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Commons Chamber

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 27 April 1960

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 27th April, 1960

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions




asked the Minister of Labour what steps are being taken to find employment for the 2,531 men and 24 young persons registered as disabled in the east Northumberland area; and whether he will make a statement.

of the 2,531 men and 24 young persons registered as disabled, only 170 men and 10 young persons were unemployed on 11th April. My disablement resettlement officers are doing their best to find suitable work for them.

While appreciating the efforts which are being made to deal with this problem in that locality, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that with the contraction of the mining industry opportunities for providing employment for the disabled persons become more and more difficult to create? Is it not possible to give some consideration to an extension of the Remploy factory in the area or the provision of facilities whereby some of these young people can be transferred to other areas, with some supervision and support?

I appreciate the difficulties which the contraction of the coal mining industry brings, but the number of unemployed among the registered disabled men has declined by seventeen over the last month, and ten severely disabled persons have been placed in the Remploy factory at Bedlington during the last six months.

School Leavers


asked the Minister of Labour what steps are being taken to find employment for the 2,130 young persons who have been unemployed since leaving school; and whether he will make a statement.

Of the 2,130 young people who left school last summer and at Christmas and were still unemployed on 14th March this year, 948 had been placed in employment by 11th April. The Youth Employment Service is doing all it can to place the remaining 1,182.

Does the Minister recognise that we have here a serious challenge, which will face the young people in the future, and that for years we have been awaiting some realistic expression of the Carr Committee's Report? I believe that some of those now registered at the exchange are school leavers from August, 1959. What hopes have these young people for the future? Surely the Minister must recognise that this is a matter for top priority. Should it not receive his immediate attention?

I recognise the importance of this matter. The majority of the 1,182 who are unemployed are in Scotland, Wales and the Northern Region, and they reflect the difficult areas. To help these areas we are using the Local Employment Act.

If there are over 1,000 young people in this position, what will the position be next year and the year after when the number of young people leaving school rises? As the position is now serious, will it not be desperate by then, unless drastic steps are taken now to provide more jobs and more training opportunities for young people?

Is it not very discouraging for youths entering industry when they read in the newspapers about men being sent to Coventry for working too hard or because they do not join some particular union?

As the House knows, there are in certain areas very many outstanding vacancies for young people. It is in particular areas that there is difficulty in finding employment. As I have said, it is in order to assist these areas that the Local Employment Act has been passed.

Youth Employment Officers


asked the Minister of Labour if he will increase the proportion of his grant towards the salaries of local youth employment officers.

No, Sir; the grant already covers three-quarters of the expenditure on salaries.

Does not the Minister agree that the real problem here is to bring the worst local authorities up to the standards of the best? Will he consider sending out a circular on this matter for the guidance of local authorities? Will he not further agree that at a time when the Government are being asked to implement the Albemarle Report it would be quite anomalous and retrograde for the youth employment officers to suffer a diminution in their status, with a consequent lowering of the quality of the people entering the employment service?



asked the Minister of Labour what was the ratio of boys under 18 years of age registered as wholly unemployed to the number of unfilled notified vacancies in the County of Dunbarton at the latest available date.

There were 96 wholly unemployed boys in the County of Dunbarton on 11th April and 38 unfilled notified vacancies.

Would the Minister agree that this is one of the places referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary and that these figures indicate a grave situation and are indicative of what is happening in Scotland as a whole? Does he agree that special measures are necessary in Scotland, and will he undertake to consult his Ministerial colleagues with a view to taking special action?

The special action is being taken by the Government under the Local Employment Act and Dunbarton itself is a development district. In addi- tion, there is the new town of Cumbernauld, in which it is expected that 4,000 places of employment will become available. The development corporation is also building an advance factory. It is, therefore, apparent that action is being taken because the urgency of the problem is realised. The problem is not so much one of school leavers, because they are being placed in work fairly satisfactorily, but of younger people who later lose jobs for a variety of reasons and are then difficult to place.



asked the Minister of Labour what was the ratio of boys under 18 years of age registered as wholly unemployed to the number of unfilled notified vacancies in the County of Ayr at the latest date available.

On 11th April, there were 69 notified vacancies for every 100 wholly unemployed boys.

Is the Minister aware that this is an alarming figure for the County of Ayr? Is he further aware that it will be much aggravated if those who leave school cannot go into jobs for which their aptitude suits them and that in Scotland thousands, and in Ayrshire hundreds, go into dead-end jobs because suitable employment is not available? This is a bad thing for the country generally if it continues over too long a period.

The Question does not deal with an analysis of the sort of jobs into which young people are going; that could be dealt with separately. What is encouraging is that, although the position is not entirely satisfactory, there are five times as many vacancies as a year ago and nearly twice as many as a month ago. There are also signs in the area that recruitment in coal mining is about to be resumed, that the B.M.K. carpet factory will take more young people and that firms going into the Royal Ordnance Factory at Irvine will also provide employment. In addition, there are seven areas in the county which are development districts under the Local Employment Act.

Scotland (Boys)


asked the Minister of Labour what proportion of Scottish boys in the past two years have taken unskilled employment as their first occupation since leaving school.

I regret that information is not available in the form desired by the hon. Member.

Will the Minister make closer inquiry of the Scottish Office and the youth employment officers in Scotland, when he will find that the proportion is extremely high and provides startling evidence of the need not only for employment but for training? Since his Industrial Training Council seems to be bursting with inactivity, will the Minister please take action and interview the youth employment officers, the Careers Council, the trade unions and employers with a view to getting a move on?

We already obtain a lot of information about the jobs into which young people go, for example, whether they are apprenticeships or whether they lead to professional qualifications, but we do not have the information which would enable us to break down all the other employments into which young people enter; that is, whether the jobs are skilled or lead in the end only to unskilled employment. I do not believe that the great majority go into dead-end jobs. The I.T.C. is not a Government organisation, but is set up jointly by the employers and the trade unions.

Does the Minister not agree that it is disturbing that we cannot get this sample information? Does he not feel that if he cannot give my hon. Friend this information, it is about time he was able to give it? We know about the apprentices and learners, but there is also a large category of boys who are not classified. Surely, it is time that we knew what was happening to these boys. Does not the Minister agree?

When one is getting detailed information of this kind, one has also to consider the amount of trouble and work involved in getting it. It is comparatively easy to get information about apprenticeships or employment leading to recognised professional qualifications, but to break down all the rest of the employments into the degree of skill which they involve is a very big operation.

8 and 9.

asked the Minister of Labour (1) the number of boys in Scotland who will be seeking employment for the first time during 1960; and what steps are being taken to ensure that employment will be available;

(2) what special steps he is taking to overcome the unemployment problem among Scottish boys.

It is estimated that in Scotland 31,000 boys will be seeking employment for the first time this year. This is slightly less than in 1959. The employment prospects for school leavers will depend largely on the general employment situation which, I am glad to say, has improved significantly in Scotland in recent weeks.

Is the Minister aware that, when making a correct comparison with the same period last year, the improvement is not so good? Is he also aware that there is widespread anxiety in Scotland concerning the employment of youths who will leave school during the next two or three years? Is he also aware that there is widespread fear that what the Government are doing is nowhere near good enough? Will the right hon. Gentleman impress upon his Government colleagues the urgent necessity to do far more than is being done to provide employment?

Between February and April, there has been a fall of over 15,000 in the number of unemployed in Scotland. That is a drop of from 4·7 to 4 per cent., which is encouraging. The future of these young people depends upon the amount of employment which is available. That is why the Government have included areas covering 61 per cent. of the insured working population of Scotland in the development districts to give inducements to industry to go there. If the hon. Member and his friends want the Government to take more vivid or violent action, the only way in which it can be done is by compelling firms to go to these areas. We are not prepared to do that.

Despite the improvement of which the Minister speaks, is it not a fact that Scotland has 3,000 unemployed boys under the age of 18 and 1,500 unemployed girls under that age? Will the right hon. Gentleman answer a question similar to the one which his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary refused to answer just now: when the school leavers increase in number next year and increase still more in 1962, will not the existing serious situation become desperate? What special steps will be taken by the Government to deal with those in the special areas in Scotland?

It will not become a desperate situation. One must not take merely the numbers of young people leaving school and add them to the number who will not secure employment. At the same time, a considerable number of people will be leaving employment for retirement and other reasons and their places have to be filled,, The question of the "bulge" confronts the whole country. The way in which young people will get work is by having an economy which can provide it for them. That means persuading industry to go to Scotland. The whole of the efforts of my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland and of myself have been devoted to trying to persuade firms to go to Scotland to provide employment.



asked the Minister of Labour what was the ratio of boys under 18 years, registered as wholly unemployed, to the number of unfilled vacancies in the County of Fife, at the latest available date.

On 11th April, there were 23 notified vacancies for every 100 wholly unemployed boys.

Is the Minister aware that the position which is indicated by these shocking figures was borne out recently in Kirkcaldy, where a local coach-building firm advertised two vacancies for apprentices? The first boy arrived at 5 o'clock in the morning and by 6 a.m. there were 30 boys in the queue waiting to be interviewed. Will the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, press his colleague the President of the Board of Trade to give every possible financial inducement to industry to come to Fife, so that we may have the kind of position which now obtains in Birmingham of over 2,000 jobs for every 100 unemployed boys?

On 1st April, my right hon. Friend added the Dunfermline district, including Cowdenbeath and Anstruther, to the list of development districts to provide some of the help for which the hon. Member has asked. I am glad to see that the Transport Commission is recruiting in Dunfermline, and it is expected also that there will be a higher intake of young people into coal mining in the area this year.



asked the Minister of Labour the total number of persons unemployed in the Chester-le-Street constituency area, listing disabled and young persons separately.

At 11th April, 650 persons were registered as unemployed, including 106 disabled persons and 79 young persons.

In view of the fact that coal mining is the predominant industry of the area, what plan does the Minister have for assisting these people to find jobs in other industries in the Chester-le-Street area?

In the hon. Member's constituency, Chester-le-Street has a rate of unemployment of 2·2 per cent. which is slightly above the national average. On the other hand, in Washington Station it is 1·6 per cent., which is below the national average. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has said that projects to be located in Chester-le-Street could be considered for assistance under the Local Employment Act if they provided work within travel-to-work areas of higher unemployment.

Northern Region


asked the Minister of Labour if he will state the total numbers of persons unemployed in the Northern Region residing in areas not included in the districts listed under the Local Employment Bill, listing young people and disabled persons separately.

There were 21,628 on 11th April, of whom 1,970 were young persons under 18 years of age, and 3,059 were registered disabled persons.

These are really serious figures. Is the Minister aware that we on this side are thoroughly fed up with the Government's complacent approach to the problem facing our unemployed people in the North? Will not he consult his right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the President of the Board of Trade in order to bring forward a strategic industrial plan to meet the requirements of the North of England?

