall into the error of escalating the discussion into a wartime scenario.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman give an idea of the number and kind of naval vessels he recommends Her Majesty's Government to acquire to do what he feels it would be desirable to do?

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

I will be dealing with that shortly.

Given that defence spending must be limited as much as possible, any Government must combine with all available allies. This is the whole crux of the case for the supply of arms to South Africa—[Interruption.]—so that the very efficient South African forces may make an effective contribution over the huge area of sea for which South Africa is responsible under the Simonstown Agreement.

One of the places where the concentration of Western shipping is most dense is around the Cape. It is the most dense concentration of merchant shipping in the world, and in the history of the world. The rate at which huge ships are going round the Cape is one every 15 minutes, day and night, right round the clock. Half a million tons of essential oil to keep the wheels of Western Europe's industry turning is carried round the Cape every day.

I believe that the Royal Navy at its present size is insufficient for the surveillance and protection we need for our trade routes in the Indian Ocean, in terms of both ships and seaborne aircraft. In present circumstances, this is a more urgent task for the forces than any land deployment in Europe.

The words of the Chancellor of the Duchy at W.E.U. yesterday foreseeing a new British defence posture vis-à-vis Europe do not seem to take account of the fact that Britain's traditional rôle is not to keep a continental army in Europe but to protect the sea routes. I would like to see more emphasis placed on this traditional, historical rôle, with the increase in defence spending by other members of N.A.T.O. concentrated on the military land rôle in Europe.

The deficiencies in the Royal Navy, which have arisen over the years, cannot be made up quickly. However, it is important that we make a start as soon as possible. I am glad to see the Minister of State in his place because I have a constructive suggestion to put to him. It is that the Ministry of Defence should consider encouraging, by subsidy or otherwise, shipowners to provide helicopter platforms on selected merchant ships.

Many of the large merchant ships of today could, with the minimum of complication and expense, be adapted to receive, for example, the Sea King helicopter. In any confrontation along the trade routes it might be of crucial value to be able to fly a helicopter—or, perhaps, in due course, a vertical take-off aircraft—from one British merchant ship to another for anti-submarine work, reconnaissance or some other form of surveillance. "Surveillance" is the key word if we are adequately to protect our trade routes.

The most notable confrontation since the war has, with the exception of the Berlin airlift, been Cuba and, as I said, President Kennedy was able to succeed there because he had precise knowledge of the ships confronting him as a result of the minute-by-minute surveillance information coming to him. I emphasise most of all that I am not advocating fighting wars on the trade routes. I am emphasising stronger measures to prevent such wars.

7.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles). There have been occasions when he and I have contributed to the debate on minor naval matters, as he will recall. Later in my speech, I shall join him in talking about the subject of the Soviet maritime presence throughout the oceans of the world.

The whole House will have greatly appreciated the contribution of the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell), in particular, among the maiden speakers that we have heard. I was particularly struck by the passage of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech in which he described war and the commitment of forces as always being a risk, and sometimes being a great risk. How true that is.

What distinguished the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and what distinguishes almost overwhelmingly those who command our naval, land and air forces is that when they are in command in the field they share, and expose themselves to, the risk which they expect their men to face. I am more than delighted to join the hon. and gallant Gentleman and other hon. Members who have paid tribute to our forces.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of a threat which he foresaw, in an undetermined future year, of our having to deal with insurgency forces. I hope that the Government spokesman will say a few words in winding up about the presence of the Gurkha battalion in Britain and tell us what part the Gurkhas will play in performing what the Minister of State described in a Written Answer as the normal duties of British forces within the United Kingdom, which has now been clarified as "Great Britain".

Will the Gurkhas be used for the normal duties of troops as they were, for instance, during the recent local authority strike? In my constituency, soldiers conveyed rubbish to a dump from another borough. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) will be waiting with bated breath to know precisely what part these very gallant and distinguished soldiers who have served our country so well, will play in performing the duties of British soldiers garrisoned in Great Britain.

I join my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle)—in fact, I will call him "my honourable and gallant Friend"; I understand that he was commissioned and, as accolades of this type are bestowed all over the place, I want to confer one upon him—in the tribute he paid to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey). For five and a half years my right hon. Friend carried a unique burden with distinction. The casualty rate of the ten years before my right hon. Friend took office, during which time there were eight Tory Defence Ministers, is a tribute to the stamina of my right hon. Friend, in that he survived the great burden that falls upon the Secretary of State for Defence.

My right hon. Friend has also with great distinction created for himself and for the United Kingdom considerable standing throughout the world in defence matters. The whole country will be grateful to my right hon. Friend for the great part he played in getting the N.A.T.O. countries to agree on guidelines and move away from the appalling doctrine of instant massive nuclear retaliation, which was instant world suicide, to the more credible, if not more acceptable, doctrine of flexible response, which carries hope of survival for mankind.

I am in wholehearted agreement with the Government about paragraph 4 of the White Paper, which refers to the N.A.T.O. Alliance as the vital element in Britain's security. It is, indeed, vital for Europe's security.

The House will recall that in 1967 and the early part of 1968 one could sense building up a propaganda campaign against the N.A.T.O. Alliance. That campaign was brutally brought to an end when the Soviet tanks rolled into Prague. I fear that that rumbling and that propaganda campaign will re-emerge as the memory of the murder of Czechoslovakia, for the third time in its history, begins to diminish. We must ensure tnat the post-1945 generation, who know little apart from what they have read in history books of the horrors of the last confrontation that the world endured, understand the part that N.A.T.O. has played and must continue to play in maintaining the peace and freedom of the Western world.

It is necessary, not only to spell this out in terms of peace and freedom, but also to bring more to the fore the other things that N.A.T.O. does and is trying to do. N.A.T.O. is not only a military alliance. It is a political alliance. It has other organisations which can play a vital part in solving some of the problems confronting the world.

It emerged this afternoon during the questions that followed the statement by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs that the feeling was that there should be an organisation to deal with international disasters. N.A.T.O. could be such an organisation. It has a Committee—the Committee on the Challenge of the Modern Society—which is considering and discussing such matters as coastal pollution, the environment and disaster relief. In combating the coming propaganda war which I foresee against N.A.T.O., we must ensure that the other aspects of the alliance are fully understood.

That is not the only danger to N.A.T.O. There is also the danger that will face us if, for any reason, the United States decide to return to isolation and, after 1971–72, drastically to reduce their force level in Europe. The only thing that gives credibility to the defence deterrent aspect of the Western Alliance is the presence of United States troops on Europe's soil. If they go, N.A.T.O. can only remain a credible deterrent and a credible defence if the unspeakable should happen, if Western Europe, whether it be within or outside the E.E.C., is able, willing and determined to increase its contribution in force evel and in terms of nuclear deterrent. I do not take the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). I believe that there is a price that we must pay to maintain stability and freedom.

Another threat that I see to N.A.T.O. arises from what is in the White Paper. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) said in his remarkable maiden speech as our defence spokesman, on virtually the same expenditure as that undertaken by the previous Administration the present Government are to expand their military responsibilities throughout the world, but without increasing the financial contributions that are necessary if there is to be a meaningful expansion. What does this mean? If these token forces—these tethered goats, as some would say—who will be at risk in a five-Power military force in Malaysia need reinforcing, from where will the reinforcements come? They will come, not from the reserves referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), but from N.A.T.O. There is no other place from which they could come. They could not be withdrawn from Hong Kong. This is the second, and even greater, worrying threat of weakening N.A.T.O. because of the Government's commitment east of Suez.

We hear right hon. and hon. Members opposite mouthing on the television and on the public platform the view that they will look after Britain's real security interests. I say to them that our real security interests lie in the maintenance of the credibility of Western European defence, of our N.A.T.O. commitment, and of sufficient forces within N.A.T.O. The Government are raising the expectations of our allies which cannot conceivably be met without drastically weakening our real security interests in Europe.

I turn to the point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester about the Soviet maritime threat. I agree that this is a new development and a growing worry, but it is a political rather than a military threat. I do not take the view of the hon. and gallant Gentleman that we could be faced with a situation, to use his words, below the threshold of declared war. I do not believe that interference with allied shipping, or an attack on British or allied shipping, or a sinking, would be a little local difficulty. If there were Soviet interference with the essential trade routes of Europe, that would not be a little local difficulty, a confrontation below the threshold of war. It would be something which must lead to global confrontation. If there were Soviet naval interference with our shipping and the shipping of the West anywhere in the world, we would be a hot 'phone call away from the unspeakable.

We could not have that sort of interference with our shipping and trade routes—and I read the N.A.T.O. letter to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred—without calling into being the whole of our defensive capability throughout the world. Therefore, the protection of our trade routes from Soviet maritime forces lies in the credibility of our European commitment and of the West to defend itself.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

If the hon. Gentleman believes that the Russians' expansion world wide is solely in pursuance of political ends, does he think that we should march off the stage and leave the field entirely to them?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

If we accept, as I believe we do, that it is a political rather than a military threat, its purpose is not only to influence the uncommitted and developing nations. The Government have fallen for the political temptation which the Soviet maritime presence creates because they are responding precisely as the Soviet Union would hope the West would respond to this sort of maritime threat. They are going progressively to weaken our security interests in Europe. The Government are giving the Soviets one of their political aims on a plate by responding in the wrong way. With a military response instead of a political response, the Soviets are getting on a plate one of the rewards of having a maritime fleet east of Suez. By responding to this Soviet temptation, the Government are making a political blunder which will be compounded a thousandfold if they ever take the disastrous decision to supply arms to South Africa, because they would then have handed the rest of Africa on a plate to the Soviet Union.

The noble Lord the Minister of State said that there was a grave and escalating danger in the Middle East now that the Soviet fleet is in the Mediterranean. He needs to look back a little further than the last few years to find the reason for the Soviet fleet being in the Mediterranean. Perhaps he will cast his mind back to 1956. Egypt was lost to the West. The Soviet Union gained its first foothold in North Africa following the disastrous blunder of Suez. Now they are to repeat the damnable exercise all over again. They are handing the rest of Africa to the Soviet Union by selling arms to South Africa. We are only a hair's breadth away from a repeat performance of the same political disaster.

There is great rejoicing in the Kremlin over this White Paper for two main reasons. The White Paper, combined with the sale of arms to South Africa, gives them their political and military objectives in Africa and an advantage in Europe by the weakening of our European defences. Tonight the champagne corks will be popping in the Kremlin and the toast will be "Her Majesty's Present Ministers".

The Clerk at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. SPEAKER.

Whereupon Miss HARVIE ANDERSON, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, took the Chair as DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.

7.48 p.m.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) congratulated the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) on the very long time that he spent as Secretary of State for Defence. He said that it was in contrast with the situation in the previous Administration when this important post had changed hands perhaps a little too rapidly. I do not know whether he heard the remark of my noble Friend the Minister of State that there may have been eight Secretaries of State during the Conservative Party's last period in office but during the Labour Party's term of office there was one Secretary of State with eight major changes in policy. However hard the right hon. Member for Leeds, East fought for the Services—and I am sure that he fought as hard as he could—unfortunately he did not manage to win all the key battles in the Cabinet.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The hon. Gentleman will remember that there was a change of policy every time there was a change of Minister under the Conservative Administration. That is a point which I made in an earlier debate.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I cannot remember any major changes of policy during that period which compared with the major—

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Who ended conscription?

