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Defence Estimates 1980

Volume 983: debated on Monday 28 April 1980

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4.30 pm

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Francis Pym): I beg to move, That this House approves the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980, contained in Cmnd. 7826.

I have selected the amendment in the names of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and his right hon. and hon. Friends.

I open by drawing attention to one sentence that I have written in the statement on the Defence Estimates:

" The decade ahead will be a testing one for the Western democracies in many ways ".
I do not think that any hon. Member here today could accuse me of having made that point lightly, or as pure rhetoric, or seriously disagree that the world has darkened still further since those words were written.

This is the first defence debate in this Parliament, and the events of recent weeks and days add a peculiar poignancy to its timing and importance. We are facing not only a testing decade but testing months and testing days for the security of our country and the Western world as a whole. It is our responsibility to recognise that fact and to see the world as it actually is, and not as we might have preferred it to be; there is no safety in self-deception. It is also our responsibility—with resolution and with all the foresight and ingenuity we can muster— to find ways of meeting the potential threats to our own and Western interests so that we can steer our country safely through the difficult times that lie ahead. These tasks face us at a time when Britain and Europe have other pressing problems and preoccupations—inflation, rising energy costs and a poor outlook for world trade—all related to the economic events of the free world.

In our case, our strategy for economic recovery involves severe restrictions on public spending, but—in contrast to the previous Government—we are prepared to put defence at the top of our priorities, not because we like it but because the realities of the international situation make it necessary. As the White Paper emphasises at every turn, we shall make the most thoughtful and effective use we can of every resource at our disposal, whether it be money or material or the excellent qualities of the men and women in our Services.

The Labour Party, when in government, decided to support the NATO aim of a 3 per cent. increase in defence spending. From their amendment, which we expect them to move later, it appears that the Opposition are now going back on that. But I hope that by the end of the debate they will remain true to their previous decision, which we believe was right. Incidentally, may I say how pleased we are that my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) is making such a good recovery after his recent illness?

The repercussions of events in Iran, the taking of the United States hostages and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan have placed a strain on the North Atlantic Alliance, both on the relations between its European members and on their relations with the Government of the United States. I see nothing wrong in stating that fact, because strategic and political crises of such a magnitude will of course place strains on all Governments who have to deal with them. In so far as the challenges are new in kind, the strains also will be of an unfamiliar kind and will require new solutions, to be found perhaps by new methods. But it is the business of an alliance, and of individual allies, not only to be able to accept the strains and pressures but to overcome them successfully.

The prescription for meeting this challenge is, to my mind, clear. With our allies and friends in Europe and beyond we must preserve our solidarity and cohesion —our basic sense of interdependence— within Europe, across the Atlantic, and all round the world. It is, in the end, upon that cohesion and co-operation that the security of the free world depends. We must work with the methods that interdependence requires. That means full discussions together, not shying away from the difficulties, and sharing our viewpoints and judgments. We must decide upon courses of action that emphasise and enhance our common purpose. The effect of a common front is not only to consolidate the Alliance itself but to present the most effective deterrent. None of this can be taken for granted; it has to be worked for. It will not be easy to find a solution to the Iranian problem that meets the United States' very proper concern for the safety and freedom of its citizens—and who could not feel a profound sympathy for the hostages and the American people—and at the same time avoids any further destabilisation and conflict in the Gulf. Indeed, that region is one of the most important regions of all in the world, and our primary objective must be to restore stability there. We shall have to draw on all our experience if we are to respond adequately and successfully to the risks and dangers that obviously exist.

Can the right hon. Gentleman clear up a matter of fact? I refer to the statement in The Times today that the British base or the American-British base at Diego Garcia was used in the American effort that resulted in the desert calamity. Was it or was it not used? If we are to have full discussions together, to borrow the right hon. Gentleman's phrase, was there any discussion on this kind of use?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there was no discussion. But, as I think my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal told the House on Friday, there wore indications of the possibility of some action. The facts, of course, are still emerging. If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I shall continue with my speech because there is a great deal that I want to say in a debate covering the whole range of this subject. I do not know the answer to his question. I cannot go beyond what my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal said on Friday.

We shall have to draw on all our experience if we are to respond adequately to these risks. It will not be easy— perhaps not even possible—to persuade the Soviet Union that its aggression and enforced rule in Afghanistan is unacceptable to world opinion. How are we to deter it from using its massive military strength for other similar acts of agression elsewhere? I shall be saying more later about our perception of the Soviet global threat and how we can help to meet it. But the harder the task, the harder we have to work to tackle it. The greater the strains, the stronger the alliance will be when it successfully over comes them—as I personally am convinced it will.

Britain's reaction to the major crises of today has reflected this resolve and this confidence. We have played a notable part in reasserting the partnership with the United States and the principles of co-operation on which the Western Alliance is founded; we have promoted constructive solutions at every turn; we have taken our share of the measures— not always popular, and never without cost—that are needed to give practical expression to our principles. That is the way this Government match up to their responsibilities, and it is the way we shall go on working.

Military force will not provide us with any short cuts or any easy way to a more stable world order. It should not be—and it certainly is not—our first recourse. Indeed, it is the very last recourse—to be avoided at almost any cost.

The effectiveness of military force depends profoundly on our appreciation of political and social forces, both in those countries whose security we are seeking to maintain and in the West as a whole, for it is those political and social forces that determine decisively the outcome of the use of military force or its threatened use.

We have to retain the will and the imagination to understand the perceptions of countries whose ideology and traditions differ from ours, even to an extent at which they become hostile to us. We have to do so without in any way compromising our own beliefs and values, or becoming untrue to the heritage of parliamentary democracy and freedom to which we are the heirs. That is the way to strengthen the resolve of our friends and ourselves to work for a better world. The maintenance of adequate defences and the proper use of military power are a regrettable but inescapable precondition of successful political action.

If I turn now to a more detailed discussion of that, it is not because I am in any sense—as some have recently been tempted to pretend—some kind of warmonger. I believe most profoundly and passionately in the paradox that we have to possess military forces to avoid their employment; we have to possess the most horrific weapons precisely so as not to use them. The ultimate objective of Her Majesty's Government—and of every hon. Member—is less defence and fewer arms, not more. We believe in a fruitful dialogue with all other countries to achieve this end. We hope profoundly that the process of detente, of negotiations about arms control and of talks about the reduction in the size of forces and armaments, will continue.

We are playing our full part and making every endeavour here. Whatever the setbacks, our effort in this matter will be unremitting. But we also know that we must be realistic about it—that the facts will not disappear if, ostrich-like, we choose to bury our heads in the sand. There is no room for wishful thinking. If we bury our heads in the sand we are, surely, condemning the citizens of this country and the citizens of many other countries to a fearful future.

I should like to go back to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) about Iran. The Lord Privy Seal said the other day that the Government knew that it was one of the options, or one of the possible options. The right hon. Gentleman did not know what was to happen, but what was the response of the Government to the Americans over that option? Did they say anything about it? Did they shrug their shoulders? Did they advise the Americans not to go ahead with that attempt? What was their attitude? That is crucial in relation to the point made by my hon. Friend.

There was no consultation or discussion. As my right hon. Friend made clear on Friday, there was only an indication, of which I was unaware, of some possibility. I cannot add to that statement. I have no knowledge to add to it.

The defence White Paper starts, as any sound defence policy must start——

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I have a lot to say on the whole area of defence and I have indicated——

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that in the House only one person has the Floor at a time.

I have answered the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer).

Order. Unless the right hon. Gentleman gives way there is no way in which the hon. Gentleman can remain on his feet.

The defence White Paper starts, as any sound defence policy must start, from an analysis of the threats, but, as I have said already, such threats are political as well as military. If I concentrate now, as I think would be right, on the military aspects, it is very much within the general political context.

A military assessment of the threat has to be made, and kept up to date. It must be as exact as possible, but of course it cannot be reduced to a set of precise mathematical sums. Nor should the use of the term be misinterpreted, as it is sometimes, as indicating any belligerency of intention. There are a wide difference in attitudes of mind and outlooks between Warsaw Pact and NATO countries and a dangerous inadequacy of understanding of each other's intentions. The disparity comes not only from our different way of looking at life, the different ways in which we construct our societies, but also—and most fundamentally—from the deliberate check on communication exercised by the Soviet leadership. The most malicious expression of this is the misrepresentation to the Soviet people of the nature and intentions of the democracies of the West.

It is our strength in this country, even if it sometimes gives rise to temporary difficulties, that ours is a free, tolerant and open society. The Soviet leaders can get across their views to every individual in my constituency, and to every individual in every other hon. Member's constituency, but there is no reverse process. It is a one-way street. What I say in this House—what is said in this debate—will be reported to the man and woman in the Soviet street only so far as the Soviet Government chooses—only in a way that the Soviet Government judge fit. It is the concealment—the blindness that derives from this—that constitutes perhaps the greatest danger of all facing the world today.

The facts about the military threat are clear enough, as are the inferences that we should draw from them—even if there continue to be those who refuse to look at them. I have done my best to present a full analysis in chapter 1 of the White Paper. We, with our allies, are confronted by an immense and constantly growing Soviet military build-up, in both quantity and quality. Events in South-West Asia have reminded us that this build-up is not just for show. The capability is vast; the resources put into it are enormous and increasing; and it supports a strategy that is not defensive as is ours in the West but is designed to be offensive and war-winning.

The White Paper explains our assessment and the basis upon which it is made. By way of illustration, I pick out one or two points and ask the House to ponder them. On average, one new SS20 mobile missile system, with three new warheads, is being deployed by the Soviet Union every week. Over the last 10 years, the number of Soviet Union's tanks has grown by 35 per cent., its artillery by 40 per cent., its armoured personnel carriers by 80 per cent. and its fixed-wing tactical aircraft by 20 per cent. The Warsaw Pact currently outnumbers NATO in Central Europe by about 3 to 1 in main battle tanks and artillery, and by more than 2 to 1 in tactical aircraft.

In the eastern Atlantic, in the same 10 years, Soviet submarines have increased by 8 per cent., fixed-wing maritime aircraft by 30 per cent., and surface ships by 38 per cent. In 1979, the Soviet Union produced about 250 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 40,000 surface-to-air missiles, 1,800 combat aircraft, more than 3,000 tanks and 5 major surface warships. These facts require contemplation. It is not only the sheer size of this build-up that is so striking; it is the enormous qualitative improvement that is being secured.

I take a few examples. Now in service is the Soviet T72 tank, better gunned and better armoured than previous tanks, and comparing all too favourably with those in NATO. Then, there is the Back fire bomber,which has no Western equivalent, and the Alpha class submarine, which travels at high speed and has a hull of titanium alloy enabling it to dive very deep.

It was a distinguished former leader of my party to whom was attributed the well-known remark about
" Lies, damned lies, and statistics. "
The array of statistics on the Soviet military programme adds up to a literally horrifying totality. We face a potential threat from military forces of huge size and scope— forces that could be used directly in a military confrontation with NATO or indirectly to challenge the West's broader political and economic interests worldwide. The size and reach of these forces makes them a potent political weapon, which, if it is not counterbalanced, could be exploited to bring an unwelcome influence or even blackmail on the domestic and foreign policies of any country that is weaker. It is against this threat that between us all, with our allies, we must have the will and the means to defend ourselves.

Our main defence is, and must be, the North Atlantic Alliance. Our security is based on our membership of NATO. NATO strategy, the extent of its forces and the extent of our own contribution to these forces are also, I hope, spelt out clearly in the statement. No British Government, and no member of one holding the office I do, could ever be entirely satisfied with the Alliance as an effective instrument. It inevitably has the weakness that any large multinational organisation has, it is exposed to the same strains, and, although I think that it is better than most at overcoming these difficulties, it is not, and never can be, as good as any Defence Minister would wish. There is absolutely no room for any complaceny.

The Alliance needs to become more cohesive, quicker to reach decisions and sharper in its thinking if it is to give effective direction and support to the military forces at its disposal. We must secure these improvements. We are determined to do so. No British Government could, or should, do other than make every effort to fortify the Alliance, and I am determined that we should work with our partners to ensure that the Alliance is a shield strong enough for all its members.

The demand that this makes on our resources of money, manpower, industry, imagination and will is very large, but it has to be met. I described to the House on 24 January the requirements of NATO stategy, the part that nuclear weapons played in that stategy, and Britains own role. I know that the House will recall that debate, even if some commentators seem to have forgotten it. I do not propose to go over the same ground again, but I know that there are two nuclear decisions that are of particular interest to the House and the public. These are the questions of a successor to Polaris and where in the United Kingdom the American cruise missiles should be based.

I told the Select Committee recently that I hoped to be able to announce a decision on cruise missile basing during the summer. I hope that that will be the early summer, but it is not possible to give a precise date. I assure the House that I shall make a full statement at the earliest possible moment.

I should also mention, on the subject of cruise missiles, the question of operational control. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have made clear on a number of occasions, the use by United States forces of the bases concerned in the United Kingdom would be a matter for joint decision between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time. The bases may not be used without such joint decision.

Before my right hon. Friend moves on to Polaris, may I ask him about a matter that is not mentioned in the White Paper but that came up in his evidence to the Select Committee, namely, the defence of the United States Air Force bases in this country and the need for the Americans to acquire the Rapier surface-to-air missile system? Has there been any movement forward on this? I understand that the Senate Armed Services Committee has given a favourable opinion on this. Can he confirm that?

Yes. I think that the prospect is promising. The House of Representatives Armed Services Committee has authorised $100 million of expenditure in the financial year 1980–81 and the Senate Armed Services Committee is understood to be recommending $50 million, so the prospect is reasonably promising.

On the Polaris successor, no decision has yet been taken, and, if that fact indicates the thoroughness and care that the Government are taking in approaching that decision, I hope that it will be some reassurance to the House. I want to say something in a moment about publishing a document on the subject, but the essential judgment to be made about the existence of nuclear weapons, and therefore about the United Kingdom's possession of a strategic deterrent, is whether such possession is more, or less, likely to help keep the peace; or whether it is not material to that objective. Views on this vary, and it is for that reason that I have tried to do all I possibly can to encourage discussion and informed debate on the subject.

The Government are clear that if we want to maintain the peace that Europe has enjoyed now for 35 years, NATO has no responsible alternative for the foreseeable future but to continue to base its strategy of deterrence in part on the possession of such weapons. We are clear also that it is right for Britain to continue to make its own distinctive contribution in this field. It is a contribution which in practice no other Alliance member can make; it is one that we have made now for a quarter of a century; and surely it would be a strange judgment that held that today's world was so much safer a place that we could now conveniently, almost comfortably, plan to let the contribution lapse.

Although I support what my right hon. Friend is saying, may I put it to him that our possession of the nuclear deterrent is less effective as a deterrent if it is not associated with a credible civil defence policy? The two lock together. If possession of the deterrent is to deter a potential aggressor, that aggressor must believe that we would be prepared to use it, and that involves an effective civil defence programme.

I acknowledge my hon. Friend's point that there is that connection, although he will appreciate that it is outwith the scope of the White Paper and not my direct responsibility. However, I accept that that connection exists.

I have already explained to the House that large though the capital cost of any successor system will be in absolute terms over a limited period, it is not unmanageable in scale or of an order likely to emasculate our defence effort in other directions. It is very important that it should not do so, and I am personally determined that it should not do so. On all these issues I have set out the argument in the debate in January and in the White Paper, to an extent and with a frankness that I do not think has been done on this subject for some time.

I am doubtful whether there is anything I can usefully add to what I have already said on the fundamental policy involved, but I shall of course listen to what is said during this debate.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to get on with my speech, because there are many other aspects of this subject on which I wish to touch. I normally give way a great deal, but I have much to say today, and he will have an opportunity to speak if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I make no apology for the fact that we have not yet published an account of our thinking on what specific system might be chosen to replace Polaris. This is a highly complex and technical matter, and I am sure the House understands the difficulties that would arise from publishing an official paper relating to a major matter of national security in advance of a decision. I do not believe that the idea of a Green Paper, the desire for which I entirely understand and on which my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) has tabled a motion, is either sensible or appropriate. I cannot recall any precedent for such a procedure on an issue of major defence provision. The right and normal course, in line with our whole constitutional practice, is for the Government to take their decision and then to explain it and defend it before Parliament.

I want to give an assurance now that the explanation that I shall give will be a full one. I willingly and gladly undertake that Parliament will be informed in depth of the factors bearing on the decision how to maintain the effective ness of the British strategic nuclear deterrent. I intend to do this as soon as the Government have been able to announce their conclusion, and I have it in mind to publish a substantial document giving the fullest possible account of all the considerations involved.

There are problems due to the requirements of national security. I regard those requirements as overriding. There will be some relevant facts that we shall not be able to disclose, but I shall not take general refuge behind that problem; I intend to lay open the Government's thinking to the greatest possible extent, and I hope that the forthright nature of this White Paper, if hon. Members believe that to be its characteristic, will be taken as an earnest of that intent.

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of the successor to Polaris—and while one recognises that he cannot go much further today in advance of his White Paper—will he at least assure us that he will publish in the White Paper the Government's strategic reasons for believing not merely that we must possess a successor to Polaris but that we could find it necessary to use it ourselves and not as member of NATO? This is not purely a technical question of what is the most appropriate technical successor to Polaris; it is a question whether there are any circumstances in which Britain on its own would need such a successor.

It was at my initiation and subsequent insistence that we had a full debate on the nuclear issue when I set the arguments of principle before the House in the most forthright way that I could.

I turn to other issues in the White Paper In doing so I and my hon. Friends who will also be speaking in this debate will try to take account of the points made by the Select Committee in the comprehensive report that it has made, with, if I may say so, remarkable speed.

The present international situation— which I see as one of great peril—requires us to look outside Europe with fresh intensity. Increasingly, our European partners realise that the vital interests of all of us are affected by what goes on in the rest of the world, and are accepting the need for us all to work together. We all have different histories and differing international obligations. So the parts that we play will therefore differ. But they must be complementary, and they must be geared to a common defence of common interests. Our resources need to be flexible enough, and our strategic thinking comprehensive enough, to confront whatever challenge is offered. Her Majesty's Government are resolved to meet these needs to the maximum of our ability and for as long as may be necessary.

The single largest threat to our interests is posed by the activities of the Soviet Union and its allies and surrogates. The White Paper explains how their growing naval and air strength has enabled the Russians to project their influence around the globe. Time and again they have been able to exploit instability and conflict to their own ends against the Western interest, by means which include political intimidation and subversion as well as the direct use of force.

The Russian leaders are constantly reaffirming, through their words and deeds, their loyalty to the teachings and objectives of Lenin. The essence of that objective is the unremitting extension of influence by means both fair and foul, exploiting any cracks they may detect in their opponents' armour and any signs of political or moral weakness. The aggression in South-West Asia is a blatant example of Soviet willingness to use force in pursuit of their interests in the developing world.

We must be as hard-headed in our planning in relation to our response to the true meaning of this event as we are in the assessment of the threat itself. First— and most obviously—we must take account of our available resources and what particular capabilities and experience we can muster for use outside NATO.

Even if we had unlimited forces, it would not follow that military means were the only or even the best means available to meet the threat. We must work with other nations for the peaceful settlement of disputes, in line with the United Nations Charter. We can use the diplomatic and economic means, as we have done in the case of Afganistan, to seek to convince the Russians that aggressive actions do not pay and that if detente is to bring them any benefits they must accept that it must be global and reciprocal. We can also achieve much by providing the development aid and technical expertise that the Third world so desperately needs and that the Soviet Union has shown itself so significantly unwilling and unable to provide.

But military capability lends itself to a number of uses, and there are at least three different levels at which a defence involvement can help to protect our interests and those of our friends. The first level is that of military aid to friendly States, to help them in their self-defence and thus deter any attempt at outside interference from the outset. We achieve this through the provision of military training assistance in several forms, such as training on courses in the United Kingdom and the provision of loan Service personnel, and through a carefully tempered defence sales policy.

The second level is to maintain our presence and use our experience outside Europe by means of training exercises and deployments. Deployments like those of the annual Royal Naval task group usually include visits to friendly countries and joint exercises with their forces. Exercises carried out by the Army and Royal Air Force often also include a collaborative element.

Thirdly, there is the possibility of deploying armed forces to help maintain stability and protect our interests in a threatened area. In spite of the competing demands on our resources, we retain a capacity to respond flexibly to such needs, and the White Paper mentions some steps to enhance this that I know some of my hon. Friends are enthusiastic about and that we are presently examining.

In view of my right hon. Friend's encouraging words, will he explain why South Africa does not feature in the White Paper?

I thought that the White Paper was fairly comprehensive without mentioning all the countries that might possibly be added.

None of these efforts is to the detriment of our commitment to NATO. On the contrary, by allowing us to play our part in defending the wider interests which many of our allies share, they strengthen the concept of joint deterrence on which our whole Alliance rests. The invasion of Afghanistan has brought at least this one benefit. It has opened a great many people's eyes to the true character and global nature of the threat. It has awakened interest—just in time, I might add—in the scope and need for defence co-operation beyond NATO boundaries. All the activities that I have mentioned above lend themselves admirably to the co-ordination of effort, and we shall be working with our allies precisely to that end. When one has planned for 12 different contingencies, it will always be the thirteenth that actually arises.

I should like to leave this topic with a reference to one specific instance of our defence involvement overseas. It is unique in history and had it been mooted, say, a year ago it would probably have been greeted with general disbelief. Who would have thought that British troops would fly into Rhodesia as part of a peacekeeping monitoring operation, and that they could have an absolutely key role to play in the orderly transition to independence?

Our Service men from Britain and the Commonwealth were promptly on the spot. Widely dispersed in small numbers, they carried out their role and conducted themselves with exemplary efficiency, courage, and good humour and, when their work was ended, they left without fuss or ceremony.

There could be no clearer example of the constructive use to which our military resources can be put outside NATO. There could be no clearer argument for our retaining the flexibility to act, if not as a world Power in the traditional sense, at least as active and highly responsible citizens of the world. This operation demonstrated, as does their continuing service in Northern Ireland, the quality, the common sense and the professionalism of the men and women of our Armed Forces.

A realistic defence programme, to support a realistic defence policy costs money —a lot of money. The Defence Estimates for this year total well over £10 billion. This allows for an increase, in real terms of 3½ per cent. over spending last year. For each of the following three years, we are planning further real increases of 3 per cent. By 1983–84,we plan that defencespending at 1979 survey prices should be £1 billion higher than in 1979–80.

That is a very substantial increase by any standard, and it is one that is unfortunately necessary. It comes at an awkward time, when the Government are determined to reduce total public expenditure, and it follows logically that other programmes have had to be reduced more than would otherwise have been necessary to allow room for extra defence spending.

Neither I nor the Government take any pleasure from this melancholy fact, but while we cannot take pleasure from it we can at least take some reassurance, which is quite a different thing. As I have said, the Government remain fully committed to arms control negotiations, but these must result in balanced and verifiable limitations, which enhance our security. I fear that I can see little prospect at present—I hope that I am proved to be wrong—of achieving significant savings in expenditure as a result of such limitations.