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that these figures cover a very large area, indeed. The Northern Region includes Northumberland, Durham, Westmorland, Cumberland and the North Riding of Yorkshire. Further, there is absolutely no complacency at all in the Government about this problem. The first place that I visited after becoming Minister of Labour was the North East Coast. Since then, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and my right hon. Friend himself have both been there. Furthermore, four major new projects have been announced for the area: Pressed Steel at Jarrow, The Metal Box Company at Newburn, Ransome and Maries at Anfield Plain, and Paton and Baldwin at Jarrow, amounting to 3,100 jobs altogether. That, I think, is encouraging.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the statement made yesterday in Newcastle by the regional controller, Board of Trade, that there have probably been 7,000 new jobs brought to our area since the beginning of the year, is highly encouraging? In conjunction with his right hon. and hon. Friends concerned, will he continue those very successful efforts to bring more employment to the North East?

Does the Minister of Labour think it encouraging that from 14th March the number of boys under 18 years of age who are unemployed has increased by about 300? That does not seem to be very encouraging. Is it not the fact that the President of the Board of Trade has left out about 75 per cent. of this area from the assistance provided by the Local Employment Act? So it is little wonder that unemployment amongst our youth continues.

If the hon. Gentleman refers to figures—which I shall have to check—which include those who have left school since the end of the Easter term, I must tell him that it must take some little time to fit them into employment. One has to take a certain time after the end of a school term to do this.


asked the Minister of Labour what is the total of unemployed persons in the Northern Region; and how many of these, and what percentage, are in areas listed under the Local Employment Act.

On 11th April, 39,596, of whom 17,968 or 45·4 per cent. were in areas listed as development districts under the Local Employment Act.

That answer means that 55 per cent. of the unemployed in the North-East are not even covered by the Government's Measure. Does not that reveal the Measure as a colossal trick on the part of the Government who. at the election, held out the proposed Bill as the first Measure of the new Parliament to relieve local unemployment? We now find that 55 per cent. of our unemployed are not even touched by it. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are sick of the complacent nonsense poured out about the North-East by himself and his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, North (Mr. R. W. Elliot) when, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, we have 4,000 unemployed, of whom 55 per cent. are not affected by the Local Employment Act?

As I have already said, the area covered by the Northern Region is a very large one, consisting, I think, of 4½ counties. Therefore, although the percentage of the number of unemployed not covered by the Act is greater than those covered, it is spread over a very much greater area. It is because the percentage of unemployment in these areas does not come up to the level envisaged in the Act that they are not on the list of development districts.

As I have said, it is right to concentrate our resources on the areas that need it most. There is absolutely no complacency. If hon. Members want additional measures to be adopted they must specify those measures. In addition to inducements, there remains only one thing, and that is compulsion, and we are not prepared to compel firms to go there.

But will the Minister note the very serious concern expressed today by my hon. Friends from Scotland and the North-East Coast about the unemployment situation in those areas? Since the position there has worsened relatively to the rest of the country in the last six months and as the shipbuilding prospect is far from promising, will he not today undertake that the Government will take more strenuous and vigorous measures than they have yet done under the Act?

The assurance I can give to the House is that my right hon. Friends and myself will continue our very determined efforts to persuade industry to go to these areas. I am afraid that on one matter the right hon. Gentleman is not correct. The position in Scotland and the North-East has improved more than it has in the rest of the country, because the percentage decrease in unemployment is much greater than it is for the country as a whole.

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree with what all my hon. Friends know to be the truth; that, as compared with a year ago, the position in Scotland has certainly deteriorated?



asked the Minister of Labour what reduction there has been in the numbers of unemployed in Crook since this area was listed under the Local Employment Bill.

During the General Election the Government made great play of their proposed Local Employment Bill. In the period that has since intervened, will the Minister tell us what new industry has come into the whole of the west of Durham, where we have a declining mining industry, where pits and other places are closing, and where the disabled workers and the young people cannot find work? Will he tell us what the Government intend doing about this?

The pledge in the election manifesto was carried out by the Government making the local Employment Bill the first Measure of this Parliament. That Measure received the Royal Assent just before Easter, but despite its recent nature it has already had a very considerable effect on some major industries, including the motor industry. As regards the hon. Gentleman's own area, he will be glad to know that 470 jobs are expected to accrue in south-west Durham from projects that have already been approved.



asked the Minister of Labour how many boys and girls left school at Easter in the North-East; and how many vacancies are available for boys and girls, respectively.

I will write to the hon. Member as soon as possible, but it will be some time before full information is available.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that of the boys who left school at Christmas and at the end of the Easter term, 50 per cent. have yet to be found employment? What does he intend doing about it?

I am afraid that the numbers of boys who have left school after the last date of unemployment count, which was 11th April, are unknown. I cannot, therefore, comment on that. What I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that there has been a great improvement in the number of vacancies compared with a year ago. Indeed, there has been a great improvement on a month ago. On 9th March there were 1,679 vacancies, and on 6th April the number was 2,644.


asked the Minister of Labour what consultations he has had with trade unions in the North-East regarding the establishment of a training centre for young people.

My right hon. Friend is reviewing the need for a Government training centre in the Northern Region, in consultation with local employer and trade union representatives. He is also considering the provision of first-year apprenticeship training there.

Are we to understand from that reply that nothing has been done up to the present moment? Are not the Government taking a nonsensical view when they tell us that no provision for this kind of training centre has been made for young people in the North wanting work? Will not he treat this as a matter of urgency, because the people in the North-East are very concerned?

The consultations with the trade unions, about which the hon. Gentleman's Question asks, refer to the Government training centre, which is something that my right hon. Friend is reviewing. If a Government training centre is reopened in the North-East, the question of whether in that centre there should be first-year apprenticeship training will be considered.


asked the Minister of Labour if he will give the percentage of men, women, and young persons, respectively, unemployed in the North-East at the latest available date.

At 11th April, the unemployment rate was 3·1 per cent. The rate for all males was 3·4 per cent., and for all females, 2·6 per cent. It is not possible to compute a separate rate for young persons.

One cannot really tell from the figures whether we are better or worse off, but we will assume the position to be a slightly better one. May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that there has always been a firm nucleus of about 33,000 people unemployed in the North-East, and does he not think that whatever efforts have been made they have not been sufficient to meet that need? Will not he review the whole position and make a stronger attack on unemployment in this area?

We are making a very serious attack on unemployment in the North-East, because my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has placed seven areas there in his list of development districts. That, therefore, will provide an inducement for industry to go there but, as my right hon. Friend has always explained, it is important to concentrate the resources for the inducements in the areas that need it most rather than to spread them thinly over a very much larger area. I am sure that that is the right policy to follow.

Will not the Minister agree that the figures he quotes have been obtained at the beginning of what would appear to be a new period of credit squeeze? Looking at the background of the former credit squeeze, when unem- ployment went up to 750,000, and vacancies diminished by 250,000, will he not agree that, in the present economic circumstances, those figures are dangerous?

The figures I gave earlier are those of projects already approved and on which, as far as one knows, the firms will go ahead and provide a number of jobs.



asked the Minister of Labour how many young persons under the age of 18 years are unemployed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; and how many vacancies are available.

On 11th April there were 199 young people registered as unemployed at Youth Employment offices in the City of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This figure does not include any Easter school leavers, as the school term ended after the April count. On 6th April there were 731 vacancies, notified to these offices, still unfilled.

But does not the hon. Gentleman realise that, with the addition of the Easter school leavers, the figures are a great deal worse? Will he tell his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about these figures before the Chancellor makes his statement tomorrow and ask him to bear in mind that if the credit squeeze is applied because of inflation in the Midlands and the South-East it will have an extremely detrimental effect on the employment prospects of other areas, notably the North-East Coast?

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will see these figures by tomorrow.

Royal Navy



asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty if he will give a list of the moorings maintained by his Department, and the number of hours each of these moorings have been used during the financial year 1959–60.

The moorings maintained by the Admiralty include many used for navigational buoys, targets, etc. Those that can provide berths for ships number about 450 and, with permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a statement showing their distribution. I am sorry to say that no record of their hourly usage is available.

In order to save the enormous maintenance costs that fall on the Admiralty, can my hon. Friend say whether, except when required for use, these buoys could not be left on the bottom?

The Question was about the moorings. This swamping method is very good and sensible, and is one that we are looking at to see whether we can save costs in this way.

Following is the statement:

Ship berths

Portsmouth Harbour 65
Portsmouth vicinity31
Pembroke Dock21
Chatham 18
Clyde area54
Loch Ewe 7
Invergordon 14
Gibraltar 8
Elsewhere abroad10


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what steps he proposes to take to reduce the expenditure of £1 million paid out each year by his Department for the maintenance of 1,400 moorings.

We have been steadily reducing the number of moorings at such places as Sheerness, Harwich, Portland and Hong Kong. In addition, we are at present reviewing measures for further reducing the numbers, and undertaking the work more economically.

Can my hon. Friend give the House some idea of what measures he has in view to save money on these moorings?

We are considering a modified standard of maintaining moorings, and are particularly taking into account the American and civil practice in this direction to see whether economies can be made.

Divers (Pay)


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty whether he will continue to pay the 2d. per minute or 10s. per hour to clearance divers, grade CD3, for the time spent diving, in addition to the rise in pay recently announced for the Forces.

No, Sir. The payment of naval divers according to the time spent under water was abolished in the 1960 Pay Code, and has been replaced by daily rates calculated to give approximately equivalent earnings over the whole period of a man's career. Clearance divers will receive the new daily rates according to their qualifications, in addition to the recently announced increases in basic pay amounting on an average to about 5 per cent.

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that a special inducement should be given, in addition to that to which he has already referred, for this very specialised and, in many instances, very dangerous work? Will he reconsider the matter?

There is a special inducement according to skill of either 6s., 8s. or 10s. a day. It is doubtful whether one should give extra inducement to men to spend extra time under water. We found that that was laborious to administer and rather uneven in results. Moreover, it means that junior ratings are able to earn much higher sums by staying under water for longer periods than others who have greater responsibility.

Cadet Force And Sea Cadets


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty how many motor boats and sailing and pulling boats provided from naval sources are in use by the Combined Cadet Force and Sea Cadet Units.

The naval sections of the Combined Cadet Force have 114 pulling and sailing craft but do not use power boats. The Sea Cadet Corps have in use 113 power boats and 631 pulling and sailing craft.


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what arrangements are being made for members of naval sections of the Combined Cadet Force and Sea Cadets to visit ships of the operational Fleet; for how many arrangements will be made to undertake such visits in 1960; and how many will go to sea.

We are arranging for at least 192 cadets from naval sections of the Combined Cadet Force and 1,000 Sea Cadets to go to sea for training in operational ships during 1960. In addition, there will be day visits to ships for parties of cadets; last year Combined Cadet Force parties alone made 300 such visits.

While welcoming that reply, may I ask whether anything can be done to increase these visits, especially to foreign ports?

We should like to increase the number of visits. I would point out that, in addition to the visits to operational ships, which are the most desirable, 5,500 visits are being made to naval establishments on shore. I will look into the question of visits to foreign ports, but I should point out that this involves certain difficulties of transport to and from the area concerned.


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what was the cost to the Royal Navy of the assistance rendered to the Sea Cadet Corps and the Combined Cadet Force in 1959; and what has been the return in the number of entries during that year.