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

What is the right hon. Gentleman saying "conscription" for? That was not a major change of policy. Presumably it was intended that conscription would in due course end after the last war, and I am glad that it was the Conservative Government who achieved it. If the right hon. Gentleman had been in office we would have had to wait much longer.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I am not disputing the need for the cancellation of Blue Streak and Blue Water and many other projects. I am pointing out that changes in defence policy have never been a monopoly of one party when in government, and I know that the right hon. Member for Harrogate (Mr. Ramsden), who has a slightly quizzical smile on his face, strongly supports my view.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I almost regret having started by paying the right hon. Gentleman compliments.

There is one other point about the right hon. Gentleman that I should like to take up. It was said that he did so much for the cohesion of N.A.T.O. We all agree and should like to congratulate him on that.

I continue my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman's successor. We on this side of the House respect the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) and believe that he will live up to his responsibilities as shadow Defence Minister—I hope for a long time to come.

I think that I have taken part in most of the defence and Services debates during our period in opposition. I was critical of the then Government when I felt that to be necessary, and no doubt I shall continue to be critical of my own Government. During that period in opposition I asked the then Government to do certain things. I said that we should have a presence east of Suez. We now have one. Most hon. Members opposite have derided this presence east of Suez. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford was with me in Singapore a year ago, and he will remember that it was put to us that what was needed was some British troops on the ground. I think that one distinguished statesman in Singapore said that even a band would do as long as there were British troops there. He said: "We know that you are committed to a certain extent, but it would be a deterrent. Other people will not invade this area as long as they know that we have a Commonwealth brigade here as an example of your interest."

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I agree that that point of view was put to us, but it was also put to us that one of the reasons why British troops would be very welcome in Malaysia and Singapore was that they would be in a position to assist with internal security problems.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I do not think that there is any disagreement on either side of the House about that matter. I do not believe that either side would wish to see a British commitment for internal security in that part of the world from now on. Both Singapore and Malaysia are independent countries. They must learn to stand on their own feet. Singapore is starting an efficient Army and Air Force, and the Malaysian Army and Air Force has got off to a very good start. They should be able to stand on their own feet with our support. That is the whole idea of the Commonwealth Brigade. Hon. Members opposite must recognise that all our Commonwealth allies—Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia—welcomed the fact that we are now proposing to contribute a battalion group to a Commonwealth brigade.

There is more to it than that. The late Government said that they would fly out troops if necessary to reinforce or assist our allies if they were under pressure in that area. The difference now is that there are troops on the ground. There are stores, and, above all, refrigerated storage for missiles. The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford, who was in the Navy, knows that missiles carried in our guided-missile destroyers must be held in refrigerated storage, and the only refrigerated storage exists in Singapore. It was to have been given up by the hon. Gentleman's Government; indeed, all these vital storage facilities were to be given up. Now there is a commitment to have a battalion there and maintain the existing communications, equipment and storage facilities, which will be essential to back up any formation in Singapore, all on a Commonwealth basis. This has received the approval of all our Commonwealth partners.

Another matter that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) and I pressed was the retention of the Fleet Air Arm and, above all, the aircraft carriers. I support what he said about "Ark Royal" and "Eagle". I appreciate that the real difficulty here is man- ning, and that we cannot now man two aircraft carriers. In spite of that, I hope that "Eagle" will be kept in reserve, perhaps in mothballs, so that she is available when the economic situation improves, as I am sure it will under the present Government, and so be available if some now unforeseen emergency occurs. It would be disastrous if she were sold or scrapped. I gather that that is not the Government's intention. In fact, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State responsible for the Navy told me the other day that all options are open. The Government have not decided to scrap the ship when she is phased out in 18 months' or two years' time.

Those of us who visited B.A.O.R. felt that the real need there was for more air support. Therefore, I very much welcome the decision to have four more squadrons of Jaguars and to commit them to B.A.O.R. We have always said that we should try to retain as many of the regular battalions of the Army as possible. Just as with the "Ark Royal" and "Eagle", it has not been possible fully to man these battalions, but at least we have been able to retain a company each, so that when the recruiting position improves they can be built up to battalion strength when necessary.

That is important, but even more important is the decision to expand the TAVR and re-create a reserve. That is essential not only for the reasons given by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell) but because of our commitments to N.A.T.O. We are one of the few countries in N.A.T.O. which does not have conscription and no major reserve army. Now we shall at least have a reasonable Reserve Army which can be built up as the economic situation and recruiting improve.

I hope that this is only a start. I should not be satisfied with the White Paper if I regarded it as the Government's last word for the next five years. I regard it as a first instalment in recreating the defence forces and restoring some of the demoralising and drastic cuts made by the late Government during the past six years. I have always said that the albatross around the late Government's neck was their decision before they came to power to have a ceiling on defence expenditure of £2,000 million a year. The other albatross was their Left wing, which we saw in operation today. The then Prime Minister committed himself not to spend more than £2,000 million on defence each year at 1964 prices. As I understand it, the figures in the White Paper are targets. There is a great difference between a target and a ceiling. The late Government's ceiling was a figure which they did everything they could not to exceed. They failed nearly every year and spent a bit more than they had said, but they tried, and cut the Services in order to do so. Our figures are a target which the Government, or rather, the Treasury, hope to achieve. I hope that they will overshoot that target and spend a bit more on defence, because I believe that it will be necessary in the years ahead.

All the criticism of the target from the other side of the House comes ill from a former Secretary of State who has made speeches saying that during his Administration he had saved £5,000 million on the Conservative Defence Estimates in 1964. He did that by projecting not four years but eight years ahead, producing this magnificent saving out of his hat. Now hon. Members opposite tell us that we are committing grave errors in saying that we hope to save £132 million on his figures in four years' time. I admit that both statements—the Secretary of State's and probably the one in the White Paper—are paper transactions. I do not think that they will ever occur. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman's never did, and I do not think that ours will. I think that we shall find that we should continue spending about 6 per cent. of the gross national product on the Services. Provided that g.n.p. increases, this should suffice.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

According to the N.A.T.O. figures as published today, the expenditure already is 5·1 per cent. and not 6 per cent., and the Government plan to reduce it still further. I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has recognised that his own Government are committing a fiddle by making these comparisons, but when they were last in power they committed themselves to spend 7 per cent. of the g.n.p. a year on defence.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I did not suggest that it was a fiddle. I said that it was a paper adjustment. One can use these figures as one sees fit. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman's statement projecting the then Government's figures eight years ahead was really a fiddle and misled the country for party political ends.

However, let us leave that and discuss one or two very important matters. First, there is the question of manpower, of which morale is one of the major factors. My noble Friend will agree that one of the main factors here is that the Services should have stability in the future. There have been too many changes, and these undermined morale. The Services must also feel that they have an essential task, and I believe that they will now feel this, particularly as we have the presence east of Suez, which is a great encouragement to recruiting and the sense of responsibility and adventure of our young men.

But I have one point to put to my hon. Friend on the question of manpower. He said that he hoped to make a statement on the Donaldson Report in the not-too-distant future. I hope that when he is thinking about the whole question of recruiting and engagement he will bear in mind some suggestions. First, it might be wise to consider a series of short-service engagements of, say, three years. The alternative would be with long terms of engagement to give the man the right to resign, to opt out, on one year's notice. In other words, the man could say, "I should like to retire in a year's time, and buy myself out", and he would have the right to do so, instead of waiting to the end of a full term of engagement. In either case, men should have the option of staying on if they go back into civilian life and do not like it. They are trained men, and so many trained men now buy themselves out, go back to civvy street, find that they do not like it, but cannot return. This could be quite an important factor as far as numbers are concerned.

More important is the danger of the present break period after the first three months for recruits in training. At present in all the Services a recruit goes through all the spit and polish that most hon. Members have been through, chasing around in the drill squad, blanco-ing, polishing brass, being sworn at by drill sergeants, and then after three months, in the middle of his training, when his morale is probably at its lowest he is allowed to say, "I should like to go", and can then go on payment of £20, which is only a few days' pay. That is very damaging to the Services. It means that if they are to keep those recruits they will be tempted to reduce their standards. The Navy and Royal Marines are losing a very high percentage of recruits in this way. I hope that serious consideration will be given to having the break period at a different time. Psychologically, three months is the worst possible time for the Services. Let us make it the age of 18, or completion of training. To have it at the most unpleasant stage of training is stupid.

I now turn to the missile gap in the Royal Navy. This exists because we have not yet got either surface-to-surface missile or vertical take-off aircraft at sea, so it is right to keep "Ark Royal" and fixed-wing aircraft in the Royal Navy to cover this gap. However, I hope that the country will not get the impression that Exorcet, the first surface-to-surface missile designed as such that the Royal Navy is likely to adopt, is anything like a counter to the Soviet S.S.M.s launched from their Kresta-class destroyers, with ranges up to 300 miles. They are much more sophisticated and longer-range weapons. If we are to develop an equivalent surface-to-surface missile it will probably take 10 years and cost a vast sum of money. No doubt the Government are considering that, but it will not be a factor that will influence the situation in the immediate future. It will take a good 10 years.

Therefore, it seems that the cheaper and probably better way is to operate vertical take-off aircraft at sea. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester and I have been pressing this for a long time. The former Secretary of State will recall that we referred to the "Healey Carriers". I believe that he took the hints we gave him, because I gather that his Administration approved the through-deck command cruisers, an extraordinary title designed to cover up the fact that they were, in fact, flush deck aircraft carriers. They are, of course, a more modern concept of an aircraft carrier; they can operate vertical take-off aircraft. I look forward to the time when they are commissioned and join the Fleet.

The vertical take-off aircraft will then be a more integral part of the Fleet than the present fixed-wing aircraft used for long-range reconnaissance and strike purposes. Vertical take-off aircraft will be the immediate air defence of the Fleet. Therefore, I am very concerned by the statement on 28th October that naval fixed-wing flying training is to be discontinued. I followed up that statement by asking the Minister responsible for the Navy whether this meant that the new cruisers or, indeed, "Blake", if she operates Harriers from her helicopter deck as she could well do, would have aircraft manned by the Royal Air Force. I was told that this matter is still under review. But I do not see how these two answers marry up. If the decision has not been made that the R.A.F. will fly these aircraft, how is the Navy to do so if it is not continuing flying training? It seems that the decision must have been made and that the R.A.F. will man the vertical take-off aircraft of the future.

The decision was probably made under the late Government and has or will be confirmed by the present Government. I hope that in winding up my hon. Friend will be able to confirm that this is so. May I say with all the strength at my power that this is a very great mistake. I believe it is right that Royal Naval and Royal Air Force pilots should both operate from aircraft carriers. It would be absolutely disastrous to hand over to the Royal Air Force all the vertical take-off aircraft which are to be an integral part of the Fleet. Where is the line drawn? Is it just the pilot or the air crew or the deck crew? If we are to make the whole of the aircraft R.A.F., what happens when the crew are not flying at sea? Naval air crew perform naval duties at sea. R.A.F. crew obviously cannot do this. What career factor would an R.A.F. pilot have if he is seconded, say, for two years to the Royal Navy? Unless he is to stay there for most of his career we will not gain the expertise which exists today in the Fleet Air Arm.

All the experience of the 1920s is against this. I believe that all the nations operating aircraft carriers have decided against it and, above all, I believe that the experience of the last war is against it. I will be told no doubt that the Navy agrees but I wonder if that is really fundamentally true. I would say that it has been bullied over the last five years to give up its carriers, a First Sea Lord resigned over this, and it is now so sick and tired of being pressed by politicians to do things which it knows is wrong that it is taking the view, "All right, let them do it and be proved wrong." I do not really believe that the R.A.F. wants this.

