§ 3.17 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Statement relating to Defence (Cmd. 6743).For many years when I was sitting on the opposite side of the House, I used to urge, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, that before Service Estimates were considered, there should be a general discussion on defence. In pursuance of that long-standing policy, the Government have now laid this Statement relating to Defence, for whichI ask the approval of the House, and have arranged for this two days' Debate. The reason for that request, and for this procedure, is quite obvious. There are not three defence problems, but one defence problem. Every operation of war today demands the closest co-operation of all three Services, and economy and efficiency demand that the three fighting Services should regard themselves as part of a single Service with a common doctrine, rather than, as used to be the case some years ago, as rival claimants on the resources of the nation. Further, modern war is by no means today just the responsibility of the fighting Services. Modern war involves all the Services, and modern means of defence involve the whole nation.
We had to mobilise the whole of the nation's economic resources in the last war. Defence therefore involves the closest working between the Services and the civilian Departments. This afternoon, I desire to give the House as comprehensive a survey as possible of the general situation of the commitments we have to meet, of the way in which we seek to fulfil our obligations, and of the general policy of the Government in relation to defence. I may say a few words in retrospect, something of the present, and give some indications of the future.
I am sure the House will realise that there are some limitations on what I can say of our present situation. We are still in that uneasy transitional period of un-settlement after the disruption of a long war and our forces are engaged in preserving law and order in many parts of the world. It is still more difficult to speak with any certainty as to the future. The United Nations organisation has only just got under way, while the pro- 40 vision for collective security, in order to prevent war in the future, which was planned at San Francisco, has not begun to be worked out. We have accepted obligations under the Charter which we intend to fulfil, but the extent and composition of the forces which will be required are yet unknown. Our defence policy must be dependent on what is worked out at the United Nations organisation, because we desire to take our part in a great security organisation that will make not just one nation, but all nations, secure.
Besides this, there has been the development of new and powerful weapons, weapons the advent of which may well affect future strategy and the future composition of our forces. Especially, there is the coming of the atomic bomb. Clearly, these events must affect all decisions of our future defence. But time will be needed before we can assess fully this new position, and it is fortunate that we have this time. It gives us a chance of planning during the period of transition. Meanwhile, we have to plan ahead, despite all the unknown factors, to the best of our ability, but we have to recognise that this Defence White Paper is something of a stop-gap.
I would like, first, to say a word or two in retrospect, and also with regard to the present. As the House knows, throughout the period of the Coalition Government we planned ahead on the general basis that, as far as we could see, the war with Japan would last for some months after the surrender of Germany. Our plans for demobilisation had been directed with a view to the redeployment of our forces against Japan. As we all know, Japan's surrender followed quickly upon that of Germany, and the plans had to be altered to meet the new situation. I doubt whether the difficulty of that change has been sufficiently appreciated. I doubt whether enough credit has been given to those responsible for the Fighting Services for the way in which they have accomplished this very heavy task. When the war ended we had built up magnificent fighting machines in our Navy, Army and Air Force. Each unit was not just a collection of men and materials, but a finely tempered weapon, tried in battle, fit for any task Now we had to demobilise, and demobilisation on the principles approved and accepted by Parliament, the 41 Fighting Services and the country generally meant not merely getting out of the Forces, in an orderly way, immense numbers of individuals; it meant, in effect, the pulling to pieces of those fine machines, the removing of key personnel, of most experienced men, and substituting others, with out at the same time destroying their efficiency. Anybody who has served knows what it means when a unit has perhaps been in an engagement and lost heavily, and has to be built up again. Inevitably, it takes time before the fine temper which it had before can be achieved. That was a process we had to watch very carefully.
We had to do this while there were still heavy tasks to be performed — collecting and guarding prisoners, the setting up of civil administration, indeed very often undertaking the task of civil administration. We ought all to pay a tribute to our officers and men in the occupation areas, for the way they have carried out this very difficult task. They often had to face problems quite new to them, but they did so with the characteristic adaptability of our people. They have also had to deal with disturbed conditions in various parts of the world, sometimes involving fighting. That was the process that had to be undergone — demobilisation, while keeping our Forces reduced in magnitude, it is true, in a state of efficiency.
I do not think it necessary now to go through the figures of 1945, or to stress the point that the target then set was reached, for that process is still going on, as the House knows. The House knows too, though I have met even Members who have not understood it, that we accelerated releases in the early months. We are running today at a great rate of release, and that necessarily means that, having taken some away earlier, there are fewer to take away in the later months. It does not mean that any people have been retained longer. It does mean that some people were released earlier. Meanwhile, although, as I say, the total number in the Fighting Services has been reduced, it has been and will continue to be necessary to call up to the Forces, as many as possible of the young men, in order to release the older men. We cannot call up all the young men. Members know that there are key personnel, men engaged in agriculture and mining, etc., but we have got to call up 42 the young men in order to get the older ones home. In the 18 months from VE-Day to the end of this year the net reduction in strength will be 75 per cent. Allowing for fresh intake, this means that, by the end of the year, four out of every five officers and men who were serving on VE-Day will have been released to civil life. Anybody with Service experience will realise that to have speeded up demobilisation still further, would have been to wreck the efficiency of the Services.
I would like here to deal with a point that has been put to me. It is suggested that there is some inequality of release between the Services. As a matter of fact, the percentages of release are very closely comparable. Confusion comes in because the numbers appear to be different — No. 40 in one case, No. 35 in another. It is impossible that the exact number of these classes should be kept marching exactly in order, because of the content of the Service, the time of expansion, rate of call-up and all the rest. If one comes to think of it, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if the numbers of the various groups should coincide exactly. I should say that very full information is given to the troops in the various "demob" papers that circulate. The House will have seen from the White Paper that we planned the strength of the Armed Forces on 30th June, 1946, to be 1,900,000 trained men, to which must be added 100,000 under training. Let me make the point for mathematicians that the figures will not work out exactly, if they add together those in the Service Estimates and try to make them come to this figure. The reason is, of course, that the figures in the Service Estimates relate to the financial year. That is the strength which we propose to have on 30th June, 1946.
We have set out in the White Paper the commitments with which we are now confronted. Now, those commitments are still very heavy. They arise directly out of the war. Indeed, we must fulfil them if what was won in the war is not to be lost. By far the heaviest of all these commitments is the occupation of the British zone in Germany, and the British sector in Berlin both by provision of troops and for the maintenance of the strength of the formations. We have, with our advisers, the commanders-in-chief, scrutinised these figures very 43 closely. I am certain that we cannot afford to reduce them below a very definite minimum. No one must imagine that there is not a possibility of disturbances, even movements of one kind and another, from our former enemies in Germany. We must recall here, that we have an obligation to our Allies who are jointly engaged in this task with us, and must fulfil it
There is the burden of the occupation of Austria, and the provision of forces in Japan and in the Far East, which we share with our Allies and with our Dominions. Those are nothing like so heavy a charge but we cannot tell when we shall be relieved of that charge and we have to provide for it at the present time. We have troops today in Venezia Giulia. We are hoping that a peace treaty with Italy will rid us of that burden. As the House heard today, we have withdrawn our troops from Persia. There are other areas, as the House knows — they have been under discussion — which we hope to leave as soon as possible, such as the countries in the Levant, and we hope the conditions will soon allow, when the elections have been held, of our being able to withdraw from Greece. We all hope a solution may be found of the Palestine problem. We have been involved in a very difficult position in Java. I know the whole House joins with me in hoping that Sir Archibald Clark Kerr will be successful in his efforts to get a settlement there, between the Dutch and the Indonesians.
I do not think that in any of these instances, the House will expect me to give, at any length, the reasons why we have troops in these areas. The Foreign Secretary has dealt with that subject most effectively and, I think, convincingly. All those who do not wilfully endeavour to distort our motives know that we are there engaged in tasks imposed on us by the Supreme Command, by the events of the war, that we are performing them honestly, and that we shall be only too glad when we are rid of those obligations. There remains still the work of clearing up in the Far East and there remain the continuing obligations which fall upon us as the leading partner in the Commonwealth and Empire. Of course, in India we have the responsibility for maintaining order, so that the political transition for which we hope can take place in a 44 calm atmosphere. For these continuing tasks we must under present conditions retain adequate forces.
I hope that as the year proceeds more settled conditions may obtain in the world and I hope that the system of collective security under U.N.O. may become an actuality. In planning for the numbers that are shown in this White Paper, we have planned in a hopeful spirit. I will not disguise from the House that there is always the possibility of things going wrong in some part of the world or other. If things went wrong, we should have to come to this House, and ask for authority to keep forces in being and, perhaps, for Supplementary Estimates. We have tried in this White Paper to do what is absolutely necessary, but not to keep unnecessary forces. Our aim is to reduce that strength to 1,100,000 men and women by the end of the year. I explained, when speaking in this House last week, how we had to lay our plans for the use of our manpower, how we had demands that came in from the Service Departments and from other Departments, and how we had to cut our coat according to our cloth.
I hope that the Armed Forces will be susceptible of further reduction, but I have a very full knowledge of what our obligations are, and what dangers we have to face. One cannot afford to take rash risks. Armed forces are expressions of policy. Our policy of establishing free and democratic institutions and of co-operating with the United Nations for the creation throughout the world of the rule of law is expressed in our proposals in the White Paper. It is impossible to look further ahead than the end of one year. Our hope is to see, throughout the world, a steady reduction of armaments in the future, in which we shall share, but until these things are attained we must preserve our forces in efficiency.
I think the House will wish to have the division of this total of 1,100,000 between the three Services. It is as follows: Navy, 175,000; Army, 650,000; and Air Force, 275,000. The Army figures are, of course, inevitably swollen by the continuing burden of the occupation of Germany. I would like to say a word about supply. We have kept in being the Ministry of Supply as a permanent Department for the equipment of the three Services, with all the things which they 45 share in common, and for supplies for the Army and the Air Force. The Navy still control some of their own supplies. We have imposed a severe limitation on our production programmes. I have to admit that the run-off of manpower from munitions service was not quite as rapid as I had hoped in the earlier months, but the story that we are manufacturing masses of unwanted and obsolete material is not true. A very large number of contracts were brought to an end, as rapidly as permissible, under the break clause in those contracts, but, when those contracts were running, equipment inevitably had to be produced.
It has to be remembered that our Forces throughout the world have to be maintained with food, clothing and stores. Orders were given that the maximum possible use was to be made of stocks, but the stocks were not sufficient in all cases to obviate the necessity for a certain level of production. To take an obvious point, all supplies of American equipment and spare parts ceased soon after V.J. Day. Unless, therefore, our Forces were to become entirely ineffective, the output of British equipment was necessary to replace some of the flow from America. Of course, during the war, we joined with America in supplementing each other's requirements This applied particularly to aircraft, vehicles, and signals and engineers' stores. It has been possible to cease completely the production of many types of ammunition, artillery and other weapons, but we cannot close down all production of these categories of weapons which demand special skill in their production. If we did that, we would destroy entirely our war potential.
In certain other important directions, such as jet aircraft, and other ultramodern types of equipment, there must be a limited amount of re-equipment, and, in some cases, it has been necessary to retain production of previous equipment until we get the changeover, and, where there has already been a large amount of work on components, it has sometimes been more economical to complete assembly than to scrap all the component parts. The question now arises: Are these weapons obsolete? Well, in a sense all weapons are obsolescent. Indeed, we are all obsolescent ourselves as time marches on. There is continuous progress in all fields, but, if we had decided that nothing obsolescent should be pro- 46 duced, there would, frequently, be nothing available in the right quantity to place in the hands of the troops. So far as possible, we have brought anything obsolescent to an end, but there is a limit to that, and, unless we are prepared to cut right across our war potential, we must keep a certain amount of production, even if it is only ticking over.
I want to deal with a matter on which, I know, there is some criticism, and on which I am expecting criticism. While our commitments remain as they are, we must continue to call up young men to the Services. The complaint is that we have not yet decided on the length of that service in the future. I am well aware of the difficulty caused to the men themselves, to their parents, and to educational institutions. The reason why we cannot come to a decision yet is that it all depends on so many uncertain, indeed, unknown, factors. First, as I have already shown, we cannot tell the extent of our commitments. Secondly, we do not know what will be the extent of voluntary enlistment. We have already set out, I think with a great deal of trouble, the pay and conditions for the men of the Services; in a day or two, we shall have similar proposals for the officers, and we have under urgent consideration a scheme to encourage re-enlistment among the men about to be demobilised, or who were recently demobilised. We hope there will be a good response. A great many people will come out of the Services, and, as has happened before, may finally like to get back. Others may like to continue, and we are looking to the best way to get that movement, but I think, until we know what kind of voluntary enlistment we are going to have, we cannot estimate the length of time we shall have to fix for compulsory service.
Thirdly, pending the forthcoming meeting of the Military Staff Committee of U.N.O., we cannot tell what our forces will have to be in future. I can assure the House that we realise to the full the difficulty this is for all concerned, and we shall come to a conclusion on this as soon as possible. After all, we are only seven or eight months from the ending of the war, and I am sure the House will realise the strain under which our Service advisers and the staffs of the Service Ministries have been working. I think it would be unreasonable to expect that, in such a short time, we should 47 have everything cleared up and decided. We shall carefully consider the ultimate structure of our Forces and the terms of service to be adopted, but I have already staled that the transitional period, during which we have abnormal commitments, will last for some time, and, while we have those commitments, we must carry on as we are doing now. That gives us a breathing space, in which to assess our future responsibilities and lay our final plans. In due course, our proposals will be submitted to the House.
There is another subject mentioned in the White Paper on which we have not reached finality. That is the question of the higher defence organisation. I took part in a number of Debates in this House between the wars, on the question of the organisation of the higher defence. Motions were put down on the question of setting up a Ministry of Defence. I spoke in these Debates, and, since then, have had some experience of defence organisation. Perhaps I should not speak quite so confidently or so dogmatically now, as I did then, although I think some of the things I said were quite sound, as I have had five years' experience of the Defence Committee and have watched our machine at work during the war. During the war, we built up a system which proved its efficiency.
We have now to devise a peace organisation, and I do not think it is a thing one can rush. I think it is a thing that has to be decided, not on the grounds of theoreticians, or people who have had experience 20 or 30 years ago. The effective evidence one gets on a matter of this kind comes from people actually working the machine, whether soldiers, sailors or airmen, or civil servants in the Ministries, and I am making a very close examination. We are getting the views of all who took part, because it is vital that we should not lose the lessons learned during the war, particularly the lessons of joint working between the Services.
In no previous war has there been such a wonderful cooperation between the three Services — not a matter of just three heads meeting, but of cooperation from the planning staffs all the way through We have to consider that, in relation to the training of our officers. We are now 48 in an era of combined operations, in which we must look at everything from the point of view of the three Services acting as one. As soon as we can, we shall announce our conclusions to the House, but I have to say frankly that in the pressure that there has been on all of us, and especially on the higher officers, we have not yet been able to come to a conclusion. At the present moment we are continuing, with some modification, very largely the system which we worked out during the war and which worked so well during the war.
One final point with regard to the co-operation between us and the Dominions. We all know the wonderful services performed by the Dominions during the war in the common cause We want to continue to collaborate with them most closely. We want to be brought together, all of us, as being members of the United Nations, and therefore all agreeing to the same broad policy for the prevention of war. At the same time as members of one family, we want to meet together and see how closely we can help each other. The House has already been informed that the Dominion Prime Ministers are coming over very shortly when we shall be able to discuss these matters with them.
There is the broad picture that I am able to lay before the House today. Admittedly, it is imperfect, because we are still so close to the war and, admittedly, I cannot give a long-term picture of our Forces. But I would close by saying to the House that I think we can all be proud of the way in which, in this very difficult process of the changeover, our troops, everywhere, have behaved. Anybody who remembers — and many of us do — what it was like at the end of the first world war, and what one's feelings were at the end of that war, will know what a strain it is on everybody I think it is a tremendous tribute to the stability of mind of all our people that these difficult processes have been, and are being, carried through with so little friction.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he is making a close inquiry into the future co-operation of the three Services May I ask him whether this inquiry will be directed towards the necessity for retaining separate Secretaries of State?
§ The Prime Minister
I have set no limit on the scope of the inquiry. I propose to go into it with an open mind and see what is the best set-up
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
I feel sure that we on this side of the House welcome the continuation of the prewar policy of having a statement relating to these matters and the Government are to be congratulated on laying this statement before the House prior to discussion of the various Estimates which have also just been laid before us. We also desire, on this side of the House, to join with the Prime Minister in paying tribute to all those who have organised our Defence Services during the war, and to the troops and all those who have carried these heavy burdens in our most historic and greatest hour. Probably, this achievement ranks in our history only with that which Chatham was able to attain in his time, with equally able advisers. We all share in this House in congratulating the defence forces, and those who have organised and led them, on their achievements.
The decisions on this manpower subject are those upon which the whole future of the British race depends. The responsibility in this matter must, primarily, be the Government's, but we should like to play our part by offering constructive suggestions. We are quite ready to accept what the Prime Minister has described as the uncertainties and the limitations which make it difficult to give a complete picture at the present time. But we shall have questions to ask, and we shall desire certain matters to be elucidated, and we have also definite criticisms to offer of this document, and of the policy suggested by the Government. First, I should like to say that we warmly accept the Prime Minister's explanation that this White Paper is only a stopgap. There is really very little in it, and it is extremely difficult for those of us who have to make up our minds on published material, and have not access to all the sources at the disposal of the Government, to obtain a clear picture from this document alone. I am, however, greatly obliged to the Prime Minister for helping me on the subject of the size of the forces, which one can gather from studying these various Estimates. Had the Prime Minister sent me a postcard at the weekend 50 explaining that the figures were based upon the financial year, and not upon a different period, I should have had a much easier time, but I am obliged to him for his assistance now.
Our main criticism of this document is that we cannot understand why the Government cannot give a much more precise view than that included in the White Paper as to the constitution, ultimately, of the postwar forces, and we ask whether they can give it at not too distant a date. We also desire to question the Government's failure to reach a decision on the policy of the length of the call-up of young men — the engagement of new entrants. The Prime Minister was quite right in anticipating that he would hear something from this side on that. I also desire to mention the question of the co-operation with the Dominions. The Prime Minister made reference to that today. We hope that this co-operation will reach that high level of intimacy and efficiency which it must do if our joint contribution to the defence, not only of ourselves, but of the world, is not to be limited.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) will be speaking tomorrow, and will, with his special experience — his service on the Defence Committee during the war and as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs — be able to add a great deal to what we on this side have to say. He will also deal specially with the question of the higher defence organisation to which the right hon. Gentleman has just referred. When we approach this subject, we must reflect that we are dealing, not only with our own future in these islands, but with the future of others. Security, like peace, is indivisible, and any lack of clarity we may show in this House in reaching decisions upon the essential tasks that we can and should undertake as a nation will up-set the balance of the whole security system of the world. Therefore, it is up to us on both sides of the House to treat this matter with great seriousness today. In fact, we are indulging, including the recent Debates on economics and manpower, in what used to be described last century as a "Review of the Nation." Anybody who studies the Annual Register of the last century will see how great a feature those Debates were. Nowadays we are only offered two days by the Government on any vital subject, but if we 51 tot up the various days on the various aspects of the review of the nation, we find that we are having one continuous Debate on subjects which are closely linked together, and we express our gratitude to the Government for this opportunity.
I do not propose to devote a great deal of time this afternoon to the demobilization programme, although I have certain criticisms to offer on it. When we examine the state of the nation as a whole, we feel that we should be perfectly satisfied that every peg was in the right hole, if it was proved to us that certain units in the forces had to be a certain size, even though we might regard it as too large. We cannot help feeling that the allocation of manpower and womanpower as between the various Services, on the home front and in the Forces, has not yet reached that satisfactory level which would totally avoid all constructive criticism or opportunity of criticism. On looking at the demobilisation policy and figures, it would appear, as far as one can see, that the greatest remaining scandal is that of the munitions figure. My right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who spoke in the Debate last week, referred to the overall figure of 1,790,000 persons still making munitions of war. We have been told that this figure is an over estimate. Whether or not it is an over estimate of 100,000 or 200 000, the fact is that it is a very large and alarming figure in the light of present circumstances, and of the commitments set out in this Paper.
Why, we ask, should it take a year to reduce this figure to 500,000? I hope we may have an answer on that point. The Prime Minister used some soothing words on this subject this afternoon, and said that, in fact, he hoped and believed that not very much equipment was being produced which would be unnecessary. I would like to ask him if he or his Service colleagues can cross their hearts and say whether certain types of aircraft are not being produced which are in fact, not likely to be of much use at the present time now the war is over, and whether there is not, in fact, concealed within this figure precisely that unemployment which would otherwise, the Government fear, be seen if these men were released from 52 performing work which is quite unnecessary at the present time.
I would also like to refer to the general slowness of demobilisation. We have been given figures, for June, of 1,900,000. The Government say with pride that they are 330,000 ahead of their own programme. Well, that is something. But if we examine the forecast of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), the Leader of the Opposition, we find that he gave a figure of 1,550,000, which he anticipated should be reached by March of this year, but which he compared with the forecast of the Government for June of this year. If we take that figure and contrast it with the Government's record, we find they are, in fact, aiming in June at being some 350,000 behind the figure given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wood-ford, who anticipated that that figure should be reached by March. So, though the Government may have a certain pride in having made up some 300,000 upon their own miserable estimates, their figures are some 350,000 behind the estimates made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, who probably has a greater knowledge of this subject than anybody else in this House.
