§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question[4th March]:
§ " That this House approves the Statement relating to Defence (Cmd. 6743)." —[The Prime Minister.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for War (Mr. J. J. Lawson)
During the Debate yesterday a number of questions affecting the Army were raised. In fact, there were times when I thought I was listening to an Army Estimates Debate. I thought it would be for the convenience of the House if I tried to give some answer to those questions, but I think I shall have to limit myself today in case I should not have anything left to say when the Army Estimates do come before this House.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) made the point that the Government had delayed coming to a decision on the fixing of the limit of the period for young men entering the Services. I can assure him, and the House, that that is a matter which is receiving the attention of the Government and of the urgency of which the Government are well aware. The right hon. Gentleman also suggested that when the period was fixed, consideration should be given to the question of the age at which young men should enter the Army, and whether their education and apprenticeships should receive consideration. I think I ought to make it clear that the overriding consideration in dealing with the intake, either now or when the period is fixed, is the most rapid release possible of those who have served this country. Young men have, in many cases, been away from this country for 194 many years, and in many cases their education and their apprenticeships have been interrupted. I think the men who are now in the Forces should be made aware that their case will receive first consideration, and that this House has for them a profound sympathy and gratitude for the services they have rendered. Of course, that is not to say that the Government are not deeply concerned about this matter of the interruption of education and of apprenticeships. I cannot pursue that subject today because I hope to deal with it at greater length in the Debate on the Army Estimates, but I thought the House would like to know that, as I say, the overriding consideration is the release of men from the Services and that the only way that can be done is by the intake of younger men. At the same time, we are not unmindful of our responsibilities in connection with that particular point of education and apprenticeships.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that when the Army Estimates come to be discussed he will tell us what the length of service of these young men will be?
§ Mr. Lawson
No. I thought I had made myself fairly clear. The matter with which I shall deal on the Army Estimates is the consideration of the education and the apprenticeships of the young men who are entering the Service.
Several hon. Members raised the question of the rate of release in the various Services, and I am very well aware that there is a certain confusion of mind on this point. They pointed out, for instance, that men in the Navy with two years less service than men in the Army, are in the course of demobilisation, although they are of the same age. It would be foolish of me to attempt to deny that fact, but there are reasons for it, and I think when I give those reasons hon. Members will appreciate their force. The "age and service" release group structure of the three Services varies enormously, as hon. Members know. This can be seen from the fact that in group 26 the numbers to be released are, in the Army 265,000, in the Royal Navy 15,000, and in the Royal Air Force 52,000. I give those figures to show that we are dealing with three entirely separate Services whose duties are also quite separate.
195 In the early stages, the Army's commitments were reduced more quickly, and now it is the other way. round.
It was suggested yesterday that in these circumstances there should be a transfer of men from one Service to another. We think that is not worth while in view of the fact that men coming from one Service would have to be retrained, and probably, by the time they were retrained, they would be due for demobilisation. It is, therefore, quite impossible to keep the rate of release in all the Services equal all the time. As a matter of fact, this was foreseen in the White Paper on re-allocation of manpower which, if I may say so, some hon. Members have probably not read. But even if they have, I think, in the light of the questions and some of the speeches I have heard, it might be worth while looking again at that particular Paper which was issued a year or two ago. It is stated that:Owing to military considerations, release will necessarily proceed at different rates in the different Services.Therefore it was foreseen at the time of the White Paper that some of these difficulties, which are now emerging, would arise in view of the different structures of the various Services. The disparity could only be overcome by delaying the release in all Services to the pace of the slowest, and I do not think anyone would suggest that. I would point out that last week I answered a Question showing that by the end of June, 2,100,000 men will have been released from the Army. That represents 69 per cent. of the Army strength on V-Day and compares very favourably with releases from the other Services. What that means is that, as a matter of fact, the Army is slightly in advance of the other two Services on the total proportion of men who will be released by the end of June. I do not know whether that meets the points that have been put on that particular matter. I would not conceal for a moment that the rate of release is somewhat slower at the present time, but I think the details with regard to the percentage of the total force which I have just stated ought to be borne in mind, and made known to the men concerned.
§ Mr. Keeling (Twickenham)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point may I put this question to him? Would it 196 not be possible for some of the men in the Navy, and some of the men in the Air Force who are being released faster than the men in the Army, to be employed on jobs which the Army are now doing, without any training?
§ Mr. Lawson
I should not like to be absolutely specific upon that point. The hon. Member will see that the real need is to have retrained men to substitute the men who are released. Even if it were possible to take a certain number, they would be so few as to make the matter hardly worthwhile. With regard to the main question, the men would have to be retrained in order to release other men. There has been considerable confusion, too, on the question of the Python period. The hon. and gallant Member for West Wolverhampton (Lieutenant H. Hughes) stated the situation accurately last night. That was clearly seen from the speech made by the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), in which he made a statement with regard to certain delays in connection with Python in India. Complaints are continually made to me, not only in the House but by letter and indeed by personal questions, about delays in connection with Python. I want to make it quite clear to the House that there has not been a single case for many months now in which a man has completed his Python tour, and has not left either India or S.E.A.C. well within the proper time, so that he has been back in this country at the right period.
I think I ought to make this quite clear, in reference to some of the questions I have received. The Python period in India and S.E.A.C. is three years and four months. In an answer which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) on 26th February I explained how this period was reckoned. I said:The period Is measured from the time the man leaves the United Kingdom to the time he leaves the overseas theatre."— [Official Report, 26th February, 1946; Vol. 419, c. 356.]April, 1946, is, therefore, the correct date for the departure of those who left, say, in 1942. Of course, it has happened that S.E.A.C. got ahead of this, and began sending men back with less than three years and four months. I think that answers the point raised by the hon. Member for South Cardiff.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
I am very glad to have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman. My real point was that men in India were writing to say that there will be no sailings in March.
§ Mr. Lawson
I gave an explicit answer to that last night. The fact is that India was left behind, and S.E.A.C. was brought into step again. No more Python sailings have been delayed beyond the due date. If any hon. Member knows of a case of a delay in Python resulting in a man coming home late after his Python tour, I should be very pleased to make a searching investigation of that particular case, and in so far as I can, I shall do justice upon the matter
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
It does seem to be a fact that, even if the men are on time in leaving, there is no Python sailing from India and S.E.A.C. during March. Are the boats being held back so that the men shall not leave before serving their three years and four months period? If they could get away a bit earlier, could not my right hon. Friend let them leave earlier?
§ Mr. Lawson
All I am giving a guarantee on, is the fact that a man will leave in good time when he has completed his three years and four months. That is the period of the tour.
§ Mr. Lawson
All I can say on that point is that experience has taught me not to make any promise for the implementation of which I have not already taken proper steps. I have had some experience on this matter. As hon. Members know, I met masses of men in India and in the Far East. Their Python period had been reduced from three years and eight months to three years and four months. When I got to India, I met literally thousands of men in large camps, men who had been there three years and eight months, and indeed a number beyond that when their period was actually three years and four months. I ask the House to imagine what sort of a job I had in facing those men. They repeatedly said to me: "Tell us the truth, but whatever you do, if you make a promise keep it." Ever since then, I have been shy of making a promise the 198 effect of which 1 have not thought out well ahead. I ought to say—and my hon. Friend behind me knows the truth of this—those men kept me going for hours at a time with questions, but before I left, they usually crowned me with a bush hat, or something like that. I think I have a collection of hats equal to that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr Churchill) —though perhaps I am not permitted under the Rules of the House to mention him in this connection. I repeat that all I can say upon this question of Python tours is that it is receiving my attention, and when the Estimates are before the House I shall probably have something further to say upon the matter.
There has been a complaint that information is not given to the men and I understand how harshly that works upon hon. Members in this House. If the men do not get proper information, hon Members have an extra heavy postbag, and that comes back to me in the Department itself. I have taken all the steps possible to try to give information to the men upon the question of release, and indeed other matters as well, and I think I had better .tell the House just what steps I have taken. An A.B.C.A. pamphlet was produced in 1944 giving the background to the release scheme, and a further one was produced in September, 1945, explaining the release machinery in detail. "Questions and Answers on Release" was distributed last November, and as hon. Members will probably remember, I wrote a not very eloquent introduction to that pamphlet. It was distributed last November on a scale of two per company, and a second edition is now in the press. It was intended as a brief from which officers were to address troops, and answer questions put to them. A personal letter was written to commanders-in-chief impressing upon them the importance of every officer making himself familiar with the contents of the booklet. A separate leaflet in the form of question and answer on the latest release programme was issued quite recently and sent to Commands, who were told to circulate it widely. Again, any important announcement on release, such as a new release programme, is sent out at once to all overseas forces newspapers, and published by them next day The major overseas Commands have produced 199 their own pamphlets on release some, like the Middle East Command in the form of question and answer, giving not only Government and War Office policy but also information and explanations peculiar to the circumstances of the Command in question. In addition, a representative of the Adjutant-General has visited the men overseas during the past 18 months, and has lectured. to large numbers of troops on many subjects, including the release scheme. And, of course, a tour has been made by the Adjutant-General himself, and I have made one too.
In addition to this, eight copies of Hansard are sent out daily to each of the main overseas Commands, and further copies are sent to the chief education officer in each Command. Twelve copies are sent to India, 30 to the M.E.F., 20 to the C.M.F., and 24 to the B.A.O.R. That is an attempt to reach the men. We expect commands, right down to the units, to take steps to contact the men and give them the necessary information affecting them on this point.
§ Mr. Harry Wallace (Walthamstow, East)
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the men in a unit have this information about release schemes within seven days of the announcement, does he regard 14 days as the period, or would he regard a month as unreasonable?
§ Mr. Lawson
To get down to the units, I do not know that seven days is too little. We do what we can, and those who know the activity of the Adjutant-General on this particular point, and his desire to give education to the Forces, will agree that, as far as he is concerned, there is certainly no lack of enthusiasm for giving the men the necessary information.
§ Mr. Lawson
I thought to be as explicit as possible on the question of demobilisation, on Python, and on information to the Farces which were the three main questions raised yesterday. I have done what I could, to inform the 200 House upon those particular points. I hope that if what I have tried to achieve, has not been accomplished hon. Members will take their opportunity, when the Estimates come up, to ask for amplification.
I come back to the point at which I started. After all, the main thing is to release as quickly as possible the men in the Services who have served this country well. I came into this House about 12 months after the Armistice following the last war. It would be almost impossible to describe the confusion, almost chaos, which then existed through all the Services. Yet that was 12 months after the war had finished. Seen in the light of that experience, demobilisation on the principle of age and service has been a great experiment and, I say, a great triumph, compared with what happened on the last occasion. It has been made possible, not only because of the principle of age and service but because of the fine bearing and self-control of the men in the Forces. I am deeply conscious that such conduct calls for the utmost efforts on the part of those of us who are immediately responsible to see that those who have safeguarded our liberty shall themselves share in it at the earliest possible moment. I can assure the House, and the men abroad who are serving this country, that the question of their condition and release—the release of those who have fought for the liberties of this land—receives my daily consideration, and is to us an extremely urgent question.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Corbett (Ludlow)
The right hon. Gentleman has placed the main emphasis of his remarks upon demobilisation, and we all know from our mail bags that this is a very important question. I think the majority of young men and their parents and of those in industry at the present time want to know what are the prospects of future compulsory service. They want to know their liability, and they want some indication of the probable length of the service which they will have to put in in the various Forces. The actual length of service, as the Prime Minister said yesterday, depends upon the numbers in the regular Forces who will have enlisted voluntarily. I am well aware that, our commitments are ever changing. We 201 have just now left Persia; we hope soon to leave Java; we are not sure of our future commitments in the Middle East or in India. For the sake of argument I should like to take the figure which the Government have given of about 1,000,000 men as being the probable number we will need in the Forces for, shall we say, an interim period, until some of these problems have resolved themselves. This number will be composed in part of the men in the regular Forces.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that he did not know to what extent voluntary enlistment would provide the total. I say to the Government that they must make up their minds to what extent they want voluntary enlistment. They must have a target figure, and do something about it. They must try to recruit the right numbers. I do not know yet whether they have made up their minds how many men they do want in the regular Forces. If they have they must tell the House. I do not see what purpose can be served by waiting to find out how many men will come forward. The policy of "wait and see," surely, belongs to the Liberal Party—and not to the present Government. Suppose, for the sake of argument, we say that we shall have a million for this interim period, and that we shall allow half a million men to join the regular forces for this interim period. If we do that, if we decide on that figure, then we shall be able to tell all the young men how long they will have to serve in the Forces. The "Economist" tells me that about 20 years ago—or, rather, in the years up to 20 years ago—there were born every year, approximately 400,000 male children. I assume therefore that we can expect an annual intake in each age group of approximately a quarter of a million. The hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) put the figure much lower yesterday, but I daresay he was taking into account the numbers who managed to dodge the column, because of the calls of industry at the present time. I hope that if the Government decide, as they must decide, to go on with compulsory enlistment for some time, they will make it quite clear as soon as possible, what numbers, if any, can be allowed to dodge the column and I suggest to them —
§ Mr. Tolley (Kidderminster)
On a point of Order. Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman explain what he means by "dodging the column "?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Corbett
I apologise for using slang. I mean that there is a certain number, such as the 6,000 young men who have just been released for agriculture. Personally, I welcome them back. Far be it from me to suggest that they be conscripted. But that policy must not be stabilised for the next five years, and if the Government have not made up their minds what is to be their policy for the next five years, they cannot calculate the total number in each age group. I, personally, think that it would be much more satisfactory if we did make our minds up that nobody would be released for any particular industry. If we made up our minds to that, then, since this conscription is bound to go on, at any rate, for this interim period, industry would know where it stood and would be able to plan ahead accordingly.
I now turn to our long-term policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) has already recommended from this side of the House a policy advocating compulsory service. I, personally, am fully in accord with his policy. I say to the Government that they must make up their minds about this issue, and make up their minds soon. The Party opposite have. always been against a period of compulsory service: and I think that, in our heart of hearts, we are all against it, because we object to anything which restricts the liberty of the individual. At the same time, we have to balance against this the benefits which may accrue to the individual if he serves a period—say a year—of what we might call "national service training. "It sounds somewhat better than conscription. I think the benefits are many and considerable. Many of the men I met during my service in the war, who had been brought into the Army, were extraordinarily ignorant even about their own country. I remember on one occasion when I was driving out in my car saying to my driver, "'We go to Oxford next." I was surprised to discover he had never heard of the place. [Hon. Members: "What? "] He came from" Liverpool. I know there are a great many men who have never left their homes. If they did 203 a period of national service training, as I dub it, they would gain some experience, at least, of other parts of the country. I, personally, would strongly recommend that this training should be carried out in other countries as much as possible.
There are other benefits which would be derived by men who did national training in the Armed Forces. They would learn all about the modern equipment, they would learn to drive, and learn much about mechanics; and they would not spend their whole time standing about the square, or learning to "spit and polish" and do all the other old-fashioned things to which there is so much objection. During the war we found that it was very necessary to combine with other nations. I hope that in "future our young men will get opportunities of training in other countries. I hope that their training will be carried out throughout the Empire. It would be a great benefit if every man knew that he had to do a year's national service, three months at home, say, and nine months abroad. I feel parents would welcome the opportunity for their children to have something like an university training, in the Armed Forces overseas, in the Dominions, the Colonies or some other part of the world—not only in our own Empire but in other Allied countries on the Continent, even in Russia. The more we combine with other countries, the better we get to know them, and if we all mix and train together we may be less inclined to fight one another in the end.
I should like to say a word about the Territorial Army. I had the honour to command a Territorial regiment during the last war. I thought very highly of it —the personnel was excellent, and I grew extremely fond of the men. But I am not in favour of the Territorial Army being continued as at present constituted. I hope that the Government will decide to give every one a year's training. County connections, county regiments and county ties are of great benefit. They create esprit de corps, and I hope that we shall continue to have county regiments and county divisions like the 50th Division, from Durham and Northumberland, and many others, which gained fame in this war. I think that we should reserve county connections for primary recruiting, 204 and for the preliminary period of training. Afterwards the men will go abroad. I suggest that the county connections on a territorial basis should be responsible for the training of reserves. If we are to succeed in the future, we cannot come to the outbreak of war with men completely unprepared and untrained. If we had every man trained it would be a good start. He would then go back to industry and possibly forget all about his military training, so I suggest that all men having been recruited on a territorial basis, should join the Reserve, and be kept up to date for a period of years on a territorial basis. Instead of the Territorial Army being responsible for training men from scratch, which it never had time to do and did not succeed in doing in peace time, it should be-responsible for keeping men up to date with modern equipment.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Captain Swingler (Stafford)
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett) will forgive me if I do not immediately follow him in discussion about the system of conscription, to which I propose to return later. I would like, first, to deal with some of the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in reply to points raised about demobilisation in yesterday's Debate. 1 think that we can all agree with what the Secretary of State for War said about the process of demobilisation, and congratulate the Government on the comparatively smooth working of the programme up to the present time under the "age and service "principle, which was laid down and agreed to in this House as the basis for demobilisation.
I think, however, that when we look at the White Paper on defence and consider the explanations which have been given about it we must agree that the forecasts up to June and the end of the year reveal considerable disparities between the Services, which are very disturbing to the men in the Army. I do not feel that the explanation given by the Secretary of State, when he referred to the release pamphlet which was issued, and the previous explanations which have been given was satisfactory. We all know that in this process of demobilisation on the principle of age and service, there are bound to be inequalities in the Services, and between the Services. I would point out to my right hon. Friend that it has always 205 been said, that every effort would be made by His Majesty's Government and the Service Departments to reduce these disparities to a minimum. By comparison of the position of the men in the Army, and the men in the Navy at the end of June of this year, the disparities far from having been kept under control or reduced, have actually increased to the extent of 20 groups. This announcement is made at a time when the men in the Services have found that the rates of release for men in the Army in June, 1946, are less than 50 per cent. of the rates of release that took place in January, 1946.
The point that has to be answered is what actions have been taken and what efforts made to keep these disparities under control and to reduce them. The facts presented to us are cold facts and cold statistics. I would point out to the Secretary of State in reference to his statement that it is not worth while to transfer men from one Service to another, that these facts, as they affect men in the Services who have spent long years overseas, appear in a rather different light, and when they affect them personally produce a different attitude. I quote one example of the way in which they affect the individual from a letter which 1 have received from a constituent who is at present in South-East Asia. He says:I joined the Royal Air Force on 5th February, 1943, and my brother-in-law joined the Navy on 3rd January, 1943. I am 39 years of age and my demobilisation group is 33. My brother-in-law is five years younger and was group 39. He walked into his home, a civilian, on 1st January of this year. I shall be lucky if I can do the same on 1st July.In fact, he will not according to this programme; it will be considerably later. Here is a man whose brother-in-law, five years younger, who has done about the same period of service has already been demobilised and will have been demobilised, according to the working of this programme, six months before the other man is demobilised. What we want to know is what efforts have been made, as regards men in the Army who are seriously affected by this programme, to relieve their position. It is certainly well worth while for the Government. to make every effort to transfer men who have had a long period of service abroad from one Service to another, in order to 206 equalise the rates of release between the Services.
It is worth while to make every effort, if necessary, to increase the burden so far as occupation commitments are concerned on other Services in order to take some of that burden off the shoulders of men in the Army. It is certainly worth while that the allocation of men who are called up in this period should be such that every consideration will be given to putting men in the Army as replacements, instead of having to allocate men between the different Services, in some sort of proportion, although there is a great inequality in the rates of release according to the "age and service" plan.