In 1959, the cost of the assistance rendered by the Royal Navy to the Sea Cadet Corps amounted to £224,400 and to the Combined Cadet Force to £68,000. During that year, 707 Sea Cadets and 162 cadets from naval sections of the Combined Cadet Force entered the Royal Navy. A further 418 cadets entered the Merchant Navy and 22 entered the Royal Naval Reserve.

Can my hon. Friend say what is the relative strength of the Sea Cadet Corps and the naval section of the Combined Cadet Force?

The strength of the Sea Cadet Corps is 19,000 and the strength of the naval section of the Combined Cadet Force is 5,000.

Hm Yacht "Britannia"


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty how many officers and men will be employed on H.M. Yacht "Britannia" during its forthcoming cruise; and what is the esimated weekly cost of their pay.

Twenty officers and 237 ratings will be on board; the estimated weekly cost of their pay is £4,000. This complement serves in the Yacht throughout the time she is in commission and no extra expenditure on pay arises from the forthcoming cruise.

Is the Civil Lord not aware that this is rather a large sum of money to be spent on one honeymoon couple, when the Government are urging us to be restrained and cautious in public expenditure in order to avoid inflation? Is it not necessary that there should be some regard to economy in the most ancient of our nationalised industries? Could the hon. Gentleman tell us the total cost involved?

The decision to build "Britannia" was taken by Earl Attlee's Government in October, 1951, and the decision was endorsed by the Conservative Government which followed.

The pay of officers and men arises directly out of that decision and is not according to the use which is made of "Britannia" or where she goes. I should have thought that it was the general view of this House that after the manifold duties which Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret undertakes at home and in the Commonwealth, she should on this occasion enjoy a very happy voyage.

In view of the unsatisfactory and misleading nature of that reply, I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Royal Victoria Yard, Deptford


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what plans he has for the future of the Royal Victoria Yard, Deptford; and to what extent they entail a reduction in the established and temporary staff now employed.

We expect to close the yard by about June, 1961, and, with the exception of two small areas, to offer the remaining 16 acres for disposal. Eighty-nine temporary and 143 established posts will be reduced as a result of the closure of the yard. Against these reductions, there will be an increase of 99 posts in the naval store department in the neighbouring Supply Reserve Depot at Deptford as a result of the transfer of work from Crickle-wood where we are closing the naval store depot.

Does the Civil Lord appreciate that the closing of this historic yard is a matter of considerable interest among the workers there? May I also ask what is the anticipated annual saving on maintenance, how will the requirements for additional stores be met, and will the hon. Gentleman have a conversation with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to see that the twenty or thereabouts non-established industrial workers who will be made redundant will be found employment elsewhere?

I certainly acknowledge the first point. On the second point, there will be a saving of about £36,000 a year. On the third point, we are considering the question of absorbing the established and perhaps redeploying the unestablished staff at Cricklewood, and there will also be vacancies at the Supply Reserve Depot for those from the Victualling Yard. As to the last point, I will certainly get in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to make sure that he looks after redundant personnel.

New Ships (Air-Conditioning)


asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty to what extent new ships that are likely to be used for service in tropical climates are equipped with air-conditioning.

All new designs of Her Majesty's ships likely to serve in the tropics will have air-conditioning, but a number of ships of existing designs cannot be fitted with complete installations, so that it will be some years before all ships in the fleet are fully air-conditioned. In the meantime we have fitted ships stationed in the Persian Gulf and other hot climates with air-conditioning units in important compartments, including living spaces.

Does it follow from that answer that when new ships are being designed and built air-conditioning equipment is regarded as an integral part of the basic design and not as a luxury extra to be fitted in if and where it can be?

Post Office

Forward-Scatter Stations


asked the Postmaster-General what action he is taking in view of the report of the committee of experts regarding the safety precautions that should be taken to protect the public and operating staffs against the hazards of intense radio-frequency radiation that may be produced by high-power transmitters in forward-scatter radio stations.

Our own responsibility is for stations operated by the Post Office and for radio and radar stations for which a licence is required under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949. We propose to require the licensees of stations to which the precautions are applicable to give an undertaking to observe them.

Is the hon. Lady aware that the report of this committee of experts shows that the danger to health, and particularly to eyes, is much greater than was previously supposed, and that there is a danger to the public as well as to the staff, the danger area being wider than was supposed? What steps are being taken to acquaint the public of these dangers?

The Postmaster-General issued a notice to the national, medical and technical Press on 6th April drawing attention to the committee's report and to the forthcoming publication of the recommendations by Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

In view of the apprehension that is being caused by this new development, will the hon. Lady give an undertaking that the Department will keep this matter under very close observation and keep the public fully informed of the position?

Royal Air Force

Air Rank Posts


asked the Secretary of State for Air how many officers of the rank of air commodore and above are serving on international and inter-service staffs in posts which are his financial responsibility.

Air Votes bear the cost of 10 air rank posts which are established wholly or mainly for international or inter-service reasons.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that during the Air Estimates debates we were told that one of the reasons for the increase in the proportion of high air rank officers was the existence of these staffs? Does he realise that the figures which he has given and those given by the Minister of Defence really call in question the whole argument? When is there going to be a proper balance between the number of very senior officers and the much smaller size of the Royal Air Force?

It is quite impossible to relate the number of air rank posts directly to the number of uniformed personnel. To begin with, the complexity and the responsibilities of the Royal Air Force do not by any means vary in direct ratio with the number of uniformed personnel. I can, however assure the hon. Gentleman that I am personally watching this matter and am doing all I can to keep the number of air rank posts down to proper proportions.

Forward-Scatter Stations

asked the Secretary of State for Air whether he is aware of the recent official report by a committee of experts concerning the dangers of heat radiation from forward-scatter stations; and what steps he is taking to meet this problem at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forward-scatter stations in this country.

asked the Secretary of State for Air, how many North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forward-scatter radio links are being set up in the United Kingdom; and what safety precautions he is introducing to protect the public against the dangers of intense radio-frequency radiation that are inherent in the operation of such stations.

Five N.A.T.O. forward-scatter stations are being set up in the United Kingdom. The small areas within which radiation is above the recommended safe level will be fenced off. Special arrangements will be made for the operating and servicing staffs.

Does the Secretary of State remember that in November, 1958, his Under-Secretary told the House that there was no danger whatsoever from the radiation of these stations? How is it that hon. Members and the radio correspondents of a number of newspapers, such as The Times, were so much better informed than the Minister?

I am afraid I do not know how The Times gets its information; but certainly, so far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, the area immediately in front of the antennae, which will in no case be more than 100 yards and in some cases very much less, will be fenced off, and therefore there will be no danger.

Is it not now quite clear that S.H.A.P.E. attempted to minimise the hazards due to these stations and that the danger not only to the staffs operating therein but to the public over a much wider area is much greater than the House was led to believe? In view of this, will not the Minister reconsider his whole decision on this matter and the precautions which ought to be taken?

I am informed that the only danger is where the field strength of radiation exceeds 10 milliwatts per sq. cm. This area is very small, as I have explained. As to the people working on the stations, special precautions will be taken, as I said in my original answer.


Parking Meter Zones (Doctors)


asked the Minister of Transport if he will make regulations to facilitate free parking of cars by doctors when visiting their patients in parking meter zones.

I should not consider it right to grant any such general exemption.

Is the Minister aware that it is not so much a question of free parking as being able to park at all, as many parking places are nearly always occupied? Will my right hon. Friend consider making regulations for doctors visiting their patients somewhat on the lines of those for commercial vehicles when loading and unloading?

That is another question. The Question on the Order Paper refers to free parking of cars in parking meter zones. That is an entirely different question.

Will the Minister accept as a general principle that it is dangerous and undesirable to have any privileged class of motorists and that all motorists should be treated in exactly the same way?



asked the Minister of Transport how many road accidents occurred in Staffordshire during the Easter week-end 1960, compared with 1959 and 1958.

One hundred and seventeen road accidents resulting in death or personal injury occurred in Staffordshire between Thursday, 14th April, and Easter Monday, 18th April, 1960, inclusive. Comparative figures for Easter 1959 and 1958 were 113 and 87 respectively.

Is it not a fact that there has been some increase in the number of accidents during the last weekend? Would the Minister be kind enough to call for a review in his Department of the road safety schemes recently put up by certain local authorities in Staffordshire and either turned down or deferred by his Department?

If the hon. Gentleman will send me particulars, I will look into them. I am bound to point out that although the general accidents increased from 113 to 117, the deaths were reduced from 8 in 1959 to 3 in 1960.


asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement on the road accidents which occurred in Great Britain during the Easter holidays, and on his proposals to deal with the serious position shown by the nature and extent of these accidents; and what increase he contemplates making, as a result, in the plans for road building.

The available information shows that in England and Wales 87 people died in road accidents at Easter. This compares with 71 deaths at Easter, 1959, and 81 at Easter, 1958. I am examining urgently additional measures to deal with this situation. The road work programme will be so developed as to reduce the risk of accidents caused by a failure of the human element.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable anxiety throughout the whole country about the increasing rate of accidents, and does he think that he would do well to have a wider vision about the whole matter and see to it that a large and sufficient road scheme is undertaken, perhaps considering some of the proposals advanced by my hon. Friends the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish)?

The real crux of the matter is that mechanical failures and road failures are not, in my view, as important as the human failures, and these are things which cannot be legislated for; it is selfishness, sometimes, and the difficulties of human beings which make for accidents. I am bound to say that there has been exaggeration in this respect. Let us have it in perspective. I agree that, whatever deaths —[Interruption.] This is really very important. During Easter of this year, in England and Wales, on each of the five days there were 174 deaths. In 1959, on every day in the year, there were 17 9 deaths. I quite agree that it is not good enough, but certainly it is not bad compared with 1959.

My right hon. Friend has confirmed that the number of deaths over Easter was round about the average for the year. Will he confirm, also, that the number of deaths was about equal to the average for 1938, and, although the amount of traffic has doubled in the intervening period, the position as regards accidents is relatively better than it was before the war? Does my right hon. Friend conclude from that that the measures we are taking in education, enforcement, engineering, and so forth are on the right lines but an intensification of them would reduce accidents further?

I agree that, pro rata, taking into account the number of cars on the road, the position is now better than it was before the war. But that cannot be considered satisfactory; as long as anybody is killed, it is not satisfactory. We must pursue the methods we are now doing.

Is the Minister aware that, although his figures are factually correct, the complaint of the public is that the average number of deaths is too high and the Government could do more in this respect? It is not only a matter of the human factor. Does he propose to take any action between now and Whit-sun to bring in additional road safety measures, and, if so, when will he announce them?

There will be quite a number of measures announced, but I am bound to point out that the hon. Gentleman himself did a disservice to the country when he said that the reduced number of deaths at Easter was a national disaster although it was less than it was last year. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That sort of panic measure does not help a situation which is very difficult.

Lancaster And Preston By-Passes (Traffic Congestion)


asked the Minister of Transport what report he has received from the Lancashire county police on the causes of the traffic jams on the Lancaster and Preston by-passes on Easter Monday; and what action he proposes to take to prevent their recurrence.

