That this House, recognising the need both to provide adequately for the nation's security and to ensure that the level of public expenditure is contained within available resources, welcomes the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1975 (Command Paper No. 5976); notes the circumstances in which further financial savings have since become necessary; and endorses the Government's determination to maintain efficient and well-equipped armed forces for the security of the United Kingdom.—[Mr. Mason.]
In defence matters I start from the fundamental belief that it is the prime duty of Government to protect their citizens. That is by its very nature a duty which can be fulfilled only by leadership and a refusal to sacrifice long-term objectives in order to satisfy essentially short-term and frequently short-sighted pressures.
Nor is that duty confined to the Government of the day. Members of Parliament have a special responsibility in the way in which we approach these defence debates. Our individual contributions will match the vital importance of the subject to our peaceful future only if we recognise the real difficulties and dangers involved in the decisions which have to be taken. They will affect our future lives, and any basic mistake now is frequently irreversible. Very large sums of public money are involved. It is extremely hard to assess whether real value for money is being obtained, especially when research and development of highly sophisticated weapons are involved.
Nor can anyone dismiss easily the inevitable pressures to divert resources for social projects where money is badly needed, where the benefits are immediately apparent and, perhaps unfortunately, the prospects of short-term political popularity are infinitely greater. Equally, it is no use trying to pretend that the need to defend ourselves can be pushed into the background and forgotten. Certainly if we in this House are to provide leadership, we cannot afford to pander to such feelings of indifference, probably all too prevalent in the country, until something goes wrong.
I wish that I felt content about our performance as a House on this score. In saying that, I am not referring to those who always advocate more cuts in defence. Certainly they are not indifferent. They are clear and consistent even if in my judgment they are seriously misguided. Either they do not believe in the threats and dangers which we should have to face, or they are prepared to take grave risks by ignoring them.
Today, that point of view is represented by those Government supporters who have signed the amendment. Frankly, I have never been able to understand how they believe that they are promoting the prospects of peace in this way. Apparently they believe strongly in détente, yet they seem to think that it is compatible with this view to undermine the NATO strategy of balanced force levels.
At a time when we are told that the Warsaw Pact countries are increasing their forces and the Soviet Union is expanding hers, they want to cut down ours. I wonder what purpose they believe the Soviet Union has in mind. In this regard, I prefer the robust common sense of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) to the somewhat woolly observations of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) and his hon. Friends who have signed the amendment. Do they really assume that the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries have no intention of spreading their influence and undermining the free world if they can easily get away with it? Are they prepared to accept such a situation? Above all, are they determined to ignore all past experience and fly in the face of history? If so, surely a short consideration of what happened in the 1930s might have some effect.
Many of those who, like the late Lord Attlee, played a most distinguished rôle in the 1939–45 war, had within a year or two to eat the words that they had uttered on defence in 1935. Many of the strong advocates of unilateral disarmament in the early 1930s became not only strong supporters of increased defence expenditure by 1936 but even criticis of our lack of preparedness when war broke out in 1939. Yet the harsh truth, even the irony, is that the defence decisions taken when they were opposing increased defence expenditure made shortages of equipment and comparative weakness inevitable at the start of the war. As one who joined the Army in 1939, I do not want to feel in any way responsible in the future for some of the shortages that we endured then. I believe that that is the basic case which the constant critics of defence expenditure in the Labour Party have to answer.
Fortunately, the Secretary of State for Defence came out firmly against this line in his speech yesterday, and I applaud him for it. But, alas, he did not follow through the logic of his own argument He gave an eloquent outline of the defence commitments in which he believed. He reinforced the need for our continuing commitment to NATO, as outlined in paragraphs 20, 21 and 22 of his White Paper, as did the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy in his speech last night. But then, instead of matching the commitments with the resources required to fulfil them, the Secretary of State fell back on the argument that all our defence capabilities and commitments must be met within the resources allocated by the Government to defence. So, in forming their judgment on the balance between commitments and resources, the statement in paragraph 9 of the White Paper—
Clear strategic priorities were established at the outset; but no arbitrary financial limit was set, which would have prejudiced the outcome of the analysis"—
is not true.
Apparently, therefore, whatever may be the requirements of British foreign policy in the furtherance of British interests in the world, the defence resources necessary to meet them have to be found within a predetermined target. To put it bluntly, the Secretary of State for Industry can play fast and loose with vast sums of the taxpayers' money while the Secretary of State for Defence is closely restricted in protecting Britain's vital interests in order unsuccessfully to placate the Labour Party's Left wing.
This attitude is also confirmed by the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget statement of additional cuts of £110 million which, I may say, destroyed at a stroke the whole basis of the Government's White Paper. I felt rather sorry for the Secretary of State when he tried to justify this yesterday. For all I know, he may have fought hard with his colleagues against the additional cuts. He may even have succeeded in preventing more drastic and dangerous economies. But he has now to answer for them, and he was far from convincing.
I apologise for making these comments about the Secretary of State in his absence. I realise that he has to be at the Eurogroup meeting which he is chairing. But, equally, I am sure that he would not expect me to desist from my comments on that score.
It may be that, for the Secretary of State, some good can come out of this evil. I do not imagine that he will ever again fall into the constitutional error that he made on 3rd December 1974 when he claimed the support of the Chiefs of Staff for policies for which he as a Minister must bear full responsibility. If, having agreed the Defence White Paper after, I suspect, considerable agonised discussion, the Chiefs of Staff then supported the further economies made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, their collective military judgment would need to be called seriously into question. From what know of them, it would be most unfair even to contemplate such a possibility.
I want now to consider the balance between commitments and resources on what must be the only prudent basis. First, I shall consider the requirements of protecting Britain's interests in the world. Then I shall examine whether, on that basis, the resources allocated under this White Paper are likely to meet the necessary commitments.
In the debate yesterday, it was accepted widely, except perhaps by the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall and his hon. Friends, that the NATO strategy must be continued and that in coming to this view one had to take account of the growing strength of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet forces. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) referred wisely to the dangers to NATO's strength in Europe inherent in the present morale and confidence crisis in the United States of America. No one can doubt that in the aftermath of Vietnam, strong voices will be raised there questioning all the foreign commitments of the United States.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) referred very properly to British interests and the interests of the whole NATO Alliance in protecting the flanks. All the evidence shows that my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion was wise to call attention to the Soviet strategists as "soft underbelly men".
Here, recent events must require us to reconsider our basic commitments. Two vital NATO allies, Greece and Turkey, are deeply involved in the continuing Cyprus controversy. He would be a brave man who predicted an early solution to the problems of divided communities wherever they are found in the world. We have, too, the obvious difficulties which may arise in the near future in Yugoslavia. At the other end of the Mediterranean, the position of Portugal, another NATO ally, must give cause for concern, especially in view of her control of vital bases. On the northern flank there are obvious dangers and here, too, we have our vital oil interests in which, one might say, the Russians seem recently to have taken at least a passing interest.
Journeying more generally through the world as a whole, one sees that Britain has a vital interest in the Middle East where the danger of conflict is ever possible and we depend for our existence on the freedom of the seas. Above all, we and our allies cannot stand aside and witness the steady erosion of the strength and influence of the free world.
Against the background of even that short summary of Britain's vital interests, let us now consider the resources allocated. I accept at once that a judgment has to be made on the word "vital". There is, of course, a danger in referring to all interests as vital, but, against that, I do not think I could be accused of over stating the commitment. Some might claim quite the reverse. Nor is it any part of my case that we should never make, or attempt to make, cuts in defence spending. There must be a continuing search for economies so as to get real value for money out of the large sums involved.
In this connection, at a moment when the old arguments about "teeth" and "tail" have been resurrected, can some reality be put into paragraph 71 on the organisation of the Ministry of Defence? The Defence External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Expenditure, under the chairmanship of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison), whose decision to retire at the end of this Parliament many hon. Members in all parts of the House will regret, has made some very important recommendations on greater integration.
We were promised greater integration when the Ministry of Defence was set up. It is true that the Secretaries of State and First Lord of the Admiralty were abolished, but has there been much further integration, and has it continued? The Select Committee has said that this aspect must be pursued very strongly and I am sure that it will be, by all concerned. As I intend to refer gratefully to them later, I will risk offending both of my old friends the Commander-in-Chief BAOR and the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland by suggesting that a careful examination should be made of their headquarters, too.
When one comes to the real cuts in resources proposed in the White Paper, these seem to involve, against the background of those clear commitments, very considerable risks, to put it mildly. On the central front of NATO, the area most favoured by the Government, our tactical mobility seems to be undermined by the reduction in helicopters and the totally untried abolition of brigade head quarters. I am not saying that this will not work. I know that I have a prejudice, for in my Army career nobody ever thought to put me higher than brigade headquarters. I was put there, but no higher, and therefore I am not prepared to believe that a brigade headquarters is actually in the tail of a formation. I do not accept that. I believe that brigade headquarters, particularly in mobile forces, is very much in the "teeth ", and therefore I hope that at least very careful examination will be made of this, would question whether it might not restrict our mobility and to that extent might prove in practice to have been a mistake.
It is on the flanks that we are obviously causing our allies greatest concern. Whether it is in the Mediterranean or on the northern flank, our naval power and our amphibious capability is vital to the whole alliance, and yet it is to be substantially reduced. Surely, the same criticism can be made against our whole strategy over world sea routes. My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) made a strong case for Britain preserving her long maritime traditions instead of allowing them steadily to be eroded. There is much truth in that.
More generally, if we are to protect Britain's vital interests with smaller forces, we surely need reserves and some plans for mobility. I doubt whether we really have any uncommitted reserves; and as far as mobility is concerned, most of the proposals in the White Paper reduce it. As a result, we seem to have no real contingency plan for that most inevitable of all events, the unforeseen emergency.
Originally, our commitment of forces in Northern Ireland was unforeseen; nor even when the troops were first commited could the size of the commitment or its time-scale have been accurately forecast. I have always taken care not to make public comments on the Northern Ireland position since I left 18 months ago, particularly because I hate the idea of ghosts from the past haunting their successors. But in all the circumstances it would be impossible for me, who asked so much of our forces, not to join in the well-deserved tribute to their achievement in most difficult and trying conditions. Perhaps that comes all the more from me who has every reason to know how difficult and trying they were. In particular, I welcome the opportunity to express publicly my especial debt of gratitude to the two generals, Sir Harry Tuzo and Sir Frank King, who gave effect to many difficult decisions of mine with unswerving loyalty.
Paragraph 37, Chapter 2, of the White Paper outlines the basis of our commitment to Northern Ireland. Frankly, I believe that our forces will have to remain there in some strength for a considerable time to come. I remain convinced from all the experience I have had that there would be a real risk of substantial bloodshed if our forces were to be precipitately or prematurely withdrawn. Such a situation would underline the failure of the United Kingdom to protect its own citizens within its own territory, and this, in turn, would, in my judgment, have grave moral and political implications.
But, at the same time, those of us who will constantly stand up for the right of all the Northern Irish people to have the protection of United Kingdom troops so long as it is the wish of a majority to remain part of the United Kingdom, do need some help from them. It is wrong militarily and bad from every point of view to continue to use soldiers in a purely police role. It is, therefore, very urgent that the Northern Irish political leaders should reach agreement on their future policing arrangements, and that once such agreement is reached the police force should be given wholehearted support and so enabled to carry out its duties throughout the community in sufficient strength. I hope that those leaders will consider that it is, in the long run, of enormous importance to Northern Ireland. It is also of importance to our forces and their training. Equally, it is of very great importance to the case of those of us who believe that our forces have to continue to perform that particularly unpleasant duty.
I return to the overall balance of the Defence White Paper. It must be our duty as an Opposition to sound a clear warning against the passive and complacent attitude on defence into which our country is falling. One of the tragic features of this complacency is that we seem incapable of learning from past experience. Surely now, when we are faced with grave dangers all over the world, it cannot be wise to lower our guard. It cannot make sense, as some of my hon. Friends have said, to produce a White Paper which depresses our friends and allies and delights our enemies. Of course, the Secretary of State for Defence and many of his colleagues do not want to take this course but they are driven to it by their Left-wing supporters. In so far as they stand against them, one must admire their determination but, alas, they are forced to compromise against their better judgment.
What better example is there of this compromise than the motion which has been tabled? Let us remember that normally such a motion simply asks for approval of the Defence White Paper. Why does it not do so on this occasion? The old compromise is, of course, the answer. We start with,
That this House, recognising the need both to provide adequately for the nation's security
—that—is one side—
and to ensure that the level of public expenditure is contained within available resources.
—that is the other side of it. There is the basic contradiction. On the basis of that contradiction we "welcome" the statement on the Defence Estimates. The motion continues,
notes the circumstances in which further financial savings have since become necessary
—thereby admitting that the whole basis of the White Paper, which we are supposed to have welcomed, has been destroyed. On the basis of that conflict of assertions we are supposed to endorse
the Government's determination to maintain efficient and well-equipped armed forces for the security of the United Kingdom.
As the original basis has been destroyed, what on earth can be the basis on which we can be expected to endorse any determination? If the determination was there, we would not be asked to do the other things.
There is the basic contradiction. The motion is a nonsense and, like the confusions of the Defence White Paper, it can easily be a dangerous nonsense. It is for this reason that I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will stand up to protect Britain's vital interests in the world and reject this White Paper.
It would be proper for me to express the regret of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that, owing to the fact that he is chairing the Euro-group at its first annual meeting outside Brussels, he cannot be present today. The right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Whitelaw) was good enough to say that he knew of this and understood the reasons why my right hon. Friend was not present. I hope that the House as a whole will understand.
After my right hon. Friend's comprehensive account of the Government's plans for defence over the next 10 years I want to examine some of the interrelated strands which make up this or any other defence policy. The two main strands which have entered into the debate are basically economics and foreign polio, Defence is, clearly, about both but it does not only comprise both. It is something more than that. Apart from a few dissenting voices on the Opposition back benches at an early stage in the debate, I thought that it had been accepted on all sides that defence cannot now be considered in isolation from the economic health of the country as a whole.
After the speeches of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) and the right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border I am not so sure whether that understanding can be so assumed. I will, however, return to that point a little later. It is certainly true that the problems involve more than a cursory study of the latest economic trends. I must confess, therefore, that, given the complexity of the problem, I find it difficult to understand those who automatically describe all expenditure on defence as wasteful and seem to suppose that if only we spent enough money on hospitals and comprehensive schools the defence of the country would look after itself.
I would be the first to argue in favour of devoting as much of our scarce resources as possible to these valuable social programmes. But the fact remains that the freedom of a democratic society such as ours cannot be secured without the assurance of a realistic defence policy. I see no evidence to suppose that even the most civilised and humane society would, just because of its humanity and civilisation, enjoy complete immunity from external threat.
We must be clear what purpose a viable defence policy serves, because it is only by defining it that we are able to appreciate the value of the Armed Forces. In a nutshell I would say that expenditure on the three Services provides for defence against external forces and influences which, in the absence of any recognisable opposition, might be inclined to undermine our democratic way of life—a way of life which we would all join in agreeing we would not willingly forsake without a struggle.
The question of what is the right level of expenditure on defence is one to which answers will inevitably differ. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) said yesterday, and I agree, we should approach the problem without impugning the sincerity of those who place a different emphasis upon this. We can all agree that too little expenditure on defence is dangerous. I have dealt with that. We can also agree that too high a level of defence expenditure could seriously threaten the advances which we hope to make in other sections of our society, so undermining the very society we seek to defend. The rational answer between the two extremes involves consideration of many complex factors, far more complex than the right hon. Gentleman opposite would have us believe.
The Government are, therefore, in the unfortunate, althouglt not unexpected, position of being attacked or criticised by some hon. Members for making excessive cuts in the defence programme while at the same time other hon. Members criticise them for not having gone far enough. Much will depend on one's point of view, and disagreement is not entirely unexpected. But, looked at objectively, it is not possible for both positions to be true. I suggest that neither criticism is tenable and that the middle course which the Government have steered is the only one, given present circumstances, which will stand up. [Interruption.] We all enjoy the sedentary speeches of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow). We look forward to hearing him speak from a more conventional position later.
I am saying that objectively one cannot at the same time have too little and too much defence expenditure. I am not claiming objectivity. As I have said, it would certainly add a note of realism, notably absent from the contributions of Tory Members, if they were to recognise that for those of us who are not pacifist in approach there is a duty to explain publicly, regardless of whether we think the cuts too heavy or too light, what alternative levels of defence expenditure we would propose and what kind of defence provision we would substitute for what the Government now propose.
No. I will not give way now. I must develop this point.
The Chancellor has said, and I do not believe that the Opposition dissent, that we face a serious economic position. If the Opposition acknowledge this, they cannot possibly be allowed to get away with proposals for defence which, so far as I can understand them, are apparently framed with a total disregard for the present economic situation. Of course, they might argue, in the classic words of the man who was asked the way to Dublin, that they would not have started from here at all. But we are in this position. Some in the Conservative Party, although they are not the spokesmen of the party in the House at the moment, do recognise that there are constraints upon defence expenditure imposed by economic realities.
In his earlier remarks was the hon. Gentleman saying that the Government had no policy of their own and that they were being forced first in one direction by the Left wing of the Labour Party and then in another direction by the Tories? Is it not the duty of the Government to make up their own mind about their responsibilities towards the defence of our citizens?
Lord Carrington has conceded in another place, and more recently in the Press, that expenditure on defence must be related to our overall economic position. When he was Secretary of State for Defence, the noble Lord said in another place:
all of us, wherever we sit in the House, have to recognise that the size of the Defence budget must be limited by the very proper calls on our resources by other Departments."
—[Official Report, House of Lords, 22nd February 1972; Vol. 328, c. 400–1.]
Similarly, one of my predecessors, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force in the Conservative administration, said on 19th March 1973:
we accept that that programme must not impose an unacceptable economic burden on the country".
There was no mention there of totting up all our requirements and footing the bill, as the hon. Member for Ayr seemed to suggest yesterday.
I should be grateful if I could be allowed to develop this point. I shall then give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he wishes.
The former Under-Secretary said in the same debate:
it is not our intention to allow the defence budget to expand out of hand in the late 1970s".—[Official Report, 19th March 1973; Vol. 853, c. 50.]
Those statements dispose of all the argument by hon. Members, including Opposition official spokesmen, that defence is only a matter of totting up every conceivable threat in the world and footing the bill for it.
The hon. Gentleman asked what additional expenditure the Conservatives would wish to see. All that we are asking for is the reinstatement of the cuts in certain overseas expenditure, which represents a little over half of the cuts that the Government are trying to impose. The sum involved is about £150 million to £200 million a year. Against the background of a £9 billion borrowing requirement and vast expenditure at home on desirable but not perhaps necessary things, those cuts do not seem to be essential.
I am interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman say so. If all that he is saying is that we must restore the overseas cuts, I find it difficult to understand some of the criticism of the flank strategy and the suggestions that thereby our contribution to the NATO alliance is being weakened.
As I have said, the more intelligent and realistic members of the Opposition, who seem to be singularly absent from the Chamber this afternoon, put a gloss on the argument by saying that, whilst economic arguments cannot be ignored, they disagree with the low priority given to defence by the Government. However, such reasoning is far too slick. I am bound to ask the Opposition what higher priorities they would give to defence. Where would they put defence in relation to the other spending Departments, for example? Would they put it above the social security programmes?
I am very interested to note their priorities. It reveals a fundamental cleavage between the parties, because we believe that, as an essential contributiion towards defence, we should have a decent, humane society. That is what the hon. Gentleman is putting in jeopardy by his foolish remarks.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) has been good enough to answer part of the question, but I now ask whether the Conservatives would restore all the programmes which we inherited from them when we came into power. If that is not their plan, how much of the expenditure that we have cut from the programme would they restore? Precisely which parts of the programme would they revive? If they do not answer, they stand branded as hypocrits for on the one hand saying that they are most concerned about these cuts whilst at the same time, if by some misfortune they ever got back into Government, meekly accepting everything and going on from there.
There is some criticism from some of my hon. Friends, with which I must deal. They suggest that the substantial cuts which we propose in the programme which we inherited are not cuts at all. I must point out to them that when in Opposition we often criticised the Conservative Government for making reductions in programmed expenditure in some of their social programmes. One example was their cut in the increase in the domestic element of the rate support grant from 5p to about 3p in 1972. The proposal was to reduce an increase—not to spend less—and yet we rightly criticised them for having made a cut. If that was a cut when we were in Opposition, what we are doing is no less a cut now when we are in Government.
To put it another way, if we had taken no action over defence when we came into office, the planned levels of defence expenditure over the period of the review would have been £4,700 million higher than we now propose. If this £4,700 million does not represent a cut, as a Welshman I must say that the English language is even more mysterious than many of the Welsh think it to be.
As an example of the call that I hear for greater cuts, we are criticised by some hon. Members for retaining a few of cur large spending equipment programmes, such as the anti-submarine cruiser, the MRCA and the like. The fact that a programme is large does not mean that it is wasteful. These arguments for cutting out larger projects bear a surprisingly close resemblance to the Tories' own economic strategy, which always seeks, in public expenditure economies, to cut out large projects such as hospitals and schools. Therefore, the relevant question to be asked is not whether the project is a large one, but, rather, whether it fits in with the new concept of defence that we have and whether it gives value for the money which we spend upon it.
I shall take this opportunity to deal with one of the large projects: namely, the MRCA. This is a project which is already of major importance to the British and European industries. Some 17,000 workers are now involved in its manufacture of whom some 7,500 work in Britain—4,000 for BAC in Lancashire and 2,000 for Rolls-Royce in Bristol, as well as a number of suppliers throughout the country. It is estimated that by 1981 at least 25,000 people could be employed on this project in the United Kingdom.
In cost terms—and I believe that the cost of this project has been particularly well managed—the MRCA currently accounts for 10 per cent. of the total United Kingdom aerospace industry work load. That figure will rise substantially when the programme is established. It has also to be remembered that the only realistic alternative to the MRCA would be foreign purchase, with all the foreign exchange penalties which that would impose upon this country.
As to its operational capabilities, NATO has from the outset recognised the unique advantages of the MRCA project, the concept of which conforms fully to its requirement for standardisation of equipment between nations. NATO has been involved in the management of the project for over six years, and during this time I believe that the growing Soviet military presence has been anticipated in drawing up the plans of this aircraft and its characteristics. It has been designed to operate in a number of different rôles. It has been designed to have an offensive air support rôle in which it will be capable of carrying out deep interdiction sorties at any time of day or night and in any weather. It will be complemented by other close-support and short-range interdiction aircraft in daylight and closer to the battlefield. At sea it will be able to attack enemy ships using standoff weapons. We are also now at the project definition stage of the air defence variant which we plan to operate as a replacement for the Phantom for the air defence of the United Kingdom and of naval forces at sea. In this latter rôle, the aircraft will be able to operate at very substantial ranges from our shores.
The MRCA will eventually form about 50 per cent of the Royal Air Force's front-line force and will replace no fewer than four different types of aircraft in the current inventory. I need hardly stress the benefits that this will bring in terms of economies in spare parts and servicing, quite apart from the benefits of collaboration and standardisation in NATO air forces which it will also confer.
I should like now to deal with the point raised yesterday by my hon. Friends the Members for Edinburgh, Central and Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick), on the controversy which now seems to rage about whether missiles are an alternative to manned aircraft. My hon. Friends argued that in the 1980s surface-to-air missiles will be able to replace the interceptor aircraft, and that the missiles might make it impossible for our own strike and reconnaissance aircraft to operate effectively. However, to accept those views is to over-simplify a complex situation. The manned interceptor has the virtue of range. It can interrogate intruders in peace to see whether their intentions are hostile, and can deny them freedom to operate at will in our airspace. It can keep the battle away from our shores in war. The defensive surface-to-air missile can do none of those things.
Before he leaves the MRCA, will my hon. Friend explain why it is not appearing as scheduled at the Paris air show from 2nd June to 8th June? Is it to do with trouble with the low-pressure oil system or the allegedly defective blades? There has been unfavourable comment in the American Press. Perhaps my hon. Friend will clear it up.
I was not trying to score a point or to deny my hon. Friend the opportunity to put his question. No trouble has caused the MRCA not to appear at the Paris air show. Its development programme is so tightly scheduled that it is believed that it would be an unwarranted interference with that programme to make such an appearance.
I was developing the point about missiles as against manned fighters. The argument rests on over-easy conclusions drawn from the last Middle Eastern war. The lessons of the Yom Kippur war are by no means all in favour of surface-to-air missiles as opposed to the manned aircraft. I believe that the manned aircraft has a rôle in the future. It has the additional virtue that it can retaliate in offensive operations in response to aggression. Therefore, although the RAF is aware of the threat posed by Russian SAM and AA defences, we believe that by the MRCA being given the ability to penetrate enemy territory at very low level and at high speed it will be able to operate effectively.
There are considerable limitations to the effectiveness of low-level optical SAM systems, which can be affected by night conditions, visibility, weather or the ability of aircraft to take evasive manoeuvres, while radar systems can be electronically jammed. Moreover, no field commander is likely to be in a position to protect fully with SAMs all his sensitive targets, such as bridges, airfields and the like. Therefore, I believe that these manned aircraft are desirable and necessary.
If any further proof were needed, all the main nations in Europe, including the Soviet Union, which is fully aware of the state of the art of SAM missiles, are still developing aircraft and associated weapon systems.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be patient. My hon. Friend the Minister of State intends to deal with that matter when he winds up the debate.
The MRCA is only one of the major equipments now in the pipeline. There are others which are entering service or are at the development stage.
I return to my main theme, which is the question of levels of defence expenditure. If I thought that the efforts we devote to defence in any way deflected us from the wider goal of détente, there might be more acceptance of the criticisms. But it is just not so. In the conference on security and co-operation in Europe and the negotiations over mutual and balanced force reductions, Britain is playing its full part, and is fortunately still able to involve itself in the discussions from a position of relative strength.
The progress in those talks is slow. There is a long way to go before a real break through can be claimed, but I would far rather see the participants in those negotiations getting down to painstakingly detailed work than issue generalised declarations that are so easy to make but just as easy to break.
This is the basis for my belief that the Government have the package of defence spending about right. We have made the cuts in such a way as to have no detrimental effect upon civilian employment in those areas which are least able to bear redundancies. As an example of this care, I would mention our proposals for the RAF to vacate 12 stations which resulted from our defence review decisions. Only one of them is situated in a development area. In recognition of the care we have taken over the choice of stations, not one hon. Member has taken up the invitation that I extended to hon. Members whose constituencies were affected by station closures to make representations to me if they saw fit.
If what the Minister said is true, it is a scandalous and irrelevant statement. The defence of this country should be absolutely paramount in the Government's consideration, and the displacement of particular stations totally irrelevant. This illustrates the fatuity of the Government's proposals in every respect.