It is not enough to reiterate that the men in the Services have been warned that there are going to be disparities. They understand that. They felt, despite their disappointment, that every effort would be made to keep these disparities down as much as possible, but when there is a disparity of 20 groups between one Service and another, they are entitled to know what efforts have been made to reduce the disparities, and what efforts are now being made by transferring men, by calling up additional manpower, and so on to enable inequalities to be brought down. They are entitled to know that according to the "age and service" plan equal justice shall be given to them.
I would ask the Secretary of State for War to look very seriously into the point that was made by the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan) yesterday, when he spoke of the possibility of demobilising men in the Services up to the "age and service" group 40. I certainly think it desirable, if it is possible by strenuous efforts to reduce our commitments, that every effort should be made by the Service Ministers to bring that about. We have been told that as regards reduction in the rate of release, a limiting factor all the time is the existence of our military commitments. We certainly agree that it was patently obvious that the rate of release was going to be drastically reduced at some time, because of .the enormous commitments of this country in military occupation.
There is one point, however, about these military commitments which I should like to bring forward for the consideration of the House. I think it is true, broadly speaking, that the military 207 forces of occupation, as is the case in Germany, for example, are divided into two sorts of troops. There are, first, administrative troops for the purpose of carrying out various jobs and functions under military government. In the second place, there is the potential fighting force. There are troops all over the world who are mostly idle, because they are simply there in order to kill time—we hope they are only there in order to kill time. They have to be stationed there in case of unrest arising, so that they can be employed to maintain law and order. They are also there, broadly speaking, for the purposes of defence. Many speakers in this Debate have spoken of those Forces, and have considered the question of the maintenance of nearly 2,000,000 men in the Services at the end of June, and more than 1,000,000 at the end of the year, which is a very large percentage of our total manpower as well as being a vast expenditure. The point I would emphasise is that it is not just a question of manpower; it is a question of the combination of manpower with machine power and motor power, and, above all, it is a question of the result of that combination. in the case of those fighting forces in terms of fire power. This was a question which was very important before the war and during the war. I might say it is a question of brain power being applied to that combination.
During the war a tremendous effort was made in the case of the Army in the field of mechanisation and in the direction of increasing the mobile power of our Forces, but I believe there are still tremendous possibilities in that field. There are still great possibilities of substituting machines and motors for men, and reducing the amount of manpower required for military occupational purposes by increasing the degree of mechanisation and motorisation of the forces. There are still prevalent, I believe, in high places, those influences of military conservatism which operate in favour of the maintenance of vast masses of men under arms, as if there were some virtue in that. The virtue which I should like to advocate is the virtue of attempting to develop mechanisation in the Forces in the same way as is happening in modern industry—the substitution of the machine and the motor for the man. I ask the Secretary of State for 208 War to look very seriously at the present developments in our forces and particularly our occupation forces, in relation to mechanical and technical standards, bearing in mind what happened after the last war, and bearing in mind the neglect of our Army in the period between the two wars in this respect. Notwithstanding the fact that the tank was invented in this country in the whole period between the two world wars there was a complete neglect of the development of mechanisation in the Forces. During the war a tremendous development took place in all fields of mechanisation. I still maintain that there are tremendous possibilities in the future for improvement in the quality of machines and vehicles for our forces and the substitution of mechanised means for manpower. I ask the Government, therefore, seriously to look into that side of the question from the point of view of reducing the manpower required for our occupational forces.
Finally, I should like to say one or two words on the subject raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow (Lieut.-Colonel Corbett), namely, the future of compulsory military service. I believe we must accept compulsory military service in the future not from the point of view which the hon. and gallant Member for Ludlow put forward, namely the benefits of such service—which is, I believe, repugnant to the most of us as was said often in yesterday's Debate—but from the point of view that the actual facts of the moment necessitate compulsory military service for some time to come. I think, as that is so, there is every advantage in an immediate decision being reached on the question of compulsory military service, its period and its future. At the moment, without such a decision, we are getting the worst of both worlds. Neither the Government nor the individual citizen who is about to be called up can do any of that planning which is a necessity today, but if we had a decision en the question it would greatly help. I urge the Government not to delay any longer their decision on this question. Even if it is only a temporary decision and given for a period the Government should give it, so that the individual citizen, who is to be called up in the middle of his educational or industrial career, will know where he stands, how long he is going to be away, and what his future is to be.
209 That is vitally important for the morale of the men, as well as for their future. I think we have got to say that compulsory military service must continue, in order to get the men with long service, out of the Army as quickly as possible. That is the keystone. The men with long years of service must come out, and we must call up young men to replace them. But let us enable those men who are being called up to have some knowledge of their future so that they can plan their educational or industrial careers. Let us give them a chance and let the Government give themselves a chance to make their own plans regarding the forces and the necessary reforms which I think should be introduced with the continuance of compulsory military service, so that they shall be able to get on with the job. I believe it was Voltaire who attributed to the British people what he considered "the greatest gift of nature," namely, a cool head. I would urge the Government to have a cool head' about this problem, and, as well as having cool heads, to take necessary risks at any rate to give us the decision which I have suggested, and to look further into the question of speeding up demobilisation.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Thorp (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I want to detain the House for a few moments with some questions which I wish to ask, and some suggestions which I have to make on the White Paper. In some respects we seem to have got away from the White Paper, and to be among the coils of Python. I should like the right hon. Gentleman who is going to reply to give us one or two answers on certain points. Among the commitments in the White Paper there is no mention of any defence of the home country, no statement about establishments at home. Looking at the White Paper and those commitments, it would appear that in future there are to be a number of foreign legions, with no service at all at home. I know that is not accurate, but that is how it appears from the White Paper. I am certain that anybody reading it will get that idea, and will not be encouraged to join the Forces voluntarily. The Royal Air Force used to have a slogan "Join the R.A.F. and see the world." The White Paper gives the im- 210 pression that the new slogan will be, "Join the Services and never get home."
Another point which has not been brought out in the White Paper is the question of a central and strategic reserve. I would like to know what the Government's proposals are about that, and what consideration has been given to the question of where that strategic reserve will train. I suggest that East Africa might be considered. I had a good deal of service there. I took part in the rehearsal of a combined operation before the invasion of Madagascar, and also in brigade exercises in the desert, which was equivalent to the kind of country to be found in North Africa, and, finally, in the hills of Kenya, 6,000 feet up, in dense jungle, where we trained for jungle warfare in Burma. Incidentally, in that last exercise we were able to blow up, in 20 different places, a road, or, rather, a track. The job was done properly, without any question of the umpires having to decide. The advancing forces had to put the road in good repair. It was good training, and at the end of that time the work of the sappers was so good that the inhabitants very much appreciated the results of the exercise.
I do not think we see enough in the White Paper of what the Government are doing to encourage volunteers for the Forces. I have here a little book—and hon. Members opposite need not be worried; it does not contain promises made at the Election—the only one I have seen which tries to encourage volunteering for the Army. It is called, "Why drop Out?" and sets out clearly the pay code. But not enough has been done. Why not distribute these books everywhere? Why not use posters to try to encourage people to join the Services? It is mentioned in the book that marriage allowance will be paid to soldiers at the age of 21. That is very nice, but if the Minister of Health would cooperate and add to the book, "Houses when you get married, "I am sure there would be no trouble in getting all the recruits needed for the Services.
Paragraph 15 (c) of the White Paper refers to the use of accumulated stocks. I imagine that means that we shall make the best use of our accumulated stocks, and not waste the taxpayers' money. That is a very laudable idea, but 211 I would like to know whether the Army must continue to use these old stocks for a long time, and be trained with obsolete material. If so, that would be a serious drawback. I remember, in 1935, when I was attached to the Territorial Army, having to use ammunition which was made in 1914, and was so marked. That was certainly using accumulated stocks, but it did not improve our musketry. There is also a paragraph in the White Paper which deals with the Territorial Army and cadet forces, but which does not seem to arrive at any decisive conclusion. It merely states that the question is being considered. We ought to know what is to be the future of these auxiliary Forces. Is service in them to be compulsory? That has not been mentioned.
With regard to making the best use of our manpower in the Colonies, I had the honour to serve in the East African Forces for nearly three years. I was with them the whole way, from Nairobi to Addis Ababa, and I can say that they could be made into excellent material. We ought to try to economise in our manpower in this country by using the men of our Colonies. They enjoy being in the Services, and they can be used for many' different jobs. If we do that, it will not only save our manpower, but will give those men a tremendous advantage in education and everything else which will improve them for their future life in their own countries. My final plea is that I may have an answer to some of the questions I have put to the Government.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I have been extremely interested in this Debate, having sat through most of the speeches, and while I am sympathetic to the suggestions which have been made in favour of reducing the numbers of our Armed Forces I must say that I think the Government in being able to reduce numbers as they have done up to the present, if they keep within the target, are facing the problem in a very accomplished manner. I, for one, am prepared to say that the Government are working in a gratifying way in their attempts to deal with the colossal problem of transferring 9,000,000 men and women from the Armed Forces, and munition industries, to peacetime industries.
212 I am deeply concerned about the future, and about conscription. The Prime Minister said yesterday that armed forces are an expression of policy. I feel that that view is correct. What is to be our policy, what is to be our attitude, in regard to compulsory service? It depends upon the kind of world we envisage. Either we are to have a world in which each country is planning for another war, in which nations are to be dependent upon their own strength, or else we must advocate a world in which war for national purposes is to be abolished. If the United Nations organisation works in accordance with that second assumption, it is unnecessary that we should have to face the future with a conscripted army for this country. I was extremely surprised when I heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) say yesterday, quite definitely, that hon. Members and right hon. Members opposite, and the Conservative Party, had decided in favour of compulsory military training during peacetime.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
He did not say that.
§ Mr. Yates
Oh yes he did, and without giving a single reason as to why it should be so. Apart from the fact that it was advocated on the ground that it would be a continued education, there has been no reason given why there should be compulsory military training. In view of the present state of affairs, it is quite- wrong, and unnecessary, whatever may be the position at the present time—and I do not doubt the necessity for calling up young men at the moment—for us to make up our minds definitely for the future that there shall be compulsory training. There is no justification for it. Surely the discovery of atomic energy must have made some difference to the position in regard to armed forces. Captain Liddell Hart recently wrote:It seems to me that, while there is a little doubt whether the atomic bomb will end war, or end the world, or both, it should, at least, spell the end of conscription, for it makes nonsense of that military system.The atomic bomb surely alters the significance of large armies. If we are to have a satisfactory peace policy, we should think only of the possibility of an international police force, which should not require compulsory military training in this country. I am, therefore, very 213 interested in the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden, and also by an hon. Member who spoke earlier today, about the necessity for education. I have been a member of the Birmingham local education authority for some years, and, as governor of seven of the grammar schools in Birmingham, I claim to have some interest in the necessity for continued education. I deny that, in order to extend and continue education on the proper lines, it is necessary for us to incorporate a military training scheme. I do not think it is at all necessary. Sir William Beveridge, writing recently in "The Star," said:Boys and girls, in whatever rank of life they are born, who are clever enough to profit by a university education, ought to get it at the time when it is likely to be most useful to them and the community.".I submit that real education, which is to continue from 18 years onwards, ought to continue in accordance with the ability of the young people to benefit from it, and that they should not have these delays imposed upon them. Facing the future, if there should be a next war— and I pray that there will not be a next war—but, if that great calamity should fall upon us. then I say, quite frankly, it is better that our youth should be trained as scientists instead of being subjected to the kind of military training which has been suggested. I do not believe that military conscription has ever prevented war. It causes suspicion to grow between nations. It is alien to British tradition, and is an outrage against liberty. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour, speaking at the Trades Union Congress last year, made this statement:Now that the rights of democracy and freedom have been secured, it is quite impossible to contemplate continuing anything which could be described as industrial conscription.If it is right in regard to industrial conscription, then, for the same reason, it is right in regard to military conscription. I am flabbergasted that the Opposition in this House should, quite blatantly, advocate military conscription, in view of the many statements we have heard from them recently about belief in individual liberty. They threaten to hold us up, night after night, with Prayers in favour of annulling Orders which they regard as reckless infringements on human liberties. 214 To introduce in peacetime for this country a system of military conscription would be, in my judgment, the greatest infringement of human rights and liberties which could be introduced.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Mackeson (Hythe)
Surely the votes of hon. Members opposite on some of those Prayers are not quite consistent with the statement which the hon. Member is making.
§ Mr. Yates
I would point out, that we on this side of the House believe in certain demands which are essential in the present transitional period, but, in admitting that, we accept the view that the worst kind of cumpulsion is to compel our young men to be conscripted in a military machine in time of peace for the future. It is quite unreasonable.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
In view of what the hon. Member has just said, would he be good enough to tell the House how he voted upon the Prayer to annul Statutory Rule and Order 1620, of 1945?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I cannot allow the hon. Member to answer that question, which is quite out of Order.
§ Mr. Yates
I can only say that many of us on this side of the House are watching very carefully and very closely every kind of regulation which cuts across human rights and liberties. As soon as we are convinced that any kind of regulation is unnecessary, we shall speak very strongly.
This is the time to secure international agreement for the abolition of conscription, and to release our energies and resources for the rebuilding of devastated countries throughout the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus) said yesterday that very few hon. Members on either side of the House could object to conscription in principle. The Labour movement in this country has never accepted the principle of military conscription in time of peace, and it would be necessary to face a conference of the Labour Party before military conscription for all time could be regarded as being within its policy. Our great leader, Keir Hardie, once said that conscription is the badge of the slave. When the Military Training Bill was 215 before the House in May, 1939, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, and was leading the Opposition in opposing the Military Training Bill, said:We consider conscription to be a bad thing in .itself." —[Official Report, 8th May, 1939; Vol. 347, c. 152]That has been the view of the Labour movement of this country I think it would be the greatest tragedy to our movement and to this country it we, as a Labour Government, were to decide permanently to fix a period of compulsory military training. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think that military training affords a grand opportunity from the point of view of education. do they wish to apply compulsory military training to women, because we believe in equality of education and in equality of opportunity? No. I think compulsory military training is absolutely wrong. It is morally wrong, it is politically futile, and, in my judgment, it is intellectually stupid. While I think the Government have made a great attempt to reduce the Armed Forces, in which we give them all possible support, I think they are very wise at this time indefinitely not deciding to impose a compulsory system. I hope they will consider the matter most carefully and seriously before they decide permanently upon any compulsory system. In view of the attitude of Members of the Conservative Party, it will remain for many of us on this side of the House to uphold what we believe to be the most fundamental human rights. Captain Liddell Hart, in a pamphlet entitled Willing Service or Compulsory? "concluded with the following words, which I commend to the House:Here in England we should uphold the torch of freedom and keep alight the flame of reason.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)
The hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates) has told us what he thinks about conscription, and I have listened to him with interest. I noticed the enthusiastic applause of the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who spoke yesterday when his main argument against compulsory military training was that there was nobody he would ever have to fight. In 1939, the hon. Member 216 for Westhoughton was just as enthusiastically against conscription as he is now, although I do not think he could then have used quite the same argument. It is very unlikely that either of the two hon. Members, whose obvious sincerity one appreciates, is likely to be moved by any argument, although I would suggest that all the liberties which we and the two hon. Members enjoy depend upon the capacity of the country to protect itself, as has been shown so recently. I am often puzzled by the attitude towards conscription of hon. Members opposite. I am no enthusiast for conscription. If we could do without it, so much the better. It is a question of whether we can do without it.
§ Mr. Davies
If the hon. Gentleman has such love for military conscription, why is it not imposed in his own territory?
§ Sir R. Ross
I knew I would be asked that question. It is not imposed because the hon. Member and others voted against its being enforced there. I spoke in favour of its imposition, and I told against my own side in the Lobby, but the hon. Member for Westhoughton and all his hon. Friends, including the entire Communist Party, voted in such a way as to deny us the same equal privilege of serving our country in the war. It could not be enforced there because, once there is agitation against a thing, one cannot carry people shrieking to the recruiting station.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Does the hon. Member suggest that if conscription had been applied in Northern Ireland, his constituents would have required to be carried to the recruiting station?
§ Sir R. Ross
All those who did not vote for me would have had to be. I was about to say, when interrupted, that the curious thing about hon. Members opposite is the way in which they divide their attitude towards industrial strife and national strife. Anybody who does not support his trade union in an industrial dispute is a blackleg, and all sorts of other things that I cannot mention here; but the only people who are supposed to fight for 217 their country in the world arena are volunteers, presumably of the Tory Party. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to want to regularise service to the State.
I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Swingler), particularly his suggestion for economy in manpower by means of more mechanisation. As regards mobility, there is much to be said for that. Aircraft are being used—as they ought 10 be—to carry troops and materials from one part of the world to another. As regards fire power, however, there is another situation. I do not know to what extent the hon. and gallant Member has had experience of civil or quasi-civil disturbances. We know that one man with a machine gun is much more deadly than 20 men standing about in battle-dress, but if there are 20 men standing about, they are much more likely to prevent a riot or trouble from starting than is one man with a machine gun. The whole aim and purpose of the civil power is to prevent trouble breaking out, because once it has broken out there is sure to be damage and probably bloodshed. In that sense, one still needs the big battalions. There is, therefore, the need for having a large number of soldiers to be seen. As to the hon. and gallant Member's suggestion about using airmen and sailors as soldiers, I think that would raise very serious technical difficulties. I have some slight knowledge of the Air Force, having been attached to it for two and a half years, and some knowledge of the Navy, having been, for four years, the lowest form of political life to be found at the Admiralty, a Parliamentary Private Secretary. I think there are many technical difficulties in switching people from one Service to another in these very technical days when everything has become so specialised.
As regards the whole question of conscription, I must say that I very much prefer the opinion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg) who spoke yesterday, and who has, I think, as much military experience as any of us. The British tradition has always been to win a war from a most shocking start, and, having won the war, to go completely to sleep. In the old days the slumber-producing slogan was a very virile one to the effect that one Englishman could fight an 218 astronomical number of foreigners. We do not hear that any more, although in all three Services it has been shown, at all events, to have a very solid basis of truth. But it is very hard on the one Englishman set up to fight the large number of foreigners. More recently, two other arguments are generally used. One is now beginning to hear exactly the same type of speech as one heard after the last war—a speech all the more dangerous because of its sincerity. It is the kind of speech to which we have just listened. We were told that there is no necessity to be able to defend ourselves, because everything will be taken care of by international agreement. I wish we could get an international agreement to prohibit conscription everywhere. But it is preposterous to think of getting some countries—which I will not name— to abolish conscription.
An hon. and gallant Gentleman said yesterday that the submarine ought to be abolished by international agreement. All my lifetime, and ever since there have been submarines, the British Admiralty wanted to have them abolished by international agreement. They did abolish them by force in the German Navy for a while, but they could not keep them abolished. Therefore, we must be very careful. We cannot let the liberties of the people of this country depend solely on international agreements and, more particularly, on international agreements which have not yet materialised. The other arguments for going to sleep is that if we are all to be blown up by an atom bomb, what is the use? I remember hearing a most eloquent speech by Sir Oswald Moseley during his Socialist manifestations on the futility of a naval programme. It was just on those lines. Yet, after all those speeches and all the thought which was given to the matter between the wars, we were faced with a situation in which only the defence forces of the country and the indomitable spirit of its citizens saved us from extinction. Incidentally as regards the question of slumber, I was rather interested that the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford should have said it was a pity we did not have more mechanisation of the Army. If he studies the Army Estimates for any year during which the two Labour Governments were in power, he will find that that particular Vote was drastically reduced year after year.
