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Defence Expenditure

Volume 551: debated on Friday 20 April 1956

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11.18 a.m.

I beg to move,

That, in view of the heavy burden of taxation and the need for reducing Government expenditure, this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to make substantial reductions in expenditure on the Armed Forces and armaments.
This is the time of the year when we hear a great deal from hon. Members on both sides about the need for economy and the heavy burden of national expenditure. By the luck of the Ballot I have been able to introduce this Motion, which I hope will receive wide support as well as criticism from both sides of the House, which look at the question from very different angles.

Defence is one of the heaviest burdens that fall upon the British taxpayer. It amounts, and has amounted during the last few years, to £1,500 million a year. It is difficult to explain this colossal sum in the abstract, but it works out at 12s. per person per week. A family of five has to pay £3 5s. per week for the defence burden at a time when a family of five in a municipal house can look forward to increased expenditure on rent and rates and an increase in the cost of living. It is a very substantial burden on the ordin-taxpayer. We are spending £125 million a month, or more than £30 million a week, or more than £4 million a day, upon the defence services and the Ministry of Supply.

There can be no argument that it is a very substantial sum. The need for its reduction should be apparent to every hon. Member. It means that we must have a big army of 750,000 men in the forces and another big army in industry estimated at more than half a million, as well as guns, tanks, planes, warships and all the equipment of war. It means also up to 1¼ or 1½ million men employed in non-productive work at a time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is stressing the importance of work and exports and the need to devote all our energies to the solving of our economic and financial problems.

The economic argument is that these men would be better employed producing the goods which are needed to pay for the raw materials for British industry. They would be better employed on productive and useful work than in the Armed Forces or preparing for the Armed Forces. We are being told about the need to compete in foreign markets with such countries as Western Germany, but we have to remember the colossal burden which is on the shoulders of the nation. On Tuesday, when the Chancellor introduced his Budget, I heard over the morning's wireless that the defence budget being introduced in Western Germany amounted to £510 million. We are spending three times that amount. There is still a great deal of mystery as to what is likely to be paid in future in respect of our occupation of Germany.

If we are to spend three times as much on defence preparations, the Armed Forces and other military preparations as Western Germany is spending, we shall be hopelessly handicapped in competition with Western Germany. Germany has lost two wars, but within the next decade, if we are not plunged into another war, Germany will be in a good position to win the economic fight for the markets of the world. We should, therefore, be stressing the need to reduce the economic burden. We are doing a service to the nation by examining the huge bill from every possible aspect.

The Chancellor told us on Tuesday that he had come to the conclusion that £100 million could be cut from national expenditure this year. It was interesting that he referred to that in his reference to the defence services. Many hon. Members examined all these Estimates in the debates earlier this year and we did not see the Chancellor taking any interest in economy then. As a matter of fact, I deputised for him and tried my best to impress upon the Service Ministers the need for economy and for less extravagant demands. It appears that, after all, I was right to some extent, because the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, "The House of Commons has given too much to the Armed Forces. We can lop off £100 million." He proceeds in that casual way to admit that the Ministries asked for too much. Many of us are beginning to wonder whether the defence Ministries are not exaggerating their needs and coming here with inflated Estimates. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes along and knocks off what the Ministers really do not require.

I welcome this interest by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in this huge bill. What is he going to do? He talked about the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer uniting to bring the Service Ministers on the mat and say, "Your Estimates are too heavy. Will you kindly reduce them?" One Minister that I see on the Front Bench now speaks for the Admiralty. I can imagine the Prime Minister and the Chancellor reading what we said in those debates, looking up HANSARD, and calling that Minister before them and saying, "You represent the Admiralty. What is this extravagance that they talk about concerning the 'Britannia'?".

They may put this question to the hon. Gentleman, "Why are you sending the 'Britannia' round the world at a cost of £1,250 a day?" Then the Minister will produce the argument which he produced to this House and will say, "It is really a hospital ship and it is necessary for it to go round the world on this tour." That is the sort of gruelling to which Ministers will be subjected when they examine these Estimates. I do not profess to know the answer to that one, nor does anybody else, in the Navy or out of it. It is impossible to justify expenditure of that kind on the assumption that the vessel is going round the world as a hospital ship.

The question is how we can substantially reduce this £1,500 million a year. Even if the Chancellor's proposals applied entirely to the Service Departments—and I understood that the £100 million was to be spread over all Departments, civil and otherwise—what does it mean? I rather think that when the Chancellor fights his battle with the Service Departments they will come out victors and that the £100 million reduction will be found to be at the expense of the social services and the Civil Estimates.

As far as I can remember, there has been only one Conservative Minister who has fought a determined fight against exorbitant military expenditure. That was Lord Randolph Churchill. I always thought that he was the most enlightened member of the Churchill dynasty. Unfortunately, he lost. He was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He said that the military bills were too heavy. He won his battle against the Admiralty, which reduced its bill by £500,000, but he lost his argument with the War Office and was forced to resign. He was a really courageous and patriotic Chancellor. We have never had another Conservative Chancellor as intelligent as Lord Randolph Churchill.

I cannot imagine that the present Chancellor and Prime Minister are going to win their battles with the powerfully entrenched vested interests at the Admiralty, War Office and Air Ministry. They are too orthodox and too conventional politicians to make fights of principle of that kind. I predict that they will lose unless they adopt some of the suggestions that I propose to make.

What is the overriding idea behind this huge bill? It is that we must continue the cold war and prepare for a possible hot war against the Soviet Union. I think everybody agrees that it would be a good thing if the conversations now taking place in London came to a head on the question of disarmament. I hope the Prime Minister will be able to persuade the leaders of the Soviet Union that they are spending too much on the U.S.S.R. armed forces, and I hope that, on the other hand, Mr. Bulganin and Mr. Khruschev will be able to explain to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor that if they continue the present huge expenditure they will face an economic crisis and capitalism will disappear in that way without a war.

At any rate, I hope that we shall continue to press for substantial reductions in armaments in all countries of the world, realising that their needs are like ours. If the Soviet Union is to fulfil its five-year plan, it needs as many men as possible in productive work in order to rebuild the standard of life of the Soviet Union. The same applies here. I believe it would be a good thing for the Soviet Union to reduce her arms bill in the same way as I believe it would benefit our people if we did it here. The standard of life of the peoples of both countries would stand to gain as a result of such action.

We must not forget that, even with all the Chancellor's economies, our arms bill will still be £1,400 million a year. It will still mean 11s. per head of the population per week. A family of five in a municipal house will still be paying £2 15s. per week towards armaments.

We must try to peer into the future for five or ten years and look at the possibilities. Nobody could seriously argue that we are today winning the arms race against the Soviet Union. Somehow or other, the industrial and military potential and the technical resources of the Soviet Union are growing. General Gruenther has recently admitted that we are falling behind and that next year Russia's armed strength will be greater than before, and there is not the slightest reason for believing that in either 1960 or 1965 we shall be able to negotiate from a position of strength.

I do not want to go into very complicated figures, but I suggest that people who look at the matter from the point of view of the scientists in the nuclear age, and not from the point of view of military and naval men, who are still thinking on the basis of ten or fifteen years ago, realise that the tremendous advance in technical education in the Soviet Union means that if the arms race goes on, putting it very moderately indeed, we shall not be in a superior position in five or ten years' time.

Sir John Cockcroft told us last week that the output of graduate engineers in Britain is 2,800 a year, in the U.S.A. 23,000, and in the U.S.S.R. 53,000. Therefore, if we embark upon this tremendous expenditure in the nuclear age nobody can say with any confidence at all that as a result of spending thousands of millions of pounds between now and 1960 we shall then be in a position to negotiate with the Soviet Union from a position of strength.

Sir John went on to say that Russia produces 78,000 technicians annually against Britain's 9,000. He went on to say, very significantly, that the power of the U.S.S.R. in a world where military power is stalemated may well in future depend more on its big battalions of technologists than on the classical methods of power politics.

Sir Miles Thomas, whose speech was reported in the same issue of the Daily Telegraph, said that for every 1 million of population we were turning out each year 57 new graduates in engineering compared with 70 in France, 82 in Switzerland, 86 in Western Germany, 136 in the United States and 280 in the U.S.S.R. It is from that background that we ought to examine all our military expenditure.

How far is our expenditure of £1,500 or £1,400 million relevant to strategical concepts and war in the atomic age? Looking at this matter, I believe that the economic general staff which the Chancellor is setting up would decide that the time had come when a very large part of this expenditure was completely irrelevant to the military situation existing in the world today. We should change our basic assumption; we should say that we rule out the idea of fighting the U.S.S.R. as being suicidal, just as we rule out the idea of fighting the United States.

I am very glad to note that some statesmen of the West, Ministers like M. Pineau and M. Mollet, are realising that the emphasis has not to be placed so much on defence expenditure as on a new diplomatic initiative and a new line in foreign policy. I suggest that if we examine that basic assumption, we will be able to make some contribution to the lessening of military expenditure.

What about the other kind of expenditure? For example, let us take the question of Cyprus, which the Americans have described as an example of the old type of 18th and 19th century colonialism. According to some figures given to me on Wednesday this week by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Defence on our military expenditure on Cyprus, £20 million has been spent during the last 18 months—since July, 1954—on Cyprus, and we have not nearly begun the big scheme of capital expenditure which is envisaged for the next few years We are already committed to a very large expenditure in Cyprus, but what is it costing us per week now? When I asked a Question about six months ago we were told that this expenditure was £200,000 per week, but we are now told that it has gone up to £390,000 per week. This is not only a running Gore in international politics, but is also money going down the drain.

What are we getting for our £390,000 a week? If it is to continue, and there is no evidence that it is not going to continue, it means expenditure at the rate of £1,560,000 a month, or £18 million a year in Cyprus alone. We have taken on an enormous liability in Cyprus. In terms of manpower, it means 20,000 soldiers, 10,000 of whom are National Service men. These are young men, and 20,000 is a considerable number. I maintain that these men would be more usefully employed in British industry at the present time.

Every day news comes from Cyprus of new bomb outrages and new shooting incidents. The Government defended the deportation of the Archbishop on the ground that it would help to restore law and order, but since the Archbishop was deported the weekly sum appears to have gone up. If it has gone up by about £100,000 a week since the Archbishop was deported, then I think it is time that we got some new strategic advisers and took our advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury rather than from the Colonial Secretary.

What are these men doing? They are searching houses, surrounding villages and chasing schoolboys, and there is hardly a newspaper in the world which has not had a picture of a comparatively small schoolboy being marched off under arrest by two soldiers of the Highland Light Infantry. This is not creating any good-will in the world. From the financial point of view, I suggest that Cyprus has become a liability and that the sooner we change our policy and bring back the Archbishop, the sooner will this expenditure be likely to cease.

I remember meeting the Archbishop at a meeting we had upstairs and discovering that the Archbishop himself was not against the military base in Cyprus. When the time for questions came at that meeting, I asked him, "As an Archbishop, why are you not against the base?" It was a rather surprising question for the Archbishop, but he rose to the occasion, for he replied, "Why is the Archbishop of Canterbury in favour of American bases in this country?" My opinion of the Archbishop as a politician went up as my opinion of him as a Christian went down. The financial and economic consequences of the deportation of the Archbishop amount to £18 million a year.

If any hon. Gentleman opposite had to give a long-term reason for keeping Cyprus, he would fall back on oil. I wonder if any hon. Members opposite have read the very interesting article in the Spectator, in which it is pointed out that there was no need to have a military base in Cyprus for the purpose of safeguarding the oil. One of the biggest consumers of oil in Europe is Sweden. The people of Sweden use oil and petrol for motor cars, motor cycles and motor boats to a greater extent per head than the population of this country. Sweden does not need an army in the Middle East in order to get her oil. Other countries in Western Europe have no military establishments in the Middle East, and the whole conception that we need a base in the Middle East from the economic point of view alone is, I submit, a delusion. When we begin to think in terms of economic and foreign policy and abandon some of these outworn strategic delusions, we will be on the way to reducing our defence expenditure to our economic advantage.

I suggest that the time has come when we are not entitled to spend the British taxpayers' money on the pretext of restoring law and order in Cyprus. About a fortnight after we had deported the Archbishop—because it would mean restoring law and order in Cyprus—a bomb was found in the bed of Sir John Harding, and a reward of £5,000 was offered for anyone who would give information. I suggest that the whole of our expenditure in Cyprus needs to be examined from the point of view of national economy.

What about our military expenditure in Germany? There is a good deal of mystery about it which, I hope, somebody will attempt to clear up. We are now operating a system of two years' National Service, but the Bundesrat has declared that in the new German Army there is to be a period of only 12 months' conscription. Are we going to send conscripts to Germany from this country for two years, incurring substantial expenditure, at least £50 million a year, while the Germans themselves have only 12 months' conscription? I think we need to re-examine entirely our expenditure in Germany to see whether we are getting our money's worth.

Apparently, in France, they have come to the conclusion that the whole question of N.A.T.O. needs to be reexamined, and if our Government look at the whole question involved in the Paris Agreements' again, they ought to think of the expenditure which this country is incurring. We are piling up huge bills. We are not taking soldiers away from Germany and sending them to Cyprus, but we are sending to Cyprus our young National Service men who are doing their two years, while, at the same time, France has told N.A.T.O., "We cannot keep our soldiers there, because they are wanted in North Africa; will you please now allow us to remove our soldiers from Germany and send them to North Africa?"

There is no reason for believing that the N.A.T.O. forces in Europe have been strengthened as a result of recent events. In fact, many of us have come to the conclusion—and in this we are joined by other people who do not share our point of view—that our whole commitments in Germany are a vast liability, unjustified on military or economic grounds, at a time when Germany is forging ahead, making inroads into our markets throughout the world.

If this is going on, if we are going to use our manpower in this way, Germany is going to win the economic battle and we shall be faced with a deteriorating standard of life in this country. The road will be open to a kind of Communism in this country—yet all this huge expenditure is sought to be justified on the ground that it is needed to prevent the growth of Communism.

I hope I have said enough to make hon. Members realise that there is great need for the Government to re-examine the whole question of their commitments, their military expenditure and their foreign policy. I could say a good deal more, but I am in a very moderate mood this morning. Hon. Members opposite in the defence debates made speeches which revealed a sense of grave disquiet about our present military expenditure. I notice that they have put down an Amendment which talks about
"preserving our military efficiency and meeting our essential commitments."
What is military efficiency in these days? Judging from some of the speeches that were made from the benches opposite, there is not much military efficiency at present for this huge expenditure. When we are told in the Government White Paper on Defence that nobody really knows what could happen after a week of war, it is apparent that nobody knows what military efficiency means in the H bomb age.

Hon. Members who have put down this Amendment are retreating behind a smoke screen of platitudes and ambiguity. They talk about "our essential commitments". Our commitments are only essential in so far as they lead to the prosperity of the people of this country and to this country taking its part in the leadership of the world. Therefore, I believe that the House would be justified in giving very careful consideration to the Motion and that hon. Members opposite should give it their support.

11.54 a.m.

I beg to second the Motion.

This is a good Motion, and it has been moved very ably. The House commenced its business on Monday this week with a petition from a committee organised by Sir Bernard Docker calling for economy in Government expenditure. It called for a cut of £47 million in certain Government expenditure. The next day the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Government were to make a cut of £100 million. Today we are finishing the week with a debate in which I think it can be shown that even the £100 million which the Government have promised to cut is inadequate and that the amount could certainly be increased without detriment to the public safety and the public interest.

The only field of Government expenditure in which significant and substantial economies can be effected is in defence expenditure. If we examine other ways in which to make cuts we are driven to such paltry expedients as increasing the price of milk by 1d. or the price of bread by another 1d. or 2d. and that sort of thing. If any substantial cut is to be made in Government expenditure, which is one of the prime causes of inflation in this country, the only field in which it can be done is defence.