They are probably saying that it is not a bad idea because it means that it will get a few more aircraft. I do not blame it for that, because aircraft are in short supply these days. I do not believe that it is a real rôle for the R.A.F. It has many other more important rôles and I beg my hon. Friend in winding up to deal with this subject. The country does not realise that this decision has been made which I believe to be fundamentally wrong. It seems that the only advantage is the savings on pilot training and that is rather like the savings made on buying a second-hand car; it may be cheaper but it probably will not last.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

My hon. Friend who is to wind up tonight is not present so perhaps I can comment on those points raised just now by my hon. Friend. I will take first the point about the break period in the engagement structure. It is my impression, not only that the engagement structure for young boys under the age of 18 needs examining in the light of the Donaldson Committee, but that the engagement structure for adults and, in particular, the break-point needs examination.

Dealing with the other point which my hon. Friend has just made, the decision was taken some little time ago to end the recruitment for the Fleet Air Arm fixed-wing flying. That is a firm decision but the rôle of the Fleet Air Arm will be one of helicopter flying. We will seriously consider the points made by my hon. Friend. What is still under review is a deck back-up for the Fleet Air Arm.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

I am grateful for the assurances on those points.

If I may now refer briefly to one or two other factors regarding the other Services, may I remind my noble Friend that the former Government committed themselves, after a considerable amount of pressure from myself and my other hon. Friends, to replacing the tactical weapons in B.A.O.R.

It will be recalled that B.A.O.R. has Honest John and the 8 in. howitzer, both completely obsolete from an operational standpoint. They must be replaced in the relatively near future. One hopes that the American Lance will be purchased. There was trouble over the development of that weapon, and I would like to know if it has been overcome. I hope to have an assurance that this matter is being looked into and has been costed in the White Paper, because it is of great importance.

Those of us who visited B.A.O.R. felt there might perhaps be some lack of anti-tank defence in view of the preponderance of Soviet armour. I would like some assurances as to how far new forms of anti-tank weapons and missiles are in service or coming into service. With regard to the backing-up from the air, the former Government promised an additional squadron of Harriers. What will happen about the air supply of these aircraft operating from front-line airfields? In other words, are we now to purchase heavy-lift helicopters or build them ourselves? The Harrier does not make much sense unless there is a heavy-lift helicopter for backing up. Has this been costed in the White Paper?

As for east of Suez, we need a long-range strike reconnaissance aircraft. The M.R.C.A. on which the R.A.F. will wholly depend is not suitable for a rôle east of Suez. It may be eminently suitable for Europe, for which it was designed, but it has too short a range for use east of Suez, for covering the fleet from airfields in South Africa or Australia. The White Paper says that the R.A.F. will be entrusted with air defence and air protection of the fleet. Even if we have South African and Australian airfields the range of these aircraft will not be sufficient to do the job properly. I hope that this matter will be looked into while it is still possible to make changes in the M.R.C.A. I gather that the prototype model is not yet under construction, and I hope that there is still a chance of making some increases in range by alteration in design.

Finally, I want to take up a point raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West, who, in an interesting, amusing speech talked about the future of the Gulf. As has already been pointed out this is another matter not referred to in the White Paper. In the past I took the view that it was probably right to withdraw British Forces from the Gulf except for the Royal Navy and to maintain our influence there through naval vessels. Having recently visited the Gulf with hon. Members on both sides of the House, I came to the conclusion that it would be disastrous to move all of our ground troops immediately. Although it may be right to remove a battalion from Bahrein where it has no internal security duties and pretty unpleasant barracks, and therefore does not seem to have much function, I hope that British troops will be left Sharja, which offers the Army and the R.A.F. the best training area available in the world. They depend very much on that as a training area and both would be adversely affected by any decision to quite Sharja immediately.

I am not suggesting that they should stay there indefinitely but the next two or three years are of great importance. I share the views expressed that this federation will not get off the ground and if we go the local, traditional quarrels will open up and expand. Inevitably the nearest major power will have to intervene, and that power is the Soviet Union. The House should remember that within the next decade the Soviet Union will be a net importer of oil, which explains her interest in the Middle East. Middle East oil is nearest to her and she must get that oil. If we leave a vacuum we are asking her to walk in, and I am certain that she will not hesitate to accept the invitation.

We should therefore maintain an air staging base at Bahrein which is important for the CENTO air route. We should retain the Navy in Bahrein where it has been for 170 years and where everyone wants it to say. We should keep some forces in Sharja, where there is accommodation for two battalions. Those are the important factors, even though they perhaps go slightly beyond the White Paper. I welcome the White Paper. I think that the Government have managed to do more than I had expected in their first few months of office to restore the cuts made in defence by the previous Administration. I hope that there is a lot more to come.

8.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

As a new Member I have found it agreeable and somewhat surprising to note the extent to which the debate has been realistic and has revealed a degree of consensus between the two sides of the House which should prevent too many bottles of Georgian champagne from popping in the Kremlin or whatever bottles of champagne are likely to pop over the defence matters of country.

I have been agreeably surprised to find that the benches opposite are not peopled entirely by hawks and that the benches on this side are not peopled by entirely by doves. If I may be forgiven for mix-the metaphors, it is interesting to note that if there are some angry doves on this side of the House there are certainly a great many peaceful hawks on the side opposite. I was gratified to find that some individuals whom I expected to be angry hawks are peaceful hawks. We have on our side of the House our quota of angry doves. It may be that it is right in a democracy that most of us who served in the Armed Forces in the last world war should fall into this category rather than the other.

I would like to take up the sentiments expressed from this side of the House about the ned for a realistic, flexible defence posture. The hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Colonel Mitchell) put the point precisely in his eloquent speech. It must be a posture which is flexible, realistic and credible. If we look at the White Paper, particularly the part upon which I wish to dwell, page 4 "Strategic Priorities" which I conceive to be the central part of the White Paper, we see that there is a considerable degree of consensus between the two sides of the House on these strategic priorities. There is a difference about the means, and that is what the east of Suez debate largely centred upon. I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) that that debate is really now a dead duck.

What comes out of the debate is the need for a strategy for cold hostility rather than hot war. I want to press on hon. Members opposite the need to follow through the logic just a little further. It seems, following that logic through, that one comes to the view that a strategy for cold hostility cannot turn entirely upon the technicalities of what weapons are appropriate for this country in the 1970s. I have been much impressed with the detailed knowledge hon. Members on both sides have shown on this matter and over the need for realism and accurate assessment of the kind of strategy which the equipment we are to provide will serve. I cannot claim to speak very authoritatively about detailed weaponry, but a strategy for cold hostility takes one a little beyond the detailed weaponry, important though that be.

We have to look particularly at the step beyond cold hostility. That step must be the creation of stable conditions of peace in the world. I welcome the fact that in the White Paper, on page 4 the Government have chosen to mention the United Nations. Paragraph 5 says: But there are also serious threats to stability outside the N.A.T.O. area. Britain will be willing to play her part in countering them by continuing to honour her obligations for the protection of British territories overseas and those to whom she owes a special duty by treaty or otherwise; and this would certainly be supported by all of us— to support the efforts of the United Nations and other international authorities working to eliminate the sources of conflict between nations and to promote disarmament. It is that passage which appears to be vital if we are to have a genuine strategy for cold hostility passing over, as we all feel it should, into a strategy for lasting peace. What I most criticise the White Paper for is that the need to support the efforts of the United Nations has not been given a higher place.

Evidence of schizophrenia—that word was first used in this context by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) and the point was quickly taken up by the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West—in defence thinking appears in this paragraph on strategic priorities because the preceding paragraph deals with N.A.T.O. and its importance.

No hon. Member has doubted that European defence must be the cornerstone of the defence of this country. That does not mean, however, that one can neglect other spheres and leave vacuums for others to fill. Surely the N.A.T.O. area in any conflict in Europe, cold or hot, must be at the heart of any permanent peace keeping in the world. Thus, the relegation of the United Nations to ancillary matters in paragraph 5, which deals with threats to stability outside the N.A.T.O. area, seems to provide evidence of schizophrenic thinking.

Any passage from a strategy of cold hostility to one of lasting peace must have in its key place the European area, which has been the heartland of all major wars in the last one-and-a-half centuries. While I therefore welcome the mention of the United Nations and its importance, I deplore the fact that it has been given an ancillary rôle, instead of being associated with the heart of strategic priorities which is rightly given prominence in paragraph 4.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

Has the hon. Gentleman noted in the White Paper, in connection with the United Nations, the fact that of the total number of troops, 3,202, in Cyprus, the British contingent is no fewer than 1,072?

Photo of Mr Ronald Murray Mr Ronald Murray , Edinburgh Leith

It is probably correct to say that when the White Paper deals in paragraph 5 with supporting the efforts of the United Nations and other bodies, it is probably thinking of the kind of ancillary rôle to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention. If so, that underlines my point; that greater prominence should have been given to the importance of supporting the efforts of the United Nations on the wider peace keeping front.

It seems clear that as a long-term strategic priority we must work from the strategy of cold hostility to one of genuine lasting peace keeping. I appreciate how difficult a task this is and I emphasise the point particularly because hon. Gentlemen opposite are frequently thought by the public to belong to a party which does not accept the United Nations as a credible body. That is probably untrue, and it would seem untrue from the White Paper, which mentions the United Nations.

Let us look at the Charter of the United Nations, a copy of which I have with me, lest we forget the order of priorities. We were a party to it. We were a founder member and one of the favoured nations, and that entitles us to a permanent place on the Security Council. The primary rôle of the United Nations is to seek the peace of the world. It is only a minor or secondary rôle which permits us, under Article 51, to maintain our inherent right to defend ourselves and, under Article 2, which permits the establishment of regional arrangements such as N.A.T.O.

If, therefore, we are genuine in our adherence to the purposes and objects of the United Nations, we must remember that regional arrangements such as N.A.T.O. are secondary and come to us, as it were, as an afterthought in case the United Nations should turn out to be powerless to act, as unfortunately it has too often been proved to be. For these reasons, I welcome parts of the White Paper but deplore the fact that the United Nations has not been given greater prominence.

8.27 p.m.

Photo of Major-General Jack D'Avigdor-Goldsmid Major-General Jack D'Avigdor-Goldsmid , Lichfield and Tamworth

It is a pleasure to read a White Paper which is not a catalogue of cuts, reductions and the like. Supporters of the Armed Forces on these benches have suffered for 13 years from White Papers of that description. Now the forces can look forward to a period when they will be supported by senior Members of the Government.

We are coming down to earth with a bump, and I wish to deal briefly and solely with TAVR, though first, in fairness, I wish to pay tribute to the late Mr. Gerry Reynolds. He was Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army and in that office he had responsibility for the old T.A. He became so interested and enthusiastic in the T.A., that when he was promoted to Minister he maintained, in the same Department, responsibility for the T.A. His enthusiasm, help and support gained him the respect of a great many people, though his was the lone voice in the wilderness at that time.

I entirely support this new expansion of TAVR. At the same time, I wish to support what the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) said, pleasingly, about the new TAVR. "Fewer but better" was his phrase, though I was rather surprised to note the disparaging attitude of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) in view of the stand he took in the famous debate of December, 1965, in which he supported the old T.A.

This new force of 10,000 strong will be organised into infantry-type units, and this will have many advantages. They will incorporate not only infantry but perhaps yeomanry and gunners, too. It is wise to give them teeth armed units, by which I mean fighting units. This will attract young men who like variety from their normal occupations. This form of expansion is wise because their operational rôle will assist the regular Army and their peace-time rôle will be of benefit to the civil authorities in the event of disaster or emergency. It is wise because we will be able to perpetuate the names of some famous regiments.