The plans that we have made mean that we are aiming to meet NATO's target of 3 per cent. growth. There can be no doubt that under this Government the United Kingdom will pull her full weight in the Alliance. The 3 per cent. is not a figure plucked from thin air and erected as a totem pole; it reflects a sober and realistic appreciation of what balance can best be struck between what is necessary to meet the ever-growing threat, which I have tried to make clear to the House and the country, and what can be afforded at a time when the economies of most NATO members—and particularly our own— are under strain. Three per cent. was the figure decided upon after much consideration by NATO. It had the support of the last Government, and I hope that the Opposition will continue to give it that support.

Before the Secretary of State leaves this point, may I say that I have studied both White Papers carefully and I fail to see any arms control initiatives contained in the White Paper? Will the right hon. Gentleman say where in the White Paper we shall see mention of them?

I have referred to arms control initiatives. The Alliance has made initiatives and the United States in particular has made a major initiative, which has not received any response. We are sitting down with the countries of Eastern Europe in Vienna and Geneva and playing our full part, as I have sought to make clear.

There are those who argue that we ought to do more and those who argue that we ought to do less. I wish we could do more. We have a long way to catch up, and the need is self-evident. But there is a limit to the pace at which spending priorities can be changed.

This Government are straining every sinew to get the economy right, and cutting public expenditure is a necessary, it painful, condition for restoring economic health. Once economic growth is reestablished, it will be easier to increase real defence spending if that should unhappily become necessary. In an important sense, therefore, the strength of our defences is in the long run a function of the strength of the economy.

Even with the very large sums of money described in the White Paper, it will not be easy to manage the defence programme. I want to say a few words about it now. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Defence for the Royal Navy will speak more fully about manpower tomorrow. Some desirable equipment plans and projects may have to wait; others may have to be reappraised. At any one time, more desirable projects will exist than the resources to sustain them. There is nothing exceptional about that, and it does not imply any failings in professional judgments. But defence cannot have, and never has had, a blank cheque.

My responsibility is to construct a sustainable programme that reflects the up-to-date military assessment of the Chiefs of Staff and an equally up-to-date intelligence assessment of the threat. What I have to do is to establish a clear, and correct, order of priorities. This must be done on a broad overall defence basis, and I am involving myself personally in an examination of the allocation of resources with my principal advisers, the Chief of the Defence Staff, my accounting officers, and the chief scientific adviser.

In looking ahead 10 to 20 years, we have to try to assess what technological advances may be made by the Warsaw Pact forces and then to devise how we can match or outmatch these advances with our own technology. Such assessments can require profound and difficult judgements. If the nature and complexity of the technologies are demanding—like, for instance, those underlying electronic warfare, which will play perhaps a decisive part in any future conflict—that requires a significant part of our procurement expenditure to be devoted to research and development. The proportion is slightly over 30 per cent. in the coming year. The remaining 70 per cent. comprises, first, the production of new equipment, which reflects the successful completion of developments begun in the last decade—the most prominent example currently is the Tornado aircraft—and, secondly, the purchase of spares and the continuation of orders of equipment already in service.

The management of the defence programme, in all its aspects, places a major responsibility upon my Ministers and me. We have to pursue a sound defence policy and ensure that we spend what we must, but no more than we must. We have to see that we use our resources of men, money, and expertise where they areneeded and not anywhere, or in any way, where this would not be justified. There must be a conscious effort in my Department to achieve, within all the constraints, more accountable management and a sharper awareness of the way in which our decisions and actions use up scarce resources.

Since last May, I have conducted a sustained drive to achieve greater efficiency in the way in which Service men and civilians carry out their work. The Ministry of Defence, like everyone else, lives and works in a society where the price of labour and services is high, and will get higher.

Bearing in mind the extreme gravity of the international situation, which my right hon. Friend has so frankly put before the House, and the momentum and scope of the Soviet military build-up, is he satisfied that an increase of 3 per cent. or 3½ per cent. is all that we need to safeguard ourfuture? Is it not time that we stepped up our contribution on defence to something more approximating that of our French and German allies, who are spending at least 20 per cent. more than we are, on a per capita basis?

As my hon. Friend knows, there are various yardsticks that can be used. I wish that we could do more, because, unfortunately, at the moment the need is self-evident. However, we must strike a balance, and it is the view of our NATO Allies at the moment that the figure that we have chosen is the right one. Of course, 3 per cent., maintained year on year, would after five years make a substantial increase. That in no way prevents us reviewing the matter if circumstances alter. It is the Government's view that at the moment that aim is appropriate and one that we fully intend to fulfil.

I want to return finally to the people who man and maintain our defences. It is a matter of morale—there can be fully effective defences only if morale is high, and in all the decisions it falls to me to take I keep the morale of the Services uppermost in my mind. Winston Churchill, as he then was, speaking of the Army, said:
"The Army is not like a limited liability company to be reconstructed, remodelled, liquidated and refloated from week to week as the money market fluctuates. It is not an inanimate thing, like a house, to be pulled down or enlarged or structurally altered at the caprice of the tenant or owner; it is a living thing. If it is bullied, it sulks; if it is unhappy it pines; if it is harried it gets feverish; if it is sufficiently disturbed, it will wither and dwindle and almost die; and when it comes to this last serious condition, it is only revived by lots of time and lots of money."
What Churchill said 75 years ago is as true now as it was then. It applies to all three Services, and also to the Ministry's civilian employees, who work so loyally and so hard in support of our national security. It is true of the foot soldier on patrol in a Belfast street, of the sailor manning a patrol craft in Hong Kong, and of the airman putting all his skill and courage into testing a complicated new aircraft. It is true of the worker on the shop floor of the ordnance factory at Patricroft, of the scientist working at Aldermaston, and of all those civil servants who work for the Department in many different jobs. It is true of those who give up their weekends and other spare time to serve in the reserves.

What all these people seek from the Government is not that they should have easy options or unduly generous material rewards, or that they should be employed in larger numbers or in ways other than those the nation can afford in such difficult times. What they ask of me—and I think that they are right to ask of me —is that there should be a real commitment to defence and to a stability and continuity of defence policy which will make it possible for each man and each woman to do his or her job in the consciousness that it will produce results and help build a securer future. My ministerial colleagues in the Department and I, and the whole Government, are acutely aware of our responsibilities towards our Service men and women, and our civilian work force. They are the essential component, the very heart of our defence policy.

We need to offer them—and the whole House needs to give them—a real sense of purpose. That is the way to harness this vast resource and enable our country to be ready to respond to the challenges that we face. It is for this critically important national purpose that I ask the House, by its vote—if there is one on the conclusion of this debate—to give a clear endorsement and an unmistakable verdict that the Government should accord to our defences a real and continuing priority, and a total commitment.

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

5.18 pm

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

" reaffirms its commitment to the proper defence of Britain through membership of NATO, and pays tribute to the men and women who serve in the armed forces and to their civilian counterparts, but declines to approve the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980 (Cmnd 7826) in that it fails to set out clear priorities for Britain's defence during the 1980s; commits Her Majesty's Government to increases in defence expenditure far in excess of forecasts for the growth of the economy; and offers no new initiatives towards multilateral mutual disarmament in the nuclear and conventional fields ".
May I say, first, how much I appreciate, as I am sure the whole House does, the Secretary of State's kind remarks about my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley). We have missed him here. We miss him in this debate, and we hope that he will be able to join us again soon.

As the Secretary of State said, this debate could hardly be taking place at a more sobering time. The events of the past week cast a long shadow over us all. We are passing through a period of acute crisis. It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore) who said on Friday—and I think that he put it very well—that over the weekend the world would be " holding its breath." In those circumstances, it is natural that we should speculate about the consequences of what has happened in Iran and Afghanistan. However, I believe that it is much too soon to reach firm conclusions and dangerous to seek simple solutions to highly complex economic, social and political problems.

Over many years, and despite their differences, members of NATO and of the Warsaw Pact, particularly the United States and the Soviet Union, have learnt the advantages of stability. There were understood rules and assumptions about crisis management. Suddenly the rules are being broken, and there is a great deal of clumsiness about the way in which a new and unforeseen situation is being handled.

In Afghanistan, the Soviet Union committed a serious act of aggression, failing accurately to judge its unacceptability to world opinion and to measure the prospect of a debilitating, long-term struggle. In Iran, the United States and her allies, including successive British Governments, failed to recognise the unique social and religious pressures that were bringing the Shah's reign to an abrupt end.

For the moment, the outcome of both those events is that the West is weak. On the one hand, there is lack of a consistent and cool lead from the United States. On the other, there is confusion and uncertainty among her allies. Within the West there is no great confidence in political leadership at the highest level. Outside, in the rest of the world, there is a loss of faith in the capacity of the West to measure up to an unexpected crisis.

In due course, and in this case sooner rather than later, there must be a long, cool look at the question of consultation between the United States and her allies, which is directly and immediately relevant to NATO and to Britain's primary interest in the European theatre. I share the great sense of unease about how the question of consultation has been handled in recent months. However, beyond that, we must resist the temptation to allow events in South-West Asia to throw into disarray all the assumptions that we have made about the role of NATO, the resources required for it and about detente as our long-term aim. That will not be easy. If the West is seen to be weak, it will be argued that a further increase in defence spending is the way to make us strong. If our interests are threatened in South-West Asia, it will be said that NATO must extend its geographical spread.

I am profoundly sceptical about such conclusions. No one can say that the collapse of Iran was the result of inadequate defence planning. On the contrary, if the West had sent fewer arms salesmen and more observers of social change to Iran, it is possible that we should have received warning of what was about to happen.

I also find it impossible to see how a greater preparedness on the part of the United States and her allies could have prevented the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan unless the United States had been ready to threaten war and to mean it. There is no way to ensure the security of the Gulf except with the active and full consent of the Gulf States.

The members of NATO cannot separate their relations with each other in NATO from their relations with each other on wider issues outside. Their interests in Europe—and this particularly applies to the United States—cannot be viewed in isolation from their interests in the world at large. However, NATO has had a remarkable record as an effective alliance over more than 30 years. It has done a great deal to preserve peace in Europe. Membership of NATO is, and must remain, the cornerstone of British defence policy. The first task of Her Majesty's Government at present—the task of the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends—is to steady NATO and help to bring it through the present turbulence intact and still on course. From what the right hon. Gentleman said, I take it that he accepts that role.

As for the White Paper, I welcome the changes made by way of presentation. I do not grudge the increase in public expenditure for colour printing, two volumes in improvements in the lay-out. I congratulate the Secretary of State on his boldness in increasing the price of the White Paper from £2 last year to £850 for two volumes, which majestically exceeds even the rate of inflation induced by the right hon. Gentleman's Government elsewhere. I hope that the White Paper will be widely read. I recognise the duty of the Government to set these issues before the public.

My congratulations to the Secretary of State do not go much further. It is hard to find in the White Paper anything that is new, and impossible to find anything that is challenging. There is a total absence of discussion of the great defence issues facing this country. I do not believe that the Secretary of State is bland; he is much too intelligent for that. However, his White Paper is very bland indeed.

The two greatest defence issues in the 1980s are what level of defence spending our economy can sustain, and what are the major priorities that can be accommodated within it. In my view, on present trends, Britain simply cannot sustain an increase in defence spending of 3 per cent. a year until 1986. Even if she can, and even if the Secretary of State stays on course, it will not be possible to maintain unchanged her commitment to the three conventional roles—in the central region, particularly with 55,000 men in BAOR, to the Eastern Atlantic and the Channel and to the defence of the United Kingdom—and an independent nuclear role. Something will have to give. That is the question to which the White Paper should have addressed itself. I am glad that the Select Committee refers to that in paragraph 7 of its report. Like the Secretary of State, I, too, am glad that the Select Committee has been able to produce so soon a report of a kind.

I am trying to follow my right hon. Friend's argument as carefully as I can. However, I am surprised to hear him say that he doubts whether our economy can sustain an increase in defence spending of 3 per cent. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition went to Washington just before the special session of the United Nations and made the agreement to increase spending by 3 per cent. for the following years.

Iam glad that my hon. Friend has listened carefully so far. If he listens to the remainder of my speech with the same care, he will find an answer to his argument.

No, not for the moment. The two major decisions for 1980 are not announced in this White Paper at all. The level of spending, the commitment to 3 per cent. beyond 1980–81—and I ask my hon. Friend to listen to this—was set out in the public expenditure White Paper Cmnd. 7841, and is merely confirmed as the Government's intention up to 1986 in paragraph 803 of the defence White Paper.

As for the Polaris replacement, the Secretary of State offers a single sentence in paragraph 211 of the White Paper. For a bland sentence in a bland White Paper it is hard to beat. It says this of the Polaris force:
" The Government is considering possible systems to replace it thereafter and a decision will be taken soon."
That is all that the White Paper says about that very important decision. Frankly, the right hon. Gentleman added little of substance today.

The right hon. Gentleman appears to criticise my right hon. Friend for not disclosing more information about the replacement programme, which clearly my right hon. Friend felt would not be in the national interest. In order to clarify the Opposition's attitude, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that a good deal of the work on Chevaline—on the improvement of our existing system—was done during the period of office of the Labour Administration, and there was no mention of that in the White Paper?

With respect, the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. As a junior Minister responsible for certain matters at that time, I frequently answered questions in the House which made it plain to those who wanted to follow these matters precisely what was happening. We were maintaining the effect of the deterrent, but we made clear that we were not seeking to have a replacement for Polaris. As I have said, there is no hint in the White Paper of the implications of the decisions which will be made—whichever way—on Polaris replacement and the fact that it will produce the sharpest controversy. There is strong opposition, which should be faced, to the idea of moving towards a new generation of nuclear weapons as a successor to Polaris. It is certainly the case that we should explore with our allies the best course for Britain. I am alarmed that any attempt to pursue a continuing independent nuclear role beyond the 1990s will have grave consequences for our capacity to contribute to the Alliance in other ways.

Britain's membership of NATO is crucial, and our defence priorities must be determined by what matters most within the Alliance. I should like an assurance from the Secretary of State—he did not appear to give one today—that the view which the Alliance takes on this matter, within the resources available to this country for spending on defence, will be decisive when the moment comes.

Meanwhile, unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I welcome the terms of early-day motion 508, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) and a number of his hon. Friends, about the need for a Green Paper. I assume that that would cover not only the technical aspects of alternatives to Polaris but also the matters that I have raised, such as the price which would have to be paid in terms of the country's conventional role. I thought that the remarks in this respect of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) were relevant. I do not take the right hon. Gentleman's view that it is not possible to publish a Green Paper on this matter. He is proposing to explain after the event why the Government have reached their decision. I do not believe that there is any argument on precedent or any argument on security which would make it impossible to publish such a Green Paper, which in turn would enable an authoritative public discussion to take place before the decision was made. I ask the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends to think again about this important matter.

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what consultation occurred during the period of office of the Labour Government about the modernisation of the warheads of the existing Polaris missiles? Was that matter fully debated in the House?

The hon. Gentleman shows rather less knowledge of these matters than I normally expect from him. He understands fully that the updating of Polaris did not raise questions as fundamental in every way as a decision to replace Polaris in the 1990s. That is plainly the case. But even if it were argued—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is so arguing—that a Green Paper should have been published at that time, I would perhaps agree with him. I am certainly willing to learn from experience. If the hon. Gentleman argues that it should have been done then, let it be done now in respect of this much larger decision which is about to be made.

Surely my right hon. Friend will draw the attention of Ministers to the fact that project Chevaline was initiated in 1972, when the Labour Administration were not in power. If anyone was responsible for issuing a Green Paper on that, it was their own previous Government.

My hon. Friend is very helpful, and I appreciate his intervention. However, in no way would I wish to evade such responsibility as I and my right hon. Friends had at the time.

I hope that the hon. Member for Aldershot will not be too embarrassed—he can leave the Chamber if he prefers to do so—if I quote from his interesting article in The Times on 22 April. He said:
"Conservative MPs are told next to nothing about defence but we are supposed to care a good deal about it ".
I can well believe that, because the whole House is told next to nothing. He added:
" Mr. Francis Pym, who talks on occasion about the future of the deterrent, takes care to say nothing".
That is only too true, on this occasion today as on previous occasions. He went on:
" It is incontrovertible that, in defence terms, Britain is living far above its station ".
That is precisely what the Opposition say in their amendment. He concluded:
" Were we to purchase Trident it would only be done at the expense of losing a major British defence commitment, the abandonment of which would seriously weaken the NATO alliance ".
That is the crucial consideration upon which the White Paper fails even to comment.

I have quoted the words of the hon. Member for Aldershot, which I believe are more widely shared than hon. Members might choose to say at this moment. I hope that the Government will not dismiss the hon. Gentleman's views—it may be tempting to do so—on the ground that he is a clever fellow but somewhat eccentric with dangerous views in more than one direction. The anxieties that he has expressed on this occasion are widely shared by many who are deeply committed to NATO. If those issues are discussed elsewhere—as they are, and we all know it—why should we fail to confront them in this House, with the Secretary of State making his own contribution? Why should the White Paper evade them altogether?

Despite the pretty diagrams about which I do not grumble, in serious content the White Paper still falls far behind the annual report to Congress of the American Secretary for Defence and the white paper produced annually by the Federal Republic of Germany. This year, when grave issues are at stake which will determine the course of the 1980s, it is simply not good enough.

I turn to the matter of defence spending. There can be no argument about the fact that Britain must be properly defended. But that does not help us to answer what should be the level of defence spending. On the one hand, there is no fixed optimum level. Ask the Services how much money they would like and they will always say "More ". It is always possible to have more men and women under arms, better paid and better equipped. On the other hand, there is no fixed level below which spending can sink in order to render defence impossible. Here we are involved in matters of judgment of a very high order, and the Secretary of State knows it. He has said as much on several occasions. Of course, he must argue that the Government have got it right, as his Department argued with the Treasury and he argued with his colleagues.

In fact, the White Paper contains a revealing paragraph which must have absorbed much midnight oil and taken many telephone calls to the Chief Secretary's office. I refer to paragraph 806, which sits rather uneasily in the confident flow of the chapter. It states:
" The defence programme cannot be insulated from all change "
—that I take to be Treasury drafting—
" but our aim is to restore its momentum and expand it in the ways we have described."
That is the Department of Defence asserting itself. It goes on:
" But "
—note the word " But "; it is always a sign of trying to have it both ways—
" we shall not feel obliged to adhere slavishly to a particular growth path, nor shall we consider it a failure of policy if we modify our spending plans in either direction from year to year ".
That is a significant paragraph indeed. It is a way out of all difficulties. It will be the paragraph to point to when the going is rough. Despite their bold promises, the Government know that defence spending cannot be isolated from public expenditure as a whole or the state of the economy.

In the summer of 1977, NATO Ministers agreed to recommend a rise in defence spending of 3 per cent. a year for the period 1979 to 1984. In January 1978, in Cmnd. 7049, the Labour Government committed themselves to a 3 per cent. increase in each of the years 1979–80 and 1980–81, subject, however,
" to review in the light of our economic circumstances ".
I supported that decision then, and I support it now. On the available evidence, the increase was one that we could sustain. But circumstances are very different today. I do not believe—the Opposition amendment says this—that it is right to commit this country to increases in defence expenditure far in excess of forecasts for the growth of the economy; and that is precisely what the White Paper does.

Let me give some figures, and let me take them from a source that Conservative right hon. Members regard as impeccable—the London Business School, home of fashionable monetarism and of Mr. Terry Burns, until he moved into the Chancellor's " think tank ".

In January 1978, when my Government agreed to a 3 per cent. increase in defence expenditure in each of two consecutive years, the London Business School was forecasting a growth in gross domestic product of 3 per cent. in 1978, 2½ per cent. in 1979, 3·2 per cent. in 1980 and 2 per cent. in 1981. But today, and here I refer both to the Red Book and to statements in the speeches of Treasury Ministers, the Government are forecasting a fall—I repeat, a fall—in GDP of 2½ per cent. in 1979–80 and an increase of only 1 per cent. over the whole five-year period—not 1 per cent. per annum; 1 per cent. over the whole five-year period.

This is a very different picture and an immensely gloomy one. I do not complain; perhaps it is realistic. I am not arguing about the figures. But I simply do not believe that defence spending can grow by a cumulative 13 per cent. over five years, or 20 per cent. until 1986, when GDP is growing by only 1 per cent. in that period. It cannot be sustained. It will not work. There is no prospect of stability in defence planning with such a wide disparity, and the Government are only piling up acute problems for us all by living in a dreamland of that sort.

I say it with regret. I wish that our economy was growing steadily at 2 or 3 per cent. a year. But it is not, and no authoritative source believes it will. Defence spending is determined by both needs and means. The means to a significant increase in the years ahead is lacking.

Let me make this clear—and it is consistent with the view that I expressed when I had some responsibilities. I do not say that the percentage of GDP spent on defence is the only measure of our defence effort. The comparisons in figure 21 of the White Paper are all relevant. Seen by our allies, the total defence expenditure or expenditure per capita may seem to matter more, but, in terms of the burden on our own economy and of proper priorities at home, the proportion of GDP is of great significance.

The point here is that on the Government's own figures defence spending as a proportion of GDP will rise from 4·9 per cent. in 1979 to 5·7 per cent. in 1985–86. On the assumption that our allies will enjoy faster growth than us, we shall end up well at the top of the GDP league table, overtaking the United States. I say again: it simply will not work.

This is the link to new initiatives towards disarmament in the nuclear and conventional fields which is also mentioned in our amendment. I do not believe that this country can continue in an arms race that depends for ever on a regular increase of expenditure in real terms to match NATO's capability with that of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. This is not only a problem for the United Kingdom. It affects our allies, too. The slowdown in the growth of the economies of the Western world will be one of the major problems of the 1980s. We are entering a period in which priorities for the use of resources will be receiving the closest scrutiny.

In these circumstances, measures of arms control and disarmament are vital on economic as well as political grounds. In fact, they are the only alternative to a massive arms burden which we simply cannot carry.

The White Paper is quite right to draw attention to the fact that the Soviet Union's arms expenditure rose by about 4 per cent. a year in the 1970s and has probably accounted for 11 to 13 per cent. of GDP. The Secretary of State was right to mention these matters today. But it would be wrong—and let us show this perception—to believe that the Soviet Union is now, or, alternatively, will remain, indifferent to levels of defence spending to the end of this century and beyond. It, too, ultimately has an economic interest in arms control and disarmament.

It is on this multilateral and mutual basis that progress must be made to amore secure future for our people. Three months ago we debated the circumstances in which NATO Ministers had agreed to the modernisation of theatre nuclearweapons. I said then that the gap in time between this decision and the possibility of deployment in1983 provided avaluable breathing space. I expressed the hope that there would be a positive initiative to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union which would make deployment unnecessary on the basis of reciprocal action in withdrawing the SS20 and on measures for verification. This is still my strong view.

The Soviet Union is in the best position to advance the prospect of agreement by putting a moratorium on the deployment of any further SS20 systems and then negotiating the terms for withdrawing those already in their place.

Britain has lived under an American nuclear umbrella for many years, and it would be hypocrisy to wish to enjoy all the advantages of an alliance armed with nuclear weapons but none of the uncomfortable responsibilities.