A little while ago, when we had a debate on the Defence White Paper, the Opposition pointed out that no adequate proposals had been made for a more economical and effective allocation of resources between the Services. Subsequent events have shown that the Government have admitted to some extent the force of the arguments that were then put forward. The overall responsibility for the allocation of resources is placed on the shoulders of a Ministerial migrant who is to be found in a Whitehall transit camp called the Ministry of Defence. There, this Government Minister is to be found floating in for a little while until he floats out again. How, in these circumstances, can we expect any real attack on this problem of the allocation of resources as between the different Services?

The Minister has admitted, in the debate on the Defence White Paper, that
"… full insurance cover is beyond our means. … with our limited resources we have to make a selective effort and concentrate on the things that we really must do, leaving the rest on one side."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1024–5.]
That is just what we on this side of the House are saying today. With our limited resources we must concentrate on the things that are really essential.

The Minister of Defence, on the occasion to which I have referred, also admitted that some of the troubles which have been encountered in the development of new weapons must be attributed to the overloading of resources. The Government themselves know what the trouble is. The Minister of Defence himself admitted that this overloading is making itself felt particularly in the development of aircraft. It is quite clear that in the development of aircraft hundreds of millions of pounds have been wasted and will be wasted unless the Government completely recast their policy.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has stated in the House the figures for the last ten years, and I think it is only fair to quote those figures because they involve all the Governments which have held office in that period. There is no party point in this at all. During the last ten years there have been 166 aircraft projects of which 142 went into the wastepaper basket; 16 were partially successful and eight were successful. That is a measure of the kind of thing that we are up against in aircraft production. There is no sign even now that the Ministry of Supply is concentrating on the production of aircraft. I understand that about 300,000 men in 19 firms are engaged on aircraft production, which creates and uneconomic unit of about 15,000 men per firm. I am also given to understand, by people in a position to express an opinion, that each economic unit on air- craft production should be at least three times as great and should consist of from 40,000 to 50,000 men.

I should also like to quote—though it has been quoted before—because it is essential that we should be reminded of it in substantiation of a charge against the Minister, what Sir Roy Fedden said not so long ago:
"We have spent enough money to have got 2,000 fighters and 500 V bombers. In fact, we have 600 fighters and 50 V bombers.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) stated in the House that we had spent £1,000 million on aircraft and the only thing that had gone up was the profits of the aeroplane companies.

I was very interested to read an article the other day by Mr. Randolph Churchill, who is showing signs of intelligence equal to that of Lord Randolph Churchill, whom my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has quoted. Mr. Randolph Churchill wrote an article in the Evening Standard making quite a good case for the total abolition of Fighter Command. I know that Mr. Churchill does not commend himself as an authority to hon. Members opposite, but I thought it most significant that in a later article Air Chief Marshal Sir Philip Joubert said:
"It is questionable whether Mr. Randolph Churchill is entirely correct, though there is a great deal of sense in what he writes this time."
I take that to be a testimonial to the merits of some of the arguments which Mr. Randolph Churchill put forward.

Sir Philip Joubert and many others have made it quite clear that the singleseater fighter is dead. Sir Philip wrote:
"Many hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on them and this money has, to all intents and purposes, been poured into the rubbish heap."
I ask the Government to remember that when they consider what is to be done with the Hunter aircraft and any other schemes which they may have in mind at the moment.

A little while ago I had an opportunity of visiting some of the air stations in Germany. I was surprised more than anything by the high percentage of aircraft which were supposed to be operational but were, in fact, grounded and non-operational for all kinds of reasons. If it were possible to tell them, and I admit that it is not, the public would be horrified to know what percentage of aircraft which are supposed to be operational could not take the air at this moment if an emergency arose, because of missing spare parts and because of all kinds of other reasons. I know that the Minister cannot state a figure even if he had it, because such an air of despondency would be created as a result of such a disclosure that it would create a tremendous reaction of public opinion.

We have five capital ships in reserve, and all of them should be scrapped. The number of men and the amount of material wasted on the maintenance costs of capital ships kept in reserve is fantastic. What about the aircraft carriers? Most of them will be quite useless within the not too distant future. The cost of their maintenance is colossal. I was very interested to read what Admiral Wright, Supreme Commander, Atlantic, had to say the other day. He was visiting the headquarters of the Northern Army group in Germany, where he said:
"Air power has made the battleship obsolescent as the backbone of the modern fleet."
Therefore, we should scrap all our battleships at the earliest possible moment and do away with aircraft carriers as soon as may be, because neither are likely to serve any useful purpose.

There are all kinds of other examples of waste which could be quoted. I will quote one of perhaps lesser importance. I was amazed to find it reported in the newspapers yesterday that a band of the Royal Marines from Malta had been landed at Monaco to march up and down outside the palace there to play sweet music. Who is paying for them? Is it the Admiralty or Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer? I should like to know. I quote that ridiculous example of the kind of thing that is going on. Why a band of the Royal Marines should be taken from Malta and landed at Monaco yesterday completely puzzles me. I hope that we shall have some explanation of this curious exercise, if not today perhaps at a later stage.

The Government have admitted that far more manpower is being employed than can be justified. They have said that manpower for the Services is to be reduced from 770,000 to 700,000 by 1958. Many of us suspect that the Government are deliberately delaying the abolition of National Service until just before the next Election, for purely partisan and political considerations, instead of abolishing it now.

A little while ago the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) urged the appointment of a committee to examine the organisation of the Army. I understand that some civilian committee is now going round the camps to investigate whether "bull" is being carried out to an excessive extent. Only a day or two ago, the War Office announced, not to the House but in a statement in the Press, that the whole structure of the Army is to be examined by a committee which the Army Council is setting up under the chairmanship of Lieut.-General Sir Richard Hull, who until recently was G.O.C. British Troops in Egypt.

That strikes me as odd, because I understand that this distinguished officer was due to take over the appointment of Deputy-Chief of the Imperial General Staff within a matter of a few days. Apparently, his appointment as Deputy C.I.G.S. has been deferred until the autumn. In the meantime, he is to preside over this committee, the other members of which have not yet been identified.

It appears that the committee will go fully into this matter in relation to the future. Its task, and I quote from the official handout issued to the Press by the War Office, is:
"To examine the future structure of the Army in the light of probable commitments and, in particular, to examine ways in which demands for military manpower for the maintenance of the Army can be reduced, and the extent to which use can be made of civilian and outside organisations."
Why was that not stated to the House? Why could we not have been told about it in the course of our debates on the Army Estimates? Why were the Government so reluctant to make a statement then? Can it be that it was only as a result of pressure brought to bear upon them from this side of the House that the Government decided to capitulate?

I am of the same belief as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who said that 200,000 Regulars will suffice. We cannot get any more. That represents about the figure that we can recruit, and we ought to condition our military strategy to that elementary basic fact. There is no reason why 200,000 men should not be adequate for the purpose of providing such military Forces as we need in this nuclear age.

During the past few years there has been a tremendous reduction in commitments, which I will not recapitulate, in Korea, Malaya, Egypt, Austria and Trieste. Why have we a garrison in Bermuda? What are 11,000 troops in Hong Kong supposed to be doing? What use would they be if trouble broke out in that part of the world? I do not think that 11,000 troops could hold Hong Kong if the People's Republic of China suddenly decided that Hong Kong must be taken over by the Communist Government of that country.

We have 5,000 troops in Malta and Gibraltar. One suggestion I would make to the Government in connection with National Service is that the call-up of Grade 3 men should be stopped because most of them who report for duty have to be excused almost everything except breathing—they are useless for any other purpose. Cases crop up from time to time of medical boards accepting unfit men, obviously through some neglect or mismanagement, innocent or otherwise.

Further reduction of commitments is on the way, because I see that Mr. Bandaranaike, the new Premier of Ceylon, has announced that British forces based in that country will have to go. In that case, whether we like it or not, we shall have to dispense with the naval base and the two R.A.F. bases which we have on that island.

On the subject of Germany I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire has said on that issue. He finds himself in good company, because the Daily Express takes almost exactly the same view. I agree with both of them that the British forces in Germany should be brought home without delay since that would save further expense.

The trouble is that the Government were in such a desperate hurry to bring German rearmament into effect that they did not pay much attention to the actual wording of the Paris Agreements. Unfortunately it is now clear that we have no legal claim on the German Government for any contribution towards support costs, and the £100 million cut in Government spending announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer may, within the next week or two, be halved, because the Germans will not pay. So we weaken ourselves whilst Germany and Japan grow stronger.

I now wish to deal with armour in the Armed Forces. I do not think it is realised that General Roberts advanced to Kandahar in the Afghan War of 1879–1880 at a daily average rate of progress faster than the most advanced armour in the last war. So we are being bogged down by the fetish of armour. It will be found that General Sir Richard Gale is in agreement as to the undesirability of spending too much money on armoured mechanisation. It provides a tail that is too long, and uses far too much petrol. So we could effect substantial economies by cutting down on armour and reducing the numbers of types of vehicles. As a matter of fact, the best gun tractor is a farm tractor, not any of the elaborate constructions provided by the people making armoured fighting vehicles.

A gem of comment was the statement which appeared in The Times a few days ago. The Times correspondent was interviewing General Sir Richard Gale, and his article concluded with this beautiful sentence:
"Paradoxically enough, it seems that with the advent of nuclear weapons the British Army will become essentially more simple in structure and equipment."
That is what some of us have been saying for a long time. Let us hope that the Government have begun to realise it also.

Some £8 million or £9 million a year is now being spent on the Arab Legion. This must now be regarded as not quite such a stable and reliable force as the Minister of Defence and the Government have tried to pretend. When I suggested to the Minister of Defence in February that there was some conflict of purpose between the Government of Jordan and the Government of this country as to the purpose of the Arab Legion, the right hon. and learned Gentleman replied that he did not think that there was any conflict of purpose.

A week or two afterwards General Glubb and other officers were kicked out ignominiously. Yet we have entered into a new arrangement under which we continue to lend officers to help in training and technical duties. According to the official statement, these officers will wear the Arab Legion uniform but
"will retain their full rights and responsibilities relating to their service in the British Army."
I suggest that we have had very poor value out of the £8 million or £9 million given to the Arab Legion. As a matter of fact, the certified accounts for the years subsequent to 1952–53, which we are entitled to get each year from the Jordan Government, have not yet been received, so we still do not know how the money has been spent; and the Government do not seem to be exerting any pressure to find out whether that money is being properly dispensed. It was only when we saw the Appropriation Accounts a few days ago that this snippet of information leaked out. It may be that as an act of high strategy it is necessary to adopt a policy of boot-licking in that part of the world. That is a bad enough policy anyway, but it becomes even more distasteful when dealing with people who normally do not wear boots. The time has come to recast our plans and intentions in that part of the world.

Much money could also be saved by a further integration of hospitals and medical services. Is it absolutely necessary that a man must go into an R.A.F. hospital and cannot be treated in an Army hospital? Why is it necessary to have three separate groups of people attending to catering, clothing, education, welfare services, legal aid and chaplaincy services, at least at home?

For a few minutes I shall venture into the crazy world of Army stores and surpluses. Here we hear strange voices ordering, with demoniac glee, millions of gallons of paint in the eerie light of moonbeams from even the larger lunacies not yet explored by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Dodds). Indeed, I should not be surprised to find some forgotten depot company manned by centenarians whose discharge papers were lost in the post, living on pemmican and still counting cannon balls left over from the Crimean War. Anything is possible in the existing crazy set-up.

Many of the scandals and abuses which some of us on this side of the House have been trying to expose have been confirmed by the Comptroller and Auditor General in the Report which is published on the Army Appropriation Accounts. There, reference is made to numerous cases of excessive quantities of stores being ordered through incorrect calculation of requirements. When the War Office was faced with this charge, it was admitted that there were a considerable number of errors. The War Office answer is that many mistakes were of a kind which, although unfortunate and sometimes costly, must be expected to occur from time to time in a large stores organisation where full checks were not possible.

Reference was also made in the same Report to unserviceable stores being transhipped from the Suez base, and there were also stores which had to be written off as unserviceable after arrival. Nobody had looked inside the boxes to see what was being brought back. Many places where stocks were stored were missed when the count was taken. In other places stocks were counted twice or three times. Sometimes the stock-takers failed to notice that some of the containers were hollow, and so they arrived at completely erroneous figures. In numerous cases the accounts recorded not only stocks in possession but stocks which higher authority had decided should be retained. In some cases the code numbers stencilled on the containers had been taken as representing the contents.

When I put a Question to the Secretary of State for War the other day, the right hon. Gentleman had to admit that the War Office had not even got a list of all the stores in the country. How is it possible to keep a check of any kind on stores of which one has not even a list? I seriously suggest that we should invite Woolworth's or some other large commercial organisation of that kind to lend us some of its experts to show how stores ought to be controlled and how this terrific waste can be avoided.

We have sufficient harness to equip an entire cavalry division, and enough mosquito netting to meet our requirements for the next forty years. We have had material ordered which was surplus before it was delivered. We also have the strange underworld of "spivs" and racketeers who begin to operate as soon as the surpluses come on to the market.

Our mistake has been that we have been trying to do too much all at once. We are still trying to produce atomic submarines, and satisfactory aircraft carriers—with an aircraft capable of catching the bomber which might attack the carrier—medium bombers, long-range bombers, ground-to-air missiles, and air-to-air missiles, intermediate ballistic missiles and even inter-continental ballistic missiles, and all with very few results. On top of all this, we have been making atomic and hydrogen bombs.

It is obvious that we have been trying to do too much. We have failed to provide anything worthy of the expenditure that we have incurred. I repeat that it is in the field of defence that the greatest economies can easily be effected without the slightest detriment to the public interest and without taking the milk out of the cups of tea of old-age pensioners.

The Government's figure of £100 million for the cut, which is a nice round figure, is a panic decision arrived at in face of growing public disquiet. I do not know on what calculations the figure was based. It is my considered view that £300 or £400 million could be saved if all the facts of Whitehall muddle and megalomania were fully disclosed to our long-suffering taxpayers.

12.25 p.m.

I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:

"Pledges its support to Her Majesty's Government in any measures it may take to economise in defence expenditure while at the same time preserving our military efficiency and meeting our essential commitments."
The reason for moving the Amendment has been made clear by the speech and arguments of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). The hon. Member said that he was in a moderate mood, and I think we will all agree that he made a moderate speech. I listened to it with great interest.

Hon. Members will have noted that in our Amendment we do not dissent from, and are not unsympathetic towards, the principle of a reduction in defence expenditure as outlined in the Motion, and, indeed, that part of it is retained with the Amendment. Where we differ is that the hon. Member and his hon. Friends appear to us to wish to make the cut without any regard whatever for our commitments. The hon. Member advanced arguments with which I should like to deal before proceeding to the main points which sustain the Amendment.

The hon. Member began with the well known argument, advanced from many quarters, that men in the Services are employed upon unproductive work and could be much better employed in the national interest in factories in the general production drive with which hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned. That is true. I do not think anyone would dissent from the truth of the argument. However, it has to be considered against the facts of the world situation today and the very serious fact that, unless at this time we are prepared to look to the future to ensure that our economy is adequately protected in case of need, no matter how much productive work is undertaken it will in the long run be useless.

The contention underlying the Amendment is that we have to relate any reduction—we fully admit that a reduction could and should be made by the Government—to our existing commitments. The nature of the commitments and the way to deal with them constitutes a point of contention between the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and myself and my hon. Friends. The hon. Gentleman put his case very fairly, and it is only right that we should make every effort to deal with the points that he made.

The hon. Gentleman displayed a curious attitude when he said that we were acquiring the armaments in order to continue the cold war and to prepare for hot war against the Soviet Union. I do not take that view. We are not continuing the cold war. The cold war is being continued against us. If in disastrous circumstances a hot war were to break out, it would not be initiated by us. I see no circumstances in which such an event could occur. I see no indications that we, or those in the world with whom we are associated, would ever wish to initiate a hot war.