The task of resuscitating the force after our predecessors partially disbanded it will not be easy. To achieve success we should look at the lessons we learnt from TAVR III. Consider what happened in 1965, when savage reductions were made in the size of the old T.A. It was renamed and reorganised and the furore which occurred at that time was such that certain people thought that the T.A. had been virtually disbanded.

This new force was planned in secret, as the T.A. Council, county associations and home commands will readily agree.

This force came into being. Then, as a result of the furore early in 1966, an additional category, known as TAVR III was added. This was to be lightly equipped units with a total ceiling of 23,000 and a cost of £3 million. Working on this rather stingy budget, certain errors were made which we must avoid repeating. Firstly, the force was dressed in battle-dress at a time when the TAVR and the regular Army were equipped with combat dress. This reduced their status to that of the Army Cadet Force and they felt that they were second class citizens and poor relations. The second mistake made was to issue them with the Lee-Enfield wartime rifle as opposed to the S.L.R., the self-loading rifle then in use already by the regular Army and the TAVR. The third mistake was to give them a scale of vehicles of six Land-rovers for 300 people, which was almost an insult. The scale of wireless sets was similar.

Perhaps these errors sound trivial in retrospect, but they had great effect at the time. We have to ensure now, first of all, that the new force does not require any sophisticated weapons or vehicles of any sort—no sophistication. It requires to be dressed in the same way as the regular Army and TAVR. It requires to have the S.L.R. and a good selection of wireless sets. Communication is of interest to the young and it is a means of speeding and improving efficiency. It is a means of incurring dispersion, which in turn gives responsibility to junior N.C.Os. Over and above that, they must have a reasonable supply of vehicles, not armoured fighting vehicles but vehicles in which they can get out on training, take part in exercises, driving instruction and other useful activities.

If we can learn these lessons we shall achieve something. I am confident that we shall recruit these people. They have an important job to do, not only to fill the tremendous gap in our reserves but also, as stated in the White Paper, to be an uncommitted reserve for unforeseen circumstances.

8.33 p.m.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

The hon. and gallant Member for Litchfield and Tamworth (Major-General James d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) will forgive me if I do not follow him, but I have been provoked by one or two highly controversial and stimulating remarks made during the debate by hon. Members opposite. Though normally a peaceful man. I should like to make one or two comments about them.

First, the theme of protecting our trade routes crops up increasingly on the Government benches. A great deal of nonsense is talked on this subject by hon. Members opposite. We on this side of the House, faced with any intereference with our mercantile shipping or fishing fleet, would not react in any less robust a way than anybody on the Government side. On the contrary, I should be inclined to react most sharply and robustly against any Soviet interference with our merchant shipping or sea routes.

What is so strange about hon. Members opposite is the old-fashioned and totally impracticable way in which apparently they intend to defend our sea routes. Firstly, anybody who has studied modern naval technology will know that if shipping is interferred with, either in port or on the high seas—it can be done in a number of ways—or if not only ships but fishing material, buoys or navigation devices, the very worst and most inefficient way of attempting to tackle it is by having a naval presence on the spot where the offence is committed. It is totally impossible. It shows no understanding of the great new weapon system in naval warfare, namely, the nuclear-powered submarine, which has completely revolutionised the thinking of everybody except hon. Members opposite. With vast ranges and vast flexibility, and enormous endurance, the Soviet navy can present a threat to our shipping in the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the South Atlantic, the Mediterranean and all over the world. Anybody who thinks that somehow some magic provision of frigates, or even surveillance aircraft or aircraft carriers, can somehow mean that on the spot, or even near it, we would get some protection to our shipping routes or mercantile marine, does not begin to understand the problem.

By all means let us react robustly, but let us get out of our minds the idea that one reacts on the spot. There are other things that one can do at sea against the Soviet Union if pressed. By blockading the Baltic, by blockading the Dardanelles, or by naval action at a lower level of escalation than that, one can put the pressure on.

The idea that we have to sell arms to South Africa to safeguard our sea routes through the Indian Ocean is lunacy of the first order. Selling arms to South Africa is the finest way of bringing the Soviet presence into East Africa and the Indian Ocean area. This has been argued often in this House. If we send arms to South Africa we shall send the Africans into the arms of the Russians, in exactly the same way as the Americans are doing with the Arabs in the Middle East. By selling arms to Israel they are driving the whole of the Arab world into the arms of the Russians.

The hon. Gentleman spoke this afternoon about the enormous increase of Soviet power in the Mediterranean. He correctly said that it is not just a question of the presence of Soviet ships in the Eastern Mediterranean, but the fact is that they have the potential use in North Africa of air bases—they do not have bases on land—of enormous strategic importance.

Why have they got them? Is it because the Arabs want them in? Not at all. Anyone who understands the position knows that. I feel free to record that I discussed this with the late President Nasser. He used to say, "It is extraordinary that people should think that the Russians are pushing their way into Egypt with their weapons, their bases and their facilities. What happens is that my capital city is at the mercy of Israeli Phantoms. I am bombed. I am helpless. I go to Moscow to beg them on my bended knees for their weapons and for their technical assistance. Any idea that the Russians are pushing in is nonsense, and anybody who understands these things knows that." The Arabs are attracting the Russians, not because they want them, not because they are Communists, but because Phantoms are being given to Israel by the Americans.

In the same way, if we supply arms to South Africa the reaction amongst the Africans will be the same. They will ask the Chinese and the Russians for the arms, and it will be the British Government who will have helped to establish the Communists all round the Indian Ocean and the east coast of Africa. I beg the hon. Gentleman to understand that there is no protecting our sea routes on the lines that he has been suggesting.

The second thing that stimulated me was the hon. Gentleman's reference to a presence east of Suez. It stirred many memories for me. I agree with him about the 1966 Defence Review. It was terrible, and I am happy that my right hon. Friend is not here. The hon. Gentleman was right. What did that Review say? It said that we must have a ceiling of £2,000 million, whatever else happens, and we must have a major presence east of Suez, including many important commitments throughout the 'seventies and into the 'eighties. It said that we must cancel the carriers and do nothing about surface-to-surface missiles. Looking back on it, nobody can fail to see that that was a catastrophic defence plan.

But at least the Labour Government learned, perhaps more under the stress of sterling than because of my passionate please. That is a fact. I am not a vain man. I should like to feel that I persuaded the Government to sanity on this point, but successive sterling crises evidently had a far greater effect on their thinking than my speeches did.

But this Government have not fully learned the lesson. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) said, there is a great deal of eyewash in this, a great deal of window-dressing, and the presence offered is only a shadow of the major presence east of Suez which the Labour Government were insisting on in 1966 and 1967. But I do not think it is worth it. I think that it has great dangers. If we are to have a presence east of Suez—there is a case for it—let it be on a major scale. Let it be big enough to dominate the areas, as the British fleet dominated those waters for a hundred years and more and kept the peace. There was a great deal of good in our maritime peace keeping mission in the great days of the British Navy. We gave far more than we took and it was a good thing for the world. But then we dominated; we deterred and if we were challenged we could win. There was no one there to challenge us. If we are having a proper maritime presence let it be on a scale which will do the job.

What are we offered by the Government? What a miserable pretence this east of Suez policy is. What is it supposed to do? How I agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that it was a limited presence. We are told that it will not do any counter-insurgency. But the troops are there, this is the point, and that is far more important than whether we have a treaty, whether the treaty is binding or only for political consultation. Far more important is whether or not we have troops on the ground. If we have troops on the ground we shall be drawn in.

Surely the House remembers the position in Cyprus. We had troops on the ground, but it was absolutely taken for granted on both sides of the House and by the chiefs of staff that under no circumstances whatever would they get involved in trouble between the Greeks and the Turks. That was an article of faith for everybody, until people were killed in the streets and the most terrible things happened. We found we had the power to stop it because the troops were there; and contrary to all our wishes, contrary to all our plans, we found ourselves obliged, because our troops were there, to interfere and try to prevent innocent people being killed. The same thing will happen again, for sure. There are likely to be communal difficulties in those parts of the world. Am I being told that a British Government which has power to save innocent life in racial riots will stand by and see people being killed?

If the job is not counter-insurgency, what is it? What will are we going to do with the troops? We are told that they will deter. That is fine so long as it works, but the presence is not enough to deter. If we are thinking in terms of another Indonesia, a confrontation, or the kind of trouble we have had from the Vietcong and the Vietminh, the penny packet of unbalanced forces which the Government are envisaging east of Suez will be simply a provocation, a glorious target, a wonderful political warfare target for our enemies and for Lee Kuan Yew or whoever our friend is who is in power there. The cry will be "British imperialists, British oppressors, British colonialists". We shall be attacked in the time-honoured way and, although we irritate, although we provoke and present ourselves as a political warfare target gratuitously, if our enemies challenge us we have to run away. Let no one think that we shall take on any substantial challenge in South-East Asia—not at all, we have not the power.

I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman and he courteously gave way. He said, "That is all right, if they get into trouble we will reinforce." There are several points to make about that. First, it puts up the bill. I do not know what the bill is, we are not told about that. We are told that if everything works well the bill will be between £5 and £10 million. But what is the point of the troops being there unless, if something happens, they are of use? Then of course the bill mounts.

The second thing that happens is that the right hon. Gentleman summons up his reinforcements. What reinforcements? Do not tell me that he is going back to the Labour Government's old plan, which even the Conservatives knew was nonsense, of having a general capability reserve in Britain. Will troops on Salis- bury Plain suddenly be flown out to the Far East, incidentally having to change from British type kit to South-East Asian type tropical kit in the aircraft and having their anti-malaria injections as they fly there as reinforcements, with no heavy equipment, no tanks, no M.T. and no artillery? It will be a shambles. Everyone could see that the conception of a general capability which was put forward by the last Government was a nonsense, a face-saving device. No military person for a moment believed in the idea of a general reserve that would fly out reinforcements to South-East Asia. Even the Tories at that time attacked it on the right military ground that every military man knows makes sense.

Yet here they are telling us, as the right hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, that if the troops get into trouble we shall fly out reinforcements. I do not know what in. I understood him to say that the C5 has been cancelled. That is a strange idea. If this is the strategy, if we are going to fly people out to help the troops who are in trouble, we shall have to have planes for it. We shall not do it on Britannias. What a nonsense it is. I would say it did not matter, except that we can get involved. To sum up, the right hon. Gentleman has enough power out there to irritate our enemies but insufficient power to deter them from making mischief, or to defeat them if it comes to a showdown. That is the worst possible defence policy. I do not mind spending money on defence. I was prepared to go along with the Labour Government on their east of Suez policy, provided they produced the means to carry it out, namely, a proper aircraft carrier fleet. It was only when they refused both the fleet and proper protection of ships by missiles—and how right the right hon. Gentleman was about that—that I found it impossible to go on as Navy Minister.

If the Government say that we want a lot of money to make a good show, I am perfectly sympathetic, but they are saying that we will have a presence, but only for £5 to £10 million. They are saying that if there is trouble they may be able to fly out reinforcements from Salisbury Plain, they may find some old Britannias but they will be without tanks and M.T. This is the typical British peace-time approach to defence. It is the sort of approach Ministers should not accept under any circumstances. It passes the can to the fighting man. It asks him to do a job that he is not equipped or ready to do, even if he is willing to do it. In this sense the Government are falling into the appalling trap that my own party fell into in 1966 to 1968.

There is one other point that stimulates me and it is the reference to the dear old "Ark Royal". When I say "dear old", I mean both adjectives absolutely. I have the utmost affection for this wonderful ship, which I have sailed in; I was very sad to have to decline an invitation a month ago to sail in her again. She is a splendid vessel. But she is old—I cannot recall quite how old. It would be hardly fair to the Navy to say how old she really is.