Looking back to the time between 1959 and 1963, when land-based Thor missiles were deployed in the United Kingdom, and reflecting on where F.111s are based today, I see no question of principle involved in the deployment of cruise missiles, although the question of control remains disturbing despite what the Secretary of State said today. But nothing would please me more than an agreement which would ensure that cruise missiles were not deployed and that the SS20 was withdrawn. This would be a major step towards multilateral and mutual disarmament. It is imperative that this breathing space is used.

In our January debate I referred to other areas in which I believed that a new initiative could be taken towards arms control and disarmament. The interval has not lessened the urgency of this. I deeply regret that events in Afghanistan and the politics of a presidential year have halted the ratification of SALT II. I have no hesitation in saying—and I think that here I endorse views expressed by the Secretary of State—that this remains the highest priority.

The White Paper contains a number of customary paragraphs about arms control, but I cannot recall—and the right hon. Gentleman will remind me if I am wrong —a single speech that he has made or a single speech by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister which has been devoted to the question of arms control and disarmament. I am old-fashioned enough— again, I share a view with the right hon. Gentleman—to believe that there are initiatives that Britain can take in the world. I even have a sneaking feeling—dare I say it?—that diplomacy is not always a dirty word. Now is the time for something far more substantial than paragraphs 130 to 135 of the White Paper. At further stages of this debate, my right hon. and hon. Friends will be indicating what we have in mind.

The Secretary of State heads a great Department and receives much advice of a very expert kind. I pay tribute, as he did, not only to the men and women who serve with distinction in the Armed Forces —and we all remember, as he mentioned, the events in Zimbabwe and the continuing events in Northern Ireland—but to all those who contribute to the proper defence of Britain. They deserve our regard. I pay tribute to them. But the issues that face Britain through the 1980s are highly political. They will be solved by imagination, by political courage and by a fundamental examination of many of the conventional assumptions of defence planning. The Secretary of State has a great responsibility, and I regret that he has not fulfilled it in the White Paper.

5.50 pm

We have listened to one of the most remarkable speeches on defence at a time of crisis for the past 30 years. The right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) took us right back to the 1930s, with the Labour Party completely schizophrenic about defence. On the one hand, the Labour Party supports the 3 per cent. increase in NATO spending, to which it is committed. At the same time, it tries to pander to its Left wing by making speeches about disarmament that is to be carried out purely unilaterally.

I am amazed that the Leader of the Opposition and other respectable members of the Labour Party should put their names to the motion that appears on the Order Paper and should seek to divide the House on defence when the world situation has never been more serious. Doubtless this will give Mr. Len Murray, that exhausted and extinguished molehill, something to say when he tries to march his troops through London on 14 May. The old red flags will be hoisted. There will be the old slogans such as " Better red than dead ", " Better pink than sink " and " Be a Commie not a Tommie ". Doubtless the Opposition's conduct will be useful to the exhausted trade union leaders as they try to rally their troops on 14 May.

Unfortunately, this is a serious time. The right hon. Gentleman pursued his arguments rather like an archaeologist examining a palimpsest. His attention to minute phraseology and the minute and exact meanings of words in the White Paper was positively that of an Egyptologist. When it came to the Labour Party's commitment to NATO, the right hon. Gentleman found some weasel words to allow it to escape from the problem. It is typical of some of the desiccated calculating machines on the Opposition Benches that even when dealing with defence they get their sums wrong. Far from there being a chance to increase defence expenditure by 3 per cent., it is much more likely to be 1 per cent. this year because of overspending last year.

When fingers are pointed, at the state of our defences today, as they must be and as they have been pointed by the all-party committee on defence, the fault lies with the right hon. member for Stockton, who is now sitting so comfortably on the Opposition Front Bench. There is the fault for a shortage of aircraft, a shortage of man-power and a shortage of ammunition.

On 1 February I said, to the consternation of some right hon. and hon. Members, that if necessary we should introduce some form of registration for eventual national service. If I was right in February, and I think I was, how much more correct am I this afternoon, three months later? We still have uproar from the Labour Benches when the issue is raised, but I shall be proved more right as the days roll by. I hope that I shall receive a more reasoned and courteous reply from the Under-Secretary of State when he replies to the debate.

The right hon. Member for Stockton and others speak as though defence is an issue that can be dealt with in the normal course of affairs, taking as it were one year with another. They suggest that there is no immediate problem. I on the contrary, take a touch more serious view of the world situation. I do not think that war will break out tomorrow or, as the shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said, that the world will go on holding its breath week-end after week end. However, there is emerging clearly what must be seen by Moscow as the " window ", as it is called, between now and about 1985, when the armament of the East will be infinitely superior to that of the West.

There are three issues that should be considered seriously by the Ministry of Defence. The first is whether there should be greater expenditure based not so much on research and development but on buying off the shelf to fill the gaps that now exist. We are faced with shortages in our air defence system. There is a shortage of technical manpower in general. There is a shortage of manpower for our naval vessels. There are shortages of ammunition and other forms of equipment. The Tornado will not be in service until 1985. That being so, there is a great deal to be said for providing the Hawk, which is only a training aircraft, with some sort of stand-off missile. That is now being done, and it is obviously a good thing to do.

Consideration must be given to whether it is wise not to retain the V-force. Should we not disregard the best, which is always the enemy of the good, in pursuing our defence policy? We are now moving into a highly critical period that cannot possibly be met by the defence equipment that is now on order or can be manufactured.

We must also consider the running of the Ministry of Defence. I have worked in the Ministry, and I have a high regard for those who work in it. Ministers come and Ministers go, and we must consider whether the Chief of Defence Staff should take his place as a consequence of Buggins's turn, namely, three years to an airman, three years to a naval officer and three years to an Army officer. There would be a considerable advantage if we could find a man of character who could undertake the job for more than three years.

I do not attack any individual. I have known many Chiefs of Staff, and I have respected them all. However, there is a danger that at that level the naval officer, the Army officer of the Royal Air Force officer will rest on his laurels rather than ensure, with will and determination, that our defences are properly balanced and reach the right level of effectiveness.

No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman has interfered a great deal. I do not want to get involved in personalities. I offer one historical example. Carnot was not given a three-year contract by Napoleon. It would be an advantage if we could find the right man and retain him for more than three years.

I return to the theme that I launched in the House in February—the need for more highly skilled and trained manpower and for greater numbers. We know that there is a shortage of pilots, doctors and trained artificers. Above all else, there is a shortage of numbers. It is no good the Ministry of Defence denying that. That is why a register of our people is necessary—not a call up, but an enrolment.

In 1970 we could put about 800,000 people—including all reserves—into the field. Today we could put 200,000 fewer. Can anyone say that the problems dangers and new commitments today are less than those of 10 years ago? Ministers must face the facts. If the process of 3 per cent. more this year and 3 per cent. more next year is followed, we shall not have time to build up our defences to the necessary level.

The Government have undoubtedly failed to bring forward a White Paper on civil defence. In modern times, defence should be a seamless robe. Control of civil defence should be the responsibility not of the Home Office but of the Ministry of Defence. I have said that before and I shall continue to say it. I believe that I have the support of many hon. Members. Over the next three years, time is not on our side. Strength cannot be found in a large number of aeroplanes. We simply do not have enough time to build those planes. Our greatest strength will be found in the involvement of the people. We should have—by registration or any other means—a citizens' army. Such an army would demonstrate that this country has the will to survive. That will tonight, by reason of their amendment, appears to be totally absent from the Opposition.

6.1 pm

I endorse the points raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) about arms control. The White Paper reminds us that the NATO Ministers' decision of 12 December was a dual one. It was agreed that NATO should modernise its theatre nuclear forces in the light of the threat from Soviet longer range theatre nuclear systems, particularly the SS20 and the Backfire bomber. It was also decided to offer the Soviet Union negotiations to limit theatre nuclear weapons as part of a possible SALT III agreement. Unfortunately, the first part of the decision has received far more attention and publicity than the second.

The White Paper makes no attempt to develop arms limitation proposals, but devotes considerable space to detailing the Soviet Union's theatre nuclear capabilities. Paragraph 217 of the White Paper states:
" We would regard an agreement involving significant reductions in the LRTNF deployments of both sides compared with the levels now projected as a highly satisfactory outcome ".
That is hardly a dramatic statement. It continues:
" but to proceed on the assumption that this is certain in advance would actually reduce the chances of achieving it."
I certainly understand the logic of that argument. However, the reverse is also true. To proceed on the assumption that agreement will not be achieved will lead to an appallingly dangerous nuclear arms race in Europe.

In his state of the nation address to the Bundestag last month, Chancellor Helmut Schmidt made quite clear that he wanted to see progress. He said:
" We stand by both parts of the decision... both parts must be taken seriously... NATO's arms control offer to the Soviet Union in the field of theatre nuclear forces will remain on the table and we shall try to make progress on arms limitation wherever this becomes possible."
It is a great pity that the White Paper is not equally positive in its approach.

In the aftermath of Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, we all understand the difficulties of blocking the path to meaningful arms limitation. However, despite the initial Soviet rejection, we must use the three years available before the cruise missiles are available in a genuine and energetic attempt to make their deployment unnecessary. We must remove the threat posed by increasingly menacing Soviet systems.

A major element in the White Paper is the scope and cost of Britain's defence responsibilities. The document makes it abundantly clear that Britain has more commitments, and more extensive ones, than any other European member of NATO. We are committed to the maintenance of an independent strategic nuclear deterrent, the defence of the United Kingdom home base, the defence of the Channel and the eastern Atlantic, and we have a major commitment to the central region of continental Europe. On top of that, the White Paper proposes new commitments outside NATO.

Doubts are already being raised about Britain's ability to discharge all those responsibilities. Can we, for example, afford the massive cost of replacing Polaris, while at the same time providing all the conventional arms and equipment which our Service men so obviously need? Is it possible to do everything set out in the White Paper, with the funds that are likely to be available? The Secretary of State clearly believes that it is. However, when he appeared before the Select Committee, even he appeared to admit an element of doubt. In answer to question 420, posed by my hon. Friend the member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), the Secretary of State said:
" A lot of things are talked about here that we would like to do and it may be in the end we shall not be able to do all of them."
It is that possibility that concerns many Opposition Members and some Conservative Members. If the Government cannot achieve everything in the White Paper, what will their priorities be? The Secretary of State has so far been unwilling or unable to give any indication. Even if it were possible to do everything proposed in the White Paper on the basis of an annual 3 per cent. rise in defence spending, can the nation afford to go on devoting such a large share of its gross domestic product to defence?

Figure 21 on page 26 of the White Paper shows that Britain is already spending almost as much of its gross domestic product on defence as the United States. That has occurred despite the fact that for many years our economy has been in serious decline. The Government's forecast suggests that output in Britain will not improve. Indeed, it is likely to decline still further during the next few years. Defence will, therefore, take a still higher share of national resources.

Even the Financial Times—hardly a pacifist or Left-wing Socialist newspaper —was compelled to inquire in its editorial of 3 April:
" whether a sustained increase of three per cent. a year in defence spending is economically and politically supportable in the long term."
The writer went on to voice a suggestion that has been raised by a number of other commentators. He wrote:
" It may well be that Britain is still trying to do too much or, to put it the other way round, the others too little."
The Secretary of State made clear to the Select Committee that he had an open mind about whether it was possible to " rejig "—as he put it—our commitment to NATO. He very reasonably pointed out that that was a matter for the Alliance to work out. Considering the contributions being made to the cost of joint defence by some of our allies—set out in the White Paper—it is surely high time that the Government began talking seriously about a fairer sharing of defence burdens.

Despite the difficulty of meeting our existing commitments to NATO, the Government propose—in paragraph 409 of the White Paper—that the Services
" should also be able to operate effectively outside the NATO area without diminishing our central commitment to the Alliance ".
To many Opposition Members that has a somewhat ominous ring. It sounds as if the Government are hankering after a return to an East of Suez role, or some world policing responsibility that is quite beyond our capabilities. Few details have been made available about what the Government have in mind. We are told that the additional capabilities can be provided at " relatively modest costs." The White Paper admits that our forces are already suffering a " degree of overstretch " in trying to meet existing NATO responsibilities. It therefore seems extraordinary that the Government should be loading them with more commitments, particularly when they are, apparently, not providing substantial extra resources to meet additional demands.

Paragraph 611 of the White Paper sets out the harsh realities facing the Services when they try to find the trained manpower that they need. An extra 20,000 trained personnel will be needed by the mid·1980s. With fewer young men in the 16–19 age group, the Services will have to recruit 11½ per cent. of them by the end of the 1980s. That means recruiting one out of every nine young men in that age range for the Armed Services. It is no wonder that the White Paper describes that as a " formidable task."

These difficulties make it all the more essential to make the best possible use of reservists. The Secretary of State has clearly recognised that need. The idea that Service women can play an important role in meeting the demand for trained personnel has received a less enthusiastic reception. For some reason the Secretary of State has got himself hooked on the issue of women carrying guns. Apparently he wants to see a great public debate on the question. I cannot understand why. With only 12,700 Service women, excluding nurses, there is tremendous potential for recruiting more women to do a wide range of useful jobs, none of which involves carrying guns. The Select Committee received some evidence suggesting that the Armed Forces were less keen on recruiting women because their period of service was, on average, half that of men. Therefore, expensive training was uneconomic for women. That seems a somewhat short-sighted view, if the aim is to have the maximum number of trained personnel available in this country in the event of war, whether those personnel are male or female.

I turn to the section of the White Paper headed " The Search for Savings " on page 89. When I look at the items mentioned under that heading, I get the distinct impression that Ministers are scrabbling about searching for candle ends. For example, I cannot really believe that putting out Ministry of Defence cleaning and catering work to private contractors will reduce substantially the share of gross domestic product devoted to defence. The Government have not yet indicated what sort of savings they hope to make as a result of this change, but it must pale into insignificance when compared with the £920 million being spent on the Sting Ray light torpedo—a project which is about five years behind schedule and the escalating costs of which have attracted the active interest of the Public Accounts Committee. In any case, the use of contract cleaners and caterers is hardly likely to produce dramatic savings since existing establishments are subject to regular Government inspection, both on staffing levels and efficiency of operation.

It has been suggested that the Ministry of Defence would save the cost of paid holidays and sick leave by using private firms. But such firms would surely have to reflect in their contract prices the cost of these benefits and the cost of wages which meet the requirements of the fair wages resolution—unless, of course, the Government have it in mind to employ the sort of cowboy operators who use casual labour on low pay and with poor conditions of service.

Several hundred of my constituents, working at establishments such as the Woolwich Arsenal and the Woolwich Garrison are affected by these proposals. Most of them are women and many of them are widows. Many have lengthy service and substantial entitlements, both to pension and to redundancy pay, Indeed, I have seen one estimate suggesting that the redundancy payments bill for some 7,000 cleaners alone will be about £1·25 million. Incurring that sort of fruitless expenditure seems a very strange way of saving money. It seems much more likely that the object of the exercise is not so much cost saving as an attempt to fulfil the Ministry of Defence's share of the Government's doctrinaire drive to slash Civil Service manpower.

In conclusion, I am sure that all hon. Members will endorse the White Paper's stated intention of stimulating an informed public debate about defence. But such a debate needs far more than colourful presentation. It must have far more hard facts than are given in this White Paper. In particular, we need to know far more about the Government's priorities so that the nation can decide whether they are the right ones. On those grounds alone, I believe that this White Paper should not be approved.

6.13 pm

I shall not follow the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) in detail. I note that he echoed his right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers), who indulged in wishful thinking that the Warsaw Pact will reduce its arms expenditure. If he believes that, he will believe anything. I should have thought that Afghanistan had proved the opposite, because this is the first time that Russia has used its own troops, instead of Cubans or other allies, for naked aggression.

In particular, I welcome the strengthening of the Navy. The new carriers, the first of which we hope to see something of this week, will be based in Portsmouth. I welcome also the new Navy patrol vessels for the North Sea, because that is probably our most sensitive and vulnerable spot.

It is the morale of people within the Services that really matters. I am concerned with the morale in the Navy, because I am sure that naval personnel realise that the rundown in the dockyards, which back them up, is a matter of serious concern. At the risk of being too parochial, I shall give some examples of the way in which the situation is developing in the Porstmouth dockyard. There is a shortage of skilled men in all the yards, and particularly in Portsmouth. This is largely because of local competition with such firms as Plessey, Marconi, and Vosper Thorneycroft, together with the hundreds of small subcontractors in the area. Whenever more defence contracts are let, the demand of these firms for staff increases and they poach more and more on the dockyard —the main source of skilled men in the area.

The loss of skilled men is serious. They cannot be replaced, even by trainees, because they take a long time to train. It is serious because the apprentices whom the Navy trains do not stay in the dockyard— they go to private firms outside. There are three particular shortages—electricians, electronic engineers and shipwrights.

The port of Portsmouth is far more than just a dockyard. It provides the anchorages and moorings for the Fleet, facilities for temporary berthing for leave periods, facilities for sport and recreation for the Fleet, short-term training, provisions, ammunition, supplies and stores of every kind. All those things are provided and backed by the dockyard. The dockyard itself carries out minor repairs during leave periods, emergency repairs, normal short refits, maintenance docking for bottom painting and long refits up to virtual reconstruction. The Navy just cannot operate without the efficient services of the dockyard behind it.

In Portsmouth, there is a further problem, because the area contains the principal training establishments for the Navy in gunnery, torpedoes, electrics, signals, research and development of weapons and navigation. In all these establishments, the dockyard is responsible for installing the equipment that is used for training and the maintenance of that equipment. If the dockyard cannot maintain that equipment, the training cannot be carried out efficiently. This is a serious part of the training programme, particularly in Portsmouth.

Of course, there are possible cures. First, outside contractors could be used. This has been suggested on many occasions. This is done at present to a limited extent, we must remember the security angle.

I have been following the hon. Member's speech with interest, and I think that he misses the real point when he says that we are short of skills in the dockyard. Why are we short of these skills? None of us would deny Service men the increasees that they are about to get, but the young Service man who has been trained will get more than the skilled artisan in the dockyard. To talk about bringing in outside contractors, who are already paying higher rates than the dockyards are now paying, will simply exacerbate the situation.

The hon. Member has gone slightly ahead of me. I said that one of the possible cures was the introduction or extension of outside contractors. Certainly one of the big problems of introducing outside contractors into the dockyards is that the mateys are working alongside the artisans and skilled men from private enterprise. People from electronics firms and from Vospers work alongside the dockyard mateys, and obviously they discuss pay and conditions. As a result, the dockyard mateys will not continue to work in the dockyard when they can get better paid jobs outside. Not only is the pay so bad compared with skilled jobs outside in his own trade, but it is so bad generally that a dockyard workman will often leave to take up a job of a milkman or some other unskilled position because of the pay differential.

The rundown in the Services last year was very disturbing. We stopped that to a large extent by raising pay, and we could do the same in the dockyards, but the difficulty of doing so is summarised in paragraph 641 of the "Statement on the Defence Estimates 1980 ", which states:
" Ministry of Defence civilians are part of the Civil Service and their pay is settled as a result of central pay negotiations covering the Civil Service as a whole."
The dockyards must be freed from the control of the Civil Service Department. The Admiralty must be responsible, and must have full control. Ideally, the Admiralty should be given a round sum annually to run the Royal Navy, and it should be told to get on with it, but I do not think that Parliament would agree to that. However, there must be far more flexibility on dockyard pay. There must be a realistic basic rate, a productivity bonus and hard-line money. Once this rate is agreed, the maximum lump sum should be allocated to each yard, which would then make its own arrangements, as would any private firm.

As I understand it, the Minister is conducting a full inquiry, and I had hoped that the result would be ready by now.

It is available, but the Minister will not publish it.

I have not seen it, and, as it is not available to the House,I should like to ask the Minister the following questions. How far can outside contractors be brought in? Has he considered the straitjacket of the present financial control by the voting system? Has he considered the scope of long refits? Are they seeking too much perfection? Would a lower scale, or half-life refit, with a shorter life, be more effective and cheaper in the long run? Have studies been made of comparable productivity and efficiency with private yards and the United States Navy? What consideration has been given to the organisation structure compared with that of private yards and with the United States Navy?

The situation is serious and urgent. Unless something is done, the Navy cannot possibly maintain its efficiency. I appeal to the Government to free the dockyards from the Civil Service Department and leave them to the Admiralty, which can, and will, solve the problem.

6.24 pm

I should like to follow a little along the lines of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South (Mr. Pink), because a large number of my constituents work in Portsmouth dockyard, and I know it well. I agree that it is a tragedy that a dockyard that has been modernised to the extent of Portsmouth, and on which a great deal of money has been spent on new buildings, is unable to attract the sort of skilled men that are needed. I hope that the Secretary of State will take on board the comments of the hon. Member for Portsmouth, South.

I congratulate the Ministers at the Ministry of Defence—I believe that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force should be given the real credit—on the production of the White Paper. I disagree with the right hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers), because, at £8·50, it is very expensive. Because of that, its message is unlikely to reach grass roots opinion. That is sad, because it is desirable that as many people as possible should read the arguments and statistics—such as they are— that are presented in the White Paper. I suggest that it is advisable to produce a cheaper version—perhaps not in a variety of colours—for general distribution.

Although the majority of hon. Members sincerely believe in the necessity to modernise and improve our overall defence capabilities, there is considerable evidence, which we will be foolish to ignore, that there is a growing resistance within the country to that concept, and I believe that it will become more virulent as the public expenditure cuts bite deeper. Education of the public is therefore needed, and reminders should be constantly given of the role that NATO has played in preserving peace in Western Europe for the past 31 years. It is likely to do so in the immediate future only from a position of strength and unity.

I have already pledged the support of the Liberal Party to increased defence expenditure. We gave that support during the time of the Lib-Lab pact and we pressed for increased expenditure before that. We have also agreed to the updating of our theatre nuclear weapons by the introduction of the cruise and Pershing II missiles. Like the right hon. Member for Stockton, I still cling to the hope that, despite our present precarious position, we shall be able to ratify SALT II in due course. It is a tragedy that that has not been pursued, largely because of the American presidential elections. I fear that, for the same reason, a desirable move towards SALT III has been prevented. I still hope that we can, with statesmanship, make some progress with the MBFR talks in Vienna.

If confirmation is needed of our inferiority in the field of theatre weapons, it is most clearly demonstrated in the chart on page 15 of the White Paper. At present, we have no answer to the SS4, SS5 and SS20. That should be shown clearly to the public, and they would then be able to understand.

I addressed a meeting on that subject in my constituency last Sunday week. I was the only one in support of cruise missiles then, but at least two people wrote to me afterwards saying that they had not known the other side of the argument, and that they were grateful that it had been put to them.

I repeat my belief that not only can we not afford the independent nuclear deterrent and its replacement by Trident in 1990 or thereabouts, but neither do we need it. A Green Paper on the subject would surely be worth while. Obviously, the Government have some tricky and complicated decisions to take over how to make the best use of the limited resources available. If our Army in particular—but also the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force—is to be provided promptly with the sort of equipment which needs and which our principal adversary already possesses, that will be a vastly expensive exercise, and I do not believe that we can possibly do it all. As the right hon. Member for Stockton said, something must give. What is perhaps more important to remember is that forces that do not have pride or faith in their equipment become dispirited, and morale falls.