219 To return to the question of "What is the use?" Up to the present there is always the danger of attack, and I only hope one will be able to have some confidence that that danger will be reduced through the activities of the United Nations organisation. The United Nations organisation has made a start. It could have been better, but it could have been a good deal worse. We may find in the future that it will be a great help to the safety and security of the country, but we cannot say so now. Therefore, I am convinced that it would be the utmost folly not to be adequately armed in the present state of the world. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) made a point which I think is of great importance, and one which has been inherent in many speeches of hon. and right hon. Members. He stressed the importance of scientific investigation and Scientific research. We are living in an age which is changing very fast and, unfortunately, it is changing fastest of all, perhaps, in the realm of war and weapons of war.
The co-operation of the fighting Services is probably the greatest single factor of importance with which we are concerned, and I would ask the Government not to scrap the present system without considerable thought. There are some people who own motor cars and wireless sets, and whose one pleasure is taking them apart. I hope we shall not have any reform on the principle of "reform for reform's sake. "The casualties in the last war were very considerable. I am not at all sure that there were not more casualties in the Battle of the Somme, alone, than there were in the whole of the war which has just ended. That goes, I am afraid, not to the credit of my generation, but to that of the succeeding generation which so gallantly fought, in this war. This applies more particularly to the command, even though it does not seem right to the Government to give those great men—who, by their skill, saved so many thousands of British lives—the awards which are traditionally associated with commands in a European war such as has just been concluded. There has never been a war taking it all in all, in which the command, and particularly the Higher Command, has been more ably wielded than in this war.
220 As anyone who has served in the Armed Forces knows, whenever one is told that a decision on a point has been taken on a very high level, one is always filled with extreme disquiet and anxiety because, so often, the people who take decisions on very high levels have no idea what is going on at very low levels. Therefore, I was very glad to hear the Prime Minister state yesterday that the College of Imperial Defence is to be reconstituted. I look upon that college as a very valuable institution. If we can get a common staff doctrine dealing with problems presented to the Army, Navy and Air Force and get similar replies from each of the Forces, we shall have gone a very long way towards co-ordination. That was the effect, although not the complete effect, of the College of Imperial Defence.
There is an aspect of our defence which has not been touched upon in the White Paper, but which, I think, is of great importance—perhaps of greater importance than ever before. It is the geographical question of bases and aerodromes from which to protect our vital interests. The aerodrome is a comparatively new factor and an even more important one perhaps than the naval base since fleets in the Pacific have shown a capacity for getting on without any fixed bases, although it may not have been so convenient as if they had. In that connection 1 have no hesitation at all in alluding to the importance of Northern Ireland because it was always accepted by British statesmen, from the reign of Queen Elizabeth, down to the 1930's, that it was essential for the safety of Great Britain that there should be no possibility of a hostile force coming from that direction. Fortunately, through the obstinacy of my hon. Friends and myself, Great Britain had a base there during the war and although no attempt was made to close the frontier to the emissaries of the German Minister in Dublin—who could watch the convoys going out from Antrim Head—British Forces in Northern Ireland were sufficient to prevent it becoming another Norway as it might easily have done.
We heard yesterday a very interesting speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Lancaster (Brigadier Maclean) about Persia. I do recommend to the Government the extreme importance of seeing that we are in a position to defend ourselves as well as seeing that we have the 221 forces with which to do so. Every other large country is looking to that side of the problem. I would mention both that the United States of America and the Soviet Union, and I mention them in the same breath. The United States of America is looking for defensive bases both in British territory and in the Pacific, and is determined to have them. Of course we all know that the Soviet Union has bases from Danish territory in the Baltic to Port Arthur in Chinese territory in the Pacific. We alone of the great Powers who have fought in this war do not seem to be interested in the question at all. Is the Government quite satisfied that the narrows of the Mediterranean, through which flows our life blood, are adequately protected by the gallant little island of Malta alone? It does not seem to have been a question which anyone has thought about very much.
I do not wish to detain the House any longer and I have not spoken on the fashionable subject of release from the forces. This is a very difficult matter, and my only comment—which I hope will bring great comfort to the Government—is to repeat the axiom displayed in the saloon in the American Far West, "Don't shoot the pianist, he's doing his best."
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
Sometimes it seems to be considered, both inside and outside this House, that a man is not entitled to any opinions about the defence forces, unless he was both born in the cannon's mouth and nurtured in the quartermaster's stores. It seems to be regarded as the lowest type of crime for a civilian to have any views at all about the Forces. But I intervene in this Debate especially to make the point that we need to apply to the organisation, management, and administration of the defence forces some of those modern methods, techniques and principles which have been developed in civilian industry. I would for the moment look upon the defence Services, not so much as machines for making war, or for the defence of the realm, as from the point of view that they are an industry which is a very large consumer of labour at a time when labour is very short—a large consumer of what is, from some standpoints, the best type of labour. If any excuse were needed for this approach it is to be found in paragraph 12 of the White Paper, in which is a reference to: 222Financial and manpower considerations arising from the equally important claims of our economic situation.That sentence, which I was very glad to read in the White Paper, is of major importance, and the point is that under present conditions the Armed Forces have to get into a queue with all the other economic demands on manpower.
Never before have the Armed Forces had to line up for the manpower they want. Before the last war, the small forces which were thought to be necessary for defence were recruited to a not inconsiderable extent, as the offshoots of an economy of under-employment. While it is true that many fine young men went into the Services because they felt a call in that direction, and felt that they had a vocation there, it is also true that large numbers of men enlisted as a pis aller, because they felt they could not get any other job after having waited for a long time. This method of recruitment, we hope, has disappeared for all time. The full employment policy of the present Government will ensure this.
During the war again we had no competition on a level of equality between the Armed Forces and industry for manpower, and it was correct that that should be so. It was inevitable during the war that the Armed Forces should automatically go to the head of the queue for manpower, and what happened in fact was that the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force put in their requisitions for labour, these requisitions were automatically and quite rightly honoured with very little question or no question at all, leaving all the remaniing demands of industry, trade, government service, and local service to do the best they could with whatever labour was left over. There was a condition during the war, as there is now, in which the demand for labour was greater than the supply, and we gave unquestioned priority to the Services. Nobody complains of that happening during a war, but there is no justification for it now.
From the sentence in the White Paper which I have quoted, it seems to me that the condition which exists now is that the Services have to get into the queue on a basis of equality with the needs of industry for the home market, for the overseas market, and with all other sources of demand for manpower. Their needs have 223 to be satisfied out of that queue, on exactly the same conditions as those on which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour will satisfy any other demands for manpower—namely, only on proof being presented that the existing manpower is being used with the utmost economy. The Minister will not give an industry any more labour, until he makes sure that they are using their existing labour economically, and I think precisely the same attitude should be adopted towards that industry which is represented by the defence Services.
A few days ago the Prime Minister drew a distinction between output per man hour and output per nation year. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) affected not to understand that distinction, but I think it is clear to anybody who has given any study at all to this question of the economic utilisation of labour. What I understood the Prime Minister to mean was that when we consider production per man hour we must consider not merely the production of that man who happens to be an operative worker on a factory bench, but production for all the hours of all the men however they are occupied, whether it be. in manufacturing or commercial activities, transport, distribution, or indeed in the defence Services. An industry, which is to absorb 1.2 million men, measured in terms of labour demands, is one of the four or five major industries of the country, and we cannot afford to have that industry using its labour inefficiently, any more than we can have the engineering industry using its labour inefficiently.
I want to put it to the House, with great respect, that, measured objectively, the efficiency of the Armed Forces on this one question of the economic utilisation of labour is much lower than that of any civilian industry. I am not competent to speak of their efficiency on any other score, but in many respects the defence Services are using methods and techniques in the handling of labour, which civilian industry abandoned 20 or 30 years ago. You cannot run any manufacturing trade without measuring, with a very hgh degree of precision, the relationships between available labour and capacity, and the labour-utilisation demands of the job. One has to marry capacity with avail-ability of labour, to a very high degree 224 of precision, and in a manufacturing trade, one cannot afford to use hit-and-miss methods in deciding what sort and what size of labour force you need.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden talked yesterday, and quite rightly, about cutting our coat according to our cloth. Sometimes the cutting of the manpower coat provides many headaches for those who have to manage that manpower; sometimes they have to work harder and to think harder when manpower is short, and they have to improvise, they have to draft men out of one job into another. Sometimes this involves re-training, and it is always much more difficult to manage any job with tight manpower than it is with an available pool of manpower; you have to change programmes very often to fit your labour, instead of taking the labour you want to fit your programme. We have learned to do these things in industry because we have had to, and therefore we have learned to adopt a new, miserly attitude to the use of manpower. In industry we have become misers of labour. It hurts us to see idle time, it hurts us to see skill not fully utilised, but I do not believe that that miserly attitude to the utilisation of labour has yet permeated very far amongst the higher officers of our defence Services. I say that again with respect.
This development of a new attitude to the use of manpower, which has perhaps been the most marked feature of industrial development during the last few years, is based upon three techniques: that of vocational selection, that of scientific training, and that of operation study. Of these three techniques, only the first has been applied to any significant extent to the Armed Forces. During the war great strides were made in vocational selection in those Forces. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden said yesterday that of all the people who had been selected as pilots during the war by these methods, one-third had proved to be unsatisfactory.
§ Mr. Mikardo
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon if I misquoted him. However, that figure, which apparently he thought to be a bad one, is not really bad at all. Two-thirds of successes are really very much higher than was ever 225 achieved in the Defence Services before 1941, and I think it is a very much higher figure of correlating the shape of the peg with the shape of the hole than you get over the nation as a whole. I tremble to think what would happen if we applied the tests of vocational selection to the present membership of this august House, and I question very much whether those who have scientifically assessed aptitudes required for the job would number very much more than two-thirds of the Members; in fact, I hope it will not cause offence if I say that the present balance of parties leads me to believe that we should get an answer round about that figure.
I do not suggest for a moment that there are not people in the Services, as elsewhere, who are maladjusted to their jobs, but we have done a great deal in that direction. I want to see two more things done in regard to this question of vocational selection in the Services. It was done during the war, as it had to be done, very roughly and hurriedly indeed. Now that we are dealing with smaller volumes of men, and now that we have more leisure I want to see an intensification of this technique of vocational selection as applied to the Armed Forces. Secondly, I want to see its extension to sections of the Armed Forces to which it has hitherto not been applied. For the most part we have concentrated our efforts, and quite rightly, on the people whose selection was most difficult and delicate, such as pilots. That is natural because, of course, a maladjusted pilot is a much greater danger to his Service than a maladjusted storekeeper or a maladjusted batman. However, we should remember that a maladjusted storekeeper or a maladjusted batman is just as unhappy and discontented and therefore as inefficient, as is a maladjusted pilot or anybody else. I believe that by this technique of vocational selection, we can greatly reduce the manpower demands of the Services, because I am not sure that we shall need 1.2 million men if all the men we take into the Armed Forces are square pegs in square holes. Therefore, there may be much room for saving in that direction.
Now I come to the second important technique affecting the economic utilisation of manpower, scientific training. Here I repeat that the defence Services are using methods of training their labour 226 which were abandoned by civilian industries many years ago. There has been an improvement in recent years, but most training methods in the Services, measured by the standards of training methods in civilian industries, are at least 20 years out of date. Twenty years ago we taught a boy coming into an engineering factory in almost exactly the same way as a soldier coming into the Army is taught now; in fact he was not taught at all, he was made to learn to pick things up for himself. He was brought into the shop and attached in some nebulous way to some skilled man in the shop and was told to hang around, use his eyes, and pick up what he could without getting too much in the way of the skilled fitter who was supposed to be his mentor. That is not being taught as a boy is taught geography and arithmetic at school. It is having to pick things up as he goes, and that is precisely what happens to a not inconsiderable extent in the Armed Forces at present. In exactly the same way as in the old days the man who taught the new entrant in the engineering shop was selected, not because he had any aptitude for teaching at all but only because he was the most skilled fitter in the shop—and the most skilled fitter may well be the worst teacher, just as the best historian is sometimes the worst teacher of history. The man who, for the most part, is selected as an instructor in the Army is selected not because he has exhibited any skill or aptitude in teaching, but because he is the smartest soldier. That seems to be the general criterion, although it does not follow that the smartest soldier is the best teacher of soldiering by any means. It seems sometimes that the requirements demanded of an instructor in the Army are a smart salute, a loud voice, and a pyrotechnic vocabulary.
§ Brigadier Head (Carshalton)
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman? Is he speaking on this subject with personal experience of the modern, up-to-date and very technical trainees who have served the Army so well?
§ Mr. Mikardo
I said when I began that I was speaking, I hoped, as an enlightened outsider. I have some knowledge of the great improvements, and they are great, in this direction but I would say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman—
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury) rose —227
§ Mr. Mikardo
May I answer one hon. Gentleman before bang interrupted by another? I would say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, however, that I think there is still, in spite of these improvements, a great leeway to make up by comparison with the standards of industry. I say this without any bitter spirit of criticism. This is not a partisan point. We all want to see the highest degree of efficiency, and to see recent improvements carried to their logical conclusions.
On the third technique in the economic use of manpower, the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) will perhaps concede me this point. A very large number of men in the uniformed Services are engaged in occupations which do not differ substantially from the same occupations in civilian industries. The increasing urge to wards specialisation in the Forces has meant that there are more back ground personnel to each fighter. Now there are very large numbers not only of doctors, dentists and cooks but of wages clerks, accounts clerks, store keepers and store clerks. I should not be surprised if these ancillary personnel do not represent more than half of the total strength of the Armed Forces. Here are fields in which a great deal of work on efficient utilisation of labour can be done. In civilian industry we do not guess how many storekeepers we want in a store, but calculate that from a formula the basic data on which are the number of items held in the store and of incoming consignments and outgoing issues. But take for example the stores in maintenance units in the Royal Air Force which hold spares for aircraft and equipment. These are almost an exact duplication of the stores in the factories manufacturing those aircraft and equipment. The level of staffing in maintenance unit stores is very much higher than in the almost identical stores of the factories. I am by no means sure that the very large sections of the Armed Forces whose job is to calculate and pay wages use all the mechanical aids to this function now so freely used in civilian industry. I think someone who knows the up-to-date techniques ought to go to find out—
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield) rose —228
§ Mr. Mikardo
If the hon. and gallant Member will allow me I ought to finish in a moment or two.
I would remind hon. Members that, with the possible exception of agriculture, no industry makes so much use as the Armed Forces of the most costly form of motive power—human muscular energy, in spite of all the extension of mechanisation. Here is a field in which we could do a great deal if an outside independent body went around establishments and examined economic utilisation of labour. During the war labour supply inspectors went through factories as though with a tooth comb. Where they saw labour wasted, they stopped the waste. If they saw 10 typists doing the work of nine, they took the tenth typist and put her where she was needed. If a toolmaker was doing the work of a skilled fitter they put him where he could be of more use. We have had the Select Committee on National Expenditure inquiring into industries, and we have had working parties and investigations into the use of labour in the Civil Service. It seems to me that an independent commission should inquire into the use of labour in the Services. We could then speed up the rate of demobilisation still further, and very effectively reduce the amount of manpower immobilised in the defence Services without reducing our capacity to carry out our military commitments in various parts of the world.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Clifton-Brown (Bury St. Edmunds)
First, I would like to refer to a couple of points made by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo). He laid stress on how civilian industries fitted the right man into the right job. I think that is a very good tribute to private enterprise. From the Service point of view that has been done to a very large extent ever since the war started. Mechanisation has made tremendous strides. Men are fitted to the jobs they can do best and to the jobs to which they are best suited.
The hon. Member also referred to the question of manpower. If we look at the White Paper and see the commitments placed on the Forces, the manpower allowed to the Services has a big job before it. I think we are all agreed that we must keep manpower down to the very minimum. Industry must take every available man. In paragraph 14 of the 229 White Paper we are given three and a half lines only about people who are not in the actual service of the country in uniform. What happens to them when they have done their voluntary or conscript service? We are going to have very many more men in voluntary service staying out their whole period of service. We are going to make it easier for the man to complete up to his pensionable age and our reserve therefore is getting smaller. We are going to find we will not have a trained reserve force unless the Government can say what steps they are taking to keep these men up to standards and at the same time available for civil industry from the time they have done their conscript service or a shortened voluntary service. I ask the Government to give us the information on what they propose on this line.
We are only given two or three words in paragraph 14 about cadet forces. That is where we have the start of life in the Services. I would like to see more recognition given to the cadet formations We have a central organisation for cadets, but we find all three Services in the cadets are absolutely separate, Army, Navy and Air Force. They are given certain financial assistance, but here again it is in three separate watertight compartments and a great deal of financial assistance is therefore wasted. In connection with welfare considerations, the Minister of Education is enabled to give a quite considerable money or material advantage, but she ought at the same time to see that there is not set up a rival organisation in the youth organisation. In my part of the world it is called the "Fun and games organisation." It gets every possible advantage. It can use the schools, it has money paid for full-time instructors or leaders, and it is competing against the Cadet organisations.
I would ask the Government to see whether they cannot put more into the cadet organisation, organise it, to start with, on a general basis covering ail three Services, with the boys in their first year doing general service and then going into the branch they wish to join. Also, cannot the Government give more consideration to the good cadet, so that he gets some advantage when he goes into the Service? An efficient cadet is a highly trained young man. He has gone through many preliminary courses in the different branches of the Service to which 230 he is going. He has got over the initial stage of the discipline and drill side of the Services, and he goes to his conscript service or voluntary service as a really first-class man. In nine cases out of 10 he is the fellow who will make the N.C.O. or officer, but he does not get nearly enough recognition for the work he has put in to reach that stage of proficiency. I ask the Government to consider that point, and to see whether further recognition and more coordinated and greater help cannot be given to the cadet movement.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Listening to this Debate on national defence, one of the things that staggers me—and I am sure that if the public outside read Hansard or the reports in the Press they will also be staggered by the thought—is that a large number of Members of this House accept the conclusion that there is to be another war. Young men have been induced from time to time to go into the Services, and their dependants to make the necessary sacrifices, in order to vanquish the enemy, and have been told that if the enemy—Germany and Japan on this occasion—wereput in their proper place, war would then be a thing of the past. A large number of Members will say, "But we must be realists. The war has taken place, new ideas and new evidences are in the field, and war does not depend only on the people of this country having a completely peace-loving outlook; it also depends on other States and their attitude towards a unified peace movement in the world."
I am sorry that I must approach this question of national defence from a different angle from that of a large number of Members of this House, who are anxious to make a more perfect and more efficient machine in the military field, in order to conduct successful war in the future. I approach the problem from the point of view of what is to be done outside the use of force to prevent another war from taking place in the world. One is tempted to agree with a number of speakers that there must be something radically wrong with the world if nations are tempted to embark on another war, in view of the evidence we have at this moment of the development of the atomic bomb, and the various weapons that were being perfected in Germany before the war came to a close.
231 I would say to some Members, who try to show us this efficient machine, "Supposing before D-Day, before we invaded France, that Germany had been in a position to launch atomic bombs in the area in Southern England where there was a gathering of tremendous force, she could have wiped out that entire force which we thought of using to invade the Continent." It seems to me that with that development, in another war the people who keep in the air in aeroplanes will be safer than those on the ground, that the position is becoming reversed. In view of that development, with every nation today struggling for the mastery of the atomic bomb, and the espionage service of every State being encouraged to try to ferret out the means of making the atomic bomb, then talk of tanks and various paltry weapons of defence seems to me to be not facing the position as realists in any way.