The next criticism I want to make of the demobilisation programme is to ask why the rates of release, which were 100,000 a week before Christmas, and are 75,000 in the first half of this year, are themselves to be only 30,000 after June. I ask in all sincerity whether it would not be possible to make rather a different curve in the reduction of the weekly release on demobilisation. I believe it would be possible to accelerate the figure of 1,900,000 to an earlier date, and I think it would also be possible to bring forward the final year's figure at least to September or earlier. If that were done, and the weekly release were also accelerated, I believe the Government would earn the gratitude of Members on all sides of the House, because, on these matters, there is a great deal of feeling. We all receive letters, and I believe there is feeling on each side of the House on this question.
§ The Prime Minister
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate the point which I made, and that was that if we speed up, we destroy the balance in the units. I do not know whether he or the 53 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) looked at the exact effect of taking away all the older and more experienced men from a unit in a short time. It is worth looking at.
§ Mr. Butler
I realise the difficulty, but the fact is that the needs of this country at the present time are so stretched that the people who must stretch themselves as well as those on the home front are those responsible for the Services. The difficulties must be shared all round. That is all we ask. There has been great stress on the home front, which has been deeply felt by our civilian population, and their needs must be met. If their needs are to be met there has to be some stretching by those responsible for the Service Departments.
The fourth criticism I would make about the demobilisation programme is that it still appears to remain a matter of" age and which Service, and not of "age and service." I accept fully the explanation given today by the Prime Minister of the difficulty of relating one group of release to another, but the chief discrepancy there would appear to arise now that we on this side of the House, with the aid of a few guerilla bands on the other side of the House, have managed to improve the position of the Air Force releases vis- à -vis the rest. We are now concerned with the ratio of release to that of the Army, and if the Prime Minister's statement is to be taken, as I believe it should be at its proper value, then there is a complete answer to this problem, and that is the answer we ought to send to those of our constituents who write to us on this matter. I understand the problem is this, that the Army percentage of release is really satisfactory, but the Army are distressed because they find that the Navy age groups have reached a higher figure than theirs. I understand that the difficulty also arises from the fact that it has so far been found impossible for any higher mathematician to define what is meant by an average age group. If the right hon. Gentleman, or the Secretary of State for War, or the First Lord of the Admiralty, can define to us, in exact and simple language, what an average age group means, so that the ordinary serving soldier, sailor or airman can understand it, I think a lot of the Government's difficulties in balancing the rival 54 claims of these Services would go. I lay that down as a challenge to the First Lord of the Admiralty who is to speak, and I hope, with his inimitable command of language, he will be able to explain it to us simply at the end of the Debate.
Subject to those criticisms of the demobilisation plan, I pass on to various other more general considerations. The first general matter with which I wish to deal is that to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, namely, cooperation with the Dominions. If we are to try to assess, as the right hon. Gentleman did, our various commitments we must have some understanding as to whether we are going to take on this burden virtually alone, or whether we are to rely, as he said we should, upon our membership of the Security Council, and our cooperation within the United Nations, and whether we are going to work in close collaboration on modern lines with the Dominions in facing the world problems we have to face. I think, perhaps, the most important sentence of the White Paper is the last one of all, which says:It will be necessary to consider with the Governments of His Majesty's Dominions and India the way in which the lessons of the war can be applied to promote consultation and collaboration in defence matters during peace.I feel certain that success in regulating our time-honoured policy as a world Power depends upon the extent to which the strength of the British Commonwealth is brought properly into play. The Mother country cannot go on indefinitely stretching out her long arm of succour and assistance. We hope, therefore, that at the Dominions Conference to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, this general statement may be taken a great deal further with the natural desire of the Dominions to help us in these difficult times. Empire defence must, in fact, be a joint affair. Whitehall must be a partner and not, as she was in the old days, a universal provider. I believe that we in this country, in our mobilisation, have stretched ourselves so much, that we have seriously to think how much we can undertake in the future.
The stresses and strains of this mobilisation, the like of which has been seen hardly ever before in history on the part of any one nation, are bound to be felt by us for many years ahead. It is necessary to face the fact that total 55 war leaves after effects. It is interesting to compare the situation today with that which existed after our previous great wars. On one occasion when I was attending a school and giving away some prizes — at which I was an adept during my late incarnation — I offered a prize to anyone who would tell me how often wars were mentioned in the novels of Jane Austen. I had a voluminous correspondence, not only from that school but from almost every school in the country. A girls' school won the prize by referring me to two instances only, two glancing references in the novels of Jane Austen to the wars of that day; one, if I remember rightly, was a reference to the battle of San Domingo, and the other to somebody's relative who was an "Admiral of the Blue." If anybody in the House can send me any further reference they will add to my growing collection. [An HON. MEMBER: "Will they get a prize? "]
Nowadays war is a total effort. Every man, every woman and every home are mobilised; everybody is at the war in one way or another. In facing our future commitments we must realise that we cannot expect a nation of44,000,000 to go all out, all the time for ever. The war effort of the Dominions brought tears of gratitude to our eyes. We trust that the coming Dominions Conference will carry out the promise of this historic episode. I take this opportunity of stressing one aspect of the resources of our Colonial Empire, to which no reference has recently been made, namely, the developing of the strategic resources of the Colonies and, as we have done in this war, of the Mandated Territories. It is interesting to reflect that the rise of the East African Colonial force — taking East Africa alone — between the years 1939 and 1944 was from some 4,000 men to over 500,000. Even larger figures could be quoted from the West African coast. The East African forces served in Abyssinia and Madagascar; they provided garrison and pioneer troops for the Middle East, and they sent a very large number of men to the operations of war under S.E.A.C. Their name, and that of the West African contingents, will forever remain connected with the story of the Army in Burma. The ratio of Europeans to Africans was approximately, I am informed, in the early stages one to ten.
56 I am informed, from studying this subject, that the educative value for the Africans themselves has been proved by the manner in which the Colonial Administrations have been seeking to employ those who are now coming out of these African units in the peacetime reconstruction of their country. That is because they showed themselves to be thoroughly responsible in action, to have considerable technical skill and ability, and to have learned, in the course of their war service, those arts of citizenship which are so vital to the reconstruction of that part of the world. Therefore, I ask the Government whether, in making their calculations, they are taking into consideration this vital development in Africa; and also, whether they are considering the possible use of East Africa as a centre of strategic resources, or as a training ground. It so happens that the climate there is suitable for Europeans. Wartime experience has shown the value of such a centre, with Mombasa as a base, as it was for the Far Eastern front during part of the war. I trust the Government will also give us their opinion upon the developments in West Africa. I believe that if they use their imagination — as I am sure they will — they will find that in these developments we have a hitherto unforeseen source of assistance for our great Imperial effort in helping the world with its hard problems.
The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister attempted to give the House some idea of what our commitments were and how we could undertake them. He said we must cut our coat according to our cloth. However, we must cut it on a very austere model; we cannot afford trimmings; we cannot afford furbelows; we cannot afford unnecessary edgings.
§ Mr. Butler
And we certainly cannot afford tails. In fact, we can afford but the simplest of all outfits. But there is no reason why it should not be practical and essential. That word "essential" should be the keynote of our discussion today. It is almost impossible for His Majesty's Opposition to assess accurately what our commitments; can be and should be. That must be the responsibility of the Government The right hon. Gentleman referred to Italy, Greece, Venezia and to Palestine. I sincerely share his hopes that 57 we may, through the arts of diplomacy, in which we have always excelled, do something to relieve the necessity of using the troops either for occupation or for any other purpose in these areas. We also trust — and we voice the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman in this matter — that the mission to South East Asia, which has recently been undertaken, will be successful.
The question of Germany and the occupation of Germany must remain a very acute problem. It is quite clear there must be personnel there, and that you cannot necessarily rely on the most modern arms to relieve the need for personnel in the occupation of Germany, at any rate for some time ahead. Nor, as far as one can see, facing the trials and problems Germany will have to face, can you do without the most modern transport aircraft. In fact, the German position, to which I am sure much attention has been given, is one of our commitments which must rank very high on the list. There has not been any mention in the White Paper of two vital areas, namely, Egypt or India. The right hon. Gentleman referred to India. No doubt, we shall have opportunities of discussing Indian policy. All I would say at present is that I hope the Army, or the cohort of Cabinet Ministers which is proceeding shortly to India, will do a great deal to relieve the tension in that country. I hope the sincerity of our intentions towards India will be translated into a policy which means that the vitality and force of Indian nationalism will be on the side of law and order.
I now come to a matter upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister said there was likely to be some criticism, namely, the question of the future call-up of our young men. I think the essential fact to get clear in approaching this problem is, the ultimate nature of the Armed Forces which the Government intend shall be employed by this country. I should like to ask this question. Taking the final figure of 1,200,000 men, including the 100,000 in training, can the Government give us an indication of how far this total is made up of regulars, that is volunteers who are making the Forces their profession, and how far it is made up of conscripts, or those who came in under the ordinary call-up? I do not suppose it will be 58 easy to give a precise answer to that, so one must base oneself on some hypothesis. I think it is true to say that a very large proportion of this figure will be made up of those who have come in under the ordinary entry at present, as conscripts. We on this side of the House feel that, leaving aside all question of whether there shall be a period for compulsory military service or not — because we consider there should be compulsory military service in this country, and that an announcement should be made before long as to its nature — it is weak of the Government to continue to rely on the younger generation being taken in, regardless apparently of the consequences on their careers or the effects on national policy, as I shall show.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
Do I understand from the right hon.Gentleman that he is speaking on behalf of the Opposition when he says that the Conservative Party has decided in favour of compulsory military service in this country in peace time?
§ Mr. Butler
I am speaking on behalf of the Opposition in this Debate, and I should have thought that what I said carried the weight it ought to carry. I am speaking also with deliberation, and I think I am probably voicing the view of almost everyone in this House.
§ Captain Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
Would the right hon. Gentleman give the reasons of the Conservative Party for considering that there should be conscription in peace time?
§ Mr. Butler
Perhaps if the hon. and gallant Gentleman would listen to what I have to say he would be enlightened, because there is a certain amount to say on this important matter, upon which I think we all feel deeply
I was about to say that it is wrong for the Government to rely upon the present indiscriminate call-up of young men to make up their totals at a later date, and what is worse — and the Prime Minister made no reference to this — a habit has grown up among the Service Departments, especially the Admiralty, of keeping young men waiting when they are called up. I have had frequent cases brought to my attention of young men who have been kept waiting four, five, six or even seven months after their call-up date, so that they do not start their military or other 59 service until they are 18 ½or more. We consider that this is the height of irresponsibility, and the worst offender is the Admiralty, since it would appear that it is the technical branches of the naval service which are making the young men wait the longest time. This is a cavalier treatment of the young men which ill accords with the phrase, so widely welcomed, in the education White Paper, that the bulwarks of a city are its men.
The bulwarks of this country, and this country greatest asset, are its young men, who are coming on to take up the problems which we are leaving, unfortunately, for them to settle. It is essential that we should give them some clear indication of what is expected of them. They want to know. They are ready to undertake military service — I do not believe there is a single one who does not want to do his duty — and I am sure they will all be ready to do their duty. But they do want to know, definitely, what length of service is expected from them. Apprentices want to know. It is impossible to undertake an apprenticeship, now the war is over, and look to the future knowing definitely how long military service is to be, at what age it starts, and what is expected of them. Those who are students in the universities wish to know. Universities have informed me that they must have some definite instructions, so that they can make their plans at least for the coming winter term programme. Unless that statement is made fairly soon, it will be impossible for those students who axe going to the universities to make up their minds. Those who are training in the technical colleges — and the technical colleges are at present increasing their status, and will be of vital importance as the universities of industry — want to know what the break in their life is going to be. Finally, those who are training as teachers want to know. It is really impossible to implement the whole Education Act without some certainty as to whether intending teachers are to be called up in the middle of their training or when. In fact, it is essential from all aspects that young men should have some definite idea of when they are to be called up and for how long.
On examining this problem one thing, I think, stands out clearly. The intricacies of modern war and the complication of the weapons demand a core of long term 60 professional soldiers. That is quite certain. The Prime Minister has indicated that he hopes to rely on appeals for enlistment, upon a great drive to get the necessary numbers of volunteers, in order to get at the final figure of the regular Armed Forces. But if he is going to depend on automatic conscription for an indefinite period, it is clear that he will muddle up his final decision about the size of the regular Forces. In fact, the more you put off the decision as to the final size of the regular Forces, and say that you cannot stop the automatic call up until you know the ultimate size, the more you are chasing your tail in a circle. I am going to suggest a method by which it might be possible to meet these two difficulties.
The best way would be for the Government to come out now with a definite statement on a definite period of service. If they would do that the young men would have some certainty. They should combine that period of service by making it one of positive value to the young men themselves. It should be educative in the highest sense; it should not be a period to which a young man looks forward as one in which he learns the utmost refinements of the English language through the medium of the sergeant-major. It should be a period in which he feels that he can, if he has a special skill, develop that skill; if he has a special sense of responsibility, develop that sense of responsibility. In fact, he should look upon his period of service as a part of his continued education, and a part which to many sections of this country will be extremely valuable in that it will mix them all up together, and teach each of them the other man's point of view. If the Government will look at compulsory service in that light, they will see that they can combine it with the most modem methods of scientific investigation into the particular skills and adaptabilities of the young men concerned.
For example, the experience of the R.A.F. in the war was that before these more modern methods of selection were adopted there was considerable difficulty in choosing those who, for instance, were likely to make pilots. I am-informed that in the years 1941 and 1942 one out of three of the young men sent abroad for pilot training in the overseas scheme failed to make the course, but within 18 months of the introduction of modern methods of selection — which amount, in 6 fact, to research into human personnel — it was possible to halve that wastage, and thereby greatly relieve transport and the other facilities necessary for conveying the men overseas. It was also possible to fit the right pegs into the right holes from the start, and I therefore hope that the Government will decide that it is worth while making a definite statement about service, so that in the course of that service they may find out those who want to be regular members of the Armed Forces and those who are adaptable and suitable for it. If they will do that, they will go half way to meeting their long-term problem of getting at the total of regulars. Until they make that decision, they will have no certainty at all
It is quite clear that there must be an interim plan; we cannot here today discuss the final decisions of this country about long-term service We must be reasonable For the next year or so the older men must be got out and the younger men must serve longer than they will have to do in the end. That is quite clear, and we must all face that fact. I therefore hope that, combined with the speed up of the higher age release groups, the Government will make a statement about the period of service for the new entrants. I want to ask them whether they will give an assurance that in no circumstances will that period be more than a maximum of two years. I want to ask them also whether, under that interim policy, they will continue to call up young men at the age of 18 When we come to a decision about the ultimate call-up, it should be remembered that the age of 18 presents great difficulties to many different sections of the population. If presents great difficulties to apprentices, because the normal long apprenticeship goes on for five or seven years — though there is a tendency in industry for apprenticeship to be cut short — and call up at the age of 18 would normally come in the middle of that period.
That age would also be very unsuitable for university students. When a young man has gone to the university, perhaps with a State scholarship, it is much better that he should carry on while his brain is still attuned to the most delicate art of passing examinations. It is remark-able how much the heady wine of life and a period of military service take away from the original value of the State scholarship. It is much better to go 62 through with it, and therefore whatever the Government intend they must remember that, on the one hand, through our education policy we are encouraging people to go to the universities with State scholarships, while on the other hand we appear, unless we define this policy much more clearly, to be taking away from them the real opportunity of doing their best. I, therefore, trust that in the final scheme of call-up a choice may be given to certain sections as between 18 or 21, and that those sections in particular should be those industrial apprentices and those students who need to continue their period of study. I hope, finally, that it will be possible for the Government to make clear that this maximum of a two-year period is too long for the normal call-up in peace-time, whenever we return to that most delightful period.
There is a section of the White Paper, namely, paragraph 14, which deals with university training units, the S.T.C. There is a paragraph which deals with the Territorial Army. I wonder whether part of the service of young men might not be done either in industry through the territorial units, while they are in their apprenticeship, and before they are finally called up, or in the universities, through the use of the S.T.C. If that were possible, there could be a combination of the two methods so as to keep in being the territorial units. I hope it is not the fashion nowadays in the Defence Departments to do away with the territorial county regiments. There is a great deal in local patriotism, and I hope that the more modern idea of the corps is not coming into fashion There is nothing like the local association of a man with his own district and his own county; and it has been proved in the emergency of war that it is very often the regimental honour and local association which, together, see young men through the most critical moments of their lives. In fact, in dealing with this question of the young men the Government must show more imagination than they have done in this White Paper. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford, writing in "The World Crisis," in his inimitable way says:At that date the scythe that had annually shorn away the swathes of youth stopped at the very feet of a new generation.Now though the actual scythe of death has stopped, the young men still have 63 before them the uncertainty of how long they are expected to serve. The question may have been decided too quickly after the last war. but it is being decided too slowly after this one. I trust the Government will show more imagination in this matter.
It is on this appeal for imagination that I would end. It is necessary to show imagination with the young, with the tradition of our regiments and our Services, with the Dominions, and with the conduct of our Imperial and foreign policy. The Government have, in fact, to find what J. A. Spender described as "the link of circumstance, policy and strategy." When there is a link of circumstance, policy and strategy, then the Government's course can be clear. I have attempted to describe the circumstances of the rising generation. It is for the Government to decide the policy. And on the ultimate line of policy, the strategy will gradually emerge from the uncertain mists of the postwar period.
§ 4.34 P.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sharp (Spen Valley)
May I ask for the sympathetic attention of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to what is officially described as my maiden speech? When I first came to this House I imagined that the description "maiden" referred to the new Member who, like a debutante, is making a first entry into sophisticated society; but I had not been here very long before I heard the hon. Gentleman the Junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) reminiscing about his own maiden speech, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said was no maiden but a brazen hussy of a speech. I then realised that an additional qualification that was required of a maiden speech was that it should be lilylike in hue. Whether I succeed in that respect or not remains to be seen, but I do hope that my bowling may at least be sufficiently direct to qualify me for a maiden over.
May I refer, particularly, to paragraphs 12 and 13 of the White Paper on Defence, particularly the statement that between 30th June and 31st December it is considered that we can reduce our military commitments by 40 per cent.; and, secondly, to the fact that in paragraph 13 it is stated that His Majesty's 64 Government intend to continue demobilisation in accordance with the "age and length of service" release scheme? I think this House has a right to have a clear statement on the way in which it is considered that our abnormal commitments will be reduced in the period from 1st July to 31st December by 40 per cent. I hope that later in the Debate we shall have a clear statement from some Member of the Government, indicating how it is considered that that reduction is likely to be effected. To my mind the figure of 1,100,000 total strength stated in the White Paper to be required by the end of December could be achieved at a much earlier date, and though speaking from this side of the House I wish to support the view stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) that we should endeavour to achieve a smaller figure at a much earlier date. At the moment we are demobilising men at the rate of 100,000 a week. At least, that was the figure during the period January to February. In accordance with the present scheme that rate will have sunk to 50,000 a week by the period May to June. It seems to me that, as we have been told that transportation is not the reason for a reduction in demobilisation, as we know that the inadequacy of the demobilisation machinery is not the reason, then the only reason there can be for that slowing down is that of military commitments. If we cannot have a statement from the Government on how those military commitments are to be reduced by such a large extent, I hope they will consider bringing forward the time when we can achieve the smaller figure, of 1,100,000.
Under the present proposals the young man who joined through a Territorial Army unit, who served right from the beginning of the war, is being released after nearly seven years' service in June of this year. Under the present proposals, in the case of the Army, a man who is 30, and has had three years' service in the Army — and who sees fellows in his own town who managed to escape military service owing to the fact that they have been in deferred occupations, and are not being called up — he, under the present proposals, sees no likelihood of being out of the Army before the end of 1946.
65 I suggest that we should do all that we can to increase the releases. During the weekend, I made some approximate calculations as to what might be done. To increase the releases in the Army and the Air Force to permit release group 40 to be out by the end of June, would involve an approximate reduction in our Forces of an additional 300,000 men. It would, however, enable men who had much longer to serve to get out much sooner. I hope that whoever is replying to the Debate will consider whether it is possible to bring about a greater equality of releases between the three Services, and, at the same time, to demobilise from both the Army and the R.A.F., more men who have served for a considerable number of years during the war.
The subject of inequality of releases in the Army is a matter of considerable concern to the men at present. No doubt, that is partly because it is proposed that the Navy should reach demobilisation group 52 by the end of June, and partly because it appears that some of the resentment shown a few months ago by the R.A.F. against what they considered to be slow demobilisation appears to have had an effect. The figures of the original plan put before the House in October showed how many men it was proposed to demobilise from the Forces between January and June. The men, by comparing those figures with the figures of those now proposed to be demobilised, see that, although in the case of the Navy there is a 40 per cent. increase in the number proposed to be demobilised during that period, and, in the R.A.F., 100 per cent. increase, there is in the Army only a five per cent. increase. The soldier normally is a very patient fellow, provided the facts are given to him, and there is a clear reason why he should do something, but he is rapidly losing his patience, and I would urge the Government to do what they can to secure a speedier release for the men in the Army. I suggest that can be done if the military commitments referred to in the White Paper are reconsidered, to see whether it would not be possible to increase the releases by the end of June up to possibly release group 40 for both the R.A.F. and the Army.