I despair of the hon. Gentleman's ability to follow even the simplest argument. I was speaking about the effect of station closures upon employment.
While no representations have yet been made, we still hope that some of the stations will have an alternative defence use. In the meantime, we are continuing our discussions with the trade unions and staff sides. But the deadline for formal representations from hon. Members has now passed, and although I am still prepared to hear any objections, I shall shortly be finalising the RAF's deployment proposals.
I should like to take the opportunity to announce, as a further example of the Government's efforts to minimise the loss of jobs in areas of high unemployment, that we have found an alternative use for the vacant RAF station at Ouston, Northumberland, which is in a special development area. Provided the necessary planning permission can be obtained to build about 200 married quarters there, the intention is to make it the location of an infantry battalion by mid-1978. This will create directly up to 50 civilian jobs, and I believe that the presence of 600 to 700 Service men will provide a useful stimulus to the local economy.
The hon. Member for Ayr asked yesterday, and the right hon. Gentleman asked this afternoon where the priorities lay. There is no doubt that the central area of Europe, the United Kingdom itself, the Channel and the Eastern Atlantic are the areas which are vital to our defence—of much greater importance to us than any others. There are arguments about the threats to the flanks of NATO, but it should never be forgotten that we were the only European NATO Power which performed a significant rôle in all areas of interest to our allies. I remind the hon. Member for Ayr that, whatever his opinion may be about the threats in the various areas, there can be no doubt that, as a glance at the disposition of Warsaw Pact forces would show him, the central region is the most vital land area for NATO.
Let us consider what is happening in other areas. Forces are being run down somewhat in Cyprus. I hope that that will contribute to a substantial reduction in the proportion of married Servicemen who are out there on nine-month unaccompanied tours, with all that that means in terms of turbulence and family upheaval.
I join the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border in paying tribute to the security forces in Northern Ireland. Their campaign against terrorism in the last year met with considerable success. I believe that it greatly undermined the strength of the terrorist organisations, in parallel with the Government's political initiatives in that area. I believe that it led to a situation in the Province which allowed the withdrawal of three major units. I should also add a tribute to the extremely valuable contribution which the Ulster Defence Regiment played in that campaign.
The rôle which the forces are fulfilling in Northern Ireland is sadly by now all too familiar, but there are two further areas where their presence is somewhat of a new concept. The first is in the surveillance and protection of North Sea oil rigs, a point with which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Navy dealt in his winding-up speech last night. The second is the anti-terrorist measures that need to be practised from time to time at such particularly vulnerable targets as Heathrow Airport.
In the past, the operations at Heathrow have for the most part involved armed soldiers and wheeled reconnaissance vehicles, although on one occasion it was necessary to deploy a new tracked vehicle for these duties. This new tracked vehicle, known as Scorpion, forms part of the Army's re-equipment programme, which is aimed at developing a new generation of tracked armoured reconnaissance vehicles. The Scorpion is the first of these and has already replaced the old wheeled armoured cars in the Army's armoured reconnaissance regiments.
However, hon. Members may be interested to know that one of the consequences of the limited number of wheeled armoured vehicles now stationed in Britain is that it may at times be necessary to use the tracked Scorpion vehicle at Heathrow in the event of further police requests for Army assistance to counter terrorist threats. The introduction of tracked vehicles marks no escalation in the campaign against terrorism but is merely the result of one of the Army's re-equipment measures.
A further area where the activities of the forces impinges upon the general public is, of course, low flying. This matter was mentioned by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) yesterday. I have already mentioned it in connection with the MRCA, but it is not a new problem. I think that the general philosophy of low flying is by now generally understood and agreed in this House. Whilst the general philosophy is known, the exact geography of low flying areas and the routes linking them has not been published.
In keeping with our general wish in defence matters to make available the maximum information compatible with national security, we have been reviewing this decision afresh. Our studies are not yet complete, but they have paid particular attention to aircraft safety.
I know very well the concern that is felt over the collision at Downham Market between a Phanton and a Piper Pawnee crop spraying aircraft. I can make no comment on this accident at this time because we still await the report of the Chief Inspector of Accidents. However, it is fair to point out that in the last 15 years there have been only five collisions betwen civil and military aircraft, and, of those, only the accident at Downham Market occurred in the United Kingdom military low flying system.
Both my colleagues and I, as well as the Services themselves, regard the problem of flying accidents as of the highest concern. I think we can say that one accident is one too many. At the same time, we must recognise that if pilots are to be properly trained to make effective use of sophisticated aircraft, there must necessarily be some risk of accidents. We have to strive for a proper balance between adequate training and safety.
As part of the process, I have been considering with my colleagues the desirability of publishing, on a regular basis, flying accident statistics for the Services. This would be in line with the Government's general policy of releasing more information to Parliament and to the general public. We have therefore decided to publish annually the accident rates for the three Services, together with accident costs. The figures for 1974 are being made available in a Written Answer this afternoon.
On low flying, perhaps at a later date, not this afternoon, the hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us something about the position in Germany.
Regarding the publishing of accident statistics, I hope that they will be hedged round with all the qualifications which those statistics ought to have.
If the hon. Gentleman will study the way in which the Written Answer is framed, he will see that there is no over-simplification. Those caveats are entered there. I will consider in more detail the point regarding the German low flying system.
In re-examining the whole question of low flying, will my hon. Friend make sure that it is carried out over those sections of the country where the population is at its lowest, because in some figures which he gave me last year it seemed clear that that was not necessarily the guideline which the Department was following?
That is not so. In fact, low flying areas in the overwhelming majority of cases cover those areas where the population is most sparse. If my hon. Friend will write to me about specific examples, I will consider them.
Regarding the effect of the defence review on personnel, I am encouraged by the way in which the latest recruiting figures have borne up. In the year ending 31st March 1975, the number of men and women recruited to all three Services totalled 35,000. Although this figure cannot be meaningfully compared with the previous year's total of 25,800, because of the raising of the school leaving age, I think that it suggests that we are doing very well in comparison with the 1972–73 figure of 39,000. The numbers of recruits already coming forward to fill the current year's manpower requirement support the view that the defence review has not had the effect on Service recruiting which the Jeremiahs would have expected.
I have spoken at some length about the justification for the Government's plans for defence expenditure and have picked out certain points of policy which I believe are particularly worthy of mention. In conclusion, I should like to place the expenditure on defence in the context of other public expenditure programmes. In the financial year 1975–76, the last Public Expenditure White Paper shows that over four times as much is planned to be spent on the social services as on defence.
I believe that, contrary to the views expressed in the sedentary interruptions by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack), that is a proper recognition of the fact that the quality of our society is an important contribution to our defence. By freeing £4,700 million in over nine years, in this Defence White Paper, we shall help to improve the quality of that society.
The second and no less important point is the size and quality of the forces that we maintain. We believe that, under our proposals, these forces can maintain a strong and effective defence. I believe that to place undue weight on social programmes while disregarding military considerations or on military considerations without reference to social considerations could distort the overall balance that we are trying to achieve. It is in the belief that we have got the balance about right in this White Paper that I invite the House at the end of this debate to support the Government's view on the defence Estimates.
The Under-Secretary of State has understandably said a great deal about the importance of creating a good quality of life. We differ from his interpretation not on the objective but because we are frightened that our quality of life will be jeopardised if we fail in the defence of our country. He threw out questions about where we would make cuts instead, whether we would cut education or social security rather than defence. When the answer from this side was, "Yes" there was glee among Labour Members at the prospect of making good party propaganda.
The argument, which was heard before the last war and is heard now, that one can afford to cut defence in the same way as one cuts other things, is likely to prove totally disastrous. I was alarmed that the Secretary of State should yesterday have argued with some pride that the 3 per cent. cuts announced in the Budget—on top of those in the defence White Paper—were exactly the same as were suffered in the civil sector. Therefore, he said, there was no discrimination against defence. He was right—but we believe that there should be discrimination in favour of defence. That is fundamental and basic.
In the last few weeks, in two major debates, on the economic situation and now on the military situation, in both of which our country is in great danger, the Government have taken the line of accurate and truthful analysis backed up with a totally weak policy. In the economic crisis, they said that wage inflation was the desperate problem and then did nothing to solve it. They concluded that unless something was done—by others—we should be in the hands of our creditors. In the defence debate, they argue strongly that the build-up of Soviet military might is dangerous to us, and their conclusion is a reduction in defence expenditure. It is true that if we ignore the economic crisis we shall end up in the hands of our creditors. If we adopt the same policy of inaction in the military sphere, we shall end up in the hands of our enemies. That should be the basis of this debate.
Most hon. Members like the Under-Secretary and admire the diligence with which he carries out his ministerial duties, but the speech that he has just made was totally inadequate for a major defence debate. If defence is treated in that way, we must expect the public to show little interest. I desperately wish that the reality of the situation could be brought home by the Government or the Opposition or both.
The argument which seems to please the Left is that we are cutting defence by an average of £300 million a year over the next three years—a total of £1,000 million with the Budget cuts. If this year the pay of the Services is increased in line with general wage increases of 30 per cent., the cost over the same three years will be exactly double the amount of the defence cuts. That is the absurdity of the Government's position. They make cuts in important equipment and international commitments while at the same time their own economic policies will cost twice as much as those cuts will save.
I am listening with interest to the right hon. Gentleman's argument, but would it not have been strengthened—or has he changed his position?—had he not himself prejudiced defence expenditure by the enormous expenditure that he incurred on his so-called local government and water reform? This is one of the things on which he now turns his back.
That is a typical Liberal intervention. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to debate that, I am willing to do so, but that is a totally different subject. The Government have made it clear that the two major factors in increased local government expenditure are new commitments of Government policy and the enormous wage inflation which has taken place.
I wish that pages 26 and 27 of the White Paper could be made compulsory reading for everyone in the country. The Government describe there the way in which the Western world is coming more and more under the potential military dominance of the Soviet Union. They optimistically say that there is now nuclear parity between the groups. If there were parity when the White Paper was published, it is virtually certain that within a year or two there will be a nuclear disparity in favour of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union is putting much greater effort into improving its nuclear power and position world-wide than any nation or group of nations in the West. Indeed, I would judge that it has already obtained nuclear superiority. The Russians now have 120 nuclear submarines, with new ones being launched at a rate of more than one a month. That gives them a far greater ocean-wide and international capacity with every month that passes. In Central Europe they have more than twice as many tanks, divisions and aircraft.
The White Paper then says that the disparity on the northern flank is even greater in favour of the Soviet Union. We all know that every month for the last 12 months the position of the West on the southern flank of NATO has weakened. Events in Portugal, in Cyprus, in Greece and Turkey, together with the ever-increasing naval supremacy of the Russians in that part of the world, have substantially improved their position. It is astonishing, when the Government recognise all these facts, that they should say that we should go ahead not just with the cuts in the White Paper but with a further £100 million-worth of cuts.
All this is somewhat concealed from the public by the hopes of détente. Of course everyone hopes that détente will succeed. Everyone would want a Soviet Union which wanted peace and was friendly and well-disposed. The weakness of the democracies is that every time a democratic leader says that he is optimistic about détente, everybody shares his optimism because it is truly the hope of that democratically-elected leader. Every time that a totalitarian leader talks about détente, none of us can judge the purpose for which he is saying it.
The sinister fact is that the last five years, in which there has been most talk about détente, are the five years in which the Soviet Union has improved its military strength in every sphere more than it has done in any similar period in history. The Russians now have a superiority which is not justified for defence or for any other reason except for the potential of what they can now do with it.
The difference between President Nixon going to Moscow for talks with Mr. Brezhnev and Neville Chamberlain going to Munich for talks with Hitler is that at least when Neville Chamberlain came back to Britain we continued to rearm as fast as we could. In the period of Moscow talking about détente, the West—fortunately not yet the United States, although it is under pressure to do so, but certainly in this country—has taken the view that we can afford in this atmosphere to reduce our activities. That is incredible.
I was the one member of the last Conservative administration to negotiate at some length with the Soviet Union. I went to Moscow to negotiate the trade agreements. I took advantage of a few days there to meet as many Soviet leaders as I could, to talk objectively with them and to find out what they were thinking. Having seen the lack of individual freedom and freedom of the Press in Russia, the lack of representative government, the country run by a small self-perpetuating caucus, having heard of the political trials and the anti-semitic influences such as we used to associate with Fascism, I do not believe that that caucus can be trusted by the West or that the West can disarm in the way in which Britain is now giving a lead.
I consider that in both SALT I and SALT II the basic negotiating position of the Soviet Union has been that where there are disparities in their favour, they endeavour to keep and freeze those disparities, and if disparities run against them they endeavour to dispose of them and to obtain parity.
All of the negotiations of the Soviet Union on disarmament are on the basis of an end result of improving and increasing their strength.
I am reluctant to interrupt the flow of the right hon. Gentleman, but both he and the Front Bench have said that there is great danger in the changing situation in Portugal. Some of us who have had talks with the Portuguese Armed Forces, in particular Admiral Coutinho, have received absolutely categorical assurances from the Left and from Portugal that that country will not provide bases for the Soviet Union.
I only hope that the hon. Gentleman's conversations will prove to be correct. I think that he will agree that in Portugal there is a substantial Communist Party, which is very active, and that there is a situation of considerable disruption and disorder. Whatever else may be said about Portugal as part of the NATO Alliance, there must be considerable uncertainty about its contribution to NATO.
I conclude from this current situation that Britain's real position should be almost diametrically opposed to the position in which the Government have put us. There is a desperate need to obtain a new and better unity of the West and to get a better European approach to defence. There is a desperate need to see that France comes, in some way, into part of the NATO Alliance. This can be done only by Britain being in a position to say to her European allies that the Community as a Community should have a voice in NATO. We should be partners in NATO with the United States. There would then be two balanced, equal partners trying to work out a sensible policy for the defence of the West.
We should be strengthening our friends in the United States to enable them to continue their rôle of safeguarding the security of the West. We cannot do any of this when we pursue a policy of being the major nation in Europe but making a lower contribution to the defence of the Western world.
It is because I believe that this is the beginning of a disastrous trend that I welcome the robust manner in which my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) treated the debate and stated the categoric difference between the Opposition and the Government.
The real condemnation of the White Paper is shown by the words of the Soviet Union when that country said that the White Paper was a step in the right direction. It is—for the Soviet Union.
I beg to move to leave out from House ' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'declines to approve the statement on the Defence Estimates 1975 (Command Paper No. 5976) on the grounds that in the present critical economic circumstances it proposes an increase in arms expenditure in real terms over future years; that it commits Great Britain for the next 10 years to spend a higher proportion of the gross national product on defence than any of our major European allies; that it fails to propose significant reductions in major weapon projects; that it still leaves Great Britain to maintain unjustifiable commitments east of Suez; and that it fails to make adequate provision for a smooth transfer of the real resources and skilled manpower which would be released by more far-reaching cuts to alternative forms of employment, above all those which will directly assist economic growth and exports'.
The right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) will forgive me if I do not follow his arguments. My purpose today is to move the amendment to the Government's motion. As hon. Members will see, it stands on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) and some 40 other hon. Members. I should like to express the gratitude of my hon. Friends to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling this amendment and enabling a point of view which is widely held in the House at least to be expressed.
The amendment outlines a policy which has been argued from the benches below the Gangway on numerous occasions, most recently on 17th December, that the proposed cuts in defence expenditure are inadequate and fall short of the commitment made in the Labour Party's election manifesto to make savings of several hundreds of millions of pounds, and that the cuts made relate to the programme of escalating expenditure which was agreed by the previous Conservative Government and are not, as we have pointed out on numerous occasions, absolute cuts.
My hon. Friends and I have no brief for the Opposition attacks on the Government case. The Opposition advocate cuts in Government expenditure, but then scream when the Government make them in the sphere of defence. The hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) and some of his hon. Friends, for example, indicated their support for cuts in the social services in preference to defence. I hope that their views are made clear to the electorate at large.
The argument that has been advanced by the Secretary of State and by hon. Gentlemen opposite on innumerable occasions—it was advanced today by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw)—in favour of increasing defence expenditure is based, above all, on the contention that the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet conventional forces are stronger than the NATO forces ranged against them in Europe. I accept that that point of view is factually correct. Then my right hon. Friend and Conservative spokesmen ask "Why do the Russians want this conventional superiority?", hinting darkly at aggressive intentions which they have refused to define, despite being pressed on this on numerous occasions. The answer I shall give, which is not the only answer, is that I believe that the Russian view corresponds to the flexible response argument which is put forward often in the West. That argument is—the Russians argue—that there is a need in crisis to be able to rely on conventional superiority rather than to have recourse to nuclear weapons in which the West, I would maintain, still has overwhelming superiority.
The Secretary of State spoke of nuclear parity. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams), who is very well informed on these matters, referred to parity in various other respects. I accept that this is a complex matter which involves comparing a multiplicity of factors, for example, the number of inter-continental ballistic missiles, the number of submarine launched ballistic missiles, and the range, the accuracy and the effectiveness of these weapons.
However, the best information that I am able to glean indicates that at this stage there is still overwhelming United States superiority in the number of warheads deployed. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Handbook, 1974, quotes the official United States comparative estimate of the total warheads of missiles and planes as follows: United States, 7,940 and the USSR, 2,600. This is certainly not nuclear parity. I am aware that all sorts of research and development is taking place, but I do not think that any right hon. or hon. Gentlemen can contest the fact that at present there is overwhelming nuclear superiority on the side of the United States. Therefore, the Russians can argue the need for conventional superiority to offset their nuclear inferiority.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not wish to argue that case. I deplore the increased expenditure by the Russians on defence and on armaments just as much as I deplore it by the United States and by Britain. I also wish to attack these classical arguments which are used by both sides for the arms race, from which mankind as a whole must escape. The argument in Britain for increasing defence expenditure rests on the existence of alleged threats from Soviet aggression. I should like to quote from a noted military expert. Brigadier Frank Kitson, in his book "Low Intensity Operations" says,
Britain's conventional war capability is justified by reference to the threat of a Russian invasion of Western Europe which has not been imminent for at least a decade.
Hon. Gentlemen will not need to be reminded that Brigadier Kitson is not a member of the Tribune Group. He argues that the main threat is within, in effect, from potential urban guerillas.
While I wish to dissociate myself from the distasteful conclusions to which that gentleman comes, I want to point out the truth as I see it. The real weakness of Great Britain rests in its economic weakness. The cuts in living standards arising from heavy defence expenditure supported by the Tories and even by the present Government will do far more to undermine the possibility of peaceful social change than anything we on these benches are proposing.
Perhaps I may take the hon. Gentleman back a little in his argument. He has said that experts foresee no Russian threat to this country. Will he tell us what crisis the Russians foresee which makes it so important to them that they maintain their doctrine of flexible response?
It is not my purpose to argue the Russians case, or that of anyone else, for increasing military expenditure, because I am opposed to that. But there are obviously strong forces within the Soviet Union which are deeply influenced by experiences dating back to the Russian Revolution, in which on many occasions there have been foreign troops on Russian soil. I do not accept this argument, but that is the reason for it.
I return to my theme. I believe that the danger of economic weakness certainly cannot be offset by an abundance or super-abundance of military hardware. One of the lessons of Vietnam is that one cannot win superiority or a war by military equipment alone. The question of the morale and the motivation of the soldiers and the civilian population involved is vital. I make no apology for taking the view that the Vietnamese had the best case—as, for example, did the 13 States of the United States of America 200 years ago, when they were seeking to get rid of British influence and British military presence in their country.
I consider that today our defence budget is far too heavy and that our weakness at present arises to a not inconsiderable extent because we have sustained a burden of defence expenditure over many years heavier than that of our major European allies and other Powers. The result has been to starve our industries of the vital funds they require for investment, of which we are so short at present. It is in this particular context that the cuts that my right hon. Friend is proposing are totally inadequate.
If I follow the hon. Gentleman's argument aright, he is saying that the morale element is even more important than the material element, and that it is not so much equipment that matters as the spirit and outlook of the people. What are he and his hon. Friends in the Tribune Group doing to mobilise the case against the danger of Soviet subversion and aggression and really to get this country on its feet to face the problem?
I would take the right hon. Gentleman's view seriously, but I cannot do that now as to do so would incur the displeasure of Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, we believe that by moving into a Socialist society in Britain we shall get the support of the people for a proper defence of the industries and the means of production and distribution, which they themselves will then own—which is not the case at present.
I would certainly wish for further cuts in defence expenditure in Europe, by Britain and if necessary unilateral cuts, as cuts by international agreement, as everyone knows, are being held up. We know of the difficulties that have been encountered in the CSCE, and the difficulties over MBFR. We know about the difficulties over SALT I and II and the fact that expenditure on defence has continued to rise as a result of these. Therefore, I argue for unilateral cuts.
However, whatever one says about the situation in Europe, there can be no excuse whatsoever for our continued commitment east of Suez, such as it is, and in particular in the Gulf area. Hon. Members must ask themselves a serious question. We claim to stand for democracy and for the advance of peoples in the underdeveloped areas of the world. How, then, can we possible justify the secondment of British troops to the forces of the Sultan of Oman to suppress a national liberation movement? This is surely appalling. It shows that in certain quarters our establishment does not care a fig for democracy. It is important that that is changed.
Some of my hon. Friends have voiced fears about the effects on employment of further cuts. In doing this they have demonstrated that one of the contributory causes of the arms race has nothing to do with the defence argument at all. It is an argument which is put forward on behalf of those who are involved in the defence industries. We know that over the course of years the pressure of those involved in the defence industries has been extremely damaging. Philip Noel-Baker, who was a distinguished Member of this House, has pointed that out. President Eisenhower referred to it when he spoke of the "military-industrial complex".
I do not in any way blame workers who fight for their jobs. They have a right to do so. But I do not accept the argument that in order to provide workers with jobs we should keep defence industries going or keep up the defence complement when that is not justified on completely different grounds. I believe that it is, accordingly, the Government's duty to provide alternative employment opportunities. This is entirely possible at present, when there is a crying need to re-equip British industry to provide the investment capital and the goods that we so desperately need in order to put our country on a sounder economic basis than it is at present.
The amendment draws the attention of the House to the failure of the White Paper to make adequate provisions for this. Those of us who have signed it are not necessarily pacifists and are certainly not arguing any pro-Soviet case. I believe in a strong conventional army, but not one that is based overseas because that is out of dale. Hon Members who still think of Britain having troops overseas and who talk in terms of the 1930s are living in the past and have proved themselves quite incapable of coming up to the present and understanding the way in which the youth of the world, including the youth of America and Britain, is thinking today. As time passes their ideas will become more and more antiquated and obsolete.
Therefore, I would say this. Britain cannot afford her present arms expenditure, as has been proved and demonstrated by the fact that since the Secretary of State for Defence made his original announcement, a further cut of £110 million has been made, and more cuts will come. Secondly, mankind must disarm instead of wasting the precious resources of our world, the fossil fuels and all the rest, on this ridiculous and mad process. The main threat to peace arises from poverty and the deprivation of two-thirds of mankind, and no amount of military hardware will convince them otherwise. That is the lesson of Vietnam and it is the lesson that in due course the Americans, if they make the same mistake in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, will be taught again.
My hon. Friends and I feel very strongly on this issue and we shall certainly go into the Lobby tonight in support of the amendment to make our feelings clear not only to the House but to the world at large. We believe that there must be more cuts in defence in order that we can channel public expenditure into those vital areas which are essential to provide for a decent community in this day and age.
The hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) said that the Russian attitude towards military force and armaments was conditioned by the fact that the Russians had had foreign troops on their soil. I presume that the hon. Member was referring to the period between 1919 and 1920—
The House would be more impressed by the hon. Member's argument but for the fact that there are today so many Soviet troops on land which is foreign to them. I refer particularly to Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and so on. I have a great deal of sympathy with many of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member, but he is being excessively naive about this subject.
The reason the Soviet Union has a large number of troops is not that it intends to invade Western Europe, but that it intends to use them for political purposes. The Czechs had become more prosperous but when they engaged in their particular form of fighting for freedom, the Soviet Union interfered brutally. It was able to do so because it knew perfectly well that NATO dare not interfere because Soviet conventional forces were too great. In the same way the Soviet Union would interfere with West Germany or some other country under the NATO umbrella if it thought it would get away with it. That, I believe, is the explanation for Russia's large conventional force. It is or hopes to be able to exert a political influence on events in Western Europe.
We should be foolish in the extreme, whatever our views and whatever distaste we may feel about defence expenditure, if we ignored the fact that Soviet rulers are believers in and products of revolution. They believe in revolutionary action, not democratic action, and this fact governs their attitude towards movements in other parts of the world.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the sentiments being expressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman. However, was not the reason for the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia tied up with the failure of our nuclear bluff which had already been called in 1956 over Hungary? On that occasion the Russians behaved even more brutally, but we were playing gunboats at Suez.
I shall not give any defence of Suez. The hon. Member is asking the wrong man. However, I cannot help reflecting that the present Lord Chancellor wrote in 1939 a book published by the Left Book Club and entitled "The Attack from Within" in which he forecast that this country would be attacked from within by the then Fascists and Mosleyites, as he thought. Alas, before the Left Book Club could issue the book we were attacked by the enemy without, which only shows how the most discerning minds can sometimes misunderstand a situation.
Reference has been made to Portugal being one of the weaknesses in the Western defence link. The weakness of Portugal does not come from the enemy without so much as the enemy within. It is that which undermines her as an ally. Those of us who are concerned with preserving freedom and a particular way of life in the West, who want it to be able to evolve in the way which many Labour Members favour, peacefully and without being forced, and by its own choice, must have regard both to the enemy within, and to the enemy without who can influence the procedures and methods of what might otherwise be the political enemy within.
Yes, but I do not see this as a purely black and white matter. I think there have been in the Western world many enemies of democracy who are not Communists. They are on the other side of the spectrum. We have to be careful of both sides.
My recollection of defence debates—and I have not taken part in one for some time, although I used to be my party's defence spokesman—is that there are two very definite pressure groups within the House. One group wants total and frantic cuts in defence expenditure but resiles somewhat at times such as that which followed the Czechoslovakia crisis, but then, when a more peaceful period comes along, becomes more vocal. On the other hand there are those who want to increase defence expenditure and who are against any cuts. I remember Conservative Members vehemently opposing any cut in our east of Suez presence and who were all for maintaining what they regarded as every vital British interest in any part of the world.
The true path any Government must follow is getting correct balance in defence policy. The question today is whether the Government have achieved the right balance.