One of the matters that the hon. Gentleman must be briefed about is that, no matter how much an old vessel is refitted, even a fine vessel as old as the "Ark Royal", something will always go wrong with her. Let us remember this because I may have to refer to it in the months ahead. I am not saying that it will be rammed by a Soviet destroyer, but I give him warning that I will probably have to return to this matter. The hon. Gentleman said that it would be operational two-thirds of the time and I will remind him of that in a year or so's time, if he is still in office.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

I never referred to any particular time because it is wrong for us to indicate the deployment of an aircraft carrier throughout the year. I would ask the hon. Gentleman for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) whether, if he was coming into office knowing that a previous Administration had spent £30 million on refitting an aircraft carrier, he would have brought it into service or scrapped it?

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

The hon. Gentleman may recall that in 1966 when I left the Government I said "If you are to have a presence east of Suez you must have a proper aircraft carrier fleet there must be at least three vessels in it." My conclusion was that we could not have had a major presence east of Suez without that sort of carrier force, and I came to the conclusion that we ought to withdraw from Suez. If the Government had then taken my advice, it would not have refitted the "Ark Royal". It would have taken the decision to withdraw from east of Suez before the question of a refit come up. It was because of the Government at that time prevaricating, fiddling and delaying that it came to the point where the "Ark Royal" had to be refitted or we would have to withdraw from east of Suez. They were not in a position to withdraw from east of Suez and there was this expensive refit of the "Ark Royal".

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

The noble lord said that he ought not to give details of how long a time the "Ark Royal" was likely to be operational, but I would remind him that the Secretary of State for Defence in another place, on 5th November, at c. 479, said that the "Ark Royal" would be operational for about two-thirds of the time.

Photo of Mr Christopher Mayhew Mr Christopher Mayhew , Woolwich East

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. What I am saying is that this fine old vessel will be a disappointment because it will not even be operational for only two-thirds of the time—in other words it will be out of commission for more than one-third of the time.

The right hon. Gentleman said that it was a terrible secret and he could not tell the House when it would be operational. He supposes that the Soviet Union will not know when the Ark Royal is operational. I shall guard my tongue on this, but I have a shrewd suspicion that if any trouble takes place it is more than likely to occur during the one-third of the year when Ark Royal is not operational.

Another aspect about the "Ark Royal" is that, if there is to be a naval presence east of Suez, there ought to be air cover for the ships. The one place, following the Government's defence policy, where an aircraft carrier is needed is in the Indian Ocean and in South-East Asia. It is not needed in the Mediterranean. I do not want to be alarmist, but in the Mediterranean a carrier is a sitting duck. That carrier would be within the range of the land/air bases which would be used in such circumstances by the Soviet Union. It would be wrong to deploy a carrier in the Mediterranean in such circumstances where there might be a bit of "hot war".

The one place the carrier would be needed is east of Suez and that is the one place where the Government have decided it shall not be used. This is lunacy. In the first place it will mean that there will be no proper air cover for our ships east of Suez. It may be that there will be some land bases in Australia, but supposing trouble comes how do our ships get out there and indeed how do they get back again? They are sitting ducks for any small missile-carrier craft. Therefore, not only is the presence wrong, but the whole thing is not properly conceived since there is not the proper equipment and ships to back it up. It is a provocation. It is not a deterrent; it is not glorious. It is merely a kind of election window display. I profoundly hope that the Government will in due course phase it out.

Although Conservatives spoke in a big way at the election about the need for an overseas military presence, in a debate about a year ago I remember drawing a comparison between what happened to the Labour Government in 1964 and 1966 and what would happen to a Conservative Government if they took power in 1970. I predicted that they would start by continuing to pay lip service to their election pledges about a major presence east of Suez but that, when they came in contact with the Chiefs of Staff, on the one hand, and the Treasury, on the other, and the Chiefs of Staff pointed out that to do the job they would need this, that, and the other, and the Treasury pointed out that they could not afford it, they would do what the Labour Government did—gradually eat their words and wind up east of Suez.

I have made a prediction about the future operational availability of "Ark Royal". My second prediction is that, before the next year is out, even the Government will see sense and change their mind on this issue.

8.57 p.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at this late hour. I understand that I have only a short time in which to speak.

I should like, first, to take up the point about the possibility of reinforcing the Far East and east of Suez by hon. Gentlemen opposite. There was one major exercise under the last Government for re- inforcement. I refer to Bersitu Padu which took place last summer and was pronounced a great success.

I turn now to the strategic priorities in the White Paper, in particular, the serious threats to stability outside the N.A.T.O. area. I will confine my remarks to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

The Mediterranean area must cause concern to those who have watched events there over the last few years. The recent collision between one of our aircraft carriers and a Soviet destroyer highlights the position. What we used to call N.A.T.O.'s southern flank has now become N.A.T.O.'s second front. It is well known that the Soviet aim is to have political, economic and military domination of this area. This is now virtually complete. Practically the whole of the North African coast is under Soviet domination now that Libya has changed its régime. We know what the military domination of the area consists of. It is virtually a fait accompli. It is what might be called a "sea-change" in the Mediterranean, and the possibilities of a direct confrontation with the Russians grow ever more close. Therefore, the strategic chain of islands in the Mediterranean—Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus—must take on new importance. They have become our outposts in this new front which is developing.

I ask the Government to look again at the planned withdrawal of our Forces from Malta. I understand that the last battalion will move from Malta at the beginning of next year. I also ask the Government to consider extending, to use their words, "co-operation with our allies" in a more positive way towards Greece and Turkey.

I turn now to the Persian Gulf. I am glad that discussions are still taking place with the rulers in that part of the world. But they have been going on for some time and a decision out there is becoming urgent. Indeed, the talks over the Arab emirates have already broken down. I believe that it is vitally important not to abandon these countries to their fate. After the last vestiges of British presence have gone from the Persian Gulf these revolutionary forces abroad in this part of the world will sweep with devastating effect into this area drawing in their wake the only possible forces of stability which are available—the Soviet presence.

The Persian Gulf is not in the middle of nowhere. It is part of the Indian Ocean, and one has only to look at what is going on in the Indian Ocean to see what I am getting at. In the former British Protectorate of Aden military missions have already been established by the Russians and Chinese. The former British Protectorate, the Island of Socotra at the mouth of the Red Sea, is being fortified as a commando base by the Russians and training is taking place.

In the north of the area a strategic road has been constructed by the Soviet Union down through Afghanistan and Pakistan into the Indian Ocean. Agreements have been reached with the former British colony of Mauritius for refuelling of the "so-called" fishing fleet and a line of strategic buoys has been established right down the East African coast: hence our belief about the strategic importance of South African and, in particular, of the Simonstown base, and hence the importance of the British position on the shores of the Indian Ocean in the Persian Gulf area.

The training area at Sharjar is extremely valuable, with 60,000 square miles of unrestricted terrain. The Russians are not in the Indian Ocean for reasons of their health. Two-thirds of the West's proven reserves of oil are located in the Persian Gulf area. The lesson in this part of the world is that whenever we move out the Russians move in, but if we stay in our place they will not directly confront us.

9.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The debate has been distinguished by two very impressive maiden speeches.

The hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lt.-Col. Colin Mitchell) made a speech which was quite excellent both in form and in content. I was touched by what he said about me in view of our fairly long connection with one another. We worked together for several years in the Ministry of Defence and I was always grateful for the help which he gave me, particularly on one occasion when I toured the world and he was one of my staff officers. I always remember thinking at the end of a particular incident in Aden which he will recall what a superb battalion commander he would make in Aden—and so he did. I deeply regretted it when he decided to leave the Army, although I feel that the Army's loss is politics' gain. I hope that he will speak in our debates on many occasions in future, perhaps when he is able to be a little more controversial and can tell us what he really thinks about the Government's decision on the Argylls.

The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) made an excellent speech. We all benefited greatly from his past Service experience.

In other respects, the debate followed a course not dissimilar from many defence debates over the last six or, indeed, 10 years. My hon. Friends the Members for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) made speeches with which we are not unfamiliar, and, as so often happened in the past, criticism of the Government came as much from the Government benches as it did from this side of the House. I did not find the criticism as surprising on this occasion as I have on some other occasions. The opening speech of the noble Lord the Minister of State was as disarming as ever in its friendly innocence, but he left us as much in the dark as ever on the questions which have been puzzling the House, the public and our allies ever since the White Paper was published.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson), who opened the debate, put the questions in a nutshell. How can the Government, at one and the same time, reduce the defence budget, increase their commitments, and make no major programme cuts? This is what the Government are purporting to do. The answer, of course, is that they cannot do it.

In the time available to me I will examine these claims of the Government one by one to see how far, if at all, they are genuine; and, if they are genuine, how the contradictions between them can be resolved.

First, the Government claim that they are reducing the budget to below what was planned by myself. If that were true it would be most remarkable because for the last six years hon. Gentlemen opposite consistently attacked my hon. Friends and me every time we made a cut in their defence budget. They continually attacked us for, as they put it, putting the nation's security at risk. They said as recently as the debate this year that we were spending nothing like enough to meet our existing commitments and to ensure Britain's survival. In particular, they attacked the fixed ceiling which we regularly established for succeeding years.

Indeed, the claim of the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are now cutting the defence budget planned by the Labour Government is based on a transparent trick. It is so transparent that I am amazed that he chose to use it, since every British newspaper, from the Financial Times to the Daily Telegraph, tumbled to it the moment they heard what was said.

The right hon. Gentleman is comparing the targets or ceilings set by the present Government not with the targets or ceilings set by the Labour Government but with its long-term costings, and since he refuses to give us its long-term costings, we are quite incapable of finding out whether his long-term costings are higher or lower than ours. I will return to this subject shortly.

What are the facts? The first fact is that the Government are accepting the same target as we set for next year and the same as we set for 1974–75. But the target which they have set themselves for 1972–73 is £40 million higher than ours and the target which they have set themselves for 1973–74 is £60 million higher than ours. In other words, they plan to spend £100 million more in the next four years than we planned to spend, and these are based on comparable figures in both cases.

The Government have pointed out that the long-term costing figures which they inherited from me were higher than the targets we set. Of course they were, because the targets that we set were published in a Green Paper last December and since then we have had the Report of the Study Group on Forces' pay, and the money awarded—this was accepted by the Government—was very much higher than we or any hon. Member could have expected.

As for the long-term costings which the right hon. Gentleman claims to have inherited, there must have been some re- calculations since I left office because the figures do not correspond. I took the precaution of taking them with me when I left [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Nevertheless, the difference is small. The difference next year is only £28 million, which is a normal difference between costings and estimates as they finally emerge at the end of the day—between, say, October and January or February—and the difference the year after next is £75 million. It is to be hoped that next April the Government, like the previous Government, will award the second instalment of the increase in Service pay; that is, the second part of the increase for men.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not like to confuse the House with this welter of figures. He will remember that Cmnd. 4234 was published in December. The Report of the National Board for Prices and Incomes on the military salary came out in February. He will remember that we had a debate in March. Why did he not inform the House that the figures given in Cmnd. 4234 would be changed?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The hon. Gentleman, as so often, has not done his homework. I informed the House of that fact at the time. I gave the figures of the increase later in the year before the General Election took place. If the noble Lord will take the trouble to consult his officials in the Box, I have no doubt that what I have said will be confirmed to him in a moment's time. I hope that next time he will be rather better prepared for his intervention than he was that time.