On the subject of B Glass releases, I refer again to the statement in the White Paper that His Majesty's Government 66 intend to continue demobilisation in accordance with the "age and service" release scheme. Some weeks ago, I endeavoured to obtain from the Service Departments a statement on the number of men who were being released in different trades under Class B procedure. In the case of the Admiralty, I got a good account, stating that it was likely that, before long, practically all men who could be spared and who were required under Class B releases would be released. In the case of the Air Ministry and the War Office, I received identical replies — no doubt they put their heads together, and decided that they would not be divided in this matter. I was told that the information which I required was not readily available. I am not sure whether that answer was correct or not; I doubt if it was, for I cannot imagine how any Service Department could make releases of men, without knowing exactly what releases were being made. I think that the various Service Departments should know how many qualified carpenters, for instance, there are in any particular release group. I remember being told of a machine used in one Department of the War Office, known as the Hollerith machine, by which each man's qualifications were shown on a card by certain punctures made in it, and if anyone desired to know when a man was to be released under group 36, punctures were made at certain places in the card and by operating the machine it was quite easy to obtain the information. Or, if the War Office wanted to know, at any time, how many men had blue eyes or hammer toes, or a combination of blue eyes and hammer toes, this information could be obtained from the machine. Perhaps information could also be obtained by the use of this machine concerning tradesmen.
I mention this, because I am certain that the Service Departments have the information at their disposal of how many tradesmen in different categories are in each release group. Under the present method, the Ministry of Labour give the various Service Departments block allocations for releases. It may be, that in order to secure the release of an adequate number, men in very high release groups have to be released. That has been the case in the Admiralty. If the information which is available were made public, I am certain that we should find that in the case of carpenters in the 67 various Services there is a wide disparity of releases. We should find in the Army a low release group for obtaining the release of carpenters, probably a higher group in the case of the Air Ministry, and a still higher group in the case of the Admiralty. I suggest that the method of block releases should be altered, and information on how many tradesmen there are in any particular release group should be given by the Service Departments to the Ministry of Labour which would know at any time how many tradesmen of a particular category were wanted. The Ministry would be able to obtain figures from the Service Departments showing how many tradesmen they had in each of their release groups and would be able to make up the total required by levelling out the figures. If the Minister of Labour, for instance, required 5,000 carpenters, he would know that he could get them, say, by the release of carpenters in all the Services up to release group 46. I put that suggestion to the Government, because I know from my own correspondence of the considerable amount of disgruntlement felt by many tradesmen anxious to return home to play their part in the reconstruction of this country, who know that other people in different Services in a much higher release group are obtaining release.
In conclusion, may I say this? The Prime Minister did say that information about demobilisation was being passed to the serving men. I beg to disagree. That information is not being passed on officially to the serving men. The serving men are getting most of their information about demobilisation from the papers. Many of those papers are not particularly anxious to support the present Government. I maintain it is up to the various Service Departments, or if they cannot do it — though I think they are the people to do it — to the Government as a whole to see that full publicity is given to the reasons for the relative slowness in demobilisation, or the reasons why there must be disparity in release rates as between the different Services. I believe in the case of the Air Ministry that that method has been used and has been of a certain amount of value, but I am not satisfied, from my own experience and from information obtained from correspondence with my constituents, that that 68 applies to the case of the War Office. In the case of the Army most serving soldiers get their information from the papers, and not from information which is passed on as it should be, from commands abroad to the units, and thus to the men themselves. To my mind the officers in the various units should be given information which would enable them to convince the men that the demobilisation scheme was being worked fairly; that they were doing a good job whilst serving abroad; and that they were being demobilised as quickly as possible. I think, if that information were given, and that method used, we should have far less dissatisfaction with the progress of demobilisation than we have at the present time. I hope we shall have an assurance from the Government during this Debate that some methods will be used whereby that information is got over to the serving soldier.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Sir Ralph Glyn (Abingdon)
I am sure that all of us in the House would like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Spen Valley (Lieut.-Colonel Sharp) on his most excellent speech. If I may say so, he is one more example of the ability of hon. Members on the Benches opposite and of the fact that the Members there are showing no signs of shyness but rather are true to the hon. and gallant Gentleman's own name in bringing forward points for the consideration of this House. I am sure we should all like to congratulate him, not only on his speech but also on his great war record. It is an interesting example of modesty that he never once mentioned the fact that he held important positions in Austria in the Army of Occupation. His knowledge, I am sure, is such that he will be able to make great contributions to this House in subsequent Debates, which must more and more turn on the size of the Army of Occupation and the reason for its being there. There are two points to which the hon. and gallant Member referred and which are of importance to the Government. The newspapers today are very much restricted in newsprint. They have all sorts of exciting murders and other things to write about, and reports of the proceedings of this House are necessarily very much cut. I feel that the speech made by the Prime Minister today and the speech which, no doubt, will be made by the First Lord of 69 the Admiralty as well as by other Members of the Government, ought to get great publicity among the Services. I do not know whether it would cost the Government a great deal to send copies of HANSARD to every Army unit, every ship, and every Air Force station, but it would be a very cheap price to pay for imparting knowledge to all concerned as to the situation. If they do not have the knowledge, difficulties will arise. I think that all of us on this side of the House would reinforce the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks that we must do something to bring home to the people not only in our constituencies but in the Forces, the reasons why the B scheme of release is not working as some of us would like to see it working, and the difficulties with which it is confronted.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman also said he hoped we should have a clear statement from the Government to show how the reduction indicated in the White Paper should take place. The Prime Minister's speech showed the anxiety we all have, because there are so many imponderables at the present moment and it is almost impossible to foretell what in a few months will be our chief concern. The fact that there is a shortage of food inevitably means that there will be riots. The history of every country shows that. Our commitments in India show that, and a most frightening situation confronts us there. Some of us realise that though there has been a vast increase in population, there has been no increase in the size of cultivable land. It is a fact that no fewer than 800 souls have to live in India on one square mile of cultivated land, whereas the comparable figure in the United States is 86 people to one square cultivated mile. While we carry forward better health and sanitation schemes and all the rest of it, which are quite right, so long as the number of people in India increases the mortality rate will still increase. We have got to take into account that the increase in population is 15 in every 1,000, which will mean, so far as I understand it, that in 1970 we will have a population in India of nearly600 millions.
There are 410 millions at the present time, and the land is not increasing, for land diminishes the more people there are to live on it. There are desert areas where men can grow nothing. This problem of famine in India is one which this 70 House has not really considered, but it has a real effect on law and order in India and the size of the forces we have to maintain. I pity the officers and men who have their duty to perform. It is a most appalling task.
Somewhat similar conditions, though slightly less acute, prevail in Germany and in central Europe. In view of conditions there, how is it possible for the Government to say what size force we must have to carry out our functions? The White Paper goes as far and is as clear as any Paper can be under existing circumstances. There is one thing of which I am quite sure. If we are to have 5,000 displaced persons daily pitched over our zone boundary from elsewhere under present circumstances, the situation in the British zone will give real cause for anxiety to all district commanders. Therefore, I welcome the terms of the Prime Minister's speech. He took the House into the confidence of the Government. In matters of this kind, as was said by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) on the Front Opposition Bench, we are all behind the Government, because the whole future of our government depends on it, and it is only right to consider the peculiarly difficult circumstances with which the Government and their military, naval and air advisers have to contend at the present time.
"The Statement Relating to Defence" is a successor to a Paper with which I had something to do in 1935, Command Paper 4827, which I will ask hon. Members to look up in the Library. I would also ask them to look up the Debate which took place on nth March, 1935— this is almost the anniversary of that Debate — and read the speeches in the light of subsequent events. It is worth doing. That Debate arose on a White Paper drawn up by a Labour Government — by a Coalition Government with a Labour Prime Minister. [Interruption.] Certainly, and it was a courageous Paper, stating quite clearly what Parliament and the country should know, and what were our obligations and responsibilities. I have been a soldier, and there is nothing meaner than for the House of Commons or a Government to entrust great responsibilities to the Services and not explain the reasons for them, and why you have to have certain forces. That 71 Debate of 11th March, 1935, which arose out of this White Paper, was the first of the series relating to defence, and it is worth reading. It was not until afterwards that we discovered how empty was our cupboard. Within four years we were fighting for our lives. Goodness knows what we shall be doing four years from now and what will be the position in this great country which has just emerged victorious in this war. Nobody knows what will be the position, but this country, having been the least vulnerable to attack, is now the most vulnerable, owing to the advances of science and the development of air warfare.
What seems to me to be of prime importance, as the Prime Minister himself hinted, when the conference with the Dominions is held, is the matter of strategy, which has always been jealously guarded by this country, of the land bridge between the oceans. Whatever may be the future of the Security Council and of U.N.O., nothing will alter the fact that we are a maritime people, and that our Empire depends on the sea and the proper protection of our commerce. To protect our commerce we must command land bridges between the oceans. For what other reason did we fight in Egypt and in Alamein? At one time Malta was cut off, and I know well the anxiety of the right hon. Gentleman at that time. I discussed the matter with him, and he was wondering whether we could keep Malta supplied. Why were we concentrating so much on these things? It was because we were losing command of the air to protect the convoys vital to our lives. In all consultations with the Dominions and with associated countries this is of the very greatest importance to us today — the siting of air bases, or nodal points as my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) says, without which our naval bases are not much good. These are some of the things we have to consider. We hear of the commitments which we have pumped into Egypt, for instance, invested there in fighting the land war which, as hon. Members who were on the Select Committee on National Expenditure will remember, amount to over £ 150 million. These commitments are not all removeable goods, although a large part can be disposed of. Now Egypt is saying that they want independence, and that they do not want to see 72 soldiers walking about their streets. The time may come when they will want to see those soldiers walking about the streets; the time may come when we may want to be sure of that land-bridge between the oceans. It is quite true that our ships went round the Cape for weeks and months, but the First Lord of the Admiralty did not like providing for those convoys. If we can have the Suez Canal protected under some scheme of U.N.O., all will be well.
Scientific research is of far greater importance than the accumulation of vast stores of materials for the Services, and I am glad that the Prime Minister has emphasised that. I would draw the attention of the House to the White Paper which the Select Committee on National Expenditure issued at the end of the last Parliament, which is entitled, "Research and Development of Warlike Stores." That Paper was a unanimous decision by all Members of all parties, emphasising this question. We were in the war from beginning to end, and we had some knowledge of the dangerous corners we had to turn. Why was this? It was because we did not spend sufficient money on research, and this House is responsible for that. Research and development are absolutely vital in these days. You cannot lay down a definite sum within which scientists will work. They can do their best work if they have a free head. You must trust them. It is far better to spend money on researchand ensure that we are keeping pace with developments in other countries than to accumulate stores of weapons which are really out of date. If scientific advisers in the Admiralty and in the Army were asked to analyse the ideas which came forward in the last war, it would be found that they came from young men. There are very few people over 25 years of age whose brains are sufficiently fertile to think of something new. But what happens to the young man under 25 when he goes to his boss with wonderful ideas? His boss says to him, "Go away, young man, and do not interfere with my ideas." The young man is chucked out.
It is vitally important that there should be association between young men and women in universities and technical schools. We should have a source of 73 original thought and we should have the best brains in the universities with which to keep in touch with the General Staff, the Admiralty and the Air Ministry. We know from the evidence we had before us that the Government is by no means behind in realising this, and this Parliament should not be in real ignorance as we were in the last. When I was a boy I used to have read to me stories by that wonderful man called Jules Verne. Jules Verne was treated as a man whose writings were fit only for children, but it is amazing when you read his stories how right he was; if he could have talked to the General Staffs of the world he might have given them quite a few ideas. I think it is high time we had some other Jules Verne to write things about the atomic bomb.
I do not want to dwell on this matter, except to say this: I do not pretend to know anything about it, but there seems to be an amazing idea that the atomic bomb will only work if it is dropped from the air? Why? Why not have 12 commercial travellers arriving at 12 large cities in England, with a bomb in their bags? Why not 12 large ships sailing to Southampton, or along the Mersey or the Tyne, with these bombs stowed in their bows, all timed to go off at one moment? Then where would we be? Where would be our war potential? I do not say that that will happen, but if Jules Verne were here he might write something like that. I believe it is a very bad thing for a few people to feel that they know something about what a large number of people know nothing about. But whatever may be the future of wars, or anything else, research and science are vital, and the House must not be too critical of expenditure.
Another matter on which we had evidence before the Select Committee was the organisation for joint planning. A White Paper, No. 6351, was, I think, issued on this matter in 1943 or 1944. It is a very interesting document. But two things which it never mentioned, and which Parliament was always worrying about after the 1914-18 war, were: what is the actual limit of responsibility for the Cabinet, and what are the actual duties of the Combined Staff — how are they selected, how do they clash with the Secretariat of the Minister of Defence? It would be very interesting if we could 74 have that White Paper brought up to the date in the light of experience.
One thing I am certain about is, as the Prime Minister said, the importance of working closely with the Dominions. One of the greatest difficulties of supply which, after all, is 80 per cent. of waging war, is war potential. That potential is complicated by the number of types and calibres of weapons and ammunition, and all the rest of it. We must see that there are common types as between ourselves, the Dominions and the United States. I do not envisage, nor does anybody here, war with the United States, but I do envisage that they would be on our side and we with them. The United Nations organisation is the one hope of mankind. We must get together, and see that there is a world general staff of decent-minded people. One of the first things that such a staff must do is to reduce the number of types of weapons, and standardise the number of calibres.
One of the curious things about this country is that somebody is given a title which is never appropriate at the time, but which is subsequently most appropriate. Such is the title, "Chief of the Imperial General Staff." It is a wonderful title, and means a great deal if the man is the right man, but if you analyse it and say to an Australian, "Do you recognise the present C.I.G.S. as the Chief of the Australian General Staff?" he will say, "No, certainly not." The Chief of the Imperial General Staff is the Chief of the British Staff, and not necessarily the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. That ought to be put right. Further, there must be a joint Commonwealth staff, so that officers of the Navies, Armies and Air Forces of the Dominions and Colonies will have equal opportunity. There was in this country a joint staff college, of which great things were expected, but which has never really developed.
§ Sir R. Glyn
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I believe that if students at such a college could be given a ship, in order to go round the Empire to study problems on the spot, it would be of great advantage.
I do not think anybody envies the fearful responsibility that rests on the 75 present Cabinet. I do not want to say anything in this Debate that would cause any difficulties, but all of us have our friends in the Armies of Occupation, and we all know — it may be gossip, or it may be true — that there is something different from what there was after the 1914-18 war. There is exhaustion among some people, and there is a great desire to get back to peace, but the peace we are living in now is not a real peace We have to think what we are trying to do As I understand it, we are trying, with other nations, to justify the sacrifices and blood and treasure given up in the last war. We do not want to hold one man longer than necessary, but we do not want to throw away everything we won in the last war by removing too many men while the danger is still there. There is great danger that as we go out somebody else may come in, and not for the same purpose.
I urge that when we are considering what we have to legislate and allow for, what the Chiefs of Staff Committee have to think about, what all peace loving people have to think about, we should consider from what source is there danger, from what source could something emerge from the mists of uncertainty. Nothing is more certain than that this Debate is part and parcel of the Debate we had last week on Economic Affairs (Manpower). It cannot be divided. I urge the Government, somehow or another, to wake up the country and the world to the appalling external dangers, and make our people realise the internal necessity of meeting those dangers by a 100 per cent. effort. I feel that the times are more critical today than at any time since El Alamein. There, we knew we were going to win, that we had the enemy beaten; now I am not so sure. The enemy is less visible and less obvious. All of us in this House have a great responsibility to our constituents, especially those who lost relatives or friends whom they thought of most. We are getting too grossly material today; we have lost our idealism, our faith. The churches are empty. There is something wrong. If you have not faith, you have not vision", if you have not vision, it is hard to hope. These are the things we are up against. The armour we must put on is not only what is sug- 76 gested by this White Paper; it is something inside each one of us. It is the duty of every hon. Member, irrespective of party, to do everything possible to bring back that spirit which has made this country great in the past, and will do so in the future, if we are aware of what we are up against and face it boldly.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Colonel Wigg (Dudley)
I ask the indulgence of the House in rising to speak for the first time. I need that indulgence more than most hon. Members making their maiden speeches because I have spent most of my life in the Regular Army, and while 20 years in the ranks may qualify one, as the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) said, to speak the refinement of our language as learnt at the sergeant-major's knee, it does not necessarily qualify one to talk about strategy. I have served in most parts of the Empire in which British soldiers are called upon to serve, and I want to refer in a little more detail to one matter which was touched upon by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, that is, the part which the Colonial Forces should play in post-war defence policy. The right hon. Gentleman was quite right in paying a tribute to the East and West African Forces, the work they did in Abyssinia, and the very gallant part they played in the Burmese campaign.
Before the war, those Forces were under the control of the Colonial Office. The only link with Imperial strategy or with the War Office was maintained by the Inspectors-General in East and West Africa. However qualified the Colonial Office may be I do not think they are qualified to handle military matters, and, therefore, at the outbreak of the war, the King's African Rifles and the Royal West African Frontier Force were little more than token forces. The needs of the situation demanded that they should be developed very quickly, and they were increased to the tune of half a million men. If we do again what we did after the last war, we shall allow those Forces to dwindle, and hand them back to the Colonial Office.
If that happens, we shall find in the West African Frontier Force that the medium of training will be based upon the Hausa language, and the Hausa language is not universal throughout the West African Colonies. It is spoken 77 mainly in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria. If at any time our military commitments demand the quick building up of forces in West Africa, the only possible lingua franca would be English. I do not claim that a detailed knowledge of English is essential for the training of West African forces, but with a quite limited vocabulary, these men can be taken from tribal areas remote from contact with white civilization, and very quickly turned into very efficient soldiers handling modern weapons of war. As an example of the limitations of language, I would like to recall an experience I had about a year ago in Freetown. I was visiting an anti-aircraft site and talking to the battery commander about the problem of conversing with his men. He called one to him, and, pointing to a 40 mm. Bofors, said, "Boy, what be that?" The boy replied, "That, master, be humbug for steam chickens." With ingenuity, the limitations of the pidg in English can be got over. We got over them in this war with magnificent results.
I ask the Government to look very carefully into this problem, and decide to bring the control of the Colonial Forces directly under the War Office.
I am conscious that this problem, like most problems, comes down to money. Before the war the principle was maintained that each Colony had to be responsible for its own internal defence, which meant that the money raised in a particular Colony had to bear the charge of the forces raised in that Colony. I think we have to be prepared to face up to the cost, and that if we do, we shall obtain a very considerable addition to the manpower reserve, not only from the angle of a strategic reserve, but from the point of view of the contribution which the introduction of military service, either on a voluntary or a compulsory scale, would make to the well being of those Colonies.
I hold the view that the Report which was presented by the Colonial Office on Mass Education in Africa will remain just a paper programme unless we utilise the opportunity afforded by calling men up for service, and not only training them to fight, but training them to take their part as citizens in the community. I should probably be out of Order if I went too far along this road, but it strikes me 78 as very interesting that when tribute is paid to the development of mass education in China and in Russia, the fact is overlooked that the Red Army in Russia was used as a means of developing social education. I am prepared to face up to the issues involved in following that policy.
I would like now to say a few words on the question of building a reserve from Forces at home. The Prime Minister made the welcome statement that a policy was to be announced dealing with re-enlistment. I presume it will be along the lines of the policy followed at the end of the last war, when gratuities were paid to encourage men who had left, or were about to leave, the Army to come back again. I urge the need for something more than that. It may be, perhaps not this year or next year, but in the years that lie ahead, we may have need of a very quick reserve. If hon. Gentlemen will reflect upon the period between the two wars, they will recollect that we had to call up our Class A Reserve on more than one occasion. At the moment we have not got a Class A Reserve, and the building up of a reserve force is a rather slow business. Therefore, I put forward as worthy of consideration the proposal that financial inducements should be offered, if necessary, to encourage men leaving the Forces to undertake a definite reserve obligation until such time as a stronger reserve can be built up, either through the working of the militia system, or through the reserve system which follows in the wake of normal Regular Army engagements.
Having spent a lifetime in the Regular Army, let me say quite frankly and honestly that I am not afraid of the bogies of compulsory military service. Any honest man who faces up to the obligations of this country knows very well that if we are to fulfil them we have to accept compulsory military service. Compulsory military service can be wholly a waste of time, but on the other hand, as I have tried to indicate in dealing with the Colonial forces, it can add something to the wellbeing of the individual concerned and it may add something to the wellbeing of the nation as a whole. I believe that if we follow the principle of using compulsory military service in that way we shall come to regard it as part of the educational 79 development of this country. In saying that, I am not arguing that we should clamp down a definite period of military service to last for ever and ever, but I see no reason at all why, if one accepts the principle of compulsory education, there should not be part-time compulsory service for the defence of one's country. Until men reach the heights, and can live as they perhaps will live one day when we get a wholly Christian society, somebody has to play the policeman. I have played the policeman in a very modest way during the major part of my life, and I am not afraid or ashamed of the record. The mere fact that I am speaking from these benches tonight shows that I have not altogether wasted my time.
§ 5.32 P.m.