I am glad that the amendment has been selected. It is right that this matter should be debated. It is right that the country should be able to consider the arguments for and against drastic defence cuts. It is so very easy to become lulled into a state of defencelessness in the West, particularly in a relatively peaceful period when we are going through a time of many economic troubles. It is so easy to drop one's guard and one has only to do it at a vital moment for it to be fatal
No one should suggest that defence policy in this country can be conducted regardless of the social and economic needs of the country. Anybody who says anything to the contrary is talking through the back of his head. Whatever the Conservatives may say in Opposition, when in power they have very often reduced defence expenditure. The truth is that the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), for example, as Minister responsible for local government, vastly increased public expenditure in his Department. It has nearly doubled in the last three or four years since his so-called reforms. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) was doing the same thing with the National Health Serivce. Such moves prejudiced defence expenditure. Anyone who suggests that a Conservative Government consider defence sacrosanct is talking nonsense and flying in the face of historical experience.
I could not possiby vote for the Tribune Group amendment, although it is right that it should be discussed. I do not think it is sensible, for example, to consider the British contribution to defence in relation to our gross national product. For example, per capita we spend less on defence than do Western Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the United States and certainly the Soviet Union. We must not take the percentage of gross national product as sacrosanct. The real question is: what are our vital interests? The defence of the West is vital, and NATO is essential to that defence. The involvement of the United States in the defence of Europe, whatever may be the vicissitudes of United States foreign policy at present, is essential to the continuation of democracy in the West.
It is also important that the defence of Europe is based not only against the enemy without but also against the enemy within. The fact that our defence contribution is distorted because we have so many troops in Northern Ireland emphasises that the most vulnerable part of the United Kingdom is Northern Ireland because of the enemy within. Our vital interests are to get a much more coherent defence policy in Western Europe, not as a separate entity, but as part of NATO.
The United Kingdom would do well to insist on its allies making a greater con- ventional contribution to the defence of Central Europe. The United Kingdom, with its naval tradition, should be much more concerned about the northern flank of NATO to the defence of which we could make a much greater contribution. Tied up with this is the essential defence of our North Sea oil resources. The greatest contribution which we could make to the defence of the Western world lies in the Royal Navy. A coherent policy—
I appreciate that the hon. and learned Gentleman is a recent convert to the Common Market, but how does he reconcile France's attitude to the NATO Alliance? In Holland the Dutch Labour Party, which is the principal cornerstone of the Dutch coalition Government, within the last fortnight passed a resolution to the effect that Holland should come out of NATO. How does the hon. and learned Gentleman reconcile that factor? When he talks about a balance, is he not talking about the allocation of resources and what we can afford? Is not the real crisis in Britain an economic one, not a military one? The threat—
I should not have minded if the hon. Gentleman had advanced a good case. Under succesive Governments—and the present Government are no different from their predecessors—this country has indulged in policies requiring massive, wasteful expenditure. I am no expert on Dutch affairs but most people in Western Europe have relaxed their guard because they have not been under immediate threat. This is a dangerous time, and it is right to keep a correct balance.
The Under-Secretary of State dealt summarily with the lessons to be learnt from the Middle East wars. It stands out a mile that the land-to-air missiles were extremely effective in the Middle East, and that the anti-tank guns and the mobile anti-tank weapons used by the infantry were extremely effective against tanks. That experience may change the whole Western defence posture.
It is important to remember that NATO is a defensive alliance. We are concerned not with attacking anyone but with providing ourselves with an efficient and effective defence. We need a much more coherent policy throughout Western Europe, and that applies whether we are in or out of the Common Market.
My judgment is that the Conservative Opposition are wrong in opposing the Government in this issue. I, and my party, would spend the money somewhat differently from the way the Government are spending it, but the Government have about the right balance. If a Conservative Government were in power now they would introduce much the same kind of budget. The budget is on the right lines at present, and that is why I shall support the Government and vote against the amendment.
First, may I say a word or two about the attitude of the Opposition in this debate? All decisions by all Governments about how much to spend on defence must be a balance of military and economic considerations. The Opposition's argument is that we must take the military requirement as an absolute, tot up what is necessary and then embark on a programme. If we do that we may find ourselves committed to a programme that our industries cannot bear and the programme will founder of its own impracticability. Nor can we start at the other end and say that our national wealth is so much and decide, whatever may be the foreign situation and the defence needs, that we shall spend a certain proportion of that amount on defence. That will not work either. There has to be—and that is why it is difficult—a linking of the two coordinates.
I hope that the Government have the balance right, but I know from long experience that whenever a Labour Government strike the balance, the Conservative Opposition say that they should have spent more, and they usually suggest that that "more" should be financed by cuts in the social services, that is to say, at the expense of our fellow citizens who are less well off. When I hear from the Conservative benches a plea for more expenditure on defence coupled with a recognition that it will have to be financed by higher income tax on above-average in- comes, I shall take their remarks seriously.
Although my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) moved his amendment only today, some of my hon. Friends who put their names to it made speeches yesterday to which I listened with great attention and which I have since read. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) objected to our having sophisticated weapons and did not like the development of facilities at Diego Garcia. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) objected to our having nuclear submarines. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) objected to our having tanks and manned aircraft and deplored our membership of NATO. Today, my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow objected to our having troops in Europe.
A plausible case could be made out for each one of those propositions by itself because, so complicated is the subject of defence, one can always put forward some sort of case for preferring this weapon to that or one strategy to the other. But if we want the country defended at all, what we cannot possibly do is embrace all that is implied by the supporters of the amendment. That would mean a policy of no nuclear weapons, no sophisticated weapons, no simple weapons, no bases and no allies. If that is what one wants, the logical thing is to say plainly that one does not believe in providing defence for the country. That is what some—not all—of the signatories to the amendment say. They urge that the arguments put forward that this country needs defence are a phobia.
Let us look at what the defence is supposed to be for.
I am quite sure that that is not their point of view. It seems that this is a case where a man believes something and we must give him credit even if his belief is not reasonable. If my hon. Friends do not mean that Britain should have no defence they should listen to what they are each saying. Let them add up all the arguments that are advanced to the amendment. If those arguments do not mean that this country should have no defence it seems that they are a non-sense.
Let us return to the question of what is supposed to be the object of having defence. Is the idea that we should have defence due to a phobia about the Warsaw Pact? My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak drew attention to the many conflicts that have occurred in various parts of the world since the war. He remarked, correctly, that nearly all of them occurred on the territory of poor and developing countries. Another interesting fact is that in a considerable number of conflicts one of the belligerents has been Communist. All of them except two have been fought on the territory of non-Communist countries. The two exceptions are Hungary and Czechoslovakia, where the invader was another Communist country. That reminds me of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's comment on the situation in South-East Asia—namely, that if Communist countries in Asia will leave their neighbours alone, we can have peace. That is not the remark of a man with a phobia but a common sense deduction from looking at what has happened in the world.
Let us consider what has happened in Europe. Let us consider the Western neighbours of the Soviet Union, those countries that have a common frontier with the Soviet Union. All of them except two are in a position where they either have to show extreme deference to the wishes of the Soviet Union or remain in absolute subjection to the Soviet Union. That is the position of all the Soviet Union's Western neighbours except Norway and Turkey, which are members of NATO.
It is not a phobia or a fetish worship to believe, in the light of the circumstances that I have described, that membership of NATO is of considerable importance in preserving the freedom of this country. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall, in the course of an altercation with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack), said that Mr. Dubcek, in what he wants to do, is much nearer to the Tribune Group than the Conservative Party. I am sure that is so.
I would also say with some confidence that what Mr. Dubcek wants to do is probably what most people in Czechoslovakia want to do. The trouble is that he is not in a position to do it. In fact, he is not allowed to do it. That is not due to any wicked machinations on the part of the West, it is due to what the Soviet Union considers is its strategic safety. A country that behaves like that is, shall we say, an uneasy neighbour.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall went on to say that some of his hon. Friends have written a letter to The Times deploring the recent treatment of Mr. Dubcek. That is a very right and proper thing to do, but a letter to The Times is not a weapon, sophisticated or otherwise, with which we can protect the freedom of statesmen and the liberties of nations.
I think that my hon. Friend has missed the whole point of the argument. Czechoslovakia is not a member of NATO. I am contrasting what happened to countries in Europe that were not members of NATO with the preservation of the liberty of those that are members. It is not necessary to look back so many years. I hope that we do not live, as we are told the rulers of Russia live, in the atmosphere and emotions of 60 years ago. We do not have to look back over so many years to remember that West Berlin would have gone the way of Czechoslovakia and Hungary if there had not been the strength of the West to prevent that happening.
If anyone asks, therefore, what is the object of defence, it is to preserve ourselves and our NATO allies from the unhappy position in which so many countries in Eastern Europe find themselves and to hold on to our freedom until détente can be secured and genuine agreed and mutual balanced disarmament obtained.
I have made some criticisms of the policies and actions of the Soviet Government but I do not believe that that is inconsistent with wanting genuine détente. Because we are trying to achieve détente, I do not expect the Soviet Government to refrain from criticism of British Governments and British political parties. Indeed, they show no sign of doing so. The essence of détente is that despite profound differences of ideology we are seeking for a way in which we can live at peace side by side with each other. We shall not be able to do that by ignoring some of the starkest lessons that the history of recent years has spelt out for us. To assert that there is no potential danger against which we must be defended is to go against all the evidence.
It is also against the evidence to say that there is no possibility of détente and of mutual and balanced force reductions. Any sensible and humane person must want the Government to seek those goals as zealously as possible. However, the one way in which we shall not achieve those aims is by providing the Warsaw Pact with massive reductions on this side before it has even begun to think of reductions on its side. That is why we say in our manifesto that we want NATO, the alliance of which we are loyal members, to be used both for defence and détente, and that if it is not effective in defence terms it will not be any use for détente.
I hope that the Government will continue to ensure that our defences and those of our allies are adequate both for the immediate purpose of defence and to make détente and agreed disarmament more likely.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), who opened the debate today for the Opposition, I thought it was generally agreed in the House that there were three main functions of any Government of whatever political persuasion. First, I thought it was agreed that a Government should conduct their foreign affairs in such a way as to have the ability to defend the country from outside aggression or threats of aggression. Secondly, I thought it was agreed that it was a Government's function to look after the material well-being of all the people they represent. Thirdly, I thought it was a Government's function to maintain law and order. A good many of my right. hon. and hon. Friends and many people outside the House believe that the Government have not been very successful in any of the three major targets at which a Government should aim.
Yesterday's debate and many of the speeches that have been made today have underlined the mistake that many of us feel has been made by the cuts that have taken place in our defence expenditure. The cuts have come at a time when the Warsaw Pact countries are increasing their expenditure on tanks and sophisticated weapons of all sorts, including submarines and aircraft. Moreover, they are increasing the size of their standing armies.
This comes at a time when the position of Western and free world countries has been greatly weakened and threatened. Let us consider the situation in Portugal and the tragic happenings in Vietnam, with the possible emergence of a new Indo-Chinese Communist bloc which will embrace not just Vietnam but Laos, Cambodia, perhaps Korea, and perhaps even Thailand. The Communists will have a standing army which will be the second largest in the world.
Mention has been made of Portugal by many hon. Members. Although one must commend the Portugese people for their sense in choosing for their consultative assembly a moderate, centre-Socialist party, nevertheless, the real power is not in that assembly but in the army, which is Communist dominated. The army has the power and it will have it for the next three to five years. The only reason for Dr. Soares being allowed to stand with his Socialist Party was that he was forced to sign a piece of paper which stated that whatever the results of the election, it would be the Communist military group that would have the power for the next three to five years.
There are problems all the way round the world. There is the problem between Greece and Turkey, both NATO countries and both, unfortunately, at loggerheads. We see the dangers in the Middle East. Therefore, this is not time for anybody who cares about the free world to have an easy conscience when he sees the massive cuts in defence which have been announced by the Government. A figure of £1,000 million is a pretty massive reduction, and a further reduction of £100 million has recently been announced.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) on the criterion of how much we should spend on defence. I do think the matter should be decided not as a percentage of gross national product but by comparing defence expenditure with what a potential aggressor or enemy is spending. The only criterion is whether that expenditure matches. It is no good saying "We are spending more in terms of percentage of GNP than are other NATO countries and should reduce our figure". That is no argument. Anybody who adopts it is living in cloud cuckoo-land when seeking to look at budget figures for the defence of the United Kingdom.
I wish to deal not with whether the budget is the right size or with whether the Secretary of State for Defence has made his cuts in the right direction. I wish to deal with a narrower problem—namely, with the question of what a collective European defence system will involve. My argument is based on the assumption that we shall win the referendum and still be part of Europe and not cast into economic and political isolation, which is what some Labour Members want.
As the EEC begins to grow in power and strength, there will be enormous pressure exerted by the United States of America for the European countries to play a much larger part in their own defence of Europe. That pressure will come from Congress—indeed, it has been expressed in the past and it will mount. There will be more insistence that American troops should be brought back and that we in Europe should be capable of taking charge of the conventional defence of Europe, leaving the United States to hold the nuclear umbrella for us. These pressures will grow, but if Europe is to undertake the entire conventional defence task, greater emphasis and thought should be given to the organisation that could bring about a Western European defence organisation.
I am sure that no Labour Member, not even the Secretary of State for Defence, could be satisfied with the progress made in the last 10 years in the rationalisation or standardisation of arms procurement. That progress has been lamentable. If there were a proper system of standardisation of weapons among all the European countries—with some countries producing tanks, others aircraft and so on—there would be great savings in money and greater efficiency. I hope that the Minister will give us the Government's view on the necessity for greater rationalisation and standardisation in the supply of arms.
I am not sufficiently expert in this subject to give a judgment on that matter. That would have to come about through discussions among all the allies in the North Atlantic Alliance. It would not be necessary for one country to provide all the aircraft. Various countries might produce the parts and there could be a consortium to provide standard aircraft. I am saying that there is an enormous opening for the standardisation of weapons which could lead to greater efficiency and savings.
A recent admirable article written by Lord Gladwyn deals with the sort of organisation which we should be seeking in Western Europe to bring about a common defence policy. Both the General Affairs Committee of the Assembly of Western European Union and the Political Committee of the European Parliament recently drafted resolutions on defence in Western Europe within the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance. The WEU discussed this matter at its last plenary session, but a proposal on this topic was turned down on a vote. The proposal will be resubmitted and debated at the next plenary session.
I am not a member of the European Parliament and I do not know how far the EEC proposal has progressed. At present the Brussels Treaty, under which WEU is set up, is the only juridical basis for a truly European defence policy, but the modified Brussels Treaty is binding on only seven out of nine nations. Denmark and Ireland are excluded, and it appears unlikely that they would want to sign such an agreement. Despite this, the European Parliament shows signs of believing that one of the next stages in its progress is to bring about a unified European foreign policy. To this end the European Parliament is being greatly urged on this matter by the Americans, who want to see Europe speaking with one voice on various problems affecting North America and ourselves.
The European Parliament has recently suggested that the European Community must also be the body responsible for a common defence policy. I should like to comment on that suggestion, and I hope that the Minister will give his views tonight. We appreciate that two Common Market countries are not members of the modified Brussels Treaty or of the WEU, and we must also consider the problem of Turkey and Greece, both of which are members of NATO. When the Heads of State and Foreign Secretaries discuss European security, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will support the maintenance of the WEU so that it can take effective action. The European Parliament already has a rudimentary system of political co-operation under the D'Avignon procedure for discussing foreign affairs, but I hope that it will not try to run before it can walk. It will take a long time to achieve anything like a unified foreign policy. I hope that the European Parliament will not be greedy and try to horn in on fields already covered by, for example, WEU. The modified Brussels Treaty can be signed by other outside members. Greece and Turkey could become members of WEU, but could not become members of a defence organisation under the European Parliament. We should bear that in mind. Although WEU represents only seven countries, the same would be true of the European Parliament if it decided to go ahead with my proposal.
If there is to be a rational European organisation for joint defence it would be sensible to resuscitate the standing armaments procurement committee with in WEU. There is a great advantage in that France is a member of WEU even though she is not a member of NATO. Therefore her co-operation would be ensured. Furthermore, other countries could always subscribe to the Brussels Treaty. The establishment in WEU of the standing armaments pro- curement committee should be done in such a way that it did not weaken our NATO position or the position of the EEC countries.
The Government must recognise that instead of forming yet another defence organisation in Europe, the EEC should be asked to use WEU as its defence arm, especially in the production of convential weapons, leaving it to the United States to provide us with the nuclear shield and possibly a greater part of the air and sea defences.
If WEU is to be revivified and strengthened, this question arises: why has the Council of Ministers been so long in filling the vacant post of the Secretary General, which has now been vacant for well over a year? Why is the Council of Ministers meeting much less frequently? When it does meet, why are the Ministers represented by their professional substitutes? Why are the Ministers not there in person? I should like the Minister to say what is the Government's attitude towards WEU and what steps his Department is taking to rationalise and standardise production, using the relevant WEU committee?
We agree that we should make progress in developing a European system within the framework of the North Atlantic Alliance. Perhaps a decision has been reached on that matter. I do not know. Perhaps the Government have already decided what is to be the future of WEU. In WEU there is a knowledgeable team of experts linked to a general assembly of parliamentarians which could be used as an arm of the EEC, without the European Parliament trying to spawn yet another organisation in Europe. We have too many of such organisations already. Those organisations should be rationalised, just as armaments should be rationalised.
Although I am a Vice-President of WEU and a United Kingdom delegate, I am not speaking on behalf of WEU. I am speaking personally. I have not consulted WEU on this matter. However, I should like to hear about the policy of the Ministry of Defence with regard to the future of WEU.
The hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers) will forgive me if I do not comment on his speech. Defence is inevitably a wide-ranging subject and I should like to address my attention to a part of the world different from that which he mentioned and to which much of the debate has so far been directed.
A number of sharply contrasting views are held with regard to the events in Vietnam. Some hon. Members thought that it would be inevitable and right that, although we may not like the manner or the way in which those events occurred, the Opposition should have deplored them throughout. It has, however, produced a situation in the Far East which is different from anything that has happened since the end of the Second World War. For the first time since 1945 there is no military conflict of international significance in progress in any part of the Far East. In certain instances there may be local brush fire situations. There are certainly points of danger and low flash points. However, there is no war of any significance now.
That leads me to urge upon the House that the time has come for a total reappraisal of our attitude towards the Chinese. The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) and other members of the Opposition have challenged those who signed the amendment to state their defence policy and the attitude that they take. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) had the grace to admit that he did not regard all of us as fellow travellers. He conceded that many of us need not be pacifists. I claim to be in neither of those categories. I hope that by the end of my speech I shall have made a contribution making that clear. Whether that view is shared by my hon. Friends I do not know.
Whatever may be said about the domino theory and the possibility that other countries may go the same way as Vietnam, it is of paramount importance that we do everything in our power to come to terms with the Chinese and that we do so in a way that makes it clear to the world, and to the Chinese and Russians especially, that, of the two major Communist Powers, we favour the Chinese. I make that argument on the old-fashioned balance of power concept.
Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) spoke of the undoubted strength of the Russian military forces in the west. He commented that those forces were very strong and that the Russians would be in a position to move many military divisions from the east to the west if they wanted to do so—but not if we play our cards properly. If we show to the Chinese that we are their friends we shall be able to exploit the situation which exists between those two countries.
We should not forget that the longest land frontier in the world is that which runs from the Pamirs to Vladivostok. That boundary between Russia and China is ill defined. It is the subject of dispute. Certain parts of it have been the subject of military collisions, not the least of these was the incident at the Ussuri River some time ago. Moreover, the Russians, in true imperialist style, have claimed that where there are river frontiers dividing the two countries they are delimited on the Chinese side of the river and not along the centre of the river, which is the normal accepted practice in international law.
I accept the argument advanced by hon. Members on both sides that the Russian military forces are a source of great concern. One of the principal reasons why I signed the amendment is that I do not believe that it is physically possible for this country to make a military contribution of any significance in relation to the balance of power in the west. I believe that that is realised on both sides of the House. I believe that our bluff was called in 1956. It was again called in 1968.
Here I take issue with my right hon. Friend. I think that our views on the Communism of Eastern Europe do not vary greatly. However, we may differ in the spectrum of party opinion on certain matters I do not think that we can say that the people of Western Europe are entitled to freedom just because they belong to NATO, and that the peoples of Eastern Europe are not entitled to it because they are not members of NATO. That seems to me to be an example of double standards.
I cannot accept that argument. I cannot think that NATO has made a significant difference to the situation for many years.
I now refer to the situation in the Far East. I pray in aid the situation which existed 20 years ago. The last time that this country was engaged in a major military conflict was in Korea. We went in there as signatories of the United Nations, and on military grounds we were justified in doing so. I have always defended our part in that, and I believe that it was right in strict moral terms and in terms of our international obligations to do so. It can be said that that was about the last major instance where we were able to wage a successful military campaign.
The one qualification which I have with regard to that situation is that it may be thought that an unfortunate side wind of the Korean intervention, right though it may have been, was to postpone for some years the inevitable division between the Russians and the Chinese. Whatever may be said, and stripped of its ideological verbiage, the fact is that the Russians and the Chinese, in the words of Damon Runyon, like each other not well. So long as the international situation was tense, and so long as it could be represented, however distorted, that we were engaged in a war against a Communist Power, as we were in Korea, the fissures between them would not be opened up.
In my view, the more that we do to make our peace with the Chinese, and the more that we can make it clear to them that we regard them as the more favoured of the two, the more we shall do to assist in the security of Western Europe, more than any spending that we may propose on any of the weapons referred to in the White Paper.
Looking at the White Paper, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) that there is a Kiplingesque character about paragraph 4. We still decide to spread ourselves thin across the world. The position of the military garrison in Hong Kong is ludicrous, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) that the intervention in Oman is morally indefensible. However, there are certain places where it is reasonable for us to continue a military presence and, in the present economic situation, the least that the Government should do is to insist that the countries in which those garrisons are stationed pay an economic price for their presence. It is not unreasonable. They are nearly all independent. The last remaining colonial territories are on the verge of independence, Hong Kong being sui generis. I have referred to it already and said that the military presence there was unnecessary.
That may be so, in which case it must pay for it. We cannot go soldiering on in different places in the world. We can no longer hope to do so, even if our economic situation becomes very much better than it is now.
The hon. Gentleman has been speaking about Belize. It is not that its people need us there to protect them, but that Guatemala could not juridically accept the independence of Belize. Therefore, it would be no good its asking for our forces to stay there after independence.
Whether or not it is the official policy of the Tribune Group I should have thought that my hon. Friend and I alike were concerned with the economic consequences of the burden that we bear. The case put forward by the Secretary of State, which, in my view, does not go far enough, is that because of economic exigencies we have had to cut down our military commitments in various parts of the world, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) will share that view.
There is one aspect of the Defence White Paper which is extraordinary for its omissions. I look in vain through its 118 pages and its index for references to international terrorism. This is a situation in which we have a contribution to make. There is something extraordinary about defence discussions in this House that we spend so much of our time discussing the wars that we might fight and in which we know that we should be annihilated but so little of our time discussing the wars in which all nations are concerned against hijacking, hostage taking and terrorism. I agreed with the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) yesterday when he passed strictures on the cutting down of helicopters and the absence of any coherent defence of North Sea rigs. That is a fair point to make against the White Paper, and I join Opposition Members in taking that view.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harlow referred to Brigadier Kitson, who is one of the few people to have devoted any hard thought to these problems. Whatever view we may take about the right of countries to erupt into revolution—and there are many cases where democratic change is denied to people—the indiscriminate and wanton slaughter of the innocent in the course of terrorist activities to be found in so many parts of the world compels far more attention than it is getting. That is one of the many matters about which I hope to hear more from my hon. Friend the Minister of State later tonight.
The gravamen of my objection to the White Paper is that it is economically expensive beyond anything that we can afford. As long as we maintain a nuclear weapon, we are a sitting duck target—the unsinkable but expendable fixed aircraft carrier—for anyone to attack.
I do not expect that I shall get much change out of the Government on many of the matters that I have raised, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will make some reference to terrorism when he winds up the debate.
Whether surprisingly or not in view of the position that he occupies in the political spectrum, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) did a salutary service in a defence debate in reminding us that the balance of power, sometimes in Europe and sometimes in the world at large, often has done more for our defence and even for our existence than our own direct military efforts. It was worth while that that should be put on the record in this debate; but I want to hark back to the first speech in it from the Opposition Benches, which was made by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). Anyone who listened to the speech by the hon. Member, even if before he previously entertained any notion that percentage of gross national product was a valid measure of military effort or a logical means of fixing the appropriate defence potential and preparations of a country, could not have entertained that opinion when the hon. Gentleman sat down. He absolutely pulverised the notion that there was any meaning in the comparison of percentage of gross national product spent by various nations on defence; nor did he leave any more vestiges of the idea that even if there were some validity in the comparison, there was a kind of rule of thumb which would enable us to read off the appropriate percentage, either this year or five years ahead, and settle upon that as the right quantum of this country's defence effort.
The hon. Member complained, correctly, that this was an entirely arbitrary yardstick for defence expenditure. Instead of that, he said, we ought to deduce our defence expenditure from this country's defence commitments; and that is a proposition which has been repeated over and over again from this side of the House. So I listened with almost breathless eagerness to hear the hon. Gentleman deduce from this country's defence commitments what the size of its armaments and the magnitude of its defence budget ought to be. There came no answer to that question. Nor has any effort been made in the whole of this debate by those who have said that our commitments should determine our defence effort, to show even in principle how the sum could be worked out.
The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), who had strongly stressed this general principle, collapsed and said in an answer to an intervention from the opposite side of the House that all he was arguing for was half the present proposed cuts. We have been reminded from the Opposition side off the House, as, indeed, the Defence White Paper reminds us, of the great superiority of the land forces of the Warsaw Pact in Europe and of the terrifying superiority of the Soviet naval forces in those waters which, above all, are vital to the safety of the United Kingdom. I have waited in vain until this moment for someone either from the Front Bench or the back benches to call, for instance, for a one-navy standard, or to draw any deduction from the fact that the safety of the North Atlantic is our prime commitment and that the Soviet forces are in great superiority there. Yet, if there is any deduction to be drawn, it must be that there should be a vast increase in our defence expenditure.
The right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) made a very eloquent speech. He contrasted the threat as stated in the Defence White Paper with the proposals of the Government. But what was his own proposal? I listened most carefully, thinking perhaps that he would end by saying that we must build one-for-one with the Soviet in nuclear submarines. His only proposal was that we should do everything we could to ensure that the United States remained in Europe, and try to get our NATO allies to spend a bit more.
Though I might seem to be critical, I am not really blaming right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House for having failed to implement their proposition that defence expenditure ought to be deducted from commitments—for the simple reason that it is not possible to do it.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I do not know whether he heard what I said yesterday, or has had time to read it. I sought to argue a proposition with which I would not expect to carry him with me, that if we were able to maintain the commitments that we have today, as our economy improved and as Europe grew more united there would come into being a force which would be able—though I do not agree with a one-to-one standard—to make a greater contribution to Western defence than it is possible to conceive at the present time.