I can claim one thing which the Tory Party always held against me when I was Secretary of State for Defence. I always kept to the ceiling which I agreed with my colleagues in advance; I never exceeded it. Indeed, on one ocasions I managed to get below it. This was not the case with the Tory Government who left office in 1964, although they set themselves in public a ceiling of 7 per cent. of the gross national product, and their long costings reflect that published target not only for five years but for 10 years.

The gap between the costings and the target was bigger the two years following 1972–73, not only because we were carrying forward the excess of £75 million from 1971–72, but because we had added items from which to choose on which no decision had been taken. One item, for example, was the C.5 aircraft. My personal opinion when I left power was that, although we were under no obligation to take a decision at that time, we would certainly have cancelled it, as have this Government, although we would have had better reason for cancelling it, because we were ending our commitments east of Suez, whereas they are continuing them.

Another thing in the previous costings was the conversion of the "Ark Royal" into an aircraft carrier, because we recognised that we should try to get some additional life from the ship. However, again we had not taken a decision on that when we left office. I suspect that Exocet was also in the long-term costings. I have not had a chance to check this point. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will say whether it was.

What fascinates me about this line of approach by the Government is that the Secretary of State, speaking in a debate in another place a fortnight ago, said this: I am bound to say that I cannot see how the Labour Government could possibly have closed that great gap without very serious damage to the Forces' capability."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 5th November, 1970; c. 469–70.] The very same Secretary of State for Defence is planning to close that gap and has committed himself to doing so. The difference between him and me is that he has already accepted a large number of firm additional financial commitments so that the gap which he will have to close is very much larger than that which I would have had to close.

I will give some examples of the financial commitments which this Government have accepted since they came to power. We gather from the briefings given after the Secretary of State's recent meeting in N.A.T.O. that the Government are to spend £140 million more on N.A.T.O. in the next few years. This was a pledge given to our allies. We have been told that they are to spend £5 million to £10 million more in the Far East. We assume that they have put some money aside in case they decide to stay in the Gulf, though the Minister of State was notably coy when he failed to answer any of the questions put to him on this matter earlier.

We know that they will run on the Gurkhas. What we are not clear about is whether this is an addition to the manpower ceiling planned for the Army or is within it. If it is in addition to the ceiling, that will be another demand for money. If it is within the ceiling, this means that more British infantry units will be disbanded to make room for Gurkhas. I hope that the Army Minister will tell us whether the number of Gurkhas envisaged to continue will be within the planned manpower ceiling or outside it, and what the implications are for the British Army and the defence budget.

On top of that, they will have a well-equipped 10,000 men in a new reserve, equipped in all respects, except for heavy weapons, like regular soldiers. I do not see that coming out at less than £5 million a year as an absolute minimum. I am glad that the hon. and gallant Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Major-General James d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) who spoke earlier, and who is very experienced in these matters, seemed to agree with me.

On top of that, we have a new set of overheads for the extraordinary company-sized regiments like the Argylls who are to survive into the future, where the teeth-to-tail ratio will be such as has never existed in any infantry organisation.

Finally, we must have a sum for the cost of providing 60 jet trainers to replace the Jaguars for that rôle. What has been put into the long-term costings to make room for those additional aircraft?

I find it difficult to imagine that these commitments, which are firm and new commitments by the Government, can add up to less than about £100 million per year. If it is less, I hope that the Minister will tell us. Presumably he has had long-term costings done and can compare them with the long-term costings which he inherited.

Where are all the extra cuts to come from? All we have been told about is that the Government will not order the C5, which will save about a quarer of the amount of excess that was in my long-term costings for 1974–75. But that does not touch the additional £100 million, if that is what it is, represented by the Government's new commitments.

It is not surprising that the Government are very frightened about publishing their long-term costings, although they have not the slightest hesitation in publishing the long-term costings they inherited only three months ago.

But a more important question is whether the Government's extra commitments are really worth it. The Minister of State made it quite clear that the 10,000 men in the new reserve will not be capable of reinforcing our N.A.T.O. contribution on the continent. Their rôle is in Britain, but what is it? We have not been told. I hope—if I may make one, I hope, not controversial comment on the contribution of the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West—that they are not intended to deal with subversion in the United Kingdom. But if that is not what they are for, what the dickens are they for, these 10,000 men who will not reinforce us abroad, who are not to go to N.A.T.O. and who will do something or other quite unexplained in Britain?

Then there is the carrier. The Minister for the Navy made it clear in an answer the other day that it will be out for a six-months' long refit in 1973. We shall have no carrier protection for our fleet for at least six months then. I predict that "Ark Royal" will never return from that refit. The Government have not the slightest intention of continuing it "Ark Royal" beyond the middle of 1973. They are continuing till then simply as an obeisance to some of their backbench supporters.

But the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) was quite right to point out that a one-carrier force is not a carrier force at all. It is liable—

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Perhaps I could just finish complimenting the hon. and gallant Gentleman on his understanding of this matter.

It is always liable to accident at sea, as all our carriers always have been. It is always liable to have something go wrong with it, quite apart from accidents. We understand that something went wrong with its arrester gear during its recent exercise. The one-carrier force is not a carrier force at all. It is nothing on which we can rely in any situation. We never know whether it will be there. The one thing we know for certain is that it wil not be there more than half the time.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The air is full of predictions today, and I predict that the "Eagle" will never be paid off, and we shall retain two.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I like collecting bets from backbenchers opposite. I hope to collect quite a nice one, a week's salary, from one hon. Member opposite next July. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman likes to back his prediction with hard cash, perhaps we might meet after the debate to see what we should like to do about it.

Photo of Lord  Balniel Lord Balniel , Hertford

The right hon. Gentleman has predicted so much. Why did he spend £30 million two years ago refitting the "Ark Royal"? I find that difficult to understand.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I am glad to have the opportunity to answer that very quickly. It was because I did not believe in 1967, when the decision to refit the "Ark Royal" was taken, that it was right to plan on leaving the Far East and the Gulf in the middle 1970s, which was then the plan, without providing maritime air protection for the withdrawal. I could not then foresee the situation in which we might or might not have to withdraw. The money spent on "Ark Royal" was spent to keep a carrier force of three carriers in being. Obviously, with hindsight, when the withdrawal was accelerated and we were able to withdraw in peaceful circumstances that expenditure was not justified. But we could have got use out of "Ark Royal" in another rôle when she went out of the carrier rôle. I know perfectly well the sort of criticism I should have received from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite if I had planned a withdrawal from the Far East without providing maritime cover in this way.

Let me turn to the new commitments east of Suez: first, the Gulf. We do not know whether we shall have anything there or nothing there. We do not know whether it is included in the costings. The one thing that is absolutely clear— and I make another prediction here—is that we shall not keep any forces of military value in the Gulf after the end of next year. I suspect that that decision has already been taken in the Government's mind, even if they have not formally taken it in the Cabinet.

Now, the Far East. We are to have a counter-insurgency force, which the Minister told us is primarily naval and air—five frigates. Only a day or two ago the Government were telling us that frigates are no good for counter-insurgency, and that is why they are planning to sell them to South Africa. I suspect that these five frigates are the five frigates we require to maintain the Beira patrol. That is what they are, and the Government are counting on those frigates for the Far East because they happen to be east of Suez. If I am wrong I hope to be corrected. There are four Nimrod maritime reconnaissance aircraft, desperately needed in the Mediterranean, to which the noble Lord so rightly paid attention, but what on earth are they doing countering insurgency in the Far East? The most sophisticated maritime reconnaissance aircraft in the world in an area where there are no hostile navies at all!

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

If the hon. and gallant Gentleman is putting his forces in the Far East to fight the Soviet Union I think he will need rather more of a fighting army than the 500 men in the infantry battalion he is to put there.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

No. I have given way already and I do not want to cut into the time allowed for the Minister's reply. There is a lot we want to hear from him.

I am delighted that the Government are now to re-negotiate A.M.D.A. As we have heard, and as the present Prime Minister did not know when he had an exchange on this earlier this year, A.M.D.A. constitutes an automatic commitment. The Prime Minister did not know this at Question Time in March of this year. It is a commitment totally inconsistent with Britain's rôle in the Far East under any government in the near future. The interesting thing about all these forces is that apparently all of them, except the artillery squadron or whatever it is, will be committed to N.A.T.O. as well as to the Far East. In other words, we have gone back to the bad old days of double counting, in which we are putting forces 10,000 miles away from Europe and at the same time claiming to our N.A.T.O. allies that they are available to Europe.

The one thing I am glad about is that we are at least doing something about the Mediterranean, although the Prime Minister told us only last March: For the rest, the Government are to push forces into the Mediterranean, where they are not necessary …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March 1970; Vol. 797, c. 642.] I am glad that the Government have learned something on this account.

I must at this point apologise to the House and the benches opposite because both I and my right hon. Friends have recently accused the Prime Minister of saying that the cost of his Far East presence would be £100 million, give or take 10 per cent. I apologise for saying that without actually having the document before me. I am glad to tell the right hon. Gentleman who asked me this question that I now have the document in front of me containing the full quotation. What the Prime Minister said, according to the campaign guide published by Conservative Central Office this year, when asked whether his estimate of the budgetary cost of the Conservative policy east of Suez was less than £100 million was: Well, I am not going to tie myself down to 10 per cent. plus or minus £100 million, but it is a modest insurance premium for nearly £1,000 million we have invested there.

Hon. Members:

Hear, hear.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

As hon. Members know perfectly well, this figure of £100 million was basic to the Conservative election campaign, and it has now shrunk to 5 per cent. of what was originally promised.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The hon. Gentleman asked me to quote the document and I have quoted it.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. The noble Lord will kindly resume his seat if the right hon. Gentleman does not give way.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The fact is that I have given way to the noble Lord once more than he gave way to me during his opening speech. The Government have now got the worst of all worlds. They are erecting a flimsy scaffolding of torn and faded election posters to conceal the fact that they have turned all they have been saying for the past six years on its head.

The hon. and gallant Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) was quite right; there will be changes in future as the contradictions in the Government's present policy begin to tear it apart. They will either have to increase their expenditure or abandon these new commitments. We on this side of the House welcome the extent to which the Government are turning their back on the nonsense and humbug they talked about defence during the past six years when they were in opposition. They are still not taking defence seriously enough. They are playing politics with defence as Conservative Governments have done from Baldwin to Macmillan. I therefore ask the House to support the Amendment tabled by the Opposition and oppose the Motion moved by the Government.

9.29 p.m.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) made much of the Prime Minister's alleged estimate that our east of Suez presence would cost us £100 million. He forgot to point out that his own estimate was £300 million and at least three times as inadequate.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

It is just as well that I should be allowed to begin my speech before I am interrupted. I will give way later.

The right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson) began his speech by saying that the Government have now adopted both the principles and costs of the Labour programme. He added that the differences were largely window-dressing. If that is right, it explains the unofficial Labour Amendment that was put down last night, but it is a little odd in that case that the official Opposition are voting against us tonight. On their own admission, there is not a great deal of difference between the defence policies of the two parties.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

Certainly I will, later. I look forward to looking at the Amendment very closely.

Now that the right hon. Gentleman has left office and is finally no longer primarily responsible for defence, I had looked forward to congratulating him on at last having got his party to support him in the Lobby tonight, but, in view of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), such congratulations I fear would ring rather hollow.

However, there is nothing hollow about my congratulations to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell). I entirely agree with everything the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East said. My hon. and gallant Friend made a most striking and refreshing speech which interested everybody who heard it and in at least one respect was extremely restrained.