§ Major John Morrison (Salisbury)
It falls to my very pleasant lot to extend my heartiest congratulations to the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg), who has just contributed such a very excellent maiden speech to this Debate. I am sure hon. Members on all sides of the House will agree that his fluency has been the envy of many, certainly including myself. We have enjoyed his contribution and we hope that he will take part in the Debates more frequently now that he has time.
I would like to add my congratulations to all those who have been responsible for defence Over a period of years — and during the last six months and the difficult times since VJ-Day — not least to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who is not with us today, and his able second string during the war years, the right hon. Gentleman who opened this Debate for the Opposition. Defence must always be one of the most important things in this country. As a back-bencher speaking as merely a wartime major among a bevy of brigadiers, whom I have seen making copious notes, I feel a little diffident about adding words to this Debate. There are however a few points I want to raise.
First, there is the question of military service which has already been brought up by the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley. I was very glad to hear the attitude he took on this all-important topic. With regard to conscription, or, as it is at the present time, call-up by 80 the Ministry of Labour, which is conscription without the use of the word, there is no doubt that it is essential for the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite to come to a decision as speedily as possible as to the period of service expected of our young men when they go into the Army. I myself have three sons. The smallest is not yet of an age to count, but the other two are approaching that time when they have to consider their careers, and I know that there must be hundreds of thousands of young men and parents all over the country who find it very difficult to plan for such things as apprenticeships, further education, and careers as a whole, without knowing how they stand with regard to length of military service. It must also be very difficult for those who are responsible to the heads of the Services for man power unless some decision is come to speedily.
Again, it is difficult for men who are now in age groups which have not yet received notice of when they will be freed from the Services. It would appear to them that unless a decision is made with regard to future conscription the decision relating to their own release must be delayed. I understand that last week an Order was made by the War Office — I am not quite sure of this, but I hope that if I am wrong the right hon. Gentleman will correct me — that no man can obtain a commission in His Majesty's Army unless he signs a seven years' agreement. I believe that if this is the case — and I hope it is not — it may well lose to the Army numbers of good men who, when they get into the Services, find a taste for the colours and would stay on if they saw their way up the ladder. There is undoubtedly considerable feeling in the Services as regards the difference in rates of release between the Navy, the Army and the Air Force. This, I appreciate, may be inevitable under the very difficult circumstances which have to be catered for at the present time, but I hope these difficulties will be made clear to all those they affect since this would avoid discontent.
I would touch briefly upon a subject on which I feel I can say something — the future of our Territorial Forces — because I have had experience of the Territorial Army for many years, and I hope that some announcement will be made as early 81 as possible. Whatever the period of conscription may be, or even if there is to be no conscription, it will still be necessary in my opinion to see that we have a Territorial Army like that which did such magnificent work in the past. So far, nothing has been announced with regard to this. Some Territorial regiments are serving abroad and some are in the course of being disbanded, or have been disbanded in this country. The time has come when there should be not only a vigorous recruiting drive for the Regular Forces but some announcement with regard to auxiliary Forces such as the Territorial Army. I think all who served in the Territorial Army will agree with me that it is essential that this force should be organised on a basis of counties or closely connected areas. As was said by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler), it is the unit spirit which counts for so much and without that spirit, based on a force officered by those who live in the locality and who see the individual members of that Force in other walks of life than military service, it could not be so successful.
I welcome very much Paragraph 14 of the White Paper with regard to the future of the cadet force. We on this side of the House welcome the fact that the cadets are to have this recognition and we are agreed that not enough can be done to ensure that the young men of school age receive training for the Armed Forces and, as a result, considerable assistance as regards life and fitting them for citizenship. All honour is due to those who, during their spare hours, give their time to teaching these young men. They have achieved remarkable feats, as 1 know myself from experience, in helping the boys of the Navy, Army, and Air Force cadets, and I hope they will be given every encouragement to continue their good work. Here I would mention the subject of boots. It is sometimes very hard for a young man to give up coupons for them. It would be a great assistance if there could be a free issue of boots as soon as possible.
I would like to say a word about training. My right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden mentioned the position of training areas. On this side of the House we cannot see the position as clearly as some of us would like, because we have not access to Cabinet 82 information, except by means of the White Paper. Certain parts of the world will have to be occupied for an unforeseeable period. It may be that the South of Palestine from Gaza to Sinai would be a suitable place for training our Forces, so long as our commitments in Palestine exist. An hon. Member mentioned Egypt. I was in Egypt from 1941. They did not want us to go, at that time. It may be that parts of Africa are suitable for training the armies of the future. The Dominion of Canada might agree to have some of our young men, as they did during the war, for our Air Training Scheme.
All those possibilities are put forward because it strikes those of us who are interested in agriculture that our country is rather too small both to train our future armies, and satisfy the needs of the country in food production, particularly in view of the shortage of food in the world. I asked the Minister of Agriculture today how much land had been released, but he could not give me a definite reply. Therefore, I cannot quote a figure; but I can say that about 5,000,000 acres were requisitioned, and that there is no doubt that approximately 3,000,000 acres, according to our latest figure, are still under control. It may be that the number has been reduced. I appreciate the difficulties, but I hope that the Secretary of State for War and the Minister of Agriculture will go a little further into this matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Abing-don (Sir R. Glyn) referred to Jules Verne. I remember reading '' Round the World in 80 Days "as a boy when I used to go in a horse and cart to the station, rather than in a motor car. Many things have changed since then, although I am one of the junior Members of this House. I welcome the fact that the White Paper recognises the importance of, and emphasises the need for, scientific research. Everything possible should be done to keep us not only abreast but ahead of all other countries in the world in research science. Who knows what may happen in the future? The atom bomb is with us, and nobody knows its potentialities. That weapon was by no means the only weapon discovered during the war. I think I would be right in saying that some of the discoveries are still upon the unpublished list. I hope that every effort will be made 83 to keep abreast of the time in these matters. The Minister of Supply has a large research establishment in my constituency. I hope those who are engaged in the work will be given every consideration, and a chance to rise in the scale as well. The subject of defence must remain in the forefront of our policy, and of everything that we do in this House. We have been caught twice nearly too weak to fight, and we must never allow that to happen again.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
If I am somewhat hoarse this evening, I must apologise to the House. I have the seasonal complaint. We have spoken much about demobilisation, and I would make reference a little later to that subject. Other aspects of service in the Forces command our attention. They took up much space in our mailbags rather early in our history here. The first point relates to the period of service overseas. The word "Python" has rather passed out of our vocabulary, but it is a very real word for the men serving abroad, and particularly to those in India. Nearly a year ago, on 13th March, 1945, the Coalition Government said that the future period of overseas service should be three years. When the Labour Government came into office, we had to say that that was a pious hope, but that it was something towards which we wanted to work. The pressure of transport, caused by the accelerated demobilisation programme had made it clear that we could not get down to three years. Now we understand that the limiting factor upon demobilisation is not transport, as it was in the days of Python, but military commitments. After the transport factor has been eased, we are entitled to ask the Government whether the time has not arrived to get back, or rather to get to the period of three years' overseas service which was promised by the last Government and which it was announced to be the intention of this Government to reach.
With that matter in mind, it is particularly disquieting to receive letters from the Indian Command within the last fortnight from fellows who say that there are to be no sailings on Python during the present month. Is that so? If so, why?
§ Mr. Lawson
I should like to reply at once on that point. I am not aware of 84 any such instruction having gone out. I have heard much about Python delays. I want to say definitely and of my own knowledge that, in the many investigations that I have made, there has been no delay whatever in regard to Python. There have been no such instructions.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes, indeed, and I am very glad to have that assurance. I hope that it will be given the widest publicity, particularly in India, where misconceptions still exist.
This point brings me naturally to my next point, which has been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Spen Valley (Lieut.-Colonel Sharp), in an excellent maiden speech. It is publicity. There are far too many misconceptions whether Python is or is not sailing, whether the period of service is three years and four months, or three years and five months, and all the rest of it, among the men in the Forces. They give hon. Members very little peace of mind. A number of them are pure misconceptions. I am one of the unfortunate Members who get a lot of letters from men in the Forces, but when I open my mail bag I do not have to send many of them to the Service Departments because, out of expert knowledge accumulated day after day, I am able to reply to a number of wrong impressions held by men in the Forces The Under-Secretary of State for Air has done a jolly good job with his "demob orders" They have conveyed useful information. They may also have conveyed additional arguments to some of our correspondents. I urge upon Service Ministers the vital necessity of increasing the publicity about the demobilisation scheme and conditions of Service. It is extremely important that we should have contented Armed Forces.
My next point is on demobilisation, and here we are on very difficult ground. None of us can challenge with any validity the figures which appear in the White Paper. We are almost bound to accept them, yet I want to put to the very full representation we have on the Front Bench some other considerations this evening. The Prime Minister said, and he was followed by the right hon. 85 Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler), that we must cut our coat according to our cloth. What is the size of our coat today, and what was the size of it 20 years ago? Twenty years ago in 1922 or 1923 the size of our Armed Forces was in the region of 200,000 men; thirty years ago it was the same size; today, although our population remains stationary, the size of our Armed Forces has increased vastly. The White Paper which introduced the Government's National Insurance Scheme said in its opening sentence that provision for the defence of the Realm is the first duty of the State. True, but how much can we afford to put into our Armed Forces at the present time and maintain a reasonable standard of life in this country? That is the question we have to answer, and I am not at all sure that the Government at the moment are answering it as speedily as they might.
There is another aspect of service in the Forces: how long in a period of peace are we to ask men to give from their lives to render service to the State? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden suggested that the figure should be two years. If that is so, then I would calculate from my rough arithmetical researches over the weekend, like his, that we shall not get a call-up of more than 150,000 a year. What then will be the size of our regular Forces? How many men will we have in them, and what is to be the size of the permanent Armed Forces at which we shall aim if we can only expect to get 150,000 men a year out of the call-up? It is a problem to which we have to face up in the very near future. Coming down to the immediate issue of demobilisation I suggest to the Government that if we are to talk in terms of a permanent figure of two years' service, then we really cannot —
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)
I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting, but my right hon. Friend said he thought two years would be much too high in peace time. He only talked about two years as an interim period, and he directed our attention to one year.
§ Mr. Callaghan
That makes my case so much the stronger, as the right hon. Gentleman will understand. If our call-up is to be so relatively small, then either our permanent regular forces have to be much greater, or we cannot have so many 86 men in the Armed Forces. One of the two things is bound to happen. My point is this, that if it is to be a period 12 months or 18 months or two years in peace time, have we the right, now that we are in this transitional period, to ask people to spend five or six years of their life in the Armed Forces?
I want to put a practical proposition to the Government, following the proposition made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Spen Valley. The proposition is that the Government should seriously consider at this stage the possibility of general demobilisation up to group 40 by the end of June. What would it mean? It would mean that all men with more than five years' service would be demobilised by the end of June, and I think that is reasonable. It would mean that all men over 38 years of age would be demobilised at the same time It would mean that all men over 35 years of age with three years of service would go out, and all men over 30 years of age with four years' service would go out. I suggest that that is the sort of target at which the Government should aim if we are to cut our coat according to our cloth, and I feel it is a reasonable period of service to ask for from men at these various ages. What would it mean in terms of men? My calculations are that it would mean in the Army releasing an additional 220,000 and in the R.A.F. another 140,000, say a total of 360,000 men, which would reduce our Forces to something like 1,600,000. I do not think that is too low for the period ending June. One is, of course, in a difficult position to judge, but I cannot see, if we are to cut down to 1,100,000 by the end of December, why it is so impossible to get down to a figure like this by the end of June. I believe that if we could get up to group 40 by the end of June, a great deal of the discontent existing at the present time, particularly in the Army, would be removed
If it is suggested that it cannot be done because we need men, then let me ask the First Lord: What about recruiting a bit from the Navy It is my own Service, and I do not suppose what I. have suggested will be very popular in my constituency, which happens to have a very large proportion of men in the Navy, but what is causing the discontent is the way my own Service is running on a scale up to group 52. I think it would 87 be a perfectly defensible proposition to demobilise all the Services up to group 40 which would, according to my calculations, again, enable us to recoup from the Navy about 170,000 men out of our total of 360,000. Sailors can be used in guarding ammunition dumps just as well as soldiers, and they can be used in a number of other jobs. I put that proposition most seriously to the Government for their urgent consideration.
On the broader question of the Defence White Paper, one is immediately tempted to ask, "Defence against whom?" The hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) said that he could not envisage war against the United States. He did not mention any other nation, and it would be unfair to press him on that. However, I am going further by saying that I do not envisage war against the U.S.S.R., and that is the only other major nation in the world today which could possibly be the sort of Power against which we should have to provide these Forces. Speaking out of the depths of a vast ignorance, I would say that Russia today is in no position to fight an offensive war. As always, her people will fight hard when they have to defend their own soil of Holy Russia, but I do not believe for a moment that Russia intends, has the desire or will attack the other nations of the world, and if we proceed on any other assumption than that then we are making war inevitable. I urge hon. Gentlemen in this House — if I may presume to do so without appearing to lecture — when they say they do not envisage war against one country, also to include other countries as well, because these things are noticed, they are pulled out and picked up. and they create in my view a wrong psychological atmosphere in our dealings with other nations.
In this connection I would ask how soon we can expect to know what would be our contribution to the United Nations Forces. I want to work, and I believe everybody on both sides of the House wants us to work, towards the position where we shall all be providing police forces for the world; where we shall have to put our contribution into the common pool, a police contribution for defence against any potential lawbreaker anywhere I want to get the position when we can regard our Armed Forces in that way, and I believe we can set to it now if we start out on the road towards it and 88 attempt to get down to some practical discussion in U.N.O. of joint policies of defence and of joint contributions to defence. I hope that the Government will be able to tell us before this Debate is concluded what is being done towards providing this common pool
One final word on commitments. Reverting to what I was saying earlier, I can understand that we have to fulfil all these many commitments laid down in Paragraph9 of the Defence White Paper but these are not only our commitments. I do not regard the defence of Palestine or the liquidation of the Japanese occupation of Allied territories in South-East Asia as peculiarly a matter for the British Empire. In South-East Asia, as hon. Members well know, the baby of Indonesia was handed to us about a week before the Japanese war came to a sudden end. It reverted to our South-East Asia Command from General MacArthur, and, had the war ended a week earlier, American soldiers would have been taking their share in the occupation of Indonesia instead of British soldiers. Is there any reason, if we are to work towards a mutual pooling of Armed Forces, why American and Russian soldiers should not take their share in restoring law and order in these territories?
In Palestine too the Americans have accepted to some extent a joint obligation. Why should American soldiers and Russian soldiers not be invited to assist us in that territory as well in making provision for peace and preserving law and order? In that way we could cut our coat according to our cloth. We are a tiny nation, and neither in manpower nor resources can we begin to challenge the two mammoths to left and right of us. If we realised that, we should adjust our forces accordingly, and invite other people to assist us in this task. Then I believe we shall set out in our postwar life on a course which will mean that the Defence White Paper will go on being spoken of year after year, and we shall maintain our police forces, but never have to come down to the House and ask for increases for the purposes of another war.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)
I could not help thinking, as the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) finished his speech, that he 89 had rather forgotten that this country is part of a great Empire. To talk so frequently, as he and many of his colleagues do, about the smallness of this country is, I think, extremely misleading, not only to the people of this country, but also to the world. I am not going to follow him into his discussion and consideration of the problem of against whom we might be making a war I am only going to assume in what I have to say that this country wishes to secure its position in the world at the present time so that we can maintain the principles for which we have in the past six years fought the greatest war in the world's history.
I would like to refer to one or two matters which the hon. Member raised, because I have just come back from India as also has the hon. and gallant Member for Aston (Major Wyatt), who is sitting next to him. I am quite certain misconception does exist about the Python scheme, and I am quite certain there are some waiting men who also exist in the camps. They are not many. They are few, and as so often happens, the few make a great deal of noise and write a great many letters. India is a country in which not only civilian administration, but also military administration, sometimes makes mistakes. The point was also raised about misconceptions in connection with demobilisation. I think we in this House very often do a great injustice to many units and formations in all the Services by making such a general charge. My experience in India showed me that the Army and the Royal Air Force as a general rule have tackled the problem of passing on the information which the India Office and the War Office have made available to them. There again there are mistakes and I think we should be a little more careful about making general charges in this matter.
At a time when this country is straining every nerve to restore and expand our industry and trade, it is quite a right and proper thing that this House should be discussing our defence position. Only if we are quite certain that we have got that right, and have tackled the manpower problem aright, can we also be certain that we are straining every nerve in this vital task. I would like to point out to many friends on both sides of the House and outside, that whereas during 90 the war it was proved over and over again that our defence forces depended on the efficiency of our industry, so in peace it must be realised that the prosperity of industry and trade depends to a very great extent on the efficiency of our defence forces. Unless we have law and order in the world, we are not going to get prosperity. It is clear that at this time law and order is threatened throughout a great part of the world.
One part of the White Paper which has given me particular satisfaction is the passage in paragraph 3 in which the Government state:we could not abandon our responsibilities in many parts of the world. To do so would have been to throw away the fruits of victory, and to betray those who had fought and died in the common cause.That seems to make it clear that the Government are not going to cut down our commitments, at any rate at this time. That is perhaps the one certain thing that comes out of this White Paper. Against these commitments I realise that we not only have to balance the demands made upon our manpower by industry, but also, at this time especially, the demands by national Government and local government civil services. I believe that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and some right hon. Gentlemen, when thinking about cutting our coat according to the cloth available, sometimes forget that the Civil Service, and the Government particularly, should also consider the Civil Service coat. Perhaps when they are considering some of they new schemes in legislation, they will bear that in mind before they ask the country to cut the defence forces. Perhaps they should think twice before they begin adding to our Civil Services. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, when speaking on 27th February about the manpower which was allotted to the Services said this:Everybody who knows anything of Service Ministries will know that what they get eventually is never what they ask." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 1965–1966.]I think that statement is very true, but it is also a little disquieting, coupled with the statement I read from the White Paper, that we accepted our commitments as they stood at the end of the war. The two do not seem to make sense, when put together. I should like the Government 91 to tell us whether they are now advised that, having accepted the cuts which the right hon. Gentleman's statement implies, the Service chiefs still say that we are capable of carrying out the commitments mentioned in this Paper. The position may be quite clear, but for my own part I should like it to be made more clear. In that connection it is fair to give this House the detailed figures which were demanded by the Service Ministers. Once we are told, as we have been told today, what the figures are for the end of the year, and we are also told that they are not the figures which were asked for, it is right that this House should know what those latter figures were.
Much mention has been made throughout this Debate, on both sides of the House, of demobilisation not being planned to go sufficiently fast in the second half, or at any rate in the third quarter, of this year. I would like to add my own experience of what I saw in India to all that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has said. Over and over again it was borne in on me, in talking both to Army units and also to R.A.F. senior officers, that the Services are suffering, and expect to suffer further, a very great strain because of the speed at which demobilisation has been carried out in the last six months. One must remember that it is much to their credit that this high rate of demobilisation, which everyone on both sides of the House wants has been maintained, and that earlier forecasts have been passed. I do not wish in any way to discourage demands on the Government to demobilise as quickly as we possibly can, but I would ask the House to take it from me that the strain does exist, and when a strain exists it means that parts of the Services are not functioning as well as they would be but for the strain.
I come now to three points on which I have suggestions to make to the House. I start by saying that I look at this problem, not as do some of my hon. and gallant Friends, with the eye of a bird, from having planned in high places, or from having sat in this House and considered problems of strategy for a long time. Nor do I look at it entirely, as do some other hon. Members, with the eye of the worm — of the regimental soldier. If I claim to have my eyes as 92 high off the floor as has a cat, I might also claim to try to see a little through the darkness. The first point I should like to take is the shape of our postwar Army. Listening to the Debate, I have found general agreement with the Prime Minister that now is not the time to settle that. With great respect I must put forward the opposite view. I would suggest that it is always extremely unsafe and unsettling to those people in the Services to have doubt as to what the shape of our Forces is
If it is true, as it obviously is, that we cannot settle the final shape at this moment, because we do not know what our military demands in relation to U.N.O. will be, nor how far the development of atomic weapons will go, I suggest in all sincerity, to the Government that they embark forthwith on an interim plan, because the result of this unsettled policy must be that there is delay in settling, for example, training establishments, in settling the period of compulsory national service, in settling the ratio of officers and men inside and between the Services and in settling the future role of the auxiliary and voluntary Forces. All these things are bound to result from having no plan. I cannot believe that in the case of the Army, at any rate, there is no plan. I would say that no such big organisation could function without one, but if there is a plan the House is entitled to know it.
Now surely there will be a vast count to be taken when we get the two great revolutions in our defence position. There are, firstly, the establishment of the U.N.O. security organisation, with military forces, and, secondly, the further development of atomic weapons. Until that happens, I believe we could get on with development upon our present lines.