That is all very well. The right hon. Gentleman is opposing the arbitrary reduction of total defence expenditure from the arbitrary figure at which it was left by the cuts of the previous Conservative administration to the arbitrary figure now in the Defence Estimates. But it is impossible to pretend that in doing so he is shaping our expenditure and our effort to our commitments or is deducing one from the other.
I repeat, I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman, because it is simply impossible to do it. There are no known circumstances in which a quantum of military effort can be deduced from the strength of the opponent forces or from the potential military situations in which our preparations are designed to protect us. This is something which constantly eludes all military appreciations, and for this simple reason: whether we like it or not, the total sum which any country spends on defence is arbitrary, it is an arbitrary accommodation with all the other things on which that nation has to spend money.
When, earlier in this debate, the challenge was thrown out: where do right hon. and hon. Members in the Conservative Party put the priority, do they put it with defence or do they put it with the social services?—there was an answering roar of "Defence!" But they do not—of course not. They, too, in practice and in theory, strike a balance, though it might be slightly different from that which would be struck opposite, as between this and all the other commitments of a nation. So, from the point of view of defence, the total sum made available is always arbitrary, and it will still be arbitrary whether at any particular time it is higher or lower.
Because it is arbitrary from the point of view of defence, however—as, indeed, the sum spent on the health service is arbitrary from the point of view of the health needs of a nation, and so on—it does not follow that our defence preparations within that total, whatever it is, ought to be irrational. It is perfectly possible, and indeed it is, so far as may be, our duty to ensure, that within whatever sum we are spending, whatever the arbitrary figure—and it will not vary very much from one administration to another—that sum is applied as rationally as may be; and that the content and organisation of the forces is appropriate to the military situation and the defend requirements of this country.
To do that it is necessary to have a theoretical, I will dare to say philosophical, framework of British defence preparations which we have never really had since the war. The deep, far-reaching review which the Government have conducted of defence expenditure was not concerned with establishing that structure. It was concerned with studying one area or another and deciding where there would be less loss, less friction, if there were a diminution of expenditure here or there. If the Opposition were opposing to the arbitrary decisions of the Government a rational structure of thought and of policy for this country, then I would advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to join them in denouncing this Defence White Paper. But I can hardly myself denounce, or advise others to denounce, a White Paper to which, in this debate, nothing has been opposed which derives from any analytical or rational view of British defence.
The reason why this theoretical structure, within which alone defence preparations can be rationally built up, has been lacking since the war is that we have never yet found firm ground on which to base it. Perhaps in years gone by this was hardly surprising; for in the earlier part of the 30 years since the end of the Second World War we still had to cope with the inheritance of armed forces which were in part an imperial police and in part the basis for the ultimate defence of these islands. However, as the imperial rôle has fallen away, there has unfortunately been no disposition to replace that analysis with one which will bear examination.
Of course we have got past the so called nuclear trip-wire. But we have only moved from there into "flexible response". The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) set out the theory of flexible response very accurately in one sentence from his speech yesterday, when he said that
conventional forces must be kept at a level strong enough to delay the moment, in the face of a major attack, when the alliance is faced with the choice of surrender or use of nuclear weapons."—[Official Report, 6th May, 1975; Vol. 891, c. 1333.]
It is clear from the White Paper, at page 8, paragraph 23—althogh it is more delicately expressed—that that is still the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The White Paper says:
Adequate defence calls for … conventional forces manifestly capable of standing any initial attack and backed by tactical and strategic nuclear forces, which in Europe and the Atlantic only the NATO Alliance can provide.
Let me return to the alternative which, in the lucid description of the hon. Member for Beckenham, this theory of the defence of this country, of the sort of war which our defence forces exist to fight, presents. It is to delay the moment when we are faced with the choice of surrender or the use of nuclear weapons. The choice of surrender or suicide! I do not like that sort of choice. I do not want to have a choice between surrender and putting the pistol to my head.
In reality that is not what would happen. In reality we should not commit suicide. In reality we should go on fighting for as long as we could—as we have done in the past, with allies or without. The purpose of British forces in peace is to be the basis of those forces which will enable us to survive the crisis of such a war for our existence. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) reminded the House yesterday that now both the Soviet Union and the United States have settled for the view that if there is a naval war it will be a long war. And that is the rational expectation.
It is to produce the critical force of the critical type at the critical moment in such a war that all our preparations and all our thinking for years ahead are aimed. It is, as it were, an argument backwards from that crucial requirement which alone can rationally determine our defence preparations now. Our forces in peace, if we view them rationally, and not as the arbitrary residuum of the forces that we used to have, modified here and there, cut first in one place and then in another, are to be the basis on which, before war and during war, we shall build the force by which we survive and eventually win.
I said just now "before war", because the process of expansion may be expected to occupy a period before hostilities commence as well as after they have commenced. More than once in this debate attention has been drawn to the paradox that the nations of Western Europe seem to be living under the Soviet Vesuvius with remarkable indifference to the forces which overhang them. It may well be inquired "How comes it that not only the British, well known for being somewhat isolationist, somewhat slow to take measures of defence, but the people who are right up against this menace, are certainly not spending at a higher rate to defend themselves?"
There is only one answer to that. It is that, grave though the threat may be in statistical terms, those peoples do not regard it as imminent. But of course opinion changes. In the 1930s—even in the 1930s—there came a moment when opinion in Government and in the public changed. At such a time it will not be a question of 5 per cent. or 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. of GNP. Even 25 per cent. will not be enough of our national resources to spend upon defence. It is to sustain that expansion when the threat is seen to approach—and do not let us imagine we shall expand before it is seen—and the expansion that must follow after hostilities begin that the British forces have to be constructed. Only a construction of British forces which is so conceived, will be sufficiently resilient and flexible for the minor variations, which economic and political considerations will impose upon the relative expenditures on defence and other things, to leave the structure as a whole virtually undamaged.
I offer certain major propositions about such a structure of British forces—the only rationally based structure.
The first is that, compared with those we have now, the maritime element—air and sea—would be relatively much greater. That is because in that element the danger emerges more rapidly, while the rate of expansion, being largely governed by complex industrial considerations, is slower. I would say that in considering the general pattern of our defence preparations, we have to look first to the balance between maritime and land preparations.
Then, in looking at maritime preparations as such, we have to take into account three considerations above all. The first is that we can never know with what generation of weapons we shall have to fight. Therefore, we must at all times have sufficient of the current generation of weapons for the training, the tactics, even the strategy, appropriate to that generation to thoroughly absorbed and practised by our forces. They are at such a time as this not for operations but basically for training—I almost reverted to a previous existence and said TEWT—with a view to future expansion.
Secondly, we must always have in view the industrial capacity which will need to be available if and when the time comes when we have to crystallise upon a particular generation as that with which we are going to fight a war. Thirdly, and turning now not exclusively but preponderantly to our land forces, I think we view these forces, perhaps still under the influence of imperial policing, too much in the light of a standing army which will go into action as it is, or which will be sent to some far-flung area of the globe to "do its stuff" there, and too little as the cadre upon at which at some unforeseeable future point that great army which Britain has never failed to produce when it was needed will be raised and trained.
The army which this country needs is not the conscript army of the nations of the Continent but the cadre army where, in every rank, men are ready to occupy two or three ranks above; an army—and this applies to a lesser extent to the other forces—which is an elite, in the sense that a cadre is an elite.
There is here an element which I believe certainly this Government are neglecting to the national disadvantage: if these are the forces which Britain requires, there is within those forces a scope for voluntary effort which we have not begun to tap. If our Army is not a regular force which will march away, with a few details added, and either be obliterated or win, if it is the cadre for a future army, there is every reason why as much as possible of that cadre, and as large a cadre as possible, should be civilian.
One of the quaint moments of this debate was when the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) recalled from the depths of his consciousness and with approval something I had said years before in a defence debate about "a citizen army". It is nice to make contact somehow, sometimes. The hon. Gentleman was not mistaken. I do believe that we have a resource in this country—and if the Government are looking for economy that is the place to look for it, abouve all in the organisation of our land forces—upon which the nation is waiting for the Government to draw and on which one Government after another have been ill-advised in drawing insufficiently. The old approach has been totally inadequate to what ought to be the rôle of voluntary effort, of the citizen volunteer, in all our forces and perhaps, above all, our Army.
Those are very much outline indications of the way in which I conceive rational deductions would be drawn—deductions of which the consequences would not be altered much by these or other budgetary cuts—as to the sort of defence forces which this country should have in peace time.
Lastly, I mention a word which always, rightly, features in defence debates, and that is "morale". Certainly the House has a duty to preserve the morale of the Services. Certainly it is true that if the Services have the feeling that from year to year and from half year to half year arbitrary decisions are made which affect not only their livelihood but the meaningfulness of what they thought they were doing, then indeed their morale will be damaged.
However, the morale of a military force can be based only on the knowledge and conviction of the rational defensibility of what it exists to do, of the relationship of what it does in peace to the supreme crisis of war for which it exists. If our Armed Forces understand that their shape, their size, their armaments and their organisation are intelligently related to that, then their morale will not be damaged when future Governments, like this or any other Government, have to adjust this element of national expenditure so that it finds its place with all the rest.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) began by referring to the balance of power and to many of the advantages which our defence has derived from it from time to time. It is the crux of my argument that we must have a balance of power between the Warsaw Pact and NATO if we are to achieve détente.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) has left the Chamber, because I wish to refer to his comments about the long frontier between China and Russia. In 1970 our branch of the Inter-Parliamentary Union was surprised to receive an invitation from the People's Republic of Mongolia to send a parliamentary delegation. Naturally we were carefully briefed before we went and we were told of some problems about food. We were told not to eat this and not to eat that. When I asked the Foreign Office, on behalf of my colleagues, what on earth we could eat, I was told to have a jolly good meal before we went.
We went to Mongolia, but why were we invited? We had an extraordinarily interesting week there, and good food. We thought about it a great deal, and came to the conclusion that the Russians wanted us to realise that the country we were visiting was an enormous country, straddling the border, and they were not ruling out the possibility of a Chinese attack by land. Mongolia, with a population of I million, was being pointed out to us as the possible—to use a shorthand form—"plucky little Belgium". We could think of no other reason why we were invited.
Like other hon. Members I have always believed that NATO is the most important international organisation that there is. However, in asking young people to agree with me about this I always try to use arguments which are relevant to the present time. I have had an experience with the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation which shows how difficult it is to adjust the arguments of those who have created an institution to the conditions that prevail later.
In 1947, as a junior Minister, I was sent to Saigon to get the British forces out of the few remaining allied establishments. The French had returned and they wanted the accommodation. There was insurgency, and it was possible to get from the airport to Saigon only during the day, because the insurgents held the road at night.
The French General told us that everything would be back to normal peacetime conditions if only he had another 10,000 men. Ten years later, in 1957, in the same room in the Palace, President Diem told me that everything would be back to normal peacetime conditions if only he had another 10,000 men. I shall leave it to the institutes of strategy to find out what went wrong in the military judgments on the military problems of a kind which did not exist.
It is the preconceived political problems which concern me, because there is a lesson for NATO. Vietnam was never covered by SEATO, but the American involvement was in the spirit of SEATO. The Americans saw themselves as saving the countries of South-East Asia from the Communists. They believed that Communism had enslaved parts of Europe, and they thought that it would enslave this part of South-East Asia. They tried to sell that to the local people, but the local people would not take that view.
As late as 1957, when I spoke to leaders in South-East Asia about all their problems, not one of them referred to Communism as the real threat. The soldiers were even more positive. Other hon. Members have referred to letters in The Times. I wrote a letter to The Times in 1957, which I ended by saying:
More than one of the soldiers answered my question 'How would you strengthen SEATO?' by saying 'Get Russia to join it'".
As late as 1957 they did not see Communism as the threat—China, yes, the French, possibly, but not Communism. Their thinking had absolutely nothing in common with those who had created SEATO. There had been a complete lack of communication between those who created SEATO—the Americans—and those in the field.
The lesson for NATO is this: it was set up in 1949 to stop what was thought to be an imminent take-over of the Western democracies by Russian forces. It was set up to counter an immediate military threat. Most people today are a good deal younger than those of us who knew NATO when it was set up. It is no use talking to people today, especially young people, in those terms. They think they know very well that there is no immediate threat from Russia. I agree. The threat is not one of military attack. It is completely different, a threat to the détente under which we want to live. We want to live and let live with the Russians. Our policy of détente with Russia is based on NATO's being in balance of power with the Warsaw Pact.
While the defences of the West are not increasing, the Russians are increasing theirs. As the years pass they will inevitably become less interested in détente, except at their dictation, like their detente with Finland. Finland exists as a country. It is a fine country, right on the edge of Russia, which tolerates her as an independent country so long as she does nothing that runs counter to Russian policy. That must not be the future of the countries of Western Europe. Yet as things are going, that could be our fate.
There was discussion earlier about the number of inter-continental ballistic missiles on each side. I prefer the figures quoted yesterday, from the Institute of Strategic Studies, showing that the Russians have 50 per cent. more inter-continental ballistic missiles than the United States. Therefore, the argument that so many of my hon. Friends use, that it is because of the imbalance of nuclear weapons that the Russians have built up their conventional forces, is not well founded. We must show the younger generation that Russia is building up her forces and each year becomes stronger on land, in the sea and in the air. We cannot ignore this. Our principal ally, the United States, has fewer men under arms than at any time since 1949.
The White Paper shows that on NATO's central front the Warsaw Pact has five and a half fighting units to NATO's four, nearly three times as many tanks, twice as many field guns and more than twice as many tactical aircraft. In the Eastern Atlantic there is a considerable disparity between the NATO forces and those of the Russian fleet.
It is our duty to restate clearly that NATO is the only defence we have for our system of government, that a strong NATO in balance with the Warsaw Pact is the only basis for a true détente. Where can we state these facts, especially if we are to get the young people interested? Obviously, we can do it here. I am doing it now. We hope that the Press, television and radio will report what we say. But above all, I ask hon. Members who attend other assemblies and conferences not to lose the opportunity to restate the truth about NATO. This applies particularly to hon. Members who attend the North Atlantic Assembly.
We must not forget that the people in a democracy shape our policies, but in peacetime it is difficult to get them interested in defence. This is one of the reasons why the North Atlantic Assembly is a profoundly important body.
One factor has been raised by so many hon. Members that I must mention it. There is only one point in which the general public appear to be particularly interested—the balance of effort, through taxes or whatever it may be, between what their own Governments do. The German Minister of Defence wrote last year:
At present, of the NATO forces in Europe, the West European nations contribute 90 per cent. of the ground forces, 80 per cent. of the naval forces and 75 per cent. of the air forces.
Many American Congressmen and Canadian Members of Parliament were surprised at that. Of course it is correct, but it is not the whole story. The Minister himself pointed out the United States' nuclear strength. In this House we know that to be true.
The strength and disposition of our Armed Forces used to be a matter of domestic interest only. That is no longer the case. What our allies are doing is important. It is important that there should be a place—the North Atlantic Assembly—to discuss these matters, which are of common concern to all of us in the NATO countries.
A few months ago I put down an Early Day Motion, supported by 112 hon. Members, which congratulated the Government because we believed that they were right to recognise the economic situation of Britain today, while maintaining a considerable contribution to NATO. In the discussion earlier today many hon. Members criticised what the Government have done. I believe that the Government have achieved a great deal. Of course there has been the further cut of 3 per cent. in defence spending since I put down the Motion. I have given a great deal of attention to the Government's explanation, and I reluctantly accept it. Although we do not have great power today, we still have a great deal of influence in the alliance.
I warn the Government that if there is any more nibbling at defence expenditure other people may be tempted to go much further. These nibblings might become real cuts, and within a few years we would face the danger of the Finlandisation of Western European countries. That is not the détente that I seek. The détente that I seek is based on a balance of power between the Warsaw Pact and NATO countries.
The members of the Sub-Committee on Defence of the Select Committee on Expenditure will be grateful to the Secretary of State for saying, in opening the debate, that he found the suggestions in our reports useful and valid in framing the White Paper. Perhaps I may be so bold as to say that other hon. Members have also found our reports helpful. That is why so many have been trying to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker—a very different situation from debates on defence six or seven years ago.
In our preliminary report on the defence review proposals, my sub-committee came to the conclusion that although the Secretary of State had made cuts in those areas least vital to the national interest there had been some significant losses of capability which impaired the Services' ability to react speedily and effectively to unforeseen events.
In the coming weeks my sub-committee will be examining the White Paper in detail. We have already drawn up a programme of meetings to cover the main aspects of defence policy, and shall be looking at some of the major procurement projects in each service. We shall not be looking at the Defence Department, because the Secretary of State has set up his own procedure to see whether the tail there is becoming too big, and whether more can go to the teeth.
One study which we shall take up is that of the naval dockyards. It is remarkable that as the Fleet has declined the number of dockyards in the United Kingdom has remained constant. We shall take a hard look at the work load and planning for the four dockyards to ensure that if any are being kept open for employment reasons rather than defence needs the cost can be discounted from the basic defence budget.
In January, when I happened to be on holiday in Gibraltar, the admiral kindly showed me around the dockyard, as I had been there before. He gave a fine record of how they were repairing our ships, keeping to time, and turning them out. That is another source that we can always use.
In April we visited our forces in West Germany and Berlin. During the visit we saw and heard some of the effects of the defence review and some of the problems facing us there. The programme for the Committee was excellently drawn up. We saw all aspects of the fighting ability of the Services.
The first thing that we learned, sadly from the RAF and the Army, was that the Soviet threat was considerably greater than when we visited West Germany in 1971. The relative strengths of NATO and the Warsaw Pact forces have changed, gradually, to the greater advantage of the Warsaw Pact. We can no longer assume that Warsaw Pact forces are inferior in terms of morale, cohesion and training, as was the case previously. We have therefore been impressed by the need to support and improve our forces in Europe and to do all that we can to support NATO's efforts. The end of the Vietnam war underlines the importance of maintaining the mutual confidence of Europe and the United States in NATO.
The strategy of BAOR is heavily reliant on the capacity for reinforcement. We asked some very searching questions about contingency plans for getting reinforcements to Germany if—we hope it will be unnecessary—mobilisation were to take place. Although we were reassured that United Kingdom units and Territorial Army formed units would reach Germany on time, I have some lingering doubts about the accuracy and up-to-date nature of the list of ex-Regular Reservists and whether they will get there exactly when expected.
The procurement plans for two weapon systems, which have been cut or spread over a longer period by this Defence White Paper, will have particular implications for the situation in Germany. In the cuts announced there has been a reduction in the orders for helicopters for the Army Air Corps.
Some time ago we paid a visit to Middle Wallop and saw how the helicopters and the missiles on them could be used. We were very impressed. I think that the flexibility of our commanders will be decreased if they cannot deploy them as anti-tank missiles or to transport infantry carrying similar missiles to knock out tanks advancing in a breakthrough situation. After all, as someone said, we are planning for a defensive war. These helicopters would constitute a mobile defensive artillery of considerable power. If we had had them in 1940, how we could have used them during the German breakthrough.
Cuts in the numbers of helicopters will not directly affect the strength of BAOR, but in our strategy of flexible response we must plan for a war of some duration. With fewer reserve helicopters the capacity for reinforcement has definitely been cut.
In passing, I will say that the two Franco-German anti-tank weapon systems, MILAN and HOT, are being urgently sought by the Army. I have never known senior officers to be so insistent about the need for a weapon as they have been about the MILAN. In addition to its proven effectiveness as an anti-tank guided weapon, it will allow our tanks to be redeployed to the best of their potential instead of being assigned to a defensive rôle, as sometimes happens at present. We hope that orders will be placed for these weapons, but urge that efforts should be made to gain reciprocal orders for some of our systems, such as Rapier. We heard good reports of the Rapier system.
The second weapons system which I want to mention is the MRCA. This aircraft, which we say flying at Warton, is an impressive technical achievement. Its procurement is now to be phased back. We have already warned—I underline this today—that this may eventually lead to added costs and should not be allowed to weaken the resolve to give our forces the weapons, like MRCA, that they know they desperately need.
I should like to emphasise the new form of training of combat groups at battalion and regimental level, and even lower levels. If these men of different arms are to fight together in future, they must have maximum training in this new idea. The men of other arms must know their commanders and have confidence in them.
I should like to touch on two other problems which we discussed during our visit to Germany. The forces are still increasing the level of their stores to meet the revised strategy of flexible response which replaced tripwire. This build up of stocks takes place against a background of lack of standardisation of weapons and stores between NATO countries.
We were encouraged to learn that NATO air forces are trying to create as much inter-operability of airfields as possible. However, there is a basic difficulty when there are so many aicraft types and ancillary stores which reduce the potential of the allied forces by a substantial measure. If we could at least achieve some standardisation of bomb types, drop tanks, ECM pods, and the like, we would go some way towards enabling our aircraft to land and be turned round at all NATO airfields.
We all thought that morale amongst our soldiers and Air Force personnel was very high. They are very professional troops. Basically, all married men seemed contented and happy, whatever their rank. Many of them, after a few months out there, can buy their own cars and move around. It was the single man who did not appear to like Germany so much. The reason for this is our bad exchange rate of the pound for the mark. I know that they get a special rate, but the average soldier says that he cannot afford to take out a girl in Germany.
Another practical problem which we encountered concerned the difficulties besetting the Chieftain tank. The tank's engine and some other parts have not performed as expected. This, together with a lack of spares, has forced considerably reduced mileages for the tanks and has created a general disquiet about the Chieftain. We are gratified to know that the tank, which is so admirable in many respects, particularly its weapons, has much better prospects for the future. We shall watch the progress of the improved engine with interest, and trust that the spares situation will be improved. I was informed by many who drove the tanks that they were all right when drivers had a lot of experience, but that a new reservist driver could not expect to drive the tank immediately. Also, not enough petrol was issued last year for the carrying out of exercises. I believe that the situation has improved this year.
I should like to mention a visit which, as a member of WEU, I made recently to Greece and Turkey. That part of the world has already been mentioned in the debate. In Cyprus a sad situation has developed between Turkey and Greece. Greece has opted out of NATO for the moment. She has done that before, so we hope that she will come back. This has meant no joint exercises and no training commanders in command. Many of our staff officers, of all nations, out there admitted that they were not fully stretched or occupied. On the subject of Portugal, I shall only say that we hope that that difficult situation will be resolved.
I stress again, in conclusion, the importance of the British commitment to NATO, and I welcome the wholehearted statement of this commitment by the Secretary of State. However, I must warn the House that further cuts in defence spending can only weaken our contribution. We might make economies in the dockyards, as I suggested, to enable us to spend a little more somewhere else. We would do this, however, at some peril. The mere fact of our presence in the Mediterranean was gratifying to Greece and Turkey, and they are now worried whether it will be there in the future.
We have a great reputation. Do not let us throw it away or else we may, in a small way, be unable to fulfil commitments.
I was interested, as I am sure were other hon. Members, in the description by the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) of the work of the Defence Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Expenditure. Since I support the amendment, I could wish that his Committee had gone even further in recommending cuts.
reasons why the world is sorry about the tragedy in Cyprus as a result of those difficulties.
I was appalled that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's only reaction to the difficulties between Greece and Turkey was that they left our NATO forces unstretched. I can think of many other
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), in referring to the amendment reiterated the 40-year-old myth that the Labour Party's action in criticising, albeit unsuccessfully, the 1935 Defence Estimates, and the general attitude of that time to armaments, were the cause of the early failures in 1939. In fact, the period 1935–39 was one of rapid and unprecedented annual increases in defence spending. The money was spent by a Tory Government to provide large profits to capitalist firms which failed miserably to provide manufactured goods of the quality and in the quantity that the people thought they were getting—in a period which we thought to be one of rearmament.
Much has been said in this debate—I was not here yesterday but I have read the Official Report closely—about détente. The Secretary of State said that he could not foresee massive immediate further cuts in our defence spending without
putting the whole of NATO strategy in jeopardy, destroying the cohesion of the alliance
and then this telling remark, which appears also in the White Paper—
and ruining our hopes for achieving a true and lasting détente".—[Official Report, 6th May 1975; Vol. 891, c. 1229.]
What neither my right hon. Friend nor anyone else has spelled out, at least to my knowledge, is when this détente is supposed to come about, when he expects that the hopes for a true and lasting détente will be achieved. Certainly, judging from the level of expenditure over the next 10 years, my right hon. Friend cannot foresee détente in that period. Otherwise, presumably, he would have started, albeit modestly, over the next two or three years scaling down our expenditure so that in 10 years we could see a greater cut. Such a cut would be one which would bring us down to an expenditure of 4½ per cent. of the GNP by 1984–85—which would still be in excess of the proportion spent by our allies.
The Defence White Paper is a policy of despair. Détente means different things to different people. To the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border it means strength of forces. To me détente means a relaxation of tension which will enable us all to live in some kind of peace. Our overall defence spending at the level of the next 10 years outlined in the White Paper cannot possibly be held to contribute to a relaxation of tension. Any increase in arms spending brings about more tension. A reduction in arms spending is the only way to relax tensions and build up confidence.
I have read the White Paper carefully and I do not regard it as containing any real discussion about the policies pursued by NATO, whether they have weaknesses, as I believe, or strengths, as other hon. Members may consider. It is a collective form of defence, which means that decisions are made collectively. This obviously imposes severe restraints on any Government's freedom of action. This applies to all Governments. The Dutch, for example, have recently run into severe trouble because they have wanted to reduce military spending. The White Paper reasserts our reliance on NATO as the linchpin of our security, yet there is no real discussion of NATO's policies, of whether they are good or bad.
If there is to be any point in a review the object should surely be to see how the economy can be helped—we keep hearing about the bad state of our economy at the moment—and how détente can be improved. The discussion of détente never seems to get beyond the level of lip-service, and never considers in depth the military implications of pursuing political détente. All that is stated, at least for the present, is the importance of the rather sterile Vienna talks on force reductions.
If it is the aim of the review to aid the economy and achieve true and lasting détente we must think seriously about military planning and the effect of unemployment. The Departments of Industry and Employment should have been involved in the discussions which led to the White Paper. Perhaps the Minister will tell me that they were involved.
Even if the framework within which the Government have worked out their defence policy is accepted—I do not accept it—one thing which sticks out like a sore thumb is Polaris. The Government, on a number of occasions in reply to Questions, have stated their intention not to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. The Secretary of State's comments indicate that this means that there will be no new submarines, that the present missiles will not be replaced by Poseidon missiles and that they will not be MIRV-ed.