If there is to be another war, whom shall we be fighting? That is a question one must ask. I have a great admiration for the Foreign Secretary, and I believe that if we had to accept the old ideas, not only of war, but of national States and national defence, his policy and programme would be meeting the situation. But again, as a realist, I have even had to scrap some of my own ideas and face up to the problems of the present age. I want to know, if U.N.O. has failed as an international means of keeping the peace, if Russia is bent on enlarging her frontiers either for the natural defence of Russia or for her enlargement as an Imperialist Power, or is attempting to supplant the present order by revolutionary activity throughout the world, and to setup in every State the same type and pattern of government which there is in Russia today; how are we to divert this energy? How are we to combine this effective force in a field other than that of the destruction of States and the gaining of power by the might of the Red Army and its satellite forces?
I want to examine this question from that point of view. I hear rumours—I do not know whether they are true or not—that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is making a sensational speech in America tonight. In that speech, according to those who claim to know, he is to put Russia "on the spot'' and the attempt is to be made to 232 draw up a closer union between the United States and this country in what might be called an enlargement of this Debate, for the national defence of these countries. If we accept these theories and speculations as realities, I would say that if we had been living at the present rate of aggression and disagreement 25 years ago, there would have been another war at the present time. If that is the intended line then, as sure as we sit or stand in this House tonight, we are on the high road for that third world war. I want to ask this. As the foreign policy of this country has completely failed to bring about the alignment that a large number of people in the Labour, Socialist and trade union movements have desired, and there is no evidence of that friendship and friendly feeling between the Soviet Union and this country, who is to blame for that situation? I am not going to say that this country is entirely to blame for that situation, and I am not going to allege that Soviet Russia is entirely to blame.
This country has thrown up a Labour and Socialist Government who have up to the moment grappled with a large number of problems in a very intelligent and energetic manner. I want, however, to suggest that something more is needed at the moment because of the events that are developing in the march of time. Greater efforts are required and greater development is absolutely essential. Why should not we at this stage try a new line? Why should not we realise that this old order of capitalism is dead, that it is rotten ripe for destruction, and only requires a real aggressive spirit on the part of the people of this country and the Government to supplant it?
For what is national defence required? Is national defence required to defend the people of England and Wales from Scotland? Certainly not. When the Conservative Members talk in terms of national defence—and I am doing them no injustice—they think of a large Navy, Air Force and Army to defend all the outlying posts of the Empire, but they require a force to defend our Empire because it is based on injustice and the subjugation of the native people. If we were to give to all these places the right to independence and development and to encourage them along that way of self government, offering even to manufacture machinery and the essentials of life in order to develop their countries, to go 233 in for schemes of irrigation, transport, universities and gradual development in all these States, then one could say, "You have had a benevolent homeland which has treated all these parts of its Empire in an intelligent manner." Am I to go to the people of this country and appeal to them to accept national service and conscription for the defence of an outworn Empire, the product of a generation of Tory misrule, because the Tories when they believed in an Empire had not the intelligence to develop it on a real commercial basis?
When one asks what defence is for, one is thrown back to impose upon the people of this country a large financial burden. We are compelled to take our manpower away from the workshop, factory, mine, and office, in order to evolve a machine that will ultimately be used either to defend their own homes in the Empire, or else to prevent the people of these countries from rising, seizing power and ruling themselves in their own way. I am not prepared to subscribe to defence of that kind. [Interruption.] When we talk of conscription in this country giving the basis of equality, let me remind the hon. Member who mentioned Australia that conscription has always been repugnant to Australia.
§ Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to say I mentioned Australia because he said we had been defending an outworn Empire
§ Mr. McGovern
Australia is a self-governing Dominion that can develop its own economic resources even on a Socialist basis because her sons are freely prepared in these circumstances to come either to the aid of this country or to defend their own homeland, not on the basis of national conscription but on the basis of association of free men who believe they have something worth defending. Further, in connection with national defence, I want to ask this question. It is the crux of the position, and the basis of a next war, if it should come. Why should not the first Labour Government in this country, with its tremendous Parliamentary majority, its tremendous 234 support from the country, and the great hope of millions of human beings who have placed their faith in this Government, make a new approach? Why should not we say to Soviet Russia, and to the States that accept the basis of Soviet Russia, "Let us come together— not only we, but our Empire. We are prepared to come and discuss with you ways and means of pooling the whole of our resources, the development of an economic machine for the feeding and clothing and education of our populations. "Why should we not say that to Stalin? I believe the more we bring these people into the open to discuss things, the more one can modify one's outlook and attitude towards other countries. Other countries, if they saw there was no great danger from this country in the event of another struggle taking place, would do the same. Why should we not gather our resources and pool them for development? Belgium, France and Sweden and all these other nations are on the march towards the Socialist goal. Let us issue a clarion cry to all men and women of good will and all Governments who desire to wipe out that old shifting sand foundation of capitalism and come to the new world. Humanity is waiting for this new world at present. Instead of getting down on our knees to the financial capital octopus of America, pleading for loans, we should be taking stock of the whole of our resources in common with the other countries and developing a machine that would in the end undermine the capitalist conditions of America by the example that we have been able to set to the people of America. We should show them that instead of struggling, instead of the incentive of private gain, the incentive of the public wellbeing of the community make a greater appeal to men and women all over the world.
I have condemned the actions of Soviet Russia as much as any man in this country but, knowing the difficulties—and I loathe the power of the concentration camp, the prison cell, the political murder —I am a realist. I understand that there can be arguments put forward for the retention of that power in the hands of the few during the time when they themselves are marching into a world crisis. Let us get back on that basis and call a world conference on the basis of the acceptance of public ownership of the means of life in all these countries, offering to pool our 235 quota and our resources. I am satisfied that, if that approach is put forward in a proper way, and accepted, there is going to be a great change and a diversion of this propaganda from the field of war, into the field of peace, and reconstruction for the good of humanity.
What is the answer? The answer that some people give is that we must gather together all the remaining forces that are prepared to maintain what is called democratic government, which means democratic capitalism and exploitation. Most of the people who go about shouting for the retention of democracy have themselves stood, in their own Empire, for the most loathsome things that democracy has ever practised, yet they go on making these demands for the retention of capitalist democracy. Democracy has never really existed in the world. Even during the Election, the whole of the Press was in the hands of the few and was utilised against the many, with all its distortion and tearing things from their context, and, therefore, this question of national defence is bound up with the question of the future of mankind. Does anybody believe that, if America and this country got together and emerged into a field of possible war, there would be a war? If there was an attempt, say, to have a war with Soviet Russia in five years' time, all that would happen would be internal civil war, in every capitalist country in the world because the working classes would not stand for such a war. Therefore, it would mean that, if they entered that field of war, the cycle that was not completed either in the last war or in this one—the cycle of Socialist revolution—would be completed in that situation, and the old order would die amidst the struggles of the common people to resist war being made on the Soviet Union.
In these circumstances, I content myself with that plea to this House and the country. Let us get that new approach; let us forget all the things that have happened in Soviet Russia and in this country and our Empire in the past. Let us see if we can get that new approach, and I am satisfied that, if this new approach is not on the basis of preparation for a future war, but is made to see what we can do to avoid war, to show confidence that we mean business and mean to liquidate capitalism throughout the world, then we shall get from every man and 236 woman in the world service of every kind. They would realise that we were bent on creating a new order to inspire human beings to rise to greater heights and they would do and dare and die in the service of humanity. I appeal for such a conference to be held, on the basis of the acceptance of the policy of social reconstruction by the common ownership of the entire means of life.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I have listened to the hon. Gentleman, as I always do, with care and interest, and, so far as I understood the proposal at the end of his speech, it was that a conference should be summoned of States, excluding the United States—
§ Mr. McGovern
I said that, instead of going down on our knees for a loan, we should make this clarion call.
§ Mr. Eden
I thought the hon. Gentleman said that they would have to be Socialist States, or they would not be invited. I do not think he is likely to be very successful if he tells them beforehand that they must be Socialist States. I do not think that is the realism, of which the hon. Gentleman spoke just now. The hon. Gentleman also said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) was going to make a speech this evening, in which he was going to put Russia on the spot. I do not know from where he got that information. I certainly have not heard anything of the kind from my right hon. Friend, and, may I add, I do not believe it for one single moment. If the hon. Gentleman will cast his mind back to the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford made on the night when Russia was attacked and to a number of other speeches, and to events since, he would know that there is nothing in which my right hon. Friend is more sincere—and I think I can claim to know him in these matters—than in his regard for good relations with the Soviet Union. Frankly, I think it is the desire of almost everybody in this country, and if it has not been realised, we all regret it profoundly. I listened to the solution put forward by the hon. Gentleman and I 237 do not really think it will achieve the object he has at heart.
There is one other matter to which I wish to refer before I come to the White Paper, which has been neglected for quite a long time. I want to say something in reply to the hon. Gentleman on the subject of Empire. I really do not understand his reference to an "outworn Empire ". To what does the hon. Gentleman refer? Obviously, not to our self-governing Dominions, because he corrected my hon. Friend about Australia. I think our Dominions are the only examples in the history of the world of the successful development of experiments of this kind, and it is something of which everyone concerned has reason to be proud. If the nations of the world could contrive so to arrange their affairs as we within our Empire have managed to arrange ours, we should be in a very much better position than we are at the present time. But perhaps the hon. Gentleman means India. Is it to India that we ought to give liberty? What is the right hon. Gentleman, with his colleagues in the Government, about to do? He is going out to try to see whether the policy laid down when the President of the Board of Trade went to India, with the full support of the Coalition Government, can be put into effect; and he and his colleagues have our best wishes in that attempt to assist India so that she can have her independence. Again, I do not see what there is of "appalling tyranny" in that, or why we should talk of an "outworn Empire. "I am bound to say that there are other parts of the world where I would like to see as much freedom as the freedom which the Government are trying to give to India. I do not like that phrase "outworn Empire ", because there are people who would misunderstand it. What about the people of Malta, and the magnificent contribution they made to us? Are they to be stigmatised as part of an "outworn Empire ", or does the hon. Gentleman think they would have been happier if Mussolini had collared them?
I want to make another observation to the hon. Gentleman. He said there is something wrong with the world. There is, unhappily, a very great deal wrong with the world, and it is a wrong which, however much we may try individually, I am afraid, by our own efforts, we shall 238 not be able to set right. But it is our duty to try to make our contribution in that sphere, and mine this evening is an attempt to make some contribution on the basis of the White Paper.
I think the House feels a sense of regret that during this examination of the White Paper my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford is not here to make a contribution from the depths of his experience, wider and richer than is possessed by any one of us. Those of us who are here will simply have to do our best, conscious that it falls short of the contribution that he could have made. I well remember the continuing interest of the present Prime Minister in these defence matters over a very long period of years. When he was Leader of the Opposition he made several important contributions to Debates such as these. I do not think he has entirely lost his interest in the Services since the days of the South Lancashire Regiment and the Gallipoli campaign, but he and I, like my hon. and gallant Friend behind me—the three of us who have spoken in these Debates—are, by comparison with the glittering band of hon. and gallant Members in all parts of the House, only hoary relics of the pre-atomic age. We must speak with a corresponding discretion in the presence of those whose experience is much more recent. It is also true that, when in Opposition, the Prime Minister frequently asked for Debates such as these Now that he is the head of the Government, he has granted us this defence Debate. That is very satisfactory, and I hope that the practice will be repeated in future years. I must, however, confess that the material which has been put before us to enable us to conduct this Debate is distinctly scanty, and perhaps accounts for the fact that the Debate has been somewhat scrappy in character, with occasional passages which appear to belong to an Army Estimates Debate and others which might well belong to a Debate upon foreign affairs. I hope that, when next we are invited to a similar discussion, the Government will try to provide material of a somewhat more substantial character than is before us today.
What has really happened is that the Government, in their generosity in giving time—which is very unusual in the Leader of the House in these days—have offered us two days to discuss what is very thin gruel indeed In fact, when I noted the 239 headings of this White Paper and the contents beneath the headings, I thought it was rather like the lists of food which upset my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Carson) so much. They looked very substantial on the menu, but when you got them on the plate they were not so good. This document, if I may say so with respect and not so much in criticism as by way of fair comment, is not a "Statement relating to Defence," in the main, but a progress report on demobilisation.
First then let me say a few words on the demobilisation position. Many hon. Members have pointed to the figure of 1,900,000 now set up as the target for 30th June, as a disappointing figure. I agree with that sense of disappointment, though I would also say that the figure of 1,100,000 for December is, in the present circumstances of the world, a reasonable figure. It may even prove an optimistic one. I am not prepared to go into the questions raised by some hon. Members about enlistment in the voluntary Army, the Territorial Army and so forth. We may have observations to make on the subject in the course of the Army Estimates Debate. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find an opportunity to say something about the suggestions that have come from several quarters of the House regarding the Colonial Forces and particularly the East and West African Forces. I think all of us agree in paying a tribute to the remarkable record of those Forces in the war, and it would seem reasonable that use should be made of them, as far as possible, in the immediate and more difficult years.
The White Paper and the Prime Minister's speech yesterday have given an account of the obligations which, in the Government's view, we are called upon to fulfil. Of course, that is the whole case for the existence of this White Paper and the reason why we are having the Debate at all. I would like to make clear our attitude on these obligations. We admit that those obligations exist. We support the Government in seeking to fulfil them. We also consider that the Government must have adequate forces in their continuing task of fulfilling those obligations. We also agree with the White Paper that to abandon our responsibilities in many parts of the world 240 would not give the liberty which the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway wants, but would result in anarchy and chaos. Therefore, we agree with the words of the White Paper that to do so would be tothrow away the fruits of victory, and to betray those who had fought and died in the common cause.With that we are all in agreement. I notice the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) opposite. I did not expect him to be in agreement.
§ Sir. Eden
I do not know what the hon. Gentleman feels about it, but I should have thought it would be pretty grim to contemplate what would have happened if the events of 1940 had fallen out differently. Most of us, while recognising his absolute sincerity, would feel, without any bombast, that we would rather be dead than under Hitler's rule. That is putting rather simply what happened. Whether we shall make use of the advantages of victory—not "advantages" so much as "conditions" that victory has brought—is another and a grimmer matter. That there is deep thankfulness for what we have escaped surely there cannot be any doubt. I am sorry to have digressed. I come back now to the White Paper.
What we criticise is the figure of 1,900,000 for June. It seems too high in relation to the figure for December. I should have thought that the figure which my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford gave for March, and which right hon. Gentlemen opposite will remember was 1,550,000, should be attainable by the end of June. Many speeches have been made in all parts of the House making rather the same plea as I am making now. The Prime Minister interrupted yesterday when my right hon. Friend was urging that point, and he said that it would not be possible in those circumstances to keep the units up to strength, or, indeed, effective units at all if we went too fast between now and the end of June. That is a matter on which one would like to have technical advice, but nobody knows better than the First Lord of the Admiralty, because he has to do it often, that sometimes decisions have to be taken which are not entirely consonant with technical advice. Sometimes 241 you cannot give the Services all that they are convinced they ought to have. Therefore I hope that when the Minister speaks tonight he will give us a fuller explanation than has yet been given why it is not possible to get below 1,900,000 by the end of June. I must remind the House what we arc doing. It is not a question whether it would be desirable or undesirable. It is that we must get a balance of alternatives. We discussed the other day in this House the manpower situation in our industries. All of that is known to every hon. Member. I therefore urge the Government to make a further examination of the position. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford did not lightly put before the House the figure 1,500,000 for March. We ought to have an explanation why that figure cannot be reached by the end of June.
§ The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman is trying to be helpful and constructive. Perhaps he would allow me to put a point to him in the hope that he can offer some assistance. He said that the figure of 1,100,000 men for the end of December was probably reasonable, and he added that he thought that figure might even be optimistic. He must know, as the White Paper says, that we shall have reduced by more than 75 per cent. the total number of people in the Forces. How, in that time, is he going to keep that force in balanced unite, and arrange in between for perhaps a million postings in each of the Services to and fro, and still have the properly trained men in every one of the different technical cadres and in every one of His Majesty's ships?
§ Mr. Eden
I agree that it is an immensely difficult problem; I do not attempt to deny that. But my right hon. Friend did visualise 1,500,000 by March, and he thought the number could be reduced to 1,000,000. My criticism is that I would have thought it possible, if we are going to reduce the number to 1,100,000 by the end of the year, to get the figure lower than 1,900,000 by the end of June. If it is not possible, I would be grateful for anything the right hon. Gentleman can tell us when he is replying in explanation of why it is not. Any examples he can give us will, of course, be of interest to the House.
242 My next point is also with regard to demobilisation, and once again I urge the Government to tell us, at the earliest possible date, the length of service for which these young men will be called up. I do not know what the period will be, but the Prime Minister told us yesterday that we shall have that information as soon as possible. That is obviously desirable, but it would help us—and, I would have thought, the people of this country also —if the right hon. Gentleman could give us any indication of how long it will be before this announcement is made. Can he tell us, for instance, whether three months from now he will be able to tell the House and the country the period for which these young men will be called up? The sooner the Government can make the announcement, the fairer it will be for the young men and the better it will be for the country and the Services in the long run.
Paragraph 6 of the White Paper refers to the present situation, and says:This is not the time to come to decisions about the eventual shape of our postwar Forces.The reason given for that is that great strides are being made in the realm of science. That is quite true, but I would observe that those great strides are not going to stop, and it is essential that we should keep fully up to date in developments. Therefore, in relation to that, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions. First, I would like to have his assurance that this work of scientific research and development is continuing with the same energy and concentration as in the war years, and that it is not being starved either by the Treasury or for lack of the necessary technical help. My second observation concerns a later sentence in this paragraph which says:-Time is wanted for the full effects of the startling developments to be assessed.I might say that one has often heard before, in departmental language, that time is wanted in which to come to a decision, and I must express to the right hon. Gentleman a doubt as to whether time will ever be available, because we are not dealing with a static situation but with a developing situation in the realm of science, and I do not think the Government will find themselves much better placed three or six months from now for making their decision about the future organisation of our Forces. They 243 will, perhaps, be better placed in relation to the existing situation, but there will be new factors to deal with as matters develop and they may find it no easier than they do now. Therefore, I advise the earliest possible decision upon that matter.
As regards the United Nations organisation, I agree with what is in the White Paper, and I have nothing more to say on that point except to say that, however rapidly or otherwise, and however successfully, as we hope, this organisation gathers strength, there will still be need for the closest collaboration between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Governments of the Dominions on the subject of defence. I presume that is one of the subjects which the Prime Ministers of the British Commonwealth are coming here to discuss in the near future. Paragraph 9 (g) contains rather a curious phrase to which I would like to draw attention. It says about the maintenance of internal security:It has already proved possible to reduce many of our garrisons to the peace time scale.I presume that does not refer to the pre-1939 scale, because there certainly ought to be a new peacetime scale. Although it may be unintentional, this smacks a little of some of those phrases we sometimes used to hear, and it may give the impression that we are going back to the establishment of the status quo. Perhaps that is not the Government's intention, but I would like it cleared up.
I have two other comments of a general nature. First, I would like to add my tribute to those which have already been paid by the Prime Minister and others, to the organisation and leadership of our Armed Forces in the war. I know a little bit from my memories of the War Office in 1940, of the low level to which, in a technical sense—not in the sense of morale, because that never did happen at any time—we had then fallen. I think it is a feat which can have few parallels in the history of the nations, that in so short a time so much was achieved in the creation of a closely integrated, well equipped and brilliantly led striking force. I think, in future, historians will have some commendation for that. The other general comment I have to make 244 is in relation to the general behaviour of our troops in areas of occupation, a matter in which not only our troops themselves but every Member of this House and every citizen of the Empire should take pride. When I was at. the Foreign Office, over and over again tributes came, as I have no doubt the present Foreign Secretary is aware, from foreign ambassadors at the Court of St. James, telling us of the influence which the behaviour of our Forces had had, wherever they had been. Therefore, I repeat what has been said before, that our Forces have ever been our best ambassadors and they are our best ambassadors today. I have no doubt that the young men, when they go to take the place of the older ones, will want to play their part in maintaining that wonderful reputation.
