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Column 198reported that the Soviet Union has developed ERA with unexpected speed, and that since the early 1980s it has been fitted to large numbers of their tanks.
The General Staff Target for LAW 80 was issued in 1971 and full development commenced in 1977-78. The performance requirement is designed to counter thicker Soviet frontal armour and not ERA. It would seem therefore that LAW 80 will not be capable of penetrating the frontal arc of the latest Soviet tanks where this is protected by ERA".
I have no doubt that LAW80 is an excellent weapons system--indeed, the best in the world. However, it is years late and well over budget, and that is because the staff requirement of 1971 was based on a fallacy. It was based on an assumption that the Soviet Union would not develop its armour any further. However, we know that developments in the Soviet Union do not stand still. It was based on the assumption that what this country had developed in 1974--ERA--would not be available to the Soviets by 1983, the first projected date for bringing that weapons system into service. Frankly, that was just foolishness.
Although it will not always be possible to do so, I hope that, as far as is practicable, the Ministry of Defence will ensure that when a staff target is determined it allows not only for likely Soviet advances in weapons and defensive systems, but also for the developments made by friendly forces.
LAW80 crops up again in my second criticism of the procurement process, as does the vertically launched Sea Wolf. Hunting Engineering was the lead contractor for LAW80 and British Aerospace was the lead contractor for Sea Wolf, but both had Royal Ordnance as their main sub-contractor. Royal Ordnance was Hunting's sub-contractor for the rocket motor for LAW80 and BAE's sub-contractor for the boost motor for Sea Wolf. However, the contracts were different. Hunting's contract was initially set in 1977 on a cost-plus basis and was changed in 1983 to an incentive pricing basis.
On the other hand, we were told proudly by Ministers that British Aerospace's contract was on a fixed price basis. No doubt this is naive, but I always thought that a fixed price would not change. However, I got it wrong. A fixed price means a fixed price for the MOD, not for the taxpayer. For both Hunting's LAW80 and BAe's vertically launched Sea Wolf, because the sub-contractor was owned by the public--at that stage Royal Ordnance was still in the public sector--the public had to pay when the sub- contractor got it wrong. I trust that when my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench again tell us that a contract has been let on a fixed or firm basis, they will ensure that they also tell the House whether any of the sub-contractors are owned by the public, because if they are, although the price may be fixed for the MOD, if things go wrong it will not necessarily be a fixed or firm price to the British public. It is wrong for the taxpayer to end up bailing out failure when we have been assured in the past that that will not happen.
I should like to make another short point before leaving the issue of procurement. I do not doubt the competence of my right hon. and hon. Friends, but I find it somewhat odd that the three Ministers who had anything to do with procurement--the Secretary of State, the Minister of State and the Under-Secretary of State--should have been moved from that Department at exactly the same time.
My last main point concerns personnel. We have heard much about the demographic time bomb, about
Column 199MARILYN and about the problems there will be in recruitment. All that is absolutely true. It is essential that we face those problems early and that we do something about them. However, there is another point, on which my hon. Friend the Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates) touched, and that is the retention of personnel. At present, when a man asks to leave under premature voluntary retirement--PVR--he is interviewed by one of his senior officers and asked why he is going. He may give them frank reasons, but sometimes he may blame his wife and some of his real reasons may be rather different. I suggest that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces should consider the suggestion that, six months after a person has left under PVR or declined to re-engage, that person, or a sample of such people, should be interviewed by an organisation independent of the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry should then attempt to determine what actually prompted that person to leave and should attempt to remedy the defects that cause PVR or cause people to decline to re-engage, as far as that is possible.
I should also like the possibility of re-enlistment bonuses to be considered. As we well know, every year there is a shortfall in a number of specialisations, usually those for which it has cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds to train men. It should be possible to undertake annually a cost-benefit analysis and to compare the cost of paying a re- enlistment bonus to all those eligible where there is a projected lack of personel in any one year against the cost of additional training and the cost of the shortfall. There could be published annually in Defence Council instructions a list of re-enlistment bonuses that might be paid for that year to certain specialisations. It costs a vast amount to train men and women. It is right that we should do so and continue to do so, but it is also right that we should do our best to retain within the services the skills that have cost the taxpayer so much. I hope that my hon. Friends will consider those points.