One word about the shape of our Forces in what I might term the atomic age. Mention has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Salisbury (Major J. Morrison) of Jules Verne and others. I have read those stories, as no doubt other hon. Members have, but I would like to put this rather hard and harsh fact before the House. Surely once we reach a state of scientific development when there are masses of atomic weapons we shall have to reconsider the whole conception of 93 defence within the Empire. This country contains the heart of the Empire — concentration of industry, concentration of communications, concentration of Government. When I was looking at it from the worm's eye point of view, when we considered defence against frightful weapons, we were always faced with two courses. Firstly, to go underground, or, secondly, to disperse, or sometimes to do both. I believe that if we take our defence seriously, and if we consider it necessary to continue having a defence scheme at all, this country is faced with exactly that alternative in the quite near future. I have no doubt that some of our planners with great ideas are considering this at the present time. It sounds fantastic to suggest that this country should go underground. But is it fantastic to suggest that within the Empire there must, in the long run, be greater dispersion of the heart system of our great Commonwealth?
The second point concerns training. Mention has previously been made of that. There are many hon. Members who arc faced with demands from their constituents for decisions as to the date of release of requisitioned land and other property used for purposes of training. It is obviously desirable that as much noisy and large scale training as possible should be done out of the country. I imagine that in the case of the Army and the Air Force, in which we may keep large forces abroad, carrying out the tasks outlined in paragraph 9 of the White Paper, most of the collective training will go on abroad. But there is still the basic training of each man as he is called up, and there is also the refresher training in Army schools which has to be done. In both those cases it is not only desirable, but, I believe, essential that it should remain in this country, for the time being at any rate. At a later date, perhaps, when we have changed our ideas about the conception of Imperial defence, it may be necessary to alter that also. So important is morale to the future of those forces that I am sure we have got to have training at home for some time. Otherwise where will be the Home Service?
I finish with a third point concerning the spirit of our Forces. We have saved ourselves in the last two wars relying entirely upon those who volunteered — in 1914, the "Old Contemptibles," and in 1939–1942 the mixture of the Regular 94 Army and the Territorial Army. We have lived by taking risks. I am certain that most of us have decided we do not want to take any more risks. We have however relied upon that voluntary spirit and been justified. I hope that the Government, and particularly the Secretary of State for War, will announce very soon the future of the auxiliary forces, in particular, the Territorial Army, to which I have had the honour to belong since 1 was 19 years old. In connection with this voluntary spirit, I would like to make one appeal to some hon Members on the other side of this House. The discipline of our Forces has grown up under the voluntary system. I say this in all sincerity and without any criticism. I believe that those men who best understand the reason and basis of this discipline are those who have had that voluntary spirit, and who have themselves given voluntary service. As one looks around — this was borne in on me in India — one is horrified at the attacks upon the foundation of our Armed Forces that have been made in some places, in connection with discipline. I would stress that if we are to continue with a sound Army, R.A.F. and Royal Navy we must insist that discipline should be kept as high as it has been in the past.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)
I have listened to practically the whole of this Debate and I think that one exceedingly important point has emerged. The leader of the Conservative Party today, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) was dilating on the problem of a voluntary or a conscript Army. I ventured to interject; I asked him whether the Conservative Party had decided, as a policy, in favour of enforcing compulsory military service in this country in peacetime. His answer was in the affirmative. I do not know whether or not I am right, but if the Conservative Party have officially decided in that way I should imagine that it will be the first time that any political party in the State has so decided. I repeat that I have never yet heard it stated that any political party in this country has come down in favour of compulsory military service in peacetime —
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I interjected that we are at peace now, and we have compulsory service under this Government.
§ Mr. Davies
I am coming to that. That is why I have got up. If the right hon. Gentleman can help me in my arguments, I shall be very pleased.
§ Mr. Davies
I have studied the details of this White Paper relating to defence, and I want to echo one or two questions put already by hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. Against whom are we defending ourselves? Who is likely to attack us? We have disabled Japan and Germany and, incidentally, we have abolished conscription in those two countries. We have been very clever in Japan; we have welcomed and applauded the fact that we have found a pacifist to be the new Prime Minister of Japan, whilst we put our own pacifists in gaol here. Of course, a Japanese pacifist is so different. It is proper, therefore, to ask against whom are we defending ourselves? We cannot be defending ourselves against Spain, Norway, or Denmark. We cannot be defending ourselves against Germany or Italy either. I suppose it is too much to suggest that we are defending ourselves against the first great Power in the world, the United States of America. That is inconceivable. There is, therefore, only one great Power left —
§ Mr. Davies
He always does as he proceeds. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not mind my saying so, he has the same blemish of getting warmer himself. I have seen him warm up on occasions, and I shall do so as befits my nationality. Therefore, there is only one great Power left. Quite frankly, I am uneasy about it. There is no doubt at all but that our relations with the Soviet Union have deteriorated in the last few months. I hope and pray however that they will not deteriorate to the extent that we are establishing this vast Army for fear of a conflict with that country. It is common, of course, when Allies have defeated the enemy that they 96 quarrel about the spoils. I would be very sorry to think we had reached that stage already. I cannot understand how it comes about that we are asking for 2,000,000 trained men in June, 1946.
As one hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, this is a very small country; the total population is about 45,000,000. Further, I understand that we can never raise, at the best, more than 5,000,000 men for our Armed Forces out of the total population of this country. I am frightened, therefore, at the prospect of 2,000,000 men under arms, more frightened than anything because I understand they will not be doing anything in particular. What are those millions of men doing now in military clothes? I am told that some of them are actually building houses in Germany for their superiors in the Army. It is a strange anomaly that British soldiers are building houses in Germany, and we are proposing to employ German prisoners of war to build houses in England. What a strange state of affairs! I think we are entitled to ask, therefore, why is it necessary to have as many as 2,000,000 men under arms over 12 months after the end of the war? Let me remind the House that the Liberal Party was in power during the first world war. The late Mr. Lloyd George as Prime Minister said that at the end of the first financial year after the end of the first world war there would not be a conscript in the country, and kept his promise, as does every Welshman, of course
I now pass to the question of costs. I am surprised at the glib way in which hon. Members talk about these 2,000,000 men and the cost of their upkeep Has it occurred to them, I wonder, that we are spending on these forces referred to in the White Paper, more than the total sum we are about to borrow from America? It is twice as much as the total sum we intend to spend on the social services, including education, housing, unemployment insurance, health insurance and pensions.
I am getting alarmed at these figures. Quite frankly, I have never understood why Governments do not take into account what has happened to the financial and economic structure of our country. The first world war destroyed for good half our coal industry, never to recover; one half of the coalmines are closed down as a consequence of the 97 first world war. One half of the Lancashire textile industry was also destroyed for good by world war No. I, never to recover. In the last war, I am told, one half of our merchant shipping went to the bottom of the sea. It seems to me, therefore, that Members of all parties alike should be put in the dock, and told that they have wasted the substance of this nation and that it is no use talking about the New Jerusalem after all that. In the last Parliament, Ministers asked our people to work hard to win the war, and said that, if they worked hard enough to win the war, they would have a glorious time when peace was restored. When they have won the war and worked very hard to win it, and peace has come, they are now told to work harder than ever in order to pay for the war. The nation that behaves like that, cannot succeed in the end. The strength of a nation does not of course rest upon its Army, Navy and Air Force. In the end, a nation flourishes upon its moral qualities.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War is here, because, in this White Paper, there is a reference to compulsory military service, and the White Paper gives no indication at all that the Government intend abandoning it. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will be good enough to-night, or before this Debate finishes tomorrow, to answer one question, because the Government's answer to this question will determine how some of us vote tomorrow night on this Motion. This is the question — Do the Government intend, at some reasonably early future date, abandoning military conscription? I think we are entitled to an answer to that question. I am not saying that the Government can abandon it in June or July, but I think the Government know now the reply to a question like that. The right hon. Gentleman and I have known each other a very long time; we have not spent our energy in building up this Labour movement to see the first Labour Government in history with power impose military conscription for the first time in this country in peace time. We have not done that, I hope. As the Tory Party have announced today their adherence to military conscription in peace time, I hope hon. Friends of mine on this side will know where they stand. In my view, the fate of the Labour and Socialist movement 98 in this country depends very largely on this issue of compulsory military service.
§ Lord John Hope (Midlothian and Peebles, Northern)
Would the hon. Gentleman allow me? Why does he say-that he is not asking for conscription to come to an end in June or July? The words the hon. Gentleman used were, "I am not asking the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State that conscription should come to an end in June or July," but sometime later. I want to know why?
§ Mr. Davies
If I had my way, I would say '' Abolish it now," but the Government are not in that position; they have got to deal with the facts as stated in their White Paper. [Laughter] Very well, let me proceed with my argument. There are two suggestions made in this Debate — that compulsory military service should continue, and that there should be volunteers as well. That is to say, we add to the conscripted Army, a voluntary Army. I think that is the suggestion. Let me say, although I do not know much about military affairs, that, if nations want Armies, Navies and Air Forces, I suggest that they ought to pay the men decent wages and provide good conditions and then they would find the necessary force.
Mr. Davies: The other argument is that conscription provides equal sacrifice. There never was such an illusion. Imagine the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden who has been at the Board of Education supporting compulsory military service in this country in peacetime, yet pleading that teacher sand students of universities should have preferential treatment. I know something about education, too. Equal sacrifice is not possible. For instance, it is not proposed to call up farm servants. Farm servants and miners are not apparently to be conscripted, and Members of Parliament are also to be exempt. In fact, the exemptions to conscription are strange and interesting. The three classes of exemptions at the moment are the imbeciles, lunatics and ministers of the Gospel. And after that Members of Parliament. As someone has very aptly said, you cannot make a crusader out of a conscript; and this country has never taken kindly to compulsion at any time. More than that, 99 the history of conscription itself proves that it will not avail a nation that adopts it. Napoleon invented conscription in order to build up a vast Empire and to save France; but where is France new? Then Hitler came along and perfected conscription to the highest point in history. Where are Hitler and his army now? They are gone. I say therefore that conscription, of itself, will never save a nation or an Empire. The right hon. Gentleman may say in reply that we have got commitments. Well, why not cut the commitments? Some people employ the argument that as we are now In the United Nations organisation and have obligations to fulfil we must impose conscription on our fellow-countrymen in peacetime. As one who has taken the international view on most problems, I want to say that, if the establishment of the U.N.O. means compulsory military service in this country in peacetime, it were better that that organisation had never been born. So that argument will not avail either.
Just one more point. Compulsory military service in peacetime makes a mockery of the work of the scientist on the atomic bomb. The purpose of the United Nations organisation has been to bring about peace in the world and not to impose conscription on us. In the past we have heard statements from the Government Bench about freedom from want, freedom to worship, freedom from this and freedom from that. But as the years roll on, mankind is put in chains by the military machine at every turn. I would protest against the civilian population of the world being strangled by the military minded. That is the problem all over the world at the moment. You must hand over your destiny to the generals if we go to war, and when the conflict is over they do not relinquish their grip easily. I will say again that before we leave this White Paper we are entitled to have an answer to the simple question, Will the Government say that it is their intention, in due course, to abolish military conscription in this country in peacetime? I have heard hon. Gentlemen talking about the value of military training in connection with education and physical requirements, and all the rest of it. What, in the end, is the result of training our young fellows to Kill Germans and Italians? Young 100 men are trained to kill foreigners. and when they come home they often kill their own neighbours. That is one of the results of this military business. I have just been to America and the same thing applies there. That is the situation as I see it. I make an appeal to hon. Members of all parties that man, at any rate, shall be set free from all these shackles put upon him by the State. It is only through freedom and truth that men and nations alike, can hope to be great and powerful.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
I was not entirely clear about the defence policy of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, but I felt, intuitively, that we were not in accord on this subject. I could not help feeling that had his policy, as I guessed it, been implemented, it is probable that we should have been deprived of this interesting speech to-night because there would have been a different nation in possession of this House.
The White Paper which we are discussing appears to me to be rather thin as far as information is concerned. I do not know whether any hon. Gentlemen in this House indulge, as I sometimes do, in reading the children's columns in the newspapers. If they do, they may have seen some sort of rather dull landscape picture under which is the caption "Find the escaped animals or the hidden pirates." When the picture is turned at various angles one sees a lot of cunningly concealed and strange creatures which are not apparent at first sight. I have examined this White Paper from many angles, and I must confess. I have not found any of the things I hoped to find. I do not blame the Government for refraining from outlining our future defence forces. That presupposes a lot of difficulties and problems which I appreciate require much thought and attention before they can be solved. Although they might be the subject of an interesting Debate in this House, I think it better to confine myself to the steps which the Government might now take to ensure that the shape of our defence forces in the future will be thoroughly up to date and well suited to the defence of this country. Therefore, I propose to confine my remarks to those steps which, although not mentioned in the White 101 Paper, I consider the Government might take in 1946 to ensure the future efficiency of our defence forces.
There are only three points on which I will detain the House. I am told that nowadays in the Army and Navy Club one may often see senior generals and admirals pause in their talk and gaze with awe and admiration as there swaggers into the smoking room before lunch the leading physicist or biochemist of the day. That is a very radical change from the beginning of the war. It may, perhaps, be a slight exaggeration, but there is no doubt that science today is one of the major factors both in the future conduct of war and in our defence policy. I would ask the Government — this cannot, I think, be found out from the Defence Paper — how much money they are allocating for scientists and scientific research. I cannot see that there should be any security objection to answering that question. If the amount is too small, then it gives us an excellent opportunity to complain; if it is too big, then it is an excellent guarantee of this country's determination to be adequately defended and thus help the preservation of peace. How has the money for scientific research been allocated? Has it been parcelled out to the Army, Navy and Air Force individually, or has it been held in a central pool? I would most strongly suggest to the Government that, whatever they may have done, they should give careful consideration to the advisability of holding the majority of this money in a central pool. If the money is parcelled out it will be found that there will be continual inquiries and examinations into questions entirely concerned with the Ministry receiving the money; but if it is held centrally it can be used to investigate the major scientific questions of the day, and their application to the respective Services can be arranged subsequently.
One further point about scientific research. I would like to ask the Government what steps they have taken to ensure continuity of service of the leading scientists. I am fully aware that there will be great competition in the future for the brains of leading scientists, and it is right and proper that they should be used for industrial and other matters. But I would suggest to the Government that continuity of experience is worth a great deal to a scientist employed on defence 102 matters. I believe that any scientist who has been working during this war would confirm that his usefulness today, compared with what it was when he started at the beginning of the war, is increased out of all proportion through acquaintance with defence problems. I hope steps are being taken not merely to appeal to the patriotic feelings of the scientists, but also suitably to remunerate them. This may be so; I do not know. But one of the things I do know is that a most eminent scientist who helped us during the war, and who I think both learnt and taught us a great deal, is now working for the Minister of Health. I do not know why he is working in that capacity and, perhaps, he will come back, but his present employment seems to me to be unsuitable because when he came to us he was one of the greatest known experts at knocking down the maximum number of houses with the minimum amount of trouble. I would say that I hope the Government will respect the claims of science in connection with defence and that, as the Americans say, "they will say it with money." It has often been said that God is on the side of the big battalions. I believe that in the future He will be on the side, not of the biggest battalions, but of the most lavish laboratories.
If I may, I would now like to say a few words about the higher defence organisation mentioned in paragraph 7 of the White Paper. I will confine my remarks very strictly to the military part of that organisation because the general aspect of it will be gone into later, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) has told us, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). I feel that anything I say about the future of the higher military organisation which serves the Defence Committee would be made clearer to the House if I were, first, very briefly to outline what was required of it during the war, and how it fulfilled that obligation. This is not an easy subject to compress and, furthermore, I am aware that I am doing a very unconventional thing inasmuch as I am answering a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) to the Government. I do not know if the Whips will mind, but it was in my speech and I do not think I can now alter it. The requirement is for an inter-Service 103 organisation representing all three Services formed in a series of committees which can resolve the conflicting needs and views of not only the three Service Ministries but also the other Ministries concerned; and it must also be capable of functioning very quickly, because in war time is of vital importance and delays cannot be tolerated. So that it can function quickly I believe as a corollary it should not be too big because it is my experience, and it is probably the experience of much more knowing hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches, that once you get very big you tend to slaw up. Furthermore, it must be elastic; that is to say, it must be capable of changing its shape and form to suit the various problems with which it is confronted, and it must be capable of quick expansion in time of war. Lastly, it must have very good and realistic liaison with the other Ministries concerned other than Service Ministries — the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Supply, the Ministry of Economic Warfare and others.
These requirements were fulfilled during the last war by a series of committees which functioned under the chiefs of staff. If I might give a brief example of how they worked I would refer to the joint planning staff which is the one about which I know most. That was composed entirely of inter-Service committees, one senior committee on top of three others. The point is that these committees consisted of soldiers, sailors and airmen each of whom, although he sat in a Cabinet office, had his roots in a Ministry. That is important to bear in mind, because they were not a disembodied lot of soldiers, sailors and airmen, but they had their roots in the Ministries. That is in my opinion the secret of the success of that system. If I might put a hypothetical situation, which is obviously an impossible one, supposing the directors of plans when meeting decided that the best way to win the war was to put a bomb in the War Office; the director of plans at the War Office would try to persuade the director of military operations or others that that was really the best policy. They probably would not agree. He would go back to the Cabinet offices, and a paper might go to the chiefs of staff recommending this bombing; the War Office would brief against it to the chiefs of staff committee, and it would then have to be 104 decided at that level. The point I wish to bring out is that the director of plans would be at liberty to recommend against his own Ministry, although his own roots would be in that Ministry and he would naturally attempt to carry it with him.
§ Brigadier Head
I believe that is the secret of its success in this war, because it meant that these differences of opinion were resolved in an inter-Service committee, but at the same time what I might call the sovereignty of the Service Ministries was not impaired. The other point which I think is important to remember in the functioning of this organisation is the very close and intimate liaison with the other Ministries; that is to say, the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Supply and others. For that purpose there were posted to the planners very high power representatives who were with this inter-Service planning organisation and who could either represent their Ministries' point of view or get it quickly through the Ministry concerned. At the beginning of the war when they had not arrived, it caused difficulty and I remember that one exasperated secretary was credited with saying that to get things through a certain Ministry was like blowing porridge through a blanket. The whole system is, perhaps, a compromise, but what are the alternatives? They are either the total integration of the three Service Ministries, which I do not think would work and for which I do not think we are ready; or, alternatively, there might be established a central organisation like the O.K.W. in Germany, which is autonomous and has absolute powers to direct Service Ministries as it thinks fit. I do not think our national inclination or habits suggest that that would work. Another alternative would be to shrink and revert back to the size of the old Committee of Imperial Defence, but I think that would be a retrograde step. I suggest that the correct procedure, now that we have come to peacetime, would be to reduce where we can the size and numbers of the staffs, but to shift somewhat the emphasis; because now the war is over the question of plans has ceased to have that over-riding importance, and other matters like training, development of weapons and so forth begin to take on more importance. I would also ask the 105 Government to retain the high power liaison with the other Ministries. It is, in my opinion, a most important adjunct to the organisation, and it ensures that the planning staffs in time of peace do keep in the general picture of the whole trend of the Ministries in addition to their own purely Service outlook.
There is one other point about higher defence organisation which hon. Members may think a little trivial, but which I think is important. When a war starts, certain Service officers are brought suddenly into contact with high political figures, and in peacetime Service officers, so far as politicians are concerned, lead a fairly cloistered life. Naturally when suddenly confronted with politicians there is a certain amount of, I would not say distrust, but of lack of understanding of the politician's attitude. That is inevitable and, indeed, it is I think understandable. In the early period of my time we used sometimes to be sent for by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), and at first it was with some trepidation that we used to enter the room. I might say that there was some consternation at first when it was said that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) was to come and join us. I do not suggest that people said, "Here is a politician, keep your hand on your watch," or anything of the sort. Soon after his arrival it was evident that his point of view — a different point of view — and experience were invaluable. I suggest that the Government should do all they can to help in ensuring that the type of officer likely of fulfil these posts has an opportunity not of associating constantly with politicians — that would be very undesirable — but of having the opportunity of attending lectures, discussions and so forth with politicians of the day. Those officers, I suggest, are likely to be found in the three Service staff colleges and in the Imperial Defence College. I suggest the Government should give consideration to furthering this type of discussion, because war is becoming ever more on a broad basis. It may be that they have already done so; in all fairness, I should say this, because I was recently asked to lecture on planning in Southern Command and, perhaps to spur me to go, I was told that I would be preceded the week before by Professor Laski.
106 My last point concerns certain matters of material and technique of an inter-Service nature which I believe in the peace period are likely to fall between what I might call three stools. The three stools in this case are the three Service Ministries. It would be clearest if I illustrate my point by giving three examples from the last war, although I do not think they are necessarily typical of the future. They will doubtless change, and will probably increase in the future. The sort of things I mean are these During the war the Navy had to make L.S.Ts — landing ships, tank — and I think several of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will agree that the First Sea Lord was not very keen about building L.S.Ts.
Quite frankly, he preferred to build destroyers. That was natural. By building L.S.T. he was really building large sea-going transporters to take the Army about. The same is true of the War Office; they were building amphibians during the war, and in a sense these were taking the part of a boat, which was really the Navy's job. The Air Force, in their turn, had to build gliders and troop-carrying aircraft which were carrying soldiers about. My point is that the Service Ministries had to make sacrifices of production, time and men in order to move another Service which was not their direct concern. I am suggesting that when the inevitable cuts come in manpower and money, the first things to suffer will be these, so to speak "nobody's children" Naturally, each Service Ministry is going to be keen about its own direct and intimate concern. These amphibians, gliders, and L.S.T.'s are the things that are likely to feel the draught.