Will the hon. Gentleman, in this connection, reflect upon the recent boast by Mr. Dulles that he had three times deliberately gone to the brink of war: that is, that he had threatened war unless he got his way?

That does not amount to initiating war. I think the hon. Gentleman is well aware of our opinion about Mr. Dulles' expression of view, which I do not think commands any more support in the U.S.A. than it does here.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire deployed, very fairly, the economic problem which concerns this country, whatever Government may be in power, in meeting the defence obligation. Taking, I think, the words of Mr. Khrushchev, he said that capitalism would collapse in our attempt to meet the economic burdens under our defence programme. Not only capitalism might collapse, but the whole economy might collapse. The hon. Gentleman assumes a very serious responsibility if these defence measures are viewed with the secret hope that the capitalist system may collapse. I would warn any hon. Members who think that that is an argument that can happily be accepted, because it would not only be the capitalist system which would collapse if the measures which they have in mind were followed to their logical conclusion. Britain would collapse.

With great respect to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, I feel that he did show a strange isolationism in his arguments about the position in which we find ourselves today. Whether intentionally or as a result of wishful thinking, he certainly ignored the fact that we have a very close alliance and agreement with the United States. The armaments proposals to which we are committed are not confined to ourselves alone; they are part of the whole structure of international security, in which we firmly believe.

When the hon. Member said, in what I thought was a very dramatic part of his speech, that it would be suicidal to oppose the Soviet Union or wage war with the Soviet Union, it struck me that that suggestion was very similar to that proposed years ago in certain quarters with regard to any potential war against Hitler. Had we followed that point of view in those days, the whole story of this world would have been very different, and I think it improbable in the extreme that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire would have been speaking here or that we should have been listening to him.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in allowing me to interrupt again. Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister said at Geneva last July that war with modern weapons would mean the total destruction of belligerents and neutrals alike? Is not the situation now facing us radically different from conditions before the last war?

I quite agree with hat, and I shall come to that argument. But there is a great difference here. By war with modern weapons, I assume the hon. Gentleman means the nuclear type of conflict, which forms one side of the problem, as against any form of opposition to the Soviet Union, which latter I take to be at the back of the attitude of the hon. Member. He will correct me if I am wrong about that.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire turned then to the question of Cyprus, upon which he has waxed eloquent on several occasions. It seems to me that although he regrets that we have not accepted advice forthcoming from the Archbishop of Canterbury, he himself got his advice from the Dean of Canterbury. He was very careful to concentrate in the Middle East on the prospects in regard to oil. I do not underestimate the importance of the economic aspect of oil production in this whole picture; it is very important for the well-being not only of this country but of the whole Western world. He entirely ignored that if one is prepared to take the line which he was prepared to take about Cyprus, namely that it is a running sore and we should get out as quick as possible, the problem then arises of how we are to meet our obligations in the Middle East, particularly those very obligations under the Tripartite Declaration.

That is something to be considered very seriously. It is all very well to demand that we should honour these agreements and take a firm line in one place or another, but if one is going to weaken oneself in the process of following the policies advanced by the hon. Gentleman, how is it then to be done? I am reminded of the attitude which did prevail in certain quarters before the last war, that we were always going to oppose Hitler and have no appeasement, while in fact we had not got the necessary resources to do so at the time. We know the reason for that.

Whenever one has a policy or principle, it is always desirable to be prepared to follow it out in its implications. I sometimes detect a certain hesitancy in this matter in the minds of hon. Members opposite. I detected it, for instance, on the subject of German rearmament, particularly among those who follow the views of certain hon. Members opposite. Indeed, on this subject of German rearmament I detect a certain divergence of view today. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire, complained that the Germans were only having one year of National Service, and the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) complained that we had gone too fast with German rearmament. It seems to me they ought really to thrash out that difference between them. The hon. and gallant Member—again rather unwisely, I thought—referred to boot-licking. If one is not prepared to defend oneself in the essentials, that is the position in which one finds oneself. He is laying us open to that weakness in the Motion which he is supporting today.

I turn now to the Amendment which we have moved. We support the spirit of economy in this matter; we recognise and accept that there is a necessity for economy in the field of defence. Moreover, we believe that that economy can in fact be achieved. But it must be achieved, if we have any sense of responsibility, in the light of our commitments and our military efficiency. I will in due course make my observations on the definition of "military efficiency" which the hon. Member for South Ayrshire challenged us to give.

Reference has been made quite rightly to the very high level of defence expenditure with which the country has been confronted over the past year. I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) in his place. He will I agree, I am sure, that in view of all the facts, the surprising thing is that that figure has not risen much more steeply over the past years than it actually has. It has been held, though admittedly at a very high level, more or less at the same figure over three years.

If the hon. Gentleman is going to make that point, he must in fairness draw a distinction between the total amount of the Estimates and the total amount spent. It is a fact that in none of the years when the present Government has been in office has the defence estimate been up to that point.

That is perfectly true. Let me make it quite clear that I am not suggesting that too much was spent by our predecessors. I am suggesting that in fact, whereas there has been a complaint that the Bill is too high—and it is very high—in view of the commitments in which we are involved it is surprising that it has not been higher. That does reflect a certain credit on my right hon.. and hon. Friends who are responsible.

We oppose the Motion in its present form because, in our view, it calls for a false economy and it would have the effect at any time of weakening our defence measures. We recall what happened during the period 1933 to 1939, when we were not in a position to oppose those who were still prepared to use force as an instrument of policy. We shall do well in our discussions today to remember, as I am sure most hon. Gentlemen do, that defence is an instrument of foreign policy; it is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, if one is going to launch upon a discussion without any regard to that policy or its implications, one will create for oneself a false picture. Defence is the sanction needed to back up decisions on foreign policy.

I thought the hon. Member for South Ayrshire took a very limited view, if I may say so, when he suggested that our only concern here was the prosperity of the people of this country. That is only a small part of the picture, though a tremendously important part. We are also vitally concerned with the peace of the world and the maintenance of the international system under which that peace can be maintained. The thing to be remembered is that where the predecessor of the United Nations, the League of Nations, failed was that it had all the responsibility but no authority to carry it out. If at this very critical juncture we weaken the strength and power of the United Nations, we shall be doing something for which we shall reap the whirlwind in the future.

We have another responsibility, which we all feel is of the greatest importance and which is sometimes misrepresented by hon. Members opposite. We have a great responsibility to those other nations which are joined together with us in the Commonwealth of Nations. If we are to speak with authority, if our views are to carry weight in the discussions in the United Nations, then we will carry that weight only if we speak as a member of and the leader of a Commonwealth and with a strong Commonwealth around us. If we are prepared to take measures which weaken the strength of the Commonwealth, we will find ourselves proportionately weaker.

We are also concerned with one of the most complicated of all defence problems, namely the defence of the people of this country. On this side of the House, we believe that the priority rôles of defence laid down in the Government's White Paper on Defence are absolutely right and sound and exactly define our defence problem. If we are in the debate to declare what we want in defence, we have first to face up to those rôles. Of course, the most important and one to which I have already referred is the contribution to the allied deterrent.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire was very careful not to make any suggestion—possibly because of the visit of the two distinguished gentlemen from Russia—why it is that all these measures have become so necessary after the great conflagration which we hoped might end war. He did not suggest why it is, after Potsdam, to which the leader of his party as Prime Minister went with the fullest hopes that peace would be ensured, the whole basis upon which the defence policy of his own Government was based was destroyed; why it is that once again we have had in the past ten years a situation of uncertainty and concern with the whole of the future of world peace constantly jeopardised by political and international threats. All that has come from action initiated or actually sponsored by the Soviet Union. So long as that state of affairs exists, we cannot lightly disregard our defence responsibility and we cannot lightly be prepared not to spend money on defence, money which we all grudge, because we all realise that it could be spent to so much better effect on social and cultural development.

It is necessary, therefore, that there should be a force in the world available to the United Nations, as the primary mover, to prevent aggression breaking out in its full strength. The second rôle is to deal with the cold war as we now find it, a war initiated not as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire suggested by us or carried on by us, but something with which we are confronted. We must be prepared to deal with the cold war. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton quoted some observations from Sir Richard Gale, one of our most distinguished commanders. It is perfectly true, of course, that conditions of nuclear war have made it essential that our conventional forces should be modern in every sense of the word, more essential than before the nuclear threat developed.

The real danger at present is not that there will be an all out nuclear explosion—I take the view that that is not imminent. The real danger is that a Power, backed by force and authority, will, with conventional weapons, establish such a position that the mere threat of the use of their nuclear weapon will gain it its political objectives without further trouble. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire asked what our small forces in Hong Kong could do in a major conflagration with the People's Republic of China. Of course, in a major conflagration they could do nothing, but the fact that they are there makes it impossible for any cold war or limited war activity to take place without retaliation with major force. If the Hong Kong position were left indefensible without any support of conventional defences, then the temptation to move at no risk at all would be so obvious that it would prove overwhelming.

That is the whole answer to the use of conventional troops in what throughout the debate has been called the nuclear age. In a sense that is a dangerous definition. It is dangerous to assume that because the H-bomb exists and because an element of atomic activity will enter our conventional warfare, any problem will be a nuclear problem. We should be very unwise to take that attitude. That attitude explains the tendency to say that we should dispense with anything which is not directly concerned with the nuclear bomb. That would be a very unwise and unrealistic course to take. We have to be prepared, as we have found in recent years, for limited war.

To return to the topic of Cyprus; the hon. Member for South Ayrshire quoted—I thought with some relish—the very great expenditure in which we are involved in Cyprus. By his attitude he suggested that we were committed to something which was insoluble. It is a very grave problem, but at the early stage Kenya seemed to be a very grave problem, as did Malaya and Korea. There were many people who said that they were insoluble problems, that they must be left alone and that we must withdraw. Had we allowed that sort of counsel to prevail, we would have been withdrawing on every front and, when we had completely withdrawn on every front, our friends would have found that they had no support from us in the event of great pressure being put upon them by the centre to which I have already referred.

All these rôles are outlined in the White Paper. Unquestionably, with nuclear war potential, it is essential that we should possess, in conjunction with the other Powers associated with us in the United Nations, the power, if necessary, in the last extreme to use the H bomb. That is something we do not wish to do, but I submit that not to possess that power would be the real danger in the present situation. The real risk in the nuclear war is that one side or the other should gain a complete and utter preponderance. When I say one side or the other, I believe that the alliance between ourselves and the United States of America is fundamental to the whole future of peace. Those who seek to divide it or to weaken it do a terrible disservice to the forces of peace.

The next problem, as my hon. Friend will know, is a considerable one. It is the general rate of development in the nuclear age which is so rapid that we are continuously confronted with a problem in keeping abreast of it. There is a problem of the development from the drawing board stage to the user which affects the whole of our defence planning in every sphere. I think that in the cold war Her Majesty's Government must look care- fully at a matter which has been referred to in The Times and to which I have always attached great importance under present day conditions. It is the question of the effectiveness of methods of political warfare.

Just as in the case of Hong Kong, if we cannot hold ground, we may find ourselves confronted with a serious crisis. If we lose control of men's minds, we shall again be confronted with the necessity of trying to control their bodies, which is a very retrograde and undesirable step and one which many of us would regret. I submit to my hon. Friend that although we consider that there should be economies in many directions, that is a direction in which there cannot be economy and, in fact, in which more money ought to be spent.

We know that the technique of the cold war favours the Soviet Union with its vast territories and its great perimeter. But to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and particularly to the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton, who referred to our reduced commitments, I would say that it is a dangerous thing to tot up one's commitments from day to day on the map, because under present circumstances a new commitment can easily be created at a point of strategic importance convenient to those concerned.

Those are the four major commitments. They are not created by the military—as some hon. Gentlemen opposite, including sometimes even the right hon. Member for Easington suggest—but are dictated by our position as a World Power and our obligations to the United Nations. I do not think they can be varied other than through measures of foreign policy. But where we are in a position to make adjustments, such as in the field of the actual resources with which we have to meet these commitments, I would say that I, and I believe many of my hon. Friends, take the view that what is needed is a major and inspired re-organisation of the whole of the defence services of this country. We believe that it should start at the top—

The record of the hon. Gentleman's Government in this connection does not fill me with all that confidence.

At least we did not have Motions moved by back bench Members urging that a committee be set up to see if it could do the job rather better than the Government were doing it.

My recollection is that during period of office of the Government of which the hon. Gentleman was a member there were Motions from their supporters which undermined the whole of the Government's policy. Perhaps the reason why there was no suggestion that back benchers opposite could do the job better was because there were no back benchers on that side of the House who could have done it better. The amount of talent available is somewhat limited.

Does not my hon. Friend remember that there was actually a split in the Socialist Cabinet over this very issue?

There were so many splits that I do not remember which was which. But I will not pursue that subject, because we are endeavouring to be reasonably constructive and I do not wish to embarrass anyone.

I was at the top when the hon. Gentleman took me down to the bottom.

We seriously believe that a total reorganisation of the defence structure at the top is now necessary, and that is something which any Government must face. It is determined by the conditions which are outlined in the Statement on Defence, and clearly what we need is a greater degree of alignment and uniformity. That can be achieved only, as we said during the discussions on the Estimates, by having a Minister, not in an advisory capacity to the Services but in a controlling capacity; which means that the Minister of Defence must have complete authority not only—and about this I speak only for myself, although I believe my views are shared by others—over the three Service Ministries, but also over the elements of Civil Defence operationally deployed in the country and over the Ministry of Supply.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire refers to the Ministry of Supply in his Motion, but he did not mention it in his speech. Unquestionably, the organisation of supply in the new structure is of the greatest possible importance, and I believe that it should be fitted into the new picture and the new organisation along the lines I have suggested. That means that we should undertake considerable reorganisation, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will be prepared to do that. One of the methods of economy must be the closer alignment of our Services. The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton was right when he said that we should examine to what extent we can have one collection of medical, educational and other services, for the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. That is a proposition which I hope will commend itself to the Government.

In this modern situation the Navy have to maintain supplies to this country and, therefore, the structure of the Navy has to be designed for that purpose. I believe that we have to bring home to the Government the necessity for a Navy so designed. The danger of underestimating the rôle of the Army is already becoming apparent, and I hope I have made clear that however the advances in nuclear warfare may affect essential tactics, there will always be the necessity for a conventional Army, and there will always be the rôle of holding ground under any circumstances.

Something was said about the elimination of Fighter Command, but I will not go all the way with that proposal. With respect to those concerned, I believe that the glamour of the Battle of Britain still outshines some of the reasons for not maintaining Fighter Command and, in fact, the whole fighter structure in its present form. I had some discussion with my hon. Friend, when he was in another capacity, about the use of guided missiles. I suggested then that it would be reasonable for the R.A.F. Regiment to take them over. That arrangement has not been made.

It seems to me that in the new structure of the Royal Air Force there is a very clear case now for the elimination altogether of the R.A.F. Regiment and for the R.A.F. to have a somewhat different rôle with guided missiles in future from what it has at present. I am not certain that there are not far too many people employed on the ground getting far too few aircraft into the air. I trust that that is a sphere in which some definite reduction can be made in manpower.

Finally, in the Civil Defence field—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite will note that I said "finally" in this particular context. There are other contexts to come. In the field of Civil Defence there is, as we have already discussed on other occasions, a clear necessity for closer co-operation of operational Civil Defence with the Army. I take the view that the time has come to examine whether or not it is necessary to train quite so many people in Civil Defence preparations and whether it would not be better to concentrate upon a cadre organisation for Civil Defence which would be more effective and economically much more sound.

As far as the home front is concerned, the voluntary Forces should be far more closely co-ordinated. After all, they have no cold war commitments, and that is something which ought to be borne in mind in planning their future. The Regular Forces, on the other hand, ought really to have no home front commitments at all. They should be available to be moved swiftly to any point of the international sphere where they may be required. Of course, that will require the means to move them. I think that I have out-talked the hon. Member for Gorton (Mr. Zilliacus), which is an achievement in itself. No doubt he will retaliate later in the debate.