I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill). At the end of his speech, I realised that the Labour party does not have a defence policy ; it has a disarmament policy. It is a disarmament policy based essentially on surrendering everything for next to nothing. If the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) did not make that clear, the twisting and turning of the hon. Member for Clackmannan did.
Only one party can be trusted with the defence of this country, and that is the Conservative party, as it has shown time and again. I have no doubt that in two to three years' time the British public will demonstrate at the polls their trust in this Government and their defence policy.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : I find the remarks of the hon. Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) amazing, when one considers the content of the speech by the Secretary of State today. He was introducing the estimates, which was a major opportunity to set out the Government's policy. What did he tell us? He told us that a new department of defence studies was to be established at London university and he then went on to attack the Labour party for debating the direction of our defence policy. There was no recognition that there needed to be a
Column 200change of policy and the development of a new strategy. The Secretary of State did not deal with the many problems that face our defences at present. He did not refer to any of the Select Committee reports except with a passing reference of gratitude to the Select Committee, perhaps for not asking too many awkward questions. If one looks down the list of points for us to debate today and the serious questions raised, one realises that he did not answer any of them. The Secretary of State did not tell us what will happen to the Trident programme and whether it will come about. He did not deal even with the question of anti-tank weapons. However, his real failure was that he did not set out a strategy for disarmament or arms reduction for this country over the next 10 years. He said that it was far too soon to know whether the Soviet Union is really taking the process seriously and whether changes will come about. In defence, decisions have to be taken well in advance. We could have expected from the Government in a major speech such as today's that they would at least set out some tentative proposals on the way in which the Government are starting to think. We got none of that.
Clearly there is now a need for a major review of our whole defence strategy, as the Opposition Front Bench suggested. The key question was put by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) when he asked how much we were prepared to spend and, within that target, where our priorities should lie. That is the debate in which we should be involved.
We should recognise that Gorbachev has changed the whole debate on arms. He has broken the cold war mould and we now have to address ourselves to what we put in its place. The Government cannot continue to play the red menace card to justify a defence policy that has continued for years. They must face up to the fact that a new mould is being created. They cannot pick up the pieces from the old mould. There is a new mould in which we should have a positive input and we should say that we want to be involved in the disarmament process. We want to ensure that our legitimate interests are looked after in that process.
We do not want to be left out. It is only too evident at present that this country is very much on the sidelines. If this country does become involved, it is to say, "Don't make progress. Don't do this. Stop that. We want to modernise this area of weapons. We do not want to get involved in the disarmament process." What we needed from the Government and the Secretary of State was a clear statement of how the Government are going to face up to the challenges of the next 10 years in which, with any luck at all, we shall be moving to a position where disarmament and not rearmament is the key. I should like Ministers to tell us what is happening at the START talks. We are told that President Bush hopes that there can be an agreement on the first phase of those talks for the summer of 1990. Will that include some commitment on numbers for the United States Trident D5, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) referred earlier? If there is to be some agreement on the numbers of Trident C5s that the United States will be able to deploy, what are the implications for us on costs and the total numbers concerned? It seems inconceivable that the number that the United States will be able to deploy will be limited by those talks and yet we will not be included in that.
Column 201I understand that on 23-24 September, there were discussions about a memorandum of understanding about the START talks which involved the whole question of radar installations. The Soviet Union unilaterally announced that the station at Krasnoyarsk is to be dismantled. It then said that if it were to do that unilaterally, the United States should consider the dismantling of the radar installation at Fylingdales. Is that correct? If so, what discussions are taking place between the British Government and the United States about the future of Fylingdales? It may be that the United States is saying firmly that it is not prepared to go along with the Soviet suggestion. However, we should be involved in those discussions. What do the conventional forces in Europe talks mean for Britain? If there are to be limits on the number of tanks deployed in Europe, what will be the effect on fresh orders for the Challenger tanks? What about the nuclear capability of the Tornados? What will happen to troop numbers in Germany? Those are all questions that we should address and matters on which we should decide where we want to go. On the issue of troop numbers in Germany, one key question is : how will the armed forces successfully recruit youngsters? There has been a dramatic fall in the number of 18 and 19-year-olds. What are the implications for the conversion of our defence industries? The Government have made no comment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield told us of the extent to which our economy depends on defence contractors. If there is a lessening of tension between the super-powers and a reduction in regional conflicts, the demand for weapons is likely to decline. We must look positively at ways to find new products for these companies and at how we can provide Government assistance for research and development so that these firms can produce goods for peaceful purposes.