The original estimate of the life of the Polaris submarines was that they would begin to "die" by the mid-1980s. Many experts thought that that was an overestimate. Even if it were to come to an end by the mid-1980s and if we were to have a new generation of it, we should have to start by making a decision about it now. Therefore, apparently the Government have decided that some time in the far future, perhaps 10 years ahead, they will have no strategic nuclear force. If that is the case, would it not be sensible for us to start phasing out Polaris, to save the money, to start retraining people so that they can take up other employments and to use this as a gesture to prevent further nuclear proliferation?
However, the Secretary of State has said that these Polaris submarines could last well into the 1990s. A number of neutral observers who are also experts consider that if these submarines continue to be used for as far ahead as the 1990s there could be a risk to the safety of the vessels by that time, whatever improvements may have been made to them since they were launched.
The Government maintain that they have no intention of developing a new generation of nuclear weapons because the present one will last long enough, although many experts believe that the existing generation of submarines will be unsafe by the mid-1980s. If the Government were to change their mind and launch into a new generation, this would have wide implications and repercussions in the country, and particularly throughout the Labour Party. It would mean that the equipment procurement budgets over the next 10 years would be unable to stand the added burden of new submarines at a cost which, at present prices, might make £180 million per boat look like a modest estimate.
So far no hon. Member has gone in any depth into the question of the employment implications of disbanding the Polaris force. Aberdeen University has carried out a study into what would happen if the Polaris force began to be disbanded. It is worth spending a couple of minutes telling the House what that study found. The people who carried it out were more than conscious that the disbandment of this force would cause anxiety and a fear by the local people of its effect on employment.
They found that it would probably result in the Clyde submarine base operating at only 30 per cent. capacity, the reduced capacity remaining to cater for non-nuclear weapon submarines. About 3,100 Service men are based at Clyde submarine base. About 2,000 of them would be affected by a disbandment of nuclear submarines. Few, if any of these Service men are local people. Therefore, they would either be posted elsewhere or be made redundant, in which case they would return to their home areas. The number of civilians who work at CSB is 2,800. About 1,500 of them are local people and about 1,300 went to the area specifically to work for CSB. Of the 2,800, approximately 2,020 are employed on Polaris. Half of them are local people and half are people who have gone there specially. Nuclear disarmament in that area would remove all those jobs. Most of the "foreigners", if I can, in deference to the Scots, call them that, would presumably leave, although I would hope that, in the event of further employment coming to the area, some of the technical and skilled senior administrative people might be persuaded to remain.
In the area there are also between 1,500 and 2,100 jobs which are dependent on CSB. This indirect employment would also be affected, about proportionately, by people leaving the area because of nuclear disarmament. Thus between 1,000 and 1,400 jobs would be affected.
A breakdown has been made of the jobs and skills used at present at CSB. It has been found that they correspond fairly closely to a breakdown within the general category of electrical engineering. Therefore, with the retraining of a small proportion of the workers such an industry could move smoothly—if it were planned properly—into the area and find a ready. made work force. Ideally, there would also be enough jobs and adequate training facilities to take up those workers whose indirect employment had suffered. Therefore, we could reckon that if the Government plan properly into the future, it would be possible to absorb the people who were left behind and who had not originally been "foreigners" and moved into the area.
Other possible alternative industries which could move into the area are being looked at. The fear of losing jobs is an understandable one. If the Government do not look ahead now and plan for the change over of some industries from defence production to what I might call peace-time production we shall never achieve it, and we shall, indeed, have unemployment, which none of us wants. The White Paper does not indicate that the Government are planning to retrain and replace defence industries by industries which would be more helpful to our exports and the nation in general.
It is admirable that the hon. Lady has looked into those 1,000 people on Clydeside in such detail. The White Paper cuts already provide for 60,000 more to be unemployed and it is her group who suggest that this is not nearly enough. Does she want to see that figure rise to 80,000 or 100,000? How can anyone plan for that scale of unemployment which the hon. Lady says is not enough?
Order. The hon. Member must address the Chair. Also, I hope that the hon. Lady will not be drawn by the hon. Gentleman, because about 11 hon. Members wish to speak before the debate finishes.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
If we are ever to get out of the realm of spending such a high proportion of our gross national product on defence, at some stage we have to start planning. The Government have already made some cuts. We should like to see these cuts go further, but we want the Government to plan for them and not to say "This year, next year, or next week we shall cut out this". We want them to say that they will do so in 1976, 1977 and so on. This is the only way to do it.
Much has been made of the level of defence spending by the Warsaw Pact countries, particularly the Soviet Union. We absolutely deplore the level of spending in those countries. It is totally wasteful and ridiculous that they should also be spending this kind of money in wasting their resources. I believe that the reason that they are doing so is that they are still frightened of what the West might do. Oh, yes, they are not quite the idiots we may think they are. It is time that one side made a gesture and said that we really do genuinely believe in détente and in making a gesture towards relaxing tensions. I should like to see this country being the one to do it.
It the hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) will forgive me I shall not follow her in her argument, except to say that I fear that I totally disagree with it. The reason why I do not follow her is that I wish to be very brief, as I know the number of others who wish to speak.
It is over 10 years since I took part in a defence debate in this House. I do so on this occasion because I am so disturbed by the Government's policy. The White Paper, which is very clear in many respects and which warns us so very fully of the dangers of the build-up of the Warsaw Pact countries, draws exactly the wrong conclusions from the facts it so clearly states. We have had again and again the story of the size of the Warsaw Pact forces, and the reason for this, to which the hon. Lady referred as she finished her speech, is very different from the reasons she produced.
Paragraph 20, on page 8 of the White Paper, contains the most disturbing words in this regard. It says:
In parallel with their stated commitment to détente the Warsaw Pact countries maintain forces on the mainland of Europe which are increasing in strength and capability, and appear far larger than could be necessary for defensive purposes.
So not only are they substantially larger; they are increasing at the present time.
That is why the conclusions that the Government have drawn in their White Paper are so harmful from the point of view of this country. Paragraph 24 brings it out quite clearly. It says:
The Government is fully committed to preserving the credibility of NATO's strategy and … is determined to maintain an effective British contribution.
It goes on to say:
Some reduction in our current NATO contribution is inevitable.
That is where I utterly depart from the Government in their conclusion. It seems that they are making the very dangerous assumption that we can, without any harm to Britain and to our position in the West, reduce our forces further. That is why it is so totally unrealistic of those who have put forward the amendment today to claim that this is the right thing for Britain, because they automatically assume that we shall continue in a period of peace for an unlimited time, when there is nothing whatever to guarantee that peace if NATO is not in a credible defence posture.
When looking at the position in regard to the Warsaw Pact countries and NATO, the first thing to realise is just what the attitude of the Warsaw Pact countries is. Here I would mention that I have spent more time, perhaps, in negotiating and arguing with the Warsaw Pact countries than anyone else in the House, because I spent almost two years in Geneva, at the Disarmament Conference, trying to find a basis of agreement with them. I assure the hon. Member for Barking that they are extremely tough negotiators and that they will negotiate only from strength. That is the difference between the posture which some Government Members adopt and the posture which I believe we should adopt, which is that by all means let us make détente effective, and by all means let us try to bring about a reduction in arms; but do not let us do it unilaterally, because the Warsaw Pact countries will merely stand back and smile while we make the reductions and then refuse themselves to make the reductions which are needed.
That is the whole essence of what appears in Chapter II of the White Paper, in the reference to seeking to make détente effective, and the attempts to bring about, first, the CSCE and the discussions there, but, above all, the MBFR talks, which have been the effort of both the previous Conservative Government and the present Government to make progress with. The whole basis of this is that we must try to achieve an understanding of mutual and balanced reductions, but not unilateral reductions. That is the problem, and that is why it is so unwise for this country to start with reductions on its own. It may be that our economic difficulties are very great, but I should have thought that the previous Conservative Government had pared our defences quite as much as they should have been pared, and that this is a further and dangerous cut which is being made in both the White Paper and the subsequent announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech.
If MBFR is to have any chance of success, the NATO countries together must be resolved not to make reductions without comparable reductions being made on the other side. One of the most unfortunate things is that the United Kingdom is setting an example to some of her colleagues in NATO, when it is known how much some of them would like to make substantial reductions. This is the core of the damage and danger which is likely to occur if they proceed in this way. It is also quite clear from the White Paper that our NATO colleagues were indeed unhappy about the reductions when they were told about them. That is quite understandable.
But the one essential aspect of all this is the attitude of the United States, because the United States is a very predominant factor. It is not just their immediate numbers on the Continent of Europe, although this is very important in itself; it is their ability to back up and sustain NATO in the event of conflict. That is the key to the situation of NATO vis-à-vis the Warsaw Pact countries. It is the knowledge in the minds of the Warsaw Pact countries that the United States is willing to sustain NATO to the full.
In my view, this is where one comes up against another factor which has emerged since the White Paper was printed—the reverses which have happened to the United States in the Far East. They may have no direct bearing on what happens in regard to military strength in Europe, but they have a great deal lf bearing on attitudes in the United States itself, and of the President and Congress. I do not think that either the present President or the administration would willingly in any way reduce the effectiveness of the contribution to NATO, but one cannot ignore the strength of Congress today, as opposed to that of the administration. We must be fully aware of the dangers we run. That is why, in a European grouping, it is so important that the full effectiveness of the European grouping should be there, so that whatever the United States does, we are in a position more and more to contribute to our own defence.
This might lead one on to the folly of those who seek to withdraw from the Common Market, but that would take one into an entirely different matter, which I shall not develop.
However, Europe, on its own, must play a very important part. It is very unfortunate when a country such as Britain, which has always given a lead in such matters, should give a wrong lead, as it is seeking to do at present, in regard to our defences over the coming years. One should not underestimate the damage this can do in the councils of NATO, in the attitude of other NATO members. If we allow our contribution to be whittled away, other NATO countries could well argue in the same sense. I would far rather see that we maintain at the very minimum the forces we had planned under the previous Conservative Government, and, if it were possible, I would far rather see them increased rather than reduced as a direct result of what is happening in other parts of the world.
Other hon. Members have touched on the Middle East and the problems there resulting from the difficulties that have confronted Dr. Kissinger, and the failure of his mission, and the dangers that arise directly as a result of the last conflict between the American and Soviet arms in the Middle East. It became absolutely clear at that time that the advance in the techniques of the Soviet Union's ground-to-air missiles had made a big difference in that area.
We cannot be happy in a period in which we have seen this increasing strength of the Warsaw Pact countries, and the Soviet Union in particular. All that we ask is that the Soviet Union and its allies should show convincingly in the MBFR discussions that they really mean business by offering firm cuts, to which we can respond, rather than having unilateral cuts either by ourselves or by any of our allies in the West. We can make MBFR or détente make sense only if we act in unison and from a position of strength, in order to negotiate with those who are strong also, because they will only respect strength. Therefore, there is a fundamental weakness in the approach of this White Paper.
There is much more that I could say, but I promised to be brief. This is the salient issue. This is where the Government, while not going as far as some of their hon. Friends would wish, have still gone further than is safe for the defence of the country. That is why I oppose what they are doing.
I shall keep my remarks as brief as possible because a number of other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. Perhaps I might declare an interest in the subject in the sense that I have had the privilege and honour of lecturing members of the Armed Forces all around the world in the last 25 years. I remember the hon. Member for Peters-field (Mr. Mates) being at one of my lectures in Germany about 15 years ago, and we can see what good that has done him.
I have listened to the debate all day and it seems to me that one expression has been far too monotonous in its repetition—that is "détente in Europe". It is understandable, perhaps, that we in Britain look at the world from Dover, but the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) made an interesting comment when he said that very often defence and international armaments changed just as much because of switches in foreign policy as because of switches in battalions or aircraft.
I think that in our discussion of the Soviet position and the position of the Warsaw Pact we have often been unnecessarily gloomy. We have to realise that the Soviet Union has to maintain defence on two widely-separated fronts. I believe that there is an 11-hour time difference between Brest Litovsk and Vladivostok. If we were looking from a satellite this afternoon we should see Soviet troops moving eastwards towards China. We are aware that the Chinese view is favourable to Europe simply because of China's fear of the Soviet Union.
If we look at the total gross wealth of Western Europe and North America it makes Khrushchev's remark of some years back "We will bury you", appear frustrated. The gap between the GNP of the West and the Soviet Union has widened in our favour. By all means, therefore, let us be alarmed and concerned and take protective measures about increasing numbers of Soviet submarines and so on, but do not let us get the subject out of perspective.
I would also plead that we do not altogether forget the rôle of the British Armed Forces outside Europe. For example, Gibraltar, highly important with Spain in a very unsettled period in its history, could spin off in either direction. Gibraltar is as important to the Mediterannean Arab lands as it is to the United Kingdom. For the foreseeable future, very firm vigilance should be exercised there by the Mediterranean people, especially since the Suez Canal will be opening on referendum day. I do not think that there is any connection between the two events.
Turning to Cyprus, I shall be grateful if the Minister will give us up-to-date information about the position of our Service men in Episcopi and Dhekelia. I know that they have had considerable accommodation problems, having had to withdraw from accommodation in Limasol and so on. Can he say when that situation is likely to improve?
It is very important that the United Kingdom should remain in a UN rôle in Cyprus, not only because of the large number of lives saved by British Forces but because we have to consider that, hopefully, through a Geneva Conference or other means, there will be an improvement in relations between the Arab States and Israel. If that takes place there must be a major UN Services presence in the area, a logistic base, for example. Episcopi and Dhekelia are idealy suited to that, serving as a home base for UN Forces interposing themselves between the Israelis and the Arabs. It has also been suggested that in a new peace settlement in the Middle East aerial surveillance would be an additional advantage, and quite clearly Cyprus is a useful base for that purpose.
I should like to comment about the island of Masirah, which has been mentioned in many speeches in the debate. It is not my favourite holiday place, but I have known it reasonably well for a number of years. In my view Masirah still has an important rôle to play in the security of that area. I should not like to take too great an issue with some of my hon. Friends about what is happening in the area, but their version of the Oman story is not coincidental with mine.
The Dhofaris occupy a peculiar and special part of the Oman, but there is no doubt that they are being supplied by the Russians and the Chinese, and my friends in Aden greatly regret the presence of these two Powers who are having their own private war in the area. It is fair to say that the present ruler has brought education, medicine and social services to the Oman on a very large scale. It is fair to say that the incursions from Dhofar have moved outside the area of the Dhofaris into Central Oman. Before we knew where we were they would have been in the Gulf, and where would our friends of all kinds in the Gulf have stood then? What would have been the position of our oil supplies? There would have been a panic move in by both the Russians and the Americans. We should therefore not wipe the island of Masirah lightly aside. In the long run I should like it to be another UN base. I do not want the Americans there. There are too many places in the world where they and the Russians with their private wars upset the lives of ordinary decent people. I hope, therefore, that as the debate inevitably returns to the question of détente the House will not forget some of these other important topics. The position of our Armed Forces has not been stressed sufficiently so far because the debate has been busy with the mechanics of the White Paper, but we should acknowledge, without any chauvinism, that we undoubtedly have the finest Armed Forces in the world. They have done more for this country on less money in more difficult circumstances than any other force could have done. One has only to consider the French and the Americans to see that we stand out pretty well in comparison.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson) and I hope that he will excuse me if I do not develop the theme he initiated. I noted that he drew atten- tion to the increasing disparity between the GNP of the West and that of the Soviet Union. He might have enlarged his argument by relating this disparity to the enormous proportion of the GNP which the Soviet Union devotes to military expenditure.
This is the third major debate on defence that I have attended since coming to the House last year. I feel that my hon. Friends and the public might well be excused for asking what purpose these debates serve. The schizophrenic character of the Secretary of State was dealt with in detail by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) yesterday. I am delighted that I had to wait until now to speak because I now have the privilege of addressing the Secretary of State, who has returned to the House after being away on other important matters, as we understand. His schizophrenic character has resulted in the fact that Dr. Jekyll agrees that the defences of the country are run down to a dangerous degree, but Mr. Hyde remains utterly intractable on the question of remedying this situation.
As the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) said, we have to achieve a compromise in expenditure and security. We have to synthesise these two requirements. Many of my hon. Friends and I would rate the demands of security much higher than would Government supporters. There comes a point when the final insistent requirement of national security can no longer be reduced or jeopardised. There is a unanimity of opinion on the Opposition benches that that point has now been reached.
In considering expenditure, the House should face the truth of one basic strategic principle, which is that the Sandys doctrine—the doctrine of virtual instant nuclear retaliation—is now dead. It lasted approximately 20 years, it may be said to have peaked in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, to have waned at the time of the Czechoslovak invasion and now, finally—as my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) said yesterday—to have been extinguished by recent experiences in the Far East. Consequently, we are faced with the principle of inflicting unacceptable losses on an aggressor—not in terms of superiority, but deterring him sufficiently with unacceptable losses. That principle has to be applied at a conventional level, using the conventional high explosive, but all other advanced technologies.
If I may express the superiority of Soviet hardware over our own, I will put it in combat terms. The defences of the United Kingdom are so far below danger level that the Royal Air Force has a combat expectancy of about two days, or possibly as little as six hours, or three sorties per aircraft. That estimate is based on the experience of the Yom Kippur war.
On the first occasion on which I spoke in a defence debate I said that there was not one ship in the Royal Navy that was capable of a surface engagement. I am glad to say that because of the refits which have taken place in the Devonport yard there are now two ships in the Royal Navy which are capable of a surface engagement. In terms of its capability of defending the trade routes and running materials into this country, the Royal Navy has a combat expectancy of about 10 days. If drawn into major combat, for example defending oil rigs, its expectancy could be as little as 48 hours, particularly if the air cover is worn down on the prediction I made when discussing the Royal Air Force.
In terms of combat effectiveness, the Army is probably the best situated, but, being in the centre, where limited conventional threats are least likely to develop, this is unfortunately the sector in which such readiness is least necessary.
The history of the House and of the country shows that hon. Members who make assertions of that kind are seldom believed, and if they are believed those assertions are never welcomed, but we owe it to those who sent us here to make these assertions. I know that these views are largely repudiated by Government supporters. On Monday, in the debate on hospital beds, the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) compared defence and health budgets. I am sorry that he is not here, because I always enjoy paying him a compliment. He made the interesting and valid point that defence and health are the right of every citizen of the country and cannot be contracted out of, but, equally. hon. Members should reflect that although we once had a two-ocean Navy deliberately built to a standard of superiority over the combined forces of the next two Powers, we had virtually no health service, and the country is today no less rich in terms of assets and resources than it was in 1913.
As my hon. and gallant Friend says, we are no more healthy. The priorities are totally different. Although many of us would not rate the discrepancy on the priorities as high as do the Government and their supporters, nevertheless we accept that the mood, demands and nature of civilisation have all altered, so that this disparity is antique.
We recall that in the current fiscal year we have budgeted £3,150 million on the health service alone, and the total for all the social services is a staggering £7 billion, compared with a figure of approximately £1 billion for the Royal Navy, although it is hard to isolate the figures. If the Royal Navy completely disappears and loses its effectiveness. there will not be a health service and we shall be back where we were in 1913, with one significant difference—we shall be occupied by a foreign Power.
None the less, it is possible to provide a defence, barely effective but possibly adequate to threaten the capability of inflicting unacceptable loss at conventional level even within the restricted terms which the Government impose. But it requires certain major alterations of emphasis and policy.
First, there is the question of simplicity in design, on which my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) elaborated most persuasively yesterday. One major change of attitude which I recommend to the Secretary of State is to recognise that Service requirements for defence equipment and the prosperity of the industry supplying it are an integral whole. The Secretary of State talks frequently of redeploying resources into exports. That is a high-sounding phrase, but our resources are already in exports, if only the potential can he properly utilised.
In our armaments industry, in aerospace, radar technologies, marine architecture and armour, we have the capacity greatly to increase our overseas earnings and at the same time to increase the cost effectiveness of our military hardware. At present there is apparently no Department with responsibility—and certainly none with authority—to handle this subject at the highest level. There is a necessity for a Department which is specially concerned with researching foreign requirements, liaising with our Service chiefs, pressing sales, giving delivery guarantees, arranging credits and, in particular, arranging for diplomatic protection and behind-the-scenes pressures to resist the commercial intrigues of our competitors and even, I am sorry to say, of our allies.
I know that one of the reasons why the Secretary of State has not been able to attend the debate is that he has been at the Eurogroup. There is much talk of co-operation between the allies on weapon design, development and contracting. But, as the right hon. Gentleman would admit, there is a lot of cutthroat intrigue and in-fighting on weapons development and contracts. I feel that the United Kingdom does not do everything it might in pressing its own case, nurturing its own contractors, using diplomatic pressure to ensure at least that our weapons get a fair trial and, in particular, giving the lead so that others may follow and co-operate with us rather than standing aside and perhaps lamely joining in with some project at a late stage of development.
I agree with my hon. Friend. That is the point I am trying to develop. I say this with no wish to cast aspersions on the personnel involved, but the Defence Sales organisation has neither the status nor the instant access to influence that is necessary in dealing with projects and sums of this kind.
Parallel with that one would hope for a certain discretion on the part of members of Her Majesty's Government in expressing opinions on who is and who is not eligible for the supply of arms. The present Prime Minister, when in Opposition, went on record as saying that any arms contract the Labour Party disapproved of would be repudiated if the Labour Party achieved office. That was well calculated to create an atmosphere of uncertainty and to open the door to our competitors.
Some political decisions are virtually unaccountable. For example, the Shah of Iran has expressed the desire to purchase nuclear submarines. That has been discouraged, but pending a decision the Shah has expressed a wish to Vickers to purchase conventional submarines for operation in the Gulf. I understand that that request is also being obstructed by the Government.
If the effectiveness of our resources, at every level from drawing board to shop floor, in the armaments industry could be properly developed and encouraged there would be a tremendous advantage to be gained in terms of our balance of payments and investment within the United Kingdom. By increasing volume unit costs we would be cutting the Service budget and making foreign orders more attractive.
In the present situation many promising projects are stultified by the Government. There is discouragement at inception and then, several years later, the Services suddenly wake up and realise that they have to have certain items of equipment. We then buy the nearest foreign equivalent. The Exocet ship-to-ship missile is an obvious example. That situation is likely to be repeated in requirements for short-range ground missiles for the Army. At present, arms sales in terms of Government reponsibility are almost in a lacuna. Highly important British weapons of proved effectiveness have had inferior foreign equipment preferred to them. I am thinking of Rapier and Roland—Roland being preferred on account of political pressures. Jaguar has not even been entered in evaluation tests. The Sub-Martel was strangled at birth, and American equipment—namely, Harpoon—was substituted.
I accept that the Secretary of State for Industry has no responsibility for these matters. I do not think that he would Savour it if he had. It is understandable that the Secretary of State for Defence appears to have his hands full in pacifying Service chiefs and working out the curious convolutions that are required of him to keep his expenditure within the new formula. However, I urge the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister, who ultimately has responsibility, seriously to consider assigning these responsibilities and giving them the status and power to effect a substantial transformation both in our balance of payments and in the cost-effectiveness of our military equipment.
I was interested to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison), who was Chairman of the Defence Expenditure Committee, saying that the Committee would be reviewing the conduct of work of the four dockyards in view of the Royal Navy's declining fleet. As the Member of Parliament representing Rochester and Chatham a dockyard community, I accept that such a review is necessary, but I hope that it will not once again raise the fear of closures.
My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) referred to unemployment as being one of the problems of cutting down defence expenditure. In my constituency approximately 11 per cent. of the 90,000 work force is dependent on defence. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister assured the electorate in the last election that the future of the dockyards was safe. Indeed, he said that they were national assets that must be preserved for the use of the country. I accept that, but we must ensure that the dockyards are efficient and competitive in every sense of the word.
The Defence Estimates pay tribute to the work that has been done in Chatham dockyard on nuclear refuelling and refitting. This is pioneering work that will have its effect in future uses in the civilian world. It is many years since Chatham pioneered the use of glass-reinforced plastics for use in shipbuilding. We must not run down the dockyards but extend their activities.
The dockyards have been allowed to decline over the years. I am familiar only with Chatham dockyard. It is fairly easy to see that it is based on Victorian buildings and Victorian machinery. Much of the machinery dates from before the First World War. I was told that the ship plate-rolling machine dates from 1913 and that the punching and shearing machinery dates from 1914. The newest dockyard crane dates from the last war—namely 1944. The dockyard is rundown and is ineffectual in coping with modern needs and modern technology. We need to revitalise the dockyards in view of their great expertise.
What is needed in Chatham is new construction work. Such work would raise morale, raise technological knowledge and increase trading opportunities. That is necessary if we are to have our ships maintained for many years. I welcome the review but I hope that it will recognise the opportunities and will not attempt to restrict output.
There is an excellent opportunity in Chatham dockyard in terms of North Sea oil. The Manpower Services Commission has reported on the exploiting of North Sea oil. We know that the programme is already two years behind schedule. One of the drawbacks is that we are short of skilled manpower in the shipbuilding industry. In fact, by 1976 we shall be 16,000 men short. Given that situation the dockyards could be of great help, and particularly Chatham.
There is plenty of space at Chatham. As a casual observer I would say that there are 50 acres of redundant land in Chatham dockyard that could easily be put to use on the North Sea oil project. The Government should look to the dockyards in terms not merely of Royal Navy use but of Royal Navy plus civilian use. In that way not only would we gain efficiency from having efficient refittings, but we would be able to get the North Sea oil ashore.
I shall support the Government tonight. I think that they have the correct balance. They are providing a viable defence force bearing in mind our economic capacity. I was interested to hear hon. Member saying that they feel that Russia will not attack us and that détente is a reality. I accept that. It should be realised that Russia is still dominated by the fear of a war. We must recall that Russia lost 20 million souls during the last war. However, as a young schoolboy I remember the Berlin airlift and the tensions in Europe. Having a defence force has eased the situation. I am prepared to accept the burden of continuing defence expenditure as I feel that it is up to the politicians to relieve tension in the world.
I hope that the hon. Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mr. Bean) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the ramifications of his constituency, which I know very well and of which I have fond memories.
To be fair to the Secretary of State—and I am sorry that he has had to leave the Chamber—I think he realises the extent of the threat that we have been discussing, the shortcomings of NATO and the absolute inadequacy of our national defence preparations. The Chiefs of Staff have done a good job on him and he is learning the facts of life. I am very sorry that he is not in the Chamber at this moment to hear me say so. Obviously the Secretary of State for Defence has been unable to carry his point in Cabinet. It must be a curious Cabinet, split from top to bottom on many subjects beside defence.
The Government seem to be terrified of the motley crew of associated Left-wingers, Marxists, flat-earthers, sincere pacifists and charming agnostics who signed the Labour amendment. To buy off that lot, the Government seem to be willing to put the whole of Britain's security at risk. That is my chief accusation against them. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy shakes his head, but that is my accusation. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister sits on the fence in Jamaica where, typically, he is simultaneously quoting Kipling and saying that the great British Raj has fallen so low that it cannot afford to keep 600 men in British Honduras.