Now I come to the question of National Service, which vitally affects so many of us at the present time. We agree that National Service is not in the best interests of the Service structure which we should like to have. We are very glad to see the appointment of General Hull to deal with this specific point, and I hope that we shall hear from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War what he is to do and, more important, something of what he has done in the not too far distant future.

I dissent entirely from the point of view to which, I believe, the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) subscribed, that the use of National Service men for the defence of the things in which we believe is a negation of their principles. That is totally untrue. All of us in our undertakings and responsibilities as a community have, from time to time, to do things which we may not wish to do, but the sacrifice of the National Service man in this rôle is, I believe, something which has to be undertaken in present conditions.

The National Service man is playing a vital and important part in our national structure as it is today. Until that structure is changed, any rapid change in his rôle or in the period of his service would, I am certain, be most damaging to our military efficiency. I trust that any such changes will be resisted until the structural change can be made. At the same time, I hope that the Government will press forward with structural alterations to our defence arrangements which will provide the opportunity for reducing the period of National Service in the not too distant future.

I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's observation is an altogether unworthy one. It has always been known that the present Government have never wished to have National Service. They desire to cut it down as soon as they believe that to be compatible with our responsibilities in the defence structure. The hon. and gallant Gentleman may find that the next Election is a long way further off than he anticipates.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are certain rules of procedure which prohibit that.

Is the hon. Gentleman trying to filibuster for the rest of the day?

I am not filibustering. I am sticking very strictly to the terms of the Amendment. I rather resent the suggestion that this is filibustering, although, possibly, it is competitive with some of the activities of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

In conclusion—[HON. MEMBERS: "What again?"] I can assure hon. Gentlemen that this is, in fact, the conclusion of my speech.

There are three major problems with which the Government are confronted at the present time. There is the balance of commitments and resources, and, as I have endeavoured to outline, the resources can only be reduced if our foreign policy commitments are reduced or if those resources can be organised in a more effective way. There is a balance of expenditure upon nuclear development as opposed to expenditure upon unconventional requirements.

During the course of my few remarks I have endeavoured to outline how that problem affects possible economies. On the question of expenditure on defence and civil requirements, we fully accept what has been said in the debate that if too much is spent upon defence then the civil structure is imperilled. On the other hand, if too little is spent upon defence then the civil structure may be imperilled in quite another way.

1.7 p.m.

I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) made a very comprehensive survey of our defence problem when he so ably moved the Amendment. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that he spoke a lot of common sense. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) referred to technological advance in Russia. I propose to refer to that matter, and also to advance a number of reasons why I believe that we should make economies in our defence expenditure. With that view, generally speaking, hon. Members who are supporting this Amendment agree.

As the hon. Member for South Ayrshire mentioned the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government's policy, it might be useful to remind the House of what the Chancellor actually said last Tuesday on this point, because the way in which the hon. Gentleman put it was not quite as was reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT. My right hon. Friend said that the Government
"are taking special steps to ensure that the defence programme, and particularly those items most affected by recent changes in strategic thinking, are adapted to the new conditions as rapidly as possible and with maximum regard to the need for economy. I feel sure that we shall be able to find worthwhile savings as a result."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th April, 1956; Vol. 551, c. 880.]
That seems to me to be unexceptionable, and to foreshadow a policy which is designed to keep our defences up to date and to limit the danger of dislocation to the national economy as a whole. It is quite clear that we are limited by economic and financial considerations in any discussion of defence, but this is a matter not only of economics but of a radical rethinking of the whole problem of our defence programme. My hon. Friend has already referred to that.

I want to deal, first, with what economies we can make, and I shall first deal with the domestic and administrative sphere, which was mentioned by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton). Although I have not the armoury of examples of waste in the Services which he has at his disposal, I agree that waste of any kind in Service Departments ought to be investigated. He referred to the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General upon this subject, which is attached to the Army Appropriation Accounts. It is quite clear that for five years past efforts have been made to improve methods of stocktaking in the Services, but there is still a long way to go.

One of the reasons for some of the difficulties from which the Army has suffered with regard to deficiencies in stores in the past two years has been the very large-scale transfer of troops from the Suez Canal base. I supported that policy, but it has involved a good deal of dislocation of the administrative organisation. Although some of the hon. and gallant Member's examples were of a sensational kind, I think he is right to say that the fullest investigation of such cases should be made, and we should also make every possible improvement in the stocktaking system. The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General makes that recommendation, as he has done for some time past, but it also states that improvements are taking place. That is one direction in which economies can be made administratively.

The hon. Member for South Ayrshire mentioned the question of Russian technological development. In my view he took an ultra-pessimistic view of the situation, he said that in future the big battalions will certainly be technologists. At this stage that may be an exaggeration, but the need for scientific development within the Services will be of the greatest importance in the years to come.

The report which our scientists brought back from Russia in relation to that country's technological development was a very disturbing one, but it supports the view which the Government take in their White Paper, namely, that they should spend more this year upon research and development. Hon. Members will know that the Ministry of Supply is going to receive about £40 million more this year for that purpose. That is encouraging. It may not go far enough at present, but it is encouraging to think that we are now redistributing our resources in the direction of research upon new weapons.

One danger is that we may duplicate some of the research and development work which is going on in the United States of America. Since the discussions at Geneva, in 1955 a great advance has been made in the use of atomic energy for civil purposes, and I should also like to see some further modification of the legislation which restricts our knowledge of atomic energy developments in the United States. We are still held up in our defence work because of the United States Atomic Energy Act, 1954. As we are now exchanging more information about the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes it is to be hoped that we can improve the exchange of such information in relation to defence matters.

I do not think that anybody has disputed the correctness of the Government's policy, namely, that we should have smaller and better-equipped forces. Indeed, it is a policy which we must follow, and for that reason technical expenditure and training will be of much greater importance. We should develop more technical training within the Services and spend more money upon it. As the Soviet Union is training so many scientists each year, that is the only way in which we can improve the situation.

How are we to absorb more scientists into the Army? It is not entirely a matter of recruiting, but also of spending money in the best way upon expensive but necessary research projects. I do not think that the Army has been as slow in taking up new technical ideas as some people make out—and I believe that to be true of the other Services, though it may be that the Army is slow to develop such ideas from time to time.

The Government should aim at an increase in the general understanding and knowledge of science within the Army. I do not suggest that everyone should become what are known as "boffins", or that too many people in the Services should become remote from purely military affairs. I understand that the word "boffin" refers to the person whom we used to describe as a "back-room boy", who does scientific researches to assist the Services. I do not know how the term arose, but I know that United States Navy, perhaps alarmed by the degree of scientific work which now falls to it, has coined the term "de-boffinisation" apparently with the object of ensuring that its personnel do not become too involved in technical problems.

All these matters have practical applications. Expenditure might well be devoted to the proper development of the existing Service technical institutions, such as the Royal College of Military Science at Shrivenham. There are possibilities of making great advances in that direction. At present, the Ministry of Supply is the main source of expert knowledge within the Services—although Service officers work with the Ministry of Supply—and it is quite clear that re-organisation suggested by my hon. Friend is intended by the Government. Paragraph 13 of the Defence White Paper also makes that clear. A substantial review of the position of the Services should include consideration of the need for more control by the Services over their own technical requirements. There is room for that, although I am not suggesting that the Services have not worked well with the Ministry of Supply in matters of research. I have said that one of the most interesting and important points raised by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire concerned the technical advances which had been made in the Soviet Union, and the need for us to be up to date—although the hon. Member did not add that; he adopted the somewhat hopeless attitude that the Soviet Union had got so far ahead in the technical field that we could not possibly oppose it. My hon. Friends and I, on the other hand, take the view that we should try to improve technical knowledge in our own Services.

We are having to deal with the difficult situation arising from the fact that there is a kind of co-existence between the need to bring up to date conventional weapons and the need to develop nuclear weapons such as guided missiles and ballistic rockets with nuclear warheads—all horrible things but, unfortunately, things which must be developed upon the best possible lines within the limits of what we can afford.

My view is that we now have an opportunity of doing some rethinking and of developing our Armed Forces upon modern lines; that we can cut expenditure; that we can cut out waste. But there is no point in saying that we must make substantial cuts, by cutting out battleships, and so forth, because they are no longer modern. We may have to keep certain conventional weapons until the new ones are ready. As my hon. Friend says, that is a matter of common sense. Surely, therefore, the point of view of my hon. Friend and others who support the Amendment is very much more realistic than the point of view of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire.

1.21 p.m.

Two interesting disclosures have been made in the course of the debate, one of them particularly interesting to me. At long last we have exploded the myth that Privy Councillors are the only members of this Assembly who make speeches of inordinate length. I hope that in future there will be no criticism or castigation of Privy Councillors on that account.

The other interesting disclosure is that, on a quite simple and almost innocuous proposal, it is possible to deal with a vast range of subjects, not only with defence but with expenditure, the organisation and reorganisation of defence preparations, foreign policy and colonial affairs. Indeed, we have touched upon subjects which are perhaps more appropriate to an economic debate or the Budget. In the process we have heard many generalisations, and some of my hon. Friends ventured into oratorical extravagances to which I do not propose to refer in detail.

I begin by making my view on the subject of defence as clear as possible. I believe it is the view of the majority of my hon. Friends on this side of the House. It is fruitless to talk about defence out of the context of foreign affairs and of what is happening throughout the whole world. If, as a result of conversations which we understand are now taking place in this city, and in the United Nations which underline them, it is possible to promote a rapprochement among the nations concerned, and particularly among the great Powers, thus easing international tension, relaxing the atmosphere and removing above all the fear that resides in the hearts of men and women in many parts of the world, this subject of defence will fade into insignificance.

Let me furnish an example of what I have in mind by referring to the question of what is sometimes described as the unbalance of arms in the Middle East. Many questions have been asked of Ministers about the need to export arms to the State of Israel. I shall not debate the merits of that now. There is nothing pacifist about the demand that arms should be exported to Israel, but there sometimes seems a certain incongruity in hon. Members who are generally pacifist in their demand for arms for the State of Israel. I recall that many years ago, during the Spanish Civil War, similar demands were made in support of the then Spanish Republican Government.

Why is it suggested that arms should be exported to Israel? Because there is fear in the minds of the Israeli people of possible aggression and of attack upon them. If we can remove that fear, then the subject of defence is irrelevant. The fact is that that fear exists. The great mass of the people in our own country desire freedom and security, and, whether we like it or not, many of them feel that defence preparations are essential to protect them against aggression. When my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) asks for a substantial reduction in defence expenditure, he really wants to abolish expenditure entirely. He overlooks the fact that people, even in his own constituency, still have a deep-seated desire for security. Somehow or other they believe that security in the present state of the world depends on defence. It is unfortunate, but, nevertheless, it is so.

If the debate is to be of value it ought to be constructive. Sometimes a mistake is made in assuming that one is constructive when making a suggestion in the form of a generalisation. An hon. Member spoke of the need to reorganise the Ministry of Defence. Hon. Members will be aware that I have spoken on the subject myself, as it happens that I occupied the post of Minister of Defence. It is sometimes useful when one speaks on these subjects if one has had experience from the inside.

It is easy enough to speak about the reorganisation of the Defence Ministry. Everyone agrees that there ought to be reorganisation; but what kind of reorganisation? Where do we begin? What will it lead to? What impact will it make upon the Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply? It is no use starting the reorganisation without traversing the whole road. That is what hon. Members have to bear in mind.

Here is one example. We have a Ministry of Supply. Not long ago it was decided to hive off the purely industrial and civilian part of the Ministry of Supply operations. Many of my hon. Friends were opposed to it. I was very much in its favour. But now I venture to go much further and suggest that we ought to abolish the Ministry of Supply altogether. The Ministry of Supply was first created during the last war, and very largely as a result of insistent agitation on the part of some of us who sat on the benches in the days of the Coalition. I myself took a prominent part in the agitation.

Eventually, the Ministry of Supply was created. But why? Because we were about to be engaged in a most gigantic task and we could not rely on the Service Departments to perform the necessary operations in the field of supply. That was the reason for it. But surely the position is quite different now. I suggest that each of the Service Departments individually—and also collectively as a result of co-ordination with the Ministry of Defence—could perform the tasks that now reside in the province of the Minister of Supply and do it quite as effectively and with less expense.

I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty that he should press—I do not ask for a public inquiry but for an exhaustive, detailed, stream- lined inquiry into the Ministry of Supply. He will find that it is much too top heavy to begin with. He will find that many of its operations are duplicated in the Service Departments, particularly in the Admiralty, as the hon. Gentleman must be well aware.

Take, for example, the subject of research. I hope the House will excuse what may appear to be a vulgarism, but if ever there was a cockeyed arrangement like the present one, where research is conducted by the Ministry of Supply, also by the Admiralty and to some extent by the Air Ministry and the War Office, although not to the same extent as in the case of the Admiralty, and also by the research department in the Ministry of Defence—if ever there was such a higgledy-piggledy cockeyed arrangement as that, I would like to know where it exists.

People talk about co-ordination. Here is an opportunity for co-ordination. I am not speaking about integration. I said the other day at Question Time in the House that I did not believe that we should go as far as integration at present. It is a matter to be carefully studied before we embark on that adventure. But we can approach the problem by a process of co-ordination. If anyone imagines, however, that so long as we have got the Ministry of Supply in the offing—and it is a vested interest, as are the other Service Departments to some extent—we can effect a measure of co-ordination in research and supply, he is making a vast error. The Ministry of Defence would be confounded and frustrated all along the line. Let us abolish the Ministry of Supply and make a real job of it.

My next point is this, and some reference was made to it by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton); and also by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire. It is the question of what is in the possession of the Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply. It is a remarkable fact—indeed, it is an amazing disclosure—that the Service Departments have no inventory of the goods, stores, articles and weapons in their possession. The Secretary of State for War implied the other day that it would be a gigantic task to have an inventory so that we might know what is in the possession of his Department. Not that we personally want to know. The reason we need an inventory is—and this is fundamental—because Ministers themselves, if not the public and hon. Members, ought to know which stores and weapons in their possession are never going to be used again.

There is another reason. This vast accumulation of stores all over the country and in other parts of the world absorbs a great mass of accommodation and a great deal of labour. I can imagine that as a result of what I have just said, I shall be asked why I did not undertake the task myself when I was at the War Office and the Ministry of Defence. I was, of course, aware of it. One could not but be aware of it, going round the country to various depôts. All over the place we had depôts. Round every corner there is a depôt. Out in the open there are hundreds, if not thousands, of vehicles, tanks, armoured cars and the like which will never be used in any war, whether conventional or nuclear. We have to decide what to do with them. The fact is that the War Office do not know how much they have got. They do not know how wealthy they are. The same applies to the Admiralty and to the Royal Air Force, although not to the same degree.

There is another matter. The Service Departments have certain weapons. They do not know if they are going to be used again, so they cocoon them—so to speak, dress them up, and cover them in cotton wool and a variety of other devices to protect them from corrosion and from the effects of the atmosphere. That costs money. What is going to happen to them? Nothing at all, except to lie there "for ever and ever, amen"; let me qualify that—until we have got somebody at the Ministry of Defence and the Service Departments to tackle that job and do it ruthlessly.

I know it is not easy. I tried it on. You would be surprised, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, at the vested interests that come into the matter. One has to be rather tough, and one has to be supported—I say this deliberately—by one's own friends, particularly when one is being castigated by those who are regarded as enemies. Otherwise, one cannot do the job. I suggest that we have an inventory. When we know what we have got, we can decide what to do. We cannot decide what to do until we know what we have got. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will pay some attention to that suggestion.

On the question of the Ministry of Defence and co-ordination, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brixton said something about co-ordinating medical supplies. But that is chicken feed, and in large measure it has been achieved in the case of hospitals, education, and the like. It has not gone so far as we would have liked it to go, but there has been a measure of co-ordination. But it is a very small affair. We have got to go much further.