A letter has been received from the Chief Constable of Lancashire about the congestion which delayed traffic at the terminals of both the Lancaster and the Preston by-passes during Easter. Proposals for improving conditions in future are now being urgently examined.

Will the Minister agree that the real problem here is that two motorways are joined by a 14-mile length of trunk road which is quite inadequate? This is really the piecemeal development to which I referred in a Question to the Prime Minister yesterday. Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that this piecemeal development of a motorway system is undesirable, and can he take steps to avoid it in future?

Any development of a system in this country is bound to be piecemeal in some parts. We simply cannot go smoothly over the whole country. One is bound to have difficulties. The ultimate answer will be roadworks on the Lancaster by-pass, the Preston bypass, the terminals and so on. In the meantime, there are bound to be difficulties whatever anybody may try to do.

Ministry Of Defence

Blue Streak Missile


asked the Minister of Defence on what date it was estimated that the full development of the Blue Streak missile would cost more than £500 million.

Estimates of the cost of weapon projects are revised from time to time in the light of technical and strategic developments. These have for some time shown that the total Blue Streak programme, including not only development but also production and the construction of operational sites, would cost a sum of the order of £500 million.

I do not wish in any way to trespass on the discussion which is to begin in a few minutes, but did it ever occur to anybody in the Government or the Departments to suggest that this was a sum that the nation could not possibly afford?

As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, that is a matter which can be debated shortly. I am, however, only too anxious to give all the facts which I have, and these show, as I have said, that, as with most large projects, the cost built up over a period of years, and it was certainly, I should say, over twelve months ago that it was known that it would cost £500 million. But, as I shall show, perhaps, on another occasion, this is not necessarily an excessive burden on the economy.

European Court Of Human Rights


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he will state British policy relating to the European Court of Human Rights; why Great Britain has not yet ratified the relevant Convention; and what steps she is taking to do so.

The United Kingdom was the first country to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, Section IV of which deals with the setting up of the European Court of Human Rights. Article 46 provides for the optional acceptance by member Governments of the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court. Her Majesty's Government have not exercised this option. They adhere to the procedure under Article 32, whereby cases are submitted by the Commission of Human Rights to the Committee of Ministers for a decision.

Is it not important that Britain, with her great traditions in these matters, should give a moral and political lead to the rest of the world, especially at the present time when millions of people are being denied human rights on false doctrines and specious pretexts, particularly in South Africa?

I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman has it right. The procedure under Article 32, the one which we adopt, is equally effective and equally binding as that under Article 46, which goes to the Court. There is no difference.

Are we not in certain difficulties in this matter until we introduce an aliens law which conforms with the Charter? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that our aliens law as it stands at present is in flagrant contradiction with Article after Article of the Charter?

Law Of The Sea (Conference)


asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he is aware that the Icelandic delegate at the Geneva Conference on the Law of the Sea rejected the United States-Canadian-British compromise on the ground that it would prejudice and deplete the spawning grounds and thereby injure the fisheries of many of the nations concerned; if he will state the scientific answer to this; whether that scientific answer was put forward at the Geneva Conference; and with what result.

The statement to which the hon. and learned Gentleman refers was made by the Icelandic delegate in support of his own Government's proposal that certain States should enjoy preferential fishing rights outside their exclusive fishery limits. I am advised that there is no scientific basis for this, certainly in respect of the cod stocks which form the major part of the catch in the waters off Iceland. This was made clear by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in his speech to the Conference on 25th April. On 26th April, the Conference rejected the Icelandic proposal.

Why was not that made clear at Geneva? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that Britain is losing economically and otherwise by the failure of the Government to agree with the other nations at Geneva?

I have just said that it was made clear at Geneva by a speech of my right hon. Friend. It is quite untrue to say that it is this Government who have failed to agree. In numerous speeches my right hon. Friend made clear how willing we were to reach an agreement and how prepared he and the industry were to make sacrifices to obtain it.

National Finance

Retired Civil Servants (Expectation Of Life)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will state the average time that established civil servants live to draw their pensions after retirement.

The estimated average for those retiring on age grounds is 14 years for a man and 20 years for a woman.

Ministry Of Aviation

Blue Streak Missile (Contracts)


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he proposes to compensate the De Havilland Aircraft Company for losses sustained by his decision to abandon Blue Streak; and to what extent.

Any payments due as a result of this change will be a matter for negotiation between my Department and the firms concerned in accordance with the terms of their contracts.

That does not tell us very much, and I hope that in due course we shall hear more from the Minister about the extent of compensation. In the meantime, can he give us any idea of what the loss will be, in addition to the £65 million given by the Minister of Defence, on the run-down of this project, and can he say whether or not there will be compensation to the Australian Government? Also, will he tell us what attempt will be made to find other jobs for the 80,000 men who will be displaced as a result of the Government's foolish policy?

The Question on the Order Paper deals with payments to the firms. I will deal with that. This is a matter which will have to be negotiated with the firms, and I do not think that it would very much help my negotiations if I were to forecast in advance what the outcome was likely to be.

The right hon. Gentleman has some responsibility for the men because a political decision has been taken. In view of the unemployment which may be caused, will the Government accept responsibility for finding jobs for the men who will be displaced?

This Question is directed specifically to compensation to the company. Nothing has happened which causes the other matters to arise.

May we have an undertaking from the Minister that in due course the House will be told the amount spent from public funds by way of compensation?

Business Of The House (Censure Motion)

With permission, I will make a short statement on business.

Following the exchanges which took place yesterday, there have been conversations through the usual channels and it has been agreed that the debate on the Opposition Motion relating to the Blue Streak missile should occupy the whole of the Sitting today until ten o'clock.

Government business will, therefore, be rearranged as follows:

Tonight, after the debate on the Blue Streak missile, we shall ask the House to take the Third Reading of the International Development Association Bill, and also the Second Readings of the three Charity Bills which are in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead).

Tomorrow, Thursday, after the Second Reading of the Charities Bill [Lords], which we hope to obtain by about eight o'clock, we shall proceed with the Report and Third Reading of the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Bill.

I hope that these arrangements will meet the general wishes of the House.

Long-Range Ballistic Missile (Blue Streak)

3.31 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House deplores the refusal of the Government to establish a Committee of Inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the initiation, continuance and cancellation of the Blue Streak missile which has involved the expenditure of a large amount of public money on a project long believed and now officially declared to be of no military value.
I suppose that I should start with a word of sympathy to the present Minister of Defence and perhaps even extend it to the Ministers who occupied his position before him. In a way, the present Minister is in the awkward position of having to take the burden of the bowling and to stand up to the fast ones that come for a decision on a problem which was not of his own making at all. To that extent, it is for him a rather peculiar situation.

I think that even for the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the present Minister of Aviation, who will figure more prominently in this debate, there is this to be said. On an issue as complicated and difficult as this, where movements of technological development are as fast as they are in this sphere, he would be a foolish man who would not admit that it is quite easy to make a mistake and to be wrong. If researches were made into all our past speeches, as has happened with some of them, I do not think that anyone would say that he is sure that, looking back on it, nowhere in the record has he not said things that he should not have said. It is right that that should be said and to offer to share what sympathy there is in that respect.

That gives me the opportunity to say that our criticism against Ministers is not that they made mistakes in an area where mistakes are at least possible. Our criticism today is that they persisted in an error of judgment, which, whatever may be said in mitigation of its original commission, they persisted in long after it became apparent to almost everybody that it would turn out to be a costly and abortive failure.

Since the beginning of 1958, we on this side of the House have had a growing conviction that that was so. At the beginning of 1958, when the Minister first announced that we were producing this particular type of missile, we sounded warnings, as I shall show. In the middle of 1958 we reinforced them and from the beginning of 1959 we went on record as being firmly convinced that it was a mistake. We have held that view ever since the beginning of 1959.

There is a major criticism that the Minister of Aviation and his colleagues, and notably the Prime Minister, have to meet. After all, the Prime Minister is Chairman of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. He has been the Prime Minister in a very real sense in all major defence decisions for some years. Only a year or so ago he altered the defence set-up from what it had been and demoted the position of the Minister of Defence and correspondingly raised his own. This is as much a criticism of the Prime Minister as it is of any other Minister. The criticism that they have to face is that they committed this enormous blunder over a long period against all the evidence.

I do not think that it is unfair to say that the decision to go forward with Blue Streak must be a blunder of an unprecedented size. The cost of it—and I will have a word to say about figures in a moment—is enormous, but, even more than that, it has the gravest and most far-reaching consequences to which far less than justice has been done by any Minister in his comments on it. We believe that an inquiry is essential to reassure the public, who badly need reassuring, about the way in which we are handling this terrible area of national policy. We need an inquiry, too, to establish the facts.

I hope that the Government will forgive me for saying that I believe that their lack of candour—I use the word deliberately; I can think of no other—at every stage in this dispute has itself helped to make the case for an inquiry to establish the facts. We have not been given candid explanations of what was happening or why, even up to this moment.

Let me deal with the argument about security. Some people have said that security is involved here and that we cannot have an inquiry into these things because of their nature. It has been announced that Blue Streak is no longer a military project. It has been announced that it no longer has any military purpose. We are now considering whether it has a civilian purpose. In the beginning, it was only a British modification of an American weapon, the Atlas. Nearly all the details of the Atlas have been published. It therefore does not seem that the argument about security can possibly be applied except to save the skins of Ministers.

No harm can be done by an inquiry into a weapon that is no longer a military issue. If it is used at all, it will be used only for civilian purposes. No doubt it is already in the process—I think that this is understood in Whitehall—of being declassified. I therefore hope that we shall not be bludgeoned with the argument of security, which does not seem to me to apply.

I was a little amused this morning, on reading some of the newspapers that normally support the Conservative Party, to see how much they think that we are in the wrong and in the dark. One of them went so far as to suggest that the Motion must be directed against me. If that is so, and if there is any belief in it anywhere, I should have thought that that was an additional reason for setting up a committee of inquiry. Unlike the Government, I would fully welcome it. If my agreement to it would be any encouragement in setting it up, I immediately offer it.

I want to recall the 'thirties to the minds of hon. Members. Throughout the 'thirties there was the same suspicion of blundering, of spending money ineffectively, of backing the wrong horses and of failing to provide the right things for our defence. The right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) persistently tried to persuade the House, and especially the great majority of Members on the benches opposite, that issues ought to be inquired into, that Ministers were not being candid, that the situation was not as Ministers said it was, that if war ever came and if, unhappily, we ever needed our defences, we would find ourselves naked and without them. Because he could never persuade the majority of hon. Members opposite of the need for an inquiry, we never found out how right he was until the day came, and the hardware was not there. I say to Tory Members that if they refuse to enter into or help us to achieve an inquiry in a case like this, they run the very great risk of supinely repeating the whole unhappy history of the 'thirties

We can all say that we hope that the case will never have to be proved. God, how we all hope that. We hoped it then, in the 'thirties. It is no use saying that we hope that it will not have to be proved if we then sit back and permit these things to happen. We should not spend the money, devote the resources and make the effort unless we try to see that we spend the money, make the effort and direct the resources properly, and be willing to find out what happens to them when, quite clearly, they have been improperly used. I should have thought that unless we are like the Bourbons and learn nothing at all from history, the case for an inquiry is very strongly supported even by recent history, to which hon. Members in the House can testify.