The White Paper makes a most valid point in Chapter II, paragraph 8. It says that the increasing capabilities of the Soviet forces
must be measured not only in terms of military potential but also as a possible means of reinforcing political pressure without recourse to overt hostilities.
Mr. Adlai Stevenson made the same point years ago when he said that Communism had never been the free choice of any country anywhere in the world.
That brings to mind recent events in Vietnam. I was both stunned and amazed that no single word of sympathy or regret has been uttered by Her Majesty's Government. Even though we never lifted a finger to help the United States in South Vietnam, which is a matter of personal regret to me, I believe that Her Majesty's Government should in common decency, now pay tribute to the efforts which the United States made to resist aggression and should admit that the Americans were morally right in what they were trying to do. It was not the GIs who fell down on the job. The 55,000 United States Servicemen who died so far from home are proof of that point.
Does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman recall that in 1954 General Eisenhower—who, as far as anybody can recall, was not in the hands of the Communists or receiving "red gold"—said that the reason why free elections were not held in Vietnam was that the people would have voted to a man for Ho-Chi-Minh. That was the reason why America introduced the most bloody and horrific aggression the world has ever seen.
Order. There are still a large number of Members who are anxious to take part in the debate—and indeed the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) is trying to catch my eye. Therefore, interventions are not helpful.
In that case I shall reply only briefly by saying that what I most remember about General Eisenhower was his clear elucidation of the domino theory, which seems now to have been proved to the hilt.
In a debate in another place last Wednesday, Lord Home of the Hirsel, in a debate on the security problems in the free world, said:
No one would deny the citizen of the Soviet Union the right to his own political philosophy and his chosen way of life, but in the last 30 years the trouble has been that Communism has been for export, and that behind the export drive is a doctrine of unending ideological conflict and confrontation, of ultimate victory over all the rest of the philosophies, whether the persons like it or not, while according to the Communist doctrine any means is justifiable to attain the end. This, my Lords, is called co-existence. Such a definition as I have given—namely, the continuation
and intensification of the ideological conflict, the ultimate victory over all the rest, and the means as justifying the end—was given over Moscow Radio as lately as October 1974 as official Russian policy."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30th April, 1975; Vol. 359, c. 1254.]
The threat of which we are speaking is world wide and not just limited to an arbitrarily-defined NATO area. The threat is not only one of military action in conditions of overt war. The Soviets are doing so nicely, according to their own viewpoint, that they have no need to resort to open war. Open war is the least likely contingency. For these reasons, I do not want to see our defence effort concentrated so exclusively in central Europe, nor do I want NATO to bury its head—to use the Secretary of State's phrase yesterday—like an ostrich with the sand trickling into its ears.
While NATO is in this posture, the West watches powerless while the countries of South-East Asia rush to ingratiate themselves with the new Soviet-inspired power in Vietnam. Yet this is the very moment when Her Majesty's Government decided to withdraw the last vestiges of our power and influence and peace-keeping capacity from Singapore. It is almost as though the Government had a death-wish over this matter.
I wish to ask one or two questions of the Minister and to point to one or two outstanding omissions from the White Paper. I wish first to raise the question of military intelligence. As a one-time naval intelligence chief in the Far East, I realise the sensitivity of these problems and do not wish to embarrass the Government by asking them awkward questions. But surely it is essential for the Government—any Government—to know what is happening and to have warning of intentions. Those intentions are more important than capabilities, and we should be able to warn our allies of the Communist threat world wide. Therefore, proper military intelligence is essential in the prevention of war. Often when people discuss defence matters, both in the House and outside, they tend to escalate the scenario into one of declared war. Our object must be the prevention of war.
What happens short of declared war? In this matter intelligence is of prime importance. I wish to ask the Minister how our intelligence organisation can be continued in places from which we are withdrawing. I know, and I hope that the Minister knows, how intelligence is organised. I hope that he will assure the House that heed is being taken of this point and that the arrangements are adequate.
Secondly, I wish to ask why the Government choose the central front in NATO as being the most important and supreme priority. It is almost as though in the eyes of the Government the outside world does not exist. The northern flank has been referred to by many who have spoken on both sides of the House, with a direct relevance to North Sea oil. The Mediterranean, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey have been referred to, but I have not heard anybody refer to Yugoslavia. Marshal Tito has carried out a tremendous job in his country since I first joined his partisans in 1943. What a wonderful thing it is that a Balkan dictator has been able to keep his head on his shoulders for such a long time. However, he is not eternal, and the prospects in Yugoslavia when Tito leaves the scene give cause for great concern.
It is vital for us as a NATO power to be in a position to help free countries anywhere in the Mediterranean, and to be seen to be able to do so. The present time is not the right moment in history for the British to walk off the scene in the Mediterranean area. NATO is a much wider concept than the flat plains of Germany.
I suggest to the Government that what is best for Britain is a very much greater concentration of maritime strategy. I hope the House will acquit me of speaking as the single Service voice in this debate. It is due to the fact that I spent some time in the Royal Air Force in the war that I have such a funny face. It is easy to scoff at me and at people who speak as I do about our wanting British forces to police the world, but we must recognise the fact that it is at sea where the Soviet threat is growing fastest. For example, they are producing one new nuclear submarine per month. That figure was given earlier—and nuclear submarines are not defensive weapons.
There is a threat, which is extremely strong and growing fast, on the Atlantic route. Recent events in Portugal, probably since the White Paper went to the printer, have completely altered the situation as regards the possibility of United States reinforcements for NATO crossing the Atlantic in time of emergency. The threat cannot be defined as stopping at an arbitrary latitude in the defined NATO area. We must consider the Cape route, the Indian Ocean and the approaches to South-East Asia.
Will the Government please be less obsessive about the land aspect of NATO? Will they be a little more maritime minded? Will they keep all the Nimrods? Nimrods comprise the essential means of knowing what is happening on the oceans of the world, to stop wars, and to stop small incidents developing into big incidents. Will the Government cut the frigate programme as defined in the White Paper? I can at least congratulate the Secretary of State on preserving the through-deck cruiser. I know that the through-deck cruiser is primarily an anti-submarine ship.
I should like the Secretary of State to go ahead with the maritime Harrier. He has been urged to do so, not only for military reasons. All naval officers know that organic air power is essential if we are to control the seas. The Minister responsible for the Navy is grinning. If he had ever been bombed at sea with no aircraft of his own in sight he would realise the military importance of air power. There are export potentialities for the maritime Harrier. It is unthinkable that we should not go ahead with its development.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) made an interesting plea to the Government about the offshore tapestry. I hope that the Minister has taken note of that point. It is at sea that Britain can make the best and most effective contribution to the strength of the Western Alliance.
I do not think that sufficient allowance has been made in the White Paper for planning for the unforeseen. Almost all of the 50 and more operations in which British forces were engaged were unexpected and unforeseen. The great success of the amphibious force rescuing British people in Cyprus is the most recent example.
Either the country must be defended or left undefended. Our forces are already cut to the bone. No more cuts can be accepted. The Secretary of State and the Prime Minister know that. They should have the guts to say so.
The House always listens with the utmost respect to the hon. Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles). I have no pretentions to being either a professional strategist or a logistics expert. The hon. Gentleman will therefore forgive me if I do not comment on his speech, except to say that I listened with considerable interest to his reference to Soviet nuclear submarine power and the menace that that poses around our coasts. I am sure that those remarks will have been taken to heart by many right hon. and hon. Members.
I wish to refer to some remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson). I am sorry that she is not in the Chamber, as she is one of the principal signatories to the somewhat bizarre amendment. She said that she deplored the build-up of the Warsaw Pact military power and the vast scale of its expenditure. No one will contradict her. She said that she felt that the scale of that expenditure came about because of the Soviet fear of the West. Neither Prague nor Budapest were in the West when the Soviet Union ruthlessly repressed the peoples in Czechoslovakia and Hungary and obliterated their freedoms. However, West Berlin is still, if somewhat tenuously, in the West, as is Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and London. We do not wish, any more than do the peoples of those countries, to follow the fate of some of the peoples in Eastern Europe. The Russians are not frightened of us, but the West may have some reason to be frightened of the Soviet Union and her Warsaw Pact military might.
Many hon. Members must have asked themselves the question which I have posed to myself over the past two days. How much is too much? How little is too little? The burden is on those who complain that the Government are spending too much, or not enough, to give concrete and specific instances of either overspending or defence deficiencies. This debate has been revealing if only because of the lack of convincing argument against the Estimates either from the Opposition or from those who have put their names to the amendment.
Listening to the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), who spoke yesterday for the Opposition, it seemed that the sky was the limit and that no economic imperatives or considerations would inhibit defence expenditure from the point of view of the Conservative Party. That approach seems as nonsensical to some Government supporters as does the attitude of some of my hon. Friends, whose speeches have revealed an obvious aversion to Labour Party policy. I think that the amendment is a pretty thin disguise and camouflage for a fundamental disagreement with the Labour Party's policy on defence. If I am right about that I wish that some of my hon. Friends would come clean and admit their dissent openly. The House would respect them if they did that rather than engage, as they appear to be doing, in a type of sniping exercise.
Labour Party policy cannot be repeated too often. It was set out in our two manifestos of last year. I am a great stickler for what is set out in those manifestos. I remind hon. Members of the clear language in which Labour policy is stated. In February the Labour Party spoke about progressively reducing the burden of Britain's defence. It also stated that we would achieve savings on defence expenditure of several hundred millions of pounds per annum over a period. That is precisely what these Estimates set out to do.
In this debate I have not heard any serious critical analysis using an honest yardstick—whatever comparative statistical approach is applied—which comes anywhere near demonstrating that the Government are failing in their declared objectives along the lines of Labour policy. I sympathise, although I cannot agree, with the criticisms of some of my hon. Friends about defence expenditure generally. The amendment is an emotional spasm for some of them and an ideological spasm for a few others. I wish that they would declare themselves. Nevertheless, there is no Government supporter who does not feel an abhorrence at the vast outpouring of our limited, and largely borrowed, resources on defence expenditure at a time when grave economic weakness is wreaking such damage on those social policies to which my hon. Friends and I subscribe. In recent weeks, massive cuts in grants to local authorities for housing modernising programmes alone have appalled many of my constituents whose houses were in a tumbledown condition.
Financial crisis is presenting a grave threat to our social services. Hospital and school administrators, teachers, including, now, university teachers, are all crying out, with justice, for more money and for higher salaries, simply to maintain existing standards. For that reason, we abhor every penny spent on military hardware and weaponry of any kind, unless it is necessary and justified.
In October, the Labour Party declared that its policy was one of détente and support for NATO. We said that the ultimate objective of the movement towards a satisfactory relationship in Europe must be the mutual and concurrent phasing out of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
I believe that the Government are pursuing, with much greater effect and success than their Conservative predecessors, foreign policies which are aimed at genuine détente, at agreements for mutual arms reductions, and international security arrangements generally. But we know the facts about the enormous buildup of military strength, and it is a continuing build-up both in conventional and nuclear striking power in the Warsaw Pact countries. We must ask ourselves why they are doing that and why they are spending such a vast amount of money in that direction.
Defence expenditure is not a matter to be decided in limbo. Unless defence is to be effective and our contribution to the NATO structure made an effective one, why spend anything at all? We are not looking for token defences or token contributions to NATO. We believe that NATO is vital to the defence of our country and of the people whom we represent. I ask right hon. and hon. Members to remember that the nation was deceived and let down by Governments and politicians in the 1930s. We dare not and must not repeat those errors.
To the Opposition, I say that the sky is not the limit. We are not at war. I hope that we are nowhere near the brink of it. There would be little point in having expensive military armoury in Europe if by doing so we were to precipitate economic collapse at home. If that were to happen, the enemy would quickly be in at the back door. The Opposition are adopting a fractious attitude to my right hon. Friend's Estimates. If they really believe that these cuts go too far, they should tell the country how much they would want to spend on defence rather than try to play a political game over this issue.
Since all but essential European commitments have been abandoned, or shortly will be given up, I cannot see where further cuts can be made without endangering our NATO rôle and our NATO relationships. It is possible that savings may be made in further collaboration and standardisation in weaponry with our European partners. As we know, standardisation of equipment allows flexibility in operational rôles, in terms of the use of airfields, ammunition, anti-tank missiles, and so on. There is a strong case for providing the British Army of the Rhine with Milan, but we must try to get agreement with the French and the Germans that, in return, they will place orders for British weapons systems in order to safeguard our own industry and employment in our constituencies.
I have vital constituency interests at stake in this connection. My constituents working on defence projects are numerous, highly skilled and very concerned about their jobs and the retention of defence contracts in a situation which they know cannot permit the abandonment of defence and defence manufacture.
In NATO, we already rely heavily on the strength of our partners, especially the German forces. Most of our partners are better equipped than are our own forces. Even with the switch in our defence rôle and commitment to NATO and the central European arena, our contribution is barely adequate, faced, as NATO is, with the massive build-up of men and weapons in the Warsaw Pact countries.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) said just now, the word "détente" means, roughly, "live and let live". I prefer to put it in this way: it means holding on to the present situation. However, it certainly does not mean retreat to a position of weakness.
Without a strong and resolute NATO structure, there would be no détente, no discussions on arms reductions, and no conference tables for our foreign Secretary or his colleagues to sit at later this year.
Aneurin Bevan, as Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary, a year or two before his death, pleaded with his own friends at a Labour conference in a debate on unilateral disarmament not to send him naked to the conference table. I ask all my hon. Friends to be realistic about these issues, to support our Foreign Secretary by giving him at least a minimum of power to his elbow in the policies for peace that he is pursuing, and to vote with our Government tonight. That is what the vast mass of our Labour voters expect of us.
The last two speakers, between them, took 28 minutes. We have a balance of six hon. Members who still wish to take part in the debate. If subsequent speakers take as long as the last two did, only two and a half hon. Members will be able to speak before the Opposition spokesman replies. However, we can accommodate all those who still wish to speak if each of them takes only six minutes.
First, I would like to say how much I agree with much that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) had to say. Towards the end of my speech I may have words to utter on the content of his remarks.
I vastly welcome the opportunity of making what I hope will be a short contribution to this debate, first as a Member who has the honour of representing a garrison town in Parliament and secondly as a former Minister for the Royal Navy. I would be grateful if we could have, perhaps at once but, it not, at a later stage, an indication when we are to have the various debates which will be forthcoming in due course on the Service Estimates, because I hereby warn the Government that I have a considerable number of constituency points which I propose to save for that occasion and also a considerable number of "Navy" points which I shall seek to raise in due course. I hope that we shall have tonight an indication when these debates are to take place.
I shall raise at the outset one matter relative to my constituency. It is the only specifically constituency point that I shall make. It relates to the military hospital at Colchester. I say to the Minister who is to reply that I regard it as having been an exercise in tactlessness and stupidity that in the White Paper the Government should have announced that the hospital at Colchester
… can be closed, once alternative arrangements have been completed to provide cover for the Servicemen and their families in the area.
This hospital in Colchester does a magnificent job not only for Service personnel but for many of my constituents who are civilians, who have given to them the opportunity of admirable treatment there.
I asked a Question on this subject the other day but the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army in effect gave a nil reply. This decision, reversing a decision which we on this side made when in Government—when I extracted a guarantee from my Army colleagues down the corridor that this hospital would remain open for 10 years. The decision to close it, made without local consultation or any consultation at all, when provision is made for Service personnel and which makes no mention at all of providing for civil personnel in my constituency who benefit from the existence of this hospital and receive splendid service from the Royal Army Medical Corps, is a wrong one. This closure will also have a profound effect on the career structure of the RAMC. I hope that something will be said by the Minister who concludes the debate this evening on this matter, which affects those in my constituency, Service men and civilians alike.
I turn to the broader aspects of the defence review. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington seems to think that his Government have now got it absolutely right. My recollection is that he thought the same when the White Paper was first produced. I would remind him that he cannot have it both ways. In an earlier debate it was stated that the Defence White Paper, when it came out, was right. Elaborate processes had been gone through. A terrible error was made by the Secretary of State in suggesting that the Chiefs of Staff had gone along with what he said. It was a terrible, grave, constitutional error and I am glad to say it has not been repeated.
Now we are considering a White Paper in the light of a further cut of £110 million. Hon. Gentlemen opposite constantly castigated us for making relatively small cuts, thus not getting a long-term viable programme on defence, a criticism which had some validity. But now hon. Gentlemen opposite are doing the same thing. We had a long-drawn-out review and a decision was arrived at, and within a few weeks we have another £110 million lopped off defence. What a devastating effect this must have on the morale of those who wish to have a career in the Services. The cuts were not right then. I believe that the Government went too far in defence cuts as originally announced in the White Paper. But with the additional £110 million it is quite clear that the cuts go too far.
Schizophrenia is a dangerous disease when found in a person. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) the other day described the Secretary of State as being like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The schizophrenia which is afflicting the Government is certainly made very apparent from the White Paper now before us. In that paper, splendidly prepared by the Departments with all the skill and expertise with which some of us are familiar, Chapter II sets out the menace confronting the country. There is set out what we as a nation, and as part of NATO, have to deal with in terms of the balance of power throughout the world.
Perhaps we can pause for a moment to look at one or two of the highlights in that part of the White Paper. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), whom I am glad to see in his place, in his most interesting contribution to the debate, indicated, as I understood him—and I will read his speech with care tomorrow—thatestimates must always be arbitrary. I see the right hon. Gentleman nod in agree ment. They are always arbitrary, he said, making the point that they should not be irrational.
In his interesting speech he went on to say that in this sphere we have not found firm ground. I am sorry that we did not find firm ground in the period when he was shadow Secretary of State for Defence. I remember hearing him speak on this issue in the past. It is difficult to get to the firm ground in this sphere. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will co-operate with some of us who are interested in defence in trying to do a fundamental analysis such as the Government have singularly failed to do in their Defence White Paper.
The right hon. Gentleman is right, as are other speakers, in indicating that this has not been a fundamental review. There has been a party conference commitment to bring spending down approximately to that of our NATO allies. There is no suggestion in the White Paper that the arbitrary figures must be wrong. I hope that those on this side of the House who are sympathetic to an analysis of this kind will do what hon. Gentlemen opposite have failed to do—and with the help of the splendid analysis of the menace set out in Chapter II.
Let us consider what is said in relation to manpower. It is said that there are 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. more in the fighting units in the Warsaw Pact countries, excluding those in Russia, than in those of the West. That is the problem. What is the Government's response to this? Is it to go to Lancaster House with the Secretary of State—as Chairman, I am glad to say, of the Eurogroup—and say, "We have this terrible disparity from the manpower point of view. Despite our great economic difficulties, we do not intend to reduce our manpower."
In fact, the Government's response to this manpower disparity of 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. in NATO countries, is to make manpower cuts of 15,000 men in the Army and to cut out one Royal Marine Commando. It does not make sense. I do not suggest that the Secretary of State went to Lancaster House today naked. I would not like to see him streaking down Pall Mall. But he went severely cut about by the tribute which has been exacted from him by the Tribune Group; by the sacrifices which he has had to make because of the pressures of Labour hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway.
The right hon. Gentleman had to go to Lancaster House saying that we are making unilateral cuts—because there are no corresponding cuts by the Warsaw Pact countries. That is the Government's response to the manpower disparity—a further cut in our manpower. I would imagine that the right hon. Member for Down, South would be worried by that because although we hope that the continuing commitment in Northern Ireland can be cut down, while this process of the scaling-down of forces goes on there must be an effect on the number of tours of duty served by units for the next year or so. That is disturbing.
I come to Chapter II of the White Paper and to the naval threat, which is so severe. Since the Cuban crisis of 1961 there has been a massive build-up of Soviet vessels with the mighty Admiral Gorshkov, Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Fleet, making sure that never again will the Russians have to undergo the humiliation of turning ships back from whence they came at the behest of the American Government.
What is the Government's response? It is a cut in the naval building programme. Does that make sense? The Government's response is wholly lunatic. They have set out in Chapter II the tremendous problems confronting the NATO Alliance. Their response is to say, "We shall cut unilaterally". What a terrible effect this is likely to have on the MBFR talks. The diagnosis is that some exercise is needed. But the doctor says to the patient, "Every time you feel like exercise I want you to lie down until the feeling wears off." That is an appropriate simile.
The Government have analysed the problem in Chapter II and have then said to the nation, "You can safely ignore these problems. Despite what confronts us we can make unilateral cuts." It is a dangerous policy in view of the menace from abroad and also because of the increased menace internally. We have seen what has happened in Glasgow and elsewhere. In the last resort we have had to call on the Armed Forces to assist us in the maintenance of law and order.
This is no time for us to be cutting down on trained manpower, on men who are dedicated to the preservation of law and order and to the preservation of our society as we know it. It is no time for such cuts as were announced in the White Paper and it is certainly no time for the further cuts that have been made.
Order. I am sorry that the hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) was not able to respond fully to my appeal and spoke for 15 minutes instead of six. There have been two casualties already. I will not make any further appeals to hon. Members. I leave it to them.
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) will forgive me if I do not take up his detailed points. As a Scottish Nationalist determined to return to a sovereign Scots Parliament, I am naturally concerned with defence as it affects my own country.
Given the time limit which you have suggested, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall make just a few points quickly. Scotland overlooks what is still the most strategic stretch of water in the world—the Greenland, Iceland and Faroes Gap. It commands that gap and covers the Northern approaches to both America and Russia. Our waters are a forward deployment area of the Soviet Northern Fleet, based at Murmansk. Scotland is currently hoaching—to use the Scottish word—with military hardware. The discovery of significant offshore oil and gas, and the probability of mineral deposits, in what would be a war zone for NATO and Warsaw Pact forces, add to our concern. Should the Law of the Sea Conference decide on a 200-nautical-miles exclusive zone, the demands on our forces will be significantly increased.
It seems certain that over the next decade Scotland will see a substantial rise in defence activity rather than a decline. Within the last three months we have seen Soviet trawlers nosing around Amoco's 478 platform. These platforms are relatively open to military attack from the air by a single sneak bomber and from the sea by frogmen or direct torpedo attack. They are also subject to sabotage and terrorist activities, as are the land pipelines and other shore installations. Undoubtedly the new tropospheric scatter system of communication to the northern platforms, with their dovetailed shore stations, will also arouse Warsaw Pact interest and suspicion.
I should like to make two quick comments to the Minister. First, the provision for surveillance and interdiction in the offshore area is clearly beyond the means of the United Kingdom or Scotland alone. To that extent I welcome the February decision of the NATO Council to accept responsibility for the defence of the platforms in the North Sea in the event of a threat from a foreign Power.
Secondly, I wonder, despite the winding up speech by the Under-Secretary last night, whether the present proposals for the defence and security of the installations announced by the Minister in February are sufficient.
My party regards it as completely unrealistic that each platform should have a defence capability of its own. Who is co-ordinating the various activities of NATO, the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Energy, the Offshore Supplies Office, and the local police in this area?
Does the Minister suggest that the construction of five new ships, similar to those operated by the fisheries protection squadron, is sufficient? Does he not agree that what is currently being provided is a minimum response, no more than a patrol surveillance exercise, when a force is needed which can react at speed and have the best possible communications system? That implies the provision of helicopter-carrying frigates.
Members of the Scottish Assembly are certain to take more than a passing interest in such defence matters regardless of any strictures on them by the House. Apart from Scotland's strategic position and the 20,000 defence personnel stationed there, there is the matter of nuclear bases. My hon. Friends and I and Labour Members are opposed to the siting of nuclear bases in Scotland. The Government can speak for themselves. However, let me add one rider. While the nuclear members of NATO may not value Scotland's defence contribution to NATO quite so highly if nuclear facilities, including over-flight and transit facilities, are withdrawn, our position at the base of the northern gap gives us a powerful negotiating hand. Norway and Denmark have a non-nuclear relationship with NATO, and it is likely that this precedent will allow Scotland to make similar provisions for herself after independence.
I turn to the Scottish dimension, and the dilemma of any nationalist participating in a debate of this type While we are fully conscious of the need for collective Western defence, our concern is naturally more with the defence profile of countries of comparable population and GNP such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, Austria and New Zealand. An independent Scotland has three defence options—home defence on the Southern Irish model, armed neutrality similar to Finland and Austria, or an alliance partnership, such as that of Norway and Denmark.
Given Scotland's strategic position, the home defence model—spending only a minimal amount of our GNP is impractical. Armed neutrality would be both costly and inimical to our political traditions. My party is firmly committed to alliance partner status. Our Chairman has confirmed the almost certain adherence of an independent Scotland to NATO.
Given more time, I could have taken the House through the costings of an independent Scots defence budget. That has been done at considerable length. The thinking of my party, despite the giggles from certain Conservative Members, is based on six basic assumptions. First, an independent Scotland will participate in the Western alliance. Secondly, Scotland will be a non-nuclear Power, and no nuclear weapons will be stored on or allowed into Scottish territory. Thirdly, Scottish territory, including air and sea space, will be open to access by alliance partners, but no alliance partner will be permitted to engage in military operations from Scottish territory without the consent of the Scottish Government. Fourthly, the Scottish defence capability will be largely defensive and not offensive. Fifthly, Scotland will be a member of such international organisations as UNO, and will make available such military units as that body requests for peacekeeping operations. Sixthly, Scotland will be a member of the Commonwealth, and will have close defence links with England and pursue a good-neighbour policy with all countries of the British Isles.
The White Paper covers the next nine years. My hon. Friends and I confidently expect that within that period Scotland will regain her independence. While we wish the Minister every success in general in the meantime, our aims and objectives are so totally different from his and those of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) that the SNP will have no possible course but to abstain from voting tonight.
In deference to other possible speakers I shall cut short what I have to say and not take up the points raised by the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid). As I dealt with the far-flung pretensions of the latter-day Palmerstons on the Opposition benches in our last defence debate, I shall confine myself to the opinions of some of my hon. Friends who have criticised my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for not cutting defence enough, and have tabled an amendment accordingly.
We must first settle the aims of our defence policy within the context of our foreign policy, as my right hon. Friend has tried to do. The main focus of our defence is Europe. My right hon. Friend has spelled out his perceptions of the threat there in some detail. My hon. Friends have failed to spell out their perceptions. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh. Central (Mr. Cook) regard the Soviet Union as a poor
Wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie",
crouched behind its massive defences, fearing a NATO onslaught? That is the picture that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) seem to be painting. Do my hon. Friends think that immediate, unilateral cuts of £1,000 million from the defence budget, in advance of any MBFR agreements, will melt Soviet fears and suspicions and usher in a new era of international good will? Do they regard the
effective withdrawal of Britain from NATO, which cuts of that extent would mean, as desirable? Do they regard NATO as obsolete? If so, do they contemplate with equanimity the dismantling of the alliance in advance of the dismantling of the Warsaw Pact?