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the figures in paragraph 20 of the White Paper. So far as one can judge —it is difficult to judge when the figures are not broken down—the figure for production of £230 million is large, and I would be grateful if we could have an explanation. There is another figure in the same table which is more difficult to assess, and that is the figure of £181 million for "miscellaneous." I do not want to be hypercritical, but I think when the figure of £181 million for "miscellaneous "is presented, it is a pretty tall order, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman can give us a little information as to what that miscellaneous total represents. It is the largest miscellany I have ever seen presented to this House.
§ Mr. Eden
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I would like to detain the House for a few moments in order to say something about the higher defence organisation to which the Prime Minister referred yesterday, because that is, perhaps, the most important of the decisions which immediately await the Government. It is the decision set out in paragraph 7 of the White Paper. I would like to make a brief comment or two, because for five years of the war I was, with the Prime Minister and other of my colleagues, a member of the Defence Committee. I would like to join with him in paying my tribute to the working of that committee and to the working of the organisations that fed that committee.
245 The old Committee of Imperial Defence, which is known to many Ministers and ex-Ministers in the House, began as far back as 1904 as a result of a report presented by Lord Esher It is not uninteresting to note the reasons why the Committee was set up. There is a quite short passage in the report which seems to be absolutely true today:The British Empire is pre-eminently a great naval and Colonial power. There are, nevertheless, no means for co-ordinating de fence problems or for dealing with them as a whole We are driven to the conclusion that no measure of War Office reform will avail unless it is associated with provision for obtaining and co-ordinating for the use of the Cabinet all the information and the expert advice required for the shaping of national policy in war and for determining the necessary preparations in peace.It is not uninteresting to note that 40 years ago that was the task as it was then seen; not very far different from the task as it confronts us today. However, there are some differences. I apologise to the House for going into a little detail, but I think these matters are of some importance, and our opportunities to discuss them are very rare.
The first difference is that the Committee of Imperial Defence, I think I am right in saying, was essentially a co-ordinating and advising body. It was not a body authorised to take decisions. The decisions had to be referred in all cases to the Cabinet. The second point is that the Committee was a very large body relative to oar Defence Committee as it existed in this last war. The Committee of Imperial Defence consisted of as many as 15 Ministers, I think. That is a very large body. I am sure that we were much better off under the chairmanship of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford with our smaller body. The right hon. Gentleman will remember there were three other Members of the War Cabinet besides the Prime Minister, three Service Ministers, three Chiefs of Staff and General Is may, making a total of 11, apart from anybody specially called in. My submission would be that that is a quite large enough number for efficient working. I hope the Government will hold to that and not allow themselves to be carried back into the more swollen company of the old Committee of Imperial Defence.
Another distinction, of which I would like to remind the House, is that the Committee of Imperial Defence was fed 246 by much smaller sub-committees which had very much less scope than had the committees that fed the Defence Committee in this last war. For instance, to give one example, right up to the out-break of war I think I am right in saying the Joint Planning Staff consisted" of representatives of the three Services as directors of planning, but they still each worked in their own Service Ministry. There was no inter-Service staff housed in one place such as now exists. Exactly the same system applied to the intelligence staff, which is not a good idea at all. If there is anything that ought to be closely integrated within the Government it is intelligence. It is fantastic that various Service Departments and the Foreign Office should ever be pursuing their own line of intelligence with their own powers without coordination. In the Committee of Imperial Defence there was no sub-committee for administration. In all those things giant strides have been made. I think in summing up it would be fair to say the Committee of imperial Defence was heavier on top and lighter below than the Defence Committee.
If the House would bear with me I would like to say a word or two about the organisation of the Defence Committee, and why I hope the Government will not make any fundamental changes, at least not without very careful examination. First, I would like to refer to the committees which fed the Defence Committee. The main one was, of course, first and foremost, the Chiefs of Staff Committee. I think all hon. Members who had experience of the work of that committee would join with me in saying that no praise was too nigh for the men who represented the Services on that committee and for the work they did throughout the war. Some of them literally gave their lives by overwork on that committee. Under them there were a number of sub-committees, all of them inter-Service committees, planning, intelligence—to which I referred just now—technical warfare, and the Deputy Chiefs of Staff, who in their turn controlled a sub-committee for atomic weapons and for the exchange of technical information. In addition to that, there was the administrative side, principally administrative officers, also an inter-Service body on what might be called an Army Council level, or the equivalent in the Admiralty 247 and Air Ministry, and they had under them joint administrative planners and a committee of supply and maintenance by air, and one for coordinating freight.
I mention those things to show the House how closely integrated this work was and to emphasise this important factor, that in each of these committees and sub-committees—there were many others which I have not enumerated—in all of them the Services were represented and worked together as a whole. That is an invaluable gain which must not on any account be lost. Therefore, I say to the Government that what I would like them to do is to make up their minds that what was gained during the war by this joint work of the Services will be consolidated now; to see that there is no danger of going back, of losing this close inter-Service collaboration which has been worked out. Then, having taken that decision other decisions may flow from it, to which they may wish to give more thought. As the war has progressed the trend has been for a growth of these inter-Service staffs, especially on the more important matters of policy. There has been a gradual increase in the scope of the work which these inter-Service staffs have done. That is all to the good.
My conclusion on all this is that what has been gained should certainly be held, and I hope the Government will come to a decision in this sense. I cannot see why they should not come to a decision in that sense now. I do not quite understand the need for more delay and more examination that far. Moreover, I should imagine that in order to ensure that all three Services are fully co-ordinated in the future, this gradual evolution towards the fullest three Services' collaboration will go on and grow even now after the war. I should have imagined also that subjects like, for instance, training and design, and, perhaps, the production of weapons, might well be included amongst those dealt with by these inter-Service committees. That far I would go now, but I would not myself be willing to go beyond that, without at any rate some technical advice. I would not like to say how far beyond that the tendency-should continue. That, I imagine, is a problem which the Government have got to face, how far beyond the point I have mentioned—which is in advance of where 248 we are now—the integration of the Services can be continued. I do ask them to give their decision early.
I have one other comment to make on organisation which has, I think, some significance. Running through all these committees which I have tried to describe to the House is a very close liaison with the other important Government Departments whose collaboration is indispensable, such as the Foreign Office, the Ministry of War Transport, which was needed at every turn, the Ministry of Aircraft Production and many others. All the Departments nominate their representatives on these committees and subcommittees. I give one example to the House, the Joint Intelligence Committee, which gave us some extremely valuable appreciations at different points in the war. It was an inter-Service Committee presided over by a Foreign Office chairman who is now, in point of fact, His Majesty's Ambassador in Warsaw. That is an example of how intelligence should be worked out together, and presented as a considered whole, to the Government for their guidance.
All this liaison had this very important result, if 1 may carry the House a little further into the workings of the machine as I understood it. It meant that when a document came up, either to the Chiefs of Staffs Committee or even to the Defence Committee, that document had been considered, not only by the Service officers, but by the interested Departments at a much lower stage, because it is of no use just co-ordinating your policy at the top level unless it has been co-ordinated the whole way up I heard what my hon. and gallant Friend said about the last war, and I really think we did much better in that respect this time, and did have that integration all the way up. Another result was that when the issue came to the Chiefs of Staff or to the Defence Committee, it was possible for the Defence Committee to take its decision, even though it was composed of only a small number of persons, because we knew that the Departments concerned had been consulted at every stage while the policy was being worked out. Of course there were occasions when one or another Department, perhaps the Ministry of War Transport or some other, had some issue to raise and did not agree with the policy. Then, of course, that 249 could be put either to the Chiefs of Staff or, if need be, to the Defence Committee itself.
I have gone into all this detail, I am afraid at rather more length than I should, because it seems to me that what was gained then—not all as a result of deliberate policy, sometimes by experience and even by accident—must on no account be lost now. I have therefore explained, so far as I can recollect—I hope accurately—what the system was, and I ask the Government to hold on to that system, in which I know the right hon. Gentleman himself had full confidence. I hope he will tell us as soon as possible what their decision of that point is.
I have one other observation to make before I sum up, and that is that this system will work all the better if the Minister of Defence is also the Prime Minister. I know that in peace time it is a very balanced argument as to whether it is sound policy or not, but I can only give my experience, and that is that I think it is to the national advantage that the Prime Minister should also be Minister of Defence. One fully understands the immense burdens a Prime Minister carries, which in peace time are even of a more diverse character, if not more urgent, than in war. On the other hand, I have seen occasions when the Prime Minister was not the active head of the old C.I.D., and there is not the slightest doubt that you did not then get the authority behind a decision that you get when the Prime Minister himself presides. In my view, therefore, the balance of argument still lies in favour of the Prime Minister being the Chairman of the Defence Committee now, as in the past.
I have ranged rather widely in this discussion, and in conclusion I would put this point to the Government. We are not blaming them because there is not more in this White Paper, we understand the difficulties, and I hope the House will be given other opportunities for discussions such as this whenever the time is ripe. When those opportunities are given, I hope the Government will do everything they can to give us the fullest possible information, because it is really extremely difficult for anybody who is not inside the mind of the Government to make any intelligent comment at all on such very scarce and scrappy figures as there are 250 here. I would therefore say to the right hon. Gentleman that anything he can do tonight to answer the questions which have been asked—it is not our universal experience to have our questions answered —and also to give any further information and comment he feels like giving from his own very wide knowledge and experience in these matters, will be very much appreciated.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mrs. Leah Manning (Epping)
I should like to follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman who pointed out that we are not taking part in a foreign affairs Debate, and I will try to stick closely to the White Paper, because I agree with him that there are many things in it which need clarifying if we are to come to a good judgment of our present position. Nevertheless, it must be agreed that among the many important things said by the Prime Minister, as Minister of Defence, was the statement that the Armed Forces are an expression of policy. If it is true that the Armed Forces are an expression of policy, it is rather difficult to understand why the very large forces suggested in this White Paper are necessary, if our foreign policy is such as we believe it to be. It is in fact true that war between ourselves and the United States of America is unthinkable. If it is also true that we have not only a 20-year treaty of friendship with the U.S.S.R. but, as the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary has said, but are asking them for a 50-year treaty of friendship, it becomes difficult to understand why the large forces envisaged in the White Paper are necessary, and why the suggestions of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that we should have conscription are also necessary.
I want to ask about one or two points in the White Paper, because they seem to indicate that it will not be necessary for a long time to have such large forces of men and women taken out of the field of production at a time when production is the greatest and most important necessity to be put before this House. There are not only the important and interesting points raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), but one or two others which have struck me as being extremely hopeful and optimistic for the future, but about which we have been told very little. I 251 want to ask for very much more clarification of paragraph 7, some parts of paragraph 9, and the end of paragraph 15. Paragraph 7 of the White Paper states that we expect very soon to conclude through the United Nations an agreement under Article 43 of the Charter. Those of us who have been interested in the work of the United Nations have always understood that one of the most important means of defence in the future would be the defence provided by the United Nations. We want to know whether we are both to make a contribution to the teeth—as they are sometimes called—of the United Nations organisation, and also to have a standing Army of our own. Are we to have both those things or are we, as has been suggested on all sides of the House, to merge some part of our sovereignty into the United Nations organisation? I should have thought that, if we are to do that, perhaps the very best way of doing it would be to make one single contribution to that great police force, instead of both having a police force and fighting the burglars ourselves in our own country. We need a clarification on that point.
I would also like to say a word about commitments, because here again I should have thought that the commitments as set out in the White Paper, with one exception, are reasonable. I should have thought that some of these commitments, particularly under headings (b) to (g) in the White Paper could be got rid of in a reasonably short period of time. It is certain that, with the exception of those under (a), the countries will make much greater progress towards normality when the occupying troops are withdrawn; Austria, for instance, and particularly Italy. Some of us have a lively recollection of hearing representatives from Italy talk to us in a room upstairs, and of the very strong impression that they left upon us that that country would settle down to normality when the occupying troops are withdrawn.
But there is the hard and difficult core in these commitments as set out in the White Paper, and that is the occupation of Germany. I think there is no one in this House who does not feel uneasy and rather unhappy about the whole situation there. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington 252 has said a great deal about the importance of integration, about the importance and wisdom of having complete consultation at every point. It seems to many of us that, as far as Germany is concerned, the consultation which, he said, was in a marvellous state during the progress of the war, has somehow or another broken down, and that instead of our having complete knowledge and agreement about what is going on and happening there, there has somehow arisen a kind of childish competition— perhaps I had better not call it that— some kind of competition as to who is to do the best with the Germans. I cannot remember exactly who it was, but someone the other day—I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) —said that if we were not very careful Germany would become the petted courtesan.
The test of conquest is pacification. The greatest conquerors are the greatest pacifiers. We ought to be achieving something as far as Germany is concerned in the pooling of food resources; in the pooling of our views on how politics should proceed in the various zones; in the pooling of views about de-Nazification; about trade unions; about all these things. One zone ought not to be trying to get the better of another. Only if we have consultation and agreement between the zones, are we going to have the conditions in Germany that we need. One other point about our occupying forces that I want to make is this. I should have thought it very much better to have a highly mechanised, swiftly striking force in the occupied countries than to have a widely spread out force, with numbers of men carrying rifles at every street corner, reminding the defeated people all the time of their presence. I should think it would be very much better psychologically, and from the point of view of peace, to have, if we can, as soon as possible, a highly mechanised, highly mobile, quickly striking force in Germany.
So far as the rest of our commitments are concerned, there is room for optimism, and not for the pessimism with which some have spoken. As regards India and Egypt, the time is coming when we shall have large forces freed from those countries. We are not expected to sit much longer on the necks of those peoples. They have told us in no uncertain terms that they want to be rid of us. Those 253 countries will look after themselves, and we shall have large forces freed. If we can give India her freedom, which is agreed in all parts of the House—[Hon. Members: "Is it?"] Let us put it at a lower point then. If we hark back to what is sometimes called the Cripps plan, which is somewhat out of date now, we should regard it as making India, a self-governing Dominion.
A self-governing Dominion can provide its own forces. Self-governing Dominions can look after themselves and look after their lines of communications, and when India arrives at that stage we shall certainly have a great number of our own forces freed. I turn to the next point about which I wish to speak. I think it is Section V of the White Paper which deals with the question of supply and equipment. Whatever department we choose—perhaps it may be the D.I.S.R., which has done excellent work in the war, and about which I know rather more than about others because my husband was engaged in that department —but I hope that whatever department is to be concerned with the question of research, will be expanded as rapidly as possible. Whatever department is engaged upon this research, I hope, will also be engaged upon designs for the technique of living as well upon designs for the technique of death. But I ask that the department should be developed as rapidly as possible.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington that we do not all know what is in the mind of the Government. But if there is as much there, as we hope is there, if many of these things come forward in the way we hope they will, surely we can be more generous over this question of demobilisation. I should feel I had failed to do my duty by my constituents, many of them young men who send me letters from all parts of the world, if I did not ask the Government to look at this question again. I see no possible reason why we cannot get over the acute disappointment felt by these men, some of whom have been in the Armed Forces over six years. I can see no reason why we could not, at least, continue demobilisation until mid Summer at the rate of 100,000 a week. If we can bring the figure down to the figure suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cardiff (Mr. Callaghan), to 1,600,000, or to the 254 figure of 1,500,000, or even to the figure suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington on the basis of the figures of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill), which is half way between the two, surely we ought to do so at this moment when it is so necessary to bring these men back into production.
The Prime Minister said that one of the reasons why he could not do it was because it would spoil the pattern, or something of that kind. 1 had the utmost sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) when he said that things had to be terribly stretched at home, so why should they not be a bit stretched as regards the Army? The womenfolk of this country have painted such a bright picture of conditions here to the men in the Army —because they have not wanted to worry them—that now that the men are coming home, and finding things are not laid on for them as they were laid on for them in the Army, there is a great deal of disquietude. I am sure it would do the men in the Forces no harm if things were a bit stretched for them, as they are for the people at home. I would like the regimental sergeant majors and the company sergeant majors to come home—it would please them—and have promotion of corporals and lance-corporals—which would please them as well. Why cannot we have promotion in the Army? Why-have we always to rely on the men who served the officers so faithfully and took the responsibility off their shoulders as the sergeant majors did? Let us learn to rely on new men. That had to be done in offices and works during the war, and so why should it not be practised now?
Having complimented the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden on one point, I certainly cannot follow him on another point which he made. I think that he will learn when he reads Hansard that it was a very large assumption on his part if he thought that conscription in peacetime was going to be accepted by a large number of hon. Members on this side of the House. He will learn very differently from the speeches that have been made. I am in entire agreement with the view that, for some time, at least, until we have released from the Forces the men who have been there for so long. we must have conscription. But I should like to think that in these 255 days we can find some kind of alternative; and that we can offer either agriculture or military service to the men who are being called up. I am convinced that a very large number of men would prefer the open field to the barrack square and the whistle of the blackbird to the bark of the sergeant major. If that cannot come yet, we are prepared, in these critical times, to put up with conscription.
§ Mr. Vernon Bartlett (Bridgwater)
I think that something has come up about conscription which should be made clear. The Government yesterday, in a statement by the Prime Minister, said that there would have to be conscription for some time. He gave no indication that it might not be for a very long time. It would have been possible for the Opposition to make capital out of that, and it would have been very easy for them to say, "Do away with conscription right away."
§ Mrs. Manning
I am not quite so simple as the hon. Gentleman seems to think. I do not believe that right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite are trying to make things easy for the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden, questioned from these benches, reiterated that it was the policy of the Opposition that there should be conscription. I do not want to enter into a long diatribe on that. There have been excellent speeches made on the whole question. I would like, however, to say one thing in regard to the right hon. Gentleman, although he is not present. He and other hon. Members have put forward arguments which they think will appeal to this side of the House, on the question of conscription. The most appealing argument put forward is that conscription will mix up the classes, and make it easier for them to understand one another. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden that he had it in his power to enable that mixing up to take place at a much earlier age than 18. I would advise him, concerning the educational system of this country that if he would agree to work with us, and throw the public schools and private preparatory schools into the ordinary State education system we would begin to get that 256 mixing up at a very much earlier age. A complete State system of education during the years of early adolescence is the best way of preventing that stratification which he himself seems to think is unwise at the age of 18. I think that it is unwise at the age of 11 plus, and I think he will understand me when I use that term.
The hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton) said last night that he had an uneasy suspicion that people sometimes made speeches that were originally devised for other occasions I will not deny that what I am going to say now, although it is relevant to the subject of defence, was originally devised for an occasion when I was not so fortunate as to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker. It was really devised for the manpower Debate—when everyone talked about manpower only, except the Lord President of the Council who referred to manpower and womanpower. I want to raise the question of the women in the Forces, particularly the married women. I do so because, in his speech on manpower, and in his very fine speech on the wireless the other night, the Prime Minister made the point that something like 970,000 people had gone out of production between 1945 and 1946. He mentioned particularly married women and old men We cannot, I think, bring the old men back into production, but the Government do enable industry and the educational system to absorb a certain number of married women, and it is urged that they should be absorbed in a part-time capacity. I can think of no better way of absorbing women in a part-time capacity than in the defence Services. During the war, it was a common thing for married women to do clerical work and to serve in the officers' messes on a part-time basis.