There are two issues upon which there can be no dispute. First, that the Blue Streak clearly was a mistake. There can be no argument about it; one does not have to prove it. We know that the cost has been immense. Blue Streak has now turned out to be abortive; it will never come into use—it was a mistake. Secondly, the present Minister of Aviation had personal responsibility at every important point. He had clear personal responsibility for the decision effectively to go ahead. I do not mean by that that the idea began in his day; I doubt whether it did. I have a feeling that the probable parent of the idea is the present Prime Minister. I think that the study of the idea almost certainly began before the right hon. Gentleman became Minister of Defence.

I should like to get one thing quite clear. The right hon. Gentleman says that Blue Streak was clearly a mistake. Will he be quite precise and say whether he means that Blue Streak or a fixed land-based rocket ought never to have been started?

The Minister must have it in my way and answer it in his own way. If the intention in going ahead with a missile is to get a usable missile in the end, and that, presumably, is the intention, the fact that the Government have to announce, after they have spent £100 million on it, that we cannot have it makes the decision to go ahead with it a mistake.

Whether one can forgive a mistake in starting, I do not know. It depends on the balance of the argument then. But what one cannot forgive is the mistake in going on with it. It was a mistake in starting. It has to be that, because if it is a failure it is a mistake. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If I set out to walk from here to there and do not get there, it is a mistake to start.

I make a distinction between the degree of culpability of embarking on an effort if there is, so far as one can tell at that time, a balance of argument for doing it, and the degree of culpability I attach to the decision to go on with it long after it has become clear that one has make a mistake. I do not say that the full sin is in the decision to start. The full sin is in the decision to go on with it. Clearly, something which has failed was a mistake to start with.

I should have thought that it is clear that the Minister of Aviation had personal responsibility for the decision to go ahead in any effective sense, although, as I say, I suspect that the thing began before his day. The decision to persist in it is his personal cross in this matter —and on that I should have thought there was no doubt. I think that he bears personal responsibility for expenditure on the missile. In such a situation, he either has to make good a plea that all the way through he was supported by so many other advisers and Ministers that his is only a part of a collective responsibility, or, in a failure of this size, he has to pay the penalty when the failure is announced.

I well remember that the then Minister of Agriculture paid the penalty for Crichel Down over an issue of administrative failure for which he personally had no responsibility. I well remember it, beause I had the melancholy task of speaking in the House after he had made his announcement. In this case, there is the utmost personal responsibility. There is an inescapable personal responsibility. The Minister has been very pleased to claim credit for Blue Streak, and rather boast about it, and I should have thought that the case for his accepting the consequences of his failure is a very great one. Instead, no one goes, the waste of money is shrugged off. We are given the usual profligate spender's explanation, "I spent £100 million on something which I am not going to use for the purpose which I thought I was, but I will now spend a bit more on it and use it for some other purpose. Therefore, the spending of £100 million is not an expenditure for which I should be criticised."

That is the profligate's explanation every time we ask him to realise what he is doing. The Minister of Defence improves upon that. He goes on to tell us, "After all, by stopping it now we are only spending £100 million and we have, in fact, saved £400 million." That is an argument which we would not think the Minister of Aviation would proceed with today.

The waste of money is shrugged off and we are threatened with greater expenditure now by keeping Blue Streak for another purpose. Lost time on research and development is ignored and the effects on our future defence and foreign policy are hardly mentioned at all. The decision was not even candidly announced in a White Paper in February. All that we were told then was that we were not going to rely exclusively on a fixed site missile. In the Minister of Defence's speech in March he told us that he wanted to know a great deal more before he could make up his mind. He wanted to know more about the Polaris, more about the Skybolt, and he had accepted an invitation to go to America to meet Mr. Gates to find out more and to make up his mind.

Without going to America, without seeing anything of the Polaris, without seeing the Skybolt and, as far as I know, without meeting Mr. Gates, he told us in April what, in March, we were told he was not in a position to do, and what, in February, we were told was not to be done at all, but simply that we were to rely exclusively on it. The decision was not even candidly announced, let alone explained afterwards.

I believe that the Minister of Aviation cannot plead "Not guilty" here. A plea of "Not guilty" is not open to him. He is guilty of persisting with a rocket which has failed to work and which has cost us large sums of money. The best that he can do is to offer a plea of mitigation. A plea of mitigation is what we should examine. He can ask whether his original decision was right in the light of his then knowledge. He can claim that he had no reasonable grounds to doubt the decision in the meantime. He can claim that everyone else was wrong, if he feels that will help him.

I feel that on these three possible defences open to him the answers are as follows. I cannot say whether the original decision to start it was right. It has been a failure in the sense that it has failed. In that sense, it was a mistake. I do not know what the balance of arguments then presented was. It can be shown that right from 1957 hon. Members in the House, including myself, were arguing against fixed-site liquid-fuelled rockets on the ground that they were far too vulnerable.

When, in 1957, the Minister announced the decision, which the Prime Minister had taken with the President of the United States, to install Thors in this country, we opposed it on the ground, among others, that they were far too vulnerable to developing Russian rocketry, because they were fixed-site rockets relying on liquid fuel. There were powerful arguments against even the original decision to start.

What is true is that the advice which continually reached us was against the idea. Clearly, the Opposition can have only some of the advice. We cannot possibly be given as much as the Minister of Defence received. All the advice which reached us at the time, much of it from people who must be presumed to be advising the Minister, condemned the idea of fixed-site liquid-fuelled rockets, and, in particular, condemned the idea of Blue Streak immediately after the Minister made that announcement. I commented just now on whether we were all wrong. The record stands. Every defence debate since 1958 will show that we were not wrong.

I will now quickly examine the history, as far as we can establish it, and try to see what it shows. Originally, it was bedded in two great fallacies, for which the present Prime Minister bears a more than relative degree of personal responsibility. One was his belief in the great savings which this would permit. I referred to this the other day. I referred to his "pipedream" speech when he went to the Foreign Press Association and canvassed the enormous savings which were obviously in his mind and which he was hoping to make. His period at the Ministry of Defence was the period when the idea was born—

I understand that. During his period at the Ministry of Defence the idea got into his mind that this was the way in which to go ahead and save a great deal of money. That was really how the decision to hurry on with it was taken. That was the first fallacy. From the Prime Minister's "pipedream" speech one has only to read again the 1957 White Paper on Defence to see how completely, all the way through, that was coloured by this conception.

The second fallacy underlying this was the infamous doctrine of nuclear warfare embedded in paragraph 12 of the 1958 White Paper. This is the personal responsibility of the Minister of Aviation. This was the doctrine in which we committed ourselves to the view that we would be likely to use the H-bomb first and, therefore, since we would be using it first, the questions of vulnerability and maintaining it as a credible threat of retaliation dad not arise. We would be using it first. We would be getting it off first. Therefore, we would be able to take risks with vulnerability. We would be able to take risks about pinpointing and saturation which obviously could not be taken if it was being maintained only as a credible deterrent.

It is a terribly fascinating and chastening exercise to re-read the defence debates of 1957, 1958 and 1959. I have read them all again. I have never claimed that I am a great performer at the Dispatch Box. However badly I did from this Box, I tried desperately hard to bring home to the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister the absolute folly of this posture on nuclear warfare.

All we got for our pains—they read very foolishly now—was a whole collection of adolescent jokes about the Opposition, our differences among ourselves, and our attempts to deal with the white area and the grey area. These jokes came from the Prime Minister, delivered in that rather special fashion of his. At no stage did we have a glimpse that either he or the present Minister of Aviation even saw the beginnings of the point that a thermo-nuclear warhead or bomb was never a "strike first" weapon for this country and that, if there ever had been any argument in favour of it, it could not be on those grounds. Therefore, the credibility of its retaliatory use bad to be built up. That was the very thing which could not be built up if it was in a position to be destroyed straight away before one got round to considering what to do with it.

This was the second underlying fallacy which led the Minister of Aviation to go on with this rocket. It was because he did not understand the position. Not only did he not understand what we were arguing about here, but he did not understand what his own Service advisers were saying to him. He did not ever get to the bottom of what was worrying the Air Force. He was blind to all the arguments. This was why the advice reaching us did not make the impact on him which it made on us. He never saw the basic point of 'the advice. It began over the Thors.

Incidentally, I have received some moving letters from people living on the edge of Thor rocket sites. I received a very good letter, in particular, from a gentleman whose name I will not mention, but who is known to many hon. Members. He lives in Yorkshire. He says, "Whatever the Government say about Blue Streak must apply even more forcibly to the Thor, because Blue Streak was at least going underground. The Thors are to be above ground. I am living on the edge of it. Will you ask the Minister for me just where I stand in this matter now?"

Does the Minister intend to retain the much more vulnerable rocket, having said that he will not retain the less vulnerable one? Does it do any more, as he said the other day, than attract attack to the area where it is and to the people living there? The absolute corollary of what the Government have now decided about Blue Streak is that they must accept our advice and take the Thors away.

At the beginning of 1958 we first had news of our own rocket. It was not then given a name. It was announced in the 1958 White Paper. I believe that throughout 1958 the evidence in favour of the rockets being mobile, if we were to have them, and in favour of them using solid fuel rather than liquid fuel, grew and grew, as did the evidence of the accuracy of Russian rocketry. Indeed, once in that period the Minister slowed it down. At the beginning, it did not go ahead quite as fast. The expenditure did not build up at the beginning. There was a period when he slowed it down, and when money was withheld. I referred to it in the House once during that year. I do not know exactly when Sir Richard Powell's Committee was first set up. It was subsequently shut down, but it re-started and finally recommended in favour of this. The Committee was first set up a long time ago.

It is absurd of Ministers to claim that the doubts and dangers became apparent only very recently. The Minister of Defence rather seemed to claim that on 3rd April. I gained the impression that the Minister of Aviation claimed that when he came back from his trip to the Continent. I rather gained the impression that the decision had been taken as soon as their intelligence warned them of Russian rocketry advance and of the general vulnerability of fixed-site rockets and of the practicability, to use the Minister's words, of delivering from a moving platform.

This cannot be upheld. I am not at liberty to quote those who advise me. The House must accept it from me that all through that year I was receiving lots and lots of advice from people whom it was inconceivable to believe were not also talking to the Minister. There were volumes of published material on this subject.

I have outside the Chamber—I did not bother to bring it in with me—pile after pile of published comments, all of which add up to the same story. The head of the American Air Force, General White, testifying to the United States Congress in the autumn of 1958, forecast the date by which fixed-site rockets would be too vulnerable to use, and he has turned out to be exactly right. This was in the autumn of 1958. The evidence was published very soon afterwards, and we ourselves had it in an ordinary published document in the spring of 1959. The Minister must have had it before then. The big developments in Russian rocketry and the Sputniks took place in 1957, not 1958, 1959 or 1960; it was 1957 when we first had clear evidence of the change in that respect.