I pose two questions. Is a sustained increase of 3 per cent. per annum in real terms to 1986 in defence spending economically and politically supportable in the longer term? Second, is that sufficient adequately to finance existing defence commitments? Those queries are echoed by the Defence Committee, and I congratulate the Chairman and the members of that Committee on producing their report so quickly.

We are surely entitled to ask, if we are to replace Polaris, what items of conventional equipment will have to be forgone. There is no answer in the Defence Estimates. The question is not even discussed. We should remember that Britain has more extensive commitments than any European member of the Alliance. That has been well spelt out in the debate. Our existing forces are undermanned and under-equipped, and there needs to be more consultation about who does what—about the division of labour, as I think the Germans call it. Perhaps Britain is trying to do too much, or, possibly, other countries are doing too little. We need more talks about defence in a total European context. If we could substantially reduce our presence in Northern Ireland where 13,000 troops are tied down, costing a great deal of money, it would be an enormous help. I hope that it will be possible soon.

I turn now to certain specific questions. I wish to indicate areas in which money needs to be spent now. I start by asking how the total sum now available, which we are told is £10·6 billion, is allocated between the three Services. It appears to be on a percentage basis, but surely it ought to be allocated to those whose immediate needs are greatest. I served in the Navy, but it seems to me that the Army's needs are greatest at present.

We are told in column 709 that the Chieftain tank is being improved, but I can find no mention of, or commitment to, the 300 Challengers—those that are available by the courtesy of the Shah of Iran—which I understand could be increased to about 600, thus allowing 300 of the Chieftains that are getting old to be withdrawn. Are we to be told the Government's position on that? The matter is discussed freely in the press, but there is no mention of it in the White Paper.

What is the position on the MBT 80— the main battle tank? Should not present plans be scrapped and a wholly new concept embarked upon for the 1990s? That is not my idea. The point was made in an interesting article in The Economist at the end of March. It seems that when the tank is brought in, it will be out of date.

What is the position with the mechanised combat vehicle? How far has the assessment of the American infantry fighting vehicle progressed? The Secretary of State told us that Warsaw Pact countries have increased the number of such vehicles by about 80 per cent. in the past few years. Our forces have to be carried about in vehicles that are totally out of date and often break down.

What is the up-to-date position on the multi-launch rocket system? Can its entry into service be expedited? We are told that the Army is short of helicopters for transportation duties. What hope is there for an increased supply? What about the new lightweight rifle with its telescopic sight and the prospects for the artillery of the FH70 and the SP70?

We have already had two serious accidents involving Tornados, but as the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) said, their manufacture should be speeded up, because they are not due to come into force until the mid-1980s.

When we discuss the Navy, I am struck by the huge cost of modern warships—£85 million for a Type 42 destroyer.

It may be more, but that is the figure given in the White Paper. We are told that the through-deck cruiser—or new aircraft carrier—costs more than £200 million.

Are we seriously looking at the possibility of carrying out offshore protection with smaller, cheaper and simpler ships and aircraft? Offshore patrol vessels and Nimrods are first-class ships and aircraft and no doubt they do a good job, but they are expensive. I hope that that matter is receiving the serious attention which I am sure it deserves. As far as I am aware, we have had no export orders for any of our OPVs.

The Defence Committee rightly refers to the absence of any mention of hovercraft in the mine counter-measures role. I immediately declare a constituency interest, but the suitability study has been going on for years—certainly for the six years that I have been an hon. Member —at Leigh-on-Solent. Is it not time that conclusions were reached? Once again, we see that a Brecon class ship—a mine sweeper —costs £20 million and a great deal more to man.

I do not want to give Dick Stanton-Jones, the managing director of BHC, any ideas, but it does not cost that much to build a hovercraft. Some of us were surprised the other day when he was said to be quoting £2½ million each for an order for the Middle East. I do not want to put the cost out of context, but I know that it is a lot cheaper than the £20 million for a Brecon class ship, and hovercraft take a lot of blowing up.

Also on the subject of hovercraft, I refer to the larger Mountbatten class— the craft that go across the Channel and particularly the super N4s that work from Dover. Such vessels could play a substantial role in moving and landing assault forces, but there is no mention of that in the White Paper.

Hon. Members have already indicated the problems of Service recruitment that will be faced from 1982 onwards, because of the fall in birth rate and the insufficient number of recruits aged between 16 and 19. We shall desperately need reserve forces with some training. I do not believe in conscription, but it is important that the House should consider the role of community service. It has been discussed on a number of occasions, and I believe that there there is greater agreement than might at first appear. Such a service could have a military aspect, it could deal with civil defence and could include medical services, fire services, social services and helping the elderly, and environmental tasks. That is the way we could do it. I understand the rejection of conscription, but we could achieve our object through community service, taking in youngsters who are unable to find employment or are not going on to further education or skilled employment.

I am pleased that our territorial forces have been resurrected, but it is important that we give them the equipment that they need. At present, they have a great deal of out-dated equipment. We must also go further down the line, to the Sea Cadets and Air Training Corps. I occasionally visit the Sea Cadets at Cowes. They exist on virtually nothing. They receive no money from central sources and little support from elsewhere. In some areas, local firms buy uniforms and equipment. Generally small teams of hardworking organisers are trying to get youngsters interested in a career in the Navy but they get no assistance from the Admiralty. I may be shot down for saying that, but I understand that it is virtually the case. A little money needs to be spent in order to encourage youngsters to play their part.

The future cost of BAOR has not yet been mentioned, but it was taken up by the Defence Committee. I did not appreciate that the offset costs run out this year. What is to be done about that? Surely the cost will not fall totally on the United Kingdom. Are we to have discussions with the Germans to make sure that they continue to pay their fair share? I have suggested that Britain and Germany should each meet a quarter of the direct costs of BAOR and that the other half should come from EEC funds. Are we to get assistance from Greece, Portugal and Spain when they join the EEC?

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the EEC is a non-defence organisation. There would be stiff opposition to any effort to contribute to BAOR or any other defence force directly out of EEC funds. I caution the hon. Gentleman that the nation is not in the mood to see that sort of expansion of the Community's role at present.

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman is right. I believe in European defence, and it is about time that Europe got down to that. I may be singing in the air, but I believe that our colleagues in Europe should understand that if we do not stand together we shall fall. I am suggesting merely that there should be contributions from other Western European countries towards the maintenance of BAOR.

During economic decline, can we go on without examining the realities of defence spending? A careful analysis must be undertaken, evaluating our extended role and the lack of contribution, in real terms, from our European allies. That aspect is raised in the comments of the Defence Committee.

There should be the closest discussion in Europe about defence policy and standardisation of equipment, at least within NATO if we cannot get it wider than that. We also need a closer involve ment of NATO with the Middle East nations. If we are not careful, we shall allow the Warsaw Pact nations to move into that area. We should be foolish to do that.

United within NATO and Europe, there must be hope. Divided, we shall surely fail.

6.40 pm

I agree with the closing words of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), and I shall touch on them towards the end of my remarks.

At the outset, however, I want to applaud the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and to express my thanks for his firm commitment on behalf of the Government to increasing steadily expenditure on defence over the years ahead. I am sure that everyone in the House today recognises that this is urgently necessary and has been so for a very long time.

The fact that our minds are concentrated on the events in Afghanistan and the Middle East is helpful, but it does not of itself create a new situation. We have been becoming weaker in military terms over a period of some time, and I am thankful that this Government are committing us all, through public expenditure, to trying to reverse that trend.

There is no doubt, as the White Paper makes clear, that we are in a period of high risk. In the past we have always been able to rely upon the strategic nuclear deterrent. We felt secure whilst that deterrent remained credible. It is not being alarmist to say that the nuclear deterrent capability is now less than credible and that the balance, even in strategic nuclear weapons, is swinging—if it has not already swung—in favour of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact Powers. This is true also in the case of theatre nuclear weapons, where Warsaw Pact superiority is evident.

I must admit that I feel some anxiety when an authority as eminent as Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Neil Cameron says, as he did last year, that the vulnerability of some of our European target systems to SS20 and Backfire makes him shudder and that the sooner that this superiority can be balanced, the better. If a man with his experience, knowledge and understanding of these matters is given cause to shudder by the imbalance in defensive and offensive weaponry between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, how much more concern should we be expressing that the commitment of my right hon. Friend and his Government colleagues is met in years to come, and with urgency?

It is clear that we shall not go through a period in which there is likely to be ample warning of any aggressive military intent against us. We have to be ready to meet that, and the strike could come literally overnight. So my right hon. Friend is right to underline that, as we enter the 1980s, we enter a decade of real danger.

There is a gap to which my right hon. Friend was not able to draw attention in his White Paper. Other right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned it already. Indeed, some did so during interruptions in my right hon. Friend's speech. That gap is the need to strengthen our home defences through the creation of an effective volunteer civil defence force. The creation of such a force, at least to ensure an element of survivability in the event of a nuclear attack, is itself an essential part of the credibility of our nuclear deterrent. We should also bear in mind that we are vulnerable not only to the threat of strategic nuclear attack but to the threat of so-called conventional attack.

Against these threats, we must have an effectively organised volunteer civil defence capability. I regret that this is not a part of my right hon. Friend's White Paper. It should be. It should not be relegated to the Home Department, which displays a singular lack of urgency on this issue. It should form a central feature of this Defence White Paper. I beg my right hon. Friend to make the strongest possible representations that these responsibilities are taken over by him and the Ministry of Defence and no longer remain in the hands of the Home Office. It is vital that the people are alerted to the real risks and that, in being alerted to them, they are at the same time shown how to prepare to meet them and guard against them.

I hope that in the course of my right hon. Friend's discussions with his Government colleagues he will require other Ministers to demonstrate some real urgency about this issue, as he has demon strated about those matters which now fall directly within his own responsibility.

I wish to re-emphasise what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir. J. Eden) said. Is he aware that as recently as last week, in a written reply, a Home Office Minister made it clear that his Department was unwilling even to identify publicly existing buildings and underground garages that might be available and suitable for use as nuclear fall-out shelters?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is just an indication of the ostrich-like attitude that the Home Office is adopting to this subject. This is an issue, beyond all others, where there should be the greatest possible public discussion and public knowledge. [Interruption.] If hon. Members do not like what they hear or are told, let them join others and disappear from the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because the most urgent need in this country is to prepare to defend ourselves in the event of attack. That cannot be done unless we have the information on which to do it and on which to prepare individual citizens against that threat.

In Luxembourg last year, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made quite clear what, in her view, was the threat to Europe. She said:
" It is symbolised by the massive armies ranged by the Russians against us in the East, and by the stream of propaganda which they continue to direct against our institutions and aspirations. Let me be clear. The Soviet armies in Europe are organised and trained for attack. Their military strength is growing. The Russians do not publish their intentions. So we must judge them by their military capabilities."
If hon. Members study the White Paper, or read information currently available, they will learn quickly that the development of Soviet naval power, the vast increase in her armies, the enormous strike capability of the air forces of the Warsaw Pact countries and their chemical warfare capabilities are all openly and increasingly offensively oriented. Let that be understood. Those who wish to conceal those facts should face the responsibility that they place on the shoulders of their fellow countrymen by doing so.

It seems clear that the Soviet Union has taken a decision to be more aggressive on grounds, perhaps, that this appears safe—hence its invasion of Afghanistan. There are, however, other areas of threat. A big build-up has been taking place for some time in North Yemen. There is the threat to the independence of Oman and the whole of the Gulf region. There is also the threat to Iran itself from aggressive Soviet intent. The vulnerability of Iran to Russian invasion is a real factor.

There is ample evidence of Russian military ambition, whether directly mounted, or done through the Cubans or others, in the African continent. There is no doubt also that the Caribbean is an area of high vulnerability. All these matters underline the point that NATO's defence does not lie in Europe alone but must be organised and co-ordinated in depth. I agree very much with the hon. Member for Isle of Wight that we need an effective European response that goes far beyond the confines of the European continent.

We need a clear demonstration, that was not forthcoming at the time of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, of European political co-ordination and European political will. This is the most important task for Western leaders. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence have not only the greatest responsibility in these matters but also the greates opportunity to give a lead to the whole of the Western nations to show a more flexible and more realistic counter to the threat from the Communist forces of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact arraigned against us today.

6.52 pm

I listened carefully to the speech of the right hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden). I could pursue his remarks, but I do not intend to do so. I feel tempted to follow his obscurantist exploits in Africa, with the Cubans in the Horn, but that is not the subject of this debate. I wish to console my hon. Friends by saying that I intend to make a short intervention. I should have liked to direct my comments to the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy, but he has left the Chamber. I do not intend to zoom into the upper altitudes of geo-politics. I ask the Minister, to whom I intend to talk later, to study page 89 of the White Paper "Defence in the 1980s", which, under the heading " The Search for Savings ", states:

"The Government is committed to making the best possible use of the taxpayer's money."
I hope that they are. I do not think it always happens.
" The Ministry of Defence, as a major spending department, must play a full part in the pursuit of efficiency and savings."
I should like to suggest savings that the Under-Secretary of State could make. I invite him to visit my constituency, as the Select Committee did two years ago, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Goole (Dr. Marshall), another Humber constituency. The Select Committee told the Government of the day, which unfortunately, did not take its advice, that they should examine some of the magnificent vessels, particularly the large 90-metre long vessels, lying in Albert dock. They are ideal for many of the tasks mentioned in the White Paper, especially for offshore protection of these islands and its fishing. Although the previous Government did not examine this possibility, I suggest to the Minister that there are considerable savings to be made on what is contained in the White Paper.

Paragraph 725 on page 75 states:
"The United Kingdom must be able to protect its valuable offshore resources of oil, gas and fish."
That is the understatement of the year. Of course they must be protected. I quote official figures so that I cannot be accused of distortion. The table dealing with fishery protection on page 57 of volume II states that vessels boarded in 1977 totalled 1,702; in 1978, 1,637; and in 1979, 1,563. Any skipper, vessel owner, man on the deck, or anyone in a fishing port, will confirm that this country suffers more from poaching, particularly by our so-called partners in the EEC, than ever before. Yet fewer offenders are hauled into port.

The figures for convictions appal me. Convictions arising from boardings by the Royal Navy were 22 in 1977, 20 in 1978 and 24 in 1979. I should like to know the fines that have been imposed to deter these vessels. It is stupid to talk of conservation of fishing stocks if protection is not enforced and if we fail to deal with these villains who are looting and stealing the stocks on the seabed. I should like to know the amount of fines imposed on these people, whether they are Dutch, German or French.

The same table states:
" Boardings carried out by vessels of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland are not included."
I happen to know that fishing in Scotland, in terms of tens of thousands of tons, and also in money value, is higher than it is south of the Tweed. Yet nothing is shown in the statistics about what is happening in Scotland. I should like to know, not only for my own information, but for my constituents in Hull. We think that we are getting a bad deal. Our answer is to suggest that the Government should use vessels that are available for conversion instead of building new ones. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) quoted astronomical figures for the cost of vessels. I believe that he quoted £200 million for a certain vessel.

That figure was for a through-deck cruiser that takes 13 years to develop.

I can tell the Minister that if he cares to come to Hull he can purchase two of the finest boats that ever fished in the Arctic for £2 million each. They are the "Arctic Corsair" and the " Arctic Galliard ". Both can be converted at fairly short notice, I imagine, given the calibre of those employed in our dockyards. They can be used instead of buying new vessels. It disturbs me that we should be down to the last two of the Island class vessels. The last two have now been launched and accepted into service.

The White Paper says that we need new offshore patrol vessels. Why wait months or years and spend tens of millions of pounds building new vessels when these boats are available and are now useless? It is a sin that such boats, which caught hundreds of thousands of tons of fish, are just lying there, lapping on the tide. It is appalling to think that they are finished, unless the Government begin to think differently.

The boats mentioned in the White Paper are coming off the stocks too slowly and too expensively, yet these first-class vessels are lying idle. I hope that the Navy Minister will go up to Humberside and see what he can do. Yards have been tendering for nearly two years for certain types of vessel. When I have the luck to have an audience with the Minister, I shall give him the details of the yards. I hope that something will be done. The present process is too slow and leisurely and gives little, if any, satisfaction to people in the North.

I may be mistaken, but I understand that we have stood our corner and pledged ourselves to find two weather ships for NATO in North-West Europe. If we are to have to buy two met ships, I plead with the Minister to consider these vessels. They are surplus, because we are barred from Arctic waters. We are barred from the White Sea and Barents Strait by the Soviets, off Spits-bergen by the Norwegians, off Labrador by the Canadians and off Iceland by the Icelanders.

I hope that the Minister will convey what I have said to the Navy Minister and that something will be done.

7.3 pm

I begin by congratulating the Secretary of State most warmly on his first White Paper, although I agree with the complaint by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) that it is expensive at £8·50. I was fortunate enough to make my maiden speech in such a defence debate as this and I recollect that the Stationery Office charged a shilling for that White Paper. At that time the House was debating Cmnd. 952, and tonight it is debating Cmnd. 7826. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge and many White Papers have been churned from the presses. The world remains as dangerous a place as ever, but at least the standard of this White Paper is higher than that of any I have yet seen.

No corner of England contributes in a more varied way to our defences than that which I represent. We can claim the headquarters of United Kingdom Land Forces, the headquarters of Southwest district and the headquarters of 8th Field Force. We can boast the unrivalled facilities of Boscombe Down, where military aircraft are tested before being taken into service, and where the Tornado has been going through its tests. We have Larkhill and a remarkable range of research establishments.

The Army owns 60,000 acres of Salisbury Plain, and long may it remain there. This week more than 7,000 soldiers are engaged in an exercise known as " Tiger's Head ". I am glad that the weather forecast for them is good. Relations with the civil population locally and with the Army's tenant farmers are excellent.

I understand that the River Elbe, where East meets West and where never a gun is allowed to be fired, has become the finest bird sanctuary in Europe as a result. Something of the same applies to Salisbury Plain. The flora and fauna and wildlife are protected, thanks to the presence of the military.

This goes further than mere conservation. The Secretary of State will know that, thanks to co-operation with his Department, there is a five-acre pen where serious efforts are being made—I think that they will succeed—to re-establish the great bustard, which is an extinct species in this country. Four pairs of birds were introduced. For the first time, last year they laid eggs and one chick hatched, but it survived for only 48 hours. The Army in the Salisbury area is as welcome as it is indispensable.

I want to refer tonight to Porton. The White Paper stresses the capacity of Soviet forces for chemical warfare. I was delighted that my right hon. Friend the member for Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden) made valuable reference to that point. Porton has knowledge of this specialised field, which dates back to the days before the Soviet Union was created.

The first gas attack took place in the spring of 1915, when a yellow cloud of chlorine gas blew across to the allied lines. Our troops were totally unprotected. Fortunately, the Germans launched their attack late in the day and dusk had descended before they could appreciate and exploit the immense success of their action. That is going back a long way, but it was that incident 65 years ago, almost to the day, which set in train the full study of protective measures—respirators, filters and the rest —which now takes place at Porton.

The chemical defence establishment a few miles to the east of Salisbury contains a body of dedicated scientists who stand ready to respond to whatever additional demands the Secretary of State may decide to place upon them. Never again must our troops be allowed to face chemical warfare unprotected.

A number of us in this country share the concern of the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hamilton) about the development of chemical weapons. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is regrettable that there is only a short statement about that subject in the White Paper, and that it makes no response to the suggestion of Mr. Gromyko that an agreement should be drawn up to prohibit the development and use of such weapons?

The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) will know that at the beginning of the century the Hague convention outlawed chemical warfare. One does not have to be much of a cynic today to question the efficacy of treaties such as the one suggested by the hon. Gentleman. Despite the treaty at the beginning of the century, the Germans launched the first chemical attacks in 1915.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hamilton) will correct me if I am wrong, but is it not right—as pointed out in the White Paper —that the Soviet Union has a large offensive capability and stocks of chemical weapons? Our capability in this respect is entirely limited to a defence capability. What, therefore, is the point of an agreement?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Nelson).

I turn from chemical warfare to biological warfare, and I am sorry that this excellent White Paper makes no reference to the threat of biological warfare. The House knows that long-range Soviet aircraft enter our skies daily. The Secretary of State knows that a single journey by one such aircraft fitted with spray tanks and the biological agent, and making use of prevailing winds, could cause havoc among an unprotected population.

The Attlee Administration appreciated that danger and set up a huge purpose built microbiological research establishment. I believe that it is one of the largest brick buildings in the world. Two years ago, the Administration of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Cal-laghan) decided to dispense with it. In this White Paper, the Secretary of State says:
" Defence capability takes a long time to build. It cannot be acquired or re-built suddenly... after it has been allowed to run down..."
That is correct, but I ask my right hon. Friend to ponder long and deeply whether the previous Administration had their priorities right.

I ask my right hon. Friend to ponder on the infinitely small fraction of 1 per cent. of his total defence budget that could reinstate this protection for the civil population. Biological warfare is a remarkably simple, unsophisticated business. It is also cheap; it is real bargain basement stuff. I suggest that it would be foolhardy to assume, in the present climate, that this weapon will not be used.

7.13 pm

I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hamilton) in the general body of his speech. My intention is to concentrate on those aspects of the debate that relate more particularly to my constituency, whose special feature is the Royal Naval base at Rosyth. I, therefore, zero in on those aspects of the White Paper affecting the replacement of Polaris, its relationship to employment in the naval dockyard there and for future employment prospects in the shipbuilding industry.

I wish to probe the Minister on the study on the future of naval dockyards generally which we have been told has just been completed. The White Paper states at paragraph 211:
" A programme of improvements to maintain the effectiveness of the strategic deterrent is well advanced. The programme, code-named Chevaline, is designed to respond to Soviet anti-ballistic missile capabilities which we know are being improved.
Chevaline involves a major and complex development of the missile front end and changes to the fire control system. The improved missile will carry advanced penetration aids and be able to manoeuvre its payload in space. The total cost of the programme is estimated at about £1 billion."
The problem for those of us who are interested in this aspect of the matter is to find out whether that £1 billion involves any additional expenditure on the modification of the Polaris boat hull and whether that work would involve a dockyard or take place in conjunction with British Shipbuilders. We should also like to know whether this programme would involve solely the modification of the weapon system. Clearly, if it involves modification of the hulls, we must be sure that the manpower is available, either within the dockyard or elsewhere.

We need much more information than is contained in the White Paper about the replacement of the Polaris system in total. We are all, rightly, concerned about the capital cost of replacement I take it that the Secretary of State, while being rightly guarded in his remarks today, will give us some indication of the time scale for a decision. It is true to say that a delayed decision means a delayed decision not to replace.