I understand that the crucial debate at the conference in Geneva on disarmament is about a ban on chemical weapons, with the discussions involving not only the super-powers but other countries. Anyone who has seen pictures of the Iran-Iraq war and the effect of chemical weapons cannot fail to be impressed by the need to make progress. Nuclear testing is also a subject at the Geneva talks. In the September talks, the Soviet Union proposed further bans on underground testing and announced that it would impose a unilateral ban on underground testing and plutonium production. So far, the United States does not seem happy about this, but at least it is prepared to discuss the issue. What has been the British Government's reaction? I understand that the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office--the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave)-- responding for the British Government, said that any further underground test ban would be premature and destabilising because such tests were fundamental to maintain the British nuclear deterrent. It is appalling that Britain is dragging its feet in the discussions.
I have made my position on the Trident programme clear--it is immoral. We must, however, consider whether it has any credibility. Increasingly it is becoming a sick and expensive joke. The Defence Select Committee has said in its reports that there are major problems in terms of the
Column 202production of missile heads and of refit facilities. It is clear that the programme has been called into question because of what is happening in the United States.
I am pleased to see the Minister of State for Defence Procurement on the Government Front Bench. It is interesting that, when Sir John Nott announced to the House on 11 March 1982 that we would commit ourselves to the D5 missile system, the hon. Gentleman asked the crucial question. He started with a bit of flannel, telling the Minister how wise the decision was, but he went on to ask : "what guarantees are there that during the currency of the procurement of the system it will not be cancelled, either at the whim of the United States Congress or as a result of changes of President or changes of presidential mood or attitude over the next 20 years?"
Sir John Nott brushed the hon. Gentleman aside by saying that there was no problem. He said :
"On the whole, our allies tend to keep to their agreements. I do not think that such a hypothetical situation has ever arisen".--[ Official Report, 11 March 1982 ; Vol. 19, c. 982-83.]
Sir John Nott did not think that it would ever have any practical effect.
The United States is questioning the future of the Trident D5 programme. We understand that the British ambassador, Sir Antony Acland, is trying to convince senators and congressmen that they have to reinstate the $1.8 billion that they have cut from the programme.
We understand that committees in the United States decided on the cut because they had seen classified information--two trials failed and there were major problems with the missile system in the one that succeeded. It does not really matter whether the money is put back--if the system is technically in disarray, there are major problems. How can the Minister be so confident that the technical problems can be overcome? Those senators and congressmen who saw the classified reports felt that there was so much difficulty about the programme that they cut the amount of money available. I realise that this is a matter of argument between the various parts of the United States military machine, but there are two sides to the issue-- either the United States will include the Trident missile system in START or, because of delays, the Trident system will be brought into question. I have raised several times my point about the communications system for the Trident submarines. Ministers keep arguing, "We cannot tell the House of Commons about our communications system. It must be kept secret." There can be little credibility in that approach. If Trident is to be a deterrent, we should be prepared to tell people that we have an effective communications system. A deterrent can be credible only if people believe that it will work. The only argument in favour of the Government wanting to keep the system secret is that there is no system at all.
We are told that the Government are considering an extremely low frequency transmitter at Glengarry Forest in Scotland. How much will that cost? Is it merely an experimental station? If it works, will a full-scale station have to be designed? What is the time scale for construction? Obviously, the Trident programme is
Column 203slipping, Unless there is an effective communications system, there is not much point in having it. Unless there is a connection between the button and the submarines--it does not matter whose finger is on the button--the system does not have credibility. Will the ELF system stand up to electromagnetic pulses? Will we be involved if, following START I, START II or START III, the United States includes its Trident D5 system in the negotiations?