There must also be certain individuals to study the technique of these little hinges between the three Services which ensure that they function as a whole. There is nothing in the White Paper to say whether or not the Government have made any provision for these separately — at least I can find nothing. I would most earnestly ask the First Lord if, when he answers, he would give us some assurance on this point, because I believe it to be a most important one. It is particularly important as regards the Admiralty, who I know now have very little money and will therefore probably be all the more reluctant to build the necessary quantities of L.S.T.'s. My remarks have been mostly questions to 107 the Government about what they intend to do now for the benefit of our future defence forces. After a prolonged study of the White Paper it appears to me, at any rate for the moment, that the Government's hearts, as far the future of our Armed Forces is concerned, are in the right place. I very much hope that will continue so. I hope that if it does continue so it will ensure that we have really up-to-date, efficient Armed Forces who will be qualified to play their part in the loftiest and most important of their roles, namely to be the custodians and guardians of world peace.
§ 7.3 p.m
§ Mr. William Wells (Walsall)
It must have been gratifying to all of us here to understand that, in the view of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), the way to learn how to trust politicians was to associate with them. I must confess that in an organisation in which I myself took part during the war I had a somewhat different experience with the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) than did the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton. Our organisation had its trade stolen, and since that time at all events I have decided to wear a wrist watch.
The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton made one point which I should like to reiterate very forcibly, namely, the importance of the military and civilian members of the population at all levels being able to speak in the same language. There may be — I do not know — put before the Government projects for ambitious schemes to form universities, so-called, for officers of the Armed Forces in which for some years of their lives they should study partly, military subjects, but also, partly, civilian subjects. The place to study civilian subjects is in a civilian university. There are many people who hold the view that the foundation of Sandhurst was one of the most disastrous events in the history of the British Empire. I would not share that view, but I believe it is most important that at some stage in their careers all officers in the Armed Forces who are destined for the higher posts should have some opportunity of being in contact with civilian places of learning. I would deprecate any measure which was designed to form an Army university.
The White Paper dealt with a number of subjects, which, I think, can be 108 grouped together under demobilisation, reorganisation and research. I most heartily endorse the remarks made by the Prime Minister on demobilisation when he pointed to the danger of going too fast in our demobilisation, and so removing from units all the trained and experienced men, thus facing units with the horribly difficult tasks of an occupation force when they have been deprived of their best trained men. I congratulate the Government upon having resisted the siren voices on the other side of the House — and we have been told today on this side of the House, though I myself have not heard them — urging the Government in an opposite direction. During the weekend I have been in touch with a number of junior officers home from Germany, including the adjutant of a very famous regiment. He reiterated the same warning as that given by the Prime Minister this afternoon.
On the question of reorganisation, we have heard a long and eloquent speech from the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) on the dangers of the compulsory principle. I am second to none, not excluding even the hon. Member for Westhoughton, in the complete repugnance with which I view all compulsion in this matter. Moreover, I regard all the intrinsic arguments in favour of conscription as, if I may use a somewhat unparliamentary expression, pure "baloney." If you wish to bring the men together, to give them higher education, different food, and bring them into association with other elements in the community, there are many other ways of doing it than by compulsory military service. However, I believe there is one question which those who feel as I do have to ask themselves, and that is: What is the use of having Defence Forces at all if people in other countries do not regard those Defence Forces as efficient? Those of us who sit on this side of the House may remember that in 1939 even our Socialist comrades in France were quite unconvinced of our sincerity in intending to carry out any form of participation in military operations on the Continent, until we imposed conscription.
When the hon. Member for Westhoughton points to the fact that Hitler carried conscription to a higher point than any other known leader, and asks, "Where is Hitler now?" the only answer 109 I can give is that I do not know where Hitler is now and apparently I am not alone in my ignorance. We have to ask ourselves, By what methods did the forces that overthrew Hitler recruit themselves? Has the Soviet Union voluntary military service? Did even the United States have a completely voluntary system? What country had a voluntary system? I would not like to regard myself as a crank, but I believe it is no use having a military system that is not respected abroad, and I believe all people in power in foreign countries would regard the hon. Member for Westhoughton and myself as cranksin the views that we hold on compulsory military service. Therefore I, for one, most regretfully and reluctantly, am compelled to believe that, in the next few years at any rate, if we want to make an effective contribution to the United Nations organisation — that is, a contribution which other people will recognise as being effective —we have to accept compulsory military service.
I do not wish at this stage to embark on any lengthy discussion of the high defence organisation which we are told we shall hear about later, and about which at present we know very little. There is, however, one point I should like to make. In the curious duality of the defence organisation which has been built up there are, in all the Service Departments, chiefsof staff who are nominally subordinate to the head of the Department but who, in fact, on all the wider aspects of strategy have direct access to the Prime Minister as Minister of Defence. Therefore, on strategical questions, they are superior to the Departments from which they emanate. That may be, in the present phase of development, a necessary evil, but I believe that it is one against which we must take all reasonable steps to guard. In order to retain effective Ministerial control over the chiefs of staff, I believe that it is necessary to appoint a deputy to the Prime Minister, as Minister of Defence, to enable that deputy to keep a sufficiently detailed knowledge of what the chiefs of staff are doing to make perfectly certain that ministerial control over all strategical planning is completely and fully effective.
I wish to be very brief, and I have only one point I feel I must make on the question of research, and that is the urgent importance of ensuring that our 110 operational and research staffs not only do not live in watertight compartments — obviously they do not — but are brought in to the fullest and most effective liaison. It fell to me, at one time, on the instructions of my military superiors here, to write for the general staff of a foreign Power a history of the Norwegian campaign. I found it very difficult to know how to set about that task because, had the subject been any other than the fate of brave men and the destiny of an Allied nation, the only suitable method of expression would have been burlesque. As it was it was a tragic farce—a tragic farce of complete unpreparation, of having most worthy people engaged on operational problems in the different Service Departments, but without any attempt to plan for what seemed, in the context of 1937 to 1939, improbable operations. There was no preparation even for dealing with such an obvious difficulty as the problem of operating in a cold climate. I ask that, whatever steps are taken to build up a defence structure, complete integration of operational planning and research shall be effected.
People who think as I do in this House have only one objective in this matter, and that is to make whatever forces we contribute to the United Nations organisation a full and complete contribution towards building up the peace of the world. Therefore, I hope that, when we see the new White Paper on the higher organisation, it will embody not only the lessons we have learnt during the war, but also a very full measure of planning for the co-ordination of scientific research and strategy in the very new and changed conditions of the post-war world
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Major Niall Macpherson (Dumfries)
The Prime Minister did a great service in emphasising the need for maintaining our forces in efficiency. Just now we are all receiving letters from our constituents urging a more rapid demobilisation and had it been possible to get a more rapid demobilisation and maintain efficiency at the same time, I think all Members of this House would have demanded it. I hope that the Government will use this intervening time to maintain and build up a really efficient force. There is a considerable difference between wartime and peacetime conditions in the maintenance of efficiency. In wartime units 111 are expected to thrive on numerous transfers, on a general state of flux, and at the same time be able to put in a good day's training. However heartbreaking these transfers may be, it is considered good training in adaptability and flexibility to be called upon to readjust the whole time. In peacetime, however, a different spirit is bound to pervade; the burden of routine jobs, numerous transfers and the draining away of personnel under the demobilisation scheme are bound to result in the relegation of training to a rather secondary place. I would with all humility submit that one of the first things to be done is to build up a permanent force — to get the permanent elements together into a really efficient striking force, as paragraph 9 of the White Paper says. Behind that can be the training units which will deal with the intakes, and perhaps it will be possible to have the National Service units very largely held together.
The next thing is that, in my view, now is the time to recreate and develop the Territorial organisation. They performed a very great task in the early part of the war and would have performed a very much greater one if a war had occurred fairly soon after the last war. There is such a fund of military skill among all those who now are being released that it must not be lost, and I strenuously urge the Government, when they are framing their scheme on a permanent basis, to make certain not only that the officers and men who are at present being released are used to teach those who are coming in on the territorial basis, but also to make certain that those who have done their national service — if a national service scheme is to come in — shall be enabled for some years to come to maintain their skill and to develop the skill of others. There must be, first, as a backing to national service, a force ready to push in right away — cadres formed by the military training that has already been given.
I should just like to add to that, one point which seems to me to have been rather neglected in the Territorial service before the war. A great number of specialised staff officers have been trained during this war and those men have always been kept ready for the same jobs. These men must be kept up to date so 112 that what happened at the beginning of this war is not repeated. One of the great difficulties — I had it in my own unit — was that many officers were drawn from units and sent to staff jobs because it was felt that Territorial officers were not capable of doing them. If Territorial soldiers can be trained to do those jobs, and kept up to date and given staff refresher courses regularly, I think that, in any emergency, the Government will be able to count on a far more efficient force. Do not let us forget that the development of science has certainly resulted in this country being much less cut off than it was before, and that one cannot count, in any future war, on our having the time in which to develop our forces which we were fortunate enough to have in this war.
May I say a word or two on the question of manpower? We have been told that by the end of 1946 we are to have something like 1,100,000 men in the forces. This represents, approximately, one man in 20 in the country under arms — a high proportion. Supposing that the national scheme imposes an obligation of two years of service, that would mean, if you take men between the ages of 20 and 43 and apart from the men, say, between 18 and 20 — whatever the national service cadre may be — that something like one man in 12 would be in the regular forces. Can we really afford this? We may be told that we must afford it. Financially, it will lay a very heavy strain on us. But from the point of view of manpower, it will lay an even more serious strain on us. Can we supplement it? During the Debate on manpower a suggestion was made to use the Poles to supplement our manpower. It was suggested that the Poles might be used on a permanent basis to bolster up the manpower available for defence. I would submit that it is not possible for this country to continue to have an army without a country, yet all of one nationality, serving under us. We cannot do that indefinitely. On the other hand there must be many Poles who will be ready and willing to join us, who have absorbed British culture already, and who would be willing to become loyal British subjects. Such men, I suggest, would be a very valuable adjunct to the British forces. But it is only a small contribution to the solution.
Our problem, it seems to me, is to defend our base and also our communica- 113 tions within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Almost all the other elements coniine their activities to defending their bases; only we are still left to a very large extent with the burden of defending communications. I submit that to lay the responsibility for the defence of the communications on the mother country is an anachronism. It presupposes that we control, from the centre, territories that are little developed, territories that are not industrialised; whereas, since 1914 industrialisation has gone on apace and has been greatly accelerated by the war in all the Dominions. The advance of science, and the development of air communications and of technical equipment, have fused together the problems of the defence of bases and of communications They arc no longer separable. That process of fusion seems to me to have been completed by the invention of the atom bomb, which necessitates a great deal more dispersion, and the holding of forces at different places to a greater extent than before. Just as this past war has shown the necessity for a higher organisation, of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) has spoken, with such skill and conviction, to co-ordinate the activities of the land, sea and air forces, so it has been demonstrated incontrovertibly that the defence of the British Commonwealth of Nations must be planned as a whole.
Peace imposes an even greater share of the burdens and responsibilities of defence, than war. I feel that it is of no use this country posing as a great Power on a par with the other two members of the "Big Three," except by virtue of the leadership of the British Commonwealth of Nations, a leadership freely acknowledged by all its components. One possible objection is that the Dominions are separately represented in U.N.O. The Prime Minister said today that we want to continue to collaborate with the Dominions most closely, and that we are brought together as members of U.N.O. and that, at the same time, we are free to come together as members of one family. In my view, this is imposing an entirely wrong emphasis. Although it is true that the Dominions are represented in U.N.O., so are Byelo-Russia and the Ukraine, and they have one common force with the U.S.S.R. I feel that we should come together as one 114 family first, and then, afterwards, consider our obligations in U.N.O. Our common plans for defence must not be merely by virture of our common membership of U.N.O., but by virture of our common interests, our common traditions, and our common ancestry I feel that the same applies to India — the same problem of world-wide defence. India's boundaries for defence are not her seaboard and frontiers. India was defended in Syria, on the Irrawaddy, and at El Alamein. India's contribution to defence should be on this basis, and I would ask, What is the Government's intention with regard to the cost of the payment of the defence of India in the future, bearing in mind the present financial and manpower situation of this country?
I look forward to the time when there will be one common Imperial Force, and I think that, in the meantime, it should be possible to enable our Dominions to take a share in our responsibility. I suggest that it might even be possible to enable Canada and Australia to be exclusively responsible for the occupation of Japan. It is on their track. I submit that we move together to a common consideration of defence on an Imperal basis.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Zilliacus (Gateshead)
The White Paper marks the stage reached today in the tug of war between the needs of national reconstruction and the claims of our foreign policy augmented by the pressure of the Service Departments. The crucial sentence in the defence White Paper is the phrase which says:His Majesty's Government were con-fronted with a direct conflict of requirements." —And which goes on to state:On the one hand, we cannot abandon our responsibilities in many parts of the world. To do so would have been to throw away the fruits of victory, and to betray those who had fought and died in a common cause. On the other hand, the necessity for our economic rehabilitation was imperative.Ten years ago, almost to a day, on 9th March, 1930, the present Prime Minister, who was then the Leader of the Opposition, commented on the defence White Paper presented by the Conservative Government of that clay. This is what he said:The Prime Minister has rightly said that you cannot separate foreign policy from defence, and we do not separate foreign policy 115 from defence. Defence is the result of foreign policy. Very often defence proposals show what is the reality of a foreign policy, and it is so in this case." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1936; Vol. 309, c. 1843]It is indeed so, and what is the reality? By the end of June there will still be two million men under arms or in training. At the end of the year there will be 1,100,000 men in the Forces and half a million men engaged in war industries. The Prime Minister has told us in the manpower Debate that the rate of demobilisation has begun to drop It is dropping from the peak of 108,000 a week to between 30,000 and 40,000 a week. The Service Estimates this year are for nearly £ 1,700 million, and the Budget for 1946-47 is nearly £ 4,000 million, of which about one-third is to go on defence. Everyone speaks cheerfully of two years' conscription. Some even estimate three years, with one year's permanent conscription in the offing. "The Times" in its editorial on 1st March on the Service Estimates, wrote:It is certain that the Service Estimates of the future will be very much higher than could have been conceived before the war.That, indeed, is the general expectation. That is the grim reality of our foreign policy. That is the price in men and money that it is costing. I suggest that the price is too high; it is excessive, and we cannot afford it. The land, mines and industry are all crying out for men. Wives and families, mothers and sweethearts are getting heartsick because their men are being kept abroad. The men themselves are getting "fed-up" to the danger point. I beg the Government to heed the grave warning issued by the "Financial Times" of 7th February. It pointed out that the maintenance of our Armed Forces abroad makes very heavy demands on our supply of dollars, and we probably cannot maintain the supply even for necessary commodities unless our dollar reserves are replenished by the American Loan. It says:Only too obviously insufficiency of dollars will involve us in severer rationing or the cutting of our overseas commitments, perhaps both. Our existing standard of living was accepted ungrudgingly in time of war. But people are looking for something better under peace conditions. They would be resentful, undoubtedly, if their standard of living were seriously reduced further if a contributory factor was the cost of maintaining large forces abroad.116 I believe that that statement is true and important, and should be heeded by the Government. The people of this country have shown that they can endure all things for what they believe is right. But they are going to take a lot of convincing that it is really necessary after six years of world war — with the enemy countries prostrate, vanquished, disarmed, occupied, the world full of our victorious friends and Allies — all pledged to peace and co-operation through U.N.O. — that it is still necessary to have a crushing burden of taxation, to maintain vast fleets, armies and air forces, and to lower our standard of living in order to maintain them. There is something shocking to common-sense in the whole of that conception. No one can accuse me, of all people, of being indifferent to the need for international commitments to peace. But it is no use being gluttons about the fruits of victory. I think that we can render better service to peace by scaling down our armaments to the point where we are solvent and can get on with our Socialist reconstruction, rather than by lowering the standard of living of our people and staggering into national bankruptcy under a burden of huge armaments. If these world peace commitments are genuine commitments, necessary to world peace, then we can and must share them with other nations through the United Nations Organisation. If we cannot share them, or will not share them, I suggest that they are not really peace commitments at all, but old Imperialist "hangovers" masquerading as new world peace commitments, and they should be abandoned.
Why are we paying this suicidal price for our foreign policy? What is the compelling necessity? No one in his senses can accuse this country of a desire for imperial swagger or for aggrandisement. I believe that the situation is worse than that. I believe that the trouble is that we have not got a foreign policy, that we have failed to relate our policy to our power. The Foreign Secretary in the Labour Party Conference in December, 1944, said:If we win the next general election … we shall find that we cannot govern this world by emotionalism. It will call for hard thinking and great decisions. Tremendous will power will have to be applied, and the Labour movement will have to learn to ride the storms of life.I do not wish to imply any disrespect to my right hon. Friends in charge of the 117 Service Departments. But I find it difficult to imagine any of them exerting tremendous will power to resist the demands of the Service chiefs for more men, money and arms.
As for the Foreign Secretary, he inherited these commitments, and the foreign policy attached to them, from the Coalition Government, and hardly had the Labour Government entered Office when the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary were whisked away to Potsdam to continue the Conference already half completed by their predecessors. Since then, they have had no time to draw breath. Foreign policy has been made on the cables as they say in the State Department at Washington. That is, we are living from hand to mouth and meeting each case and circumstance as it arises in the light of the information presented through Foreign Office telegrams and reports.
But the fact remains that our foreign policy, so far, has shown much emotionalism, few signs of hard thinking, and has taken no decisions that can truly be called great, although several that have been marked by the saving graces of common-sense and humanity. There has been no sign of any realistic insight into what is happening in the world, no sober appraisal of our own position or the limitations of our power. There has been no evidence of any clear-cut purposeguiding our foreign policy. We seem to be blindly impelled by the momentum of Imperial inertia. We are not blazing new trails to world peace. We have sunk into ancient ruts, running back to the 19th century, and punctuated by two world wars.
As for riding the storms of life, I confess that our foreign policy reminds me rather of the delightful saying of the late Aristide Briand that "The policy of my Government is the policy of the dead dog floating down stream "— or should 1 say the Bull of Bashan swept away by a flood? This policy is costly because the pursuit of a new world by an old policy cannot work. We are keeping an excessive number of troops in Europe, and we are playing a part that we ought not to play in retarding the work of economic reconstruction and getting on with the job in Europe. We are by no means alone responsible. There are others with even graver responsibilities. But we have too much share of the responsibility, and we 118 have it because the Labour Government have chosen to don the moth-eaten mantle of Scheidemann and Noske in Europe. We have set our faces against the unity of the working classes and against the resistance movements which alone are capable of reconstructing Europe. In the Middle East we are keeping a vast Army, including in Palestine an Army one-fifth of the total population of the country, as part of our policy to make the ghost of Palmerston walk again. In the Far East we are in imminent danger of being manoeuvred into the position of a sort of Dutch Uncle Raffles and Empire rebuilder in Indonesia.
What is the way out? We should cut our commitments, and stop trying to apply the ill-starred policy we have inherited from the Coalition Government. Instead we should try to apply our own Labour Party policy called "The International Post-War Settlement," adopted at the Annual Conference in 1944.That means sweeping concessions to the forces of social revolution in Europe, even when those force are led, as they are largely-led, by Communists. I am sorry that the social revolution in Europe is led by men who are nearer to the Kremlin than they are to Transport House, but those are some of the facts of public life one has to accept.
In Asia and in the Colonial Empire we will have to make sweeping concessions to the forces of national emancipation because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr. Driberg) said recently, East of Suez the French and Russian revolutions have arrived hand in hand.
To apply this policy of cutting out commitments we must try to give effect to the fundamental principle set forth in the Labour Party's foreign policy programme as follows:Our first aim … must be to continue the closest possible Anglo-American-Russian-co-operation. If we three hold together, all will be well; if we fall apart, all will be dark and uncertain.That means we must make a new effort to reach an agreement with the Soviet Union. It will not be easy and, as events in Persia show, the longer the time that goes on, the more difficult it will be. But the only alternative to getting an agreement with the Soviet Union is to abandon hope of organising world peace and making a go of the United Nations, because you cannot make peace without the 119 Soviet Union or against the Soviet Union, and you cannot limit your armaments unless you make the United Nations a going concern. So the only alternative to agreement with the Soviet Union is for the Government to file their petition in political bankruptcy and fold their hands while awaiting the third world war. That is unthinkable.
I want now to touch on the subject of conscription, and by way of a preface I want to begin by quoting a statement out of the Labour Party's declaration on foreign policy which says:Whatever other nations do, all British arms and munitions, including aircraft, shall be made in Government factories.The statement goes on to say that we should try to persuade other countries to join in abolishing the private manufacture of arms and in international control of the sale of arms. But in any case the Labour Party policy insisted that we should nationalise our arms industry whatever other countries do. I suggest that it is extremely important to carry out that pledge. The Labour Party have waited a long time for its carrying out, because in 1915 when addressing the Trades Union Congress in order to get labour to co-operate with the Government in the first world war, Mr. Lloyd George promised that the arms industry would be nationalised at the end of the war.
This question has a direct bearing on the issue of conscription, for there are few of us on either side of the House prepared to oppose conscription in principle, unless one is a pacifist. The whole question is, when and how is there a practical necessity for permanent conscription, and I suggest for one thing that most of us on this side of the House will not be prepared to discuss that question unless the arms industry is nationalised. Why should our boys be conscripted if arms production is left in private hands? The Government will find a good deal of opposition on this side of the House to the principle of conscription unless they first make an accomplished fact of their own pledge to nationalise the arms industry.