I ask them to consider those possibilities carefully. The kind of cuts that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) wants could, as the Second Report of the Expenditure Committee makes clear, make nonsense of British participation in NATO. I believe that virtual British withdrawal from NATO could lead to American withdrawal from Europe.
I should like to develop that point. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Williams) spoke yesterday of the new disenchantment in Washington. I noticed a report in The Guardian today that congressional leaders and senators are making reassuring noises to the effect that withdrawal from South-East Asia does not mean withdrawal from Europe. I am sure that those noises are sincere. But I am less sure, in the perspective of American history, that they can be taken as sound evidence of America's likely behaviour in her third century of existence. From the very founding of the republic the Americans have been isolationist by instinct. George Washington's valedictory address, which I would quote if there were time, contained the famous definition of American isolationism which has been followed virtually ever since. America was dragged into the First World War with reluctance. Most of the country had wanted to remain neutral. Even the most recent immigrants from Europe wanted to keep out of the European struggle, because it was precisely that kind of entanglement that they had gone to America to escape.
After the First World War, America refused to join the League of Nations, feeling again that it was getting too entangled with tricky European politicians. In World War II, whatever Roosevelt's views, only after his country had been attacked by Japan was he able to lead America into the war.
I suggest that that proves that America's post-World War II involvement with Europe, through Marshall Aid, NATO, and in various other ways, is not, as we have become accustomed to thinking, the norm of American diplomacy, but is rather a totally exceptional 30 years in the 200 years' sweep of American history.
Some people comfort themselves, in the wake of Vietnam, with the thought that America would never withdraw from Europe in the same way. In fact, as I have tried to show, Americans have traditionally been isolationists. A recent United States poll revealed that only one American in three would be prepared to fight for the defence of Western Europe.
Certainly we should not believe that America's economic investment in Western Europe is too valuable to be abandoned. In 1973, the net US investment position vis-à-vis Western Europe was minus $45 billion. The excess of US private direct investment in Western Europe over European investment in the United States in 1973 was only $25 billion, and the net capital inflow into the United States from Western Europe was $12 billion.
In the same year, according to Senator Mike Mansfield—the leading advocate of major United States troop reductions in Europe—the overall cost of the United States NATO commitment was $17 billion to $18 billion, the direct operating cost of the manpower of United States forces in Europe was $4 billion, and the net balance of payments drain was $1·5 billion.
Clearly, from those figures, if America were to contemplate withdrawing from Western Europe, the difference between the savings on defence expenditure and the loss of economic investments would not be so large that a country with a GNP of over $1,000 billion would be deterred by that prospect alone.
I am not trying to suggest that America will suddenly abandon all its allies overseas. I am saying that, in the aftermath of the Vietnam débâcle and in the shadow of Dr. Kissinger's failures in the Middle East, there is bound to be an agonising, if partially subconscious, reappraisal by Americans of their rôle in the world.
In that atmosphere, the voices of those senators who have long been arguing for troop reductions in Europe could seem persuasive, and I am sure that there will be such reductions. But the crucial point is that an effective abandonment by Britain of her NATO commitment, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has specifically and, I believe, successfully, tried to avoid, could be decisive in changing American troop reductions into a total troop withdrawal and an adoption of a policy of fortress America.
It may be that some of my hon. Friends will welcome that. If so, they should say so and elaborate their alternative foreign and defence policies. Would they advocate greatly increased British defence efforts to make up for the American departure? I think not. But if my hon. Friends are advocating policies which, as I have argued, could lead to the dissolution of NATO unconnected with any similar dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, they should remember that that is not what the Labour Government stands for, that that is not what the Labour Party stands for, and I believe that that is not what the great majority of the British people would want them to do.
The hon. Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) must excuse me if I do not follow all his arguments.
We are being asked to support the cutting of the very lean of our defence forces—the fat was trimmed years ago, as any serving soldier, sailor or airman will tell us—at a most turbulent time in world history.
For as long as I have been alive, the Communists have been fighting in Vietnam. The fortitude of their fighting men excites our admiration just as much as the conquest of a free and independent State by force of arms must trouble liberal thinking men around the bowl of the Atlantic.
In the Eastern Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey are eyeball to eyeball over Cyprus, and nearer home our oldest ally sinks inexorably into a tyranny of the Left. Why these cuts now, and when the MBFR conference is deadlocked?
The White Paper says:
… resources must be released for investment and improving the balance of payments.
Perhaps the Secretary of State was nearer the truth when, at his party adoption meeting in his constituency last September he said that Labour would prune "several
hundred million pounds" from the Armed Forces to help pay for social services. Much of the money saved would be
… transferred to house building, hospitals and schools and man-power will be freed for more productive work
Whatever the reasons—clearly, that most foolish call for a cut of "at least £1,000 million" at the 1973 Labour Party conference is a good starting point—we, as a leading European nation, are turning away from the strategy of flexible response towards the earlier use of tactical nuclear weapons.
It is this basic, undeniable fact which sends shudders through the most hard-boiled, battle-experienced veteran of BAOR, if not through the frail frames of such hon. Members as the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun). The Tribune Group preach the gospel of "butter, not guns", which is easier than to tell the people the reality of the Tribune defence policy. The reality is instructing General Harry Tuzo, currently Commander-in-Chief of BAOR, to use nuclear mines and tactical weapons in the first few hours of an all-out assault on the central front to compensate for his lack of conventional forces. Labour's Left has as its proper slogan, "Let us lower the nuclear threshold and save money." That is a strange ending to all those Aldermaston marches.
While we lead the way in reducing our defence forces without equivalent loss of commitments, Russia maintains two years conscription, is arming grossly in excess of her defence needs and has been carrying out a large number of underground nuclear explosions. Soon, Soviet military power will exceed that of the United States. A study of the Warsaw Pact's annual exercises strongly suggests offensive intentions. Constant rehearsing of the river crossing battle, with snorkel tanks and highly expensive and elaborate bridging equipment, by shock armies, points to a possible campaign in West Germany rather than the defence of a river line in East Germany.
We all want to believe that they, like us, want détente. But my generation must not make the same mistake as did my father's generation. We all want to believe—Tribune speakers have said this many times—that they are arming against China and not the West. Unfortunately an expert look at the types and complexity of their weapon systems does not lead to such a conclusion. It is very hard for the honest observer to see any sea change in their outlook towards the West.
Certainly, they have never renounced their ideological aims. The mass of their population is totally ignorant of the outside world, and the actions of their leaders speak louder than their words in the conference halls. The greatest mistake we can make as political leaders in our community is to see the world only as we would like to see it and not as it is.
I should like briefly to mention some of the problems in BAOR that I saw on a recent visit. Stocks of ammunition, vehicles and electronic spares are dangerously low. It is a tragedy that the British alone of the NATO allies are not carrying out training above brigade group level—in stark contrast to the position only a few years ago. Substantial reductions in the activity of fighting and non-fighting vehicles have been imposed. Scorpion vehicles are restricted to 600 to 1,000 miles. It is not difficult to imagine the feelings of their recently qualified crews.
I should like to turn to the North Sea, where the Government have announced measures which are totally inadequate to meet the dangers. A month ago a group of Soviet naval vessels, including a submarine, took up positions near some of Britain's oil rigs. My complaint is that the Government are over-relying on North Sea oil while at the same time under-defending it. Their proposals for the defence of these vital and vulnerable installations are simply not good enough.
The Government are going through that peculiar Whitehall exercise of waiting for the horse to bolt so that public opinion may be rallied around attempts to close the stable door. Why wait till some terrorist group does something nasty to individuals or equipment on an oil rig? Many independent defence experts have severely criticised the Government's plans as being an inadequate and minimum response.
I should like to quote what Professor John Erikson, Director of Defence Studies at Edinburgh University has said:
… the force should be able to react instantly at speed and have the best possible communications. The idea of bringing an oceangoing tug into service suggests the Government are reacting as they did to the fishery troubles off Iceland and are taking this no further than a patrol and a surveillance exercise. This offers no precise defence of individual rigs or platforms.
Last February "Navy International" put forward a number of important suggestions. Of course, there are technical problems as well as financial ones. However, faced with the strategic and economic importance of North Sea oil and gas, I urge the Government as strongly as I can to think again. At the very least naval helicopters must operate in the area, and without delay.
The House is considering the third round of defence cuts in recent months. I expect round four in the Chancellor's post-referendum emergency package. As Sir Frank Roberts pointed out in his excellent letter to The Times on Monday, written on behalf of the Council of the British Atlantic Committee:
the degree of Britain's support for NATO could be of crucial importance to United States opinion at this time.
I greatly fear that Britain's new cuts will set off a snowball reaction within the Western Alliance. Our allies have reason to say that we do not propose to pull our weight in future. We have superb, highly professional and well-armed regular forces, but their overall size is very small and is now to be made smaller. A short while ago Alexander Solzhenitsyn said:
It is not your liberty I am criticising but the way you surrender that liberty step by step. Totalitarianism is born from a weak will and ill-prepared democracy.
A large number of important points have been raised during this long overdue two-day debate. I am conscious that I cannot hope to touch on them all, and I hope that the House will acquit me of discourtesy if time forces me to leave many of them without mention. I am also conscious that many hon. Members who sought to speak in the debate found that the time and the opportunity did not arise. There is some consolation for them and for the House in that we shall soon be able to return to defence matters in the coming debates on the Service Estimates.
I have served notice on the business managers that we shall want these debates soon, that we shall want the responsible Ministers to attend, and that we shall, in all probability, want to vote on all the Estimates. Therefore, it is no use the Government trying to slip them in on the Monday after the referendum.
I want to give one more warning. We shall want to deal thoroughly with the many points of important detail which have arisen on the Army Estimates, including the abolition of the brigade headquarters, a point which my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Good-hart) foresaw in his admirably witty speech yesterday and which I want to touch on tonight. I want to argue the case that there should be some experiment before an irrevocable decision is taken. I want to stress, together with the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. White-law) and other hon. Members, that if the reform is introduced it may have a damaging effect on the selection of the best men for the highest commands in the Army.
On the Air Force Estimates, we must look carefully at the question of the RAF's remaining transport capability and at the need which this must create for reserves. This is a point which many hon. Members have stressed. We must look at the effect of the helicopter cutbacks. We must certainly look at the question of the resettlement of redundant personnel, most of whom, I fear, are at present disposed to emigrate, and at the rehousing of those who are still willing to stay here and give Britain a chance.
Many points on the labour side will need to be probed in detail, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Buck) has stressed. It should be noted that in the defence review it is the Navy that has taken the brunt of cancellation of new capital spending. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) deals with the Navy Estimates, he will be willing to come out from behind the smokescreen which he put down today and will be able to decide then whether he is willing to advise his hon. Friends to take part in the vote.
I hope that on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman will not take 26 minutes to say very little.
On defence sales we shall clearly need a separate day's debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark) has stressed the importance of improving and strengthening the sales organisation, and others have touched upon the vital matter of standardisation. It is also clear that we shall soon need a separate debate on the difficult question of the defence of the North Sea, on which there are many on both sides of the House who are anxious about the relevance and effectiveness of the Government's policies.
One or two topics have received curiously little mention from Ministers in the debate. One is the question of the EEC. I am glad that in his opening speech the Secretary of State found a good deal to say about Eurogroup. I particularly welcomed his remarks on the part that France might play, although I think that he should have gone slightly further and accepted that if France is to come back into Eurogroup there must be not only a greater industrial co-operation but also a greater political co-operation that goes with that decision. However, I must say to the Secretary of State that I find it very difficult to agree with the remark he made in the debate on 16th December last year, when he said, in praise of his own cuts,
I believe that this retrenchment enhances our ability to concentrate upon our defence priorities particularly our rôle as a European Power irrespective of whether we stay within the EEC."—[Official Report, 16th December 1974 ; Vol. 883, c. 1163.]
I find it very odd indeed that the Secretary of State should be prepared to say that our membership of the EEC has no bearing on Europe's capability of defending itself. It may be necessary for internal reasons for him to play down this subject, but he must not expect us to hide from the nation our belief that Europe's cohesion in defence is inseparable from its willingness to combine in political and economic matters as well.
Another matter which the Secretary of State left in such uncertainty is that of offset costs. I was not any more able to understand what he meant in his reference yesterday to "host-nation" support, as reported as at col. 1235 of the Official Report, than I was to understand paragraphs 30–32 of Chapter II of the White Paper. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham put the question directly last night. He asked the Secretary of State I hope that we shall have an answer tonight from the Minister of State—whether the Government were saying to the Germans that they must pick up the increased bill for BAOR which results from the fall in the value of the pound. The Secretary of State will know, as the House knows, how disturbing the trends are. Recent Questions have brought out the soaring costs across the exchanges and the disappointing level of offset purchases. I hope very much that we can have an explicit answer on this point tonight.
I turn to the White Paper, on which a fairly effective demolition job was done by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) yesterday and again today by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) joining in and stamping the wretched thing into the dust. But it had been destroyed before we came to debate it, by the Secretary of State's own £110 million round of further cuts. It is not enough for him to claim, in justification of these cuts, that at least they show no discrimination against defence.
I see the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy sitting on the Government Front Bench. May I say to him that when the news of these cuts was announced, I was reminded of a speech that he made in Bournemouth on
9th March of this year, speaking, appropriately enough, to the Fire Brigades Union—no doubt while Russian submarines cruised off shore. He said:
Short term arbitrary cuts, in themselves by no means simple, are not the answer. The effects of such a policy, if continued, on the morale of the Services and, indeed, on the credibility of our whole defence policy, could not but be serious. We would reach a point where both our Allies and our enemies knew that we no longer took our defence seriously; a case of 'the Emperor's new clothes'.
The hon. Gentleman said that, perhaps rather imprudently, a mere month or two before yet another £100 million is cut in an arbitrary exercise from the defence budget.
I should like, therefore, to restate the case against the White Paper. In our belief—and there has been little dissent on this from the Opposition side—the assessment of the threat is basically an inadequate one, almost a superficial one in what is held out to us as a great intellectual analysis. It is true that the order of battle of the Warsaw Pact forces is set out in all its terrifying extent. The grouping is emphasised, but there is no mention of the fact that the comparisons are confined to ready forces only. This comparison is used as a backdrop not to a reluctant realisation that we can ill afford at such a time to cut defence, but to an announcement of greater cuts, almost, than ever before.
Those who study these matters may recall, ironically, that the last time a Labour Government embarked upon a course of this kind, which was in the 1965 Defence White Paper, they were at least open to claim that the forces of the Warsaw Pact were running down. Now the Government have no such excuse or defence.
I must ask the Government what they see not merely as the balance but as the threat. Where may it face us? Where could an enemy do us harm by the use of force? That could happen in Europe, obviously, and on the European flanks and approaches, and that much, within narrow limits, the Government recognise.
Also, anyone studying this matter objectively would agree that an enemy could do us harm with force in an area where our key supplies originate. By definition, he could do us harm along the routes between the location of our key supplies and this country—the open sea.
What do the Government see as the strategic priorities? They mention them but they never spell them out clearly in the White Paper. In the areas where we can no longer, for one reason or another, deploy forces of our own, what will the Government do? Will they simply abandon our friends, and make no effort to build up their strength, if not with men, with arms? Do they not see here, in their strategic priorities, a call upon their defence sales programme? They do not, to judge by the White Paper.
Do the Government take it for granted that the seas will always be open in the face of the expansion of the Russian Fleet further and further eastwards and southwards, as we see it heading all the time, and as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) so wisely stressed. No answer is provided for this question. Instead, there is in the White Paper a wholly bogus approach based upon such assumptions as what we can afford and what our available resources are. This is pure question begging, in which the GNP comparison is merely a distraction.
The GNP standard has long since been discredited, because hon. Members who take any interest in the matter must know that in reckoning a country's GNP all employment is deemed to be productive. Every Ministry bureaucrat enrolled by the State represents a growth in the GNP. Even the satirical speech writers employed by the Scottish National Party, if it pays them—which I doubt—represent an increase in the GNP. The GNP standard is a non-standard. It is something we should leave to the days of flat-earth economics, out of which, thank goodness we are now gradually beginning to move.
The test should be consumption, because the task of any Government must be to allocate the resources they take from their citizens among the various services they feel they must provide on behalf of those citizens. In these circumstances, by any standard, defence must be a priority not merely because, historically, it was in order to defend themselves that men and women combined to form societies, but because defence remains one of the things that the citizen cannot in any circumstances hope to provide for himself.
When the Secretary of State places great emphasis on collective defence, which he does in his justification of the rundown of our forces, I remind him that in his review there is an essential contradiction of the collective principle of alliance. If there had been earlier and fuller consultation we should have found that our allies would have shown a preference for a greater contribution by us on the flanks rather than in the central area. It is incontrovertible that we are the only member of NATO to believe that the alliance has no flanks.
The greatest charge that can and must be levelled against the Defence White Paper is that the assumptions of what we can afford and so on, are purely speculative matters of judgment. There is no absolute. The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force can prove no absolute right in saying that half way must be about right. We are as entitled to challenge his assumption as he is free to challenge ours. We do so not because we say that the sky is the limit for defence spending. We do not say that. We form a judgment and say that the needs of the country cannot adequately be met within the sum of money that the Labour Government are prepared to allocate to defence. It the Government challenge us and ask where the money will come from, there is no difficulty in providing them with some choices.
For a start, most hon. Members would recognise that money could be saved if the Secretary of State for Industry could be prevented from rampaging round British industry like a kleptomaniac with a loaded credit card. If hon. Gentlemen are sceptical enough to ask for other examples, I will give them some. The Conservatives would not spend money on the nationalisation of North Sea oil, the nationalisation of the aircraft industry, the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and ship repairing industry. We should not squander £1 million a week on the administration of the Community Land Bill. We should not freeze private funds out of health and education. We should put defence before indiscriminate food subsidies and before indiscriminate housing subsidies. I could go on.
I am sorry to have to disappoint the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr Stewart), whose speech was so penetrating, but I do not need to stand at this Box and speak of higher taxation to provide more money for defence. We think that defence is being cut not merely down to the bone but right into the bone, and that the basis of the calculation on which that is being done is bogus. We make no apology, and need make no apology, for refusing to endorse the Socialist priorities which the cuts reflect.
I am glad that the Minister is to say something about the Harrier, because the situation is confused, especially after a debate in the House of Lords on 24th April in which the Government spokesman said nothing upon which any reliance could be placed, except that it would he an overstatement to say that the Government would do nothing for 18 months. He got most of his dates wrong and most of his facts wrong, and the record needs to be put right now. I press the Minister on this not because we believe that the Harrier should be bought for our Services, because it is a marvellous new toy, like a coloured television set which is to be bought on a spending spree before the VAT man strikes. The test must be: is it needed? Ministers are reluctant to answer that question, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will he more forthcoming tonight.
As far as I can make out, without the Harrier, in three years' time the Fleet at sea will have a dangerously reduced reconnaisance capability and, still more, it will have no means, when out of range of land aircraft cover, of dealing with Bear E, the Russian very long-range reconnaissance and missile guidance aircraft. It will be as much at the mercy of enemy missile-firing submarines as HMS "Repulse" and HMS "Prince of Wales" were at the mercy of enemy dive-bombers.
Let the Government be honest. Of course there are other factors, but they are secondary. The overseas sales factor is important, but it is secondary. The provision of jobs in aircraft factories is important, but it is secondary. The key is not whether we can afford the Harrier but how we can have a credible defence without it. That is the question, and it is time the Minister came to the Dispatch Box to give us a straight answer.
I turn to the amendment in the name of the other Labour Party, It is, of course, a confused amendment. That we would expect. It is also a cynical amendment, because it is at such pains to hide so much of its meaning. It might have been more honest to say "When it comes to defence we are agin it." Further, it is a callous amendment. That is one of the gravest charges to be brought against it. It is callous in its pretence that alternative jobs are available and that all we need to do is to arrange the smooth transfer of skilled manpower into some waiting employment near their homes and in their range of skills, thereby releasing them from making swords into beating ploughshares. Those who believe that should go and tell it to the workers at Brough and elsewhere. The workers foresee that they will have to pay for the pacifism of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) and his hon. Friends with their hopes of future employment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr said yesterday, it is a contemptible amendment.
Some of my hon. Friends may wonder how they should treat the amendment now that it has been selected for debate. In that context they may have been led, by the speeches of its sponsors in this debate and in others, to feel that the best thing to do is simply to ignore it.
Those who heard the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) may feel that he has been done to rights this morning by the Daily Telegraph sketch writer. Those who studied the speech of the hon. Member for Salford, East in our previous defence debate will have noted that he said:
I do not think that it is possible to defend this country any longer by military means."—[Official Report, 16th December 1974; Vol. 883, c. 1178.]
Those who heard the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) this afternoon may have been amused by his solution to the problem of Belize, which was to hire independent Government troops to defend itself. Although he did
not say this, no doubt he was thinking of lending them the money from the aid budget to pay for it.
It is difficult to make out the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens). The one thing that I detected quite clearly in the report of the previous debate was a statement on his part denouncing both the United States and the USSR. No doubt he looks forward to bellowing out the same rousingly impartial denunciation all the way to the salt mines. Sometimes he gets it right but on other occasions he gets it the wrong way round. He told us that the main threat to peace was from poverty. I ask him to consider that the main threat to poverty may arise from peace.
I am sorry that I missed the speech of the hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson). I gather that the hon. Lady was in her usual sparkling form. During our last defence debate she said:
Why are we cutting our research and development by only 10 per cent.? We could cut it out altogether and buy what we needed from our partners."—[Official Report, 16th December 1974; Vol. 883, c. 1260.]
A little later she went on to urge that we should stop following in the steps of the United States and NATO. I am tempted to ask her who she thinks her partners are, but perhaps it would embarrass her too much if I asked her that question.
Next, there is the young Lenin, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). Unfortunately, I do not see him in the Chamber. What has he to say in support of the amendment? In our last defence debate he said:
if we insist that we shall remain a leading member of an alliance based on sophisticated weapons systems, no substantial cut in defence expenditure is available to us."—[Official Report, 16th December 1974; Vol. 883, c. 1244.]
What are we to do if our allies want weapons to defend themselves against the enemy? Are we to leave them to it? Are we simply to walk quietly out of the room? Yesterday the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central told us:
It is folly to imagine that the electorate will tolerate in other forms of public expenditure, other cuts which will be necessary to maintain our present level of defence expenditure."—[Official Report, 6th May 1975; Vol. 891, c. 1277.]
If the hon. Member is so confident of the rightness of his judgment, I suggest he reads the Hansard report of today's proceedings. Indeed, let him go to Woolwich—if we ever get round to a by-election there—and try his luck in that area. Perhaps he has already been to Woolwich and has found out the facts. Perhaps he understands that the electorate does not see eye to eye with him on this matter. It is too late to find out now, but let him go, all the same.
The amendment to which the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) have spoken remains, despite the conscious or unconscious humour used in their arguments, a contemptible amendment. My advice to the House is that it should be comprehensively rejected. That must mean voting against it. I do not hesitate to ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to do just that. But if anybody believes that the Tribune Group has not yet got beyond a joke, I should like to put the case in the following way: the Secretary of State for Defence yesterday compared the authors of the amendment and those who believed in it to ostriches. If my hon. Friends come with me into the appropriate Lobby tonight when that amendment is called, I believe that they will find they can deal appropriately with the exposed portions of the ostrich's anatomy.
The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) has only just joined us. I am sorry that I insulted him by omitting his name from the decalogue of the Tribune Group. I have no doubt he will go happily into the Division Lobby in support of the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) and others. I shall be happy to vote against him. Where his right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) may be I do not know, but I have a slight feeling that it will not be in the same Lobby as the hon. Gentleman.
I return finally to the Government motion. It is a "grotty" and, indeed, an undignified motion. It is not a straightforward motion, which simply asks the House to approve certain action. It is full of weasel words and clever drafting. It may be that those words exist in the faint hope nursed by the Government that they may still receive some support for their motion and their White Paper from the junior partners in a foundering coalition. I suspect that hon. Members below the Gangway will disappoint them.
The Tribune Group once boasted that it had 91 members of like persuasion. I wonder how many we shall see in their Lobby tonight—[An HON. MEMBER: "Where did you get that figure from?] That figure was contained in a memorandum which was circulated as a riposte to what was put out by the Secretary of State for Defence in Labour's White Paper.
The Government will get no support for their motion from us. There are many good reasons why that should be so. I must give the House one final reason why the Opposition will vote against the Government motion. The morale of the Services is vital. We recognise the work which the men and women in uniform do for us, though insufficiently sometimes—and Ministers are among the worst offenders. But we must at least agree that the work which they do for us is invaluable, and that their morale matters. It reflects their terms and conditions of service, but it must reflect something more. It must reflect the morale of society as a whole—for that is where the men and women in uniform come from. That is where they return when they have done their dangerous work on our behalf.
Because of the way in which the Labour Government are destroying the morale of the nation, bringing our laws into contempt and substituting collective tyranny for individual freedom, and because the Government are leaving the country and society less and less that is worth defending, we condemn them again tonight.
As we reach the closing stages of this debate, I am reminded of the music hall song, which I think was a favourite with Marie Lloyd, who sang that she was always a bridesmaid and never a blushing bride. I recognise the risk of ambivalence in the coining of that phrase, but for the fourth time in a year I find myself following on behind. To change to a safer metaphor, I am a tail ender in the twilight when the best batting is over and I realise that the crowd is anxious to go home.
I have listened in vain for the powerful arguments I had expected either for the amendment or against the Government motion. We certainly did not have them in the cavalier speech of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) or in favour of the amendment standing in the names of a number of my hon. Friends.
I have heard many thoughtful speeches, and I have read those which I did not hear. I think that at many stages the debate has been very well argued. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) will not become nervous when I say that I thought that he made a singularly powerful speech, even when I did not agree with him.
I recognised the serious commitment of hon. Members who spoke in the debate ever, that sentiment was not aroused by ever, that sentiment was not expressed by the hon. Member for Woking.
When the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) was in full flood yesterday afternoon I counted 28 of his right hon. and hon. Friends present, which is one out of 10 of all Conservative Members, to support his massive attack. Nor have Government supporters been exactly thick on the ground. As I find substantial agreement with my analysis of this occasion I should like to believe that very soon we shall all tiptoe quietly away without any unnecessary votes. Until that quiet moment comes I must deal with some of the matters raised in the debate.