Similarly, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), who also made a remarkably interesting speech. He managed to criticise some of our proposals and also to talk about the hypocrisy of the Opposition, which was quite good going for a non-controversial speech. He, like my hon. and gallant Friend, whetted our appetite for more.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West asked about the spares situation in B.A.O.R. My noble Friend and I have recently visited B.A.O.R. on separate occasions, and we found that there were difficulties there. These should not be exaggerated, and I am hopeful that we shall soon solve them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) asked about Honest John and the 8 inch howitzers. No decision has yet been taken on the first, but the 8 inch howitzers will be remounted on a self-propelling chassis in 1972.

The hon. Member for Salford, East asked me about the building of a fifth Polaris submarine and the future weapons that the Polaris submarine would carry. When in Opposition we always emphasised the importance of keeping open the option to build this fifth submarine, and the option remains open.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that he has given a cost of £50 million for an additional Polaris submarine. In the light of the pledge which he has announced to the House to keep within the target, does he really think that this option is open?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

Certainly, if it is necessary, it will be built, but it is not being built at the present time. If it is going to cost £50 million more it would reasonably follow that the ceiling would be increased. [Laughter.] That is a fairly obvious proposition, and I am delighted to have amused the right hon. Gentleman by enunciating such an obvious truth.

On the question of the renewal or replacement of our major weapons systems, we keep these under continued review and again we keep all our options open.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles), as indeed did the right hon. Gentleman, tended to under-estimate the contribution which "Ark Royal" will make to the maritime strength of N.A.T.O. during the 1970s. We all admit that her availablity will not be continuous—for a single ship it obviously never is—but we are not alone in the world, we have allies, and "Ark Royal's" availability will, whenever possible, be phased in with that of United States aircraft carriers in order to maintain an effective allied carrier force. We believe that her capability will represent a significant increase in the Alliance's strength at sea and that it would have been wrong to have wasted the right hon. Gentleman's £33 million by just throwing her away.

Although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, East made a most pleasant and agreeable speech and did not object to many of our proposals, he fell well below his own level when he talked about the Reserves. The attitude of his hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) and the attitude of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tichfield and Tamworth (Major-General James d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) was surely far more sensible and experienced. Our proposals for an uncommitted Reserve have been widely welcomed, indeed, universally welcomed, outside the Opposition benches.

As my noble Friend has said, there is no question of these forces being second-class citizens. As to exactly how we raise them and how we solve the drill hall problem which the hon. Gentleman talked about, we are now engaged in consultations with the TAVR Council. I hope my noble Friend will give details before long.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee, East was a bit milder today, but about a fortnight ago he said that our retention of the Argylls as a representative company was an insult to the Scottish people. Just why for the Labour Party to disband the Argylls was a compliment to the Scottish people but for us to reprieve them should be an insult, he rather naturally did not explain. The right hon. Gentleman doubted the value of representative companies. I do not mind the right hon. Gentleman carrying on a running conversation, but I cannot hear him.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The right hon. Gentleman doubted the value of the military functions that these companies would perform. But he knows perfectly well that in an answer to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) some time ago, I said what these rôles would be. Three of these companies would be air-portable companies in brigades of 3 Division which the House and the right hon. Gentleman know is the formation which constitutes the bulk of the fighting element of Army Strategic Command. The tasks the companies may undertake, either independently or as part of a larger deployment, will depend on operational requirements at the time. Also, these companies could be used in the reinforcement of Northern Ireland, or as part of a routine move, for example, for a rôle in the Mediterranean.

Photo of Mr George Thomson Mr George Thomson , Dundee East

Could the hon. Gentleman tell us in what rôle the Argylls will be used, and could he answer my question as to what has been the result of the special recruiting campaign?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I told the right hon. Gentleman the answer to the first question the other day. It is that they will be an air portable company. I am bound to say that I did not regard the second question as serious, and therefore I did not bother to find the answer.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

Under the plan of the previous Administration the Brigade of Gurkhas would be run down to a strength of 6,000 by the end of 1971. What was to happen to them thereafter no one knew—[Interruption.]—least of all the Gurkhas themselves, and not even, apparently, right hon. Gentlemen opposite. They were not prepared to take a decision about the future of the Gurkhas until the end of 1971. What an extraordinary way to run an Army! It will seem almost incredible to the House that under the Labour Party the Brigade of Gurkhas should have been threatened with disappearance.

The right hon. Gentleman said that we should not take credit for saving them, but, in fact, we can, and we do. During a recent visit to the Far East I was lucky enough to visit a number of Gurkha units, and the anxiety and uncertainty about their future was all too apparent. Their morale was still high, but now that we have taken the correct decision that morale will be considerably higher.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, East is strongly opposed to our proposals for continuing a military presence in the Far East. This is the exact opposite of the attitude that he held three years ago. The right hon. Gentleman is always agreeably certain that he is absolutely right at any given moment. His opinion is always infallible until he changes it.

This afternoon my noble Friend traced the evolution in the right hon. Gentleman's views. I want to concentrate on his present views, and on his views during the General Election. On 6th May of this year the right hon. Gentleman made a party political broadcast in which he said: The only absolutely firm commitment the Conservatives have made so far in their Election programme is to send our soldiers back to east of Suez to fight the very sort of war which has brought so much agony to the people of the United States … Not only was that a nasty smear of a classic warmongering sort, but it was also, by implication, a concealment and misrepresentation of the right hon. Gentleman's own policy.

The previous Government went to some pains to reassure the Malaysian and Singaporean Governments that they were not, by their withdrawal, irrevocably abandoning their allies in the area. On the contrary, in the Statement on the Defence Estimates of 1968 they said that they intended to reach a new understanding with the Government of Malaysia about the Anglo-Malaysian Defence Agreement after 1971. The 1970 Statement talked about demonstrating their capacity rapidly to deploy forces to the Far East from our general capability based in the United Kingdom. Above all, at the time that the right hon. Gentleman was making that broadcast British troops had already left this country to join British troops based in the Far East to take part in an enormous exercise being held in Malaysia. That exercise cost the British taxpayer more than £1 million. The previous Government were certainly profligate with taxpayers' money, but the right hon. Gentleman did not spent that £1 million just for fun. He spent it because he knew that under his policy this country might have to come to the defence of Malaysia and Singapore.

Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman, quite rightly, decided to continue the jungle warfare training school in Malaysia. I must tell him that there is no jungle in Germany, or in Belgium or, indeed, in Europe. In other words, the jungle warfare school shows once again that the right hon. Gentleman knew quite well that even after his so-called withdrawal from east of Suez British troops might have to fight to defend Singapore and Malaysia.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

If the hon. Gentleman would read the rest of that broadcast and any of the other remarks I made in the House and elsewhere at that time he would find that the central disagreement which now exists between my hon. Friends and the Government is the fact that the Government have seen their function, as the Foreign Secretary declared it in Kuala Lumpur, as fighting a counterinsurgency campaign in the Far East—the sort of campaign which I do not think this country could afford to fight. By placing troops permanently on the ground there they are losing freedom to choose whether or not to intervene.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

In fact, the objectives of both parties in connection with Singapore and Malaysia were precisely the same. There are only two basic differences between Tory and Labour policy on the Far East. The first is that our policy is open and honest—[Interruption.]—whereas the policy of the Labour Party was not. Secondly, our policy is designed to deter aggression—

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The presence of troops on the spot is a considerable deterrent.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Would the hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

No. I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will hear me out.

What my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot called a modest and sensible British presence in the Far East will help to ensure the effectiveness of the five-Power defence arrangement. It will unequivocally demonstrate our continuing interest and support.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The right hon. Gentleman criticised quite fiercely our claim to have achieved savings compared with the cost of the last Government's defence plans, while still being able to make the various improvements which have been described.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

It has been argued that the long-term costings of the previous Administration do not represent agreed Government policy and that it is therefore not legitimate to claim that the new targets represent savings. In that case, what was the right hon. Gentleman doing throughout his period of office when he claimed to be saving money on our previous defence policy?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

May I tell the hon. Gentleman?

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The long-term costings of the right hon. Gentleman were based on the policy assumptions agreed by Ministers in the previous Government and reflect the capabilities they wished the forces to have. Those long-term costings cannot be wished away.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

We have published the targets of our expenditure and they will be rather more accurate targets than those published by the right hon. Gentleman in Cmnd. 4234.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

On a point of order. Are you aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) has been keeping up a running commentary while my hon. Friend has been speaking? Do you agree that it is out of order for him to make constant comments from a sedentary position?

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I am aware that there is a certain amount of feeling about these matters. However, I did not think that the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) had grossly overstepped the mark. Neverthless, I hope that he will accord to the Minister the same hearing which he was accorded.

Hon. Members:

Sit down.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to address me on a point of order?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

Yes. I am grateful for your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will recall that on six similar occasions in the last six years I was unable to be heard for the last 20 minutes of my winding-up speeches.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that I have not complained in any way about his running commentary. However, I am sure he will not mind my saying that that was a rather bogus point of order.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I do not mind at all.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

The right hon. Gentleman said in the debate on 25th January, 1968, that in the five years up to 1972–73 the Government would be spending more than £3,000 million less than was provided for in the Conservative long-term costings. As recently as the debate in the House on 4th March of this year the right hon. Gentleman quoted a saving of £2,000 million calculated on the same basis for the following two years. If, therefore, we are playing a hard game, it is the same game as the one that the right hon. Gentleman played—only, naturally, we are playing it more fairly.

As for the figures published in Cmnd. 4234, hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. They published them and they must be assumed to have had some reason for choosing those figures rather than any others.

I come to the point which the right hon. Gentleman made about the military salary. On 4th March the right hon. Gentleman allowed for the military salary in that one year, but he carefully did not say anything at all about the effect it would have on the figures in Cmnd. 4234 in the following years.

Hon. Members:

Oh.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

When my hon. Friend sought to make that point I understood the right hon. Gentleman to dispute it.

Let us look at the Opposition Amendment—I mean the official one. The first thing which will have struck the House is that it is scarcely literate. I hope that it was not written by the Leader of the Opposition. If it was, the publisher of his memoirs has some cause for concern.

The Amendment begins by accusing us of making an election promise which we never made and imposing a budgetary ceiling which we have not imposed. We have made no such promise and have imposed no such ceiling. So that is not a very good start to the Amendment.

What we have done is much more rational than what the right hon. Gentleman used to do. He decided on an arbitrary ceiling for defence expenditure, like the famous £2,000 million in his early years, which no doubt was taken because it was an appealingly round figure, and then he had to hack defence about until he had the sum he wanted. He imposed fixed ceilings and the level of those ceilings was decided on for reasons other than defence. Thus, quite arbitrarily, the previous Government settled provisionally on exactly the same expenditure for 1973–74 as for 1972–73.

We have done nothing like that. The House will have noticed that we plan to spend more on defence in 1973–74 and in 1974–75 than in 1972–73. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Salford, East has every reason to criticise from his point of view. We have started from the opposite end. We have examined our future defence programme and have made decisions about the allocations required to accommodate them. In doing so, we have achieved the highly satisfactory result of improving our defence capability and saving money.

The Amendment goes on to allege that we are ready to raise expectations among our Commonwealth allies without providing the means to fulfil them. As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, we have told our Commonwealth partners what forces we are prepared to provide and they have welcomed our proposal, so there is nothing in that allegation.

The Amendment then reaches its ultimate in absurdity by accusing us of creating uncertainties among the Armed Forces. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds, East well knows the damage he did by the continuing uncertainty he created in the Services by his bewildering changes of front and his series of defence reviews which, under the last Government, were almost as frequent as budgets.

The Amendment ends up by complaining that we have not indicated where we are making economies. In fact, we have for instance said that we shall not buy the C5 aeroplane, a decision with which I think the right hon. Gentleman found no fault.