I am told that it is possible to keep a strategic deterrent well into the 1990s at little additional cost. The recent Adelphi paper by Professor Peter Nailor and Jonathan Alford is very persuasive. I quote some of the conclusions of the Adelphi paper:
"It is becoming clear that the British Government is very interested in acquiring the Trident C4 missile from the United States. Such a missile would clearly increase Britain's capability substantially even if only deployed in the same numbers as Polaris A3. The thrust of this Paper is that it is doubtful whether Britain needs to be able to deploy more warheads of substantially increased accuracy on missiles with close to twice the range. Rather, the analysis points to the conclusion that the Polaris A3 will remain an adequate missile even if new platforms have to be built to carry it Clearly ageing of this missile will be a matter for concern, but there do not as yet appear to be any absolute barriers to prevent Britain taking the necessary steps to assure the reliability of the system into the next century."
That is a persuasive document, and the Minister, I believe, has a responsibility— if he does not intend to produce a Green Paper on this matter—to spell out as soon as he can to the House and to others what his thinking is about the total cost of the system and whether we require hulls. That decision involves not only the dockyard but an analysis of the building programme of British Shipbuilders.

I turn now to the second report of the Select Committee. We are all indebted to the Committee for the expeditious way in which it has produced the report. In paragraph 16 it states:
" The important role of submarines in antisubmarine warfare is restated in the White Paper. More nuclear-powered fleet submarines (SSNs) are being ordered and under construction and studies are well advanced for a new class of conventionally-powered patrol submarines. At present only one shipyard (Vickers at Barrow) is building nuclear-powered submarines, although another has constructed such submarines sufficiently recently for it to be able to do so again."
I take it that that refers to Cammell Laird whose yard is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who tried unsuccessfully this afternoon to move the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 on a matter connected with the yard. We have to be very clear about how we load particular shipyards.

The report continues:
"(1) We note the serious impact on present plans to build fleet and patrol submarines which would result from a decision to build a new class of submarines to replace the Polaris boats as the British strategic nuclear deterrent.
(2) We were told that if such a decision were taken, extra capital investment could be made to increase submarine-building capacity. Nevertheless, the construction of four or five nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines would result in the loss or postponement of the production of some nuclear-powered fleet submarines. Shortage of manpower with particular skills would be an important factor in creating such a bottleneck."
I know that there has to be long-term planning in connection with this, and I know the responsibilities and difficulties in the dockyards.

I speak with a declared interest because I am still the director of a subsidiary company and shipyard which has no direct responsibility at present for building naval vessels of this calibre. British Shipbuilders has a corporate plan which should be valid until 1985. The Government have a responsibility through the Ministry of Defence to clarify their position in relation to the loading of these yards.

The key decision has to be the loading of the naval yards and then the loading of the so-called mixed yard. Unless that is done quickly, not only in respect of direct naval building but of other public sector building, these yards will have to relinquish manpower which, as the Secretary of State indicated, might be needed but could not be called into being overnight.

The problem of obtaining skilled manpower is manifest not just in British ship yards but in the dockyards too. As the White Paper indicates in paragraph 637, the problem of skilled manpower is a severe consideration in the Royal Naval dockyards. Many of the skills employed in the dockyards are highly prized by outside industry, and in this respect outside industry pays higher wages. However, it is not better at training manpower. All too often, men trained in the dockyard go to outside industry for employment, particularly in areas with oil-related activities. The dockyards undertake extensive training of apprentices only to find that when they become journeymen they move off to better paid employment outside.

This brings me to the study of the naval dockyards. I understand from the White Paper and from parliamentary answers that it was completed recently and is in the hands of the Secretary of State. It was delivered to him on 1 April, perhaps an unfortunate date on which to hand him such a paper. I urge the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary responsible for the Navy to accept a responsibility here for the widest possible dissemination of the document and the widest possible discussion of its implications and conclusions.

The Secretary of State underlined the importance of morale, and it is vital to appreciate the morale of people engaged in back-up services. I refer here particularly to the dockyard, where morale has been undermined. There is some indication—I speak only about Rosyth—that morale is getting better, but it is important to keep morale high in the dockyards and to give the dockyards' management much more flexibility in dealing with labour relations and collective bargaining matters.

I conclude on a very narrow aspect of dockyard activity but one of supreme importance in our dealing with nuclear matters. The submarines contain a small and compact pressurised-water reactor. The individuals who are engaged in the repair and maintenance of the reactors expose themselves to additional radiation hazards. There is considerable pressure from the trade union movement for it to secure access to the records of the workers. I urge the Secretary of State to consider, with the Secretary of State for Employment, the updating of the ionisation regulations of 1968 and 1969 to allow trade union representatives direct access to the records of the workers.

I realise the difficulty, but the overriding claim for open government in terms of these records should allow updating to best practice here in terms of the gloss that the Department of Employment puts on a recent European draft convention on the matter. The Government should on this issue give the widest possible dissemination of information to agreed representatives of the workers.

7.27 pm

The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) concentrated on a narrow but important part of our nuclear deterrent policy. I welcome the Government's determination, which was shared by their predecessors, to maintain our independent nuclear capability as a contribution to the strength of NATO. It is a vital part of what the White Paper calls " effective deterrence ", and I share the hope that it will not be long before the Government are able to come forward with their proposals and indicate how they are deciding between a replacement of the Polaris submarine and a possible alternative, namely, the provision of ballistic or cruise missiles, which are certainly favoured by some experts.

It is impossible for hon. Members— and this will be one of the difficulties in the presentation of the Green Paper—to assess all the facts and information, much of which must in the national interest remain secure and be kept within the confines of even a small number of Ministers. I say only that the situation which the West faces is so grave that, if there is any doubt, we should have both. In other words, we must face the expense necessary to ensure that our defences are adequate. The brutal Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has underlined the nature of the global threat to the freedom and security of us all.

The tragic consequence of the troubles in Iran has shown that danger can arise in unforeseen ways. My right hon. Friend made an impressive speech and produced a realistic White Paper. He said that it is the thirteenth contingency that one does not think of. Unhappily, the abortive attempt to rescue the illegally detained hostages in Iran has proved once again the truth of what a nineteenth century Liberal statesman, Lord Harcourt, said. Intervention may be justified on many grounds, but nothing is more injudicious than an unsuccessful intervention.

My right hon. Friend rightly indicated that the message must go from this House and from our European partners that we fully support President Carter and the American people. We understand then-position. We recognise the patience that they have shown, and we shall continue to take whatever measures are necessary to support them in getting the hostages out.

One factor is clear. Europe, which has sheltered for so long under the umbrella of American strength, must now be prepared to share the burdens as well as the benefits of the Alliance. We must therefore be prepared to spend more on our own defence. I have always shared the view of those who say that we cannot express defence expenditure arbitrarily as a percentage of GNP. I accept what my right hon. Friend says. In agreement with our allies, we have fixed for the moment an annual increase of 3 per cent. If circumstances change—and the Treasury would like them to change one way rather than another—the increase can be greater.

However, it is not enough to provide only money. It will take great effort to fill the gap. It takes time to spend the money. I believe that it was Stanley Baldwin who once said that the trouble with democracies is that they are always two years behind dictators, even when it is a matter of life and death. With modern technology, if we are not careful, we may be five years or more behind.

We are apt to condemn the leaders of the 1930s for their failure to react to the aggressive policies of Hitler. However, the free world is perhaps facing an even graver peril today. Many of us in this House—most of whom are on the Opposition Benches—still have to understand the one simple truth stated by Neville Chamberlain in this House on 6 October 1938, when his policy of appeasement was collapsing in ruins. He said:
" Our past experience has shown us only too clearly that weakness in armed strength means weakness in diplomacy ".—[Official Report, 6 October 1938; Vol. 339, c. 551.]
There is no escaping the consequences of military inferiority. Let us face it, the wishful thinking about detente in the 1970s was not so very different from the appeasement of the 1930s. As my right hon. Friend explained, as a result, in the 1980s we have to face the growing threat of superior Soviet forces—in quality as well as quantity. The balance of military power has shifted against the West not only in Europe but in the Eastern and Southern Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. Some of us have been saying that for some years, but I believe that it is now appreciated.

At the same time that the capability of the Alliance has declined in nuclear and conventional capability, the Soviet Union, as my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) has been saying in defence debate after defence debate, has been building a first-class blue-water navy. We have consistently refused to face the fact that about 80 per cent. of NATO's oil and 70 per cent. of its strategic raw materials move through waters highly vulnerable to Soviet naval and air attack. Sooner or later we have to mention South Africa in a defence White Paper. We can now surely perceive the folly or unilaterally abrogating the Simonstown agreement and abandoning the base at Gan. I should like to have seen a little more in the White Paper about our wider defence interests, but I know that my right hon. Friend has them well in mind, and the defence statement covers a great deal.

In paragraph 404, the White Paper states:
" The Government will continue to play a full part in firm collective Western responses to Soviet encroachments."
I should have welcomed an announcement that we were to revive the joint airborne task force that was dissolved in 1974, buttressed and extended by an appropriate naval force. That airborne force consisted of Hercules aircraft and parachute units. It gave us the capability to deploy a battalion of about 650 men and 200 tons of guns, ammunition and stores in a single lift to any required destination. To some extent, we can commit that to NATO, but I should like us to have it firmly in our own hands.

The defence statement is right in saying that the Soviet Union's actions are governed in part by its assessment of the West's reaction. We may expect the Soviet leadership to recognise and exploit any indecision, mistakes and weaknesses. I firmly believe that an essential element in defence is the demonstration to a potential aggressor of a manifest will to resist attack. I welcome the Government's determination with regard to Polaris, but if the doctrine of flexible response is to mean anything in the 1980s—and it is not much more than the old doctrine of the tripwire, because it is still a question of how many hours a Soviet aggressor would take to reach the Rhine—we must be equally concerned to strengthen our conventional capability, particularly with regard to home defence.

Like the hon. Member for Dunfermline, I warmly welcome the second report of the all-party Select Committee on Defence, which points to deficiencies that should be remedied as rapidly as possible. We clearly need better air and naval defence of our shores. We need home forces to protect vital bases and installations, to deal with enemy infiltration and parachutists or other forces that they may land, and, in the last resort, to maintain the essential elements of government.

I also agree with those who believe that civil defence is essential, in that it convinces an aggressor that he will, in truth, be resisted. It also—and this is important—involves the nation in a better understanding of what is at stake and the dangers that have to be faced.

My right hon. Friend said that civil defence is not a matter for him, but I do not believe that it can be left solely to the Home Office- There is a dangerous blurring of responsibilities here. In 1966, the Labour Government cut the Territorial Army and put the civil defence and auxiliary fire service on what was euphemistically called a care and maintenance basis. The then Secretary of State for Defence, who is the man most responsible for the greatest part of the damage done to our defences in recent years, the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), in effect, dispensed with 100,000 volunteers. He then said that if home defence was ever needed in the United Kingdom we would clearly have " gone nuclear ", which is a characteristic phrase, and which was a foolish assumption, even at that time.

Even in the event of nuclear war, there are some things that we can and should do to mitigate the effects—rescue survivors and stage some sort of come-back. We need to give the impression to a potential aggressor that there is no question of anybody walking in, as Solzhenitsyn once said, and taking this country with his bare hands.

The more likely consequences of a devastating conventional attack by the new generation of Soviet weapons, about which my right hon. Friend spoke so eloquently, have to be faced. I have long advocated the creation of a civilian volunteer force, capable of mounting adequate emergency services to meet unforeseen situations of the kind which, as my right hon. Friend says, history shows arise in unpredictable ways. We have never lacked citizens ready to come forward to help, but it requires organisation and training to make those services effective. That cannot be achieved during any envisaged warning period, however unwisely optimistic, as at present

It should be remembered that we were better prepared in 1939. Then we did have gas masks. We were prepared to deal with the form of chemical warfare that existed then. People laughed because they could throw the cardboard boxes away, but it was the fact that we had the gas masks that ensured that gas was never used. There were plans to evacuate 1½ million people from the great cities within a few days. The Anderson shelters had been ordered and were in production. Therefore, in many ways the Government of the 1930s had a far better grasp of the defence requirements of this country than have the previous two Labour Governments.

I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows what has to be done and is doing it as urgently and effectively as possible. In many ways the most urgent task of the West is to awaken the people of all our countries to the real and immediate threat to their security, however unwelcome that truth may be.

7.40 pm

This is the first occasion on which I have participated in a debate on the Defence Estimates. As I said earlier to the Secretary of State for Defence, what distresses me and my constituents is that, when we look through the Defence Estimates, we see no mention of any new arms control initiatives. They are missing. It is that aspect of the matter that concerns me as a new Member of the House.

The House must ask what it is to make of a document which talks about NATO as an instrument of detente. The United Kingdom commitment to NATO is responsible for 95 per cent. of our defence expenditure, as the right hon. Gentleman confirmed in a parliamentary answer to me on 14 November last year. It is responsible for our enormously costly Polaris strategic deterrent and its probable replacement, Trident. It is responsible for our maintaining nearly 100,000 troops abroad at a cost of £1,150 million. It is responsible for a military research and development effort which last year cost £1,081 million. As we well know, NATO membership is also responsible for a yearly 3 per cent. increase, excluding inflation, in the United Kingdom's defence budget.

Those are some of the economic consequences of NATO membership. However, there are just as important political considerations for this country. It is an undisputed fact that NATO was formed in April 1949, on the initiative of the United States, to consolidate capitalism in Western Europe, to intimidate if possible the Socialist countries and to impede the growth of the world's national liberation and progressive movements. We need only look at the countries that are leaders of the Alliance to understand the role for which NATO was formed and whose interests it is intended to serve.

Labour's Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, when moving approval of the United Kingdom's membership of NATO on 12 March 1949, was quite explicit about the purpose of the pact. He said that everyone, meaning the Western powers,
" was concerned as to how we could bring order out of the economic chaos that existed in Europe and in other parts of the world as well. We derived the greatest encouragement from the Marshall Aid offer, which was an indication of a great desire on the part of the United States to assist in healing the wounds of Europe and to put it back on its economic feet."
He added that:
" the countries forming this Atlantic pact are democratic countries. We have a common purpose to defend and what is more natural than that we should come together to defend it? "
—[Official Report, 12 May 1949; Vol. 464, c. 2013–16.]

More explicit still in identifying who the Alliance was directed against was Senator Cannon, who in 1949 was chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the American Senate. He said:
" Moscow and every other centre in Russia must be hit within one week after the war starts and that can be done only by land-based planes."
He added:
" In the next war let us equip soldiers from other nations and let them and their boys go into the holocaust instead of sending our own boys."
That is one of the reasons why cruise missiles are now being established in this country. It is not to defend Britain, but rather to defend the interests of the United States.

That is contained in a document that is prepared to talk of NATO as an instrument of detente. It is that same organisation which, since its inception, has fuelled the arms spiral. It is the organisation, dominated by the United States, whose initiatives created the H-bomb and the long-range bomber in 1953; the intercontinental ballistic missile in 1955; the nuclear submarine in 1956; the anti-ballistic missile in 1960; multiple warhead missiles in 1964, the neutron bomb and the cruise missile in 1976 and the MX missile and the giant Trident submarine in 1978.

It is that same organisation which, last year, spent £200 billion on arms, twice as much as the Warsaw Pact countries. It is that some organisation which, since its inception, has encouraged and assisted the disastrous defence policies pursued by various member Governments in Malaya, Korea, Kenya, Cyprus, Oman, Indonesia, Aden, Vietnam, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic and Iran.

Should we seriously accept affiliation to an organisation which, under article 4 of its charter, invests to itself the right deliberately to interfere in the internal affairs of another country? It seems futile to expect detente from an organisation whose response to Brezhnev's peace proposals in October 1979 was immediately to give the green light to the deployment in Western Europe of 572 cruise and Pershing II missiles. It should be remembered that that is the same organisation which, in the summer of 1976, when the United Nations was holding a special peace and disarmament session in New York, met at Washington and agreed to a United States demand for a 15-year armaments modernisation programme, whose 100 measures will cost $80 billion.

It gave Labour Members no great pleasure to witness a British Government bearing our party's name taking office and on the one hand having their social policies savagely restricted by one arm of United States foreign policy—the International Monetary Fund—and on the other being ordered to increase its military spending each year by the other arm of foreign policy—NATO. The priorities of the United States' leaders have been Chieftan tanks and multipurpose combat aircraft, not old people's homes and primary schools.

The most important point of all to bear in mind is that membership of NATO is not a static or unchanging affiliation. As we have seen in the very recent past, it allows one's country to be dragooned into an even more costly and dangerous arms race. The determination of that policy is in the hands of those miltiary and Government leaders who, in Bevin's words,
" have a common purpose to defend ",
and they increasingly take the view that the internal economic and social ability of the capitalist system is threatened by the worldwide liberation and democratic struggles of the peoples in the developing countries.

With each major conflict between capital and labour in the metropolitan countries—one needs to look only at the votes which the Socialist parties receive in France and Italy and at the pressure which immediately comes from NATO to ensure that there will be no broad-based coalition Government in Italy— and with each freedom struggle by the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the cry immediately goes out from the NATO hard hats that the West must strengthen its resolve and its defences. As a result, another twist is given to world tension and the arms spiral.

Throughout all this, the people most concerned with our involvement in NATO—the United States military and industrial corporations—are not doing too badly. Having saturated the enormous home market—$126 billion last year— they sold £14 billion worth of arms abroad. The Middle East heads the list of major buyers, which includes almost every reactionary regime in the world. For example, in recent years arms sales to South Africa have amounted to $3 billion. Arms were also supplied to South Korea, Chile, Saudi Arabia and, until the revolution, Iran. Far from being an instrument of detente, as we should like NATO to be, and as our people would like to believe it is, that illustrates that the military industrial complexes on both sides of the Atlantic, whose apologists dominate NATO, regard detente and peaceful coexistence as a direct threat to their own selfish interests.

As the United States professor, George Kennan said in the New York Saturday Review in 1977:
" The improvement of political relations between the USSR and the USA is perceived by the giant communities, which thrive on tension and military confrontation, as an acute danger."
As if to confirm Kennan's point, the reactionary American publicist Schlamm, wrote, again in 1977, that
" peace must be overcome because communists gain from peace and triumph in conditions of peace."
This Atlantic Moloch continues to guzzle up the fruits of the labour of millions of people in this country and continues to push the world to ever new spirals of the arms race. It has become one, if not the main, obstacle in the path to consolidating detente. It is now what it always has been: the instrument of the United States and the West European community of military industrial concerns.

But there is an alternative. Quite recently, the TUC launched its campaign for economic and social advance in this country. In the document, it makes the point that at the same time as we are about to spend £10,000 million on arms, the Government are dismantling both the Welfare State and British industry. They intend to cut the Labour Government's plans for the Welfare State. Housing will be cut by £1,576 million. Education and Science will be cut by £530 million. Health and personal social services will be cut by £237 million and social security by £50 million. Lending to nationalised industries will be cut by £100 million. Valuable public assets will be sold off for £500 million. Roads and transport will be denied £279 million, Energy, trade, industry and employment assistance will be denied £476 million.

The Government appear to be determined to drag working people and their families back to the 1930s, with their industrial and social policies. Child benefits will rise by only 79p—less than the level of inflation. The real level of short-term unemployment and sickness benefits will be cut. The earnings-related unemployment benefit is to be scrapped. The families of strikers will lose £12 a week in supplementary benefit. The Government also intend to tax short-term benefits.

To imitate the 1930s in fashion and design is inoffensive and harmless. However, to imitate the 1930s in economic and social policies can only prove utterly destructive for the vast majority of workers in this country. I suggest that, as the Government seem determined to imitate the 1930s, our defence expenditure should be cut immediately to the 1930s level to reflect that as well.

I conclude by reading from a comment made by a fairly wise man who quite recently presented the Louise Weiss foundation prize to the International Peace Research Institute, Stockholm.

The hon. Member is right. Lord Mountbatten said:

" We are most likely to preserve the peace if there is a military balance of strength between East and West. The real need is for both sides to replace the attempts to maintain a balance through ever-increasing and ever more costly nuclear armaments by a balance based on mutual restraint... I regret the fact that opposition to reaching any agreement which will bring about a restraint in the production and deployment of nuclear weapons is becoming so powerful in the United States... The nuclear arms race has no military purpose. Wars cannot be fought with nuclear weapons. Their existence only adds to our perils."
Like many other Opposition Members, tomorrow night I shall vote against the Government's defence expenditure. It means nothing to the ordinary man in the street except further unemployment and further misery. How shall we increase recruitment of young people by 11½ per cent. unless we are to increase unemployment or to increase considerably the wages of the Armed Forces? That is the only thing that will drive young people, not the warmongering that comes from the Conservative Benches. I believe that defence expenditure is both morally wrong and inhumane. I shall certainly vote against it tomorrow night.

7.55 pm

It is quite clear that the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) wants to end all forms of defence. I remind him that so did some of his predecessors in the 1930s—and that landed us in Dunkirk. This time we shall not get a second chance.

Anyone who believes that this country can be defended against the USSR without NATO either needs his head examining or, perhaps really wants the Soviet Union to take over. In the latter case, he will not get his pension, his education, his houses or his roads, and he will lose his freedom. Is that what the hon. Gentleman wants?

This White Paper is a very great improvement on its predecessors. I join in the congratulations to my right hon. Friend, given by both sides of the House, on the layout, and particularly the illustrations and the statistics, which are very useful indeed. I hope that in due course, prodded by the Select Committee on Defence, the Secretary of State will be able to produce a report such as that which I am holding—the American defence report. It is much longer, and it really talks about the future. My right hon. Friend has not been able to do that today, for the reasons that he has explained, but I hope that we shall hear more about the Polaris replacement as soon as possible. It seems to me that there are only two alternatives—either the cruise missile, or Trident I. If one examines that problem, one quite obviously comes down in favour of Trident I. The sooner we make the decision to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent, the better.

Above all, the White Paper sets out clearly the threat. The country is beginning to wake up to the dangers from Soviet aggression. That is why the invasion of Afghanistan was a very great mistake on the part of the Kremlin. On the other hand, it would be wrong for us to believe that the USSR is 10 ft tall. It is the world's largest bureaucracy. If it starts aggression and it is checked in the early stages, it will fall to pieces; bureaucracies always do. That is what we must guard against—the initial thrust, wherever it may come.

In addition, the Soviet Union's economy has been on the decline for the last 15 years. Her manpower has been on the decline for the last 15 years. The eight Muslim states of the southern USSR will outnumber the population of Russia itself by the end of the century. That will cause all kinds of strains and stresses within the Soviet Union. The satellites are already restive. So are many of the component states of the USSR—for example, Lithuania, the Ukraine and Georgia. The Soviets cannot even feed themselves; they have to go to the United States and Canada to buy grain. Their power situation may be very serious in a year or two. They have plenty of oil reserves in Siberia, but it is very difficult to get that oil out. It would be much easier to get it from the Middle East. They need Western advanced technology, and they are now no longer in a position to pay for it, as the Comecon debt to the West is now between $60 billion and $70 billion. Therefore, I say that we must not regard the USSR as being 10ft tall.

Let us now look at NATO, on the other side. As has been said, NATO's rearmament started in 1977. As I see it, the danger is that the increase in NATO's armament will coincide with a decline in the Soviet Union by about 1984. By then we may have new leaders in the Kremlin. Those new leaders, being younger men, are much more likely to be hawks than doves. Therefore, I believe that the period of maximum danger will come in 1984, the next presidential election year. If aggression starts, it will obviously start in a year when the leader of the West is otherwise occupied.