Let me furnish another example so that hon. Members can understand what I am driving at. Reference has been made to the rearmament proposals of the Labour Government, in which I played a prominent part. What happened? When I went to the War Office, in 1947, our total defence expenditure was about £700 million—less than half of what it is now.

Why was it increased? It was increased for two reasons. First, because of international tension and apprehension about the possibility of aggression in Europe and in the Far East, and more particularly because of the Korean War. It was the Korean affair that forced us in the direction of the three year programme, first of all, of £3,600 million, and secondly, of £4,700 million. How did we reach those figures?

Naturally, we asked the Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply to put in their requirements, which, of course, was the right thing to do. It was not for the Minister of Defence to decide, offhand and off the cuff, what should be done. He asked his military advisers, and his question to them was, "What are your requirements, having regard to the risks that are implied in the present international situation?" What was their reply? It was not £3,600 million, nor £4,700 million, but £6,000 million, which was rejected, but only after careful scrutiny of the individual requirements of the Department.

I remember what happened in the case of the War Office reply about the number of vehicles. I cut down the War Office requirements by about £150 million, a vast sum, knowing quite well, having been at the War Office myself, that the Department had too many vehicles already. [Interruption.] An hon. Gentleman says it was not enough, but £150 million is a pretty big sum. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer could reduce defence expenditure next year by £150 million, he would be delighted.

The fact is that we have too many vehicles, too many tanks and too much of everything. I would not care if ever there was the remotest possibility of any of this material being used, because in that case we ought to preserve it, but it never will be used, either in a nuclear or a conventional conflict. These are the things that ought to be done, and it requires not only re-organisation of the Ministry of Defence, but also a capacity to face up to the demands that are made from time to time.

Now I come to the Royal Air Force, and here I am bound to indulge in some criticism of what was said from this side of the House in the recent defence debate. After all, we are not discussing a party matter. This is quite an objective approach. It is not a bad thing occasionally to suggest that sometimes one's friends make mistakes. I know that my friends are always ready to point out my mistakes.

It is all very well to say, as my hon. Friend said earlier on, that we had spent vast sums of money on aircraft which had been a failure in the past ten years, but that is no reason why we should demand more aircraft, more bombers and more fighters; for example, someone says that the Hunters are no use and we must get something else, or the Swifts are no use and we must get some other type. The fact is that we have too many aircraft already. We have too many types of aircraft. We have to make up our minds which types are necessary, having regard to the strength in the air of some of our Allies. We do not want too much duplication; it is a mistake. Somebody has said that we have been trying to do too much and it does not work out well. We have too many aircraft and too many designers falling over each other, and as a result we have criticism of the aircraft when they are produced.

I think it would be very useful if somebody was appointed at the Ministry of Defence to pay the closest attention and give the closest scrutiny to what is going on in the aircraft industry. I think it would be profitable in the end. Which is the most costly item in defence? It is not tanks, though they are costly enough. It is not aircraft, although they are far too costly. Nor is it the battleship, although I endorse every word my hon. Friends have said about some of our naval vessels.

Why we should maintain the Vanguard for purely ceremonial purposes is beyond my understanding, and the same applies to battleships and cruisers. As to aircraft carriers, I am not so sure myself. It may well be, though I cannot tell, that there would be occasions on which in a war aircraft carriers may be of some value, but I am not expert enough to say, and, when one is not expert and is not fully seized of all sides of a problem, it is far better to be a little cautious. Nevertheless, it is clear that in the naval sphere also there is a redundancy of material. These matters have to be looked at, and that is a task for the Minister of Defence.

I would concentrate the whole of policy and strategy in the Ministry of Defence, leaving the Departments to take care of administration. They have a variety of subjects to deal with, but the policy must come from the top and must percolate right down. I suppose that generals are as much entitled to speak as politicians; they sometimes speak out of their turn, but so do we. That is the reason why we get so many speeches from generals, and sometimes from admirals, particularly when they are retired. We get the most extraordinary speeches sometimes from these gentlemen, as, for instance, the recent speech by Sir John Slessor, for whom I have a very great admiration. He is a very brilliant man, but he ought to be careful about what he says in the international context, particularly at this time.

One reason why they make speeches is that they think that they are "cock on their own midden," supreme in their own department or in their own roost. The best way to prevent that sort of thing is to concentrate policy and strategy in the Ministry of Defence and to see to it that everybody else in other Departments carries out instructions.

Finally, I come to the subject of manpower. I have said that the most formidable item of expenditure concerns manpower. How can that be reduced? I do not believe that we require National Service much longer. I am speaking quite honestly and objectively about it. I think we will have to wait a little while to see whether the new pay code attracts sufficient recruits, particularly men who are prepared to engage for long service, because that is important, but I do not think there is very much doubt that before very long the Government will abolish National Service. Naturally, they will come along and say "Look what we have done," and will forget the demands that have been made from this side of the House from time to time. Nevertheless, I shall not complain if the Government abolish National Service. I will ask my hon. and right hon. Friends to applaud them for having done it, because I do not believe that it is any longer necessary.

On the subject of conventional and nuclear war and whether we should retain conventional weapons in view of the emergence of nuclear weapons, there are some difficulties. It is very controversial, but we must reduce drastically our conventional weapons and re-organise our manpower. I am very happy to see that something is being done, because I advocated it several years ago at Fontainebleau and in the Departments with which I was associated. It is being done by N.A.T.O. and I am particularly pleased that some who opposed the proposal a few years ago have now accepted it with acclamation.

To my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire and those who think as he thinks, quite genuinely and sincerely, I would say this: All this agitation for a reduction in defence expenditure will, apart from some modest savings, get us nowhere until we can solve the problems which are implied in our foreign affairs. The insistence on a solution in that sphere is of the highest importance.

There is no reason why we should like the present Government. Why should we? There is not much they do that we support. Nevertheless, if the Prime Minister can succeed in reaching some satisfactory conclusion with Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev, or at any rate make the beginning of an understanding, so that international tension can be relaxed, we can get to grips with the problem of defence and substantially reduce our defence expenditure.

1.51 p.m.

I think the debate will have been worth while if only for the contribution which has been made by the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well), who talked with an intimate knowledge of the Ministry of Defence and of the whole defence set-up which is not available to anyone else who has taken part in the debate. I was particularly interested in his views on the part which the Ministry of Defence should take in our overall strategy and planning and in his views on the Ministry of Supply; and I find myself in almost complete agreement with every word he said.

Most hon. Members will have welcomed the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government intend to institute a review of civil and defence expenditure. I should certainly be very pleased if he were able, in his review, to exceed the target which he has set himself of a reduction of £100 million, for I believe that the target can be exceeded if we set about the task as hard as we can.

In my right hon. Friend's statement there was a particular reference to defence expenditure, and this debate is taking place on the subject of defence expenditure and its reduction. A Motion has been moved by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and an Amendment to it has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), which I certainly support. I do not believe that we can have a significant reduction in defence expenditure unless we are prepared to go a long way in considering our defence policy.

Of course, the policy is outlined in the Statement on Defence for 1956, where the main task of our forces are set out. There is no need for me to weary the House by refreshing the minds of hon. Members on those points—the deterrent to war, the need to have forces available to take part in a limited war and to provide the military effort in the cold war. In the cold war the emphasis is obviously changing at the moment from the military effort which is required to the psychological and economic aspect of that struggle which is being waged.

Lastly, there is the need to have forces in existence should we be involved in a global war in the event of the deterrent having failed. For all these tasks we have to provide the equipment for the forces, and we have to spend money not only on the equipment which is being produced and issued to the forces today but on the development of equipment which will be required in one or two years' time. We have at the same time to spend money on research for the weapons which will probably be required in ten or even fifteen years' time.

All that is taking place at the same time, and one of the reasons for the high level of defence expenditure is that weapons which come into the hands of the forces are virtually obsolescent within a very short time of being brought into service. They have to be replaced continually by more modern and usually more expensive equipment.

I recall that when I joined the Army in 1936 we were equipped virtually with the same equipment as that which the Army had had in 1919. There was very little difference indeed. If there was a difference, we had rather less equipment. I remember that the more expensive pieces of equipment were usually represented by a man holding a flag, while tanks and armoured cars were represented by an officer's car carrying a label.

It is very largely the rapidity in the development of weapons which has been taking place since the end of the war which has compelled us to maintain this very high level of defence expenditure. A nation which is trying to do all these things—trying to keep its forces in being for the four tasks which are outlined in the Defence White Paper and at the same time trying to keep its forces modern and up to date, as well as competing with the developments taking place in other countries—is bound to face economic stress and strains.

I do not believe that we can secure any significant reduction in defence expenditure unless we are prepared to look at the problems which face us and discover whether we are getting full value today for the money which is being spent on defence. There is bound to be economic strain anyhow, and we must ensure that we get the best possible value for our money.

Secondly, we must make certain that as a weapon or an arm has fulfilled its operative usefulness and has become obsolete it is ruthlessly scrapped, irrespective of tradition and any Service prejudice which there may be for its retention. One example possibly is the armoured division. It is a very expensive instrument of war. I do not agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) that guns can be drawn by farm tractors.

The armoured division was at the peak of its power in 1940, when the German Panzer divisions came down through France, and also in the desert in the days of the Eighth Army. I wonder whether the armoured division, even as it is being reorganised at present, is today really the best contribution to the deterrent to war. Other nations are often inclined to look upon our contribution to Western defence in terms of the number of divisions and not the expense of their maintenance.

The armoured division requires large base workshops and large armoured recovery units, and the modern development of the tank becomes more and more expensive the more complicated these weapons become. I cannot see that in modern war there will be an opportunity for the concentration of armour that has always been talked about and the dash-and-break through. Nevertheless, I believe that in certain of our Armed Forces there is a great desire for the retention of the armoured division.

The armoured division, also, has no value whatsoever in the limited war or the cold war operation. It cannot be easily moved. We need for that kind of operation an effective infantry division with the usual supporting arms.

I should also like to ask, with reference to all the Services, whether the headquarters we have are not too large. During the debate on the Army Estimates I referred to the increases in staff which have taken place at the War Office. I served for some time in one of the large international headquarters. I cannot see why we cannot put some of these headquarters, which are not concerned with the day-to-day administration of our forces—they are really planning headquarters—on a skeleton basks in peace time.

There is a tendency to think that where there is an American colonel there must be a British colonel, and where there is an American general there must be a British general. The French want the same. The whole thing builds up into a gigantic pyramid of people who have nothing to do but pass pieces of paper from one to another. In Germany, we have a corps headquarters and an Army group headquarters. There is a large British contingent in headquarters at Fontainebleau, and headquarters at S.H.A.P.E. All these headquarters are superimposed on one another and are largely occupied in passing papers one to the other. I cannot see why they should not be placed on a skeleton basis in peace time.

Possibly one reason why there is a reluctance to reduce staff is that there is today in the Army a large surplus of officers of certain ranks—the ranks of major and of lieutenant-colonel particularly—and one is naturally reluctant to reduce the number of vacancies where those officers can be placed whilst waiting for another job. We could make a significant contribution by saying to these officers who are surplus, even though they may be under 40 years of age, "You will not get to the very top. If you want to go, here is a decent gratuity." In that way we could get a quicker turnover of officers and at the same time effect an economy out of all proportion to the number of officers who actually go, because where there is an officer he must have a clerk and he must have work to do and somebody to write to.

The next point in relation to economy is the development of aircraft. The amount spent on development of aircraft is certainly a very heavy item in the defence budget. I wonder whether it is possible for us to continue trying to develop every type of aircraft in every stage. I am not sure that we are not dispersing our efforts in that way. Would it not be possible for us from time to time, in co-operation with our Allies, to miss out one complete stage of the development of aircraft and, if we needed aircraft in an emergency to fill a gap, either to buy them from abroad under some reciprocal arrangement or else manufacture them here under licence? Thereby, we should be cutting out one complete stage of development, with all its calls on our resources and the technicians of our engineering industry. That is a point which might be worthy of consideration.

I do not want to follow the right hon. Member for Easington in what he said about the organisation of the Ministry of Defence. He dealt with it far more ably than I should be able to do. The subject was also discussed at great length in the defence debate. But, with the right hon. Gentleman, I wonder whether we have the right organisation in the Ministry of Defence, combined with the Ministry of Supply, for producing the Armed Forces that we want at the most economical cost. In spite of what he said about integration, I believe that there is a long way to go, and that some significant economies could still be made in the integration of common services. For example, we have scarcely begun the amalgamation of medical services.

Again, I believe that we are the only nation represented at S.H.A.P.E. in the office of the United Kingdom Military Representative by three separate Service officers, each with their own staff. Indeed, I believe that that practice is followed throughout all British international staffs. I think we could learn something in that respect from other nations.

I believe that it is essential to have adequate and efficient military forces in order to fulfil our rôle in the world. I hope, however, that the Government review of defence expenditure will be comprehensive, that where necessary it will be ruthless, and that where desirable the Government will be prepared to overrule Service prejudice and tradition in the interests of economy and efficiency.

2.12 p.m.

It has become increasingly difficult in recent years for anyone to assess how much, either in the number of pounds sterling or as a proportion of our national income, ought to be spent on defence. There are certain reasons for that difficulty. One is that, with the invention of new and more complex types of weapons, it becomes harder and harder even for the scientist, still more for the layman, to say how much expenditure on, for example, the development of guided missiles, is worth while. In that respect expenditure below a certain figure may be completely useless. All of it may be disclosed to be useless by some subsequent discovery since we are moving more and more into the realm of conjecture and possibility.

If we look at what has happened in recent years we find also that the people who should presumably be in the best position to advise the nation as to how much money ought to be spent on defence, that is to say, Her Majesty's Ministers, are the ones who, during recent years, have been so consistently wrong about it. I am not making just a party point here. I am drawing attention to the well-known fact that year after year, at the end of the financial year, the amount actually spent on defence is substantially less than the amount that we were asked for twelve months previously. That is not due to virtuous Government economy but to the fact that, for a variety of administrative and technical reasons, it has not been possible to spend what, in their judgment, ought to have been spent.

If the repeated statements which have been made to us as to how much was really necessary for the defence of the country, were true, we should now be in a position of desperate lack of defence because we have so repeatedly not spent what, in perfect good faith and in the light of the best advice available, the Government thought that the nation ought to spend.

That illustrates the great difficulty of assessing how much it is really reasonable that a country with the population, industries and wealth of Britain, should spend on defence. This year, of course, we have had an added difficulty. Since this debate relates directly to economies I do not think that it is unreasonable to refer to some of the things that have been said in the Budget debate.

We have this special difficulty presented this year that the Chancellor is saying, "Here are the Estimates for the year. The one thing I can tell you about them is that I think that, all round, they are about £100 million too much, and that by the end of the year we shall try to reduce them by that amount." Frankly, it is anybody's guess how much of that £100 million will come from the various Departments. Indeed, I am surprised that the Chancellor has not invited hon. Members to enter a competition in which there will be a prize for the hon. Member who most accurately forecasts the Departments in which the major section of this £100 million will be saved.

I should not be surprised if a good deal of it is saved out of the Service Departments. Again I say this not because they will be making any real economy but because, on the whole, it is the line of least resistance to leave the administrative set-up of the Service Departments much as it is. But if it is left like that, it will prove impossible to do certain things that the military advisers of the Government will be counselling them most earnestly to do. So we shall have, as it were, the oddest and worst kind of economy, where we go without something, not because on any careful calculation it has been decided that something is not needed because it is wasteful, but because we have not been able to get it. So we may be spending money in wasteful ways in other directions and under-spending on things that may be vitally necessary.

For all those reasons it is extremely difficult to tell, particularly this year, how much is the right amount for Britain to spend on defence. For that reason I do not propose to be dogmatic about it. I am inclined to the view that if we could have miraculously revealed to us what is the right answer, it would not be so very different in total from what we are spending at the moment—at least, not so different as to have any major effect on the economy of the country.