The Service chiefs fought hard to get out of this situation. The Secretary of State for Air will remember the debate in the House about "Operation Prospect". I then took the view that Service chiefs ought not to argue in public with their Ministers. What was the purpose of "Operation Prospect"? What were the air marshals saying? What did Air Marshal Kyle say? He wished to press the point that the rocket had to be mobile and to be invulnerable, and of course he pressed the point that the Air Force was the best place to have it. He virtually stated a specification for a Skybolt in "Operation Prospect".

The Service chiefs spoke in public, against all our traditions, taking that risk in order to get round the Ministers whom they could not persuade in private. There was virtually nobody in the Service Departments at that time who was not taking the trouble to tell anybody about it who would listen. I have minuted notes of receptions and of conversations in which leading Service men made only the reservation, "Do not quote me". They took no trouble to avoid being seen talking to me and urging this policy on me. Other senior Service advisers had articles written in leading journals with only the thinnest of pseudonyms hiding the authority behind them and urging the same points on the Minister.

The only conflict which the Minister faced was between those who said that the weapon should be seaborne, Polaris, and those who said that it should be an airborne weapon to keep the Air Force in being. There was that conflict, but the Minister had no other conflict, for the whole of the evidence at that time was in favour of mobility and of solid fuel.

The House and the public are entitled to know why it was that none of this evidence was reflected in Government policy. Was the evidence suppressed? Does the Minister claim that he did not get it and that it was not getting through to him? Does he claim that he was not able to get his answers across? Does he claim that he was obstructed? We feel that we ought to be told, but we are extremely unlikely to be told by these Ministers, and it therefore seems to us that an inquiry is the only way out of the difficulty.

Should I be putting it too high if I said that all through that period it was a case of the Minister of Defence and his then Scientific Adviser against almost all the entire field? There is this to be said for Sir Frederick Brundrett, who was then Scientific Adviser, but who has now retired: he at least is not claiming that anything has changed. In his lecture to the Royal United Service Institution the other day he stood by the decision over Blue Streak. He continued to defend it with the argument which seemed valid to him at the time, and he brusquely denied the Minister's suggestion that things had changed in the spring of this year. He said, "All that we know now we knew a year ago". He said that in his view he and the Minister were right a year ago and, therefore, must still be right. It is the Minister who is introducing the argument that something has changed and that some new evidence has become available. That claim, as far as I can see, is clearly turned down by the only other distinguished figure who took the view on Blue Streak which the Minister took.

We have put our view of the alternative many times in the House. It always involved a degree of interdependence— not dependence—and a sharing of the rocketry effort. I repeated that recently in the debate on Fylingdales, when I suggested that we ought to strike a bargain on these lines when we came to the early radar warning system in this country.

It is said that the coming of Skybolt is a new piece of knowledge. It is claimed that this is something about which we could not have known a year ago. In my belief, this is not true, either. It is quite true that Polaris, the seaborne missile, received most of the attention a year ago, and in my limited knowledge it has always been the weapon for which I thought there were the best arguments. But we knew about a Skybolt missile over a year ago. It is not true to say that we did not know about it. I will not bother the House with the details, but I have here a note which was given to me on the subject. It is dated 27th January, 1959, and it gives me the data about the Skyrocket, which then had a different name altogether, its potentiality, its objects, its likely date of coming into production and the sort of thing it was.

If I was getting the information, as I repeat, in January, 1959, it must have been with Ministers before then. Or if Ministers are not getting the information that even the Opposition are getting, that of itself entitles us to an inquiry to find out what is going on; and that would be even more terrifying.

We knew about it, as I have said. With great respect to the Minister, Skybolt is no more of a reality today than it was a year ago. A little more paper work has been done on it, perhaps, but it still does not exist. We still have no information about when it will exist, or if it will exist. We still have no more than somebody's guess as to what its performance will be. I assert that there has been no new information at all.

The conclusion can only be, therefore, that all the information was available, that it was all opposed to going on with Blue Streak and that the Minister nevertheless persisted with Blue Streak for eighteen months. The point which I want to make is that it was during those eighteen months that the bulk of the expenditure built up. The expenditure did not grow much in the first year; it grew in the last eighteen months, when Woomera, Spadeadam, the de Havilland expansion, and all the rest of it went on. It is, therefore, the Minister's determination to persist with the project, against the weight of the evidence, which is the basic accusation which we make against him.

There is an additional reason for an inquiry to find out why and how all this happened. It is that the Minister is still in a position to be a very expensive Minister if we do not find out how he came to make that kind of decision and why he made it. We must all face the fact that he is still in a position to go on making other decisions which will be at least as costly and at least as dangerous.

May I turn for a moment to the cost? I ask the Minister of Defence straight out—are not the Government being equally lacking in candour with us about the cost to date of this rocket as they have been about everything else connected with its cancellation? Is the figure £65 million? The other day I offered the guess that £100 million would be a conservative estimate. Would not the Minister like to be sure that he could settle for £120 million, or £130 million? Will he tell us what he is including in his £65 million, if he sticks to that figure? If he takes the view that £65 million does not matter, he could take the view that £120 million does not matter either. If £65 million is nothing, then twice nothing is still nothing; I accept that. But it would be a very new doctrine for the House and for the country to accept that sums of this order do not matter.

Will the Minister tell us whether he persists in the figure of £65 million? I feel quite sure that if he does he will be caught out on this. If he persists in it, will he tell us how much of the cost of Woomera he is putting into that figure? The Australians have spent about £60 million of their own money on Woomera and we must have spent an equal sum on it. Much of that has no other purpose than for the rocket with a range of 1,500 to 2,000 miles. How much of the total cost of Woomera is the right hon. Gentleman writing off on account of Blue Streak?

That doubtfully named—if we had only had the prescience to know it, that accurately named place—Spadeadam Waste has no other purpose than for Blue Streak. It cannot deal with solid-fuel motors, even if we wanted it to do so. To convert it would cost a vast sum of money, I am told. How much of the cost of Spadeadam Waste is in the Minister's £65 million? It cost over £20 million by itself to provide. It is only wanted for Blue Streak. The whole of it should go in, and yet the Minister cannot put in the whole of it and still keep to his £65 million.

How much has the Minister put in for cancellation costs? Whatever we do about space use, cancellation costs will have to be paid. I am told by those who advise me, who can easily be wrong, that about £25 million will be required for the cancellation costs of de Havillands, Rolls-Royce and Sperry's. How much of that £25 million went into his £65 million? Is not the answer that the right hon. Gentleman will not want to stick to £65 million, and are we not entitled to know the figure? If he will not give us the figure, and will not give us the breakdown, are we not entitled to have an inquiry to get at it, despite his refusal? Should we not know?

Now I will deal with the other point, that the cost is a small thing. Someone has floated the story this morning that it is only 1·8 per cent. of the defence expenditure and that is the sort of waste we ought to be able to carry along with us. All right. What percentage of the defence expenditure would an increase of the old-age pension be? And if we can carry 1·8 per cent. and not worry so long as it does not exceed that figure, why not pay that? Why not apply this doctrine to every other piece of expenditure?

What about the housing subsidy? What about subsidising the rate of interest on house building? If the doctrine is that so long as it does not exceed 1·8 per cent. of the defence budget we can shrug it off, let us do everything that does not cost more than that. It is really a silly argument, and even Tories would not produce such desperately unhappy arguments unless they were really very hard put to it to defend themselves in this situation.

I have looked at the history and, briefly, at the cost. I turn now, in conclusion, to the consequences which are perhaps the gravest and the most far-reaching of all, in my view not only for defence, but, also, if they are as great as I suspect, for the foreign policy of this country from here on. This is not a debate to range over that wide field, and the reason why those who are responsible for putting down the Motion are not choosing this occasion to range over that wide field is that we can think of nothing that the Minister of Aviation or the Prime Minister would more like than to have all these other issues hidden in a general debate in which they could avoid having to reply to the specific issues.

We believe that the House must shortly debate—perhaps this will take the grin off the face of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation—as my right hon. Friend said yesterday, the whole consequential issues of defence and foreign policy arising out of this situation. As my right hon. Friend said yesterday, the Opposition will debate them and we shall bring the Government to account for them. For the moment we are not letting the Government get out of the immediate issues of cost, culpability and incompetence which we think arise.

However, by not referring to the consequences I do not want to give the impression that I underestimate how grave they are, so I shall say a few words about them. I want to warn the House in the clearest terms I can manage, and the Tories especially, that we cannot have a change of this magnitude, after the loss of this period of vital years of research and development, and imagine that basic policy can remain the same, as though nothing has happened. It just cannot be so. This is no new thought. I put this into what I had to say in the defence debate earlier this year, and I warned the House that, if it turned out that this should be so, this would then be the consequence and we would have to face the House with it.

If this decision has the consequence I suspect, which I have briefly canvassed, but not argued today, it must in due course raise the question of the independent British deterrent. The Prime Minister can smile, the Minister of Defence can give us an airy assurance "Of course we can have it; we are going to keep it", but frankly, we cannot expect things to go on the same once we have taken a decision which is bound to commit the future five or ten years ahead.

The tragedy of this business is that nobody can put it right. A situation of this order, no matter who succeeds the present Government in five years' time, could just not be put right, because the decisions—or the lack of decisions— taken today commit us not only for 1965, but for 1970. Therefore, we have to rethink defence and foreign policy not only in the light of what exists today, but also in the light of what that majority is arranging shall be the position in 1970. I hope that none of my hon. Friends will provide the present Tory majority with the get-out that they would desperately like to have today. One can see it by looking at their faces.

I have accepted, at some cost one way and another, my share of the responsibility for a decision which I have thought right and for which I have stood. It has been at some cost. The abuse I do not mind at all; that I am used to; but the loss of confidence of friends inside, and, even more, outside, this House, to whom I have been attached and with whom I have worked over years, on this issue has been a big thing for me. I have done it because I thought it right, but even I cannot be expected to go in for a policy that has no chance of ever being successful. If it is no longer feasible, if it is destroyed, then it is not.

Can we have the independent deterrent? At this stage, I can only ask. What does the Minister of Defence say? He says about the new carrier, first, "We have not decided"; secondly, "We think more hopefully of Skybolt, which does not exist, than of Polaris, which does", and thirdly, "We understand that the Americans will sell it to us". What he does not say is, "We do not know when it will exist"—do we? He says, "We do not know whether it will exist"— do we? He says, "We do not know what it will cost, if and when it exists, and we do not know on what conditions it will be available to us." [An HON. MEMBER: "If at all."] If at all.

All we know is that the official spokesman of the State Department, Mr. Lincoln White, has issued a statement saying that the Americans understand that we have not yet made up our minds what we want, but that if and when it is available they will be willing to sell it to us. This is all that they have said. It cannot be available to us unconditionally, so whatever the terms we do not know about for a missile which does not exist, whatever the cost, the fact remains that it cannot be, when it comes, unconditional in the very nature of things. That much we do know.

The Mark II stand-off bomb, which might have bridged the gap, has been cancelled. Do we now know why the Minister of Defence was so "cagey" with me and gave me a lecture when I asked about the Mark II stand-off bomb in the last defence debate? If that were still in the programme, it might be claimed that the gap could be covered, but it is in the programme that has been cancelled. Other people might be glad, but I fear that a gap, during which we shall not have a credible means of delivering an independent British deterrent, seems now to be inevitable. We must remember that it is the credibility outside that matters and not the self-delusion in which we engage inside.