I could think of two ways in which we could absorb a very large number of married women in the defence forces, if we were willing to do so. I am not asking the Government to give an answer about this tonight, but I ask them to consider it as a possibility. There are camps all over the country, and it would be easy in the clerical, accountancy, and cooking branches to absorb married women who could only give part-time service. If that could be done in the difficult days of the war, there is not the slightest reason why it should not be done in peacetime. Even when men are 257 abroad and living with their wives in married quarters, there are excellent opportunities for utilising the services of married women in the work of the camps, particularly in the directions which I have mentioned. The Government cannot press industry, and the educational services particularly, to take married women on a part-time basis, if they are not prepared to do anything about it themselves. There is much in the White Paper that is good, and much that gives promise for the future, as far as the scaling down of the defence forces is concerned. I hope that whoever winds up for the Government tonight will be able to give us some clarification of the points raised in all parts of the House, so that we may understand a little better the basis of the figures in the White Paper.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Sir Arthur Salter (Oxford University)
I am sure the hon. Lady, the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) will forgive me if I do not discuss the very interesting speech which we have just listened to, although as a University representative I was tempted to do so by her remarks about education, and we were all very much intrigued by her suggestion that one reason for quicker demobilisation was that it would do the men in the Forces good to learn what real hardship is at home.
I think as we get to the end of this two-day Debate we all feel we have not had a real Debate on the defence system of this country. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) said, what we have had is rather a Debate on demobilisation and recruitment in the year 1946. That was inevitable in view of the limitations of the White Paper, which says quite frankly that the Government cannot now decide what is to be the eventual shape of our postwar forces; and the Prime Minister was obviously correct when he described the White Paper as a stop gap. There is little I wish to contribute on this immediate problem of demobilisation in 1946. I only want to say that I very cordially agree with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. Butler) said yesterday in regard to the great importance of the universities and the students learning as soon as possible what is going to be the term for which the students are to 258 be called up. It will certainly also be a very great advantage if, as he suggested, some elasticity is allowed in the date of calling up so that students at a university may be able to continue their courses, and not have them interrupted half way through. However, I will not pursue this point especially as the Secretary of State for War has indicated that he thought it would be more appropriate on the Army Estimates a little later
The White Paper and the Prime Minister gave reasons why the Government could not now put before the House a real defence plan. They made, for example, a glancing reference to new weapons, and in particular the atomic bomb. It is indeed true that it must be extremely difficult to make anything like a comprehensive defence plan until there has been a real evaluation of the factor of the atomic weapon. If atomic bombs are to be among the weapons in the arsenals of competitive States defence plans will be revolutionised. What will be the effect on the organisation of armies? Can armed forces be concentrated, and if not, what effect will that have on the whole system of armies? What will be the effect on navies? Can battleships exist if atomic weapons are used? And if there is added to atomic bombs a big development in stratosphere rockets, by which bombs may be conveyed, it is difficult to see even that the present bombing aeroplane will retain its position in any kind of defence system. I can well understand therefore at this moment that the mind of the Government and of their advisers are concentrated, apart from the immediate problem of demobilisation, upon the prospective work of the Commission which has been set up by U.N.O. to consider atomic weapons and also upon the great experiment by the American authorities which is to take place in rather less than two months near the Marshalls, and that in the meantime they feel that anything put forward must be very provisional and tentative. In these circumstances the White Paper only in fact really glances once or twice at the longer term defence problem of this country. But there are references in two places. In the last paragraph there Is a reference to Commonwealth defence and there is also a reference to the development of the general higher defence organisation. On 259 both these matters the Government promise a report later on. I wish to say just a few words on each of these.
With regard to Commonwealth defence, we are about to have an Imperial Conference. I sincerely trust that the Government will put the position of this country in relation to Commonwealth defence frankly and clearly before the Premiers who are to meet here. In this last war, as in the first world war, there was a most remarkable common effort by the Commonwealth, spontaneous, without reservation, and beyond all praise. But in the preparation between the wars how-inadequate was the arrangement for anything like combined Commonwealth defence. It seems to me that Commonwealth defence preparations have been really a half a century behind the physical necessities of the problem and perhaps a quarter of a century behind the constitutional developments that have taken place between ourselves and the Dominions. The House will remember the discussions between 1923 and 1926 when the Statute of Westminster was passed. We arrived at equality of status, but we were left with a very important differentiation of function. That in fact was interpreted as meaning that in the matter of defence each of the Dominions was responsible for its local defence, but this little island was left with the general responsibility for the defence of the Commonwealth as a whole, helped only by contributions during the process of preparation, although, of course, when war came the position was very different.
I think that our Government should say very frankly to the Dominion Premiers at the forthcoming meeting that any such responsibility is of course completely beyond the resources of this island in the future, that it is quite impossible for the British Commonwealth to be adequately defended unless the burden of defence is shared in proportion to our resources. The British Commonwealth and our two great Allies have formed the great tripod of power on which victory has depended, and by which we hope the peace of the world will be supported. But if the British Commonwealth can be an equal partner, this island itself cannot be, and the British Commonwealth as a whole can only be if the burden of defence 260 preparations is shared more equally in relation to the respective resources. It will be quite impossible for this country to proceed upon the system which resulted, for example, in almost the whole cost of the construction of Singapore falling on the taxpayers of this country. I trust that after the quarter century or something like that of complete equality of status, attained by the negative process of removing the impediments to equality, there will be a re-integration of the unity of the Commonwealth, expressed in a proportionate sharing of the problems and burdens of defence preparation.
That is all I want to say on the question of the Imperial Conference and Commonwealth defence as such. I now want to raise a question related to the higher organisation of our defence system, on which we are promised proposals later. I will not go over the ground which was covered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington. I want to make one modest but, I think, not unimportant, suggestion to the Government. I want to press upon them, very strongly, when they are making their long-term defence plans, and arranging their higher organisation, the inclusion, among our instruments of defence, of the storage of raw materials and food. It has been my fate, in two great wars, to be called in at the beginning of the war into the Department which had the responsibility of controlling merchant shipping, and arranging for essential imports into this country. In each case we had not only the task of importing the required supplies for the current needs of the country and the Armed Forces. We were also confronted with the fact that the stores of raw materials and food were so disgracefully low at the beginning of the war that, during the war itself, in face of all the dangers and difficulties presented by submarines, raiders, mines and aeroplanes, we were obliged to increase the build-up of stocks that should have been there before the war began
At the beginning of this last war, as the Government announced last month, we had in this country only 3,000,000 tons of food. That was obviously an impossible stock to carry on with, and at enormous cost, and in face of great danger and with increased strain upon the supporting Forces of the Navy, we had to increase that stock. I do not think 261 that the figure which was regarded as necessary has been published, and so I will not give it now, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), when he was Prime Minister, said that in March last year, after stocks had been depleted by all the operations that followed D-Day, our food stocks amounted to 6,000,000 tons, that is to say, twice the stock we had when we started the war. I had a similar experience in the first world war. When therefore I came into the House, nine years ago, I spent more time in trying to get proper consideration of this problem than on any other question. We had an all-party Committee, and the matter raised great interest throughout the country. We had the support of the leading authorities in every sphere of professional interest and experience. We had with us such agriculturalists as Lord Astor and Mr. Christopher Turnor, economists such as Sir William Beveridge, and naval authorities such as the late Lord Keyes. But in this House and from the Government of that time we met with only limited success, although our case was on its merits irresistible.
The Government accepted it in principle and, under pressure, they established the Food Defence Department, with the task of securing more war stocks. We then induced the Government to pass the Essential Commodities Act for the purpose of similarly storing raw materials. But of actual food and raw materials we got extremely little. Our best success was in regard to whale oil, and that was partly due to the initiative of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) with, I think, the help and assistance of the First Lord of the Admiralty. That stock of whale oil was of inestimable value to us throughout the war But, as I say, we got hardly any main foodstuffs and raw materials. I want to ask why it was, when we were able to demonstrate, as we were. that we could get relief to the burdens of and dangers to the Mercantile Marine and the Navy at a cost in manpower and money which was very much less than the cost of otherwise meeting that danger, we did not get better results? The clue to that question is to be found in the consideration brought before the House in the interesting speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) 262 yesterday. He pointed out that defence organisation is divided into several Service Departments and anything which is not regarded by any one of these Departments as their own special responsibility and job is likely to get inadequate attention. He mentioned for example landing craft and the use of gliders for the transport of troops. This was the trouble with the storage of food and raw materials. Everyone admitted the merits of the case in principle, but there was no great Department with authority, prestige and competent personnel in any way comparable to the three Service Departments, which had the special job and responsibility to see that there was in fact a sufficient stock of food and raw materials.
Therefore, I earnestly ask the Government, when they are re-organising their machine and laying out their main tasks, to give a suitable place to this particular instrument of defence, and secure that it is put into the hands of a part of the organisation which is adequately equipped in personnel and adequately endowed with authority. I need hardly say that in asking for the storage of food and raw materials as part of our defence measures I am not thinking of executive action this year. I am the last person in this House to think that we can store food and raw materials, here and now, for war purposes. But I am thinking of the further future of which the White Paper, here and there, has given us occasional glimpses. There will come a time when we have passed the period of shortage, and when the world may again have an amplitude and perhaps a surplus of food and raw materials. That is the time to which I am now looking forward. I am very anxious that in any organisation and plans made before that time arrives this situation should be foreseen, and that adequate arrangements shall be made to assure this part of our defence, which as a supplement to our other defences, will be one of the most effective, one of the most economical, and at the same time the least provocative of all the measures we can take.
That is all I wish to contribute to this Debate, except to say that I trust it will not be too long before the Government are able to say that some of the factors of uncertainty which prevented them from giving us a real defence plan at this 263 moment have been sufficiently resolved—and, I trust, resolved favourably—to enable them to give us a more comprehensive plan on which we can have a real defence Debate in this House.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Flying-Officer Bowden (Leicester, South)
I am convinced that one of the worst tragedies which could befall this country in the next few years would be failure to fulfil our obligations to the United Nations organisation. We must, and the Government must, look ahead in an endeavour to forecast what these commitments are likely to be. It is not easy, because at this stage we do not know what are our obligations. It is true to say that the commitment is likely to be fairly heavy, taking into consideration the position in the world today. It is very likely, and is in fact almost certain, that there will be many other international zones as a result of the deliberations of the United Nations. These zones will have to be manned by the world police force, made up of the Armies and Air Forces of those nations which contribute to U.N.O. It is for that reason that I am not critical of the Government's aim of an estimated figure of 1,100,000 for 31st December; but I am not quite so happy with the intermediate figure for 30th June of this year. I was very impressed yesterday with the contribution to the Debate made by the hon. Member for South Cardiff (Mr. J. Callaghan), who introduced a rather novel scheme, whereby the release group of the Army and Air Force could be increased to Group 40 by 30th June. That would not mean a great deal in manpower, but it would mean a great deal in effect upon the morale of the men in the Services today. It is very important that right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench should give every consideration to this suggestion.
I am concerned about the final figure. I am concerned how it is likely to be made up. In a brief analysis of the figure of 1,100,000 for 31st December, 1 think we can divide our manpower under three heads: (a) those men who were called up for service before the war ended, who have served, in many instances, for three or four years; (b) the beginning of the peacetime Army, and I hope it will be evident by that time, and (c) the men who have been called up since VE-Day. Our consideration must at all times be 264 with the men whom I have classified under (a), and the men who have been in longer. By increasing (b,) and perhaps (c), we can reduce (a.) A great deal can be done to build up our voluntary services, which I hope, will become our peacetime services. The figure of approximately 1,000,000 may be much too high, and I sincerely hope it is, and that 500,000 will be enough, but, if 1,000,000 is required, we must aim at getting it as far as possible on a voluntary basis—it cannot be done immediately, but we can make a start. The Prime Minister said, in opening this Debate, that we have at this stage to proceed with the National Service Act, and with conscription. I agree with him that at this stage it is necessary, but that is a very different thing from conscription in peacetime.
In calling up the young men, one or two things must be considered. Some few weeks ago—I do not remember the actual date—I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour to give us the figures of the young men in this country who had been called up during the period since VE-Day up to the time I put the Question. I also asked him to tell the House how many deferment certificates had been issued in that period. It was startling to notice in the figures he gave, that of the men who were due to go into the Services, 43 per cent. had been deferred. Frankly, I feel that this is not good enough. It may be that 43 per cent was justified, and that almost one out of every two should stay in civvy street, but I cannot conceive that it is fair to the married men with families who have served for four, five and six years cut in S.E.A.C., the Far East or the Middle East. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, who has more information than I, to look at the question of these determents. One is continually hearing gossip on this question, and it may only be gossip, but I would ask him to look into the matter, and see if something cannot be done to reduce the number of deferments, and so release a number of additional men to come home after many years of long service.
With regard to voluntary service in the peacetime Army, Navy and Air Force, I believe that it is possible to build up on a voluntary basis. We have new conditions of pay, which is a start, 265 and something can be done now in regard to conditions of service. I am sure that in the Services today there are many young men who would come forward, if one or two points could be clarified. I know of many men who would make the Services their career, but who do not want to come back to the ideas which obtained in the prewar Army, Navy and Air Force. As a point of interest, I would mention the case of a constituent of mine, who, after having been released from the Army, wrote to me imploring me to get him back. It took me six weeks. He had found civilian life too hard, and he wanted to go back into the Services. That may not be general, but many men do want to go back into the Services. I would ask Service Ministers to set up a committee to look into this whole question, and to take up a volume of King's Regulations, or A.C.Is., and to take up the Army Act, Air Force Act and equivalent Naval Act, together with a very large, blue pencil, and go through them to see if they cannot cut out a lot of the unnecessary waste which has gone on in the Services prior to the war, and to some extent during the war. There are two kinds of discipline, which I classify as real discipline, which is a type which makes a man keep himself clean and do his job, and wasteful discipline. Hon. Members may argue that there is no such thing as wasteful discipline, but I have sampled some of it. Every man who has been in the ranks, and officers as well, if they are absolutely honest with themselves, know similar cases where there has been wasteful discipline. These conditions of service must be looked at. We have not had so much during the war as in peacetime, but we have had enough. Those men who went into the Services, or were called up as I was, going out of industry and civilian -life, know of the pinpricks of petty discipline, which are more irksome and difficult to endure than either the long-distance marches, or the very hard boots which we had to put up with in the early days. It is that sort of thing which gets a man down. It is an insult to the intelligence 0f the average man, and must be removed. The time to consider democratisation of the Forces is now, and I hope the Ministers will look into it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) mentioned the women's 266 Services. A rather interesting conference was held in my constituency last week by a purely feminist organisation which came to the conclusion, with which, incidentally, I do not agree, that if there is to be conscription for men, there must be conscription for women. I do not agree with that, but 1 do agree that, in view of the fact that women have demonstrated clearly during the war years that they are able to make a very good contribution to the Services, they should be permitted to do so in peacetime on a voluntary basis. I can think of very many jobs in the peacetime Services in which the A.T.S., the W.R.N.S. and the W.A.A.F. could do very good work as clerks and typists. We are not over-abundantly supplied with manpower in this country, and I think we should use the services of girls who wish to continue in the Services on a voluntary basis. I hope the Ministers concerned will consider that matter.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Yates), and other hon. Members, have spoken about conscription. They may not agree with me, but I draw a line between the continuation of national service in this period which cannot honestly be called peacetime, and conscription for the Regular Army in the ordinary piping days of normal peace In such times and circumstances the matter would have to be reconsidered, but the time for that is not now. I urge the Government to do everything they can to decide finally on the figures necessary to meet our commitments to the United Nations and to see that the original men who were called up before VE Day are not left in the Services a minute longer than is absolutely necessary.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Squadron - Leader Emrys Roberts (Merioneth)
I would like to make such contribution as I can to this Debate in the light of the considerations which have been in the minds of other hon. Members who have spoken. I think they have been troubled by the difficulty of reconciling two aims The first is the necessity of producing an efficient fighting force able to guard this country against sudden attack, capable of swift expansion in an emergency, and able to take its part in the United Nations military 267 organisation. The second aim, with which the first must be reconciled, is to fit that desirable force into our limited human, financial and economic resources. I think those two aims can be achieved if we follow four lines of approach.
As a preface, I should like to say that we should consider this whole subject in the light of the lessons to be derived from six years of war and, as a corollary, that we should ensure preservation of the most important liberties of the individual. The first line of approach is that the major concentration must be upon scientific research and technical training, and the use of the most modern technical equipment. The second line of approach is that the manpower must be the best that is available. The third is that we must achieve the utmost economy in administration of the Services. The fourth is that we must conceive of defence policy as depending upon foreign policy, and keep both within the framework of the United Nations. I do not wish to dwell upon the first two methods, except to stress again, as has already been done in this Debate, and as the "Manchester Guardian" says in its leading article today, that if we are to be extravagant in anything, we must be extravagant in research, and, on the second method, that we should concentrate not only on the best conditions of pay, but on the best conditions of service to which we can attain. The White Paper on pay and conditions in the Services sets out in the main conditions of work and pay in the Services comparable with those in civilian employment, but I do not think it wholly achieves that end. I think we could go a long way towards simplifying the system of allowances, but I am sorry that the White Paper abolishes dependants' allowances since this penalises single men with dependants. I think we should pursue the general line of the White Paper so as to make, not only the pay, but the general conditions of life in the Services, as attractive as civilian occupations.
I want now to say a few words on economy in administration. Economy in administration goes hand-in-hand with efficiency in administration. During the war I served in the Royal Air Force, and one must accept, rightly or wrongly, that there is a certain lack of confidence 268 among serving officers at lower formations in the administrative efficiency of the Air Ministry. I think the same thing is true of the Army. I was serving at a group headquarters. There was difficulty in getting swift decision from the Air Ministry not on the operational side, but on the administrative side. There was lack of response to new suggestions. There is a strong case for an inquiry into the administrative mechanism of' the three Service Departments. For instance, the courts martial system is cumbersome and antiquated. It involves the use of about 24 forms; accused persons have to wait for many weeks, and sometimes months, before they know the results of their sentences. The system was framed in the days when the standard of intelligence among officers was far lower than it is today. In such things as courts martial and administrative procedure generally, there is room for reform in all three Departments.
A far more important aspect of economy in administration, however, is the integration of the three Services. The Prime Minister said that he has an open mind on these matters. I urge the Government to consider very strongly the possibility of a complete integration of the Service Departments. It would simplify the work of finance and administration. For example, during the war, in Britain and abroad, the Air Force and the Army in the same area often had to draw their pay and their supplies independently from different depots and headquarters. Further, a unified department would prevent that competition for materials and men which we saw in the early days of the war. I would like to see a single War Ministry with one political head, controlling all three Services. It is anomalous and out of date in these days that the Defence Ministries should each have political heads with places in the Cabinet. It is all wrong that there should be three Service Ministers in the Cabinet. Yet, the Minister of Food is not in the Cabinet; the Minister of Works is not there; the Minister of Supply is not there but all these represent vital Ministries at the present time. The Foreign Office has only one representative in the Cabinet; although foreign policy is fundamental and defence policy only ancillary to foreign policy. Yet each Defence Ministry has its political representative in the Cabinet. That is 269 clinging to an outworn tradition which is not fit for the present day.