Therefore, there is not much time. My right hon. Friend must lay down very clearly the priorities. I think that he has got them right, so far. The first and most important decision was taken last December in the modernisation of the theatre nuclear forces, which was absolutely necessary. We suffered a propaganda defeat over the so-called neutron bomb, but I understand that that is now being built, and I hope that it will be included in NATO's armoury in the not too distant future. In other words, the crisis management for NATO is good and the planning is good. The consultation is good within the NATO Alliance.

The problem lies outside the NATO area. That is where the dangers face us today—for example, oil from the Middle East or minerals from Southern Africa. Yet NATO's boundary ends at the Tropic of Cancer. We must do something about these problems outside the NATO area. I believe that they must be handled mainly by the maritime Powers of NATO taking the lead—the United States, ourselves and France, possibly helped by Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. It is satisfactory to note that two German destroyers will be going to the Indian Ocean in the near future.

Taking the Middle East first, I believe, as other hon. Members have said, that we should do everything possible to support President Carter's attempt to end the illegal detention of the hostages and to get them released as soon as possible. There has already been an exchange across the Floor of the House about Diego Garcia. If the Americans wanted to use Diego Garcia or any other British base to rescue illegally detained hostages, we should surely offer them every possible assistance. I believe that the present regime in Iran will disintegrate in the next six months or so. There is only one organisation left intact in Iran, namely, the Tudeh Party, which is the Communist fifth column in that country.

I have recently returned from America. Americans were saying—partly as a joke, but there is some truth in it—that it may be that in six months the USSR will take over Iran and return the hostages to America in an Ilyushin aircraft! We should not underestimate the feeling in the United States about the hostages. Secretary of State Vance, who was a dove, has now resigned. There is considerable talk on the Hill and elsewhere in Washington of taking further military action—for example, to mine the straits or ports of Iran. It is therefore essential that we have good consultation and good crisis machinery in areas outside NATO.

In these debates, I have stressed time after time that the vital areas lie outside the NATO boundaries. I have discussed oil supplies from the Midle East. The House will become rather bored with it if I again repeat the argument that I have made on many occasions, but I stress that, while our eyes are on the Middle East, we must not forget the other vital area of Southern Africa. Europe's heavy industries cannot survive without minerals from that area.

The erosion of Western defences in Southern Africa is going well from the Soviet point of view, thanks to Mr. Solodovnikov in Lusaka. That applies to Angola and Mozambique. We shall see the same course of events in Zimbabwe in the next year or two, in spite of Mr. Mugabe's efforts to avoid the Soviet yoke. I am afraid that the pressure on him will be too great. Namibia will be the next trap for the West. The United Nations will probably demand economic sanctions against South Africa over Namibia this summer. I hope that we shall use the veto. South African ports and airfields will be vital to us. These are all examples of what President John Kennedy had in mind when he spoke of the West being " nibbled to death ". That is exactly what is happening. It is outside the NATO area, and it is the most likely scenario in which the Soviet Union will win world war III without having to fight.

The need in Europe is rapid reinforcement—for example, 1½ million men, 2½ million tonnes of combat equipment, 3·3 million tonnes of ammunition and 100 million barrels of petrol. Vast cargoes have to cross the Atlantic. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), who sits on the Opposition Front Bench, and I have recently been in America to discuss anti-submarine measures and the protection of these convoys. I cannot say too much about it as it is obviously classified. However, it is public knowledge that we shall be short of escort vessels. Therefore, I think it wrong to scrap, for instance, HMS " Tiger ", a proposal that appears in the back of the Estimates. HMS " Tiger " carries four Sea Kings, which would be valuable for convoy work. I know it is said that there is a lack of crews, but let us put " Tiger " in mothballs. That may cost quite a lot, but we may have great need for her. After all, we have only " Bulwark ", " Hermes ", " Blake " and " Invincible " in reserve. Therefore, HMS " Tiger " is one-fifth of our sea-borne air capability. It would be wrong to scrap her.

Escorts are valuable. Yet three County class light cruisers have been scrapped. HMS "Kent" and HMS "Hampshire" have been scrapped and HMS " Devonshire " is now on the list. That was done by the previous Administration. I hope that this Government will not allow any of the DLGs to go merely because they are armed with obsolete sea-to-air missiles, namely, Sea Slug 1. They could undertake other functions; their antisubmarine warfare capability could be improved. Their hulls could prove very valuable.

I commend to the attention of my right hon. Friend what has been called the ARAPAHO project—the conversion of container ships to act as anti-submarine auxiliary aircraft carriers in war. It is a good scheme. It could be carried out, and it would be cost effective. However, it must be preplanned. There would have to be reserve helicopters, good communications and trained pilots. We now have many oil rigs, and there should be both spare helicopters and pilots.

We have fewer than 40 maritime patrol aircraft. We have not nearly enough. That is one of SACLANT's main concerns. There is a lack of maritime patrol aircraft in the Alliance. There is also a paucity of nuclear hunter-killer submarines, which are vital in the North Atlantic.

Anti-submarine warfare is the first priority, but the next priority to which I shall refer is the Royal Marines. "Fearless ", "Bulwark" and "Intrepid" will, I hope, be available for Royal Marine exercises much more than in the past. We cannot tie up a ship in the Dartmouth Squadron and then expect her immediately to land Marines.

In the past, it has been said that we would be all right because we could use British Rail ferries. Where would those ferries land in Norway? We shall not have docks from which we shall be able to land the vehicles of the Marine Commandos. They will probably be bombed, and it will be necessary to land on the beaches. I do not think that British Rail ferries would be effective for such an operation.

I am sorry that " Tarbatness " is not available for the Commandos. I understand that British Shipbuilders increased the price by over 100 per cent. Complaints have been made that British Shipbuilders lost its most recent orders. However, here it was given an order and then doubled the price. That does not seem to make sense. The Royal Marine Commandos need a ship for their exclusive use now. We know that HM ships are available only on a part-time basis. I commend the excellent work of the ski-trained commandos in Western Norway. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have attended their exercises and been very impressed.

The air defence Tornado is vital to the air defence of Great Britain. I hope that everything possible will be done to bring it forward as rapidly as possible. It is vital to our defence. If my dates are right, it will be just in time. The Spitfire came just in time for the Second World War, and I hope that the Tornado will follow that example.

The defence of our airfields is crucial. We have nice maps in the White Paper, but I do not know how many of our airfields are now defended by Rapier or other surface-to-air weapons, such as Bloodhound, which, incidentally, is now becoming obsolete. There used to be two airfields defended in that way. I hope that there are now more. I suspect that there are still not enough.

I understand that the Americans are to buy Rapier for the defence of their airfields in Britain. That was the talk on the Hill when I was there. I hope that it is true. What are we to do about longer-range weapons? As I have said, Bloodhound is now becoming rather long in the tooth. Is consideration being given to the American Patriot?

,One of the great threats to Europe is mining. That is a vital element if we succeed in getting the convoys across. Let us hope that the politicans will use their common sense and get reinforcements across before the balloon goes up. If they do not, the convoys will have to fight their way through. Even though we are short of escort vessels, that could be done. The real danger will lie at the ports of arrival. I know that the Government are doing all that they can to bring forward the Hunt class mine hunters.

My parliametary neighbour, the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, West (Mr. Johnson),spoke at length about fisheries trawlers. The EDATS trawlers— MSM—are mentioned in the White Paper. There is a reference to " planning to buy". What does that mean? Does it mean that the Government will buy existing vessels? As the hon. Gentleman said, there are many excellent vessels that cost about £1 million apiece. That was their original cost. They could be fitted out navigationally almost like a frigate. They could be converted for minelaying and are now lying alongside Hull ready for my right hon. Friend.

I hope that the Government will not spend a great deal of money, as they did on the Island class, on the building of specialised vessels that come up to naval standards when cheaper but perfectly good vessels are available in much larger numbers at Hull and at other fisheries ports. The future for the distant-water fleet is grim. I understand that trials on two existing trawlers have taken place and that they have gone well. I hope that my right hon. Friend will buy existing trawlers and alter them rather than building new ships from scratch.

Reference has been made to interoperability and standardisation. A subcommittee of the North Atlantic Assembly Military Committtee has been considering these issues for five years. It has been concluded that if we are to have co-operative projects, the co-operation must begin at the design project stage. It is no good waiting—as we did when we considered the tank gun and other weapons—to have a competition between prototypes. Americans like competition, but such competition involves national honour and, although one may believe that one's weapon system is best, one finds that the other chap wins. International co-operation must begin at the design project stage. That method will produce a weapons system after seven years.

Although it is a controversial subject, I believe that we shall fight the next war with an international and integrated staff; and that our design requirements should be prepared by such a staff. I know that we have got IEPG and CNAD. However, they speak with their national hats; they are not an international staff. I have discussed this problem with the former chairman of a military committee of NATO, and I am told that that could be done by that committee. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider that suggestion.

It is ludicrous to build an MBT 90 for £1 million apiece while the Americans are building their XM 1, but we still do not know how the turbo engine will work in comparison with a diesel engine. The Germans are building the Leopard II. NATO will then have three different battle tanks in the next generation. The ammunition will not be inter-operable, and that is the height of folly. It is now proposed that we shall have a rifled bore while the other two nations tanks will have smooth bores.

We need a decision as soon as possible about the Harrier 5 and the AV8B. I accept that the Harrier 5 will prove to be an excellent aeroplane and that it will suit the RAF's requirements. Provided that the Americans are prepared to share the cost of research, development and building and share third party sales, we should take a longer-term view. The AV8B will provide a lead-in into the next generation of supersonic jump jet aircraft and have much larger sales.

When the Government came into office —about a year ago—they immediately increased pay in the Armed Services. That did an immense amount for morale, which had become low in all three Services. Morale has now been improved. However, we are foolish to allow recruits to leave the Services at any time during their training. As a young officer, whenever I did a scramble course or commando course and got wet and fed up, I might have said that it was not worth going on if someone had got at me and suggested that we packed it in. I might have asked to leave.

Not long ago, there were break points during the training. That made sense. When a man has been cursed by the drill sergeant and has become cold and wet, it would be the utmost folly to allow him to leave just because he wanted to. I understand that as many as 50 per cent. of recruits take up the offer to leave. I am against keeping a recruit who has become fed up with the Services. However, he could have opportunities to leave during the break points. I hope that the Secretary of State will consider that matter as manpower and money, as well as instructors' time, are being wasted.

Years of neglect in the Services have now ended. The Government have rightly made defence their first priority. Time is short and the period of maximum danger will come in about 1984. Our main need concerns not NATO but a proper consultative machinery outside NATO, where the threat exists. I refer particularly to the Middle East and Southern Africa because those two areas have minerals and oil which are essential to the West.


The one thing about which we are all agreed is that the 1980s will prove to be a dangerous decade. My severe pessimism has been increased by the speeches of some Conservative Members. The language of war has got into gear. During an earlier intervention, I raised a point about chemical weapons. I suggested that the Government's statement should have made some response to Mr. Gromyko's suggestion of an agreement. I had not wished to discuss whether the Soviet Union had an aggressive capability in that area. I am sure that it has. I am equally sure that if we do not have that capability, we can find it quickly. The White Paper makes no statement about a possible response to Mr. Gromyko's offer. Such a failure is too serious to be ignored.

The language of war is apparent in other ways. I looked in the Daily Express today and found an article by Lord Chalfont. The headline stated:
" The West must stop being pushed around."
One finds the same language in street gang battles before a punch-up. Such language is dangerous. However, we should remember that a defence policy can maintain peace. It can also cause war. If we get our policy wrong, that danger will arise. A defence policy may cause war in two particular circumstances. First, it may cause a war when it fuels the arms race. Secondly, it may do so if it severely destabilises the situation. We are living in the midst of one of the most dramatic arms races in history. Indeed, I do not know of an historical example where an arms race has not led to war. We should keep that point in our minds.

The Government will claim that the Soviet Union has upset the balance of power by increasing its defence expenditureandbydevelopingtheSS20. If I had been asked to put my money on which country had most increased its defence expenditure, I would probably say that the Soviet Union had. However, if I did so without going into its background, I should be giving only half the argument. We are no longer discussing the European balance of power in isolation. We are debating a world balance of power which has become seriously destabilised in a number of areas.

Without being too specific about dates, one can say that between 1945 and 1970 the United States was the dominant world power. There is no doubt about that. It provided a stable world system. As I have said before, the key issue affecting that dominance was the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The Soviet Union was defeated. It told itself that to be a super Power, it would have to be able to intervene effectively—as the United States can, and as the United Kingdom used to—with conventional weapons. It decided that it would need nuclear weapons at every point on the earth's surface. That sparked off the Soviet Union's increased defence expenditure. It made sense.

The White Paper hardly mentions— although it hints at—the Soviet Union's fear of China. It fears fighting on a front that stretches from the sea of Japan to Norway. If we do not understand that, we shall not understand the dangers that face us. One of the most serious dangers is the psychological state of the United States. It is going through the same difficult period that Britain went through when it ceased to be a world power, unchallenged by others. Democracies, particularly during election periods, can become unstable. It is a mistake to assume that only dictatorships are unstable. I am not anti-democracy, but very much in favour of it. However, it would be a mistake to assume that democracies cannot play into the hands of war.

From time to time, the West has undermined its own interests by backing unpopular regimes. Does that need saying after events in Iran? Does it ever need saying? We have done that time and time again. As has been pointed out, we have backed regimes that do us no good. The Secretary of State opened with a good line. He said that we must preserve the principles on which this House of Commons functions. That is right. However, do we do that by backing the Shah of Iran? Do we preserve those principles by backing Pinochet in Chile? Is that what we are defending? Is that what that does? If not, we had better start rethinking the issue, and we should change our policy accordingly.

There is a terrible mirror image to this language war. It is almost like 1984 " newspeak ". I always think that there is some international civil servant up on a satellite somewhere and the Soviet Union rings him up and says " We have this missile called the SS20, and the people on the other end of it do not really like it. Can you give us some nice phrase that will make it sound better? " As a result we get something like this: " The peace-loving nations of the world want peace." Then the United States gets on the line and says " We have this missile that looks a bit like a doodlebug, and you know what people think about doodlebugs. Give us a nice statement that will make it sound better." As a result of that we get: " We are only interested in defending the people of the free world". So it continues.

I give the House a few examples. On page 2 the White Paper says:
" In the face of the threat posed to us by the military build-up of the Warsaw Pact, we believe that this is a time for giving a higher, not lower, priority to defence—for our allies as well as ourselves."
I now turn to the Soviet News, in which there is a letter from Mr. Gromyko to the United Nations Secretary General in which he says:
" Nevertheless, due to the resistance of certain forces, the arms race was not discontinued. The United States and its allies continue to increase their military budgets. These countries are developing and equiping their armies with new and even more dangerous types and systems of armaments."
In other words, if one is born and brought up in the Soviet Union, one believes that. If one is born and brought up in the United States or the United Kingdom, one believes the opposite. There are exceptions on both sides but, by and large, that is the essence of it.

It goes further than that. On arms control, the White Paper says on page 10:
" Our aim is greater stability—where possible at lower levels of forces. Balanced, practical and verifiable arms control measures can serve this by limiting arms competition and making defence relationships more predictable."
In the Soviet News, we find this:
" The principled position of the Soviet Union remains unchanged: the Soviet Union is prepared to limit, to prohibit on a reciprocal basis in agreement with other countries any types of weapons without—it goes without saying—prejudicing anyone's security, in conditions of complete reciprocity among states possessing the given types of weapons."
One can continue with this exercise time and time again. I recommend to hon. Members the usefulness of picking two sides in a dispute and translating the arguments in the way that I have done here. It is a positive experience because it teaches one to look at the position from the other side. If we are to have peace, we must understand what the other side is doing, and the pressures on the other side. If we do not understand the other side, we may get peace but we shall not get it by judgment.

I agree with the hon. Member, but he must also reach the logical conclusion and look at the size of the forces on both sides. He will find that the Soviet side is much larger than NATO and that its forces are organised for offence rather than defence while NATO certainly is not.

I thought that I dealt with that in the earlier part of my argument. One reason behind the Soviet attitude was basically the events of 1962 in Cuba and the Soviet Union's desire to become a world super Power. The other reason was the threat of China. In those terms, it is understandable. We must ask ourselves what the Soviet Union's intentions are towards Western Europe. The danger for Western Europe is not just that of being taken over. The far greater danger is that of the great Powers fighting their wars on other people's territory. The danger for Europe is that a nuclear war would be fought by proxy between the Soviet Union and the United States while at the same time negotiations were taking place between those two countries on how to end the war. They would be right to do that. At the end of the First World War and the Second World War, negotiations were taking place to end those wars at the same time as the fighting was continuing. That is the essence of any negotiation towards the end of a war. That is not changed now. The only change is in the nature of the weapons. That is why we are in the front line when we were not before.

The White Paper is far too brief when it discusses arms control. Its other failure is that it says nothing about the actual troop withdrawals made by the USSR. I do not pretend for a moment that those withdrawals will alter the balance of power or that anyone will think that that in itself will bring peace. However, I feel that we should make a response to it. If we do not make a positive response, we are open to the charge of at best gross hypocrisy and at worst a desire to perpetuate the arms conflict.

There is nothing in the White Paper to deal with the fact that we need to understand the Soviet Union's pressures and the reasons why it has developed its arms industry. I quote from paragraph 108 on page 5 which says:
" There is also an explicitly aggressive motive for the Soviet military build-up. It is a basic, if nowadays seldom stated, tenet of Marxist-Leninist philosophy that Communism will ultimately be extended to every nation and that its spread should be promoted, if necessary, by military means when the circumstances are right. The Soviet Union has already demonstrated that it will use force to maintain the Soviet brand of Communism in Eastern Europe."
Do we really believe that we could not also say that we intend to see democracy triumph and extended to every other nation? I have heard politicians from both sides of the House say this over and over again, and I have even heard them say that we will do it by force. I have been alive, as has everyone in this House, when we have tried to do it by force. I find it quite mind-boggling that further back in this White Paper it says that we must bear in mind that when the Soviet Union goes to war, it intends to win. That is mind-boggling. I did not think for one moment that the Russians intended to lose. I assume that if we went to war the Secretary of State would intend that we should win. That is a matter of common sense.

When this mirror image language to which I have referred gets distorted, the dangers grow. I take the view of Lord Mountbatten, General Carver and others in the military establishment that it is too easy to blame people in that establishment. They, more than most people, are fully aware of all the dangers of a war of any kind. Lord Mountbatten said that we must expect the unexpected in war, and it would be difficult to see how a conventional war could be fought in Europe without it becoming a nuclear war. The Soviet Union seems to hold the same view. However, the Defence White Paper seemed to be uncertain about it. On page 6, paragraph 110, it says:
" Soviet strategists hold that any war in Europe is likely to escalate into a nuclear exchange."
However, it seems to accept that a campaign against NATO might start with conventional warfare. On page 9 in paragraph 124 it says:
" Should deterrence fail and an attack occur which conventional forces alone could not contain, NATO could threaten to use—and if necessary, actually use—nuclear weapons to cause the aggressor to abandon his attack."
That does not say anything about it escalating into infinitely more important problems, because if that happened a nuclear war would be fought by proxy in Europe to the detriment of us all.

The problems that we face go far beyond any meaning of the word " defence " as previously interpreted and discussed in this paper. I find the paper rather bland and not particularly helpful. I do not think it questions the assumptions underlying many of the things that we are pursuing. At the very minimum, I should like to see a statement of the need to restart discussions between the two super-Powers, despite Afghanistan, because the most dangerous aspects of the present situation is that the conversations between the two main protagonists have broken down.

That is the time when matters get out of control, and we slide into the 1914 position—not the 1939 position—whatever we think of the Soviet Union, and I am no great lover of that country. I am aware that, at the time of the Vietnam war, people from this country demonstrated and argued in the United States. I know that they could not have done that in the Soviet Union, but that does not make the Soviet Union Nazi Germany, or anything resembling it.

The much-vaunted hot line between Washington and Moscow apparently has been used once in the recent crisis—and that for rather stilted, staccato statements by each side.

It would be horrendous if war broke out over a conflict such as that in Iran—which is infinitely more dangerous than Afghanistan in this respect. If a war broke out which spread and began to get out of control, and if limited theatre nuclear weapons were used in Europe, the hot line would be used again in precisely the way that I described earlier. Both the Soviet Union and the United States would be right to use it, but they would be doing so over our dead bodies. Hon. Members need to understand that.

Much as I would like to defend the values of the Western world, ultimately Members of Parliament are here to represent the best interests of the British people. That is important. We need a more positive response to arms control, and because one of the major dangers of instability is from the Third world and the increase in expenditure on arms by the Third world, we should limit sales of arms—or even stop selling arms—to Third world countries, or to any country outside NATO. There is no point in stopping sales of arms to member countries of NATO, because they are too interdependent and interlinked. However, outside NATO there is much to be said for that policy. When Third world countries spend up to 40 per cent. of their budget on arms and are grossly unstable politically, the potential for war breaking out over a conflict such as that in Iran—not Afghanistan—is so great that it cannot be ignored.

I could say that many other measures are needed, but at this stage I am more concerned to get the analysis right, and to look at the language of war than to come up with tidy solutions which I do not have and which would probably not be acceptable to Conservative Members.

8.31 pm

We are discussing defence in the shadow of events in Iran and Afghanistan, and our liberty is under threat, perhaps more now than for many years. I emphasise that while the debate is concerned with defence generally, the propaganda war being waged by the USSR and the Warsaw Pact over Iran is beginning to get my goat and, I suspect, the goats of many hon. Members. It is beginning to appear that the United States is the guilty party, as opposed to Iran. I cannot agree with that, and I suspect that many of my hon. Friends cannot agree with it.

Afghanistan is the real problem, and it is the key to this debate, in the sense that it is a further indication of the Russian long-term strategy in relation to their offensive capabilities, and their intentions in various parts of the world where they believe that the West will not stand up to them. I do not believe that the West has a long-term strategy, and that is a matter to which we should be giving urgent consideration in the context of the EEC, NATO and other European organisations.

I wish to discuss capabilities, rather than intentions. Intentions can be changed in minutes, but capabilities take years to build. I shall not dwell on Polaris, Trident or cruise missiles because they will be discussed later this year when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his colleagues make the decisions that are so important to the future of Britain. I wish to speak about conventional weaponry and equipment. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on the White Paper. It is impressive. I have always believed strongly in the principles that are employed in the United States—that the public should be aware of the problems that face their country in respect of defence, and of the problems of the Warsaw Pact. I believe that we should tell people more about what is going on. I find it regrettable that I can go to the United States and talk to senators, congressmen and people associated with the military and find out more about what is going on in this country than I can in this Chamber and through the various ways in which we put questions to Ministers. I find that depressing because I believe that the public have a right to know what is going on, and that they should know what is going on because the threat is so great.