The tragedy of today's debate is that the Government have not put forward their strategy for becoming involved in the disarmament talks. Whether they are slow or very slow, so far the Government have said that they are not getting involved. Many Opposition Members and people outside believe that we should be enthusiastically involved in those talks and that we should be reducing the world production of armaments, finding jobs for those who are displaced and ensuring that they can produce goods that are socially much more useful for this country and the world.
Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre) : I should like to apologise to the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill), who unfortunately is not in the Chamber. I had no idea when I was attempting to intervene that it would be quite so easy to disrupt his speech. I can only assume that it was easy because he had the greatest difficulty in following it himself. Not only Conservative Members but Opposition Members felt that some of his arguments were, to say the least, a bit specious. If I had been allowed to inervene, I would have said that I was interested in the fact that finally the Labour party had admitted that in real terms the cost of the Trident missile programme was on the way down, not up.
I was less convinced by the Labour party's new policy, which does not seem to go for parity of weapons, conventional and nuclear, with the Soviet bloc, but is prepared to accept the Soviet bloc's superiority in a wide range of weapons systems.
I was interested that the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) seemed to support various defence companies which are worried about how Ministry of Defence competitive tendering has been organised. I do not share his worries. Surprisingly, it was the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) who explained to his own Front Bench that the hon. Member for Clackmannan had nothing to worry about, as such companies had made £3.3 billion in profits last year. I have little doubt that competitive tendering has been successful during the past few years.
As many hon. Members have said, since last year's debate on defence procurement, there have been rapid changes on the international and national scenes which have profound implications for this country's defence and for the future of NATO.
The belated recognition by the Labour party that its policy of unilateralism cannot be sustained, and its adoption of a weak and illogical form of multilateralism, should not go unnoticed. It should also not go unnoticed that Labour's new defence policy envisages Britain scrapping a nuclear deterrent, but a potential aggressor such as the Soviet Union still having nuclear weapons. Despite the appearance of the Labour party radically
Column 204shifting its position on nuclear matters, in reality it has only moved a few tentative steps in the right direction and then stopped. The commitment accompanying the reduction in the nuclear deterrent, to cut conventional defence forces by around £5 billion, or 25 per cent. of the present defence budget, gives cause for concern. The Labour party may try to wriggle out of it and to say that it is not a binding commitment and may occur over a number of years, but if a commitment to a weaker form of multilateralism and a decision to reduce conventional forces were taken at the same time, at the same Labour party conference, even if the decision to cut conventional forces is not binding, it must call into question Labour's commitment to any sort of multilateralism at all.
It is significant that, throughout these debates on the armed forces during the past two years, we have been told by the Labour Front Bench--it has been its constant refrain--that the Government have cut conventional defence expenditure to maintain a nuclear deterrent. While that is untrue, it is a little odd that the Opposition now want to go further down the route that they have previously criticised the Government for taking. Such cuts would mean that the country would not be adequately defended. For example, they might mean the complete cancellation of the European fighter aircraft programme which would have a horrifying effect on job prospects in the north-west. These policies could also mean the elimination of the whole of the Royal Navy's surface fleet, or a huge reduction in the number of ground troops we commit to Europe. It is clear that, if such cuts were carried out, every soldier, sailor and airman would have to go into battle virtually defenceless.
As to the much saner policies of the Government, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the measures the Government have taken to help recruitment. In particular, the extra encouragement to women to join the armed forces is very welcome. The change of policy to allow women to train as pilots is one that many hon. Members have asked the Government to consider, and I am delighted that it has happened.
Still more needs to be done to help recruitment and retention of personnel. If the armed services are to continue to attract and retain the right calibre of personnel, a more flexible pay policy will have to be introduced. That policy, as in any other business, should be designed to pay the market rate for skills that the armed services need to retain. It would almost certainly mean more reliance on specialist pay rather than on rank pay. For example, flying pay will have to be doubled, if not trebled, if the losses of highly experienced and highly trained personnel to airlines are to be stemmed.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will press the Treasury to allow service men who sign for a further term, who have come to the end of one term, to keep the gratuity. At present, they obtain the gratuity only if they leave. Some service men leave, take the gratuity, and return a year later, to the resentment of those who have stayed in service. I am convinced that, if the gratuity were given at the end of the first period of service, it would stem the flow of experienced service men who leave at the end of their first engagement.