What I am sure about is that the amount we are spending now is being spent, in a number of instances, in the wrong ways and with the wrong emphasis. I think it true to say that practically everything said in this debate on both sides of the House so far tends to underline that point of view.

There was the powerful description of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) of certain types of economy that could obviously and immediately be made. His tale was taken up ably by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples). In a few introductory remarks made by the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey), on a theme which no doubt he will develop subsequently at greater length, it was apparent that amongst Government supporters there is the view that in certain directions there is expenditure that we could cut.

I put it in this way: if we accept the validity of military defence at all, everybody agrees that, first, we ought to have hydrogen weapons and the capacity to deliver them. What we have is a situation, with which everyone is profoundly dissatisfied, where the relation between the amount of money spent to provide aircraft and the number of suitable aircraft provided—at the very point where the nature of modern weapons makes it more desirable to be efficient—is the very point where anxieties are most frequently expressed in every quarter.

Secondly, if military defence is of any value at all, it is generally agreed that the second thing we need is the capacity to deal with the cold or limited war. That means an Army with as high a proportion as can be got of experienced, long-Service, trained men, probably with a considerable part of it massed in this country and capable of being sent quickly to any point where it may be needed.

What we have is an Army containing a large section of men with very limited service and a large proportion of that Army scattered in penny packets round the globe in a way which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) has so frequently and graphically described.

The hon. Member for Harrow, East, defending the presence of 11,000 men in Hong Kong, put forward the view that their function was what is called a "trip wire", an indication that an aggression there would be regarded and treated as an aggression. Even if we accept the view that he put forward, 1,100 men could perform that function instead of 11,000. It is the failure to realise that about Hong Kong and other places all round the world that has left us with an Army so unsuitable for its tasks as ours is today.

Thirdly, if there is any sense in military defence at all, it will be agreed that today a Navy for this country must be a subsidiary to the two other Services in the main tasks of deterrence and cold or hot-war preparation. What we have is a Navy which takes almost as large a share as do the two other Services of our total expenditure and whose prestige is such that it can obstruct proposals for co-ordination and integration among the Services with a skill denied to either of its rivals. I think it safe to say that in the case of any proposal for modernisation of the Services, even in the most modest sphere, it is usually enough for it to be said that it is contrary to the traditions of the Navy for the proposal to die. Consequently, I believe that we have an emphasis which is very seriously wrong.

If we got the emphasis right, I do not think we ought to assume that we could make major overall economies. I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington was correct in what he said about the desirability of not cluttering ourselves up by finding accommodation for weapons and stores which will never be used again. Let us not imagine, however, that if we cleared away all that lumber and then set to work, which we should have to do, to ensure that our Army was provided with stores, weapons, equipment and methods of travel really appropriate to the present day, we should find ourselves spending so very much less money than at the beginning. Unfortunately, one result of scientific invention is that the kind of equipment that we must have becomes more and more expensive.

Therefore, we ought not to look merely at the question of the total amount of public money expended. It is a mistake to suppose that this country cannot afford a proper amount for its defence if the problem is seen as part of the whole country's economy. After all, whatever comments are made by either party about the other, it is a fact that in the years since the war we have added substantially year after year to the wealth-producing power of the country, and the country is capable of providing adequately for its defence, if it does not waste its substance on frivolities and luxuries.

I believe that the real conflict in this matter is not between one branch of the public service and another, not between defence and social services, but between necessary spending whether by private persons or the public authority, and wasteful spending or luxury spending whether by private persons or the public authority. Wasteful expenditure by the public authority, as, for example, on purely antiquated material, is undesirable. Expenditure on trivialities and luxuries by the wealthier section of the population in a country placed as ours is also undesirable. We have to see that proper preparation for our defence depends on allaying the stress of our unnecessary expenditure.

I will briefly give one or two examples to illustrate the point. What is it that we are supposed to be defending this country against and helping to defend mankind against? It is the spread in the world of a form of government which is tyrannical and which denies human liberty. But we have to remember that, although that form of government is tyrannical, it can call two very powerful allies to its support in its struggle for the allegiance of men. One is that in those parts of the world where it has spread it has offered to the inhabitants there in many cases far greater equality of opportunity than they have ever previously enjoyed. The other is that it is associated in the minds of millions of mankind with opposition to racial prejudice and racial discrimination.

In Communist countries, tyranny bears harshly on the people, but it does not bear any more harshly on one because one's skin may be of one colour rather than another. We sometimes forget how much that fact is noticed and commented upon by the coloured sections of mankind who form the majority of the inhabitants of the planet. What does that mean? It means that if we want a defence against the spread of tyranny—I do—we must demonstrate to those parts of the world that the parts of the world which believe in political, religious and personal freedom can also provide equality of opportunity and are also opposed to racial discrimination.

The free parts of the world have to show that they have awakened to the fact that we are living in a scientific age. That means that if we are to provide properly for our defence we must see that the country produces a great abundance of well-trained people in the scientific sphere. What are we doing about our educational system? We are slowly waking up to the need for technical education. What, in our present stage of civilisation, is the thing about our educational system that people are most anxious to preserve? It is not that it should be technical, but that it should be privileged.

It is regarded generally—it is of the nature of Conservative policy to regard it so—as of far more importance that there should be a privileged sector in our education of 5 per cent. of the population than that our education should be efficient technically. A great deal of that privilege is probably being financed out of public funds through devices whereby Income Tax rebates pay for the fees in the privileged sector of education. We are allowing what should be public resources to be used for maintaining privilege in education while we are still very hesitant about what we can do to improve technical education. One does not defend liberty against a fierce, ruthless, efficient and scientifically-minded opponent in that frame of mind.

Let me take another example. It is noticeable what a large number of Questions have recently been put from both sides of the House on the need for more efficient political warfare and propaganda in the Middle East. Some will perhaps associate that with the return of Sir John Glubb and the comments that he may have made to hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is true, and it is an essential part of our defence, that the case for the free world should be put effectively in the Middle Eastern countries. We have people in this country who can do it, people who have the wit and modernity, and sometimes the vulgarity, necessary to be able to put over ideas in a striking form to people who are not highly developed academically. We have people who know the technique of advertising and propaganda.

What are they doing in this country at the moment? They are engaged in trying to persuade us about the brightness and whiteness of "Globbo", or that if we do use somebody's soap, people will arch their eyebrows at us when we enter a public conveyance, and in pouring out a great deal of other rubbish that is being subsidised—

If I may interrupt the hon. Member, it is not the slightest use for him to think that we are going to do any good in the Middle East or Far East by broadcasts in English. We must find people who can broadcast in the native language and the dialect of those countries. Therefore, what we are doing at home has nothing to do with what must be done to find those who can talk in the dialects of the Middle East and Far East so that those peoples may understand our ideas.

The putting over of a case is not done by a single person; it has to be thought out, and is the work of a team. The people who actually put the message over must be people who know the local language, dialect and mode of expression, but it is very desirable that they should work in contact with people who have experience of the technique of advertising and propaganda. I say that without great enthusiasm because it is something which I myself do not particularly like. Nevertheless, I am sure that that is so.

A great deal of advertising skill is now being devoted to trivial uses. What is more, it is being done at the public expense; it is subsidised, because the people who do it have not to pay as much tax as they otherwise would.

Again, it is part of our defence that this country recognises its responsibilities to its subject Colonial Territories and the backward peoples of the world. What happens when it is suggested that this Government might perhaps spend a little more on U.N.I.C.E.F.? The Government are very hesitant about it. Yet they can find money easily enough for tax reliefs for people with large unearned incomes.

No one can meet a challenge as terrible and persistent as is the one which we now face or as long-enduring as it will prove to be in that atmosphere and with that trivial-minded order of priorities. It is a fitting symbol of our present state of civilisation that we should be witnessing a campaign by Sir Bernard Docker for the reduction of public expenditure. It illustrates most strikingly the way in which we have failed to realise that what matters is not whether expenditure is public or private but whether it is expenditure for necessary or unnecessary things.

This problem of economy in defence expenditure is part of a general problem. I believe it is necessary to make provision for military defence, and in that I shall not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who moved this Motion. The necessary provision which this country must make is probably going to cost us a good deal. For that reason, we must first revise very thoroughly indeed the way in which the money is spent, in order to ensure it is not wasted; and on that subject a torrent of constructive suggestions has already fallen upon the Government.

We must regard as part of our whole economy the necessity not only in defence but in all our economy, public and private, to put first things first, if we wish to show that peoples and nations who believe in political and personal liberty have the will and the capacity to survive in the twentieth century.

2.33 p.m.

I rise now, not because of any desire to end the debate, but because I feel it might be of value to the House if I made some contribution now and gave an idea of what the Government have been doing and intend to do in this matter. Other hon. Members will, no doubt, make their contributions later.

I will start by saying that Her Majesty's Government readily accept, indeed welcome, the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey). I know the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) for raising this matter today and giving us a chance to discuss once again the vitally important question of how to provide the best possible defence forces with the maximum economy in money, material and manpower.

It has been so far a valuable debate, although I cannot help agreeing with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) that perhaps not all the missiles directed at the Government have been carefully guided; some, I think, have been a little off the beam. Nevertheless, there have been some extremely constructive views put forward which will be most helpful to the Government when they are considering the whole question of economy.

I am sorry if some of the wind was taken out of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire's sails by the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in his Budget speech, when he told the House that steps were being taken to ensure that the defence programme, including particularly those items most affected by changes in strategic thought, is adapted to the new conditions as rapidly as possible and with maximum regard to the need for economy. He also told the House that there was to be an economy drive over the whole field of Government expenditure, both civil and military. I would emphasise that, because there has been a tendency on the part of some hon. Members speaking today to think that the whole of the £100 million is to come out of defence expenditure. I cannot possibly anticipate at this stage where the Chancellor will find his economies, but I do not want it to be thought that it is at the moment the intention to find the whole of that sum from defence Votes.

I am quite sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome this statement by my right hon. Friend, and the intention behind it. No doubt they will remember that when my right hon. Friend sets himself a target he has a habit of achieving it, as he did in the matter of houses. I am quite sure that when he is wielding his probe he will be grateful for the views expressed during this debate today.

Nevertheless, it must not be thought that this search for economies in defence expenditure is something which we have just thought of, something which has been dreamed up in the last few days. On the contrary, ever since this Government has been in power there has been a continuous effort made to find means of securing economies. I shall mention one or two of them in the course of my remarks.

Only six weeks ago the House considered the Statement on Defence for 1956, and in this Statement the outlines of our policy were very clearly laid out. Amongst them was the statement that the burden of defence must not be allowed to overload the economy, that the forces needed would be smaller but would have to be equipped with new and very expensive weapons, and therefore constant attention was being paid, and would continue to be paid, to every possible means of economy. These were the themes over which so much of our debate ranged during those two days.

This matter has been very much in the forefront of our thoughts for a very long time, and similar statements have been made on more than one occasion in this House. Nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington put his finger on the point—as he has so often done in the past—when saying that there is a feeling on the part of the man in the street which we cannot and must not ignore, a feeling that he must live in security and that to live in security we must maintain the effective strength of our defences.

I quite agree with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and other hon. Members, that nothing could contribute to an alleviation of the burden of defence more than a satisfactory agreement on disarmament.

I too hope that the visit of the Russian leaders will help towards that end. Her Majesty's Government have never ceased to strive for that objective. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary told the House not very long ago, the disarmament talks now proceeding are making good progress and, although there are still grave difficulties and differences, we shall continue to do our best.

Let me get one thing quite clear. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire said we should rule out the idea of fighting the U.S.S.R. because it would be suicidal; but until we have some disarmament agreement which is not unilateral the aim is that the U.S.S.R. will think the same and will regard fighting us as being suicidal. That is what we mean when we speak about the deterrent. Until we can reach agreement on these matters, the duties our Armed Forces must be capable of discharging are well known to the House, particularly to those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who study defence problems, which are all set out clearly in the Statement on Defence. Briefly, they are to maintain the deterrent, to deal with outbreaks of limited war and, if unfortunately global war does occur, to be able to play an effective part in it.

It is these tasks which our Services have to perform and which necessarily set the pattern of our defence expenditure. So long as these tasks remain broadly the same, and so long as we have to provide effective forces—and I emphasise the word "effective"—in order to meet them, within the limits or what our economy will stand of course, we must concentrate our efforts on providing those forces with the best possible value for the money we spend on them. We can do that only by economising. We must economise wherever we can, and that means that we must avoid waste and continually improve our plans for the use of the available resources of manpower, material and money.

It cannot be said that either Her Majesty's Government or our Allies have calculated the required level of our defences in reckless disregard of the importance of maintaining our economic strength. Indeed, to do so would be to defeat our own end. The aim of the democracies—and it cannot be repeated too often—is, as the hon. Member for South Ayrshire said, to establish peace, security and stability. We have no aggressive aims of any kind. We want to do business and trade and increase our wealth. We want our scientists and technicians to concentrate not on means of destroying life but of making it longer, easier and happier.

Among the four objectives set out in paragraph 13 of the White Paper for long-term review in the future development of the Services, was the main objective of ensuring that the cost of defence, whether in terms of manpower, materials or money, did not overload the economy. Lest it be said that that is just a pious resolution, I would remind the House of some of the quite striking achievements which this review of the future development of the Services has already produced.

For example, faced with the rising cost of new weapons and rising prices on the one hand and the necessity to maintain the effectiveness of our defence forces on the other, any Government might have been expected to come along this year with a largely increased Budget for the current financial year. We must not forget that, in addition to these rising costs, the Government have had to provide nearly £70 million more for increased pay for the Armed Forces.

What, in fact, happened? The defence budget for 1956–57 was much the same as that for 1955–56. How was that result achieved? In a word, it was achieved by economising. Let me try to deal a little more fully with the question of economising. Briefly, there are two ways of doing it. The first is recognising the necessity to concentrate on what is absolutely essential and to cut out things of lesser priority, and the second is an improvement in administration designed to increase efficiency in the use of our resources.

As the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) pointed out, my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Defence said during the defence debate on 28th February that we had to recognise that we could not afford everything that was militarily desirable and so we had to take a calculated risk and decide what to do without. I should like to remind the House that the Government have not shrunk from taking quite bold measures in this way. For example, we have disbanded Anti-Aircraft Command, we are abolishing Coastal Artillery, we have drastically reduced the number of ships in the Reserve Fleet, and so on.

The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton wanted to go very much further than that, and in this he was halfheartedly encouraged by his right hon. Friend the Member for Easington. Although at least the right hon. Member admitted that it needed rather more expert knowledge before he could be quite certain about it, the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton had no such inhibitions and came straight out with abolition of Fighter Command, the scrapping of capital ships, the abolition of carriers and the suggestion that there was too much armour in the Army. I should like to deal with those briefly.

First, Fighter Command. It is important to remember that a deterrent cannot be wholly effective unless it is made quite clear that those who possess the deterrent have also the means to protect it and that the enemy is not able to come over with any obsolete aircraft he happens to possess and destroy the retaliatory power of the Royal Air Force. Not only that, the more one has an effective defensive air force, the more the enemy has to continue building faster and higher bombers at great expense to himself. That brings home to him the realisation of the futility of the whole thing. It would be absurd to say that the deterrent went one way only; one has to have it defensively as well.

Mr. Randolph Churchill advocates, as does the hon. and gallant Member, the abolition of Fighter Command and, presumably, the substitution of a large number of guided missiles. If that is so, it is an extraordinary suggestion to put forward in a debate dealing with economy, because the deployment of long range ballistic missiles round the coast of this country would be far more expensive—and, of course, it is a very long way off. The fact is that we have to have both. We have to back two horses in this race and the manned fighters will have to live alongside guided weapons for a very long time to come.

Will the hon. Member say something about the utility, or futility, of single-seater fighters?