I want this White Paper to be spread more widely than it is at present. We should continue talking to students at schools, colleges and universities and other organisations—as the Royal Navy has done recently, explaining what it is doing and the threats that it faces. That should be spread throughout the Services. Comment has been made about the so-called air defence gap and the problems raised by the Select Committee and the evidence given to it. I shall not dwell on the question of the gap, except to say that there is clearly a need for more planes. Bearing in mind the fact that the Tornado is built in my constituency, hon. Members will not be surprised to learn that I want more Tornados and I want them built faster.

I also want an urgent decision on the AST-403. Since I have been associated with British Aerospace in Preston, it has become clear to me that the firm strongly believes in continuity and planning in both industrial and defence work. That happens in France, Germany and the United States, but, because of the changes of policy resulting from changes of Government in this country, we have not had the continuity that we should have had.

I ask the Government to take on board the fact that an urgent decision is needed on the AST-403. I know that British Aerospace is operating two teams on a brainstorming basis to try to come up with a future aircraft, but the company does not seem to be getting the sort of co-operation that we should like to see from Germany, Italy or France on what criteria should dictate the decision on the AST-403.

I hope that in due course we shall be able to encourage the sales of Tornado to our friends and allies around the world if they show an interest. It is a fine aeroplane. It could be argued that £10 million or £11million is a lot of money, but it is worth every penny.

My union represents the largest group of aerospace workers. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will comment on the fact that many of his constituents have taken part in initiatives put forward by aerospace workers to divert their skills into much more socially useful production than defence aircraft.

Whenever I have talked to workers at British Aerospace, I have founds that they are proud of the aeroplane that they are building and want to build more. I turn to home defence and civil defence, of which little mention is made in the White Paper. I initiated the early- day motion signed by 101 of my hon. Friends, and I hope that the Government will note our concern about civil defence. We should be ashamed at our lack of provision, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will eventually be able to make a statement to the effect that civil defence should be restored quickly.

At a recent private meeting, I was told by an expert on these matters that when a Backfire bomber approaches it is difficult to tell whether it is carrying a nuclear or a conventional weapon. If we are geared to reacting to the dropping of a nuclear bomb, and therefore all dive below ground, we shall not be able to react differently if it turns out to be a conventional bomb which requires us to operate the services that are required in a time of crisis.

I wonder whether we are geared up to be able to tell the difference and, if we cannot tell the difference, what conclusion we should draw from that fact.

I move on briefly to our reserves. I have had the good fortune to be associated with a couple of Territorial regiments. I have served in one, and I have been associated with another in my constituency. I make two quick points about them. I believe that the bounty should be increased. Even more important, while they are training and are involved in Army, Navy or Air Force activities, our Territorials should be treated as Regular Service personnel. If a Territorial is injured or, even more tragically, is killed, he or his relatives should get the same benefits as a Regular soldier. That is an area which deserves urgent consideration, especially following the accident on the Brecon Beacons recently. The sums involved there, frankly, made me ashamed.

I come next to equipment replacement. I am extremely concerned that there should be an urgent decision on the rifle. My local regiment, the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, has one of the country's leading shooting teams. It will be going to Canada shortly. Every one of those men will be firing rifles in that competition which are older than the members of the team. That is an astonishing state of affairs.

Incidentally, the regiment has been in Cyprus. I had the opportunity to make a brief visit to the island which enabled me to judge the state of morale and the problems faced by our troops there. I was concerned to learn that Cyprus, at present, a part of the soft underbelly of NATO, is classed only as a priority two commitment as opposed to what I believe it should be, which is a priority one commitment, the difference of course being that it will get much greater and much earlier attention in terms of replacement rifles, radios and other equipment.

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Time is passing, and I know that a number of my hon. Friends still wish to contribute to the debate.

I congratulate the Government on their action when they came to power in increasing Service pay. However, I am not sure whether sufficient attention has been paid to the turbulence and separation resulting from the over-stretched resources of our Armed Forces. I believe that we should be more concerned about the problems of wives and children caused by the pulling up of roots and moving to different parts of the country, if not of the world.

I believe strongly that we should in crease our defence spending. In my opinion, the increase should be nearer 5 per cent. However, I recognise the problems that that poses. Therefore, if we believe in that, we have to be prepared to take action elsewhere. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten), who used to run a research department, has views on this which doubtless he will draw to the attention of the House——

If he gets the chance. However, I asked a parliamentary question not very long ago about married quarters. I was disturbed to learn that there are 92,000 Service married quarters in the country, of which 21,000 are vacant. That is typical of an area which demands attention. We need to review our use of resources which do not appear to be used as fully as they should be. The fact that we believe in defence and defence spending does not mean that it is a sacred cow which does not demand attention.

The White Paper is an excellent one. It indicates the policy of this Government following that of the last one, which frankly was awful and which produced a situation where we were down to bedrock. Our actions following the general election have been right, and I am pleased that my right hon. and hon. Friends have pursued a policy designed to improve morale and the supply of equipment.

It has been said that God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it. Never has liberty and our democratic way of life been under greater threat. It may be that the increase of 3 per cent. in our defence spending is a minimum and that many of us would like to see more. But we may be quite certain that, if the Conservative Government do not continue the action that they have taken since the election, no one else will.

8.44 pm

It is very difficult to be brief in a debate such as this, not only because one has thoughts of one's own, but because the speeches from both sides of the House tend to make hon. Members want to make points against or in support of them in reply.

First, I compliment the Ministry of Defence on the more lively presentation of the White Paper in these two volumes and on the much more readable way it has been prepared. It contains some exteremly interesting information. I think, however, that the price of £8·50 is a little expensive. Many friends in the peace movement, who are interested in obtaining the document, find the price prohibitive. I echo the request made earlier about preparing a more popular version at a cheaper price that retains the most valuable information.

I was saddened by table 7·1 in volume II which lists the number of deaths among our forces in Northern Ireland. The figure in 1979 was 48, almost double the average over the previous four years. It should be borne in mind, when discussing defence matters, that there is a war going on inside the United Kingdom.

I have one quarrel with the interesting statistics in these two documents. Information about our own defence expenditure is obviously accurate. But the whole tenor of the documents is that we must continue to increase our defence expenditure because the Warsaw Pact is doing so. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) that defence expenditure was down to bedrock under the previous Government. In 1978–79, defence spending amounted to £7,455 million. The estimate for 1979–80 is £8,558 million and, for next year, £10,785 million. These increases are far too excessive.

It is interesting that the White Paper, in paragraph 104, under the heading " The Warsaw Pact ", dealing with expenditure in the Soviet Union, states:
" Defence is given priority over other claims on available resources, rather than having to compete as it does in Western economies "
I believe that defence is given undue priority in this country. The present Government certainly give it great priority over other matters such as schools, hospitals, the Health Service, pensions house building and almost all the social services that are being cut while defence expenditure is increased. If that is not a case of this country giving the same priority that we claim the Warsaw Pact is giving to defence, figures must lie.

I should like to comment on the estimates of the expenditure of the Warsaw Pact countries. It is true that the Soviet Union does not produce a White Paper. Its spending on defence is not accurately known. An interesting article in The Observer on 23 March, by its defence correspondent, entitled "How CIA measures Russia's war threat", must indicate part of our methods of calculating the figures that appear in the White Paper. The article stated:
" So, Soviet spending has to be estimated. In a study earlier this year, ' Soviet Defence Activities 1970–79. A Dollar Cost Comparison ', the US Central Intelligence Agency estimated that the Soviet Union spent $146,000 million on defence last year, 45 per cent. more than the US.
This figure is commonly used in American armed forces journals and is quoted frequently by American politicians."
The same figure must be used in this White Paper. It mentions that expenditure runs between 11 per cent. and 13 per cent. of the gross national product of the Soviet Union. That is the same figure as the one reached by the CIA at the end of its calculations. The article goes on:
"... the CIA method of calculating the Soviet defence spending is highly misleading."
This is The Observer's defence correspendent speaking, not me, and not even Soviet News:
" The technique is to build up a profile of Soviet troops and their equipment from satellite photographs and other intelligence sources. The CIA then calculates what it would cost in US dollars to run these forces and to manufacture and maintain this equipment. The resulting total is published as the CIA's estimate of Soviet defence expenditure."
The correspondent then goes on to explain why he believes this to be a miscalculation—because of the emphasis placed in various countries on the cheapest way in carrying out certain functions.

He goes on:
"Up to 1976, the United States intelligence agencies calculated Soviet military expenditure at between 6 and 8 per cent. of the Gross National Product. Then, under political pressure, they decided that Soviet defence procurement procedures were a lot less efficient and more costly than had previously been presumed. Overnight, the proportion of defence spending to gross national product went up to... 12 per cent."
That is overnight, from 6 per cent., by a recalculation of the CIA.
" Although all that had happened was a change in the accounting procedures, commentators have used these figures to claim a sudden increase in Soviet the accounting procedures, commentators have spending."
Perhaps from that source, that recalculation, we get all the claims about the Soviet Union increasing its arms spending in order, somehow or other, to attack the West. However, to give the author of the White Paper credit, he says that there is no evidence to show that there is any intention by the Warsaw Pact to attack Western Europe.

Volume I of the Defence Statement, just below paragraph 104, has a table headed:
" Comparative Distribution of Military Expenditure ".
This is an attempt to show that, even within the military expenditure of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, they can spend more on equipment than we can because the wages of their soldiers and so on are lower. It shows that production of new equipment in the USSR is 42 per cent. of military expenditure, while in the United Kingdom, it is 23 per cent.

However, related to that is a footnote, which says:
" Data in this table have been adjusted to conform to the NATO definition of military expenditure and are therefore not compatible with the data in Chapter 7."
That is an interesting footnote, which one might miss if one were not reading carefully.

Chapter 7 says:
" Expenditure on equipment will absorb 41%of the defence budget in1980/81."
So, contrary to the suggestion that we cannot spend so much on equipment because our soldiers are paid much more and therefore our spending on equipment was only 23 per cent. compared with 42 per cent. by the Soviet Union, it is revealed that our expenditure is in fact 41 per cent.—a very compatible figure indeed. If I had time to go through this document in detail, I could give other examples that even someone such as I can pick out from the statistics.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers) on his opening speech. He made many points with which I thoroughly agree. I believe that a much greater emphasise should be placed on arms control. I do not believe that spending greater and greater sums of money on arms leads to peace and prosperity. I think it leads us into danger. I only wish that I could sincerely believe that my right hon. Friend would have made the same sort of speech had he still been on the Government side of this Chamber.

8.55 pm

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate and to the hon. Members for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond) and for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) for giving me time. The debate has revealed to the nation and to our constituents how vulnerable we are to Soviet aggression, and shows the justification for the additional expenditure proposed by my right hon. Friend. I would go further. I would wish to spend more. We must spend money if we are to maintain our capability.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend paid tribute to all ranks in the Services, from the CIGS to the level of the people on the factory floor. They all make their contribution.

We debate these issues against the background of Afghanistan and the possibility that the Russians, by one means or another, will move south towards warm waters. Without the presence of the American fleet in the region, there is no means of stopping the Russians, since there is no buffer State. I believe that nothing could stop the Russians save the ultimate deterrent and the knowledge that, if necessary, it would be used.

Paragraph 108 of the excellent White Paper singles out Afghanistan as the first country to be invaded. I was in Hungary in 1956 when a peace treaty was being signed by the Soviet Union and, at the moment they were signing it, Russian tanks were entering Hungary. Therefore we cannot believe what the Soviets say. I was a witness to what I have just described, and I know that the House will believe me.

The most important aspect of the debate is that, after years of prevarication, we now know that Polaris is to be up-dated and possibly replaced. I am sorry to see the V-force go, because I believe that it still has a role to play.

Tactical nuclear weapons are now so sophisticated that it is almost impossible to distinguish between tactical nuclear weapons and strategic nuclear weapons. We have been told today by my right hon. Friend of the strength of the Warsaw Pact. We know of it. He listed weapons including the SS20 and the Backfire bomber, so we realise the dangers that we are up against.

I wish to highlight two important points. First, in relation to chemical and biological warfare, I ask whether we have sufficient weapons in our armoury to prevent the Soviet Union—or any other aggressor—using chemical and biological weapons. Secondly, I believe that it is most important that we should have the capability to defend ourselves not only against an ordinary attack but against attack by chemical or bacteriological weapons.

I believe that our allies in the EEC should help us in the contribution that we make to protect them. They cannot sit back for ever under the nuclear umbrella of America. They must allow nuclear warheads and delivery systems on their soil in peace time. As the Prime Minister said in Brussels on 23June1978, the EEC must help us to bear the heavy burden of responsibility that we undertake in the defence of Europe. It must be in their interests as well as ours that we are able to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent. I believe that that independent deterrent is essential and that we should move as fast as possible to replace our present Polaris system, while in the meantime ensuring that that system is up-dated.

We want peace, but not at any price. We must maintain our civil defence and our reserves. Our civil defence, our reserves and our Army must all be under one command, not split between the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence. Obviously, we must increase the Regular and Territorial Army. My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) spoke of having a list, and I believe that we should have a register of people capable of moving in when they are required.

There is no trip-wire and no buffer State. The sooner the people in this country realise the dangers and that we cannot have hospitals, schools, roads or an increase in social services unless we have the capability to resist Communist attack, the better. We cannot rely on China to act as a deterrent to Russian aggression. Our safeguard against that lies in the joint action of NATO and the EEC countries. NATO's role must enlarge to take in not only Europe but all the sources of our supplies and raw materials.

I hope, therefore, that this debate will bring home to the people the dangers that face us, while encouraging the Government to proceed along the lines set out in the White Paper. We shall then be assured that the country will be adequately defended and we can go on to building up our social services and other essentials of our life. The principal requirement is the defence of this country, of Western Europe and of civilisation throughout the world.

9.1 pm

In my experience, debates on military spending have always featured the numbers game, with participants on both sides inclined to play fast and loose with their statistics. Sometimes the game has begun to resemble the croquet match in " Alice in Wonderland ", the players seeming to make up the rules as they go along. That is not so today. The debate has got off to a good start. It has been informed, and there have been many good speeches on both sides. We have all been united by an obvious concern to preserve the peace, although there is a different fundamental approach to that objective between the two sides. It was put powerfully by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers), and it has been followed by many of my hon. Friends. I intend to do the same

At least we are united on two other matters. We all welcome the White Paper—its format, style, content and information—and we congratulate the Secretary of State and those other people in the Ministry of Defence who are responsible for it. I am sorry that we did not do it ourselves. I think that we must also be agreed that, while overall public spending in the next three years is due to fall, military spending will continue to rise.

Most of the increase, as we know, will go to finance the development and procurement of new weapons and equipment. Concern about this increased defence spending has been amply demonstrated on the Labour Benches, but I met with the same concern and scepticism about increased military spending in Washington last week. Fears about inflation are making it difficult for more and more members of Congress to support hefty increases in Pentagon spending. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Congress seemed to be on the verge of a substantial increase in the Administration's 1981 military spending request. The Senate budget committee, however, has now scaled down the early proposals and, though agreeing to some increase, has undoubtedly back-tracked. Other senators, however, do not accept that modest increase because, they argue, it will be at the expense of social programmes. They are now expected to attack the budget committee's recommendation when it comes before the Senate.

Meanwhile the House budget committee has called for a cut in next year's military budget. Therefore, my right hon. and hon. Friends and I are not alone in our concern about the present levels of defence spending and in our desire to see evidence of much greater cost effectiveness in respect of the proposals of the Secretary of State and his ministerial colleagues.

Indeed, there are defence analysts in Washington who say that the most important national security issue there is not whether more money can be drummed up for defence but whether the Pentagon, by exploiting advanced technology and reassessing existing missions, can get more bang from the same number of dollars. Pentagon economists acknowledge that steps could be taken to spend the existing military budget more efficiently.

Outside the Pentagon a growing number of defence analysts maintain that much larger savings could be achieved by redirecting new weapons programmes. I am sure that the Secretary of State and his colleagues are well aware that even the MX mobile missile system has its critics today and they are growing in number.

In conventional forces, some analysts argue that a new class of " smart " missiles and bombs, known as precision guided munitions, could revolutionise warfare and, if properly exploited, could yield important military savings. These PGMs would use lasers and advanced sensing devices, such as heat or microwave detectors, to zero in and destroy targets in a single strike. The Pentagon research chief, William Perry, who will be known to many hon. Members, is directing work, it is believed, on a PGM missile system called " Assault Breaker " for knocking out Soviet tanks in Europe. Proponents tell me that, if that system works, the tank could go the way of the cavalry and with it all the proposed investment in the new tank.

Other analysts argue that the Pentagon's fascination with advanced technology has blocked more efficient use of the military. I could go on with that argument. However, it is only fair to say that even the " Nimitz " has its critics, as the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy will know.

There is concern in Washington that there is still too much concentration on advanced technology, while simpler equipment is ignored. The American navy's reliance on super sophisticated carriers like the " Nimitz " and the " John F. Kennedy " has come in for criticism. Some people believe that America should instead be developing a smaller and less vulnerable vessel, such as we have in the Invincible class. There seems to be more evidence of a willingness on the other side of the Alantic to look at need and how to meet it.

On these Benches, we are not alone therefore in arguing for a more critical scrutiny of defence spending. In the present fluid and fast-moving economic and military situation, it is imperative to do so. A commitment to higher defence spending is not necessarily in the national interest. I am sorry to say that some Conservative Members have seemed to take for granted in this debate that it is. My right hon. Friend argued convincingly that it will not work, anyway.

More appropriate to present circumstances is the most rigorous appraisal of defence spending in order that we may be assured that all potential benefits of standardisation, rationalisation and interoperability may be realised. All too often, we tend to think of those aims in relation only to our allies, yet they can be equally applied within our own country and in each Department. That is my first point. We must be assured that we shall get from the Secretary of State, through his otherwise attractive White Paper, a much higher degree of utilisation in the event that he has to change direction, as my right hon. Friend reminded him, and as he provides for in the text of his defence statement.

The defence statement acknowledges that
" The scale of our defence effort cannot be divorced from our general economic capability."
The right hon. Gentleman shows that awareness. The statement goes on to say:
" Within these constraints, our task is to get the balance of priorities right again: to restore our defence effort to the level needed to give the best possible guarantee of safety, using the most economical means available."
That shows further awareness.

But will the Secretary of State get the balance of priorities right? That is a very important question. Again, I must say that, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, I encounter too little evidence, either in the defence statement or elsewhere, of these precepts being fulfilled in practice. Let me illustrate from paragraph 128, where reference is made to the long-term defence programme
" to effect improvements in ten priority areas in which collective action is needed to make the most efficient use of Alliance resources."
I shall not spell them out; I believe that they will be known to the House. I want merely to refer to those which relate to maritime operations. It seems to me that they are immediately called into question by the new emphasis that the White Paper places on a larger British share of operations outside the North Atlantic area, in which funds and forces have been concentrated for the last 10 years. Is the Secretary of State sure that he can do both—provide for the North Atlantic, with all that that entails, given the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), and fulfil a growing global role? Is he sure that he will get that balance of priorities right?

Unlike the Warsaw Pact, with its largely internal lines of communication for reinforcement and resupply, the NATO allies, as the White Paper points out, are dependent upon the free use of the sea. In a time of tension or war, the transatlantic reinforcement of Europe would be crucial to a land strategy. A major allied naval and air effort would be needed to protect the operation of reinforcement and the continued shipment then of the essential supplies.

Yet the Soviets not only possess the capability to project power over great distances, but they continue to improve that ability to operate naval units, aircraft and resupply forces far from their shores. Their command, control and communications capabilities are already worldwide. This is a striking transformation for a nation historically preoccupied with defence of the homeland.

Wartime shipping requirements, as the Secretary of State knows only too well, will include not only military reinforcements and military supplies but also economic cargoes, which are expected to continue at about half the normal peace time flow.

I cannot quantify this requirement, any more than could the hon. Member for Haltemprice, but is the Secretary of State sure that he has a full picture of the magnitude and scale of that operation?

On the first point, the hon. Gentleman referred to the long-term defence programme. That programme was agreed to by NATO when the Labour Government were in power. We thought that they were right to agree to it, and we have given our full support to it.

On the second point, I made it totally clear that our commitment to NATO remained exactly as it was before. But I point out that the threats to NATO now extend far beyond its own boundaries, and it is, therefore, foolish not to examine the extent to which, whilst maintaining our full support for NATO, we can contribute and should contribute to defence outside the NATO boundaries.

The third point, as the hon. Gentleman has just pointed out, is the extent to which the Soviet Union's naval strength has increased and is operating infinitely more widely—all the more reason why we should ensure that that increased capability by the Soviet Union is responded to.

I do not have to remind the Secretary of State that what he has just said represents a fundamental departure in the policy of NATO and the principles that underlie it.

However, we shall leave that matter. What is much more important at this stage, assuming that the Secretary of State is right to undertake these additional tasks——

With respect, I have not said that anything has been undertaken. We are examining this with the Alliance. That must be right. There is no commitment to undertake anything. We are examining it because of the threats which exist far beyond the boundaries of NATO. NATO would be very wrong if, as an alliance, it did not look at these issues. As a members of NATO, with all our history, knowledge and tradition, we would be wrong not to see how we might be able to contribute in the light of any decision taken by the Alliance.

The Secretary of State will, I think, agree that he is doing more than examining. He will know that in his first year of office, he has begun to provide afloat support facilities elsewhere outside the conventional NATO sphere.

However, because of its position, Britain is uniquely placed among the European allies to provide and support those forces which will have to cross the Atlantic in time of tension or war. As paragraph 328 points out,
" we would supply the main weight of forces readily available in these areas. A vital task would be the deployment and protection of British and United States ballistic missile submarines. We would also have a major part to play in neutralising enemy submarines: in supporting NATO's Striking Fleet Atlantic; in the defence of reinforcement and resupply shipping and of amphibious operations in support of the Northern Flank and Atlantic Islands; and in the seaward defence of the United Kingdom itself."
I return to my question. Does the Secretary of State really believe that the United Kingdom forces can undertake that range of tasks?

Let us consider the question of rapid reinforcement, which was raised in the most urgent tones by the hon. Member for Haltemprice. I have said nothing so far which his hon. Friend did not say. In fact, his hon. Friend said more about rapid reinforcement than time will allow me to say. He stressed its importance and urgency and the growing threat towards its fulfilment. Therefore, is the Secretary of State quite sure that United Kingdom forces can provide for the local protection of convoys, or the defence of sea lines of communication and also seek to establish broad area control or integrate in an ASW barrier concept, as well as provide support for strike fleets or otherwise engage in forward defence strategy? As paragraph 409 states, will United Kingdom forces
" be able to operate effectively outside the NATO area, without diminishing our central commitment to the Alliance "?
That is my concern. That is the question that I have put repeatedly to the Secretary of State. If broken down—again, I simply echo what the hon. Member for Haltemprice put to him—it seeks to discover whether the right hon. Gentleman believes that he has enough ships and escorts. Although paragraph 409 states that
" certain improvements in the Services' worldwide capability are being considered".
can he assure the House that improvements in the defence of the home base will also be considered? For example, the Soviet Union has large stocks of naval mines. Our home waters are especially vulnerable to that kind of warfare, as the right hon. Gentleman has been reminded by his hon. Friend. Is the improvement of our minehunting and minesweeping capability being tackled with sufficient urgency? We have been considering the possibilities of providing that for years, and I shall return to that in a moment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) asked a similar question in relation to minesweeping trawlers. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) asked a similar question in relation to hovercraft. It was not the first time on which he has done so, nor is it the first time that my hon. Friend has done so. Indeed, when I was in the Navy Department, I was especially interested in the provision of ships. I was aware then that we needed more.