If this is true, then it changes much. The argument for maintaining an independent British deterrent for basic political reasons is one thing when we have it and can talk of maintaining it. The argument for going back into the business once we are out of it is altogether different by any test. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends will help everybody if they will make the points which they are equipped to make later and let me make mine. There is a difference on this. Everyone knows it and there is no reason why we should not be proud of the fact. It is because the party opposite kept up its monolithic attempt to show that it had no individual thoughts on this at all that got us ino the difficulty.

Those in the House, and the very many outside, who have always taken the view that the balance of argument was against an independent British deterrent will be glad if it has lapsed. I cannot take that view. I believe that it is dishonest, cynical and wrong. I maintain my view. I certainly could not applaud—if I am right in thinking so—the fact that Ministerial incompetence and blundering has destroyed a policy which, on balance, I thought was wise.

If this decision had been reached after a canvassing of the arguments, after weighing the balance of evidence, I could respect it even if I were not able to agree with it or accept it. But how can I accept it if, as I suspect, it came about not by the weighing of arguments, or by a cold calculation of where Britain is to stand, but because we drifted, over the years, into a position which we now feel that we cannot maintain because we realise that it was the wrong road from the beginning?

One reason that I have stood my ground in recent weeks—and I have been given much advice and have been out on a limb—is that I have always held the view that the Tory Party got away with much in the 1930s, and have ever since clouded the issues, by referring to what the Opposition were supposed to have said or done in those days. I was determined that so long as I had any opportunity here to influence it, there would be no chance of that happening this time. I have warned the Government that this was where they would get with Blue Streak. I have done my utmost to persuade them not to get to this position. I was determined that when they got there the responsibility would be 100 per cent. upon them.

If the consequences of this decision are as I suspect they are, then let us be quite clear that the responsibility is 100 per cent. on the Government and is not shared by us on these benches. It is important that this should be known. We shall canvass all this again and again and there will have to be really wide-ranging debate.

I point out at once that there is not a chance that people can say that we are not clear about this, or that some reasons have not been given for decisions we have taken, or which may have to be taken. This is not, as one hon. Member opposite said the other day, a storm in a teacup. It is the biggest Ministerial collapse of modern times. It has cost the taxpayers vast sums of money and it has come without any coherent thought or any plans to revise British policy to meet it. It may in the future bring about a new situation to which we may have to readjust ourselves.

Whatever our views on that, or the possibilities it opens up, we must all be worried about the processes by which we have reached this exit. We must all of us look for some assurance about the way things are to happen in the future while the present Administration are still in office. We can only censure a Government which behave—and I choose the term carefully—in such an irresponsible way, and can only seek an inquiry into the conduct of the Ministers who were most deeply concerned.

4.25 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that it is for the convenience of the House that I raise this point of order now. As there is only one Amendment on the Order Paper, which is in the names of my hon. Friends and myself, and as a number of Members on the Opposition benches may perchance prefer that Amendment to the official Motion, may I ask you whether at any time during this debate it is your intention to call the Liberal Amendment?

[ Leave out from "House" to end, and add "recognising that the gross waste of valuable resources on the abortive missile Blue Streak is the direct and not surprising result of present defence policy, deplores the statement by the Minister of Defence that Her Majesty's Government are to continue this policy of maintaining an independent British nuclear deterrent."]

The hon. Member is quite right to ask me that. It is not my intention. I hope that the point of view may be presented in the course of the debate.

4.26 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) was kind enough, at the opening of the debate, to express his sympathy for me. I noticed that his shot and shell were passing to the right and to the left of me. I reciprocate his sympathy. I say that quite sincerely, because I think that "shadow" Defence Ministers as well as Ministers of Defence themselves bear a heavy burden. I will not embarrass the right hon Gentleman, or say other than this: I think that the line which he has taken—and he underestimated himself when he said that he was a poor performer at the Dispatch Box—is the right line. It is the line of all those who are trying to keep the peace in a very dangerous world. I would say this to those who do not agree with that: however sincere their motives—and I know they are sincere—they are doing a tragic disservice to the peace of the world.

I welcome this debate, as I said at the time when I made my statement which gave rise to it. I have read most defence debates, as the right hon. Gentleman appears to have done. All defence debates appear to take place on Motions of censure, but I shall not allow this one —and I believe this to be in the interest of the House—to throw me into a negative or defensive posture. I wish to give the House as many facts as I properly can. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to complain about lack of candour in what I have to say. It is only by canvassing as many of the facts as one properly can—and I mean real facts, for I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that around facts there is bound to be a vague area of conjecture by people who want to put forward a particular view—that one can see the inevitability of many decisions that have to be taken.

I will deal first, with the background to this decision to abandon Blue Streak, which, I agree, is an important one. Much of the right hon. Gentleman's shot and shell was rather misdirected, as I shall show, because perhaps I take a greater responsibility for this decision than he is aware of at the moment. The right hon. Gentleman has already said that he agrees with the decision, so the debate—and I think that he accepts this —is on the narrow but very important point of when the decision should have been taken.

I think that he led himself into an error in saying that it was a mistake ever to start this project at all. Perhaps it would be fairer for me to say that, on the whole, he withdrew from that position. I do not want to be other than fair in this, because I believe that it can be conclusively shown that it was right to start this project and that there was at that time general support for it and no voices raised against it—

I know that the hon. Gentleman's voice is always honestly and sincerely raised against any weapon of war at all. We all understand his position in this House.

First, I want to make two background points plain. The first is that any decision —and I think that the whole House will agree—taken on defence by a British Government has to be part, with our allies, of the whole structure by which we hope to continue to maintain peace until we can attain disarmament. That means that decisions to abandon projects or particular weapons must, as far as possible, be seen against the deterrent posture of the West as a whole, because the West has to try to see that there is no deterrent gap along the complete sweep of our joint defence effort until disarmament can be achieved, as we sincerely hope that it may be. The timing of the decision on Blue Streak must be seen in relation to these requirements, as well as in relation to other requirements that I shall disclose.

The right hon. Gentleman ended on the note of the independent deterrent which is still today, as I understand it, a policy agreed by the Government and the Opposition—I do not know whether he is, or was, giving warning that he intends to change his position, but let me make our position clear. As I said in the last defence debate—and perhaps its significance was not then quite appreciated, so I repeat it—we have only recently settled a production programme for British-made nuclear warheads of advanced design for some years ahead. Therefore, from that point of view at least, the Government have no intention at all of abandoning their independent contribution to the deterrent power of the West—

I will come in due course to the question of the means of delivery.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) must have got a little out-of-date since he left the office of Minister of Defence, an office that he filled with considerable distinction at one time. These warheads do not have to be tested. We have adequate resources to continue to make a wide programme, as I said, of nuclear wax-heads of the most advanced design. I shall come in a moment to the problem of how they are delivered. I make it plain to the House that, by that action, the Government are certainly continuing a policy of producing an independent British-made nuclear weapon.

Let me turn now to the scale of the decision on Blue Streak on financial grounds. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belper asked about the total cost. The figure I gave to the House, £65 million, is a perfectly accurate figure of the amount spent on this missile to date. As far as I can estimate—and I think that the House should pay some attention to what my right hon. Friend said in answer to a Question today, the other costs have yet to be negotiated— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Certainly. I would say at the moment that a figure of at least £100 million is involved. I quite accept that, and that figure—and let us get this in proper scale—is 1½ per cent. of defence spendings over the last five years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is what we have spent on a weapon that we do not now propose to develop further—

Perhaps I may be allowed just to finish this part of my speech and then I will give way— although, of course, we may use much of Blue Streak's present potential development for space research. Therefore, I want to go on with the background before coming to the actual logic of events. I want to be quite frank with the House, and to be quite clear about the cost. I have been clear. I say that, as far as I can estimate at the moment, the cost is £100 million, or 1½ per cent. of defence spending since the project started—

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman has long ago negotiated the cost. The expenditure on Spadeadam and Woomera, and the various ancillary projects needed to get Blue Streak going, is not included in his estimate of £65 million on the missile itself, and not included in the £100 million of which he now tells us, because the £100 million is arrived at simply by adding the cost of cancelled contracts to the £65 million already spent.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has raised that matter, because I want to be as informative as I can. The £65 million is the total expenditure on the project as a whole, and that certainly includes expenditure on Spadeadam as well—[HON. MEMBERS: "And Woomera?"]

Does the right hon. Gentleman include the cost of Fighter Command, which was kept in being solely to protect these rocket bases?

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman in a moment but, first, I think that I should get on a little further with my argument.

I have been quite clear on the cost of the project—

I am obliged to the Minister for giving way now. Personally, I do not think that the cost is the important argument, but perhaps the Minister will address himself to this simple point. Would he give the House an assurance that the cost will not be more than £100 million?

For the very reason that my right hon. Friend gave earlier, the terminal costs have first to be negotiated. Secondly, as I said on 13th April, a decision has to be taken as to whether or not we are to use this missile for a programme of space research.

In this part of the Opposition's Motion, it seems to me that the difference between us is this: are a Government to continue a project to a point where, at some stage, it might be held that money has been wasted on it? Well, if a Minister of Defence is to be bound by that dictum he cannot possibly do his job. If it is to be said that we are never to go ahead with a project on which we may fear to waste some money, defence cannot be provided to this country in an age when technological development leaps forward every month and every year. If the Government are to fear to meet this situation, if they are to fear to make their correct dispositions on defence matters because, at some time or other, they may be accused in the House of spending money on projects that have to be cut short, then, I say again, it is the most dangerous thing that we could possibly do for the defence of this country.

There is, of course, a current "crack" in America about weapons—"If it works it's obsolete." I do not go as far as that—[Interruption.] Let us go back to two examples that are within the knowledge of the House. The first is the battleship "Vanguard". That vessel cost £20 million, never fired a shot in anger and now has to be scrapped—but it played its part. Another example is the Swift aircraft, in which the Opposition have an interest—indeed, I think that they started the project. The Swift project cost £40 million, never fulfilled its operational requirements, and had to be scrapped. I do not say that those decisions were wrong. I say that it is part of the price of living in a world of rapid technical development, and it is a price that no Government should fear to pay.

With that as the background, let me turn to 1955, which was the year when the contracts for Blue Streak were first placed. The position at that time was that both the Labour and Conservative Governments had played their part in providing our country with an independent contribution to the Western deterrent—and rightly. The problem then was, as it is today: what is the best means of delivery of the nuclear warhead?

Although I think that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his ground, I must just make it plain that the grounds on which this missile was started were not capable of being challenged if we were to make a contribution or be prepared to make a contribution to the Western deterrent. In this sense, we had no choice at that time but to go forward with a missile with liquid fuel. Both Russia and America were then concentrating on the development of the long-range missile with liquid fuel motors, and, as is known to those hon. Members who have studied the subject, the large solid-fuel motor had yet to be developed.