First I should like to refer to the further cut of £110 million which has been a proper subject for discussion and to which my right hon. Friend referred yesterday. Nobody will suppose that my right hon. Friend accepted this cut with a song in his heart. He said that this additional saving could not be painless. It was not painless to accept it. But he is not the first Minister in this or any other Government with responsibility for defence or any other spending Department who wished that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day should be forced to swallow a little of his own medicine, and my right hon. Friend will not be the last. It is the way of the world to fight hard against cuts but equally to recognise wider and inescapable necessities.
Very few hon. Members have questioned the Chancellor's decision to make massive reductions in public expenditure. Most have been saddened by what those cuts mean in areas close to their hearts. It is unreal to believe that defence could have escaped even after a major and thoroughgoing review, and especially in deteriorating economic circumstances.
The Opposition are entitled to make their debating points. In their shoes we would do the same. But let us recognise debating points for what they are. I thought that the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw), with all his experience and more than his usual caution, weighed his words carefully on this matter. A short time ago the hon. Member for Woking lacked such wisdom. In due course he may regret his remarks.
We have had a number of very wide-ranging contributions to the debate, and they have been very valuable in helping us to see the defence review in its international perspective. We had a speech which was firm, if not occasionally strenuous, from the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) which did not seem to me to be popular at all times with his successor, the hon. Member for Ayr. We had from the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) a thoughtful speech in which he said that he believed that we had got the balance about right. I welcome his support.
We had from my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) his usual shrewd and broad perspective and analysis, and we had from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) his usual mixture of perception and perverseness. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the inevitability of arbitrariness, I found myself largely in agreement with him. But when he spoke later about an army of citizen volunteers, I wondered, and I felt that I must go away to reflect and to work out what that might really mean.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas) spoke of no Finlandisation. I endorse that remark and many others that he made. The hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) talked of the work of his Select Committee. Like the hon. Member for Ayr, I regret that we shall lose the hon. and gallant Gentleman at the end of this Parliament. The whole House has welcomed the vigilance and hard work of his Select Committee. Although sometimes Ministers in the Defence Department find themselves sorely tried by his persistence and demands and those of his Committee, that is the proper function of his Committee, which this House has welcomed, and we shall all be better for it.
Then we had the remarks of the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). I regret, though I am not surprised, that he was unable to endorse the White Paper, but he had much to contribute from his own patient experience of disarmament negotiations. I know that those who did not hear his remarks will read them with the greatest interest.
Finally, from the Government benches, we had from my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) a typically robust and deeply informed speech in which, among other things, he brought together the logic of the arguments of some of those who demand what we regard as excessive cuts in its implications for our commitment to NATO. This is a matter which I should like the House to explore on some future occasion. But, for the Government, I can merely repeat what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said so many times. We are committed fully to NATO, and our defence review makes that plain.
I hope that time may be found, although these debates on international affairs are not always the most fruitful, to debate some of the other very large issues which have been in our minds today, even when we have not perhaps made them wholly explicit. Certainly the end of the United States rôle in Vietnam and the inevitable crisis of confidence and of pur- pose which the United States faces must give us pause, and nothing that Her Majesty's Government do or which the House would want done must lead the United States to weaken its commitment to Europe, with all the advantages for us that that commitment implies.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) referred in his other remarks to the need to combat terrorism. I hope that he will understand if I say that, although I agree with him and although the Government have made plain that this is their view also, it will be widely agreed that the less said about the detailed provision that we make, the better on this occasion. But I note my hon. Friend's concern, and he was right to express it in the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson), and my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), at the end of his speech yesterday, paid tribute to the work of the British contingent in the United Nations forces in Cyprus. That contingent now numbers 970 men, and we are happy to endorse the welcome tribute to those involved in what continues to be a difficult task.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough referred to conditions in the sovereign base areas in Cyprus. I regret that we cannot yet let families live outside them. I do not want to minimise the problems that remain and the inconvenience of those living there, and we shall do all we possibly can to alleviate the situation.
The hon. Member for Woking, in his closing speech, and the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) earlier referred to the maritime Harrier, which was also discussed yesterday. I fully recognise the interest of the House in this question and the anxiety that it should be settled quickly but I would like to take the House rather quietly through the issues involved on this and other occasions when the Government are obliged to make difficult decisions.
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border this afternoon referred quite explicitly, in a passage with which I could not disagree, to the need to get value for money in all the purchases we make and even the hon. Member for Woking found it right to use cautious words about the way in which Government decisions on equipment should be made. He said that no Government ought to buy equipment—and I believe that he was referring particularly to the maritime Harrier—simply because it is a marvellous new toy. He said the real test is whether a piece of equipment is needed. With those sentiments I do not disagree, and it is fair to say that all who have been involved in Government are aware of the awkward ifs and buts of this kind of decision. I believe that the previous Government were twice on the brink of taking a decision on the maritime Harrier but drew back in view of all the complexities involved.
What is essential is not that we should deny that it would be a valuable additional capability to the Navy, for we recognise that this would be so, even though it would be only one element in our anti-submarine force. What we have to consider is whether the operational case for the maritime Harrier is of sufficiently high priority to justify its place over and above other projects. In this we have to be very hard headed.
We have not overlooked the export potential of the maritime Harrier and it may well be that we can justify buying it for ourselves and that there will be a demand from other countries for it, but we cannot take that for granted. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Good-hart), in his remarks last night, referred to a massive export market for the maritime Harrier. I hope that he is right but, let us ask ourselves quite honestly, what about the existing Harrier? Of course the United States has bought it, but we have not so far been able to attract the support of our European partners in NATO either for V/STOL technology or the Harrier concept of operations. The point I am making is that enthusiasm and salesmanship must not lead us away from hard-headed calculation into wishful thinking about the prospects.
There has also been some confusion about the maritime Harrier, on the one hand, and other future developments in V/STOL technology on the other. I want to make clear that the current United States proposal to produce an improved version for their own Marine Corps—a so-called advanced Harrier— continues to be studied. The studies for this are being funded jointly by ourselves and the Americans. Hawker-Siddeley Aviation and Rolls Royce are participating fully and also have commercial agreements with their American counterparts to protect their interests.
The confusion which surrounds the question of defence procurement is well illustrated in the opening sentence of Chapman Pincher's story on Monday of this week in which he said that the Government were planning to spend £100 million on foreign weapons while claiming that they could not afford to spend a lesser sum on the all-British Harrier. In the first place, we are making no such claim. But the foolishness of this glib sentence lies in comparing like with unlike and the implied assumption that it is wrong by definition to buy foreign weapons and right by definition to buy British ones.
Life is not as simple as that. I and other Ministers wish it were. Of course the ideal solution would arise if we could provide all British weapons which precisely meet the needs of the Services, were the cheapest available and were then adopted as standard by our partners in NATO and sold in large quantities around the world. The reality is quite different. In the first place such an apparently legitimate ambition is shared equally by our major partners in NATO who we would wish to adopt our solution. Second, given the cost of producing sophisticated modern weapons, not even the United States could achieve such a monopoly position.
Third, for us even to try to do so would be to reverse the policy of successive Governments. Among other things, it makes nonsense of the Eurogroup meeting today which my right hon. Friend chaired. Our aim at all times must be to equip our forces in the best possible way consistent with what we can afford and our obligations to the alliance and to ensure as far as possible a steady and realistic level of employment in our own defence industries.
I mean by this that we must not try to compete in every area but must be prepared to buy equipment elsewhere on the basis of reciprocity. I welcome what the hon. and gallant Member for Eye said today on this subject. Equally, the hon. Member for Beckenham was fair last night, as was the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir J. Rodgers). They recognised the difficulties in this area. The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) did so in stressing the need to avoid duplication in NATO. This has been a consistent theme on both sides of the House for many years.
It would be wrong—and I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) say that it would be wrong—to abandon our commitment to a policy of standardisation and reciprocity at the first whiff of gunshot. A large number of our major equipment programmes are already collaborative projects. I would simply ask hon. Members to recognise that the principles I have attempted to spell out will be those which guide us throughout the further decisions we must make.
As hon. Members know, we shall shortly be making decisions on several new guided weapon systems for the Services. There was a reference to that today by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Clark). In making these decisions, the considerations I have mentioned will be very much in mind. Our first concern must be to provide the Services with the equipment they need for their operational rôle at the right time.
Second, we shall be concerned to ensure a strong British industry by giving it the maximum possible work. This does not mean that we should turn our backs on equipment, which the Services want and need and which is competitively prived, just because it is not British.
In view of some of my remarks about the problems of procurement may I say something to cheer up hon. Members I cannot for the moment see the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann)—
I am sorry. The lack of perception was mine. He spoke yesterday about small vessels. He will be interested to know that we have just placed an order for the first of a new class of mine counter-measure vessels with Vosper Thorneycroft. The ship will be called "HMS Brecon" and will be built at the firm's Woolston yard near South- ampton. It will be built with a glass reinforced plastic hull, which is a British development. I hope that this new development will interest our partners in NATO and provide the element of reciprocity to which we are all committed.
I referred earlier to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence having taken the chair today at a meeting of Eurogroup Ministers in London. It was this vital meeting arranged some time ago, together with the perfectly proper pressure from the Opposition, which caused us to have the second day of the debate on a day when it was extremely difficult for my right hon. Friend to be present here as well as in the chair at the Eurogroup meeting. On his behalf I am glad to be able to tell the House that the meeting was particularly successful. It provided the Ministers of the Eurogroup countries with a valuable opportunity to review the progress of practical co-operation in the Eurogroup sub-groups and to discuss some of the key issues of allied defence.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Sevenoaks said about the Western European Union. I do so because a long time ago I was the leader of the United Kingdom delegation to the WEU—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thank you for that applause. At the same time the Government take the view, as successive Governments have done, that the Eurogroup is the best forum for standardisation.
I turn to the difficult problem of the consequences for employment of the defence review, something that was referred to by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. Opposition Members yesterday, today and at Question Time have asked about the lack of precision. Some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway nave said that the loss of jobs arising from the cancellation of equipment must not be a reason for withholding decisions that are desirable, as they see it, on other grounds. I understand both of these points of view.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing my hon. Friend to thank me.
The precise consequences, both in numbers affected and in timing, must depend on decisions taken by management in the light of our decisions. In turn, the consequences of these decisions will depend upon alternative work and a whole series of other factors.
We have said in the White Paper that the decisions are likely to affect some 10,000 job opportunities. We must hope that the figure will be lower, and there is evidence now that it will be. The point remains—and I particularly emphasise this to my hon. Friends—that massive defence cuts cannot be painless or at least not carry the risk of substantial pain.
The amendment in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook) and others criticises the White Paper because, amongst other things, it fails to make adequate provision for a smooth transfer of real resources and skilled manpower which more far-reaching cuts would involve. This was referred to today by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow and, in passing, by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson). I have to ask them, at a time when unemployment is rising, when there is deep anxiety about the prospect of losing 20,000 jobs in the steel industry, and when Ministers are receiving anxious trade union representations from Hawker Siddeley and others, how welcome will the suggestion be that there can be a smooth transfer to other work for the many skilled men and women who will lose their job opportunities should these measures go further?
I call to mind Hawker Siddeley, BAC, Rolls-Royce, Yarrows, Vickers, Swan Hunter and Ferranti. They are all defence contractors and they all employ skilled manpower. I should not like to name the men who would become redundant tomorrow as a result of further cuts, and to tell them where their immediate employment prospects lie.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow that this must not be an excuse for not going further. But I ask from him and his hon. Friends on this at least a sense of realism and proportion, and certainly a respect for the vast amount of consultation needed with the trade unions and the men concerned before this sort of proposal could reasonably be implemented. It needs more than a phrase in an amendment to a motion in the House of Commons to ensure the smooth transfer that my hon. Friends would like to see.
I recently received representations from the work force and management of Hawker Siddeley Aviation. I think that I was able to make some helpful suggestions. We were able to modify our proposals in some small part, but beyond that we cannot go without failing to save the considerable sums to which we are committed.
I said at the beginning of my speech that this was the fourth time in the past year that I had been called upon to wind up a defence debate. In preparation for this evening I took the precaution of reading what I said on other occasions. I was agreeably surprised. There were fewer foolishnesses than I had feared—we are all foolish from time to time—and there was much consistency. Unlike some of my elders and betters, I am unaccustomed to quoting my speeches, and cannot readily recall the date upon which I made them. But on 13th May last year, in the first of our four major debates, I said:
Unless defence spending is related to what the nation believes it can afford, the real threat to our values and to our political system will result from social stress and legitimate expectations denied. … freedom in an open society does not survive simply by virtue of its merit. I would certainly not be party to a steady erosion in Britain's capacity to fight—and, in the first instance, to deter—on the assumption that we have no enemies or potential enemies to fear."—[Official Report, 13th May 1974; Vol. 873, c. 1018.]
Almost a year later I am happy to rest on that. The defence of Britain is the defence of values, including the freedom of speech and the freedom of association for which the House has fought and will continue to cherish. But we must also be concerned about the threat to those values from economic decline and social neglect. The enlargement of freedom and of the vision that goes with it must be sustained by more than guns and armies.
|Division No. 199]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Selby, Harry|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Kelley, Richard||Sillars, James|
|Buchan, Norman||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Kinnock, Neil||Skinner, Dennis|
|Canavan, Dennis||Lamble, David||Snape, Peter|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Lamond, James||Swain, Thomas|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Lee, John||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Litterick, Tom||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Corbett, Robin||Loyden, Eddie||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Cryer, Bob||Madden, Max||Tierney, Sydney|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Maynard, Miss Joan||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Edge, Geoff||Newens, Stanley||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Parry, Robert||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Woof, Robert|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Richardson Miss Jo|
|Flannery, Martin||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Mr. Russell Kerr and|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Mr. Ian Mikardo.|
|Hatton, Frank||Rooker, J. W.|
|Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Adley, Robert||Bulmer, Esmond||Dormand, J. D.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Burden, F. A.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Alison, Michael||Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Douglas-Mann, Bruce|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Campbell, Ian||Drayson, Burnaby|
|Anderson, Donald||Cant, R. B.||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Archer, Peter||Carlisle, Mark||Duffy, A. E. P.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Carmichael, Nell||Dunlop, John|
|Arnold, Tom||Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Dunn, James A.|
|Ashley, Jack||Carter, Ray||Dunnett, Jack|
|Ashton, Joe||Cartwright, John||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Dykes, Hugh|
|Awdry, Daniel||Channon, Paul||Eadie, Alex|
|Bagler, Gordon A. T.||Churchill, W. S.||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Baker, Kenneth||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Banks, Robert||Clark, William (Croydon S)||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Clegg, Walter||English, Michael|
|Bates, Alf||Cockcroft, John||Ennals, David|
|Bean, R. E.||Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)|
|Beith, A. J.||Cohen, Stanley||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Bell, Ronald||Coleman, Donald||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Concannon, J. D.||Eyre, Reginald|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Conlon, Bernard||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Fairgrieve, Russell|
|Benyon, W.||Cope, John||Farr, John|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Cormack, Patrick||Faulds, Andrew|
|Biffen, Jonn||Corrie, John||Fell, Anthony|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Costain, A. P.||Finsberg, Geoffrey|
|Bishop, E. S.||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Blaker, Peter||Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)|
|Boardman, H.||Crawshaw, Richard||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Body, Richard||Critchley, Julian||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Booth, Albert||Ford, Ben|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Cronin, John||Forrester, John|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)|
|Bowden, A (Brighton, Kemptown)||Crouch, David||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)|
|Boyden, James (Bich Auck)||Crowder, F. P.||Fox, Marcus|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Freeson, Reginald|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Dalyell, Tam||Fry, Peter|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Davidson, Arthur||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.|
|Brittan, Leon||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||George, Bruce|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Deakins, Eric||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Ginsburg, David|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Delargy, Hugh||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph|
|Buchanan, Richard||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Golding, John|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Dempsey, James||Goodhart, Philip|
|Buck, Antony||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Goodhew, Victor|
|Budgen, Nick||Doig, Peter||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Gorst, John||Lamborn, Harry||Oakes, Gordon|
|Gould, Bryan||Lamont, Norman||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Gourlay, Harry||Lane, David||O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian|
|Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Onslow, Cranley|
|Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Latham, Michael (Melton)||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally|
|Graham, Ted||Lawrence, Ivan||Orbach, Maurice|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Lawson, Nigel||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Leadbitter, Ted||Osborn, John|
|Grant, John (Islington C)||Le Merchant, Spencer||Owen, Dr David|
|Gray, Hamish||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Padley, Walter|
|Grieve, Percy||Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Page, John (Harrow West)|
|Griffiths, Eldon||Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Grist, Ian||Lipton, Marcus||Palmer, Arthur|
|Grylls, Michael||Lloyd, Ian||Pardoe, John|
|Hall, Sir John||Loveridge, John||Park, George|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Luard, Evan||Parker, John|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Luce, Richard||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Central File)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Pattle, Geoffrey|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Hannam, John||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Peart, Rt Hon Fred|
|Hardy, Peter||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Pendry, Tom|
|Harper, Joseph||McCrindle, Robert||Percival, Ian|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McCusker, H.||Perry, Ernest|
|Hart, Rt Hon Judith||McElhone, Frank||Peyton, Rt Hon John|
|Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Macfarlane, Neil||Phipps, Dr Colin|
|Hastings, Stephen||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||MacGregor, John||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Havers, Sir Michael||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Hawkins, Paul||Mackenzie, Gregor||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Mackintosh, John P.||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Hayman, Mrs Helene||Maclennan, Robert||Radice, Giles|
|Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Raison, Timothy|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edward||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Heseltine, Michael||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Hicks, Robert||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)|
|Higgins, Terence L.||McNamara, Kevin||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Holland, Philip||Madel, David||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)|
|Hooley, Frank||Magee, Bryan||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Mahon, Simon||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Horam, John||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Hordern, Peter||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Marten, Neil||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Mates, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Huckfield, Les||Mather, Carol||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Maude, Angus||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Roper, John|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Rose, Paul B.|
|Hunter, Adam||Mayhew, Patrick||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Hurd, Douglas||Meacher, Michael||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Millan, Bruce||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Ryman, John|
|Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoin)||Mills, Peter||Sainsbury, Tim|
|James, David||Miscampbell, Norman||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Janner, Greville||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Sandelson, Neville|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Molyneaux, James||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Monro, Hector||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)|
|Jessel, Toby||Montgomery, Fergus||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|John, Brynmor||Moonman, Eric||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Morgan, Geraint||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Shepherd, Colin|
|Jones, Alec (Rhondda)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Shersby, Michael|
|Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Jopling, Michael||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Judd, Frank||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Silvester, Fred|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Moyle, Roland||Sims, Roger|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Neave, Airey||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Nelson, Anthony||Small, William|
|Kimball, Marcus||Neubert, Michael||Smith, Cyril (Rochda'e)|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Newton, Tony||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Noble, Mike||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Normanton, Tom||Spearing, Nigel|
|Knox, David||Nott, John||Speed, Keith|
|Spence, John||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Weetch, Ken|
|Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Weitzman, David|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)||Wells, John|
|Sproat, Iain||Tomlinson, John||White, James (Pollok)|
|Stainton, Keith||Tomney, Frank||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Stallard, A. W.||Townsend, Cyril D.||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Trotter, Neville||Whitlock, William|
|Stanley, John||Tugendhat, Christopher||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Urwin, T. W.||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Stewart, Rt Hon M (Fulham)||Viggers, Peter||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Stoddart, David||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Stokes, John||Wakeham, John||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Stott, Roger||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Stradling Thomas, J.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Strang, Gavin||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)||Woodall, Alec|
|Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Wall, Patrick||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Tapsell, Peter||Walters, Dennis||Younger, Hon George|
|Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Ward, Michael|
|Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)||Warren, Kenneth||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Tebbit, Norman||Watkins, David||Miss Betty Boothroyd and|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Watkinson, John||Mr. James Hamilton.|
|Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Question accordingly negatived.|
|Main Question put:—|
|The House divided: Ayes 291, Noes 251.|
|Division No. 200.]||AYES||[10.19 p.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||George, Bruce|
|Archer, Peter||Crawshaw, Richard||Gilbert, Dr. John|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Cronin, John||Ginsburg, David|
|Ashley, Jack||Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Golding, John|
|Ashton, Joe||Cryer, Bob||Gould, Bryan|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Gourley, Harry|
|Atkinson, Norman||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Graham, Ted|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dalyell, Tam||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Davidson, Arthur||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Grimond, Rt Hon J.|
|Bates, Alf||Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Bean, R. E.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Beith, A. J.||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Deakins, Eric||Hardy, Peter|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Harper, Joseph|
|Bidwell, Sydney||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Delargy, Hugh||Hart, Rt Hon Judith|
|Bienkinsop, Arthur||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Boardman, H.||Dempsey, James||Hatton, Frank|
|Booth, Albert||Doig, Peter||Hayman, Mrs Helene|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Dormand, J. D.||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Hooley, Frank|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Duffy, A. E. P.||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Dunn, James A.||Horam, John|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Dunnett, Jack||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Eadie, Alex||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Edge, Geoff||Huckfield, Les|
|Buchan, Norman||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||English, Michael||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Ennals, David||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Campbell, Ian||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Hunter, Adam|
|Canavan, Dennis||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)|
|Cant, R. B.||Evans, John (Newton)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Carter, Ray||Faulds, Andrew||Janner, Greville|
|Cartwright, John||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Flannery, Martin||John, Brynmor|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Coleman, Donald||Ford, Ben||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Forrester, John||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Judd, Frank|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Freeson, Reginald||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Corbett, Robin||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Kelley, Richard|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Kerr, Russell|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Kinnock, Neil||Owen, Dr David||Stallard, A. W.|
|Lamble, David||Padley, Walter||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Palmer, Arthur||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Lamond, James||Park, George||Stoddart, David|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Parker, John||Stott, Roger|
|Lee, John||Parry, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Pavitt, Laurie||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Lipton, Marcus||Pendry, Tom||Swain, Thomas|
|Litterick, Tom||Perry, Ernest||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Loyden, Eddie||Phipps, Dr Colin||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Luard, Evan||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Prescott, John||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Mabon, Dr J. Dickson||Price, William (Rugby)||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|McElhone, Frank||Radice, Giles||Tierney, Sydney|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Tomlinson, John|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Richardson, Miss Jo||Tomney, Frank|
|Mackenzie, Gregor||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Torney, Tom|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Maclennan, Robert||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Roderick, Caerwyn||Walden, Brian (D'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Madden, Max||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Magee, Bryan||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Mahon, Simon||Rooker, J. W.||Ward, Michael|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Roper, John||Watkins, David|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Rose, Paul B||Watkinson, John|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Weetch, Ken|
|Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Weitzman, David|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Rowlands, Ted||Wellbeloved, James|
|Meacher, Michael||Ryman, John||White, James (Pollok)|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Sandelson, Neville||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Mendelson, John||Sedgemore, Brian||Whitlock, William|
|Millan, Bruce||Selby, Harry||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Moorman, Eric||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)||Woodall, Alec|
|Moyle, Roland||Sillars, James||Woof, Robert|
|Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Silverman, Julius||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Newens, Stanley||Skinner, Dennis|
|Noble, Mike||Small, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Oakes, Gordon||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Miss Margaret Jackson and|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Mr. John Ellis.|
|O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian||Snape, Peter|
|Orbach, Maurice||Spearing, Nigel|
|Adley, Robert||Carlisle, Mark||Fisher, Sir Nigel|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Carr, Rt Hon Robert||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)|
|Alison, Michael||Channon, Paul||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Churchill, W. S.||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Arnold, Tom||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Clark, William (Croydon S)||Fox, Marcus|
|Awdry, Daniel||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Fry, Peter|
|Baker, Kenneth||Clegg, Walter||Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.|
|Banks, Robert||Cockcroft, John||Gardner, Edward (S Fyide)|
|Bell, Ronald||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Cope, John||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Cormack, Patrick||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph|
|Benyon, W.||Corrie, John||Goodhart, Philip|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Costain, A. P.||Goodhew, Victor|
|Biffen, John||Critchley, Julian||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Crouch, David||Gored, John|
|Blaker, Peter||Crowder, F. P.||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)|
|Body, Richard||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Gray, Hamish|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Drayson, Burnaby||Grieve, Percy|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Griffiths, Eldon|
|Brittan, Leon||Dykes, Hugh||Grist, Ian|
|Brotherton, Michael||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Grylls, Michael|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Hall, Sir John|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Eyre, Reginald||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Buck, Antony||Fairgrieve, Russell||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Budgen, Nick||Farr, John||Hannam, John|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fell, Anthony||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Burden, F. A.||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss|
|Hastings, Stephen||Maude, Angus||Scott, Nicholas|
|Havers, Sir Michael||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Hawkins, Paul||Mawby, Ray||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Heath, Rt Hon Edwaro||Mayhew, Patrick||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Heseltine, Michael||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Shepherd, Colin|
|Hicks, Robert||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Shersby, Michael|
|Higgins, Terence L||Mills, Peter||Silvester, Fred|
|Holland, Philip||Miscampbell, Norman||Sims, Roger|
|Hordern, Peter||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Monro, Hector||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Montgomery, Fergus||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Speed, Keith|
|Hurd, Douglas||Morgan, Geraint||Spence, John|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Sproat, Iain|
|James, David||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Stainton, Keith|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd)||Neave, Alrey||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Jessel, Toby||Nelson, Anthony||Stanley, John|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||Neubert, Michael||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Newton, Tony||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Jopling, Michael||Normanton, Tom||Stokes, John|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Nott, John||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Onslow, Cranley||Tapsell, Peter|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Osborn, John||Tebbit, Norman|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Page, John (Harrow West)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Parkinson, Cecil||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Knox, David||Pattie, Geoffrey||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Lamont, Norman||Percival, Ian||Trotter, Neville|
|Lane, David||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pink, R. Bonner||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Latham, Michael (Melton)||Prior, Rt Hon James||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Raison, Timothy||Viggers, Peter|
|Lawson, Nigel||Rathbone, Tim||Wakeham, John|
|Le Merchant, Spencer||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Wall, Patrick|
|Lloyd, Ian||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Walters, Dennis|
|Loveridge, John||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Warren, Kenneth|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Weatherill, Bernard|
|McCrindle, Robert||Ridsdale, Julian||Wells, John|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Rifkind, Malcolm||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|MacGregor, John||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Aclon)|
|Madel, David||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Younger, Hon George|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)|
|Marten, Neil||Royle, Sir Anthony||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mates, Michael||Sainsbury, Tim||Mr. Adam Butler an|
|Mather, Carol||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Mr. Richard Luce.|
That this House, recognising the need both to provide adequately for the nation's security and to ensure that the level of public expenditure is contained within available resources, welcomes the statement on the Defence Estimates 1975 (Command Paper No. 5976); notes the circumstances in which further financial savings have since become necessary; and endorses the Government's determination to maintain efficient and well-equipped armed forces for the security of the United Kingdom.