I do not want to take up too much time. I should love to debate that with the hon. and gallant Member, because I know something about it. If I may say so, it is slightly irrelevant to this debate. I have a great deal more to say, so perhaps we can discuss it separately some other time.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that we should not have capital ships and carriers. In that case we may as well not have a Navy, because we should have no striking power. We must have either guns or aircraft. Personally, I prefer aircraft because I consider them more effective than guns. But it is no use saying that we can scrap both. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also said that there was too much armour in the Army. A little later he said that the Army had enough saddlery tucked away to equip a whole division, or something like that. It would seem to me to be a splendid thing that that is so, because if the hon. and gallant Gentleman desires the cavalry to be mounted on horses it is as well that the Army has the necessary saddlery. But I should prefer to see the cavalry equipped with tanks.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman said we were trying to do too much, that we have guided missiles, etc., and the H bomb on top of that. But hon. Members must remember that the decision to manufacture nuclear retaliatory weapons was taken by the Labour Government, supported by the Conservative Opposition. But from that decision flows the other decisions about the means to attack and to protect ourselves.

Before I digressed to answer the points made by the hon. and gallant Member, I was pointing out the reductions we have been endeavouring to make without reducing too much the effectiveness of our Armed Forces. Such measures have contributed a great deal to the large reductions in manpower in the strength of the forces we have already made and shall continue to make. In April, 1953, the strength was 870,000. In April of this year it was 770,000. In two years' time it will go down to 700,000. Thus, in the five years from 1953 to 1958, there will have been a 20 per cent. reduction in the manpower of the Armed Forces.

I am concentrating my remarks on the observations made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire and hon. and gallant Member for Brixton because they moved and seconded the Motion, but other hon. Members who have spoken may be sure that their contributions will be carefully considered. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire said that the German Army has only a 12-month call-up and asked why that should be when we have a call-up period of two years. The hon. Member is probably overlooking the fact that, unlike Western Germany, we have interests spread all over the world, and if we had men called up for only twelve months we could not possibly send them to Malaya, Kenya and other places. Therefore, we cannot compare the length of the respective call-up periods.

I quite agree, regarding, the Ministry of Supply and the research and development programme, it is essential that we should concentrate on the things we really need and do without those we do not need. On this programme of research and development depends the success of the new policy of smaller and better equipped forces, and also to a great extent the pattern and course of future arms production. The whole programme of research and development at the Ministry of Supply is being re-examined, with the realisation that we cannot afford to spread it too widely either in terms of technical and design effort or in terms of money. We have in mind the com- peting claims of the civil and export markets. We shall look carefully not only at the future projects, but at the existing ones.

I admit that even some of the research and development projects on which time, effort and money have been spent already may well have to go by the board if we are to make the economies which must be made. But that is not a new process. It is a normal process to review the various claims on the resources available. It has been going on for a long time, and it will continue. The aim is to decide which projects will be commenced, which shall be deferred and which shall not be started at all. Here again, we cannot afford full insurance but must take calculated risks. But when we discuss the research and development programme, hon. Members should bear in mind what has been said during this debate and not ask the Government why some project is not being carried out or complain about that fact. We should all like to have everything, but we cannot afford it.

So far, I have dealt with the question of choosing between what we must have and what we cannot afford. The other aspect of economising is improvement in administration to increase efficiency in the use of available resources. The right hon. Member for Easington referred particularly to the question of manpower, and he has great experience in this matter. Having been at the Ministry of Defence, he knows that Service Departments have had imposed on them a Number of ad hoc inquiries into the use of manpower during the last ten years. I know that it is supposed to be good clean fun to laugh at committees, but very often the results they achieve are far from derisory.

The House has heard of the committee under the chairmanship of Air Chief Marshal Sir Leslie Hollinghurst, which reviewed the system of command and administration in the Royal Air Force. During the debates on the Service Estimates the hon. Member for South Ayrshire said that he approved of this committee, especially as there were two businessmen on it. There is also another committee, again under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Hollinghurst, which has just finished examining the arrangements for servicing and repairing aircraft and other equipment and the methods for holding and distributing equipment, with a view particularly to finding economies in skilled manpower. The results are being studied by the Air Ministry. These are two examples of the kind of research and inquiry into the organisation and use of manpower on which the Air Ministry has been engaged in common with other Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply.

The Admiralty has had seven ad hoc inquiries into manpower problems in the last ten years and, as a result, we have been able to make a reduction of about 1,000 men in naval complements in shore establishments and to reduce civilians employed in much the same type of work by about 2,000. The War Office has been able to make considerable economies in headquarters units at home and overseas. One investigation in 1953 into the command and district organisation in the United Kingdom resulted in the saving of military and civilian manpower equivalent to the abolition of one complete Command. That will give the House some idea of the effort which the Service Departments make to economise in manpower.

What about money? Those who have had the privilege, as I have, of holding office in a Service Ministry will know how thorough and continuous is the system in operation, both in Service Departments and the Ministry of Supply, for controlling expenditure. They will know how carefully the Treasury look at every suggestion advanced for increased expenditure. There is also the Public Accounts Committee to which the accounting officer of each Department is answerable after the accounts have been audited, and the Select Committee on Estimates, which is the Parliamentary watchdog, and always on the alert to guard against extravagances in the various Departments. Therefore, financial safeguards do exist and are being used. We have a completely open mind on the question of whether their use can be increased and we shall always continue to search for ways in which we can make more use of them.

The search for economies in money and manpower will, I suggest, go on playing a major part in the lives of Ministers, whether of civil or Service Departments, and it will go on relentlessly. Of course, there is always room for improvement, and however hard we try there are always imperfections and shortcomings. That is only natural.

The Government will not hesitate to take any measures which they think necessary to economise in defence expenditure, but I want to emphasise that we shall preserve our essential military efficiency as long as we have to do so, and that is governed by the international climate. Therefore, the Government readily accept this Amendment, and we shall look very carefully and with great profit, I know, at the other suggestions made in this debate.

3.1 p.m.

I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House must feel a sense of disquiet at the reply which we have just received from the Minister. To me, it was a pale reflection of some of the arguments used in the defence debate. I am very pleased that the Minister made reference to the Committee on which I had the honour and privilege to serve—the Select Committee on Estimates—because I want to express today my very strong disapproval that the Government should, from time to time, refuse to accept the necessary implications contained in the Reports submitted by that Committee.

I cannot accept the view that all the economies which could have been made have in fact been made. The Minister today has almost asked the House to say that we are thankful that the Government have not brought forward increased Estimates and that somehow this latest inquiry, through which the Government hope to save £100 million from all Departments—and the Minister emphasised all Departments—is something with which we should be satisfied.

I wish to submit to the Minister a view which I share with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes), who moved the Motion before the House today. I do not think that, in the main, my hon. Friend suggested that there should be no defences at all. On that point, my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that he did not share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire that no provision should be made for defence. In fact the Motion actually says
"That, in view of the heavy burden of taxation and the need for reducing Government expenditure, this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to make substantial reductions in expenditure on the Armed Forces and armaments."
Nothing that the Minister has said could possibly be placed in the category of "substantial reductions". When I talk about substantial reductions, I mean something of the nature of what the hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) had in mind when, in the course of the defence debate, he said:
"I agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) in doubting whether we could continue to sustain defence expenditure at the present level. Indeed, I consider that the most important need of the moment is to reduce the cost of defence, although I approach the problem from a direction somewhat different from that of the hon. Member for Coventry, East. If we wish to consider the significance of defence expenditure, there is no better yardstick of that than the proportion which it hears to our national income. I ask the House to consider these figures. In 1913 it amounted to just under 3·3 per cent.; in 1935 it was just over 3·3 per cent., and I estimate that this year it will be about 9 per cent. These figures show that it is a matter of prime importance to get the bill down. I would not agree with the hon. Member for Coventry, East that the figure of £1,000 million a year is a suitable one at which to aim. I think it is clear from considering pre-war figures that we ought to aim at something substantially lower. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th February, 1956; Vol. 549, c. 1296.]
He was there referring to the need to reduce it below £1,000 million. The Minister now seeks to justify an expenditure of £1,500 million. In the circumstances, my hon. Friend's Motion is a very reasonable one.

All the time that I have served upon the Estimates Committee, which is called the "watchdog" Committee, I have had the feeling that a kind of iron curtain has been drawn up by the Front Benches on both sides of the House against discussion of both defence and Foreign Office expenditure. The House will remember that the Select Committee on Estimates has issued two Reports on Foreign Office expenditure. The Foreign Office is very much linked up with defence, and foreign policy is also linked up with it. Neither of those Reports has been ventilated in this House. We have never been given the opportunity of examining them. If those Reports had been carefully examined, hon. Members would have seen some of the economic consequences of the policy being pursued.

The Government assume that this expenditure of £1,500 million is reasonable in all the circumstances, and the Minister says that it has been approved without a reckless disregard for the country's economy. The economic consequences of this imposition upon our economy will be far more grave than many people appreciate. The Select Committee on Estimates has submitted four Reports to the House, each one of which has called attention to the economic consequences of not being able to provide funds which, in the long run, will make for greater economy. I refer to the Reports upon prisons, schools, technical education and the Foreign Office. Those four Reports cover inquiries over which I had the honour to preside.

The Report on prisons shows how uneconomical it is for the nation to ignore its recommendations. For example, at a time when trade unions are calling for a shorter working week, men in our prisons who have broken the law and are supposed to be punished are not able to do more than a four-hour working day. The average working week in a prison, therefore, is not more than 20, 21 or 22 hours per week. The average pay is 2s. 6d. per week, and if prisoners are employed on piece work they earn an average of 2s. 9d. a week.

The Select Committee suggested that many thousands of pounds could be saved by reorganising work in the prisons and by altering the hours of work. That recommendation has not been carried out because, it is argued, there is no money to spare to make the improvements necessary in order to bring about greater economy.

The same argument applies to schools. We are having to pay enormous sums of money because we have neglected to repair our schools. Some of these schools have been on the black list for twenty-five or thirty years.

The Estimates Committee pointed out that if the Government continued to neglect technological education we should have to pay very dearly. We have now heard sufficient about that subject to know how true that warning was.

The economic consequences of £1,500 million for defence are greater burdens upon the community. The burdens are increasing in as dangerous a manner as the burden of the National Debt.

The Minister said that the economies which the Government expected to make would not be entirely in the defence Departments. How correct he is in that statement. Only in the last few days the Minister of Health has declined to approve a plan by which Birmingham would provide an additional home for aged persons. All hospitals for the chronic sick are overcrowded in Birmingham and there is a waiting list. Persons whose health has been improved there cannot be removed from the hospitals because there is nowhere for them to go. The Minister of Health has made speeches saying that he would do something to bring aged persons out of mental hospitals and give them better accommodation, yet a valuable and important scheme could not be approved because of the need for economy. I have no doubt that other examples will be found.

The Minister did not say very much about economies in manpower. It has taken the Government a long time to be persuaded even to appoint an inquiry. I had the opportunity of visiting a number of Army and Royal Air Force camps here and abroad. If the Minister looks carefully he will find a tremendous wastage of time and money. If we say that young men are sufficiently trained in ten weeks to be sent to Cyprus, Malaya and other parts of the world, why is it necessary for so many men to be kept for so long in the forces? I was interested to read the White Paper on the Economic Consequences of Full Employment. It is about time that some of our economists and calculators began to write a White Paper on the economic consequences of "bull" employment in the Army. It is long overdue.

Certainly, apart from the general question whether we ought to have defence or not, I am convinced that the present size of the Armed Forces is far in excess of what is reasonable, and I therefore think, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said, that manpower itself is the one subject which takes more money than any other. When he was Minister of Defence I found it very difficult to persuade him to cut down expenditure at that time. It is true that he said, as did his predecessor, that the chiefs of the Armed Forces wanted far more money than he was prepared to give. But, in the end, they got far more.

However, I do not want to say anything which might disturb our close association. I would much rather have him on the back benches than on the Front Bench, as a Minister. I certainly think that the programme of £4,700 million was a tragic and colossal mistake, and I do not see any prospect of the economy of this country being put right so long as we shave to continue to bear that burden.

There has been much comment on the question of the Armed Forces in general. One of the arguments used in Germany for refusing to have a national service period of eighteen months and the reason why the Bundesrat turned down the proposal in favour of a period of one year was that any longer period of service would damage German industry because it would suffer from the withdrawal of young workers. Is not that what has happened here?

In the City of Birmingham we are faced with a problem of short time and unemployment in the motor car industry. We are faced with German competition because of Germany's superior production not only of motor cars but of jewellery and other products. Therefore, if it is reasonable to expect that the Germans should put their economy on a sound footing, it is equally important that we also should have our economy on a sound footing.

Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that there is a great difference between this country and Germany, in that Germany has not to transport troops over great distances of the earth's surface?

I agree that there is that difference, but I do not know why we are sending troops all over the world.

I do not understand why we should be content to take our manpower from industry, when the Germans are undercutting us and others are outclassing us in the world's markets. I do not share the view of some hon. Members that the motor car industry or the bicycle industry is overstrained. I would prefer people to produce bicycles and motor cars rather than bombers. That would be of far greater benefit to our economy.

In conclusion, I believe that my hon. Friend is to be congratulated on bringing this matter to the notice of this House. We know that it is important, and that it is allied to the general question of trying to achieve a peaceful understanding which will make it much easier to reduce our expenditure. Some hon. Members of this House look with some scorn on my hon. Friend when he raises this matter, but I remember occasions in this House when he has been appealing to the Government of the day—and he appealed to the Labour Government as well as to the Conservative Government—for direct discussions between the leaders of the nations when Stalin was the leader of Russia. I say that today he is witnessing the result of much pressure which he and others have exerted in order to bring about high-level talks.

Equally, he has been able to forecast the need for and the importance of high-level talks, and today he has raised a subject which the responsible leaders of this country have not so far raised, but which is a matter of prime importance. Just as he forecast better relations and better opportunities of discussion with the Soviet Union, so I believe that the topic which he has raised today will eventually be proved to have been important and necessary, and that in the end the Government and this nation will have to insist that this expenditure of £1,500 million must be substantially reduced if we are to meet our social obligations.

3.22 p.m.

The hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates), early in his speech, quoted some remarks I made during the defence debate. While I stand by the views I expressed then, I would add that the hon. Gentleman stopped short in his quotation at a rather important reservation which I made at the end. It was that these reductions in expenditure, and any other reductions which we propose, must be subject to the preservation of this country's defence and its position in the world.

I welcome this debate, and I think we should be grateful to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) for having used his good fortune in the Ballot to draw the attention of the House to this very important subject. I think that the debate has come at a singularly appropriate moment, and I regard it as most appropriate that, at the end of a week chiefly devoted to discussions on the Budget and Budget Resolutions—discussions on how to raise the great sums of money needed to maintain the Government of this country today—we should devote a few hours of private Members' time on Friday to talking about how we can save some of that expenditure.

Although the Motion in its present form is unacceptable to me, I recognise the deep sincerity of the hon. Gentleman on this issue. He is one of the few hon. Members whose voice is always raised in our defence debates in an effort to curb extravagance and in the interests of economy, and, though I entirely disagree with the motives behind what he says, like him I am also convinced of the need for economy, though I wish to achieve it without any loss of fighting efficiency or of strength in the Services. Although the hon. Gentleman and I are bound for very different goals, I think that our paths run parallel at present, and, so long as that is the case. I am glad to accompany him on the journey.

That is the situation at the moment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Ian Harvey) put the case for the Amendment, which stands in his name and those of other hon. Members, including myself, with absolute clarity and, to my mind, unanswerable logic, and it remains to fill in some of the details which lie behind the thoughts in the Amendment—an Amendment which, I was delighted to hear, is acceptable to the Government.

A great deal has been said about the Chancellor's clear intention to cut expenditure by £100 million during the current year. I think that one or two hon. Members who have criticised him for having allowed the Estimates to go through and then having said afterwards that they had to be cut were perhaps a little unjust and ungenerous, for we all know that, in the main, the Estimates are worked out by the autumn. In other words, they must have taken shape by the time my right hon. Friend was appointed to his present office.