Therefore, the British Government rightly decided at that time to go ahead with a missile, derived basically from the American Atlas project. It was no use the right hon. Gentleman saying that the Atlas is now quite an outmoded weapon. It is a very practical part of the Western deterrent in certain circumstances. I may be wrong, but I thought that the right hon. Gentleman quoted a distinguished general as saying that he could give the date when the Atlas would be of no further value to the West, but if I have him wrong I do not press the point—

Only in the sense that he could give the date when the fixed-site liquid-fuel rocket would be of no further value, yes.

That depends, as I shall show, on where the fixed sites are, and how they can be dispersed—and that is a very important part of the argument. However, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will disagree that at the time the project was started it was a right decision, it was generally supported, and was, indeed, the only decision to make, because the mobile missile which has progressed on a solid-fuel motor was not then in existence.

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that we gave no warnning of what we were doing until 1958 because, in fact, in the 1955 and 1956 White Papers, we told the House what we were doing. I have the actual quotations here, but I shall quote only from the 1955 White Paper, which stated:
"The manned bomber may eventually be supplemented by the ballistic rocket and we are, therefore, working on the development of such a rocket as an addition to our deterrent strength. …"
There was no lack of candour there. A decision was taken. It was properly announced to the House in the 1955 White Paper, and again announced to the House in the 1956 White Paper. There was, therefore, no question there of the Government doing other than properly telling the House exactly what they were doing on this matter, and, as I have said, except for those with sincere scruples against any weapon at all, no voices were raised against that decision.

During 1956, 1957 and 1958 the programme of development of this missile continued. Again, the position was clearly set out in each year's White Paper. What was the Opposition's position over that period? I do not challenge for a moment that they did not ask for more information and, indeed, wanted to explore the position during each defence debate. That was their duty. But one thing is certain —the Opposition were not, as the right hon. Gentleman has claimed:
"…pressing the end of Blue Streak steadily for three years."
If we look up HANSARD we can read what was said; and I do not quarrel with it at all. For example, in the 1957 debate, the right hon. Member for Belper said:
"Could we now decide to go into the missile field and to stop any further attempt to produce fighter aircraft in this country?"— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 1295]

The right hon. Gentleman's words were "into the missile field," I agree, but at that time, in 1957, there was no other type of missile.

My point is that the right hon. Gentleman's charge that we have been less than frank with the House over the development of this missile is quite untrue, and is shown to be so in HANSARD. Secondly, while the Opposition quite properly exercised their function of inquiry, demand for information, they were not, during this period, demanding, as they now try to maintain—perhaps with the benefit of hindsight—the end of this project. However, let us suppose that the Opposition's position over the years had been as the right hon. Member claimed. Even then it does not support the case deployed in the Motion of censure. The Opposition claim that the Blue Streak missile has long been known to be of no military value. That is the crux of their Motion. It says that it is a project
"long believed and now officially declared to be of no military value."
That is the reason why they are asking for an inquiry.

Let me now deal with the matter from my personal experience. This is where I venture to say that some of the right hon. Gentleman's shafts should have been directed at me. I bear as heavy a responsibility as my right hon. Friend. I want to tell the House, as frankly as I can, the logic of the events which, if I was to do my job as honestly and sincerely as I could, made this decision quite inevitable. As soon as I took over the Ministry of Defence, I had a series of meetings with my scientific, military and civil advisers to examine all outstanding defence problems, Blue Streak amongst them.

If, as the Motion says, Blue Streak was
"a project long believed and now officially declared to be of no military value"
I would obviously have received, last November, clear advice to stop this project. I received no such advice; on the contrary, my advice, in most cases, strongly supported the continuance of this missile. In that, Sir Frederick Brundrett was certainly not alone. The House must face this issue. Allegations that this project was carried on to a point where money was wasted on it must imply that it was carried on in the face of scientific, technical and military advice that it should be stopped. Such advice was not tendered to me in November last year, as it was not tendered to my right hon. Friend before this time. Nor did I then see, in my own judgment, any conclusive proof that Blue Streak should be cancelled.

Will the Minister tell the House what advice he was receiving at that stage about the vulnerability of fixed-site bases for missiles?

I am coming to that point, if the hon. and learned Member will kindly wait. The position I want to establish now is that which I have made quite plain to the House, namely, that I received no advice to cancel this missile in November last year.

Of course, the decision was a narrowly balanced one. All big decisions are. Among the surrounding experts, the advisers, the newspaper correspondents, and so on, there were conflicting views. That was only natural. None the less, the crux of the matter is that if the position had been as the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured, quite wrongly, to maintain it was, I should have had no option, on the advice given me, but immediately to go ahead and stop this project.

I have no intention of making my right hon. Friend's case; he is only too capable of making it himself, but I would point out that he warned the House about this in the defence debate in February, 1959, when he said that
"With the rapid advances of science, which are constantly upsetting earlier assessments, strategic plans and weapon programmes can never be regarded as permanent or immutable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1139.]
That was the beginning of a re-examination of the strategic position, which my right hon. Friend put in hand, and the beginning of a re-examination of the vulnerability of weapons with fixed sites —to deal with the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine).

Mr. Beswick, whom many hon. Members remember, and who made many notable contributions to our civil aviation debates, said, on 17th April this year:
"We can criticise Mr. Watkinson or Mr. Sandys for all we are worth, but it might equally well have been Mr. George Brown."
That is the position, on the advice tendered in November, 1959.

The right hon. Gentleman says that I am entitled to it. That completely destroys his argument that Ministers have been neglecting the advice given them and have been taking decisions—to quote the words of his Motion—

"on a project long believed and now officially declared to be of no military value."

The right hon. Gentleman can have the debating point if he thinks that it will take up some of the time.

Both decisions—my right hon. Friends, in 1959, and mine, in 1960—were very difficult to take. I was especially disturbed at the effect that this would have on our Australian partners who, in the Woomera range and elsewhere, have played such a notable part—in fact, quite an essential part —in the development not only of this missile, but missiles of all types. As I said on 13th April, the Woomera range has a great programme of work still in front of it even if we do not go on with the space development of the Blue Streak. In 1959, the balance of advice was still in favour of continuance.

Now let me explain the changes that made a contrary decision inevitable—but only after much thought and weighing of evidence. In the light of changing circumstances my right hon. Friend last year put in hand a study of the vulner- ability of fixed site missiles. Whilst this study was proceeding I had the opportunity of talks with my N.A.T.O. colleagues. From these, the following facts emerged, at the turn of the year and early this year: first, in America new families of solid fuel and highly mobile missiles were being proved as viable weapons, They gave the possibility of far greater indestructibility for the means of delivery of the nuclear warhead than anything previously thought of.

Secondly, a most significant increase in the accuracy of long-range rockets, such as the American Atlas, pointed to the vital need for mobility and dispersal, most of all in a country like ours, which is small and close to the missile front line. It was thus essential to give greater indestructibility to our means of delivery of nuclear weapons as a balancing factor to the Russians' growing power and accuracy with long-range missiles.

This was the background to the statement in this year's White Paper, when I said:
"The possibilities of mobile launchers, whether aircraft or submarines, for long-range delivery of nuclear warheads are being investigated."
This is something which the right hon. Gentleman completely left out of his history of events. In late February, or possibly early March of this year, the United States Government made the first firm decision to put a very large sum of money behind the air-launched missile which is called Skybolt.

The right hon. Gentleman is quite right—and this shows how easy it is to twist the facts if one presents only a part of the story—in saying that we have been watching this weapon for a long time. Of course we have. It looked to us to be the ideal complement to the V-bomber force. But it was only in February of this year that it really became a viable project, because a very large sum of money was officially put behind its development.

Further talks with my N.A.T.O. colleagues followed, and I have had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Gates a number of times, and my advisers and his have been able to interchange information. It led me to this belief: if the West deterrent was to be maintained— if the balance was to be kept on which peace rests until we could attain disarmament—we had to achieve two most important strategic demands. First, we had to get the widest dispersal of fixed sites. That is why Atlas, in America, remains a viable weapon which can be widely dispersed whereas Blue Streak, over here, in a small country very near the missile front line, is quite a different proposition.

Secondly, we have to achieve the greater use of mobile carriers by land, sea and air. The Government and I would have liked to play a part in all these rôles. If our resources had been limitless we should have continued to develop Blue Streak for a time, but we would have had to combine it with co-operation with the United States on mobile air and sea-launched missiles. I explained at some length in the defence debate why, if we were to maintain and improve the rest of our other contributions to the deterrent of the West, we should always have to make a choice in the amount of money we could spend on any particular part of our deterrent effort.

That choice fell to be made in March and April this year, and the logic of it obviously showed that if we had a choice, despite the difficulty of stopping a project on which we have spent a large sum of money, the best balance for keeping the deterrent and maintaining the peace was to go for mobility. Therefore, that led quite clearly and inevitably, to the position which I explained to the House on 13th April. The right hon. Gentleman's story of the course of events differs widely from mine. It is the House which must judge who is right. I am not charging the right hon. Gentleman with attempting to mislead the House, as he has charged my colleagues and me. I am saying that I have frankly told the House of the course of events, and that it is the House which must judge who is right. No inquiry is needed when the facts are fully exposed.

Now let me make our position quite plain with regard to missile manufacture. In the research and development of Blue Streak and Black Knight we have acquired the technical knowledge to manufacture either solid fuel or liquid fuel missiles if we wish to do so. If, therefore, we decide to seek to acquire a means of delivery for our own nuclear warheads, from the United States of America for the later 'sixties and early 'seventies, this is because avoidance of parallel expenditure on development seems to us to make sense. Otherwise, what is the use of my going to N.A.T.O., and my right hon. Friend going to see his French and German colleagues, and saying, "The sensible thing to do in Europe and the West is to try to have a mutual shopping list. Let us try to buy from each other things which most increase our strength, and stop the parallel development which must mean a waste of money"?

If we believe in that policy, we must carry it out ourselves. It is, therefore, a deliberate decision and a policy designed to strengthen the Western alliance. It is certainly not an attempt to out our commitments or to get out of making the contribution which we are determined to continue to the independent Western deterrent.

A lot has been said by the right hon. Gentleman and others about the alternative means of delivery following the cancellation of Blue Streak. Again, it does not tally in the slightest degree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said. The V-bombers, with the Blue Steel flying bomb—that is to say, the bomb now being fitted—will meet our full contribution to the West's nuclear deterrent until the mid-'sixties. In other words, we do not need to add to our major commitment here, over this period, even if the means were available.

After the mid-'sixties, which is when Blue Streak was planned to become available, we are now able to choose what type of missile we shall adopt, on the principle that we shall provide our own warhead and our own mobile launching platform by sea or air. I say again that if, through some circumstance beyond our control, this policy became impossible we retain the technical "know-how" and ability to make a missile of this kind for ourselves. I do not think that it is sense to do it at this point if we can get it from the Americans without strings and on proper terms.

If, as I understand, the right hon Gentleman is referring to another missile, namely, Skybolt, will he look at the speech made by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air in the recent Air Estimates debate, when he referred to the possibility of acquiring the Skybolt from the United States of America but pointed out, quite properly, that it might be exceedingly difficult, technically, to adapt our existing bombers to the use of the Skybolt? There is no guarantee that we could produce effective bombers in time.