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

It has not been ordered.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I meant the decision not to buy. The House will have noted one important difference between our procedure and that followed by the party opposite. We decided in good time not to buy the aeroplane, so we did not have to pay any cancellation costs. The right hon. Gentleman says that it has not been ordered. That is the whole point. The right hon. Gentleman's custom was to cancel the aeroplane long after it had been ordered and when much work had already been done on it. As a result he involved the taxpayer in vast expenditure on cancellation fees.

The House will see that in this very long Amendment there is hardly a phrase that stands up to scrutiny. Indeed, apart from the point that we propose to spend a declining proportion of our national income on defence, which is a point one would have expected the party opposite to welcome, there is not a single assertion in the Amendment that is not untrue. I calculate that there are eight wrong statements in this single Amendment. That seems rather a lot. Indeed it must have been a very long time since this House has been invited to vote for anything quite so ludicrous.

It is a little insensitive of the party opposite to talk about the direct contradiction of election promises. Right hon. Gentlemen have very short memories. I

do not want to be unfair to them because the breaking of their election promises on defence was the best thing they did when they were in office. We all applaud the courage of the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East in breaking their promise to renegotiate the Nassau agreement and in deciding to retain the nuclear deterrent. No responsible Government would have done anything else. Nevertheless, the Leader of the Opposition and the right hon. Member for Leeds, East must be given every credit for a most valuable piece of election promise breaking.

We have strengthened our forces in N.A.T.O.; we are improving our naval capability; we are increasing the front line strength of the R.A.F.; we are maintaining faith with our allies. At the same time we have taken measures to set up an uncommitted reserve. All this has given new hope to the Services as well as improved the defence of this country. On all those grounds, I ask the House to approve our Motion tonight.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 248, Noes 284.

Division No. 32.]AYES[10.0 p.m.
Abse, LeoConlan, BernardFoley, Maurice
Albu, AustenCorbet, Mrs. FredaFoot, Michael
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, Central)Ford, Ben
Alldritt, WalterCrawshaw, RichardForrester, John
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)Cronin, JohnFraser, John (Norwood)
Armstrong, ErnestCrosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyFreeson, Reginald
Ashley, JackCrossman, Rt. Hn. RichardGalpern, Sir Myer
Ashton, JoeCunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)Garrett, W. E.
Atkinson, NormanCunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)Gilbert, Dr. John
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Davies, Denzil (Llanelly)Ginsburg, David
Barnes, MichaelDavies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Gourlay, Harry
Barnett, JoelDavies, Ifor (Gower)Grant, George (Morpeth)
Beaney, AlanDavis, Clinton (Hackney, Central)Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Deakins, EricGriffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Bidwell, Sydneyde Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyGriffiths, Will (Exchange)
Bishop, E. S.Delargy, H. J.Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Blenkinsop, ArthurDell, Rt. Hn. EdmundHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Dempsey, JamesHamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Booth, AlbertDoig, PeterHamling, William
Broughton, Sir AlfredDouglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)Douglas-Mann, BruceHardy, Peter
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Driberg, TomHarper, Joseph
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)Duffy, A. E. P.Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Buchan, NormanDunn, James A.Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Dunnett, JackHattersley, Roy
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Eadie, AlexHealey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesEdelman, MauriceHeffer, Eric S.
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)Edwards, Robert (Bilston)Hilton, W. S.
Cant, R. B.Edwards, William (Merioneth)Horam, John
Carmichael, NeilEllis, TomHoughton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)English, MichaelHowell, Denis (Small Heath)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)Evans, FredHuckfield, Leslie
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraFaulds, AndrewHughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)
Cohen, StanleyFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)
Concannon, J. D.Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Hunter, Adam
Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)Marsh, Rt. Hn. RichardSheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Janner, GrevilleMason, Rt. Hn. RoyShore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Jay, Rt. Hn. DouglasMeacher, MichaelShort, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Mellish, Rt. Hn. RobertSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
John, BrynmorMorris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Sillars, James
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Silverman, Julius
Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)Skinner, Dennis
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Moyle, RolandSmall, William
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Mulley, Rt. Hn. FrederickSmith, John (Lanarkshire, North)
Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)Murray, Ronald KingSpearing, Nigel
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)Ogden, EricSpriggs, Leslie
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)O'Halloran, MichaelStallard, A. W.
Kaufman, GeraldO'Malley, BrianStoddart, David (Swindon)
Kelley, RichardOram, BertStonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Kerr, RussellOrbach, MauriceStrang, Gavin
Kinnock, NeilOrme, StanleyStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Lambie, DavidOswald, ThomasSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Swain, Thomas
Lamond, JamesOwen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)Taverne, Dick
Latham, ArthurPadley, WalterThomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Lawson, GeorgePaget, R. T.Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Leadbitter, TedPalmer, ArthurThomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Lee, Rt. Hn. FrederickPannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Leonard, DickPardoe, JohnTomney, Frank
Lestor, Miss JoanParry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)Torney, Tom
Lever, Rt. Hn. HaroldPavitt, LaurieTuck, Raphael
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Peart, Rt. Hn. FredUrwin, T. W.
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Pendry, TomVarley, Eric G.
Lipton, MarcusPentland, NormanWainwright, Edwin
Lomas, KennethPerry, Ernest G.Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Loughlin, CharlesPrentice, Rt. Hn. RegWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Prescott, JohnWallace, George
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Price, William (Rugby)Watkins, David
McBride, NeilProbert, ArthurWeitzman, David
McCann, JohnRankin, JohnWellbeloved, James
McCartney, HughReed, D. (Sedgefield)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
MacColl, JamesRees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
McElhone, FrankRhodes, GeoffreyWhitehead, Phillip
McGuire, MichaelRichard, IvorWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Mackenzie, GregorRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Mackie, JohnRoberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Mackintosh, John P.Robertson, John (Paisley)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
McManus, FrankRoderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)Woof, Robert
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
McNamara, J. KevinRoper, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
MacPherson, MalcolmRose, Paul B.Mr. Alan Fitch and
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)Mr. John Golding.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
NOES
Adley, RobertBrown, Sir Edward (Bath)Dance, James
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Bruce-Gardyne, J.Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Bryan, Pauld'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Amery, Rt. Hn. JulianBuchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj-Gen. Jack
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)Buck, AntonyDean, Paul
Astor, JohnBullus, Sir EricDeedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.
Atkins, HumphreyBurden, F. A.Dixon, Piers
Awdry, DanielCampbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Carlisle, MarkDrayson, G. B.
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)Carr, Rt. Hn. Robertdu Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward
Balniel, LordCary, Sir RobertDykes, Hugh
Batsford, BrianChannon, PaulEden, Sir John
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonChapman, SydneyEdwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Bell, RonaldChataway, Rt. Hn. ChristopherElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Chichester-Clark, R.Elliott, R. W. (N'c'le-upon-Tyne, N.)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Churchill, W. S.Eyre, Reginald
Benyon, W.Clark, William (Surrey, East)Farr, John
Berry, Hon. AnthonyClarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Fell, Anthony
Biffen, JohnCockeram, EricFinsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)
Biggs-Davison, JohnCooke, RobertFisher, Nigel (Surbiton)
Blaker, PeterCoombs, DerekFletcher-Cooke, Charles
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)Cooper, A. E.Fookes, Miss Janet
Body, RichardCardle, JohnFortescue, Tim
Boscawen, R. T.Corfield, F. V.Foster, Sir John
Bossom, Sir CliveCormack, PatrickFowler, Norman
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnCostain, A. P.Fox, Marcus
Braine, BernardCritchley, JulianFraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)
Bray, RonaldCrouch, DavidFry, Peter
Brewis, JohnCrowder, F. P.Galbraith, Hn. T. G.
Brinton, Sir TattonCurran, CharlesGardiner, Edward
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherDalkeith, Earl ofGibson-Watt, David
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Glyn, Dr. AlanLloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)Ridsdale, Julian
Goodhart, PhilipLongden, GilbertRoberts, Michael (Cardiff, North)
Gorst, JohnLoveridge, JohnRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Gower, RaymondMcAdden, Sir StephenRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)MacArthur, IanRost, Peter
Gray, HamishMcCrindle, R. A.Royle, Anthony
Green, AlanMcLaren, MartinRussell, Sir Ronald
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Maclean, Sir FitzroyScott, Nicholas
Gummer, SelwynMcMaster, StanleySharples, Richard
Gurden, HaroldMacmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)McNair-Wilson, MichaelShelton, William (Clapham)
Hall, John (Wycombe)McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Simeons, Charles
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Maddan, MartinSinclair, Sir George
Hannam, John (Exeter)Madel, DavidSmith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestSoref, Harold
Harvey, Sir Arthur VereMarten, NeilSpeed, Keith
Haselhurst, AlanMawby, RaySpence, John
Hastings, StephenMaxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Sproat, Iain
Havers, MichaelMeyer, Sir AnthonyStanbrook, Ivor
Hawkins, PaulMills, Peter (Torrington)Stewart-Smith, D. G. (Belper)
Hay, JohnMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Stodar, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)
Hayhoe, BarryMiscampbell, NormanStoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.
Heseltine, MichaelMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Stokes, John
Hicks, RobertMitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Higgins, Terence L.Moate, RogerSutcliffe, John
Hiley, JosephMolyneaux, JamesTapsell, Peter
Hill, James (Southampton, Test)Money, ErnleTaylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Holland, PhilipMonks, Mrs. ConnieTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Holt, Miss MaryMonro, HectorTaylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)
Hordern, PeterMontgomery, FergusTebbit, Norman
Hornby, RichardMore, JasperTemple, John M.
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame PatriciaMorgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
Howell, David (Guildford)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Howell, Ralph (Norolk, N.)Mudd, DavidThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Hunt, JohnMurton, OscarTilney, John
Hutchison, Michael ClarkNeave, AireyTrafford, Dr. Anthony
Iremonger, T. L.Nicholls, Sir HarmarTrew, Peter
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Noble, Rt. Hn. MichaelTugendhat, Christopher
James, DavidNormanton, TomTurton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)Onslow, Cranleyvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Jennings, J. C. (Burton)Oppenheim, Mrs. SallyVaughan, Dr. Gerard
Jessel, TobyOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Jopling, MichaelOsborn, JohnWalker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithOwen, Idris (Stockport, North)Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Kaberry, Sir DonaldPage, Graham (Crosby)Wall, Patrick
Kellett, Mrs. ElainePage, John (Harrow, W.)Ward, Dame Irene
Kerby, Capt. HenryPercival, IanWarren, Kenneth
Kershaw, AnthonyPike, Miss MervynWeatherill, Bernard
Kilfedder, JamesPink, R. BonnerWells, John (Maidstone)
Kimball, MarcusPounder, RaftonWhite, Roger (Gravesend)
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Powell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochWiggin, Jerry
King, Tom (Bridgwater)Price, David (Eastleigh)Wilkinson, John
Kinsey, J. R.Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Kirk, PeterPym, Rt. Hn. FrancisWoodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Kitson, TimothyQuennell, Miss J. M.Woodnutt, Mark
Knight, Mrs. JillRaison, TimothyWorsley, Marcus
Knox, DavidRamsden, Rt. Hn. JamesWylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Lambton, AntonyRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterYounger, Hn. George
Lane, DavidRedmond, Robert
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnReed, Laurance (Bolton, East)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryRees, Hn. Peter (Dover)Mr. Walter Clegg and
Le Marchant, SpencerRees-Davies, W. R.Mr. Victor Goodhew.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House approves the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1970, contained in Command Paper No. 4521.