Another measure that is long overdue is a better service saving scheme to make up for the disadvantages service personnel suffer compared with civilians when buying a house. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr.
Column 205Brazier) has pressed very hard for a scheme to solve this problem, and I hope that the Ministry of Defence will give it further consideration.
A subject that is allied to recruitment and retention of personnel is the contracting out of certain service functions to civilian companies. I approve of contracting out as it gives the taxpayer better value for the money spent on defence, but I feel that the Government have to move carefully in its application.
The recent security scares have shown how thin on the ground service personnel are at certain locations and how, because of contracting out, they are expected to carry out an increasing number of additional tasks, such as guard duties. That does not help morale in the services or encourage people to stay on for a further engagement.
Contracting out should be examined and clauses should be included in contracts to encourage employees of civilian firms to join the reserve forces so that extra personnel are readily available in times of emergency or high alert states to carry out the many additional tasks that need to be completed at those times.
I find it a little strange that the armed services have to employ private security firms to guard military installations while they have in the past provided the Home Office with service personnel to guard prisons.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the recent 4 4 lorry contest and the way it was organised. It shows clearly the advantage of competitive tendering when it is carried out properly. I am convinced that the contest will be the forerunner of many more highly successful contests of that nature.
I hope that the Ministry of Defence will soon be able to order the naval version of the EH101 and the utility version of this aircraft for the Royal Air Force. The Secretary of State has rightly drawn attention to the need to procure aircraft and other weapon systems across service boundaries, and helicopters are a good case in point. I realise that the RAF is lukewarm about funding the EH101, as it feels that this may compete against any future funding for the updating of the Nimrod air-to-surface anti-submarine aircraft. This problem also exists over the procurement of the light attack helicopter, about which the RAF is lukewarm because it feels that the funds spent on it may come from other projects about which it is enthusiastic, such as updating the ground attack capability of the Tornado, the Harrier and, in the future, the European fighter aircraft. The RAF will have to pay more attention to helicopters than it has done, because they provide good value for money in the land battle order. It is high time that the Ministry of Defence decided the mix between tanks, helicopters and artillery in the air-land order of battle. By not doing so, it is holding up procurement of important weapons systems.
The mid-life update of the Tornado, and more specifically the provision of a stand-off weapon for that aircraft, needs more attention. Now that the United States seems to be less enthusiastic about the version of that weapon that we should like to procure, it is all the more important that we make certain that we get on board some of our European allies to produce a weapon that meets our specifications, and to make certain that the Tornado continues to be a highly effective weapons system well into the next century. The changes that have taken place over the past year will mean, over a number of years ahead, great changes in
Column 206our views on defence. It is important now that we maintain a strong guard during the period of instability in eastern Europe. These estimates show that the Government are doing precisely that. 7.41 pm
Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan) : I was extremely disappointed by the speeches of the two Front Bench spokesmen. It would be churlish not to welcome the Secretary of State to his new post, but his speech was seriously deficient, and that deficiency was also apparent in the speech of the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill). Both of them meandered around the place, but neither had any strategic sweep or vision in the make -up of their ideas and their concept of this important issue. Both went out of their way to avoid a key element of the framework of the so-called British defence system in the immediate future--Trident. The Secretary of State hardly mentioned it.
I thought that the hon. Member for Clackmannan was bound to mention Trident. During the recess, on 28 August, I read an article in The Guardian headlined :
"Delays put Trident in jeopardy'."
It then had a smaller heading :
"Labour warns nuclear defence programme is at risk."
It then quoted the Labour defence spokesman as saying : "Sir Francis's study is the first public admission of the failure to organise the production of the British element and the so-called independent deterrent. After months of complacency and denial, the MoD has finally admitted that there are severe shortcomings in the programme."
I could not make out from that whether the hon. Member for Clackmannan was happy about the problems because that might lead to there being no Trident, or was unhappy because the problems might be solved and lead to Trident being here. There was an illogicality and a serious ambiguity about his position.
