HC Deb 07 July 1932 vol 268 cc625-6

4. In the realm of land disarmament His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom find themselves very largely in accord with President Hoover's proposals. Naturally, it will be necessary carefully to examine details before expressing a final opinion on their suitability to the situation in each country.

5. To consider in turn the four categories to which these proposals relate:

  1. (a) In regard to the strength of land armies. His Majesty's Government have consistently placed in the forefront of their proposals for land disarmament the examination of measures for the reduction of effectives to the lowest level compatible with national safety. So far as their own forces are concerned, His Majesty's Government have not only abolished conscription, but have already effected reductions to the minimum numbers required for the preservation of internal order and for the defence of their overseas possessions and communications. If we take account of the whole British Army, including not only British troops in Great Britain and her Colonies, but also those maintained in India, the personnel has been reduced, as compared with the year before the War, from 259,000 to 207,000, and this has been effected by the disbandment of nine regiments of cavalry, 61 batteries and companies of artillery, 21 companies of Royal Engineers, 21 battalions of infantry, and six battalions of Colonial and troops locally enrolled. The United States proposal for a division of land forces into a police component' and a. defence component' will require very careful examination; but, so far as His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom understand the implication of the suggested basis of calculation, the result will be to show that the British land forces have already been reduced substantially below the number recognised to be necessary for the maintenance of internal order, with- 626 out making any allowance for the forces needed for the lines of communication between the United Kingdom and territories overseas.
  2. (b) In regard to chemical and bacteriological warfare, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have already joined in rejecting the use of these methods of warfare and therefore cordially welcome the United States proposal's under this head.
  3. (c) In regard to land guns, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have proposed the abolition of all mobile guns of a calibre greater than 155 mm. (6.1 inches calibre). Under this head also His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom find themselves, therefore, in general agreement with the proposals of the United States Government.
  4. (d) In regard to tanks, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom find themselves entirely at one with President Hoover in desiring the application of the principle that specifically offensive weapons should be prohibited. His Majesty's Government have already advocated the abolition of all tanks above a weight of 20 tons which by their characteristics are especially suitable for offensive employment in battle.

Tanks of the lighter type cannot be regarded as specifically offensive weapons. Their comparatively light armour and their reduced capacity for crossing trenches render them unsuitable for the assault of highly organised defences.

Moreover, in a small voluntarily-enlisted army like our own they constitute an essential compensation for lack of numbers which it would be impossible to surrender. As far as this country is concerned, in view of its world-wide responsibilities, any general prohibition would require an increase in our present land forces in terms of man power, and thus, as a measure of disarmament, would tend to defeat its own ends.

6. It would be seen, therefore, that in the realm of land disarmament the proposals of the United States Government, so far as they relate to matters which directly touch the land forces of the United Kingdom, approximate very closely to those favoured by His Majesty's Government; and that in the total of their effectives His Majesty's Government have been able already to put into practice a measure of disarmament which more than conforms to the standards proposed by President Hoover.