It seems to me that the figure of 1,100,000 as the total of our Armed Forces given in the White Paper, is very large for this country. In terms of economic effort it is more than one million men unemployed, doing non-productive work. The Military Staff Committee of the United Nations is meeting soon. The only sure way to reduce the figure of 1,100,000 is to integrate our defence services with the military mechanism of the United Nations. We heard the Foreign Secretary speak a little while ago about the ultimate ideal being a Parliament of the world representing the peoples of the world. The logical corollary to that is an International Police Force. That conception should be kept in mind when defence policy is worked out in its later aspects.
I submit that we can solve the problem of defence along those lines without talking of bringing in conscription. Resort to conscription is a retrograde step and no argument at all for it has been brought forward. The production of an efficient fighting machine must depend on the conceptions of which I have spoken, and particularly upon generosity in research, and adoption of the most modern equipment, the most attractive terms of voluntary service, and upon constant endeavour to fit our commitments and our forces to the mechanism and the functions of the United Nations.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)
When I left the Army, the last order I received from my colleagues was that I should never, in any circumstances, attempt to address this House on any matter related to military affairs. There is certainly a great danger of an amateur with a little knowledge gained in abnormal times being rather a menace in that respect. I therefore put forward what I have to say with great diffidence.
The White Paper deals with short-term matters, but I do not propose to deal with those myself, but rather to say a word or two on matters of long-term policy. The first of them is the general question of the policy with regard to the Armed Forces that we are to have. Indications have been given of attempts to drag into Party politics matters like conscription 270 and the reorganisation of the Forces. I think to do so would be disastrous. I am content to accept the statement with regard to conscription put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Dudley (Colonel Wigg), the hon. and gallant Member for Stafford (Captain Swingler), and other hon. Members who have spoken with extreme moderation and reason on the matter. I should have thought we wanted a clear declaration from the Government that we are to have Armed Forces adequate for our commitments, with conditions of pay, accommodation and service that would compare favourably with those, for example, in a first-class commercial concern, and that the Armed Forces would have the best resources that could be provided for them technically. If that is the policy of the Government, they do not say so in the White Paper, although they come near to it. If they would say that, matters like conscription and those which were referred to by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Mikardo) will fall into their proper perspective. It would be disastrous if we dragged the future organisation of the forces into Party politics.
My second point is in regard to the future of technical development. Paragraph 15 (a) on the subject of technical progress states:Scientific and technical progress at the present time is so rapid that safety lies far more in the maintenance of adequate organisation for pure and applied research than in the building up of stocks of obsolescent equipment.In my submission that is a platitudinous statement which is quite valueless without some indication of the means to be taken to implement it I know, and other hon. Members know, that in the Service Departments in some cases bureaucracy can be seen in its worst form. We also know that the dead hand of the Treasury is apt to constrict and retard scientific development in the Forces. We are entitled, I submit, to some explanation of the passage which I have read. How will that organisation be devised? How will it be staffed and equipped? How is the necessary elasticity to be provided? How is the work to be co-ordinated? Those are questions of such vital importance for the future of our Armed Forces that we are entitled to rather more information than the Government have seen fit to give us in the White Paper.
271 My next point relates to the integration of the three Services. We have heard a great deal about coordination and co-operation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) soared rather into the stratosphere on these matters at Cabinet level. I know that there were times in the war when cooperation was virtually nonexistent. Cooperation among the Services was a very tender plant which needed a great deal of careful nursing. It only matured towards the end of the war. I give my opinion for what it is worth when I say that in the North-West European campaign it was not until the crossing of the Rhine, an operation which took place about 12 months ago, that we had a properly and fully coordinated, combined operation by land forces, airborne forces and air forces. I am not suggesting for a moment that that was anybody's fault, but coordination and cooperation can only be achieved by a great deal of trial and error, experience and training. The point upon which I think the White Paper lacks information is as to how in peace conditions it will be possible to provide that practical experience and cooperation. That is why on this occasion I have used the word "integration." Unless we train integrated staffs; we cannot achieve the necessary cooperation. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer) went as far as to say "unit training," but I will not go so far as that. I would say that unless we can have formation training on a three Service basis, we shall not produce the necessary coordination and cooperation in the very short time in which it might be required. I also would again put forward a plea for the type of unit of which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carshalton (Brigadier Head) spoke, and which he' so aptly termed a "hinge" formation. I hope that at a time of cutting down and construction of the Armed Forces this type of unit will not be lost sight of.
On the question of co-operation between the three Services, there are adhesions, prejudices, traditions, and even vested interests which have to be broken down, and I believe that very strong action will be required in order to obtain the necessary integration which was being achieved towards the end of the war. Looking at paragraph 22, 272 which is the relevant paragraph of the White Paper, I find it rather barren, and I strongly suspect that it is a facade behind which, in fact, very little is being done so far as concerns future development. I admit that some attention is no doubt being paid to day to day problems, but I strongly suspect that there is very little being done in relation to the future.
The fourth point concerns the question of collaboration with the Dominions. I should have thought it quite impossible to conceive of an adequate defence scheme without their assistance. On the other hand, we have the suspicions which undoubtedly exist of dictatorship from Whitehall. Yet if each component of the Empire had its own army, navy, and air force, the effect would be to Balkanise ourselves, and we should be incapable of any large-scale operation in the time available. At the same time it is essential that this problem should be approached with the admission that some loss of sovereignty is inevitable, particularly some loss of sovereignty on the part of Whitehall. I think the White Paper is singularly disappointing on this point, and it is clear from the last sentence of it that very little is being done, although there is a note as to what will be done in the future I am certain that public opinion throughout the Dominions and in this country is overwhelmingly in favour of effective cooperation, and while public opinion is in that frame of mind, practical steps should be taken to secure the necessary collaboration and cooperation.
I would conclude by saying something which I do not think is appreciated by all Members, certainly not the hon. Members for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and Ladywood (Mr. Yates). It is possible to discuss these matters in a non-militaristic manner. We are not a militaristic nation and we have proved it to our cost in blood and treasure twice in this century. No one wishes to militarise this country or to militarise the Empire, but it is necessary that we should take a balanced view and have adequate defence forces for our current commitments. I submit that so long as the Armed Forces are an essential service we are entitled to ask the Government that they should be reasonably efficient, and what is more important, we are also entitled to ask them to give the necessary direction and to provide the necessary 273 resources to that end. I welcome the White Paper, but I regret that it is not more specific and forthcoming on the matters to which I have referred.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Group-Captain Wilcock (Derby)
Having been successful in catching your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I will not detain the House more than a few moments to discuss two small points. So far as I can see, the main consideration in this matter is that of manpower. As back benchers I think we are quite unable to say what our Service requirements are, politically or strategically. We have not the knowledge. It does appear however that overriding everything is the fact that we are short of manpower, and the first question I want to raise is whether we are using our manpower in the Services to the best advantage. What is their function? If it is to keep law and order throughout the world and in every country we are occupying, then of course we must spread, and that does entail the figures that are being quoted in this House. If on the other hand, as I believe, it is to secure and to maintain world peace, then we should not need to spread our forces as they are now spread. I am sure that hon. Members and hon. and gallant Members will agree that I am right in saying that concentration is what we should aim at in this respect. It will give us not only efficiency but economy. At present we are not concentrating. In Germany a few weeks ago I saw a tank regiment of 400 men, policing 150square miles of that country. They had everything to do in that area but they had no tanks. If we do that kind of thing wherever we are in occupation we shall want these large numbers, but if, instead, we can have a policy of concentration, in an area where one aerodrome will supply airborne forces, then I feel that we can use our manpower in the best possible way as specialised forces of small numbers, and have a large number in industry.
There is one other point which I am sure is going to be contentious. It concerns the Army and the Royal Air Force. I suggest seriously that the time has now come when there should be, not only closer co-operation between these two Services, but a fusion. One should not be in an inferior position to the other, but there should, definitely, be a marriage be- 274 tween them. In this war we have seen the Army with their glider and airborne troops and the Air Force with their ground troops. It seems to me these two great forces could contribute very much more to the defence of the country and of the Empire if they were one. The Army, operationally, is magnificent. Administratively, I suggest, it is shocking. The Air Force would gain by the tradition and discipline of the Army. Perhaps we should lose many of the stupid Air Force ranks. We have wing commanders who never command a wing, flying officers who do not fly, aircraft hands who never go near aircraft. Then they formed the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and we now have L.A.C.Ws. who are leading aircraftmen—women who are really clerks or cooks. I do not know who the idiot was who created these titles but they are among the things we could do without.
I suggest to Ministers that this question of a modern and more highly mobile airborne land force should be given serious consideration on the grounds of economy and manpower. Hon. Members will perhaps remember that during those lean years of 1920 to 1930—lean for the Services—the Air Force was given whole countries to look after and to police, because of the manpower situation and of shortages in the Army. This was very successful particularly in Iraq and Palestine and those countries were looked after entirely by the Air Force. If that can be done in those countries and climates, it can be done now by small forces if they are airborne, and if they depend upon each other for their training and for the close co-operation which can only be achieved by having one Force. On the question of conscription, I have nothing to say except that I feel sure that on this side of the House there is no divergence of opinion in that we do not: like conscription as we do not like rationing, but we must have rationing and we realise that, at the moment, we must have conscription. That does not make us like it any the better, but I am sure we are prepared to face this question of conscription until such time as we have the U.N.O. Forces to take over those duties.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Major Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
When at 3.15 yesterday afternoon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I first 275 attempted to catch your eye, I had a long speech full, as I thought, of mellow wisdom. The mellow wisdom has evaporated and so, I am glad to say, has most of the speech. So all I propose to do in the few minutes available to me is to ask one or two questions of the right hon. Gentleman who, I understand, is to reply for the Government. The White Paper, very naturally and properly, sets out at paragraph 12 the fact that provision for our defences must inevitably be considered in the light of competing claims to manpower. In view of the fact that the demand for manpower is such, has consideration been given by the Government to the possibility of recruiting a Foreign Legion? Considerable trained personnel is available from a good many of our Allies who, for one reason or another. would, I believe, be prepared to take service under the British Crown. Has consideration been given to using those trained men, many of them, as I know, first class soldiers, to eke out our own admittedly limited resources of manpower?
The second question follows from that: As the House is aware, for some generations the Kingdom of Nepal has furnished Ghurka troops to the Indian Army. In view of the prospective profound changes in India, and presumably in the organisation of Indian defence, has consideration been given to effecting direct recruitment of those Ghurka troops into the Imperial Forces? I am sure hon. Members who have seen the Ghurkas in the field will agree with me that there is first-class fighting material, traditionally and by family association, accustomed to taking service under the King-Emperor I would ask whether, in order to eke out our limited manpower resources, consideration has been given to the possibility of bringing these magnificent troops into the direct service of the Crown? There, at any rate, are two possible lines for consideration by His Majesty's advisers, and I would ask the First Lord, if he is able to do so, to say whether those ideas have been considered and, if so, what objection exist to adopting them?
I am sure all hon. Members have shared the disappointment expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) that it has not been possible for the Government in this White Paper to give any statement 276 as to the length of time that men now being called to the Forces will be compelled to serve. Why is it not possible, even tonight, to give at any rate a maximum period; to say to these young men whose whole lives and education and apprenticeship are being disrupted, "We cannot tell you exactly how long you will be called upon to serve, but you shall not be called upon to serve for longer than this period." That would be some contribution towards relieving the educational chaos existing at the moment in the country owing to the fact that the Government have not been able to make up their minds on that point.
Again, can the First Lord enlighten us as to what is to be done to those men under 30 who have been deferred from military service during the war by reason of their work in essential industry, whose deferments have now come to an end by reason, in many cases, of the closing down of munition plants; men of 25 and 26 who have not the faintest idea when, or if they are to be called up at all. Is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to give tonight some enlightenment as to their intentions with respect to these men who represent a very substantial branch, in many cases, of highly skilled labour, and who would be able either to prepare themselves for a period in the forces, or to prepare themselves to take new employment if only they could get an answer as to what their future is to be?
There is one other question, and one only. Reference has been made in this long and interesting Debate to the future of the training areas in this country, and several hon. Members have emphasised the inconvenience and the economic loss which fall in a small island like this upon those areas that have to be used for large scale training operations, and for such purposes as bombing and artillery ranges. In view of the fact that, quite properly, the White Paper gives as the first commitment of our Forces the occupation of Germany, has consideration been given to using areas in Germany for this purpose? Luneberg Heath offers ample facilities, and is it not right that the people of this country who have endured so much during these last six years, should be freed from the unpleasant interference of military training areas with their lives, and that that liability should rest upon the German people? I would add that it may 277 well be that the occasional or, indeed, frequent detonations which are to be heard in the neighbourhood of such areas might well have a valuable effect in inducing in German minds a reminiscence of what it is to encounter the British Empire in arms —a reminiscence which may not be without its value in educating a new generation in Germany.
Finally, it is apparent, whatever criticisms one may make of the detail of the White Paper, that despite a certain pressure from behind them, the Government appreciate their very great responsibility in the present troubled world in maintaining our Forces in an adequate strength to offer some degree of protection to this country and the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in sombre and majestic language has described what happened after the last war when the victors permitted the instruments of their power to crumble in their hands, and I would say to the Government that it is overwhelmingly their duty, no matter what pressure may be put upon them from behind, to see to it that that sorry story is not repeated after this war.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ The First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
We have had two days' Debate upon the first White Paper upon Defence submitted to the House of Commons since prewar days. I suppose it is almost to be expected that we should have some criticism from the Front Bench opposite as to what is available to be published to the House of Commons at a period so soon after the end of the war, dealing with such a period of un-settlement as the Prime Minister referred to yesterday, and with Estimates—which, of course, in this White Paper are only in lump—of a financial year which is now approaching, and which, as must obviously occur at once to hon. Members, is not a normal peace year. If the House would bear those main facts in mind, they would attune their view perhaps a little more readily to the one I shall have to submit to them tonight. The hon. and gallant Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Major Boyd-Carpenter) asked me a number of questions. I did not get notice of some of them. They were exceedingly interesting. Foreign legion, employment of Ghurkas—these are very important questions. He may rest well 278 assured that with the kind of Chiefs of Staff organisation built up in the course of the war, when we are stretched for manpower no suggestion for extending the area from which our manpower has to be drawn would ever be outside their purview. The hon. and gallant Member must also remember that the Government must on all such questions have due regard to any possible political repercussions. I am certainly not going to respond tonight to the general invitation on these matters in which he asked, "Are you going to use such forces, and, if not, will you state the reasons?" On a different occasion it might be possible to say more about it, but certainly I would not wish to go into that tonight.
In the course of the general Debate there has been continual return by hon. Members opposite and many of my hon. Friends to some of the main points that were raised by the Opposition yesterday through the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler). Leaving out of account one or two of the special Army questions with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War dealt at the opening of the Debate this afternoon, it might be convenient if, at the outset, I dealt with some of the points the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden raised. In referring to the general position as outlined in the White Paper, he asked why we could not make more immediate and more definite announcements as to the size and make-up of the Forces of the Crown required at the present time and in the more immediate future. I think he will agree and I am certain the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) will agree, because of his reference to the figure we have postulated for our Forces at the end of 1946, that at the present time with all its immediate commitments, commitments set out in the White Paper and assented to by the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, it is obvious we have to provide Forces which, compared with the ordinary peace period between wars, must be regarded as abnormal. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman would on reflection seriously require me to give any further particulars at present as to what our intentions are about the actual size and make-up of our Forces.
I should have thought it was fairly plain from what the Prime Minister said 279 yesterday that when this period is over— and of course we shall be using the time during the period as well—we shall be giving not, I hope, unduly hurried consideration but really adequate consideration, with the help of our technical officers, to the question of what should be the extent and make-up of our permanent peacetime Forces. I believe that with a careful and deliberate study of that kind—taking into account the actual events which come this year, and whether they fulfil the kind of hope which the Prime Minister expressed yesterday— we may be able to withdraw our Forces from certain of the theatres in which at present they are bound to be. We can look at the development of the United Nations Organisation and see, for example, what kind of response there is to the obligations of each member of U.N.O. under Article 43 of its Charter; we can see what kind of contribution each one of the nations is going to make in agreement with the organisation and see what remains for us, as one of the leading Powers of the Security Council, to contribute ourselves.
It seems quite clear listening to the Debate tonight that there is no fundamental difference of opinion in any part of the House that with our experience of two great wars in the last 26 or 27 years, with the extraordinary development and growing terror of the scientific weapons which can now be used in warfare, there can be little hope for the peace and progress of mankind unless such an organisation as the United Nations organisation can be made really to work and unless we can establish once and for all the principle upon which I myself essayed in the John Clifford lecture in 1934, a principle which 1 believe still to be fundamental for the -future peace of the world. That is that we proceed to set up an organisation which will act as a Court of Justice and that all people of goodwill through all the nations of the world will be prepared to back the decisions of that impartial Court of Justice by whatever sanctions are required against an aggressor. I do not see any other possible way to avoid a repetition of the kind of holocaust through which we have passed with such enormous sacrifice and such a terrible upset to our economy and that of other countries.
I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman if I would not be more explicit for 280 the convenience both of our youth, and of employers and of educational institutions as to what should be the actual period for the men called up for compulsory service during the present time. The right hon. Gentleman proffered two periods of service; one for the temporary transitional period, which he said ought not to be more than two years; the other for any permanent system of national service if the Government adopted it, and the House approved it—two things which have yet to be seen—one year for that period. I do not need to speak about the second period because that would be a matter for subsequent decision. If that comes to be decided, then we should have to take great notice of the right hon. Gentleman's comments, in view of his experience at the Ministry of Education, as to educational facilities which might be given between the ages of 18 and 21. Educational institutions for the man training for the professions or not yet through his apprenticeship, will have to be taken into account in any permanent system the House may adopt later on. But I beg hon. Members not to run away with the idea that it is easy to say to the world exactly what the period of service should be for conscripts called up in this transitional period.
One thing of which I have not heard at all, on the point that has been raised in many places, is the feeling of justice we have to put in the minds of those now serving, who have to be demobilised some time or other. If, in face of present commitments, and the present difficulties the forces have in getting balanced units in whatever part of the world they may be serving, we now fixed the period at two years, we might get the case of men who were called up last year or earlier who would be held for a longer period in the Service than the period of two years for calling up to which we had now tied ourselves. I hope intensely that the situation may so change in the next few months that such agreements might be come to in Indonesia, Greece and in other places where we have commitments, that we might have such a reduction that we could settle, perhaps at an earlier date than we can now foresee, what that fixed period of service should be, without doing an injustice to those who are already in the Service. It would puzzle anyone, having regard to the position of those who are now serving, to fix a period of service for new conscripts which would give 281 justice to those who are now in the Services. I do not propose to say more upon that position.
§ Mr. Rhys Davies
I wonder whether, as my right hon. Friend does not intend to deal with the period of service, he intends saying anything in reply to the question put regarding the attitude of the Government as to the abandonment of conscription at some future date for peace-time purposes.
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not propose to make any pronouncement at all tonight. It is one of the advantages of the Government to be able to arrange with the Opposition, so soon after the cessation of hostilities, an occasion when we might feel the pulse of the House in this matter. Views have been expressed in various quarters of the House in favour of compulsion. Other views have been expressed, as in the case of my hon. Friend, against compulsion. I do not think there is anyone who wants to have compulsory service solely for the sake of compulsory service. After examining our commitments on the lines I have already described, and after listening to the views of the House, the Government will come to such decision as it may in due course, and will make its recommendations to the House.