I thought to myself, "Not to worry, Martin is on holiday as well and we are all entitled to a breather. He'll come to the big two-day defence debate when we return, open for the Labour party and we will get it laid out." I thought that there would be a close probing of the Government about Trident. We might not get Trident, and the Labour party would hope that what is happening with warheads and in the Congress of the USA would lead to no Trident emerging. As I understand the Labour party's position, it does not want Trident, but unfortunately vessels 1 and 2 will be built and vessel 3 will be 40 per cent. through and a future Labour Government will have to accept them, however reluctant they are, but they will not take the fourth. Such an attitude is different from what I understood was the Labour party's previous position, which was that Trident could not be put in place on the Clyde at all. There would be no Trident, no warheads, none of the rest of it. However, the hon. Member for Clackmannan told us nothing about this. There was also nothing from Labour as an element of the Socialist movement, despite what we expected. There should have been some understanding of the window of opportunity now opening because of events in eastern Europe.
I am not naive. I know the Communist system very well--[ Hon. Members :- - "Oh!"]--from a study point of view. I have never been a member of the Communist party. I have always had grave doubts about the ability of the Soviet-Marxist system to reform itself fundamentally, without the most serious dislocation and going into a
Column 207catatonic state. I hope that the Gorbachev wing of the Soviet Communist party succeeds, although I fear that he may become a victim of present circumstances. There is a great paradox. Mr. Gorbachev is far more popular in western Europe and the Warsaw pact countries than he is inside the Soviet Union.
On the fundamentals, the politics there is essentially not different from the politics here. If Governments cannot put money in the pocket, food on the plate and people into decent housing, or provide a health service, they lose public support. After four years, Mr. Gorbachev's policies are not delivering the goods to the ordinary Soviet citizen. I should be sorry if he fell from power, because the world owes him a great deal, but it is interesting that in East Germany, West Germany and the United States he is popular, but one would not find crowds shouting "Gorby, Gorby" in Moscow, the Ukraine, Byelorussia or other parts of the Soviet Union.
Even if Mr. Gorbachev is a victim of the changing circumstances, we cannot go back to the Brezhnev-style years. Gorbachev is an individual, but he is a representative of an important movement for change in the system. While he might be a victim of it, Russia will never be the same again. I should have thought that someone coming from the Socialist movement, like the hon. Member for Clackmannan, would have some idea of the opportunities that are opening up. We must make real and substantial gestures, and we on this side of the eastern bloc should start mobilising resources to help people rather than to build weapons to kill them. That would assist the reform movement in the Soviet Union, because it requires technical assistance, training, technology and the transfer of capital. How much better it would be for a member of the Labour party, which is supposed to be a Socialist organisation, to have such a programme. However, we did not get it.
The Scottish National party has been unilateralist for many a long day and it will remain so. It is consistent in its policy--almost as consistent as was the Leader of the Opposition until a short time ago. I shall now examine why the Labour party changed its policy and rejected unilateral nuclear disarmament as a means of contributing to the process of disarmament and peace. I shall also apply the test of difference to a concept being touted around Scotland by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), who leads the Labour party north of the border--a concept of Scottish independence in the UK. That is the Labour party's answer to the Scottish National party's policy of Scottish independence as a member state of the European community. The term used by the Labour party north of the border--I am sure that this will surprise many Labour party supporters south of the border--is independence in the United Kingdom. Defence policy is a reasonable test of whether there is genuine independence. As I understand it, over many years the Labour party's policy on unilateralism rested on three foundations. The first foundation was that the British bomb was not independent. Secondly, the Labour party argued that it had never been a deterrent. Thirdly, it alleged that it was deeply immoral to use the bomb, even in retaliation. I shall quote the Leader of the Opposition on this issue. The right hon. Gentleman made the position
Column 208clear, and in so doing gained much approval from folk like me. On 13 February 1984, when addressing the Carnegie Endowment in Washington DC, he said :
"In nuclear war, initial attack--whether by first strike or first use-- would be an act of self-immolation and retaliation a gesture of supreme and terminal futility."