I also beg the Government to realise that conscription cannot be discussed in the abstract; it must be discussed in terms of our foreign policy and the necessities of our foreign policy, and, particularly, in terns of what may be necessary as a 120 result of the international organisation of security through the United Nations. If that can be proved necessary in those terms, well and good. But there is no need to apply the principle merely for a theoretical reason. Finally I would beg the Government to realise the inherent limitations on the use of conscripts. You can use a citizen Army to defend its own country, or for a cause that most people recognise as their own, such as the cause of upholding the rule of law. But you cannot use conscripts for the purpose of Imperial policing, particularly when that Imperial policing is a euphemism for coercion of a people struggling for national independence, or of a strike movement to improve their low standard of living. That is an important point to remember. As regards the actual mention of the United Nations organisation in the White Paper, I have noted it says that these are transitional measures and that it is too early to declare what is our final position in relation to the U.N.O. Charter. But the White Paper at the same time does suggest in paragraph 7 that we are to contribute very substantial forces under Article 43 to be held in readiness for the Security Council in the maintenance of peace, and over and above that, as a separate undertaking, we are also to concert with the Dominions and the rest of the Empire the National, Imperial or Commonwealth Forces necessary for our own defence.
At first sight it looks as if these are two separate undertakings, and we first have to decide what forces are necessary for Commonwealth and Imperial defence, and above and beyond that contribute forces for maintaining peace at the orders of the Security Council. The paradoxical result of that would be that a larger amount of Armed Force would be necessary to maintain peace in a world that is based on the Charter and pledged to peace and international co-operation, than in a world of international anarchy where every nation relied upon the strength of its own right arm. There is something obviously phoney in that, because that argument does not make sense. This is the point. The Security Council cannot take any decision to apply force unless the Big Five are unanimous, and if the Big Five are unanimous their existing forces are about 100 times larger than are needed to maintain the rest of the world in absolute obedience. The Big Five between 121 them have an overwhelming and fantastic superiority in arms. They do not need any extra force to maintain order. If you reduce their existing forces to one tenth of the present level you still have an overwhelming amount of force to maintain law and order for the Security Council. Of course, if the Big Five do not come together and agree, the Security Council cannot take any decision, and there is no obligation to use any force for upholding authority.
I am tempted to quote in this connection from the Prime Minister's statement when he was Leader of the Opposition on 9th March, 1936, when he said:All through I have been puzzled when I have heard … proposals put forward for defence, by this duality, this separation of national security and collective security." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March. 1936; Vol. 309, c. 1843.]He went on to say that he could understand a position based on Imperialism and using your own forces to defend your own possessions, or a policy of pooling your forces under international agreement. But he could not understand a mixture of the two. I think the Prime Minister's statement today, in part, cleared up that ambiguity. But the terms of the White Paper are lamentably confusing on that issue and are all too reminiscent of the similar confusion in the White Paper of 1936. I should like also, under this heading, to quote a statement on 18th February, 1937, which was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty:If you are really trying in this policy to arm this country on a unilateral defence basis, and suggesting that we can vote the money and organise to defend the British Empire, all that I say is that you are exceedingly foolish. You have never fought a major war yet without allies, and powerful allies, and you have no hope of defending the whole of the far-flung stretches of the Commonwealth with unilateral defence." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1937; Vol. 320, c. 1411.]I believe that the experience of the war has amply confirmed that prediction, and that this argument receives added weight from the provisions of the Charter. Now is the time to join our national defence arrangements with the organisation of measures for implementing the security provisions of the Charter. Now the situation is still fluid. There is an incipient vicious circle in the shape of a new arms race coming into being; but so far it has not started to revolve, and it can still be broken.
122 That means the permanent members of the Council must agree upon the measures they take to implement the positive obligations of the Charter, and upon their obligations regarding the joint use of force to uphold its authority. They must agree to regulate their armaments, which means limiting and reducing armaments and controlling trade in and manufacture of armaments. Then there are the provisions for controlling atomic energy and abolishing weapons of mass destruction. The Labour Party's policy goes further, and proposes the establishment of an international police force immediately after the war, side by side with national forces. These obligations cannot be implemented if at the same time the chiefs of staff, who have to meet together, are ceaselessly planning hypothetical wars against each other. This is the normal job of chiefs of staff under the conditions of international anarchy and power politics. But you cannot pour the old poison of power politics into the new bottle of the United Nations Organisation and produce a drinkable potion. We must regard ourselves as technically Allies, in the sense that all permanent members of the Security Council are pledged to pool the use of their forces and not to prepare for war against each other. We are in any case the Ally of the Soviet Union. We cannot make the Charter work if we are preparing for war against each other. We must trust each other. In this connection the Prime Minister said some wise words on 22nd November:Just as no system of inspection or control of weapons will work without good will, so no international organisation, however carefully framed, will be of any avail unless the nations resolve to lay aside war, and the threat of war, as instruments of compulsion; unless they determine to establish between themselves such mutual confidence that war is unthinkable." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 605–6.]If we have the moral courage to act on that view, let us give instructions to the Imperial Defence Committee and to the Fighting Services to cease making any war preparations, or any strategic dispositions of forces, or maintaining forces against the contingency of having to fight defensive wars against our permanent fellow members of the Council. That means introducing a new 10-year rule, such as was introduced after the last war, when for 10 years Service Estimates were based on the assumption that this country 123 would not be involved during that period in any major war. That is the assumption we should have the courage to work upon now in framing our defensive arrangements, as the necessary moral foundation for approaching the permanent members of the Council, and working out with them the terms of a political agreement and a military agreement for pooling our forces and upholding the Charter. That is the kind of political wisdom that makes up for loss of weight, and turns our military and economic necessities into a political virtue. I think that is the kind of lead the world is waiting for and that the people of this country expected when they returned the Labour Government to power.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I trust that the hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) will forgive me if I do not follow him in all of his arguments. We, on this side of the House, have more assurance in the Government's policy based on the realities of 1946. than on some Socialist Paper of 1944. We on this side of the House merely know what we read in the newspapers, but I believe a lot has happened in Europe in the last two years, and that there has been a considerable change in the last few months. I wish to ask the Government to consider some factors which are not clear from the present White Paper — that is, the extent to which they are attempting, or proposing, to make use of personnel and equipment obtained from outside the United Kingdom in our overall defence plan.
I realise that this may be difficult, as it affects the as yet undefined areas between our sovereign right of self-defence and U.N.O. commitments. In view of what happened in 1940 and in subsequent years, I submit that we must look to the defence of our vital interests, supported by all elements who acknowledge what this country and her associates did in the year 1940–41. It is on that basis that we must build our fundamental plans of defence, and, as U.N.O. develops and grows, so we can grow with it; but at the moment we cannot afford to rely on more than we could count upon in 1940–41. To implement this basic defence plan we must, in view of our manpower and 124 financial stringency, call in others to share the burden within these bounds.
To take our manpower question first, I think it is possible to make much greater use of local manpower than we did previous to 1939, not only in general duties and trades, but in many ranks, including commissioned officers, and particularly in static defence and supply and repair services. In Gibraltar and Malta, for example, I believe that it is possible to make permanent the splendid part which was taken by local defence units which would be of considerable benefit to both sides, if put on a permanent basis and maintained for the future. Again, by 1939, in Africa, many natives who had seen or heard of the methods of authoritarian government, in particular the Italians, were willing, indeed anxious, to be allowed to play a more active part in their own defence, which was by the same token a part of our Imperial defence. Beyond that the part to be played by the Dominions must be greater than before, particularly in manning air bases along the route to the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister in his speech mentioned the Dominion Conference in which leading statesmen of our Dominions would be approached on the subject of co-ordinated defence. It is not possible to particularise on the various suggestions, but, as the hon. and gallant Member for Dumfries (Major Macpherson) suggested, it is most important that we in this country should no longer be regarded as the spider sitting at the centre of the web. We should hand over to other countries responsibility for the communications which we have maintained over the last century. The Dominions, in this war, have developed their industries and their industrial production to an extent which was unknown before 1939. Therefore, they are in a position to play a much bigger part financially in order to maintain these vital Imperial communications of ours on which so much depended in 1940–41 and on which, perhaps again in the future, may depend the freedom of the whole world. Again, industry in the Dominions is relatively very much greater than it has ever been before in history, and I suggest that they can maintain, on their own, a much larger part of the Imperial Defence Forces.
125 The second point I would like to make is that, as regards equipment and training, we should keep in the closest possible touch with the United States, that greatest of all arsenals of democracy, to ensure that our equipment is based on the same standards in order to allow for interchangeability. We have, in this war, realised the great importance of being able to use each other's equipment, and being able to obtain ammunition and so forth which would fit the weapons we were using. I remember, early in the war, the complications which were caused during General Wingate's African campaign, in which the armament consisted partly of British .303 rifles and mainly of American .300 rifles The ammunition was largely .303, the result of using which, in the .300 rifles, was often apt to be more than dangerous. There would be no difficulty in obtaining the requisite standards of uniformity in development and supply within the Commonwealth. I do not believe it is impossible, with good will on both sides, to maintain inter-changeability with our American Allies.
Finally, I do not ask the Government to give detailed assurances now on the points I have made, but I believe that a general assurance that local personnel and certain standard equipment and training methods would be embodied in Imperial Defence plans would receive a welcome from a wider circle than just within the Commonwealth and Empire
§ 8.3 p.m
§ Commander Pursey (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) will, in turn, perhaps forgive me if I do not follow him in the special points he has raised in this Debate. The Defence White Paper provides an opportunity for a large-scale discussion on Imperial Defence which is not possible on the Service Estimates. In prewar years the whole range of policy was covered, and there were Debates on such subjects as the effect of air power on ships. This is the line I wish particularly to develop, especially as I understand that my right hon Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty is to wind up this Debate tomorrow night
Admittedly, prewar White Papers had more detailed information than this one, and my criticism is that this one should have contained more meat into which we could have got our teeth for the benefit of 126 the nation, the Empire and the world at large. For example, "The Times," in its leading article on Friday last, stated:There are tactical developments affecting armaments and equipment; the chief of which is the tendency, if it is not already more than that, of the aircraft carrier to take the place of the battleship as the major unit of the battle fleet.The American Navy have already made up their mind, and there is no reason why the British Admiralty should not also have done so. "The Times" Washington correspondent, in a message dated 7th February, said:The battleship is no longer the spearhead of the American Fleet. In his annual report to the President, the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Forrestal says that the aircraft carrier is now the spearhead, and that just as the battleship had to have fleet complements and auxiliaries, so the carrier must have them. Mr. Forrestal places the battleship in this auxiliary category, along with the cruiser, long range destroyer and submarine.This problem of battleship vis-à -vis aircraft carrier raises the whole question of the necessity or desirability of the battleship at all. The argument is likely to be heard during the Debate that the battleship is obsolete, because of aircraft or atom bomb attacks. I will not develop that argument, but content myself with the brief retort that the antidote to aircraft attack on ships, as on any other target, is aircraft The atom bomb, like poison gas, may not be used, because of the fear of reprisals. Moreover, there ought to be universal agreement not to manufacture atom bombs. In spite of these views, however, I strongly urge the abolition of the battleship on two grounds — one, commonsense and two, because, in the words of the White Paper,… a severe reduction in the output of weapons and equipment for the Forces is essential, not only in the interests of our economic recovery, but also to avoid the accumulation of obsolescent munitions.At one time, a battleship cost £ 1,000,000, then it went up to £ 5,000,000, and just before the war was £ 10,000,000. Now, the cost would probably be £ 20,000,000. This is quite fantastic. Here is a class of ship from which all nations with them would save the greatest amount of money by its abolition.
The Navy's main duty, in so far as defence of the Empire is concerned, that is without considering our commitments under the United Nations organisation, is, to quote the White Paper: 127The safeguarding of our communications and upkeep of our bases … This is essential for the efficiency and mobility of our Forces by sea. land and air.So long as our main supplies have to come by sea — and they will have to do so for many years to come — we must have a Navy adequate to protect our Merchant Fleet and secure the passage of our Forces overseas. But it all depends on what is meant by the word "adequate." There is no greater champion of my late Service than myself, provided we have the right ships, the right weapons and the right methods of entry and training of officers and men. Otherwise, there will be no greater critic. Today, we are at the four crossroads of a climacteric in world history and wrong decisions will jeopardise the future of our children, our grandchildren and many generations to come. The policy which would be best for this country, the Empire and the world is one of universal disarmament, with the smallest possible police forces under the United Nations organisation. After all, in home affairs you do not give everyone a gun in order to preserve peace. Instead, the Home Secretary makes a broadcast appeal for people to hand over their arms to the police.
Twice in the lives of most of us the armaments race has led to a worldwide conflagration. Cannot we avoid a third? One of the few great practical international successes between the wars was the Washington Naval Conference and Treaty of 1922. Among the successes achieved there by the five great naval Powers, Britain, America, Japan, France and Italy, was the limitation in numbers and sizes of new battleships, and the scrapping of several of the older ones. Despite the criticisms of numerous Tories and other reactionaries, this was not unilateral disarmament; it was universal disarmament in which America and Japan played their part. For a number of years the battle of the battleship building yards was drastically checked, with considerable advantage to all concerned. At that time there was a large body of informed opinion on both sides of the Atlantic and elsewhere which hoped that common sense would continue to prevail, and that no more battleships would ever be built. Then it was difficult to reconcile the various demands of five Powers. Today, the problem is much easier, because 128 Japan and Italy are out of the picture. In the main, it is simply a case of getting agreement between the United States and ourselves, and carrying the Soviet Union and France along with us. I suggest that public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic should be mobilised, and that the British Government should take the lead in advocating another Washington Naval Disarmament Conference for the drastic reduction of warships, both by classes and numbers. Even naval opinion in America could be influenced by such a lead and positive action
The main purpose of the battleship is to fight the battleship, but at present, again to take "The Times" Washington correspondent's report of the statement of the Secretary of the Navy, America has only four battleships in full commission, with six in a ready reserve fleet and seven in a laid up reserve fleet, a total of 17. Our battleship strength, given tome in answer to a Question recently, is 10, with five more in an unmaintained reserve, the same total, 15, as that with which we began the war.
I would also urge the universal abolition of the submarine. Britain and other nations have been prepared to do this in the past, but universal agreement has not been possible Today, fewer Powers are concerned, and they arc our Allies, and should have no wish to go on with submarines. Here the position is different from that in regard to the battleship, because the submarine is not the antidote to the submarine, and consequently, there is no justification to build them for that reason. Despite the U-boat successes at certain periods of World War 2, the day of the submarine is past. Once a submarine could be detected under water, it lost its main asset of invisibility when submerged. And efficient detection apparatus, the Asdic, was achieved just after World War 1, as I know, having served in the anti-submarine flotilla from 1922 to 1924.
In World War 1, we had not the answer to the U-boat Then it was a problem of scientific investigation and development. Not so in the last war. Then it was not strategy, tactics or scientific investigation, but simply arithmetic. With France on our side, the U-boat was defeated in 1939–40. France capitulated, Italy came into the war with another 100 submarines, 129 and our anti-submarine flotillas were not sufficient to maintain the mastery. Nevertheless, the British Navy alone, except for the 50 old Lend-Lease American destroyers, again mastered the U-boat in 1941. When America came into the war, the scene of operations moved to the other side of the Atlantic. The submarine was predominant for the time being, until sufficient escort ships and aircraft were provided, and then the submarine was mastered for good and all. Consequently, there is no question that one is justified in saying that the day of the submarine is past. Another advantage of the abolition of he submarine would be the removal of the necessity for such a vast number of escort vessels and aircraft for anti-submarine duties even though both weapons are used for other purposes.
The number and size of other ships should also be severely restricted by international agreement, to avoid a mad race in carriers, cruisers and smaller vessels. A balanced fleet would then consist of medium aircraft carriers, medium cruisers, and such smaller vessels as are required under the new conditions. Another important point arises with a much smaller Navy. The Dominions, unscathed by war damage, would be able to carry a much higher proportion of the expense than they did before 1939, and so relieve Britain of paying the lion's share of what should be an Empire burden. Above all else, the Allied nations must avoid another idiotic "battle of the building yards." The financial saving would be tremendous, which is of particular importance at present in a devastated world. Moreover, it would remove, or at least reduce, the risk of war.
The great Powers are considering what forces are necessary under the United Nations organisation. I suggest that the question of forces should be approached from the other angle of disarmament, with a frank disclosure of the police forces maintained, and no secret building. Before World War II, the Soviet Union was reluctant to disclose any figures of her armaments. Today, her position is totally different. The menace from the West in Germany, and the menace from the East in Japan, have gone, if not for all time, for a considerable period. Much is, therefore, to be gained from her point of view as well as from ours, from a new Naval Conference, conducted in good will, with all the card; on the table face 130 upwards. Is it beyond the ability of the three great Allies, who defeated, by combined agreement, three major enemies in the greatest war in history, to disarm, so that instead of frittering away their birthright in the mass destruction of mankind, they will be able to devote their great resources and manpower to the improvement of the life of their people and of the people of the world?
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
I want to take advantage of this Debate to draw attention to one of the most vital and also one of the weakest points in our system of Imperial defence, namely, Persia. Hon. Members will forgive me if I start by reminding them that at the end of the last century and the beginning of this the Persian problem was a source of constant friction between ourselves and the Russians. An end was put to this friction by the Anglo-Russian Treaty of 1907, by which Persia was divided into a Russian sphere of influence in the North and a British sphere of influence in the South, with a neutral zone in between. This agreement cleared away the difficulties between the two countries and enabled the Russians and ourselves to present a combined front against the threat of German aggression when it materialised in 1914. In 1918 both the Russians and ourselves, full of enthusiasm for the new diplomacy and deeply shocked by the idea that great Powers should divide up smaller Powers, however retrograde, into spheres of influence, cleared out and left the Persians to govern themselves. This act of renunciation led to the rapid establishment of a brutal and corrupt dictatorship under Reza Shah who, on the appearance of Hitler, lost no time in making himself and his country into German satellites.
It was this state of affairs which made it necessary for the Russians and ourselves to occupy Persia in 1941. The Germans have once again been defeated and the situation which obtains today is not so very different from that which existed at the end of the last war, so far as Persia is concerned. Do we intend once again to leave things to chance? I cannot of course speak for His Majesty's Government, but I can say with the utmost certainty that the Russians intend to do no such thing. The continued presence of Soviet troops in Persia after a certain date is not in itself decisive, but it 131 is important when considered in conjunction with the establishment of a Russian protectorate in Azerbaijan, the establishment of the Tudeh Party, and the many other signs that the Russians have consolidated their position in Northern Persia no less securely than in certain countries of Central and Eastern Europe. I do not intend to discuss the morality of this proceeding. I simply take note of it and of the fact that the Russians are not taking any chances. The Soviet Government have made Northern Persia into a Russian sphere of influence with no less certainty than their Imperial predecessors did in 1907. What I want to know is what we intend to do to protect our Imperial interests. That it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to protect them I do not doubt, for, in reply to a question which I put to him in November last, the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary assured me that it was the intention of His Majesty's Government to safeguard British interests, not only in Persia but "in whatever part of the world they may be found."
Nobody will deny that Persia constitutes for us, just as it does for our Soviet Allies, a vital link in the chain of our Imperial defences. It lies right across our Imperial communications. It is the link between our interests and possessions in the Near East and those in the Middle East and the Far East. It also contains our principal source of oil supplies which, even in these days of atomic energy, are not altogether without strategic importance. What is the present position in South Persia? It is entirely unsatisfactory. Food is short; grain hoarding is prevalent; the tribes are turbulent and the central administration is very weak. Now that we have duly withdrawn our troops in accordance with our treaty obligations, it is more than likely that the whole of South Persia will very soon be plunged into utter chaos. That is a situation which I do not think we can contemplate with equanimity. We cannot take the risk of South Persia and the Persian Gulf falling into hostile hands. That is exactly what would have happened in 1941, had it not beep for the Allied victories at Alamein and Stalingrad, and we should have found ourselves in a very perilous position. Similarly, North Persia was then equally threatened by the Germans, and that is 132 what the Russians are ensuring by their action today should never happen again. Surely we can show ourselves no less realistic than our Soviet Allies.
In conclusion, I would accordingly ask the right hon. Gentleman who replies to this Debate to say whether we intend to leave our Soviet Allies to carry — perhaps some people would say to kidnap — the baby, and to make the whole of Persia into a Soviet sphere of influence; or whether we are prepared to stand up for our own interests and take our full share in maintaining, in friendly co-operation with our Allies, order and security in Persia. It is, to my mind, only by boldly following the latter course that we can hope to maintain our position in the Middle East and, for that matter, to retain the respect and friendship of the Soviet Union.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Lieutenant Herbert Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
I was not clear from the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Lancaster (Brigadier Maclean) if he was criticising His Majesty's Government for having fulfilled their treaty obligations by withdrawing from Persia on the set date, or what policy he would suggest other than that, having strengthened our position by observing our obligations, we should then take up the matter with our Allies through the usual channels.