The question was put to me why it was not possible for us to have reduced the figure of the Forces to 1,550,000 by 31st March, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington said had been put forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill). The right hon. Member for Woodford did say before he put forward those figures, that of course he had not now access to the figures and the full information that the Government had, but he said he had some experience, and he would make a sort of suggestion as to those figures. Of course, from that fairly easy but quite helpful point of view which he presented, it is easy just to think of a number and of a date and then say, by thinking of that number and date together, that one has a solution of our problems. That is not really so; it is not so easy as that.
The fact is that from the first layout of the demobilisation programme, which was at that time being quite severely criticised, we then had to improvise very 282 quickly a change in the programme because of the early fall of V.J. Day. We decided to expedite those figures, and after we had got an expedited figure of demobilisation up to last December, we decided still further to expedite releases. That was done. In consequence, it may well be, as I suggested in an interjection while the right hon. Gentleman opposite was speaking, that in order to get a balanced position for units in the Forces required to be maintained at the end of 1946, we shall be demobilising at a somewhat slower rate than during this specially expedited period. The Government decided, and it had done so already at the end of 1945 and the beginning of 1946, to expedite as much as possible, so that we might put the largest proportion of manpower possible into the economic reconstruction of the country. But, in relation to the task to be discharged, the commitments to be fulfilled, in the very words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it may be that we have been too optimistic with regard to the figure suggested for the end of this year. I very much hope not, but I say that in order to have functioning at every period between now and the end of the year efficient and balanced Forces, we have taken the right course, and in all the circumstances we have achieved an extraordinary reduction.
If we reach the target which is set for next December, I am not quite sure whether all Members in the House realise how much that reduction will have been. The Prime Minister did point out that it would mean that by the end of December four out of five of the men serving on V.E. Day would be out on 31st December. That is a very large reduction. In the course of questions put to me, I was asked if I could say what was the exact breakdown of the figures which are postulated for the end of the year. I very much hope that we shall have at least 250,000 Regulars among the 1,200,000 —I am including the 100,000 for training. 400,000 of the rest will have been taken in since V.E. Day, and only 550,000 out of the whole 1,200,000 in the Forces at the end of the year will be conscripts who were serving before V.E. Day. This works out at only one in nine of the total force which was existing on V.E. Day. That emphasises the extraordinary rapidity with which this demobilisation has taken place, 283 and in all circumstances I can claim on behalf of those who are leading the Staffs of the Forces, that they have achieved this quick reduction with extraordinary smoothness, in spite of difficulties here and there, and there has been a reabsorption into industry in a manner which is encouraging.
Then I was asked a kind of conundrum by the right hon. Gentleman. He said I would be able to reply in special language. I make no such claim, but, of course, with his usual acuteness, he fastened upon a sticky spot on the wicket. I knew that quite well. Directly he asked it, I said "How can one devise a phrase to describe what is an average age group? "As a matter of fact the people who are. working the system understand what they have to do. The average group is. not an average in an exact mathematical sense—it represents the number of the group up to which about 80 per cent. of the personnel in any particular release programme are released, and the other 20 per cent., with all the little difficulties that have to be met in each group, fall behind or go a little ahead of the position of the average age group. That is the very best I can do.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler (Saffron Walden)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he expects the ordinary person serving to understand his formula?
§ Mr. Alexander
I am not quite sure whether many in the Forces would understand the right hon. Gentleman's question. Now I was also asked a question about supply. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden referred at some length, or at least with some emphasis, to the very large figure, as he put it, of 1,790,000, represented at the end of last year as labour employed on supplies for the Services. I may say at once that that figure is known to us to contain a considerable element of employment on goods for civilian use. The total is to be discounted by that amount, which is not very easily determinable because of the difficulty of many firms in dividing their own returns, and the remainder is very largely engaged on meeting the supply of the Services for current maintenance and for demobilisation. For example, the production of clothing and general stores alone, in- 284 cluding demobilisation outfits, accounts for close on half a million of labour.
Then I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman whether in fact there was any truth in the suggestion that we are going on manufacturing obsolescent material and especially, he said, aircraft. Well, the right hon. Gentleman's question in general about obsolescence was answered in advance by the Prime Minister yesterday. I would refer him to what the Prime Minister said. As regards his specific question about aircraft, I would say there were no types of aircraft still in production which the Services do not need or which we do not expect to be of use. Indeed, the production of combat aircraft has already been reduced to the minimum and may well be below—I hope it may not be so—the level necessary to maintain the ultimate peace time Air Force. Production of transport aircraft will decline rapidly during the second half of this year.
The right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend beside him asked about the ultimate target that we have for the end of the year of half a million. I would say, as for the future generally, it really is not considered, in view of the size of the Forces that we have put before the House, that 500,000 is an unreasonable estimate of the labour required to keep them fully supplied. Reduction down to that number will be effected as quickly as contracting requirements of the Services actually are met. Then I was asked whether I could give a breakdown in the figure of £230 million in the White Paper for production. The figures are, in broad and round fashion: Admiralty, £70 million; War Office, £70 million, Air Ministry, £60 million; Common Services by the Ministry of Supply and Aircraft Production, £30 million.
My right hon. Friend also asked with rather a flourish, I thought, exactly how we made up such a nondescript total as "Miscellaneous, £181 million." After all, this is not a detailed estimate. This is given in lump to the House. I would refer my hon. Friends in all parts of the House in general to the more detailed estimates which will be laid before them, but I can say that the division between the three Services of the Miscellaneous items are £35 million for the Admiralty, £106 million for the War Office, and £40 million for the Air Ministry. They 285 are accounted for in the main—not altogether, but in the main—by three heads. First, the wages of civilian employees; secondly, by transport, and, thirdly, by fuel. Considering our commitments at the present time, I think the right hon. Gentleman will understand that.
Then both the right hon. Gentleman and other Members in other parts of the House asked me specific questions about the future of research and scientific development. I would emphasise what the Prime Minister said yesterday, and say that in the Forces that we may have to maintain and with the money that we have to spend, we are determined that research and development shall form one of the most important parts of the whole programme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington asked me whether we would pursue our programme in research and development at least with the same kind of persistence and continuity as we did in the war. I would answer him quite categorically, yes, but he would be the first to recognise that in the war we drew almost to an unlimited extent—not wholly, but almost—both upon resources and upon highly skilled and qualified personnel. Whenever the Service required it, they had it. We have now, of course, to centralise much of that research work, not wholly for the Service Departments but also for development and research for industry at large. They must obviously in the present state take a larger part of that than they did in the war. The right hon. Member can be assured that although we cannot say perhaps that we can lump all the expenditure into exactly one channel—we shall have to have separate estimates in each of the Service estimates —it is fundamental with the shortage of highly qualified personnel and resources that we shall have to co-ordinate the whole centrally. That we propose to do.
§ Mr. Keeling
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of research and development, would he answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir Ralph Glyn) as to whether the Government accept in the main the recommendations of the Select Committee on National Expenditure on that matter?
§ Mr. Alexander
I should say in general the report of the Select Committee is not 286 very much out of harmony with what is being done. What I can assure my hon. Friend is that there has been during the war an extraordinary development of integration between our senior staffs and their immediate assistants in the scientific work, and we shall do our best to get the fullest possible co-ordination.
I have been asked, especially from some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, why we cannot assist the more rapid return from the Forces of men in the Army and Air Force by transferring men from the Royal Navy, and to explain how it is that the Royal Navy groups seem always to be in advance of the other two Services Let me say first of all on the latter point that there is no real difference between any of the three Forces in the proportion of their total force which has been, and is being, demobilised. We are getting, therefore, on a perfectly safe and sound line as regards total numbers to the targets which are set out in the White Paper. If there have been up to now a certain advance of groups in the case of the Navy, it is largely because in the years 1940–41 and the early part of 1942—partly because we could not produce the ships in time to absorb all the men who would have liked to join the Navy, and the need was so urgent in the other Forces—they put men into larger age groups than we had for that period in the Royal Navy.
Now, we shall be coming on to periods of much larger age groups than we have been handling in the past, and, though I certainly cannot promise that there will be a complete levelling-up of dates of age groups in all the Services, I can say that there will certainly be an improvement. I ought to add that it is quite impossible for us to promise, with any economy or efficiency, or any real ultimate use, a general transfer of men from the Navy for the purpose suggested at the present time. What would that involve? Men of the Royal Navy are stationed all over the world, and the first thing to do would be to transport a great many of them and re-muster them. The next thing to do would be to transfer them to the Army, and then the Army, in many cases, if not in most cases, would have to re-train them and then post them to Army units. Next, they would have to be transported to their ultimate units, and, by the time that was accomplished, most of the men to be transferred would be pretty well 287 ready themselves for release. Really, there is neither economy nor efficiency, nor any solace to the men in the Forces themselves offered by such a method as that, and I therefore cannot promise that it shall be done.
I have been asked to make some reference the Colonial Forces.
§ Major Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, may I ask him if it would not be possible for sailors just about to come out of the Navy to be lent to the Army, without being transferred to the Army? Could they not be lent to the nearest Army unit in the locality? Special training is not needed to do guard duties.
§ Mr. Alexander
I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that I have had some experience of it after about six years, and some experience exactly how that falls to be dealt with in regard to pay, records, accounts and transfers, sometimes from all parts of the world and in small units, and I say that it is really much too difficult for us to be able to promise that it should be done. With regard to the Colonial Forces, may I say that I join with the expressions which have come from different parts of the House in paying tribute to the work which has been done not only by such units as the East and West African Divisions, but the splendid voluntary service which came from all parts of the Colonial Empire in the way of individual enlistments in the Army, Air Force and the Navy. We shall, of course, do what we can at any time to make them feel conscious that their service has been valuable and that it will be possible to use the Colonial members in that direction.
The next point I mention is in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Saffron Walden who said there was some most unjustified delay—he was a little scathing in his language—in the call-up of recruits for the Royal Navy. There have been a few delays, but not nearly as serious as one would have inferred from his remarks, and I can say to the right hon. Gentleman now that there is no substantial delay in the call-up of the technical branches, although I am bound to confess that there is some delay occasionally in the seamen and stoker 288 branches, which have been hindered on account of the demands for de-requisitioning on the Services, because of the use of agricultural land and so on. We have had to give up a number of our training establishments, which has led to some delay in the call-up. I hope to avoid anything serious in that direction in future.
The hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) used a little better judgment on the White Paper and dealt in some detail with the weapons of the Navy—the battleship, the submarine and so on. As this was a general Debate, the hon. Member was not out of Order, I propose to reply although perhaps I could have saved any further reference to it until the Navy Estimates Debate. The hon. Member urged the abolition of the battleship on the grounds of common-sense and 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.One would think, by that, that the battleship had been a failure in the recent war. I will deal with the future in a moment, but no one can really argue that the battleship has been a failure in this war. [Interruption.] Well, it certainly has been a success. We have been able to keep our long communications free, and by the destruction of heavy enemy units, such as the Bismarck, the Scharnhorst and in the Battle of Matapan. Surely my hon. Friend, who is a representative of a dockyard town, forgets things of that kind? Why, even in the last stage of the greatest war in modern times, in the Pacific heavy units of our Fleet bombarded the Japanese coast, and, if we look at combined operations—I suppose it was only an accident to some people—the landings on the Normandy beaches were masked by the 16-inch guns of the Rodney. We must not be quite so hazy about this. I regret my hon. Friend talking like this, and talking about the battleship as the spearhead of the Fleet. I have never heard of it as the spearhead; I have heard of it as the backbone of the Fleet, and certainly as the king or queen on the chess-board of naval warfare, on which so many other units actually operate. We could have a perfectly good argument on paper that the battleship is finished because of the atomic bomb. That is what will be said. I remember the 289 experiments in air bombing against battleships sent out into the Atlantic as sitting targets in 1925. They duly sank them.
§ Captain Blackburn (Birmingham. King's Norton)
Will the right hon. Gentleman please show some sense of proportion?
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not aspire to the wisdom of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I have had some experience of naval warfare, and I would say that we had experiments and that everybody said '' The battleship is finished "In fact, they said" The Navy is finished." Hon. Members should mark that, and remember that, 21 years after that experiment, it is the American nation which possesses the largest and most powerful fleet, including battleships, the world has ever seen. What has become of the prophecy? I think we had better wait and see a bit longer.
§ Captain Blackburn rose —
§ Mr. Alexander
No, I cannot give way; I have not the time. I realise, as much as anybody, the enormous power and threat of the atomic bomb. Well, on that, we are going to witness the American experiment, and that will perhaps lead to changes, and, of course, the battleship may recede from the position of being the capital ship of the Fleet, but no one can deny, especially after the grand experience of our own ships in the Pacific and how they stood up to the most damaging and suicidal attacks, that they can still become part of the attack, perhaps also be part of the instrument for intercepting the atomic bomb and also serve as mobile flying bases.
§ Captain Blackburn
May I say one word? I would like to make this point of fact. In actual fact, this experiment has been boycotted by American scientists, because the bomb is not going to be dropped inside the ocean, which is the way to try to overturn a battleship. It is reasonable, therefore, for one not to accept the judgment of the immediate test.
§ Mr. Alexander
I do not think we had better prejudge events. I can assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman that this Government, as all Governments, will have at their disposal pretty good scientific advice. Another point my hon. and gal- 290 lant Friend made was a sound one. He said how great it would be to abolish the submarine I had the honour of moving a Resolution to that effect during the Naval Conference of 1930, but no one listened. It is said that owing to the atomic bomb the submarine can have no effect. I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend, with his anti-submarine experience in the past, will realise that, as the submarine goes to greater depths, we had better wait and see the effect of the atomic bomb launched upon water on under-water ships. It is much too early yet to make final judgments on those particular points. I liked what he said about the possibility of having another Disarmament Conference, although I would beg him to consider, in the meantime, that if we come to an agreed limitation it should not hamstring all the efforts of our own people in regard to tonnage as well as numbers. If we want to provide for all the new gadgets of the great modern factory which the warship is and still give decent accommodation to the officers and men aboard, we may not want to limit tonnage to the same extent as at present.
In the short time I have got left, and before replying to the right hon. Gentleman opposite about defence organisation, I would like to refer for a moment or two to the speech made last night by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead (Mr. Zilliacus). I do not see him in the House at the moment, but he may be here. I must say I thought it was a most unfortunate speech. In the first place, he began by using figures in a way quite misleading as to the actual position. He said that Service Estimates this year were for nearly £1,700 million; that we could not afford it, and so on. I have already said to-night that we are facing an abnormal year. The White Paper itself shows that £576 million of that sum is in respect of terminal and non-recurring charges. If one takes into consideration the fact that the number of men will decline throughout the year, it will be seen that at the end of the Financial Year the annual rate of expenditure then operating will be far below the total figure actually shown in the White Paper. Therefore, much of the hon. Gentleman's subsequent argument falls to the ground.
As one of those who has just as much claim as others to stand for Labour and 291 Socialism and the defence of the worker, I must say I do not much like an attack upon the Government from behind, as if they were selling the whole of their principles. I like to speak my mind. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Gateshead said we should not be gluttons about the fruits of victory. I do not think this Government or, indeed, the preceding Government, can be charged with being gluttons about the fruits of victory. It is this country' which has made it abundantly clear that it would no seek an inch of territory in any part of the world. The same cannot be said about other Powers. I think one ought to be quite sure before making that kind of change. He said we had no foreign policy. On the contrary, our foreign policy is quite clear. We stand firmly for the principles of the Atlantic Charter, the Four Freedoms, the full support of the United Nations Organisation, the establishment of legal protection for the sovereignty and freedom of all the members of the organisation with equal right. That is our foreign policy, and I must say that the references in columns 116 and 117; of Hansard to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary were unworthy and not justified by the facts. I am proud of the record of my right hon. Friend, with his joint association with me in Bristol, in what he has done in his life both for Labour and for the cause of peace. That record will Dear examination with that of anybody who sits on the Government side of the House.
What is his position? He has supported to the hilt the 20 years Treaty—the Anglo-Soviet Treaty. Only a few days ago in this House he offered to extend that Treaty for another period of 30 years. By some strange accident, the censored Press of the U.S.S.R. has not even yet informed its people of this fact. He stated also that, so far as he knew, there was no single reason whatever why we should ever go to war with the U.S.S.R., and I am sure that is the view of my hon. Friends on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Alexander
I believe it is common in the House. When we talk about the need for agreement with the U.S.S.R. — and we are all agreed that that is essential —I think we are entitled to say that 292 agreements can only be made effective if they are really two-way agreements assented to freely by both sides, and it must involve the full exchange of views and adjustments of points of view. I hope it is not to be suggested from any quarter of the House that in that adjustment it must always mean the capitulation of the social democrats.
The last point I come to is that which was raised concerning the main purpose that we shall have in the next few months in deciding what our permanent defence organisation shall be. I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington, because he has saved me a good deal of the time that I had anticipated giving to the question, by giving a perfectly accurate summary and appraisement of the developments which took place during the course of the war in setting up what was growing every day in its integration—staff, planning, research, intelligence and operational control—an integration which we had never before reached and without which I do not believe we could ever have held our position during those long years of struggle for freedom. I can assure him that it is, of course, necessary to approach the question of the peacetime organisation in relation to political controls and demands upon different Ministries and in the need for looking for economies wherever they can be effected, provided they do not destroy the efficiency and permanence of an organisation which will certainly be needed in this country if we are to be effective in our advice, through the United Nations Organisation, to the military staffs committee of that organisation.
I can say to the right hon. Gentleman that the joint staffs system to which he referred will, I am certain, be promoted, consolidated and maintained by the Prime Minister, who is still the Minister of Defence. The Prime Minister explained yesterday broadly what the present situation was and the inquiries which he is actively pursuing with regard to the future. The right hon. Gentleman can also be assured that we will take account of the views of all those who have had inside technical and professional experience and knowledge in the course of the war. I do not think we shall need advice from people who have not been in touch for a long time. I appreciated the references made to the prewar position of the 293 Committee of Imperial Defence, which, through its sub-organisations, its subcommittees and its organising of the effectiveness of the civilian Departments which would have to do jobs in wartime, organised the nation for war. During this last war there was set up a smaller committee, namely, the Defence Committee, which called in the experts as required, which still established an organisation effectively to integrate the civilian Departments of State. The right hon. Gentleman can be assured that that is all being taken into account. I cannot say more than that, because obviously when the time comes it will be for the Prime Minister himself to arrive at the final decision that we shall recommend to the executive Government, which will afterwards be submitted to the House.
I think the Government have no reason to complain of the Debate in the last two days. I think that practically all hon. Members who have taken part have endeavoured to be critical upon a constructive plane, and many of the points that have been raised, such as the future of the cadet forces and certain classes of training, might well be raised upon the Service Estimates.
§ Sir A. Salter rose—
§ Mr. Alexander
I see the right hon. Gentleman opposite looks as if he is about to ask if I am going to answer the matters he raised. May I say that they will be taken fully into account in the inquiries on the higher defence organisation, of which I have been speaking?
§ Sir A. Salter
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that the Debates which took place before the war on that subject are carefully examined with the documents. It his advisers have any difficulties I shall be very glad to give him copies.
§ Mr. Alexander
The right hon. Gentleman can rest assured that I have seen some of them already. I do not think there will be any difficulty about that. If my promise holds good they will all be taken into account. In conclusion, may I say that nobody will be better pleased than the Government and their supporters on this side of the House if there were such progress at the peace conference to be held this year, and such improvement in conditions in certain 294 countries, that we could reduce our Forces thereby. There will never be any effort wanted on the part of His Majesty's Government to that end. I feel sure the House as a whole will support us in trying to set up a permanent system that will prevent war rather than seek to establish the winning of a war.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ " That this House approves the Statement relating to Defence (Cmd. 6743)."