I also quote someone else who is now a Member of this place but who used to be known outside as Brian Wilson. I refer to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). When writing in the West Highland Free Press --it is an extremely important newspaper--he was involved in an exchange with the then Tory Member, Hamish Gray, who is now in another place. In his peroriation, he wrote :
"But above all the case against possession or use was a moral one--the mass slaughter could never be justified whether as first strike' or second strike', by which time the only motive would be revenge."
The hon. Member for Houghton and Washington (Mr. Boyes), who sits on the Opposition Front Bench, is mumbling. Let him understand that I was referring to the view of the Leader of the Opposition in 1984 and that we are now in 1989. Anyone who turns to pages 86 and 87 of the Labour party's policy review document will find that two of the three foundations to which I have referred remain solidly in place. It is declared in the policy review document that the British bomb is not independent, and it is denied that the bomb when held in British hands is a deterrent.
That leaves the third foundation of morality. What about morality? Before the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington gives me a sotto voce lecture about 1984, let him understand that I have known the Leader of the Opposition for a long, long time. He was a comrade in arms of mine inside the CND and the unilateralist movement. We are both members of the Transport and General Workers Union--I am as proud of that as he is--and that organisation has held firmly to unilateralism. Underlying every speech of the Leader of the Opposition that I ever heard was the fundamental of the immorality of pressing the button. Would the Leader of the Opposition press the button? That is the third foundation. If there is a change of policy, that can be only on the basis that he would press the button now when he would not do so previously.
The Guardian is not a newspaper that is likely to misquote the Leader of the Opposition, but in an article of 18 May it told us that the right hon. Gentleman personally wrote two fresh passages into the Labour party's defence policy, one formally defining the party's line on whether a Labour Prime Minister would be willing to press the nuclear button. It stated :
"On the question of using nuclear weapons, the document now states that nuclear weapons should not be used by any Government', but that the party recognises that for as long as the weapons exist, the assumption by other nuclear powers will inevitably be that circumstances could arise in which they might be used.' " That is a good lawyer's draft--"Maybe we shall, maybe we shan't, but read out of it what you like"--but it was an attempt to answer the question. We were told in the article that "the document now states". If anyone reads the Labour party's policy review document, he will not be able to find the passage which I have quoted in the defence section. Between 18 May and the Labour party's conference at Blackpool in October, it disappeared. Therefore, the question remains to be posed to the Labour party : will it press the nuclear button or will it not?
Column 209I have listened to Trades Union Congress speakers and I have listened to Labour party speakers. They have explained that they have changed their policy because the world has changed. They say that there has been what the Labour party's policy review document describes as "epoch-making changes". In a handout from the Ministry of Defence entitled "British Defence Policy", great changes are acknowledged by the Prime Minister. One passage reads :
"Recently, says George Younger, under president Gorbachev the Soviet Union and its allies have become more ready to respond to these initiatives. As the Prime Minister said during President Gorbachev's visit last month, we welcome these signs of a peaceful revolution in Soviet thinking."
These are "epoch-making changes" and "signs of peaceful revolution". I say to Opposition Front-Bench Members that the world has changed for the better. The Warsaw pact has profoundly changed. In my view, it has changed irreversibly. Its ability to mount a so-called surprise attack, which is central to the White Paper around which the debate is centred, is no longer what it was four or five years ago. Are we to believe that under big bad Mr. Brezhnev, with his doctrine of intervention, the Labour movement was prepared to go into unilateral nuclear disarmament, and that under nice Mr. Gorbachev, with a great loosening of the ties between the Soviet Union and countries such as Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland--Poland does not have a Communist Government now--it is not prepared to take that course? That is an absurd position. I say to the hon. Member for Houghton and Washington that I regret the Labour party's position and believe it to be deceitful and distasteful.
The Labour party boasts of making Scotland independent within the United Kingdom. Defence policy provides the acid test. At the Scottish Labour party's conference, which was held in March, there was a vote on changing the Labour party's defence policy. A report in The Sunday Times on 12 March stated :
"Delegates voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm the Scottish party's support for unilateralism. Not a single speaker in the hour-long debate supported any change in policy."
The vote was overwhelming. Correspondence in the West Highland Free Press over the past month has shown that, of the 72 constituency Labour parties in Scotland, only two support the new policy. The other 70 remain in support of the Scottish Labour party's conference in March.