I should like to return from these broad issues of Imperial strategy, to one or two of the matters raised at the beginning of this Debate today. Some of my hon. Friends have referred to things which, in our opinion, and judging from our correspondence, we believe are causing dissatisfaction in the Services today. The first is the extreme inequality in the "age and service" group demobilisation between the various Services. I think the right hon. Member fox Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) referred to this as the "age and which Service" scheme. It is not, I feel, a satisfactory explanation to the ordinary private or gunner in the Army who finds he has spent two years longer in the Services than his counterpart in the Navy, to be told that the proportion between the two Services is the same. In spite of the difficulties, it appears to me that we must achieve in this matter some of the co-ordination which the hon. and gallant Member for 133 Carshalton (Brigadier Head) and other hon. Members described as having taken place on the broader issues of organisation during the war, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply will devote some definite attention to this point.
The second immediate issue which I wish to raise is the question of the falling rate of release. My hon. Friends and I cannot, from the information at our disposal, query the commitments and the demands which they make upon our manpower, but we say to our right hon. Friends on the Front Bench: '' You have decided, on the information at your disposal, that in June you need, it may be, 1,900,000 men and that, in December, you will need just over 1,000,000. We do not know upon what facts those figures are based, but when you have got your commitments do not work out your demobilisation schemes upon a neat pattern so that the numbers fall gradually off until you have reached this arbitrary level of commitment in June or December. When you have your commitment for any given date, keep the rate of demobilisation at its present level, even if there has to be a definite gap. At least you get out as soon as possible the men who can be released." The Prime Minister, in opening the Debate, said that if we speeded up and kept up, the present rate of demobilisation, the balance of units would be destroyed. We know that that has been one of the difficulties in the demobilisation scheme all the way through. We feel that it is not a stronger factor now than it was over the last few months, and that if the same determination and organisation are put into the matter, the difficulty can be overcome.
The third specific point I want to mention was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), the question of Python. The Secretary of State for War has on two occasionsstated that Python is up to date. We can only say that cases are being submitted to us, and being passed on to the Department, which show that even if Python is up to date there is grave misconception among the Services as to what is meant by Python. The men feel that Python meant that within three years and four months of leaving this country they would be home again. It has now become clear that the three years 134 and four months dates from the date of embarkation from this country to the date of embarkation in the overseas command. Will my right hon. Friend see to it that everything in his power is done to make the point clear to the men in the Middle East and in the Far East; not to the men here, necessarily, because they are not the ones who matter? As my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff said, if in fact we are to use less transport on demobilisation in the coming period, every effort should be made to see that that balance of transport being released from demobilisation is put into bringing down the overseas tour of service, first of all for the Middle East from four years to three years and four months and then gradually to the three-year period for the whole of the Forces. I believe that the dissatisfaction in the Army has been far less than in the other Forces because of the excellent education scheme that has been carried out in the Army. If all the units throughout the Army were making the fullest use of A.B.C.A. and the vocational training scheme, there would be far less dissatisfaction than there is now in the very worst units. The Army education scheme has been employed in a way that has kept the men well informed and satisfied with what they are doing. We know that there is an enormous discrepancy between the best and the worst units in any scheme that is introduced, and that constant attention is given to keeping the worst units up to the level of the best.
The next point was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden. He raised the question of the call-up of young men of 18.We, too, are receiving almost daily cases of great hardship occasioned by the call up at 18. I was talking to one schoolmaster, who cited three cases of boys of his own school. One boy was given a place at King's College last July. It was found that he was eligible to be called up, and he consequently lost his place at the college. He still waits, since last July, to be called up into the appropriate Service. Another boy, from the same school, was given a place at Oxford University, but lost it because he was due for his call up. He has been waiting for seven months to be taken into the Forces. A third boy from the school was granted a place in King's College, London. He was called up for his medical examination and was 135 turned down on the ground that he was medically unfit, only to find that it was too late for him to take his place in the College that term. That kind of thing is extremely disheartening to these young men of 18. We appeal to the Government to do their best in this matter. Admittedly, the call up must go on. If it is not possible to give special exemption to those who are training, either in colleges or in apprenticeship, or to give them deferment until their training is completed, at least let them see that they are called up promptly so that they do their service and come out again within a reasonable time.
My hon. Friends and I recognise that military conscription has probably come to stay. We agree with those who have stated that the limits of conscription should be defined as soon as possible. We do not oppose the principle of military conscription; we believe that it can be made a really democratic system which, for the first time, will give us a real democracy in our Armed Forces. If the Labour movement of this country is to accept the principle of military conscription we say that our Armed Forces should be constituted upon a really democratic basis. It will be extremely necessary for democratic reforms to be made in our postwar forces, both on the conscription and on the voluntary enlistment sides, so that men who go in are not only given good pay and conditions as set out in the Government White Paper, but are given a status equal in every respect to that of the civilian. I have no time now to go into further detail on this point.
Finally, our approach to the question of defence is not just one of Imperial strategy. It is not just, as seems to be the case with hon. Members opposite, a question of getting together with one of our great Allies. I would quote the hon. Member for Banbury(Mr. Dodds-Parker), who talked about the interchangeability of equipment with United States Forces. Another hon. Member said it was impossible to contemplate war against the United States. I say to hon. Members opposite that in the present state of international relations they are not being helpful by attempting to discriminate between our great Allies who are together with us in the United Nations. Once we lose our balance, we weaken the effect that this country can have in international affairs, 136 and we only poison relationships, which are difficult enough as it is. We are going forward, as the Prime Minister said, to make the United Nations a cardinal factor both in our foreign policy and in our strategical calculations.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
As a soldier of some 30 years' service I feel I may have some constructive suggestions to put before the House. I do not propose to speak from either the bird's eye view of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head), or from the worm's eye view of other hon. Members. I propose to take what I might describe as the level of the top of the window. First, a word on the question of the atom bomb. This is a sword of Damocles which hangs over our head as we are discussing the question of defence. I have two points to put to the House on that subject.
Throughout history new weapons have been discovered which, at the time of their discovery, have been claimed to be war winning weapons to which there was no answer. At the time of their discovery there was no answer, but in a short space an antidote was discovered. I say it is not without the bounds of possibility that an answer may be found to this particular weapon, and to the rocket menace, and so on. We do not see it at the moment but it is within the bounds of possibility. I would make one further point. In the last war we had a war winning weapon in the shape of gas. Well, gas was not used in this war, I am fully aware, for no humanitarian reasons whatever, as far as the enemy was concerned, but because it just did not happen to suit them to use gas and we, being humanitarian, did not use it. That situation may well occur again with regard to the atomic bomb and if we were to take all our clothes off and walk about stark naked saying," The atomic bomb is the only answer," I think we, or any nation, and the Security Council in particular, might be made to look foolish. Therefore it is essential, until we see more clearly the implications that we proceed on the normal lines of defence. Nobody in their wildest imagination could think that we wished to attack anybody; it is purely in order that we may play our part on the Security Council and to defend what we consider to be the principles for which we have fought six years of war.
137 I entirely agree with the tasks as set out in the White Paper. I think "H." and "G." are the two most important and the two most permanent. I notice the omission of Egypt and India and I can quite sympathise that at this moment the mention of those two places would possibly be out of place and a little embarrassing.
With regard to the organisation of the Army of the future, I feel there will be other opportunities for discussing this in greater detail, but I think there should be an active Army and an auxiliary Army. The active Army would consist of the volunteers, as many as can be got, the conscripts making up the overall number which has been agreed upon. The question of conscription, the numbers conscripted, and the standard conscripted will depend entirely upon the number of volunteers. I agree definitely that if we wish to have a large voluntary Army, which I am sure we all do, as opposed to a large conscript Army, not only must pay and conditions, but the whole matter, be reviewed. I hope one day to refer in greater detail to this, but it has to be made attractive, with a really full life that people can enjoy so that there is tremendous competition to get in. That applies to officers as well as to men. Never again should we be compelled to lower the standard of the entrance examination to Sandhurst as we had to do just before the war because we could not get enough officers.
The auxiliary Army should consist of conscripts who have done their two years or 18 months, or whatever it is, in the active Army, and then are called up for a fortnight's training every year for a further four years. The whole thing should be run on a territorial basis implemented by volunteers who, for some reason or other, have not been called up as conscripts and are working in a normal civilian capacity. I think the task of that auxiliary Army is to act (a) as a first line reinforcement to the active Army and (b) for internal security and defence of this country. Further, they must be organised on nothing less than a brigade group basis. We must do away, once and for all, with the isolated squadron, however enjoyable it may have been, and a company here and a battalion there. That is not the way to train an Army. They must be organised and trained as a brigade group, as a minimum.
138 With regard to the garrisons on our lines of communication — Gibraltar, Malta, Aden and others — here again there has been a great waste of manpower and of the cream of our Army. A battalion stationed in Malta with nothing else to do but to present arms in the square, has no facilities for training, and no possibility of combined training. Garrison duties, I maintain, can be carried out equally well by volunteers in a form of militia, older men who would like to live in the salubrious Mediterranean climate with their families, and/or the Marines. If the Marines were utilised on these garrison duties, their officers would be given a chance of promotion and responsibility which they have hitherto been denied under previous peacetime organisation.
I come to the vexed question of training. I feel extremely strongly upon this subject, having, for my sins, attempted to train for many years. Never again do I wish to see the situation in which we attempted to train troops at the beginning of this war with inadequate equipment, with inadequate training facilities. An hon. Member opposite quoted Norway as an example; it was the example I myself was going to quote. That sort of situation, of pouring men into battle dress at a moment's notice, and expecting them to take part in highly specialised warfare, is sheer folly — if one does not use a stronger word. The question of training is of paramount importance. The country is too small, quite clearly, to train our formations as they should be trained, and I am glad to hear that this appears to be the opinion of many other people as well. Again, they must be trained collectively. It has been stated in the Debate that we must cut our coat according to our cloth, and the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for War mentioned the word "tail." I think it was very appropriate. This is a very big problem with regard to collective training. The tail of the Army is very much bigger than its head, and it is difficult to decide how much of the tail you can afford to train and keep as an establishment. We suffered at the beginning of this war from staff officers who were not trained to work the tail end; there were not enough of them. A very good suggestion was put forward during the Debate with regard to them but it is a tricky problem, and when you get to the stage at which you cannot maintain your tail 139 at full strength, it must go on a cadre basis so that people realise the problems and are trained for immediate expansion at a moment's notice if it should ever be necessary again.
I want to say a word about combined training, and to suggest it more from the worm's eye view than from the higher levels which have been mentioned. To my mind it really never reached quite the top on the very lower levels. I mean on the company commander, flight leader, and squadron-leader level. It was extremely good on the Brigade headquarters level and above, but below that it was not quite so good. The reason was that these fellows never met each other. They were never trained together. It has been suggested that staffs must be trained together. I suggest further that the cadet officers should do their fundamental training for their own particular arm of the Service first, and then train together as cadet officers before they pass out of their cadet unit. Then I would carry that one step further and suggest that the same thing should happen on the senior officer's course level, that is the G.2 level — majors, squadron-leaders, and, lieut.-commanders in the Navy, and again at the staff college level, so that throughout the whole of the officer's training in all three Services he gets combined training. There is no shadow of doubt that it is a characteristic of the Englishman that when he rings somebody up on the telephone and it is only Lieut.-Commander Paravane answering him, of whom he has never heard in his life, he does not get the same contact and co-operation as with —" Old Baggy-Breeks! You ass. How are you? I have not seen you for a very long time "— someone he has known and with whom he has lived and trained. It is a characteristic of Britain and does not happen in Germany. But we do it and it is vitally important that characteristics of this nature should be taken into account in training.
I would like to stress the point that was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton in regard to research. I fought with and in tanks during the war and suffered at the beginning from shortage of research and the money for research. Within two years of the war I had experience in attempting to train a mechanised squadron of having to start up old Carden Lloyds 140 by pouring a gallon of petrol over the engine and setting light to it. That was two years before the war started. It is absolutely vital that research should be carried on and that money should be forthcoming for it. Finally, I would say to those misguided people who believe that when thunderclouds are in the air one can persuade other people by taking off one's coat to do the same:A strong man armed keepeth his house in peace.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton (Brixton)
I have an uneasy suspicion that a number of the speeches to which we have listened in this Debate were originally devised for other occasions. This Debate provided an opportunity for hon. Members to get those speeches off their chests, but that does not apply to the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer)
I should like to get back to what is, after all, a rather fundamental issue. All our plans and theories, whatever they may be, depend for their implementation upon men. It is to those men on whom we rely to carry our ideas and policies into effect, that I should like to direct the attention of the House for a few moments. There is a very vital necessity to ensure that the fullest possible information is conveyed to the not inconsiderable number of men and women in the Forces — there must be at least 2,000,000 of them, a fairly substantial slice of our adult population — who want to know what their immediate future is going to be. I speak with some feeling because not so very long ago, towards the end of November last year, I had the honour of being a member of a Parliamentary delegation which visited Austria.
In the course of that visit we called upon a number of units and it came as rather a shock to me to see how, in certain respects, the men to whom we talked were completely out of touch with what was going on in this House on the subject of demobilisation and releases. It came as a greater shock to me, because I know the Secretary of State for War, and possibly the other Service Departments, have taken a good deal of trouble in this particular matter. I know there have been A.B.C.A. pamphlets on the question of release, the last of which I believe was issued in September, 1945.
141 We also know of the very useful pamphlet, "Questions and Answers on Release," which was issued by the War Office. We know that the Royal Air Force issue explanatory demobilisation signals. I am not an authority on what took place in the Navy but I have no doubt that in the Admiralty steps have been taken to ensure as far as possible that the men actually serving shall know what is going on.
It is not so very long since I was a private in the Army, and I can speak with experience. There is nothing more galling than to feel cut off from what is going on, to be denied the sources of information which ought not to be denied, and to feel that, in some way, there is an impenetrable barrier between what is discussed in the House and the men who arc serving all over the face of the globe. That is why, only a few days ago, I asked the Minister of Labour to take special steps to ensure that the Service Departments informed Servicemen, through the appropriate channels, of what is going on. So far, I am sorry to say that the explanations which have been available to the men have been inadequate. The serving man is out of touch, and insufficient information services have been devised for the purpose. It may be necessary to do what the Ministry of Labour did in connection with the resettlement scheme — that is to send out specially appointed and specially briefed officers to pass the information on to the troops. That in my view would avoid what it is now the custom euphemistically to describe as "strikes" in the Armed Services of the Crown. I know that the Directorate of Army Welfare services have issued very detailed explanatory memoranda to welfare officers the idea of which is that they should be transmitted to the troops.
While on this point, I would like to stress another aspect as strongly as I possibly can. The Minister of Labour, as recently as 5th February, drew attention to a statement made by the Prime Minister, that it was hoped that the extent of demobilisation planned for the end of June would be completed by the end of April this year. Troops read as carefully as they can what is said in this House, and I am afraid they find it difficult to reconcile that promise with the slowed down rate of demobilisation. Here, again, 142 there may be a perfectly simple and adequate explanation. If so, let it be clearly and succinctly stated, and steps taken to make sure that the men know the reasons for the apparent discrepancy between the statement of the Prime Minister, and the diminution in the monthly rates of release. It is going to be difficult to convince the public and those who are still serving, that if 1,100,000 are still in the Forces by the end of the year, it is not going to be possible to make do with 1,500,000 people in the Forces at the end of June this year. If we adopted that as a kind of target figure for June, 1946, it would be found that the monthly rate of release could be maintained at its present figure. It is undesirable to boast about the fact that we have during the month of January been able to release some 100,000men a week if that boast cannot be carried out during succeeding months. If it cannot be maintained, responsible spokesmen should not have boasted about that figure which has been achieved during the month of January.
So far as the future of the Services is concerned, it seems to me, speaking with the limited sources of information at my disposal, that our future tasks fall into two categories, one, the ground defence of the United Kingdom, for which a permanent nucleus will be required, with a large number of trained men in reserve; secondly, our external liabilities, which we all hope will be reduced in the not too distant future. But these two categories combined, whether met by full-time personnel or reserve personnel, will, I am afraid, add up to a larger total than has ever been raised by voluntary enlistment in peacetime in this country. That means compulsory national service, which could be implemented by some form of foreign legion, in which our alien friends and Allies could be incorporated, and which in that way would provide an outlet for their desire to remain associated with this country. Anyhow, if these reserves of trained men are needed, then compulsory national service is the simplest way of providing for the sudden expansion that may become necessary.
In regard to conscription, I would say, again speaking with the limited information at my disposal, that one year's full-time service at the age of 18, with a liability to rejoin annually for at least a fortnight a year until the age of 25, would 143 probably satisfy our needs, and for the reservists, some form of training like the old Territorial practice of one week-night and weekend parades, would probably serve our requirements in that direction. In order to supplement home defence we might bring reinforcements to bear in the form of preserving some kind of nucleus similar to that of the Home Guard for men over 50. Tnat would have to be entirely voluntary. We should also preserve some nucleus of the A.T.S., also on a purely voluntary basis. That, combined with some greater degree of encouragement than has hitherto been forthcoming, to the Army Cadet Force, should go some way towards satisfying our requirements.
As regards the recruitment of officers, they should be recruited in the widest possible way, not merely from a certain number of schools. We shall have to face the possibility that many of these officers will have to retire in the late 40s or early 50s. That means a better rate of retired pay; and also we shall have to train our officers so that they can readily fit into civilian life when their retirement takes place. That entails a wide general technical and scientific education, plus knowledge of administration and some kind of liaison with industry and opportunities for study in scientific and engineering concerns. Close co-ordination between the three Services is a subject that has already been dealt with by previous speakers. In that connection I am reminded of the Latin tag which has more than a relevant significance now, both as regards these Services and the three big Powers:-
§ Tria juncta in uno.
§ In conclusion, I suggest that we might perhaps alter the title of the War Office to that of the Army Office. It is not the duty of the War Office to make war. It is the duty of the War Office to look after the Army in the same way as it is the duty of the Admiralty and the Air Ministry to look after their particular branches of the Service, co-ordinated under a Minister of Defence who should not necessarily be the Prime Minister After all, the Prime Minister has a very heavy burden of responsibility. The job of the Minister of Defence co-ordinating the three Service Departments is almost important enough to justify a separate Ministerial Office for that purpose alone.144
§ I should like to see continued in the peacetime Army the wartime system of adult education so that we shall create a fighting Service which will not be a dumping ground as it used to be generations ago for those who failed to make good in civilian life. We built up an Army in wartime with much painful and expensive experience. Let us learn from that experience so that, in the years that lie ahead, the implementation of the policy set out in the Government White Paper which we are discussing will be carried out in such a way as to serve the needs both of the Forces themselves and of the community as a whole.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I was going to make two points in this Debate but as time is very short I propose to limit myself down to one. I notice in the White Paper a reference to collaboration with the Dominions, but there is not the slightest reference to any collaboration with the Crown Colonies or the Colonial Empire. Have we forgotten already the divisions which fought in Burma and were recruited in Africa? Have we forgotten already all those gallant young men we used to see in the streets of London with the names of Jamaica, Malta and other Crown Colonies on their flashes, all those men in the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force who came to our aid at the time when our fortunes were at their lowest? Have we forgotten about them already?
About this time last year I was in the United States. One of the criticisms I had to meet was the perennial one about the tyranny of the British Empire. My answer was simply this, that at the time when no one else was prepared to fight for us, when our fortunes were at the lowest ebb they have ever been in our history, the people in our Empire if they had wanted to throw off that alleged tyranny then had the time and the opportunity to do it. Not one of them did. On the contrary, from every part of the Empire these men rallied to our side. Have we forgotten that already, and in our postwar plans for defence made no preparation whatever for absorbing them into the Imperial Forces? The Crown Colonies look to us, the mother country, to defend them, but more and more we shall have to look to them to cooperate 145 with us, not only in their own defence but in the defence of the Empire in general.
There, if we can use it, is the fine raw material in all ranks of society suitable for all ranks in our Fighting Forces. We are either a great Imperial Power or we are nothing. Unless we can rely upon our overseas countries to help us and to standby us, we are just a friendless island in the North Sea. I do hope whoever is winding up for the Government will give us some indication that this is not a deliberate slur and that there are plans for bringing the people of the Colonial Empire into our defence plans. Quite frankly, I will tell the Government what I should like to see. The first thing I would like to see is a great Imperial Defence Council here in London to which representatives of all the Crown Colonies should be invited so that they should feel that the defence of their own homeland, as well as the defence of the whole Empire, is as much their responsibility as it is our own. I should like to feel too that any British subject, whatever may be his colour and race, could attain to any post whatsoever in the Royal Navy, the British Army, and the Royal Air Force. In other words, they should become Imperial Services in the truest sense. I hope we are doing something to recruit and train local defence forces, including the King's African Rifles and so on. Lastly, I am one of those who hope that, one day, we may have enough imagination to create a brigade of Imperial guards, recruited not only from this country but from every part of the Empire, so that men can come here to London and take part in protecting the Sovereign who is the symbol of their loyalty. It is one of those gestures which I think would have a greater effect in cementing all the parts of the Empire together than perhaps some of us realise.
In conclusion, may I say we keep on hearing about our weakness in the modern world? We keep on contrasting the numbers in this island with the numbers available among our great Allies. Let us also be conscious sometimes of our strength. Let us realise that, whatever help we may get from the United Nations organisation, or any other international body, we are a great Imperial Power and it is upon the British Empire, in the finality, that we rely in peace as we have relied in war.
"That the Debate be now adjourned." — [Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.