I interested myself in the Type 24 frigate. I was interested to know that the Type 2400 conventional submarine was corning along, and I was especially interested in the further provision of offshore patrol vessels. I was led to believe that each of those designs had the ability to take a variety of weapons systems and sensors according to the requirements of the customer navy and that each would represent a breakthrough in design. Yet all that we have got from the Government in their first year in office is the offshore patrol vessel.

The Type 24 frigates seem to have been sunk without trace. I suspect that an order for a Type 2400 submarine will come along at some time this year, but what is holding it up?

I understand the difficulties over the Type 24 frigate. I understand that there are difficulties with another Department. However, I must remind the Secretary of State that in his first year at the Ministry there have been only three orders for warships. There was the nuclear submarine ordered at Vickers at Barrow, the seabed operations vessel ordered at Scott Lithgow and the offshore vessel ordered at Aberdeen.

Those orders must be set alongside the concern that has been expressed on both sides of the House to day, especially by Conservative Members. As some of my hon. Friends know, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Douglas) has said, many firms, especially British Shipbuilders, have been concerned about the lack of orders. Some of them have been embarrassed following the expectations of orders from the Ministry of Defence.

Firms have responded to invitations to tender and have attended tender contract clarification meetings. They have submitted revised designs and tenders. They have retained work people in the expectation of substantial orders. They now learn in the White Paper that orders are not to go ahead. The lack of orders over the past year has cost shipbuilding firms, including British Shipbuilders, a great deal of money. It has affected the morale of many workers, especially those in the follow-on or mixed yards.

There is a general belief that the delay in placing orders during the past half year has been due in part to the Government's deliberations concerning a future generation of ballistic missile submarines. Undoubtedly a decision to build a new class of SSBNs would reduce the number of yards building surface warships unless the portion of the defence Vote assigned to shipbuilding was increased.

Although we have rightly praised the White Paper, it should not make the error of quoting the cost of a Type 42 destroyer as only £85 million. That was true of a ship ordered in about 1978. However, a similar ship ordered today by an overseas customer would cost more than £100 million.

We must have been thinking about and arguing about a need for mine-hunters, minesweepers and hovercraft for about 10 years. In the past year, there has been no advance in the proposal to order 12 trawlers, for which British shipbuilding yards have tendered on two occasions.

I hope that some Conservative Members will recall their own expressed concern in this debate or having listened to it from others, and will bear in mind what I have said about the paucity of shipbuilding orders that have been placed by the Government during the past year. Only three warships have been ordered in a year which, we are told, has set us on the threshold of a decade of danger and years of high risk. How do we reconcile that with a lack of ship orders?

The direct defence of the United Kingdom is vital not only to this country but to our allies. Our ports and airfields provide important operational bases and key assembly, transit and launching points for the reinforcement of NATO's forces. Any Warsaw Pact conventional attacks on Western Europe would probably include heavy attacks with conventional weapons to prevent NATO from bringing forward vital reserves of reinforcements. The Soviet air threat, especially with the build-up of the Backfire bomber force, extends to NATO's surface ships and submarines.

The convoy system is slow and inefficient. A poorly defended convoy is worse than no protection. No matter how far to the south such convoys may be routed, they would have to swing northeastwards towards the English Channel at some point. They would therefore come within the range of Backfire bombers.

Soviet submarines are not only more numerous, as the Secretary of State reminded us, but are becoming faster, deeper, quieter, coated and smarter. Is the Secretary of State satisfied that he has adequate numbers of marine patrol aircraft? Is he satisfied with ASW systems in general? The Soviets have 50 to 100 Backfire bombers in the northern and Baltic fleets. Is the Secretary of State satisfied with the present state of our air defence systems and with electronic warfare techniques in particular? He will be aware that trends in the balance of power favour the Warsaw Pact in several key areas. Will he assure the House that quality improvements by NATO continue to compensate for any quantitative deficiencies?

In addition to cost effectiveness, we also favour arms control. Indeed, we have said that again and again. We should like to see its limitation and reduction. We are well aware that by choosing that alternative we shall not automatically get the security that we need. That can come about only as a result of mutual agreement. We are equally aware that the Soviet Union has used the 1970s for a steady build-up of its military power. The uses to which such power can be put have been recently demonstrated. Although the Western democracies have held together better than expected, there is little sign of the confidence needed to enter wholeheartedly into arms control talks. The feeling persists that problems are accumulating faster than man's ability to cope with them, that irrationality is a stronger world force than many had bargained for, and, above all, that the two super Powers are failing to live up to their responsibilities.

Arms control should be pursued, but we recognise some of the difficulties. Quite apart from the threat, it must involve us in the modernisation of NATO forces if the restoration of a reasonable balance is the prerequisite of meaningful talks. We would have to give the Warsaw Pact notice that unless SALT III includes ceilings on nuclear forces in Europe, and unless a more positive attitude is adopted towards MBFR and CSCE, both sides will be heading for an arms race which, given our relative economic and technological advantages, they cannot win.

The conflict between, on the one hand, improving our societies and living by our values and, on the other, preserving both in a rough and tumble world has never been easy. Politics is not an exact science. It has always involved the art of finding and maintaining the best possible balance between competing, or sometimes contradictory, goals, under a constantly shifting sets of circumstances and within the limits of current voter perceptions. At least two hon. Members have expressed concern about voter perception. Voters do not recognise defence as a main item of concern. However, those same electors were not worried about most of the problems that face us today when they were small enough to be manageable.

Our problems of defence and arms control are still manageable, but they should not be allowed to grow. If we, the elected representatives, had not only the courage of our convictions but the courage to form convictions, we would meet a deep response from those electors who now appear disinterested. We must provide electors with much more information. We must also be absolutely frank. We should tell them that we deplore the scale of world-wide military spending in 1978, the last fully recorded year. Expenditure was four times as great in 1978 as in 1960, and 70 per cent. more at constant prices. The trend is unlikely to have changed since then. Unhappily, the fastest rise has occurred among developing countries. Meanwhile, about 600 million people cannot afford basic necessities. In 1979, about 8 million children died from hunger or illness related to malnutrition.

We should also tell electors that such figures tell us at least three things. First, they tell us that during the 1970s only the advanced countries of the West discovered that the party was over. That was their central experience during that period. For most of the world, that party never began. Secondly, mankind is extraordinarily bad at managing his own affairs in a spirit of enlightenment and self-interest. Thirdly, the world has become a much more dangerous place during the 1970s.

Only in this way can we hope to promote that perception by those who provide the taxes and, in some cases, also will provide the military service within the Alliance of the need and the size of the burden that they are asked to bear.

That is why for the Opposition the argument about how far we should match the Warsaw Pact concerns not only defence spending, and is certainly not about more defence spending or even about the type of strategy that we should pursue. It also concerns the type of society that we wish to create. The more we try to match the Warsaw Pact in arms spending, the more we shall be in danger of following the countries in that pact in other ways. A society with a better and freely accepted balance between military spending, consumer spending, social welfare and industrial investment will prove not only more appealing to the electorate but healthier and ultimately stronger.

9.31 pm

The hon Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) opened his wind-up speech with congratulations on the White Paper. This reflected the general comments made by most hon. Members who participated in the debate. We are very grateful for these kind comments. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force must take particular pleasure in them because of his particular role in the format of this White Paper.

There have been suggestions that an attempt should be made to produce a popular version of the White Paper at much cheaper cost so that many more people may read it. I am not sure about the technical feasibility of such a proposal, but certainly I think that it is highly desirable, and the possibility will be carefully examined.

The speech of the hon. Member for Attercliffe displayed the confusion which was also evident in the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Stockton (Mr. Rodgers). He began his speeech by saying that a visit to the United States had led him to believe that it was possible to get a bigger bang by a more effective use of resources and perhaps even a saving of money. He then went on to criticise the White Paper for suggesting that some very small increases in capability and flexibility could be obtained because the resources were not there to do more. There was a continuous confusion. I am not sure whether the hon. Member was in favour of buying more ships. Certainly he ordered a lot just before the election, but there were votes in that. Tonight, I was not sure whether he was in favour of buying more ships or whether he was criticising the size of the budget for being insufficient to order more, At the same time, he said that the budget was too big, anyway. Perhaps these contradictions were not all that unexpected in the context of this debate.

We have had a good and constructive debate with very powerful speeches by a number of my hon. Friends. [Interruption.] As usual, the hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Mr. Kerr) was not present for one moment throughout the course of the debate, yet he is able to give us the benefit of his advice. He has now taken the only honourable course by withdrawing. We heard powerful speeches from my right hon. Friends the Members for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Fraser) and Bournemouth, West (Sir J. Eden). Both speeches underlined the gravity of the present international situation.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) spoke of the need to alert the nation to the present perils, and I am certain that this speech and many others that have been made will have just that effect. Reference was also made to the telling phrase of the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr Shore), who spoke at the weekend of the world holding its breath because of the crisis. All those comments show the importance of the subject that we are debating today. They demonstrate effectively the disenchantment and irrelevance of the terms of the Opposition's amendment. The amendment is designed not to express a view but to conceal a difference. What a wide, yawning and damaging difference there is on the Labour Benches, as hon. Members who had the misfortune to hear the wild and irresponsible speech of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) will testify.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) sought to equate the language of the White Paper with quotations from the Soviet News. The difference is that he can stand up in this country quoting from both the White Paper and the Soviet News, but if he were in the Soviet Union holding somewhat mirror image views, what chance would he have? He would be shipped off, either to preventive detention, or at least to some obscure part of the Soviet Union so that he could not influence his fellow citizens.

The right hon. Member for Stockton opened the debate with great skill, seeking to bridge the fundamental gap that exists in his party. When he was Dr. Jekyll, he was congratulating us on the White Paper and hoping that it would be widely read. But instantly he turned into " Red Hyde ", saying that it was not worth reading, because it said nothing new and was too bland. I welcome the forthright support that he gave to NATO, in describing it as the cornerstone of our defence policy. However, he quickly went on to regret that he was not able to provide the finance in order to meet the NATO commitments that had been entered into by the Government of which he was a member.

Tomorrow the Opposition must say —we have not heard a word from them, or at least from their Front Bench today—how they will reduce defence expenditure. Is it their intention to renege on comparability for Forces pay? Is it their intention to cancel equipment orders, and to refuse to place orders for additional equipment? If so, will they be specific? Will they cut back on work services, and not provide the accommodation and buildings that are needed for both operational and reasonable living conditions for our Service men? What will their cuts in defence expenditure cost in terms of the loss of jobs that will flow from their proposals?

The right hon. Member for Stockton complained about lack of information, undue secrecy, and absence of parliamentary debate on nuclear policy. Yet he is a member of a party which, when in government, launched the development of British nuclear weapons in the late 1940s—largely for internal party reasons. I applaud his Government for having done so, but it was done in secrecy, without even discussion in the Cabinet of the day—if we are to believe the memoirs. His Government maintained the Polaris deterrent in the 1960s. They initiated the updating and hardening of Polaris in the late 1960s— the Chevaline programme—and sustained the programme from 1974 to 1979. During their last 10 years in office, the Labour Government did not hold a single debate in the House about nuclear weapons, and they avoided any significant mention of them or any details about them in any official document.

The right hon. Member for Stockton is an agreeable chap, but he must not strain our general good will by such absurd criticisms. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has given a great deal of information on the subject. He has promised a full explanation and account of the reasoning behind the decisions that will be made on the Polaris successor system. He deserves credit from all parts of the House for breaking with the tradition set by the previous Government of keeping these matters under a veil of secrecy.

If the hon. Gentleman is in the business of helping tomorrow's debate, will he comment on the difficult question of why his Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary first heard of the American military action in Iran from Mr. Brian Redhead and Miss Livvy Purves and how it came about that the Secretary of State for Defence could not tell us—I do not blame him; he is a courteous and truthful man—whether the Americans had the use of the British base at Diego Garcia? It would greatly help tomorrow's debate if we had something forthcoming on that vital aspect of information available to senior members of the Government.

Far from helping tomorrow's debate, that intervention will probably provide some publicity for the hon. Gentleman, but we understand his skill in such matters.

I want to turn to a matter that was raised by the right hon. Member for Stockton and many of his hon. Friends namely arms control.

No. I intend to speak about arms control. I want to make clear the Government's view on arms control and disarmament.

The hon. Gentleman is not normally unprepared to listen to a prepared and carefully considered point on a matter that was raised by the right hon. Member for Stockton, who opened the debate for the Opposition, and was continually raised by many other hon. Members. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should persist, because the House is entitled to receive from me some comments on the question of arms control

We want to make progress, and we shall continue to make every effort to secure progress.

We need to be clear-sighted about our objective and about the means and conditions for achieving it. It is easy to talk of, or call for, new initiatives, but any new initiative on arms control must be properly thought through and soundly based. Arms control is a matter not for grand gestures, but for solid, painstaking work.

Of course I can understand the appeal to some people of unilateral disarmament. To them, it must seem an easy solution to the undeniable moral dilemmas presented by modern weapons of mass destruction. However, while I respect their sincerity, I profoundly disagree with their conclusions. Unilateral disarmament is not the way to preserve peace and stability between nations. It would distort the balance on which our security, and that of our friends and allies, rests, and would undermine the capability of the North Atlantic Alliance to deter aggression.

In December last year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Foreign Secretary, together with the Foreign and Defence Ministers of our allies, endorsed a major new arms control initiative designed to contribute to a more stable military balance in Europe and to improve relations between East and West. The initiative took the form of a comprehensive programme of action—addressing both the military balance and the need to build confidence —to improve mutual security and cooperation in Europe.

I should like to remind the House of the content of that programme. First, there was an offer to negotiate for substantial reductions in the level of long-range theatre nuclear forces as well as inter-continental strategic forces within the framework of SALT III. Secondly, it offered the unilateral withdrawal of 1,000 United States nuclear warheads from Europe. Thirdly, there was a proposal for an interim phase 1 agreement for mutual and balanced force reductions designed to give fresh impetus to the MBFR negotiations. Fourthly, there was a proposal for a package of associated measures in MBFR designed to ensure compliance with the agreement and to make military activities more transparent, thereby improving mutual confidence. Fifthly, in furtherance of the work of the conference on security and co-operation in Europe, there was a readiness to examine proposals concerning confidence-building measures and a conference on disarmament in Europe. I emphasise that these are not just ideas which have been floated in a vague way. They are concrete proposals.

Immediately following the December meeting, the United States Administration made a formal offer to the Soviet Union to begin negotiations on limiting theatre nuclear forces. The Russian response was negative. If no negotiations are taking place, that is the responsibility of the Soviet Union. It is not that of the members of the Alliance. We have stressed that the offer is serious, and it remains on the table.

Work on the offer continues within the Alliance. The unilateral withdrawal of 1,000 United States nuclear warheads from Europe will go ahead. In addition, when the Alliance deploys modernised theatre nuclear forces, further warheads will be withdrawn on a one-for-one basis. Thus, unilaterally the West will have reduced substantially the number of warheads that it deploys in Europe.

Also in December, shortly after the ministerial meeting, Western representatives in the MBFR talks presented proposals for an interim phase 1 agreement and a package of associated measures. There has been another round of talks since then in which both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to a search for an MBFR agreement. The Western proposals remain on the table, and we await a constructive response from the East. Here again, the ball is not in our court.

The United Kingdom is also participating with the United States and the Soviet Union in negotiations towards a comprehensive test ban. The issues involved are complex, and progress is slow. But the Government remain committed to the achievement of a fair and verifiable test ban which we believe would play an important part in curbing the development of new types of nuclear weapons. We shall also continue to work for a successful outcome to the Madrid conference which is to be held later this year and also to the review conference on the non-proliferation treaty.

The Government, therefore, are firmly committed to seeking realistic measures of arms control and disarmament. I assure the House that we shall look most carefully for other areas where there is scope for further concrete and viable initiatives.

I repeat, alleged initiatives. However, at the same time, was not a decision taken to station 572 cruise missiles in Western Europe?

The decision made by NATO to station those cruise missiles was accompanied by a comprehensive offer of this kind. It is interesting that to date the Soviet Union has not responded in a positive fashion.

Two other related subjects were raised during today's debate. I refer, of course, to biological and chemical weapons.

The United Kingdom played an active and leading part in the successful biological weapons convention review conference which was held in Geneva in March of this year. The parties to the convention reaffirmed their strong determination, for the sake of mankind, to exclude the possibility of biological agents and toxins being used as weapons. They also reaffirmed their strong support for the convention, their continued dedication to its principles and objectives and their commitment to implement effectively its provisions. I regret, however, that the conference was not able to conclude that these provisions had been complied with fully. The position of the United Kingdom remains that in no circumstances would we consider developing, possessing or using biological weapons. We urge all Governments to make unambiguous statements of non-possession or destruction of biological weapon stocks.

I now turn to chemical warfare, raised by a number of hon. Members, on both sides of the House. The United Kingdom is committed to seeking a verifiable ban on the production and stockpiling of chemical weapons. We believe that all Governments should support efforts to this end, but Soviet unwillingness to countenance the necessary verification methods which would be an essential safeguard means that we cannot hope for early progress. Although we hope that such weapons will be banned by international agreement, the Soviet posession of a substantial chemical capability poses a serious threat to the United Kingdom and her allies that we cannot ignore. It is in the context of this threat that the whole subject of chemical warfare is being kept under careful review.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) for his general support of the White Paper and our policy towards NATO. I am grateful to him for reminding us of the recent feature in The Economist about the Army. I should like to respond to some of his questions about equipment. In artillery support, we have decided to purchase a further 48 self-propelled M109 guns from the United States for delivery next year. These will enable us to increase the size of our batteries in BAOR from six to eight guns and to increase the number of batteries with 155mm weapons as opposed to 105mm Abbot guns. This measure will greatly enhance the hitting power of our corps' artillery. In the longer term, an advanced 155mm self-propelled gun, the SP70, is being developed jointly with Germany and Italy and is due to enter service in the late 1980s.

The SP 70 will provide fast, accurate and heavy concentrations of artillery fire in support of the close combat battle. Depth fire will be provided by a new multiple launch rocket system—the MLRS—to be procured under a memorandum of understanding with the United States, France and the Federal Republic of Germany. This is a tracked, self-propelled armoured rocket launcher, carrying 12 rockets capable of very rapid reload and planned to enter service with the British Army in the mid-1980s. Its introduction will provide a major jump in the volume of depth fire available to the 1st British Corps.

Questions were asked about the new mechanised combat vehicle for the Army. Part of the present fleet of AFV 430 tracked aramoured personnel carriers is due for replacement in the mid-1980s. GKN Sankey Limited has started development and is making good progress on a mechanised combat vehicle, the MCV 80, to meet this requirement. We are also looking carefully at progress being made on a United States development, called the IFV, the infantry fighting vehicle.

A decision will soon be made between the options of continuing with the MCV 80 or manufacturing the IFV in this country under licence. This matter is being currently studied. Either vehicle will afford our mechanised infantry considerably increased mobility, protection and fire power on the future battlefield. While our present anti-tank guided weapons have an effective capability against the T64 and T72 tanks, we are planning an evolutionary programme of improvements to Milan, TOW and Swingfire which will be designed to counter recent and forecast improvements in Warsaw Pact armour.

The details of the improvements must obviously remain classified, but they are designed to ensure the continuing effectiveness of our family of anti-tank missiles. We are also going ahead with full development by Hunting Engineering of anew light anti-tank weapon, LAW. The weapon is due to come into service with the British Army in the early 1980s. It is very simple to use and cheap to pro duce—a single shot, throwaway weapon in which the launcher is discarded after firing. It can be carried by one man, in addition to his other equipment. As the short-range member of the Army's anti- armour family of weapons, it will complement the crew-served Milan medium- range weapon now in service with many battalions. Specifically designed for engagements against the whole range of tanks that will be on the battlefield throughout the 1980s, we are confident that LAW will be lethal against all known and potential targets. It is a great im provement on the American M72 66mm weapon and the Carl Gustav 84mm weapon, both of which will be replaced. It will be issued widely throughout the infantry and to other arms and Services, including those in the rear areas. Wide spread interest has been shown in the weapon by NATO armies to which it has been demonstrated. It is the only weapon in the world which fully meets the requirements of our European Allies' armies and has considerable worldwide potential. The contract——

The hon. Member was not here at the time when the hon. Member for Isle of Wight raised a number of these questions about equipment.

The hon. Member also asked about helicopters. A contract is being placed with Westland Helicopters for a further 14 Lynx helicopters to maintain the Army's planned front-line strength——

Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot keep addressing the House from a sedentary position.

These questions were raised, and I am trying to reply to some of them.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone asked about the Hawk aircraft. I am pleased to announce that the RAF is to get 18 more Hawk jet trainers to supplement its fleet of training aircraft. They will help to meet the increased requirement for fast jet training and, as with the present RAF Hawk aircraft, a proportion of the new aircraft will be able to carry the Sidewinder AIM9L air-to-air missile. This will provide the ability further to supplement the RAF's specialist air defence forces. The first of the new aircraft should be delivered by 1983.

Questions were also asked about the air defence of the United Kingdom, a subject of great importance. It is not only the aircraft and the weapons systems which need to be improved. Just as important in providing modern and effective air defence systems is the network of ground operation centres, communications systems and surveillance radar which act as the eyes of the system and provide the information to which the aircraft respond. That is why we have embarked on a major programme to modernise the system.

I have explained——

Since at least four of his hon. Friends mentioned civil defence, if the Minister does not answer that question tonight, will he ensure that it is answered tomorrow?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I was not proposing to discuss that subject tonight, but I assure him that reference will be made to it tomorrow. As he knows, the matter is the responsibility of the Home Secretary. That is why it is not mentioned in the White Paper. However, I understood, as did my right hon. Friend, the great strength of feeling expressed by a number of hon. Members about the vital importance of civil defence. That has been noted, and I hope that some comments will be made about it tomorrow. Studies have been continuing on this matter.

I wanted to say a word about the Royal ordnance factories. They manufacture a wide range of equipment to meet the needs of the Armed Forces and of overseas customers, with exports representing about half of their total output by value. The ROF's have operated successfully with the greater commercial freedom that they have enjoyed since the ROF trading fund was established in 1974. They have paid total dividends of about £31 million into the Consolidated Fund, which is the equivalent of a 10 per cent. return on the public dividend capital and its reserves.

The loss of Iranian orders for tanks has had a serious impact upon the results, as has industrial unrest, but, having visited ROF Blackburn and ROF Leeds, I can testify to the high quality and good motivation of the staff. They know that future trading success depends upon the manner in which the ROFs respond to the challenges which undoubtedly lie ahead, and every effort is being made to secure new overseas markets and to improve the organisation's competitive position.

I was hoping to have time to say something about defence sales policy——

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.