What happened when the Scottish Labour party arrived in Blackpool? The answer is that it was brushed aside and entirely ignored by the chiefly English component of the British Labour party which wished to chase Tory votes in the south-east of England. What are the implications for the future?
Let us consider numerically and qualitatively the Scottish Labour contingent in the House. I think that most of us would agree that it supplies a fair amount of the brain power within the shadow Cabinet. I think that there is a general recognition that it provides qualitative input, and all of us agree with that irrespective of political divisions. The PPS to the Leader of the Opposition is the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram). The Scottish contingent represents over 20 per cent. of the Parliamentary Labour party. That is a powerful position when it comes to applying the Scottish decision in March in this place.
Column 210It seems, however, that that position has had no effect within the Labour party. The Scottish contingent could not sustain the Scottish policy position against the wishes of the southern part of the Labour party, which wishes to chase Tory votes in the south of England. The policy implications for a Scot who is an active member of the Labour party north of the border are horrendous.
On the question of the bomb, Polaris and Trident, the Labour party has betrayed the Scottish electorate. Its policy on unilateralism was put to the Scottish electorate in 1983 and was tested again in 1987--and the party increased its Members of Parliament north of the border. I must tell the Secretary of State that, whatever opinion might be in other parts of the British state, unilateralism is a popular policy in Scotland, which has hosted Polaris and is targeted for trident. The Labour party has betrayed us, and it will pay the price.
Mr. Robert Hayward (Kingswood) : It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars), who has clearly and lucidly identified some of the intellectual illogicalities of the Labour party in its national policy. I was fascinated by his assessment that 70 of the 72 Scottish constituency parties had expressed a view one way or the other, given the fact that several of them--including Dumfries, Galloway and Upper Nithsdale--did not even cast votes at the Labour party conference for people in the constituency section of the national executive. Those constituency parties may have expressed views on one matter, but they were somewhat weak on the ground when casting their votes.
It is somewhat unfortunate that in our debate this evening the Government have clearly outlined their defence policy, as shown in the two documents before us ; that the SNP has clearly outlined its defence policy through the hon. Member for Govan, and a consistent policy has been outlined by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)--although I could not agree with his interpretation of history--yet the Labour party and the SLD, the LD, the Liberal party or the Alliance, whatever it now calls itself, have shown an absolute lack of clarity all along the line.
I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) and quoted an article in The Times on Thursday 14 September. He said that he would give me a reply later in his speech. That is a fairly usual tactic when someone does not know the answer, and of course I was never given the answer.
The hon. Gentleman's other comment was that I was using information provided by the Whips and that I had quoted only from that part of the article provided by them. Unlike some members of the Whips Office, I was not on holiday on 14 September. I read the article and gave interviews at that time. I have the article in full, and I shall quote the two relevant paragraphs-- [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) does not like that because he knows what is in the article.
The article states :
"Declining to set targets for the level of defence expenditure, Mr. O'Neill said that there was no doubt that production lines would disappear, others would be cut and planning and production teams would be broken up."
The Times quoted the hon. Gentleman as saying :
"What is clear is that the incoming Labour Government"
Column 211[Interruption.] Opposition Members do not like hearing me quote their Front Bench spokesman. He said :
"What is clear is that the incoming Labour government will face the consequences of an overblown and ambitious defence programme that no British Government could or would want to be able to meet." Therefore, the Labour party is saying that there must be cuts in the defence programmes somewhere. Yet what did we hear? When the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) asked about Ferranti, the hon. Member for Clackmannan gave him the assurance that it was not Ferranti. What about Westland? The hon. Gentleman said that the Government had not committed enough to Westland or to the Navy. He also said that nuclear defence would be safe.
It is surely only reasonable to presume that the cuts to which the hon. Gentleman referred must be made in conventional forces. Based on figures quoted by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today, and reaffirmed by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield, my calculation is that in the west country alone some 10,000 jobs will be at risk. I shall explain how I reached that figure--
Mr. Rogers : The hon. Gentleman can carry on with whatever claptrap he likes, but before he sits down I hope that he will tell us how many jobs have been lost under this Government in the arms industry since 1984.