From the point of view of ordinary, practical administration, it would have been exceedingly foolish to have tried to impose some last-minute cuts on them between the time they were approved in outline and the time when they were presented to Parliament. It was surely far better to let them go through in their original form and then take an early opportunity, at what I suggest is, the correct moment—the opening of the Budget—to enter the caveat that they will be reduced during the course of the financial year.

I assume that defence will bear a share of that reduction. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has pointed out, the Chancellor has a great reputation for achieving difficult targets. He succeeded in building 300,000 houses a year. It would be pleasant to think that he may now succeed in achieving a reduction of not £100 million but £300 million.

I should, however, make one plea—that any reductions which are imposed during the year should be real reductions in expenditure and not merely deferments of projects until the next financial year, because the latter type of action is no economy at all. Indeed, in the long run it involves one in increased expenditure. We want continuing economies in the recurring running expenses of the fighting Services. If that can be achieved to the extent of £100 million, starting as it were at the beginning of the financial year, I think it would be found that such economies amounted in future financial years to quite double that rate.

We should probably find, starting the investigation now, that if we save £100 million in the running expenses between now and next April, that would be the equivalent of about double that amount in a full financial year. That is why I think it is so important that the economies should be of this genuine, recurring type, rather than economies merely by putting off a project for several months.

A number of ways have been canvassed, in this debate and in the debates on defence and the Estimates, by which such economies can be achieved. That is the vital test because, as other hon. Members have said, it is no use coming to the House and advocating economies unless one is prepared to back up what one says with specific examples and illustrations of how those economies can be achieved.

I am speaking, of course, of those who support the Amendment. The hon. Member for South Ayrshire and those who think like him are in a very much easier position, because the more the efficiency and the general edifice of the Fighting Services are undermined by economies, the better they will be pleased. In those circumstances, it is remarkably easy to make sweeping cuts, but to those of us who wish to have economies without impairing efficiency it is necessary to show in some detail how it can be done. I therefore make no excuses for referring to various ways which occur to me, even though some have been mentioned before by various speakers in our debates.

As the first of these measures I would put the necessity to reduce the numbers of the senior officers and senior civil servants who are employed in the defence Services. In this respect I strongly support the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Sharples). I am sure that it is absolutely crucial to start at that end. All my experience tells me that we shall never have worthwhile economies until that has been done, and when it has been done economies will follow automatically.

If the Ministers concerned succeeded in imposing a 20 per cent. or 33⅓ per cent. reduction of all the higher ranks on the civil and military side of their Departments, they could safely go away on a cruise for a year. They would find on their return that the whole body of expenditure had shrunk as a result. The present numbers that we have, in relation to the size of our forces, are indefensible. Any unbiased serving officer, and especially the more junior ones, will bear me out in that view. Unpleasant though it is, I am sure that that is the first task which must be undertaken if we are to achieve real economy, starting at the Ministries themselves, the size of whose staffs has become a major scandal to those who are familiar with their working.

High on the list of economies, I would also urge Ministers to see that actual property and establishments which are no longer needed by the three Services should be sold without delay and not merely placed in a state of care and maintenance. As long as they remain in that state, quite apart from the expense of keeping them and the fact that valuable property is locked up in an idle condition, there will always be people trying to think up reasons for reopening the establishments again.

I was reminded of this during the Easter Recess, when I visited Falmouth. Walking along that very pretty walk known as Castle Drive, for the first time, I was annoyed to find that it was impossible to climb to the top of the Point, because the whole place was fenced off and was labelled "War Department Property". The purpose to which the property was devoted was made public on notice boards. As far as I can remember, part was marked off for A.A. Command and part for Coast Defence. Both these arms of the Army have been abolished in recent months. Why, therefore, was there not a notice, "To be sold" on the property? What is the justification for keeping it? For that matter, what is the justification for the Fighting Services remaining in possession of Southsea Castle, on Southsea front?

These considerations led me to look nearer home, and to inquire how much property was still held by the military authorities in the County Borough of Croydon. That is an area which one does not associate with military operations in the ordinary way. I was surprised to find that no fewer than six properties are still held there. I give these examples not because I think that Croydon is exceptional—if it were, I should not bother the House with these details—but because I am certain that these cases can be reproduced all over the country.

There is an A.A. gun site, bought at the time of the air raids in 1940, still held by the War Office. It is a valuable piece of land, just under 18 acres in extent. There is no secret about the price at which it was bought because that matter went to arbitration. In 1940, £27,800 was paid for it. So far as one knows, it is unused and unlikely to be used because A.A. Command has been abolished. Why is it not put up for sale for development, for house building or some other purpose? It represents a large acreage in the middle of the Greater London area.

Then there is a large barracks in Mitcham Road, covering 5¾ acres. There is another in central Croydon, where there are two more properties on valuable ground covering an area of about half an acre. A little further to the west there is another area of two acres used as the headquarters of the Territorial Royal Army Service Corps. In the same road the Royal Air Force owns a property of about half an acre, used, I believe, for the R.A.F.V.R. Finally, there is nearby a Royal Air Force recruiting station.

I am not suggesting that none of those areas is needed by the war Departments, but I do suggest that the matter should be looked into and that either those properties should be surrendered and sold or else fully utilised. As my second suggestion in order of priority in seeking economies I urge a nation-wide review of all the property now held by the Fighting Services with a view to seeing which should be disposed of and which could be fully utilised.

That brings me to a problem which is related inasmuch as it provides an example of these two trains of thought. I shall now refer to one aspect of research and development. No one, except perhaps the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, challenges the importance of developing the best ships, the best aircraft and the best weapons which the state of scientific and engineering knowledge permits at any given time. However, we must be on our guard against being so blinded by science that we accept the expenditure of every penny of these enormous sums of money without any question. I say frankly to the House that I am afraid that a large amount of money which goes down to the research and development bill is wasted.

One could talk about this for hours, because it is a very big and fascinating subject. It is also a very controversial one. One could talk about the question of development contracts and how they are awarded. One hears it argued—I have heard it said in the House—that firms lose on development contracts. It may be possible to show a bookkeeping loss, but I doubt whether there is much real loss.

The aspect of the matter about which I wish to speak is the number of men, officers in particular, and the amount of property which is tied up in research and development. To deal with the officers first, the standard method by which a project is formulated and worked on in research and development is what is called the staff requirements method. That is, one has a group of officers, working in various staff divisions in the Fighting Services, who are told to put their heads together and work out what is required, say, for the next bomber or aircraft carrier or the ideal performance for a new gun.

There are various ways by which that is achieved. I am sure that it is done more scientifically now than when I was a young officer. It was generally considered before the war that the essential prerequisite for appointment to a post where one was employed on staff requirements was to be a specialist in physical training. Certainly, the qualifications of some of the officers engaged on the work were somewhat open to doubt.

The point is that that method is extremely slow. A great deal of time is occupied in preparing the requirements. The reason why it takes so long is that most of the officers engaged in the work cannot from their own knowledge say for certain what is practicable and what is not. Accordingly, endless discussions take place between them and the technical people either at the Ministry of Supply, or, in the case of the Navy, the Director of Naval Construction at Bath. Consequently, there is much coming and going. Eventually an agreed demand in the form of staff requirements is worked out and presented to the designers concerned, the Ministry of Supply or, in the case of the Admiralty, one of the big civil design departments.

However it is done, the method employs teams of rather starry-eyed young officers who produce the requirements, and the result of their labour is a document which is a cross between a brochure in a popular weekly illustrated paper and a rather boring schedule of specifications. The whole method is entirely unnecessary and extremely costly in both officers and time.

After all, the great developments that have taken place have never been arrived at in that way. They have usually resulted from the work of a handful of gifted men who between them know what is wanted and what it is practicable to attain. Take the Wright brothers for instance. They did not work to staff requirements, to schedules and programmes prepared by a Ministry. Had they been doing so, I imagine they would still be in process of conducting taxi-ing trials. I doubt if they would yet have left the ground.

Lord Fisher made the decision to equip the dreadnought with the steam turbine, which was considered a revolutionary advance—indeed it was so—at that time. I have always understood that that decision was made against the advice of the subordinate technical officers of the Admiralty at the time.

So far as I know, the development of the tank owed nothing to any elaborately prepared staff requirements or complicated procedure. It was done very largely by a number of extremely brilliant and imaginative men. As the House will remember, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) played a prominent part in the development of the tank. There was no complicated staff requirement organisation to produce it.

The same is true of a very much more recent and very much more important development, the invention of what is now called radar, or R.D.F. as it was first called. It is true that Sir Robert Watson-Watt held a Government appointment, but it was by no means a junior one; so far as I can remember, he was Superintendent of the National Physical Laboratory. It occurred to him in a flash that a particular scientific effect, which I think had been worked out and published by the Marconi Company, could be applied to the detection of aircraft.

He put the idea to various highly-placed people who knew what was wanted and had power to ordain what should be done, and in great secrecy, and with great speed, we had a chain of radar stations developed and erected in this country, without which we might well have lost the war. I am perfectly certain that, had that idea gone through the staff requirement machine, in the first place the radar chain would not have been in operation by the time the war began, and, secondly, the Germans would have known all about it when it was in operation. Apart from losing time, we also lose secrecy by this method.

I must apologise for having developed this point at some length, but if one is advocating reducing the number of officers, one must give practical examples. Here is one. I would say that a very great reduction in the number of officers employed in connection with so-called development and research could be made, and great advantage would follow.

In exactly the same way, research and development establishments, in my view, embrace far too much property, and a great deal too much building has been put into them since the war. I referred a month ago to the great extravaganza which has gone up on the top of Portland Bill. As far as I know, that is a research establishment of a sort. Any hon. Member who cares to drive along the top of Portsdown Hill will pass palatial buildings—all research establishments of one kind or another—where enormous activity is going on every day. There is no secret about it; they are far too big for that. Again, if any hon. Member wants to see a slightly enlarged version of Buckingham Palace built in red brick, he has only to go to Salisbury Plain near Porton, where he will see another such research establishment which was put up just after the war.

To my mind, there is too much of a "Rolls-Royce" conception about all the equipment with which our research people have fitted themselves out. I do not believe one gets more genuine advances by spending all that money, than one does by having the right man, perhaps working somewhere in a garret. The secret of research and development is imagination and scientific knowledge, and they are not added to by elaborate buildings and the like.

I would therefore beg the Ministers to take a comprehensive view of all these research establishments, with a view not only to stopping further building, but perhaps to closing some of the existing establishments and double-banking in others.

The last direction in which economy can be sought and to which I should like to refer is one about which something has already been said today. That is the economy which can come about as a result of reorganisation to meet changing needs. I still do not think that any convincing answer has been given to the arguments put forward for more than a generation in support of the establishment of certain common services. The most obvious of these, which I mention first for that reason, are the medical services.

I think that it was my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air who, in replying to the defence debate and arguing against this proposal—no doubt speaking from a brief with which he was provided—pointed out that one cannot expect doctors to be experts in submarine physiology, high-altitude psychology and, at the same time, know about the hygiene of the battlefield, whatever that may be.

I can only say that the Navy has submarines and aircraft and there is only one corps or service of naval doctors. They manage to get around, no doubt in exactly the same way as doctors anywhere else, by a certain amount of sub-specialisation which is taken into account when they are appointed. As to hygiene in the battlefield, when the Marines land and fight they depend on naval doctors and, as far as I know, their battlefields are no less hygienic than anybody else's battlefields. I therefore submit that that in itself is no answer to the case for common medical services.

It was pointed out that committees have rejected this suggestion. If one appoints a committee to look into a matter of this nature, everything depends on how its terms of reference are framed. If the committee is asked whether it recommends some drastic change which strikes at vested interests, there is no need to waste time in reading the committee's report, because the answer will always be in the negative. If the question is put another way and the committee is asked what would have to be done and what would be the sacrifice if a certain change were made, that is a different matter, and the answer is given.

Another very good example of the possibility for common services is in the direction of works and buildings. I am convinced that it is highly uneconomical for each Service to maintain its own works department, each incidentally with somewhat different methods of accounting for what it does, etc. I have never been clear why, when the Ministry of Works was established, that Ministry could not have undertaken the work of the Services on, as it were, an agency basis. Speaking subject to correction, I believe that Wellington Barracks were built by the Ministry of Works—or the Board of Works as it then was—and not by the War Office works department. However that may be, I feel sure that there is an overwhelming case for the fusion of these three works services in order to get a good deal of economy from such a course of action.

One asks oneself the question: if there are so many directions in which economies can be achieved—and most hon. Members will agree that there are—why is it that after all these years, and after Governments of both parties have alternated over a long period, the economies have not been achieved? The reason lies in part in a genuine fear of change by Government senior officers in matters such as this. One understands and up to a point respects that. It is more commonly the fear of the loss of employment and loss of jobs. I do not say that in any sarcastic or carping spirit, because, after all, the officers afraid of this are not those likely to be personally affected. They fear for their subordinates, and it is very natural that they should resist measures which would result in widespread discharges from the public service and possibly widespread, if temporary, unemployment. That is very understandable, and from that I conclude that if we are to achieve real economies in the Services, they will have to be carefully planned in order to avoid hardship and unemployment, and that that fact must be known and understood by all concerned.

In the case of officers, I consider that the new pension conditions have paved the way by which this could be done. I would venture to repeat what I have said before in the House. I should have thought that if it is necessary to discharge an officer because he is redundant, he might, without undue injustice, be allowed to go with his full pension and terminal grant in the rank in which he was serving. Although I have no doubt that the Treasury would protest that he had not earned the pension or was not entitled to the grant, money would still be saved, and it would be better than to go on employing him on full pay.

Exactly the same principle could be applied to senior civil servants. If the Department in which they are employed has to close, surely they could be offered at any rate a pension and terminal grant proportionate to that which they would have reached had they completed their normal service. If there existed any doubt about promotion which they might have had, let us give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they would have been promoted. By doing that one removes the great obstacle of the fear of the consequences which might follow big reductions.

Then we come to the question of industrial labour, and, there, one is faced with a somewhat different problem. Again, I can speak only from my own experience, but I have found that where it has been necessary to make a big reduction in a civil establishment, if one works with the local secretary of the union concerned, it is quite easy to arrange for men to be released gradually, as they can be placed in other jobs. Then everyone is happy and no one any the worse off.

When the closing down of an entire establishment is involved planning is needed. Provided that one advertises the fact that it had been decided, shall we say, to dispense with Woolwich Arsenal—I am not suggesting for a moment that it should be dispensed with—I should have thought one might put the situation before big firms interested in, shall we say, the export of heavy electrical equipment and other items which might be made in an establishment such as Woolwich Arsenal; and that it would benefit the Government actually to finance the tooling up of the place for the new work, and pay for a course of training which might be necessary for the men employed there in connection with the new kind of work. Then the establishment could be turned over to its new rôle. All that could be achieved with a little forethought and planning without undue hardship or dislocation.

I was delighted to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he did not intend to proceed by committees in this matter. If anything is to be done, I am sure that we have reached the stage at which it could be done only by decisions on the part of the Ministers themselves. I would make a tentative suggestion that perhaps there might be an additional Minister at the Treasury charged with the task of developing plans to make big economies; that is to say, a Minister not bowed down by day-to-day administrative work. He would be free to give his whole attention to this matter, not necessarily to initiate economies, but to follow them up after they had been initiated by the individual Ministries. I realise that this opens up a considerable field for discussion which would take me a long time to develop, perhaps longer time than I have this afternoon.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I have your guidance? Can you tell me when it is possible for an intervention to be made in a debate by an hon. Member who, for weeks, has been trying to raise the question of Government surplus scandals? Is it deliberately intended to keep that hon. Member from speaking?

There is no point of order in that. The hon. Member is unfortunate, as are other hon. Members, in being unable to make the speech he wants to make.

It being Four o'clock the debate stood adjourned.